Eurovision Lemurs Pre-History

Once upon a time, in the dark recesses of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I came across a couple of blog posts I wrote on my library science blog (!?) about Eurovision back in 2003. I had completely forgotten about these; I probably did not import the non-library posts when I switched blogging services way back when.

Sertab ErenerI am republishing the two posts below: one is a track-by-track review and the other is a brief post-Grand Prix recap. It’s funny looking back at these for a few reasons:

  1. The Song Contest’s official site used to move from host country to host country each year.
  2. The official site also used to link to free MP3s of all of the songs, which is how we ended up with them all. Those were the days.
  3. Some of my general ignorance on Eurovision is on full display here. I was young-ish and American; I did not see!
  4. Did I really believe t.A.T.u. was going to have a long career?

A quick note: the links below go to the Internet Archive‘s archival versions of the posts as they appeared in 2003.

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April 15, 2003 – The annual Eurovision Song Contest is coming up on May 24 in Latvia, but it’s never too early for me to predict who’ll win: t.A.T.u., because they’re Russian girls who sing and kiss each other.

Whoa, you may say to yourself. Where do I get in on this? Or, what the hell is the Eurovision Song Contest?

To answer the first question, click here.

To answer the second question, the Eurovision Song Contest is competition featuring pop acts from around Europe. While originally designed to showcase European traditional music, over the years it has become more commercial. Most famously, the competition launched the career of ABBA, and such artists as Katrina and the Waves and Celine Dion have competed in the past as well.

Incidentally, the artists mentioned should give you a good idea of the type of music is usually performed during the show. As a French attorney once told me, “It’s so cheeeesy!”

Here are this year’s entrants, with both my comments and those from my wife Jennifer:

  • “Open Your Heart” by Birgitta
    (Iceland)
    A pure saccharine pop anthem, no different from any other cheesy pop song that pepper the Top 40 charts around Europe, but it’s pretty catchy, and Birgitta is impossibly cute.
    Rating (1-10): 6

    Sez Jen: Abbaesque power ballad.
    Rating: 7
  • “Weil der Mensch Zählt” by Alf Poier
    (Austria)
    Uh, okay. It’s a kid’s song with bursts of heavy metal guitar for no reason. This has got to be a Jorg Haider plot to undermine the European Union or something. Still, it’s cute.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: A rank amateur outing. He gets a point because my German’s not good enough to judge whether his lyrics are actually meaningful.
    Rating: 2
  • “We’ve Got the World Tonight” by Mickey Harte
    (Ireland)
    It’s a longstanding Eurovision tradition that the song from Ireland really sucks. This year is no different.
    Rating: 2

    Sez Jen: Boy band bland.
    Rating: 5
  • “Everyway That I Can” by Sertab Erener
    (Turkey)
    Songs like this are sort of throwbacks to the original intent to the competition, which is to highlight a country’s traditional music. “Everyway That I Can” has some nice neo-Turkish flourishes, and also kinda gets stuck in your head. Pretty cool.
    Rating: 7

    Sez Jen: The song has a good riff, but her vocal goes Eurovisiony.
    Rating: 6
  • “To Dream Again” by Lynn Chircop
    (Malta)
    Blech. Bland upbeat pop ballad. Thanks for playing.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Bland, unoffensive, perky, yet “meaningful” pop.
    Rating: 6
  • “Ne Brini” by Mija Martina
    (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
    It’s hard to describe a typical Eurovision song is, but this tune really captures the competition well. The only way it could be more generic is if it were in English (a common ploy to gain votes).
    Rating: 4

    Sez Jen: Eastern European-style disco, but with a decent hook.
    Rating: 6
  • “Deixa-me Sonhar (Só Mais uma Vez)” by Rita Guerra
    (Portugal)
    For a second, I thought I was on an elevator.
    Rating: 2

    Sez Jen: Sucky power ballad.
    Rating: 2
  • “Vise Nivam Tvoje” by Claudia Beni
    (Croatia)
    Claudia Beni appears to be Croatia’s answer to Britney Spears, which would explain why this song sounds like “Oops! I Did It Again.”
    Rating: 4

    Sez Jen: Britney circa 1999.
    Rating: 3
  • “Feeling Alive” by Stelios Constantas
    (Cyprus)
    Another generic Eurovision song, which features the always tasteful pseudo-flamenco guitar you hear on Enrique Iglesias singles.
    Rating: 4

    Sez Jen: Enrique, except dull.
    Rating: 2
  • “Let’s Get Happy” by Lou
    (Germany)
    Oh god, it’s Pat Benatar on ecstacy!
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Patti LaBelle sings cookie cutter rock n’ roll. Yawn.
    Rating: 4
  • “Ne Ver, ne Bojsia, ne Prosi” by t.A.T.u.
    (Russia)
    As mentioned, t.A.T.u. is comprised of two female singers who make out a lot. Their video caused quite a ruckus, but that didn’t stop viewers from voting for t.A.T.u. to represent Russia in the Eurovision contest. The song itself is kinda shrill, but who’s listening?
    Rating: 4

    Sez Jen: Not many Eurovision contestants make it over the pond after the contest. But I ask you, how many Eurovision contestants penetrate the American market BEFORE the contest? “Ne verj, ne boisja” is not as good as “All the Things She Said,” but the girls may be rewarded for their international success.
    Rating: 9
  • “Dime” by Beth
    (Spain)
    Another impossibly cute singer, another really bland song.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Another outing Enrique-style, except with a female vocalist. Good song.
    Rating: 10
  • “Words for Love” by Lior Narkis
    (Israel)
    This song is really charming. Almost a little too sweet, but cute nonetheless.
    Rating: 5

    Sez Jen: Mief, mief, mief, MIEF!!!!
    Rating: 1
  • “One More Night” by Esther Hart
    (Netherlands)
    Of all the songs in this year’s Eurovision contest, this is certainly one of them.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Totally forgettable, dismissable pop.
    Rating: 6
  • “Cry Baby” by Jemini
    (United Kingdom)
    I don’t know why the Brits don’t just send Cliff Richard every year. Anyway, this is perfectly suitable for the competition, but certainly not memorable.
    Rating: 5

    Sez Jen: Has a good beat. The best UK entry in a couple of years.
    Rating: 9
  • “Hasta la Vista” by Olexander
    (Ukraine)
    Awful. Just awful. Still, I give him a point for being Ukrainian, just like the Russian skating judges do!
    Rating: 2

    Sez Jen: Castrati Meatloaf meets the Olsen Brothers and decides to show his sensitive side.
    Rating: 2
  • “Never Let You Go” by Mando
    (Greece)
    Generic lyrics, bland orchestration, totally uninteresting.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Remember the late 70s? This song reminds me of “With You I’m Born Again” by Billy Preston & Syreeta. I think we’re ready for another one of those again. She loses points for the unfortunate wailing at the end.
    Rating: 7
  • “I’m Not Afraid To Move On” by Jostein Hasselgård
    (Norway)
    Jorstein is hunky and pouty, like all good pop stars ought to be. Also his song is actually decent. I mean, it’s just a pop ballad, but it’s a pretty good one.
    Rating: 7

    Sez Jen: Showtune-y, but this nubile 24-year old kind of has a Ben Folds edge.
    Rating: 8
  • “Monts et Merveilles” by Louisa Baïleche
    (France)
    Smooth, with some Middle Eastern touches. Very cool.
    Rating: 7
    (or 0 if you’re one of those Americans who calls french fries “freedom fries”)

    Sez Jen: Celine deux. Next, si vous plait.
    Rating: 4
  • “Zadnych Granic” by Ich Troje
    (Poland)
    At last, a Polish answer to “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”. Actually, it’s better than that, because Barbra Streisand isn’t singing it.
    Rating: 5

    Sez Jen: Gravelly dude. Sucky duet.
    Rating: 2
  • “Hello from Mars” by F.L.Y.
    (Latvia)
    What the…? Dumb song, and not dumb fun, either. No repeat win for Latvia.
    Rating: 3

    Sez Jen: Scandic formula.
    Rating: 5
  • “Sanomi” by Urban Trad
    (Belgium)
    I dig this tune. It’s got a poppy Celtic feel without being all annoyingly reely or treacly Riverdancesque.
    Rating: 6

    Sez Jen: World music vibe a la Afro-Celt Sound System. Effective use of bagpipe. Decent song, but would seriously improve with an injection from Michael Franti or Common.
    Rating: 8
  • “Eighties Coming Back” by Ruffus
    (Estonia)
    Imagine Huey Lewis & The News if they really sold out.
    Rating: 4

    Sez Jen: There’s some catchy, sophisticated chording here. Think 70s Billy Joel crossed with the New Radicals.
    Rating: 10
  • “Don’t Break My Heart” by Nicola
    (Romania)
    Synthpop bliss! Nice 80s-style keyboard riffs, swank beat, and you can dance to it. Sweet! Granted, the best song never wins, but it’ll be worth buying the Eurovision CD just for this track. Or just download it from the website.
    Rating: 8

    Sez Jen: Think a nasal Anastacia (scary thought, isn’t it?). Some pretty sophisticated jungle beats tho.
    Rating: 5
  • “Give Me Your Love” by Fame
    (Sweden)
    Yay, yet another ABBA soundalike! And not even a good one! Go see Mamma Mia! instead.
    Rating: 1

    Sez Jen: Like every other Swedish entry post-ABBA. This year’s reminds me of a white West Highland Terrier puppy–too precious for words.
    Rating: 3
  • “Nanana” by Karmen
    (Slovenia)
    This sounds like the closing credits to a bad teen romantic comedy from the 80s.
    Rating: 2

    Sez Jen: Wasn’t this song on the Footloose soundtrack? As Simon Cowell would say: “It just isn’t good enough at this level of the competition.” Sorry, kids–next time, use a better English rhyming dictionary.
    Rating: 2

So anyway, I’m rooting for Turkey, Norway, France, and especially Romania, but if the present web ratings hold up, Russia is probably going to win. Not only that, but t.A.T.u. may actually be one of the rare Eurovision winners that has a career post-Eurovision. Whereas most of these acts, the whole of Europe probably will never hear from again.

For more info on the contest, visit official website or check out Esctoday.com.


May 27, 2003 – What’s stranger about this year’s Eurovision competition: the U.K. getting no votes or Austria placing 6th?

Obviously, since I don’t live in Europe, I didn’t catch the show, so I really can’t comment on the performances. The theory behind the U.K.’s nul vote is that the continent is a bit bitter about Britain’s support for the war on Iraq. Of course, it seems their performance didn’t help. The song not being very good also may have been an issue.

That said, Austria’s awful song did remarkably well. Jennifer’s theory is that it received a lot of votes from people who don’t take the contest very seriously.

t.A.T.u. finishing third seems to be a bit of a surprise, but their antics… such as threatening to perform naked… probably hurt their chances with the more conservative voters.

I enjoyed Sertab Erener’s “Everyway That I Can,” so I can’t complain too much about Turkey’s win. Could acceptance into the E.U. be far behind?