A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Friday, March 27, 2015

Tobson takes on 1998

In this very popular series where I rank all participating songs of the ESC of a given year we have today reached 1998 - the last contest to date hosted by the BBC.

(This is my blog. If I say a series is very popular then it is. Do you understand me?)

The late 90's were exciting times as the contest had started to gain popularity and a certain buzz again after many years of falling ratings and a real lack of hit songs among the participants. Or to put it like one of the Swedish tabloids: what's the point of a hit song contest that doesn't generate any hits?

Big changes were about to happen. For 1998, most of the countries introduced full-scale televoting and the next year there would be free choice of language as well as no orchestra.

In general, 1998 was a pretty good year with a good selection of songs. Good but not outstanding. Which makes it a little bit easier to make this list.

25. Spain - Mikel Herzog / Que voy a hacer sin ti
Mikel has a good voice but the song is so dull that I don't know where to begin to look for words describing just how mind-numbing these three minutes are. My personal motto is that if you can't be good, it's always better to be bad than to be dull. Take note, Spain.
Grade: 0/5

24. Greece - Thalassa / Mia krifi evesthisia
It's the "better be bad than dull"-rule that saves Greece from last place. This really is fantastically bad, going in all directions at the same time as it goes nowhere. A sad day for Greek music to have this represent them, but as with all truly bad songs it does have a certain entertainment factor.
Grade: 0/5

23. Turkey - Tüzmen / Unutamazsın
A pretty passionate performance isn't always enough to make a song interesting. Sometimes it just makes you wonder where that passion comes from. This song just goes on and on and feels a whole lot longer than three minutes.
Grade: 1/5

22. Malta - Chiara / The One That I Love
I will never forget my surprise when this one almost won. All I heard and saw was a dull standard ballad where all these televoters must have found something truly captivating.
Grade: 1/5

21. Romania - Mălina Olinescu / Eu cred
Originally a sweet little song that suffered from an overblown orchestral arrangement that triggered the singer to become really shouty by the end.
Grade: 1/5

20. Finland - Edea / Aava
An intriguing set-up and an exciting soundscape are quite successful in blocking the sight and make you forget how little of a song really goes on here. When singer Marika Krook failed to deliver the final high note, all that remained were three minutes of wait without any climax.
Grade: 1/5

19. Cyprus - Michalis Hatzigiannis / Genesis
Another pleasant piece of music that never really takes off and another singer that tries to compensate for the lack of development in his song with vocal power. Gets a bit chaotic by the end.
Grade: 2/5

18. Germany - Guildo Horn / Guildo hat euch lieb
Unlike Cyprus, this one is chaotic on purpose and gets away with it. A funny package but not really a terrific song in any way.
Grade: 2/5

17. Slovenia - Vili Resnik / Naj bogovi slišijo
When there are too many ballads in the same line-up it is very easy to just disappear among the rest and be nothing more than just another ballad. Just like Slovenia. Quite a good one, well performed, but with nothing that makes it feel special.
Grade: 2/5

16. Hungary - Charlie / A holnap már nem lesz szomurú
The orchestra was present for the last time, and hearing what it did to this pretty decent little blues song you don't miss it a terrible lot. Good song, poor execution.
Grade: 2/5

15. Belgium - Melanie Cohl / Dis oui
Happy and light-weight, but apparently exactly the kind of song Europe needed at this time. In my mind it's happy and clappy for three minutes without leaving much of an impression.
Grade: 2/5

14. Portugal - Alma Lusa / Se eu te pudesse abraçar
Cheerful and likeable (except for the tiny detail that the lead singer is clapping her hands out of rhythm), but yet another of those pretty un-remarkable song this line-up is full of.
Grade: 3/5

13. Estonia - Koit Toome / Mere lapsed
Another ballad, soft and tender like a lullaby. What saves this one from being just another ballad is the star quality of Koit Toome, still young but already a very good singer.
Grade: 3/5

12. Ireland - Dawn Martin / Is Always Over Now?
After having won four times in recent years with various ballads, it was almost as if the televoters around Europe suddenly said in unison that they had had it with Irish victories. This one isn't bad at all, but the voters remained unmoved.
Grade: 3/5

11. France - Marie Line / Oú aller?
A strong, contemporary song that I expected to finish really high on the night, at least until I saw this car crash of a performance. Would have deserved more points than it had but I clearly prefer the studio version.
Grade: 3/5

10. Switzerland - Gunvor / Lass' ihn
It's old-fashioned, I can acknowledge that, but a nul-pointer? What I hear and see is a pleasant little schlager in a slightly modernised arrangement - and again Egon with his violin - and I feel genuinely sorry this one didn't make it into the top ten of a single country. At least Gunvor made it into my top ten, if that makes her feel any better.
Grade: 3/5

9. Norway - Lars Fredriksen / Alltid sommer
A shameless rip-off from Boyzone's "Picture of You", but the Motown vibe works well with the orchestra and provides some temper and tempo in this line-up.
Grade: 3/5

8. FYR Macedonia - Vlado Janevski / Ne zori, zoro
A touch of Leonard Cohen added to a sophisticated arrangement with dramatic strings and an exotic tone in guitars, this is a song that has grown a lot on me through the years. Stylish and solid.
Grade: 3/5

7. Sweden - Jill Johnson / Kärleken är
One of the best ballads of the year suffered from a slightly nervous performance and a catastrophic styling that neither suited the singer nor the song. Is it possible that bad styling makes the singer ill at ease and has a negative impact also on an artistic level?
Grade: 4/5

6. Poland - Sixteen / To takie proste
Another good, contemporary effort that seemed very promising in the previews but then failed to ever really take off during the live performance. And maybe it just needed a listening or two too many to work in a televote?
Grade: 4/5

5. United Kingdom - Imaani / Where Are You?
Slightly reminiscent of "Missing" by Everything But The Girl, the home entry was the most chart-friendly song of the year, performed with a confidence and self-assurance most UK entries have lacked since.
Grade: 4/5

4. Slovakia - Katarina Hasprová / Modlitba
Original and soulful, beautifully sung, left with a ridiculous grand total of eight points (that they quite possibly had traded with Croatia anyway) when it really deserved a steady stream of appreciation from all corners of the continent. Slovakia's finest to date.
Grade: 4/5

3. Israel - Dana International / Diva
Just like when a certain Conchita won sixteen years later, some critical voices claimed the victory depended on hype alone. This is of course ridiculous. The Israeli effort was brave, infectious and had a very strong and hit-friendly chorus. A most deserved success.
Grade: 4/5

2. Netherlands - Edsilia / Hemel en aarde
If it hadn't been for the phenomenon that was Dana International, Edsilia would have been the winner and rightly so. Powerful, dynamic and one heck of a performance - vocally and visually.
Grade: 5/5

1. Croatia - Danijela / Neka mi ne svane
What can I say? Loved it when it won the Dora final - at the time when most online fandom just saw it as a disappointingly ordinary ballad - and I kept loving it ever since. There is nothing ordinary about this. The dress trick is the icing of the cake but the real treasure here is all that drama bubbling under the surface. A lovely, lovely song.
Grade: 5/5

Danijela - Neka mi ne svane (Croatia 1998)

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