Where National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, UK
Who The Netherlands
What Hemel En Aarde, Edsilia Rombley
Result 4th with 150 points
These days, they’re killing it at Eurovision – but back in the 1990s, The Netherlands experienced a run of hit-and-miss results that saw them bounce between the top ten and the bottom five for most of the decade.
Their best result, and last top five placing until The Common Linnets came along, was in 1998 courtesy of 20-year-old Edsilia Rombley. With a simple but spirited performance, and vocals smoother than the silk her gold dress may/may not have been made of, she raised the Birmingham roof and ended the evening in 4th place with Hemel En Aarde. That’s ‘heaven and earth’ in English, which is appropriate since it is a little slice of heaven. I can hear you groaning, but please stay with me.
This song is an infectious and uplifting mix of pop, soul, funk and classic 90s R&B, paired with those phenomenal vocals that both soothe me and floor me every time I hear them. Edsilia made everything look effortless on that stage, and didn’t even need to move around much to get the audience going crazy (star power alert!). If I’d been there I definitely would have been getting my groove on…because if you hadn’t guessed, I absolutely adore this entry. In fact – Calm After The Storm and Arcade stans, brace yourselves – it’s my favourite Dutch entry of all time. It’s so feelgood I think of it as musical Prozac, and you don’t have to understand Dutch to feel the joy that bursts out of it like rays of sunshine.
All this gushing I’m doing right now is cheesier than a wheel of Gouda, I know, but that’s what Hemel En Aarde does to me. I’ve loved it since I first heard it, which was actually after I’d seen Edsilia compete for the second time in Helsinki – with a song that was way past its use-by date in 2007 (she still performed the heck out of it, though).
So how does Hemel hold up 20+ years later? Surprisingly well, I think, but that may have something to do with 90s R&B becoming musically trendy again (Sweden has certainly enjoyed bringing it back to the ESC the last few years). With a couple of changes made to bring the performance into the now, it wouldn’t feel too obviously 90s if it competed today. That choreography would have to go, and so would the gelled-up spikes in that particular backing singer’s hair (not even a good look at the time). And I think a big missing piece of the puzzle would be the orchestra, since live musical accompaniment really elevates this sort of song. But yeah, I reckon I’d vote for this in the 2010s/soon-to-be 2020s (!!!).
If you love this track as much as I do, you MUST go and check out Edsilia (who has barely aged a day) and Ruth Jacott (who represented The Netherlands in 1993, finishing 6th) nailing a medley of Hemel En Aarde and Ruth’s entry Vrede at a massive Dutch music festival last December. It’s magical stuff. After I watched it, I felt so powerful and energised by the sheer talent and musical mastery that I ran a marathon, climbed Mount Everest, and admitted that Running Scared did deserve to win Eurovision 2011 (that one was the hardest). That’s girl power – and major exaggeration – right there.
What do you think of Edsilia’s 1998 entry Hemel En Aarde, and how do you think it holds up today? Let me know below!