Three Minutes to Eternity: My ESC 250 (#150-141)
#150: Francesco Gabbani -- Occidentali's Karma (Italy 2017)
"Soci onorari al gruppo dei selfisti anonimi
L’intelligenza è démodé
Risposte facili, dilemmi inutili"
"Honorary members of Selfie Addicts Anonymous
Intelligence is out of fashion
Easy answers, pointless dilemmas"
I remember how hyped Occidentali's Karma was before the contest--it racked up views like a wind machine, and it looked like everything was going in its favor. And for good reason.
Even within the title (because it uses English possessives, rather than in Italian, Occidentali's Karma satirizes those in the West who romanticize or even appropriates East Asian culture and/or philosophy. Rereading the translation, it's curious because Covid-19 increased anti-Asian sentiment to the point of violence across the world. But there were so many good references.
Along with an upbeat tempo, the question going into rehearsals was where Italy was going to host the contest the following year. (It's not as hyped as Fur Alle, see #227 to see how that turned out and why their other entry was better) Unfortunately, that was not meant to be, as a combination of the three-minute cut (which is why I attached the Sanremo performance instead), Francesco's progressive tiredness with performing the song, and the staging sunk it from the top five completely. For some reason, the latter didn't bother me as much, though I could see why people would see it as more gimmicky in the end.
And with Italy's other entries in the future, it doesn't seem like it holds up as well. But the "Namaste, ale!" part doesn't fail to amplify a crowd.
Personal ranking: 2nd/42
Actual ranking: 6th/26 GF in Kyiv
#149: Youddiph -- Vechny Strannik (Russia 1994)
“Вечный странник, я твоя судьба,
Знаю, помнишь обо мне
Ты всегда в пути, но для тебя
Яркий свет в моём окне,”
“Eternal wanderer, I'm your destiny,
I know, you will remember me
You are always on the way, but there is always
A bright light for you in my window”
A bit eccentric from Russia, but it makes for a worthy debut, part of a three-song stretch of them towards the end. I like how the lyrics told a story about the two separated lovers, and they are really poetic!
But I sometimes get lost with the more relaxed verses against the explosive chorus. The former reminds me of an instrumental to beat poetry; I would sometime mimic "Poetry by Gary" there, whereas the latter feels like something that would be in other ballads during the time. It took multiple listens to reconcile the two; the orchestration really helps.
Youddiph switches between the two forms, well, going from , and the scarlet multi-functional dress is a highlight. Which way did she wear it is your favorite?
Personal ranking: 3rd/25
Actual ranking: 9th/25 in Dublin
#148: Mocededes -- Eres tú (Spain 1973)
“Como mi poema, eres tú, eres tú,
Como una guitarra en la noche,
Todo mi horizonte, eres tú, eres tú,
Así, así, eres tú,”
“Like my poem, you are, you are,
Like a guitar in the night
My whole horizon, you are, you are
Like that, like that, you are”
The lyrics are so pure—telling a loved one that they remind them of all the good things in life, all sung really well by a really professional choir. It touched me the first time I listened to it, and found it really sweet even after multiple listens. The instrumentation adds to that feeling, which makes it unsurprising that it has become a well-beloved classic even to this day.
Curiously, when they released the single internationally, they had the Spanish-version on the A-side and the English one on the B-side. The radio stations prefered to play the former, which led to it garnering fame across the Americas and Europe. It was even #9 on the US Billboard 100 at one point, making it one of the few non-English songs to do so well there. And it's been covered over and over again.
In addition, it still holds Spain's highest point total at Eurovision, with 125 points. And that's after multiple voting system changes and an increase of countries participating. Then again, that's its power!
Personal ranking: 4th/17
Actual ranking: 2nd/17 in Luxembourg
#147: Dulce Pontes -- Lusitana paixão (Portugal 1991)
“Mmm... fado, só quando a saudade vem,
Arrancar do meu passado um grande amor...”
“Mmm... fado, just when the longing comes,
Pulling a great love back from my past”
For the record, this is not a fado song, but rather a song discussing about the singer’s relationship with the genre in a standard early 1990s ballad. However, Dulce would go on to become one of Portugal's most famous fado singers, especially with the track Canção do Mar.
This doesn't mean that Lusitana paixao is anyway inferior, though!
As a result, the songs calming, but the lyrics indicate some yearning to convey the pain. The chorus is a bit weaker than the verses (despite being the rare example of "major-verse/minor-chorus"), but the orchestration in them, combined with Dulce’s vocals, makes it shine.
Personal ranking: 6th/22
Actual ranking: 8th/22 in Rome
#146: Conchita Wurst -- Rise Like a Phoenix (Austria 2014)
"You know I will rise like a phoenix
But you’re my flame"
(Maybe I should've had Lusitana Paixao at #146 to keep up the Eurovision 1991 references, right? #allora)
If there's anything noticeable in Rise Like a Phoenix, it's how resilient and fierce it is, while establishing a sense of glamour.
It starts off with an orchestral intro, and the first verse is quiet, before it starts blooming further and further through the song. The lyrics have a sense of bite about them--the narrator is hurt, but they will use their pain to become even stronger. And the staging helps with the concept; through the use of lighting, we get to see Conchita more, from the silhouette in the beginning to her full form by the end of the song, decked in gold and fully assured.
Rise Like a Phoenix was one of the first Eurovision songs I listened beyond the 2016-7 timeframe (or at least, one of the first that I liked enough to draw some fanart). The whole piece doesn't get lost in a soundtrack (a lot of comments talk about how it could fit in a James Bond movie), and it holds itself firm and dignified. And while I'm not part of the LGBTQ+ community, I could understand somewhat why something like this is important.
And it's absolutely glamorous.
Personal ranking: =3rd/37
Actual ranking: 1st/26 GF in Copenhagen
#145: The Common Linnets -- Calm After the Storm (the Netherlands 2014)
“I just wanna know if staying is better than goodbye...”
Both Rise Like a Phoenix and Calm After the Storm weren't seen as contenders before rehearsals, as the former "leaned on a gimmick" and the latter wasn't "stereotypically Eurovision" enough and too low-key. It took a couple of great stagings; whereas "Rise Like a Phoenix" plays with fire and revealing who one is, "Calm After the Storm deals with the melancholy and tension after a relationship, and does so fantastically. (cries in 2018)
The following lyric is a pretty hard-hitting one from an otherwise serene-sounding song. The story in it also deals with this stasis; while "calm after the storm” implies a return back to normal, the lyrics also indicate an ambiguity towards the state of this broken ship. (Looking over it, I still can't believe how clever the title is) The fallout creates an emptiness, and sometimes the silence is louder than any shouting. It’s definitely worth a listen, and I don’t listen to country often!
(On whether Calm after the Storm would've made the better winner, I'm not sure. I can agree it's the more thoughtful song and would've opened the doors to more genres, but Rise Like a Phoenix had just as much of an impact. Of the winner-runner-up pairs of the 2010s, this is the one I'm down the middle about. Both are so good...)
Personal ranking: =3rd/37
Actual ranking: 2nd/26 GF in Copenhagen
#144: Dino Merlin -- Love in Rewind (Bosnia and Herzegovina 2011)
“One to a hundred, multiplied by you,
It all looks great, it all looks cool,
Healthy children go to school,
My daughter's in love, my son loves too..."
If you ask most Eurovision fans on what's their favorite Bosnian entry is, it usually comes down to one of three options. Love in Rewind is the most recent of them, but still has its charms. (Don't worry, you'll find out what the other two are in due time...)
A happy song which relishes on the beauty of life, Love in Rewind has the narrator appreciate the little things in life, despite the minor-key(?) tone throughout. Dino conveys this cheery feeling well, and the people on stage definitely add to this familial scene, from the chorus to Maya's piano playing and everything else in between. It's really enough to give you those warm feelings inside. (And if you don't, what kind of person are you?!)
For a song which performed second in the final, Love in Rewind also did quite well, with a solid sixth place! Though in an average year like 2011, it deserved the win.
P.S: What did the juries not see in this song?
Personal ranking: 1st/43
Actual ranking: 6th/25 GF in Dusseldorf
#143: Cliff Richard -- Power to All Our Friends (United Kingdom 1973)
“Power to the boys who played rock 'n' roll
And made my life so sweet
And to the girls I knew before
And those I've yet to meet”
It's funny I'm writing this now, because the most recent #Eurovisionagain was 1968, which featured the hit "Congratulations" and it losing Eurovision by one point, haha.
Cliff Richard’s second entry is a bit less remembered than his first, but I think it’s quite better. From the rock and roll vibes of this one to the celebratory lyrics, it brings a spark of joy and modernity to the 1973 contest. Speaking of modernity, Power to All Our Friends was the first song to use some playbacked elements--the orchestral drummers are doing nothing in the background during the chorus. Though the orchestra did help with emphasizing the grandness of this song.
Cliff’s dancing, on the other hand, hasn’t changed and still remains very awkward. He also stayed in the bathroom when the voting came along, and then Spain was now one of two countries which beat him. I'm kind of surprised that he never had a grudge against the country.
Personal and actual ranking: 3rd/17 in Luxembourg
#142: Rollo and King -- Never Ever Let You Go (Denmark 2001)
“I’ll never ever be the same since you left me lonely
So please come back to me again”
Isn't this wholesome? From the opening harmonica solo, one can expect a really happy and warm song. Rollo and King deliver the joy in spades, and Signe's arrival in the second verse made the whole crowd at Parken cheer. What a moment.
I love how the duo's voices work and the lyrical content of the song (though sometimes I'm a bit confused about if the narrator changed or not...). It's very sunny and cute, which makes it shine at the end of the lineup. While it doesn't have the same "movie-ending" feel as In a Moment Like This (#164), it still does the job well. The ukelele parts also bring a bit of spice to it; "I even really liked "I Don't Feel Hate" from this year because of its similarities with their riff!
I actually like this more than "Fly on the Wings of Love", though they both share this comfy, acoustic vibe. But that's what Denmark does best in the contest--bubbly cute songs, and Never Ever Let You go is the best of them.
(But don't worry, there's still more Danish songs to come!)
Personal ranking: 3rd/23
Actual ranking: 2nd/23 in Copenhagen
#141: Sergey Lazarev -- You are the Only One (Russia 2016)
“Won’t ever give up ’cause you’re still somewhere out there
Nothing or no one’s gonna keep us apart”
The top three of 2016 all had something compelling about them, which made them shine from the bunch. They had songs of different genres, but the performances make them stand out from the rest of the crowd, with highly capable singers.
You are the Only One pops out right away with the opening bell, and follows through a dramatic arc about finding the one. While there are questions about how ”dated” the song is, the production is quite awesome and adds to the drama. I always imagine a cool music video where one traverses across the city and trying to find someone for comfort. It would make a very fitting soundtrack.
And Sergey is a great performer, handling the evolved wall staging with ease. There were some angles that made it give the fact away to the viewer, but seeing Sergey sing and climb and announce that someone was the "only one" wowed everyone, including me.
No wonder I listened to this so many times when I started following Eurovision!
Personal ranking: 4th/42
Actual ranking: 3rd/26 GF in Stockholm