Eurovision 2008

16 May

What, you don’t know what Eurovision is? Silly American.

Eurovision is, in a nutshell, an annual song contest in which the majority of European countries compete against each other. Each country selects an artist and song to represent them at the contest.

Next week, the semi-finals (20th and 22nd) and the final (24th) of the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest will be held. For my non-European readers, you can watch the broadcast online.

Why should you watch it? Well, I can’t say that the songs are particularly good, since the contest has been the epitome of Eurotrash music for the past decade. However, there is the occasional original gem, and although they never win, it’s still fun to watch the nations of Europe duke it out for the win. If they can’t have another World War, they need *something.*

The music hasn’t always sucked, though. There have been quite a few great songs written for the contest — not always the winners, either. My personal favourites come largely from the ’70s. Here you can watch a recap of all the winning songs of the contest, from 1956 to 2007:

Part 1

Part 2

Note: there were four winners in 1969, before they introduced rules to break ties (although France definitely should have been the sole winner that year ;))

The record number of wins is held by Ireland, with 7, including an impressive winning streak in the ’90s. France, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom each have 5 wins under their belts, although none of these countries has won for quite some time (UK in 1997, Ireland in 1996, Luxembourg in 1983 and France in 1977).

The opening of the contest to eastern European countries (as well as Israel, Turkey, Azerbaijan, etc.) has of course affected the chances of the previously dominating western European countries. Some accuse the contest of politically-motivated voting, especially in the case of Slavic nations voting for other Slavic nations with similar political alignments. Even if this weren’t the case, however, I don’t think we’d be spared from the crap that has inundated the contest for the past 10 years (when I was in the UK last year, there was a collective sense of embarrassment over the country’s contest entry.)

Of course, now that the contest is open to completely democratic voting, one shouldn’t be surprised by the biases. I naturally have a preference for the French-language songs, which practically dominated the contest in the first half of its history, especially in the early years. However, the real revolution in the contest came with the winning song in 1965, Poupée de cire, poupée de son – the first non-ballad to win the contest, sung by a young France Gall representing Luxembourg. Yes, the same naÏve France Gall who sang Serge Gainsbourg’s Les sucettes, and who had a successful career interpreting the excellent songs written by her now-deceased husband, Michel Berger, such as Si maman si.

France Gall’s entry, although very poorly sung in my opinion, marked a turning point in the contest and began a streak of very good French-language winning songs. These were:

1965: Luxembourg, Poupée de cire, poupée de son, France Gall (the linked version is much better than her Eurovision performance)

1969: France, Un jour, un enfant, Frida Boccara

1971: Monaco, Un banc, un arbre, une rue, Séverine

1972: Luxembourg, Après toi, Vicky Leandros

1973: Luxembourg, Tu te reconnaîtras, Anne-Marie David

1977: France, L’oiseau et l’enfant, Marie Myriam (perhaps my favourite of the entire contest)

1983: Luxembourg, Si la vie est cadeau, Corinne Hermes

1986: Belgium, J’aime la vie, Sandra Kim (this re-edit uses the better, recorded version of the song)

1988: Switzerland, Ne partez pas sans moi, Celine Dion

As you can see from Celine Dion’s participation in the contest, the singer doesn’t necessarily have to come from the country they represent. However, formerly the contest rules required that every song be in one of the country’s national languages, with a brief period of exemption to this rule between 1974 and 1976. This exemption in fact allowed ABBA to win the contest in 1974 with “Waterloo,” launching their international career.

My personal favourite from 1974, however, is Gigliola Cinquetti’s ““, which garnered second place:

Another second-place favourite is Mocedades’ “Eres Tú” from 1973, which I think is better than “Tu te reconnaîtras”, although the performance wasn’t nearly as good. However, the preview version shows the song’s greatness.

And while not the best performance, Vicky Leandros’ “L’amour est bleu” was easily the best song of 1967, but it only ranked 4th.

The German entry in 1975, “Ein lied kann eine brucke sein,” also definitely deserved the win.

Among the winners, some of my preferred non-French songs include Denmark 1963, Germany 1982, Italy 1990, and Ireland 1993. And believe it or not, last year’s winner (Serbia’s Molitva), although rather emo, wasn’t half-bad in my opinion:

Now that I’ve completed your Eurovision history lesson, we come to this year’s contest.

Unfortunately, as has been the case for the past decade, most of the songs this year are crap. You’ve got the lame Europop/Techno stuff as well as completely absurd stuff like Spain’s entry, and Ireland’s gem of an entry, whose purpose is simply to mock Eurovision. With good reason.

Although I don’t feel particularly loyal to France in Eurovision, especially given their track record since 1977, they do have a tendency to be somewhat non-conformist and thus give some more original songs. Although they’ve been hesitant to follow the massive trend towards English-only songs (the language rule was removed in 1999), this changed last year with the bizarre “Frenglish” song, “L’amour à la française.”

This year, France’s entry is entirely in English, although the lyrics are pretty much incomprehensible (and even after reading them, they make little sense). Still, this unusual little song is better than most of the others in the contest:

Another of the few decent songs this year, IMO, is Switzerland’s entry, which is in Italian. Maybe I’m just happy that I can understand the lyrics:

Similarly, I like Romania’s entry, which is a love duet in Romanian and Italian, although the Italian singer (the woman) is better…

Unfortunately, I doubt that any of these will win. Current favourites right now seem to be Russia and Greece. *grumble grumble* Another problem with Eurovision now is that it’s become so much about the whole stage production, rather than the song itself. It is a SONG contest, after all.

If you can’t watch the contest, then be patient — apparently an American version might be in the works, with a competition between the 50 states. Go New Hampshire!

Also, interesting note: a recent controversy emerged over a documentary which claimed that Franco rigged the 1968 Eurovision contest to ensure Spain’s victory, robbing the UK of the #1 spot. For the record, though, I prefer Spain’s song.

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2 Responses to “Eurovision 2008”

  1. Bridget 18 May 2008 at 14:44 #

    Feeling curious about New England – specifically Rhode Island, I came across a post from yourself and then landed on your blog. Investigations into RI were quickly forgotten when firstly your name intrigued me – then I discovered that you knew more about Eurovison than I did (and I adore it).

    My name is Verso, which is a French Hugenot name “Versois” converted to Irish when they all fled the guillotine for Dublin. Some of the Versois’ left for America – I believe there is one on listed on Ellis Island records.

    I’m not a geneologist of any kind – I’m not even a real Verso as this is my ex-partner’s name. However, the Verso’s are quite clannish and one of the family have done some extensive research into connections and I wonder if you knew if the name was in any way related?

    For the record – Vicky Leandros was my 2nd choice favourite, but Ireland has to take the biscuit in 1993 with Niamh Kavanagh “In Your Eyes” – still gives me goosebumps
    Bridget

  2. Megan 26 May 2008 at 02:29 #

    Personally, I thought that Germany had the best entry last year, but clearly it wouldn’t win, would it? I just watched some of the videos and relived memories of sitting in my kitchen watching the contest. It was hilarious. 🙂

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