A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tobson takes on 1990

It's not time to dig into this year's entries just yet - I will need some more time to listen and evaluate and find eventual pros and cons there - so I thought I'd throw myself headlong into another year that has meant a great deal to me.

I was 14 back in 1990, very happy to see Yugoslavia host the contest. Yugoslavia had for years been one of my fetish countries that I always liked, always supported, always cheered for.

They had such good songs and such a pretty and unusual flag, and judging from their preview clips it seemed to be a country where everyone were always happy and cheerful and playful. I was blissfully unaware of the things cooking underneath the surface and was just very pleased with the show offered to the world by Televizija Zagreb.

A number of years - perhaps 1985 to 1990 - have been so formative to me, that many of the songs feel like old friends. They are hard to rank and even the bad ones have redeeming qualities in my eyes. But if I had to rank all 22 songs of 1990, it would look a bit like this.

22. Sweden - Edin-Ådahl / Som en vind
This song never meant a lot to me, really. It was a disappointing winner of the national final and I never understood the fuss about it. Not bad, only very insignificant.
Grade: 1/5

21. Ireland - Liam Reilly / Somewhere in Europe
Pretty much the same case as with Sweden. Not a bad tune, but completely let down by the forced travel-log lyrics that try to squeeze in every thinkable square, street, hill or field you could ever imagine in Europe.
Grade: 1/5

20. Switzerland - Egon Egemann / Musik klingt in die Welt hinaus
Good in parts. I like the powerful intro, the chorus is catchy and the violin break adds character. Just too bad that the different parts don't come together very well. And Egon is not the right performer to paint over the cracks either.
Grade: 1/5

19. Norway - Ketil Stokkan / Brandenburger Tor
A very cheerful approach to the recent fall of the Berlin wall. They mean well and the song isn't bad as such, but contributing such a feather-weight song about an event of such gravity must be the most out of place ESC entry celebrating anything or anyone since Sweden's Forbes ended in last place with their ode to the Beatles back in 1977.
Grade: 2/5

18. Germany - Chris Kempers & Daniel Kovac / Frei zu leben
Another effort that probably means well but just shoots over the goal. Given Ralph Siegel's usual eye for detail, it is odd that he chose two performers that don't match each other vocally (and who don't really seem to like each other a whole lot either). If Norway is too cheerful to suit the matter, then the German entry is too stiff.
Grade: 2/5

17. United Kingdom - Emma / Give A Little Love Back To The World
Singing cheerful songs about difficult subjects were very much the order of the day back in 1990, and Emma wanted to save the world with her little song. Inoffensive but easily forgotten.
Grade: 2/5

16. Netherlands - Maywood / Ik wil alles met je delen
A good song let down by a really lacklustre performance, which in itself is inexplicable. Maywood had been successful for at least twelve years and were very experienced performers. Maybe they felt this being perhaps one of the last opportunities to shake some life back into their career got the better of them?
Grade: 2/5

15. Austria - Simone / Keine Mauern mehr
Another song about that famous wall. Not bad, but again too light to seem to take its subject seriously. The lyrics could be about a first kiss or cotton candy just as well as about a capital political change in Europe.
Grade: 2/5

14. Greece - Christos Callow & Wave / Horis skopo
This one doesn't really work either but I always had a soft spot for this chorus. A better performance would have been good - who thought up that strange arrangement for the backing vocals? - but it didn't deserve the bashing it got.
Grade: 2/5

13. Cyprus - Anastasio / Milas poli
Cyprus did their best to sound like the current pop songs you heard in the charts, but the song doesn't live up to the high ambition. Especially the chorus falls a little bit flat. And if I call the performance a complete styling disaster it would still be flattery.
Grade: 3/5

12. Denmark - Lonnie Devantier / Hallo Hallo
Denmark on auto pilot. The same type of song, the same type of chorus, the same type of singer that they had already entered many years in a row. Not a bad package but the whole concept was getting a bit old by then.
Grade: 3/5

11. Finland - Beat / Fri?
Finland's first entry in Swedish is far better than most people think. It's catchy little ditty and Beat look striking in white. The lyrics are equally poor to several others this year but the group's diction isn't very good - they mumble quite a few of the words - and that actually works to their advantage.
Grade: 3/5

10. Italy - Toto Cutugno / Insieme: 1992
A good winner, a quality winner. Well sung. But in retrospect it stands out as a competent but fairly anonymous winner - it would have been more fun with a colourful or more modern or more personable winner. But not a bad one at all.
Grade: 3/5

9. Portugal - Nucha / Há sempre alguém
Another of those years when the juries totally neglect the Portuguese entry and I can't see why. This one is personable and should be pretty accessible. Second last? Unbelievable.
Grade: 3/5

8. Luxembourg - Céline Carzo / Quand je te rêve
A fine song from the producers behind Dalida - one of my all-time favourite singers - that would have needed a more convincing live performance. This one also works a lot better in its studio version where it can happily ignore the three-minute-rule and let the tempo change by the end flourish into two minutes of brilliance.
Grade: 3/5

7. Belgium - Philippe Lafontaine / Macedomienne
The beauty of growing older is that you can suddenly appreciate songs you discarded completely in your youth. Where my teen self just heard a boring monotonous ballad, I hear a moody and most melodic love song, very delicately performed.
Grade: 3/5

6. Turkey - Kayahan / Gözlerinin hapsindeyim
Back in the day when Turkey had to contribute spectacular masterpieces in order to even get close to a top ten finish, a gentle and laid back attempt like this one would stand a chance similar to the one of a snowball in hell. Gentle, likeable and original.
Grade: 3/5

5. Iceland - Stjórnin / Eitt lag enn
Iceland's first really good placing and a firm favourite of mine at the time. It is still charming and appealing, but also a late shot at the Scandinavian successful sound of the 80's, enhanced by an energetic and stylish performance.
Grade: 3/5

4. Yugoslavia - Tajči / Hajde da ludujemo
The last sigh of the host country as a happy, carefree place where songs could be bouncy and whimsical without any looming shadows anywhere. Tajči was pure dynamite and the chorus with its "čokolada" hook is the happiest of the year.
Grade: 4/5

3. Spain - Azúcar Moreno / Bandido
I didn't understand at the time just how bang-up-to-date the Spanish entry was with its pumping house piano and its groundbreaking mix of dance culture and folklore. Remembered for the technical hiccup at the start of the performance, but it also launched these sisters into stardom in the latin music world. Highly deserved.
Grade: 5/5

2. France - Joëlle Ursull / White And Black Blues
One of the biggest problems with the juries were that they were often put together very randomly, not necessarily by people interested in pop music. Had the 1990 jury been a bit more hit friendly, Joëlle would have been the runaway winner and could have pushed the ESC in a more interesting musical direction. A shame. This would have made a perfect winner.
Grade: 5/5

1. Israel - Rita / Shara barechovot
I didn't understand this one at all when I was 14 and was pleased that the juries held them back. Today I think the juries should have seen what I didn't: what a bold and daring entry this is, beautifully sung by Rita. Intriguing, sophisticated, sexy, tasteful. Not the song I would have wanted to win, but my personal favourite.
Grade 5/5

Rita - Shara barechovot (Israel 1990)

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