PLAYLISTING | Celebrating Eurovision’s big six-zero with 60 of my musical highlights from every decade
Hello there. Long time, no see, if you consider a week-and-a-half a long time. Shockingly, that’s how much time has passed since my last post. Gasp!
Rest assured that I am a) still alive, and b) still unbelievably excited that the 60th Eurovision Song Contest is taking place next month. My excuse for the slackness = I’m at a hectic stage of life at the moment. Unfortunately, the week-and-a-half gap preceding this post has in no way prepared you for the bombardment of content I’ve got planned for the lead-up to Vienna. I’m warning you now to brace yourselves for those glitter bombs!
Another thing I should warn you about is this: the post you’re (hopefully) about to read is somewhat lengthy. Before you proceed, you might want to get comfortable and make sure you have food and water within reaching distance.
Á la my previous national final-themed post, I’ve prepared another playlist – only this one is super-sized. Inspired by Eurovision’s Greatest Hits show (which I finally got a chance to watch the other day, and surprisingly, Herreys were my highlight) I’ve been wanting to pave the road to contest 60 with celebratory posts. Time is racing by like Dana International en route to a John Paul Gaultier sale, however. So, instead of the six top 10 posts I’d planned to put together for you (feat. my favourite Eurovision entries from each decade) I’ve had to lump them all together in one ginormous list.
Once I’d gotten this underway, I realised I didn’t want to be strict about it. I just wanted this post to be a compilation of musical highlights from the past sixty years of ESC epic-ness. Yes, it mostly consists of my favourite songs; but instead of being a ranked top 60, it’s now a random collection of the music that made me fall in love with the contest, and that makes me fall even harder every time I play it.
It was actually über-difficult for me to choose just sixty songs to feature, which is further proof of how musically momentous the contest has been to date. Please don’t check to see if there are sixty, as I may have “accidentally” let a few extras slip in (I always was terrible at maths).
I’ll stop waffling now and introduce, in no particular order – except chronological – 60+ musical highlights from contests past. Enjoy, and share some of your own favourites (or your thoughts on mine) in the comments below!
- Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu by Domenico Modugno (Italy 1958)
- Dansevise by Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann (Denmark 1963)
En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (Sweden 1963) – I’ll admit, I kind of overlooked this entry for a long time. Many of the songs from Eurovision’s early years tend to blend into each other when I recap them, and so I don’t find many of them very memorable (or do I? I can’t remember. And that’s the problem). But when En Gång I Stockholm was resurrected during Melodifestivalen this year, and Monica Zetterlund became Monica Zetterlund feat. Sanna Nielsen…well, I swooned. I’ve included the spellbinding “duet” below, but you can check out Monica’s solo performance here.
- Non Ho L’Éta by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy 1964)
- Tu Te Reconnaîtras by Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg 1973)
- Eres Tú by Mocedades (Spain 1973)
- Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden 1974)
Era by Wess & Dori Ghezzi (Italy 1975) – Italy can do no wrong in my eyes, a.k.a. to my ears when music’s involved. They are perpetually classy, and in this case, livened up a contest that was still attempting to break free of traditional, ballad-heavy restraints. This song is down-tempo too, but it was super current at the time, and remains catchy, funky and all sorts of bellissimo to this day. It’s one of the more timeless vintage tracks I’ve listed – make a few minor adjustments and give it to Wess & Dori 2.0, and I reckon it could fit in as nicely in Vienna ’15 as it did in Stockholm ’75.
- Save Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (UK 1976)
- L’Oiseau Et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam (France 1977)
- Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (UK 1977)
- Dschinghis Khan by Dschinghis Khan (Germany 1979)
Hallelujah by Milk & Honey with Gali Atari (Israel 1979) – Who doesn’t have an appreciation of some kind for this entry? It’s the ultimate sing-along Eurovision song – in a world without Waterloo, at least – as the participants of the 1999 contest are well aware (if you recall, they formed a temporary supergroup at the end of the night, singing Hallelujah in a touching tribute to the victims of the Balkan war). It conveys a message without taking a cheesy approach, and starts small only to step up in key and crescendo until it reaches a satisfying, triumphant conclusion. Thanks to the combination of the song itself, and a simple but effective staging strategy, Israel took the top prize, and Hallelujah became one of Eurovision’s most recognisable winners. Hallelujah!
- Cinéma by Paola (Switzerland 1980)
- Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (UK 1981)
- Ein Bisschen Frieden by Nicole (Germany 1982)
- Hi by Ofra Haza (Israel 1983)
Främling by Carola (Sweden 1983) – Carola took to the ESC stage for the first time as a big-haired teenager in unflattering white pants (not that you can blame her for that…blame the 1980s). What worked in her favour on this first attempt was what would also work in her favour in 1991 and 2006: a cracking song, and THAT VOICE. There’s a reason the woman’s a superstar in Sweden (and in the estimation of many non-Swedish Eurovision fans like myself) and her star quality was oozing out of her pores as she charmed her way through the infectious Främling. Although I’d rank her winning song (also present on this playlist) a teensy bit higher, I do really, really love this. And I hate to repeat myself, but…THAT VOICE!
- Džuli by Daniel (Yugoslavia 1983)
- La Det Swinge by Bobbysocks (Norway 1985)
- Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy 1987)
- Ja Sam Za Ples by Novi Fosili (Yugoslavia 1987)
Nur Ein Lied by Thomas Forstner (Austria 1989) – Before he became an infamous nul-pointer (undeservedly, in my opinion) Thomas Forstner had a rather fruitful trip to Eurovision, arriving with the superbly-80s ballad that is Nur Ein Lied and leaving with 5th place under his shiny lavender belt. For a song that has a title translating to ‘only a song’, this is a damn good one, and I’d argue it’s not only a song, seeing as it’s also one of my all-time favourites. I mean, it’s still a song, obviously, but…you know what I mean. I like everything about it, despite the fact that it’s not the prettiest example of German as a musical language, and that it works better as a studio song than as a live one.
- Pað Sem Enginn Sér by Daniel (Iceland 1989)
- Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)
- Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)
- Insieme: 1992 by Toto Cutugno (Italy 1990)
Bandido by Azúcar Moreno (Spain 1990) – Here’s an awesome entry that was overshadowed by technical difficulties. Amusing to watch as the ‘Spanish Backing Track Fiasco of 1990’ is – twenty-five years and many replays later – I can’t help wondering if the main reason anyone remembers Bandido is because of what happened when Azúcar Moreno tried to perform it. Take the incident out of the equation and you’re still left with a tempestuous, fabulously-ethnic performance of an energetic, up-tempo earworm. That alone should have cleared the way for Spain to reach an excellent position on the scoreboard, but with the added memorability factor of the monumental stuff-up, the duo secured their country’s best result since 1984. On reflection, they’re probably glad things didn’t run so smoothly.
- Hajde Da Ludujemo by Tajči (Yugoslavia 1990)
- Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden 1991)
- Kan by Duo Datz (Israel 1991)
Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida by Cleopatra (Greece 1992) – Any song that sounds like it was lifted from a Disney soundtrack is a winner with me. These sorts of songs aren’t often winners of Eurovision, so I don’t think that’s the most crowded carriage on this train of thought. But if you liked Zlata’s Gravity¸ chances are you will/already do like this banger from Greece. Cleopatra is a great live vocalist (I’m not referring to the Egyptian queen when I say that, although I’m sure she would’ve slayed at karaoke back in the day, presumably taking on Walk Like An Egyptian). She elevates the chorus of an already majestic song to even more majestic heights. I also love the way Greek sounds with this style of music.
- Sva Bol Svijeta by Fazla (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1993)
- Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (UK 1993)
- Wir Geben ‘Ne Party by MeKaDo (Germany 1994)
To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (Poland 1994) – I’m all for Ireland’s third-win-on-the-trot of ’94, but it could easily be argued that Poland should have been on top instead with their debut entry. Edyta, dressed in what looked like a nightgown (but she totally rocked it anyway), sang the absolute heck out of this quality ballad, putting more emotion into her performance than most Academy Award winners do into their statuette-winning portrayals. This song was built to show off a top-notch voice, and she had the goods. As much as I love it, I wouldn’t say it SHOULD have won – I prefer never to say that, instead opting for ‘I would have LIKED *insert song here* to have won’. But should you ask me if I think To Nie Ja! would have made a worthy winner, I will reply with a big ‘hell yeah!’. In case you were wondering.
- Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway 1995)
- Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden 1995)
- O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor by Lucia Moniz (Portugal 1996)
- Minn Hinsti Dans by Paul Oscar (Iceland 1997)
Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997) – Surprise, surprise, it’s Italy again! What can I say? They’re one of my most-loved Eurovision countries, after all. And this stunner from Year Dublin is up there with my favourites of the forty they’ve competed with so far. I won’t ramble on about it too much, as I forced such gushing upon you recently in my Retro Ranking of 1997. I will say that it gives me extreme feels, and that I think it’s another timeless track that wouldn’t seem out of place competing in Eurovision next month (!), with a few 2015 tweaks. Italy pulls off ageless entries very well.
- Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)
- Karleken Är by Jill Johnson (Sweden 1998)
- Where Are You? by Imaani (UK 1998)
- Putnici by Dino & Beatrice (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1999)
Reise Nach Jerusalem by Sürpriz (Germany 1999) – Sürpriz by name and, I’m guessing, sürprized by nature, this group weren’t originally meant to represent Germany in 1999 (think of them as the Ann Sophie of the 90s). That honour went to Corinna May, whose preachy ballad was later discovered to have been released by someone else two years earlier. Corinna would have her time in the spotlight in 2002 (with an equally terrible song) but Sürpriz grabbed their own unexpected shot with both hands, taking the ethno-pop masterpiece Reise Nach Jerusalem to…well, Jerusalem. The song was penned by the dynamic duo of Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger, and it’s one of their finest works – in four languages, no less (not that the likes of Todomondo and Sofi Marinova would be impressed by that).
- My Star by Brainstorm (Latvia 2000)
- Tell Me Who You Are by Malene Mortensen (Denmark 2002)
- Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (FYR Macedonia 2002)
Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003) – The first time Belgium sent three minutes of a made-up language to Eurovision, they nailed it. I don’t think this song would be the same in any other tongue, existing or yet-to-exist. It’s memorable not just due to the imaginary factor, which you tend to forget about anyway once the melody draws you in, but also thanks to the mystical vibes of the music. And let’s not forget the nifty hand choreography of the verses/choruses (who can tell which part is which? It’s all part of the mysterious appeal). I don’t know about you, but whenever I listen to Sanomi, I feel compelled to do those hand movements. I also feel compelled to fist-pump the fact that Belgium beat Russia, because there’s no way t.A.T.u’s shrieking rendition of Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia deserved to come second. Third is a stat I’ve learnt to live with.
- Monts Et Merveilles by Louisa (France 2003)
- Keine Grenzen – Zadnych Granich by Ich Troje (Poland 2003)
- Everyway That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)
- Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
- Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006)
The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz (Israel 2008) – When they found out Dana International had composed and co-written this entry, the first reaction of many fans was horror. How dare she pen a ballad! But, while those people were lamenting the loss of a viva la diva, I was wondering how I’d break the news that I preferred this to Dana’s own winning song. While some find The Fire In Your Eyes boring, I find it breathtaking. It’s everything I want in a ballad: atmospheric and intriguing; not too repetitive and not at all lame; and the proud owner of a big, bold chorus. It’s basically Israel’s version of a Željko-brand Balkan ballad. It was my #1 song at the time, and probably still is my favourite entry from the Class of 2008. Oh, and Boaz’s vocals? Sublime (what could be seen beneath that silver waistcoat wasn’t bad either).
- Bistra Voda by Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)
- Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)
- Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)
- This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011) – I’ve never been sure what it is that’s so damn charming about this song. It was Dino Merlin’s third to represent Bosnia & Herzegovina (a virtual high-five to the first person to find the other two on this list) and it’s a foot-tapper, I know that much. It’s also a very interesting song, which is more than I can say about the eventual winner of 2011 (I hate to go on and on about Running Scared, but I still can’t comprehend its victory). Love In Rewind isn’t the kind of song I’m used to hearing outside of Eurovision, which is part of its charm. I’m not 100% certain what it’s all about even now – I mean, what’s with all the multiplication, Dino? – but it’s so cute, lyrically quirky and musically lovely that I can’t resist it.
- Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
- Euphoria by Loreen (Sweden 2012)
- Kedvesem by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)
- L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
- O Mie by Aliona Moon (Moldova 2013
Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden 2014) – As if I could’ve made a list of defining musical moments and left Sanna off it! Puh-lease. The woman was a Scandinavian goddess to me when she was still on Melodifestivalen attempt #4. So, eight years later, when she FINALLY managed to win and secure herself a spot on the Copenhagen set-list, I was the happiest Sannanator (?) on the planet. I’m pretty convinced I’d love Undo no matter who was singing it, but Miss Nielsen’s flawless vocals do contribute to my continuing obsession. Everything about the Sweden 2014 package gives me goosebumps (the piano tinkling to open? Check. The money note before the second chorus? Check. The fury when I noticed that someone left the stage door open during her semi performance? Check…). That’s when I know I’m onto a winner. Not necessarily an ESC winner, but a song that will stay with me and constantly remind me how freaking much I love the contest.
Well, if you’re still here and conscious, that means you’ve made it through my 60+ musical highlights, which could so easily have been 100+ highlights (be grateful it wasn’t). These are just a selection of the entries that have had an impact on me during my years as a rabid fan and frequent trips back in Euro-time.
Now, it’s only fair I shut up and give you the chance to compile your own lists (not necessarily as long as mine) that you better then share below, or else *shakes fist in your direction semi-threateningly*. Before another forty songs become part of ESC history, hit me up with your highlights from 1956-2014.
NEXT TIME: How you doin’, Vienna Verdicts? That’s what I’m calling my Eurovision reviews this year, by the way. My all-new EBJ Jury will be praising and bitching to their hearts’ content over the following four weeks, and it all kicks off in a few days’ time. Two Australians and an Irishman will be reviewing Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia…so anything could happen!