Okay guys, it’s official: it has taken me an ENTIRE YEAR to finish all of my Eurovision 2020 song reviews. Granted, it was a year like no other…but that doesn’t really excuse me considering we all had more downtime than we’ve ever had before throughout 2020.
Instead of dragging things out even further by listing all the reasons for my taking Douwe Bob’s Slow Down to the extreme – or, you might say, stroopwaffeling on – I’ll get right into today’s lucky-last review, which coincidentally is also Dutch.
Yes, it’s finally time for my verdict on last year’s host entry that never was. Read on and have your own opinions at the ready, if you can remember them. This, my esteemed fellow Eurofans, is Grow by Jeangu Macrooy as judged by Jaz.
That’s me. Obviously. Let’s g(r)o(w)!
Being the host country is a tricky business. On one hand, as the reigning champion, you have massive footsteps to follow in and hardly want to embarrass yourself on home ground (á la Austria 2015, for example). On the other hand, in the interests of your broadcaster not going broke you don’t exactly want to win again – just ask Ireland circa 1994. It’s a fine line to tread, aiming for slightly above average (says someone who usually aims for average…I never said I was speaking from experience). Taking on the tough task last year, prior to the contest’s cancellation, was Jeangu Macrooy and Grow. So, on a scale from I Am Yours to Never Let You Go, where does this entry end up? And where would it have landed on the Rotterdam scoreboard last May? I’ll get to (my opinions on) that, but first let’s scrutinise the song.
I won’t beat around the bush: I think this is stunning, and it snuck up on me with its hard (and heart) hitting sentimentality. It’s not sentimental like an overpriced Hallmark greeting card dripping with cheese (which would be gouda in this case) but in a simple, nostalgic sort of way. And I’ve got to tell you, the first time I listened to it all those months ago, the tears were running down my face before I even realised it was affecting me that way. There’s something so emotional about the song that I’ve never been able to put my finger on because it’s not telling a specific story that gives it that weight, like 1944. It’s more vaguely autobiographical, but ultra-relatable at the same time. Who can’t connect with growing up and not being able to stick to a “plan”, or not understanding the world you’re living in? The line ‘I’m getting older and it ain’t what I thought it would be’ says so much, which might have something to do with me facing my 30th birthday this year (SHH, DON’T TELL ANYONE!) and having a crisis about it…but again, I think we can all relate. Another great thing about this song is its interesting structure. It’s bare-bones to start off with, and that in itself grabs attention (you don’t need to get all up in people’s faces to reel them in if you do it the right way). There’s a slight “background music” vibe to it at first – maybe because it builds so gradually and so slowly – but it’s not the kind of background music you can ignore, if that makes any sense. Not much that comes out of my mouth does. Anyway, the gospel-choir-driven last minute makes an already worthy wait even worthier. We know gospel songs have been drooled over by juries at Eurovision lately – think Nobody But You, Too Late For Love, and Move had it competed. I don’t think they would have responded to this as strongly, maybe because the structure is so slow-burn. But they couldn’t have ignored the integrity, and Grow had heaps to offer us public voters too. That would have put the Netherlands in a very good position to save face (and then some) on home soil. There’s no way this was an I Am Yours or O Jardim in the making – it’s too beautiful.
Another reason I think so is because Jeangu is very likeable (I’d consider selling my soul for a hug from the guy) and his vocals are phenomenal, full of warmth and a quiet kind of power. Basically he’s very voteable and it would have taken monumentally messed-up staging to drag him down. I don’t know about you, but I’ll always wonder what the Netherlands would have done with this on stage. Something simple, I imagine, that told the story of Jeangu’s past/present/future to tie in with the way the song does. Actually that sounds so challenging, it might not be the worst thing that Grow’s Eurovision performance was never fully realised. That being the reality, all we can do is enjoy what we got: three minutes of genuine gorgeousness.
In a line Something special that tugs at the heartstrings and stands out in its subtlety 2019 VS 2020 2020…seriously Ranking #9 Score 10 points
Well, as Barbara Pravi would say, voilà: that’s 41 reviews done and dusted, Rotterdamn it! Just in time for me to move on to the 40 (or possibly 39, Belarus pending) of 2021. Oh dear Lordi.
I’ll get to work on those if you do a little something for me…vote in this poll:
Let me know what you think of Grow – and why you voted how you did – in the comments. Since I can’t actually have a Jeangu hug, that would be an okay substitute.
NEXT TIME I had a vacation from covering this year’s ESC selection season, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching it like a Eurovision-obsessed hawk. ASAP I’ll be looking at every song that finished second in a 2021 national final and deciding which one is the cream of the crop – and possibly should have gone all the way. Stay tuned!