Even though no one could’ve known at the time, 1971 was the inaugural contest for the second most prolific Eurovision host, Ireland. Despite their future fame, miniature Monaco claimed the victory this year, the only time they’d ever do so. Let’s take a seat on un banc and reflect on the other 17 songs.
Venue: Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, Ireland
Date: 3 April 1971
Host: Bernadette Ní Ghallchóir
In our second Irish contest, we have another interesting logo. Something else notable about this contest was the introduction of the last voting system before today’s douze points system. Each country had two jurors who gave out anywhere from two to 10 points. This resulted in last placed Malta finishing with 52 points, a number good enough for 15th place today. With that little tidbit, it’s time for music!
Song 1: Austria
“Musik” – Marianne Mendt
One song in and return of the days when the chorus made up less than half the song elates me. Speaking of, the lyrics to this song are right up my alley; Marianne is lamenting how music is “sold as something it really isn’t” with fanciful distractions and that communicating feelings is “why music is made.” After a year where most songs were love stories, something this frank and different is refreshing. I’m a big fan of this message and the execution is great. In addition, the melody is wonderfully strong as well. It starts off big and brash before taking a more conventional pop route. The initial excitement is enough to catch attention but it never feels too stuck out, as the rest of the composition grows and shrinks well in relation. It’s simple, well done, intriguing music.
As for the performance, Marianne put her all into it. In fact, it might’ve been a bit too much because she got a little scream-y at some points. For the most part, she sounded great but it wasn’t polished enough and wasn’t covered well. The barren, unchanging stage is a bit of a shock but her simple white dress was all the performance needed, along with the strong camera angles. I’m a fan of it all.
Live: 8 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 8 | Preference: 15
Total: 9.15 pts.
Song 2: Malta
“Marija i-Maltija” – Joe Grech
Now we have Joe singing a song that really only needed 90 seconds of stage time rather than three minutes. First there’s the problem of having an annoyingly chipper melody. It has a very evident 70s feel but not in a good way. The lightness of the strings and winds isn’t kept in balance and the whole thing becomes grating as a result. Had there been less song to accompany it might not have been so intolerable but since the lyrics were poorly put together, the whole package got worse. What that means is that the lyrics say the same three stanzas twice in a row. Seriously they could’ve stopped Joe after singing the chorus once because literally nothing was changed. The story of waiting for a perfect woman at the bus stop is okay but it only needed to be told one time.
On a positive note, I loved Joe’s purple bowtie. The white suit might’ve been a little much for me but they tie was perfect. Again, decent staging but there’s really nothing to mess up, since it’s just the singer’s outfit and the camera angles. Both were fine. Joe’s vocals left nothing to be desired and were fine for the song. I wouldn’t say this was a fine song but it was average and I don’t really care for that.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 3 | Preference: 7
Total: 4.95 pts.
Song 3: Monaco
“Un banc, un arbre, une rue” – Séverine
This could almost be a graduation song, as Séverine sings about how everyone has the common experience of cherishing childhood dreams that have gone too soon right before they’re all about to “go, filled with hope, on the road that they chose.” Considering my class never sorted out our song, I would’ve liked this to be pumped into the arena, as it would’ve been perfect for the occasion. The music is a perfect accompaniment with a powerful nostalgic feeling evident throughout the piece, particularly in the chorus. The decision to start with it, actually, was a good one, as it helped to set the mood. However the key change was not necessary and proved to be the only blemish on a wonderful song.
Onstage things felt less enjoyable, mainly because the song was halfway through before Séverine connected with the camera. It was always either too far away or off to the side, which felt very odd. At least they finally got her to make eye contact because it was all good from there. Her dress was nice but her hair looked fake, almost like what would happen if I dyed my black hair blond. But that’s a minor quibble in the big picture because her vocals were absolutely stunning. With a grand song, Séverine really rose to the occasion and delivered a stellar performance. In a total turnaround from the last song, this song still feels like it could have a life today, even if only in a niche area and that’s something great.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 10 | Preference: 19
Total: 10.5 pts.
Song 4: Switzerland
“Les illusions de nos vingt ans” – Peter, Sue, & Marc
And with that, we have our first instance of a returning artist, even though this was their first try. With the reference point of their 1981 song, it’s nice to see and hear such an improvement. This is much better than Peter, Sue, & Marc’s other effort 10 years later as it feels more authentic and appropriate. That unfortunately doesn’t make it a great song, though.
It’s another coming of age song and, compared to Monaco’s, it falls flat. Lyrically there are fewer shining spots and even some deficiencies. Peter, Sue, & Marc are asking the older generation, a man and a woman, to move aside so the youngsters can “have their turn to live too.” It’s a nice sentiment but isn’t as universal as “Un banc…” and falls victim to sexism. While they say that the older gentleman has “remade the world and the time,” all the lady has done is “dreamt about waltzes and springs.” The poor stereotypes feel out of place in a song all about how the normally liberal and open young people are taking over the world. The music also fails to carry both a sense of reflection that might’ve been experienced by the elders or a new beginning by the young people. It’s dated and ephemeral.
The trio had the same problem that they did a decade later in that they don’t feel like a group both visually and vocally. To start with the latter, Sue’s and Marc’s voices don’t mesh well and I flat out just don’t like Sue’s voice. There’s a truly undesirable whiny quality about it that I can’t stand. Visually, Peter was dressed in a loud green sweater while the other two had on more conservative white and grey numbers. It didn’t really make sense. All in all, while this might’ve been better than their other song in Dublin, I’m not won over by Peter, Sue, & Marc. Again.
Live: 5 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 10
Total: 5.85 pts.
Song 5: Germany
“Diese Welt” – Katja Ebstein
The song topics have been quite varied so far, as we’re now getting an environmentalist anthem from Germany. To be more specific, Katja sings about how “this world is a gift” for us but that it’s crucial to keep it safe from pollutants like smoke and oil, lest we lose its wonders like “starlit nights” and “lush, green forests.” It’s a nice message that’s still relevant today, so much so that there are ESC songs about it today *coughUkraine2010diditbettercough*. A standout line is “in jumbo jets, we fly towards tomorrow but what will tomorrow be like, senseless or full of sunshine,” reminding us to keep our drive for progress in check and balance with the whims of Mother Nature. They’re great lyrics. Sadly, the melody isn’t as stirring because it’s a generic fodder track. Aside from the commanding piano at the beginning and between the choruses, there’s nothing great to note here, except that there’s no key change.
Vocally, Katja delivered a smashing performance that felt very powerful and genuine besides the fact that the stupid music was too loud and overpowered her at the end of the chorus. And while she was the perfect compliment to the lyrics, her outfit was just as ridiculous as the music. A song about the environment should have organic, natural looking clothing on the performer, not a catsuit made out of doilies with cutouts on the hips. It was disastrous. Not Sheeba-style disastrous, but in the neighborhood (I so wanted to add a “u” there). The camera angles were also bad. This is a pretty two-faced entry but thankfully the good is enough to outweigh the bad.
Live: 9 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 4 | Preference: 11
Total: 6.75 pts.
Song 6: Spain
“En un mundo nuevo” – Karina
Here’s another example of a song that could’ve done with a cut. Without that extra verse at the end, this song would’ve been so much stronger and impactful but that “ba da da da” nonsense made it silly and juvenile. And that’s a real shame because everything was going so well for Karina and her song up to that point. She told a story of how as life closes, things will be happy and wonderful if you lived your life with “love and truth” and that “all your dreams will come true in a new happy world.” The religious connotation is subtle but it’s there and while that would normally vex me, the afterlife is one part of the story that I’m willing to negotiate. I’m not too thrilled that being saved is the main theme of the lyrics but at least it was told in a pleasant way. Musically, it starts out as a fairytale-like fantasy piece before turning into a chant. The transition was smoothly handled and it was very enjoyable, right up until it turned into a march at the ill-advised final verse. Some songs, like Portugal 1996, are strong enough to pull off these sorts of changes. This wasn’t.
Onstage, Karina sang her heart out in a great performance. While it wasn’t as challenging as Katja’s (for the most part), Karina didn’t ham it up like the former had at some points. It all equals out to similar, evenly-matched efforts. However, Karina does have the advantage when it comes to the visual appeal of the entry, because her team got the wardrobe and camera angles right, mostly. While Karina looked fine in her powder blue gown, the backings looked terrible in the pastel green numbers. But that’s really the only big miss of this entry. I’m not crazy about it but it’s okay.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 5 | Preference: 9
Total: 6.15 pts.
Song 7: France
“Un jardin sur la terre” – Serge Lama
The theme of this contest seems to be, another song, another message. This time, France has offered up a peace ballad, using a life-giving garden to represent the change that will result in peace across the world. It’s a little too overwrought in the execution but the lyrics certainly aren’t bad. However, the music comes across as very disjointed. In the verses, the song’s a minor, quiet piece while in the chorus it’s louder and sprightlier. That would be fine if it coincided with some sort of change in the lyrics, which it doesn’t. As a result, the whole melody just sounds odd and bad.
What didn’t sound bad, however, was Serge himself. He was great onstage, even if it was a little too hammy at points. His look, though, was suffering, as were the camera angles. In this year where there’s nothing going on elsewhere onstage, the angles are crucial. Messing them up is the biggest blunder one could make. But even with those problems, the biggest flaw of this entry is that it’s boring. After 90 seconds, I was already tired of it and uninterested in the rest. And that’s an incredibly bad sign because even car crash songs can hold attention for that long. This didn’t.
Live: 8 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 4 | Preference: 7
Total: 5.55 pts.
Song 8: Luxembourg
“Pomme, pomme, pomme” – Monqiue Melsen
No matter how boring the last song was, it will never approach the level of infuriation that this song gave me. It’s totally vacuous, devoid of almost anything worthwhile. And while I’ve already forgotten the last song, I just know that this song will stick in my head forever. Lyrically, it’s just gibberish, hopping between the woes of eating apples, Snow White, and the sin of Eve, all mixed in with a nod to age. It’s intensely uninteresting. The music is this song’s bright spot, as it moves nicely from using only a couple of instruments to effectively utilizing a good part of the orchestra. It makes everything else a little more bearable.
Since “Pomme, pomme, pomme” really isn’t a difficult song to sing, Monique didn’t really give a stellar performance. She felt like the spoon that serves some awful bland purée; you don’t notice it as much as you do the dislike you have for what it’s giving you. And that’s unfortunate because I want to like her. But she assisted in her own demise with this song. Oddly, while the shots looked fine Monique looked like she was ready to attend a hoedown in that outfit. As endearing as it was, it felt ridiculous, which is the perfect word for this entry. It’s unashamedly ridiculous.
Live: 5 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 4 | Preference: 3
Total: 2.85 pts.
Song 9: United Kingdom
“Jack in the Box” – Clodagh Rodgers
This is a song with some much-needed contrast. As Clodagh sings about how she would do anything for the person who treats her like a toy and uses her, an oompah like march drives the song. It’s a tragedy, much like the lyrics, which have an unexpected depth to them, something I always enjoy finding. The imagery of a lifeless toy, sitting alone on a shelf until playtime rolls around, is, to me, sort of crazy and terribly depressing. And so why should the music be so peppy? Even if the composer still wanted a pop song, they could’ve added a few elements to take away from the overly jovial spirit of the piece. It’s a big letdown.
Unlike the music, the entry isn’t let down by the performance, which was done well by Clodagh. Even though it’s not the most challenging piece, her voice was far more interesting than Monique’s , making this song pop more. Also, Clodagh didn’t look as hokey as Monique did. Now that’s not say that sparkly hot pants and a silky pink top aren’t hokey, they’re just less hokey than overall shorts. As far as pop songs go, my vote would land in London.
Live: 6 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 2 | Preference: 11
Total: 6 pts.
Song 10: Belgium
“Goeiemorgen, morgen” – Jacques Raymond & Lily Castel
After this many songs, the 70s is shaping up to be my least favorite decade. Mainly because it seems like all the lyrics are schizophrenic and fail to have any coherent meaning. This is a good example of that, as it feels like in between saying “Good morning” to one another, Jacques & Lily are singing about how thankful they are for the chance to “experience each other again.” It doesn’t flow well and just feels incredibly annoying after the first refrain. Musically, there’s not much to talk about as the score does a good job at camouflaging itself behind the lyrics and singers. And when there are fewer things to screw up, I’m happy.
Behind the happy faces, there’s an odd story to this couple. They were last minute replacements for Nicole & Hugo, the original choice to sing. Without the experience of listening to their version of this song, I feel comfortable saying that Jacques & Lily did a very good job in Dublin and were a treat to listen to. Without feeling too anonymous, they sounded wonderfully plain, like great vanilla ice cream (it’s always about food, isn’t it?). Their so obviously amateur dancing was a nice contrast compared to most of the other singers’ solid stances behind a microphone stand. All in all, it’s a pleasant Belgian surprise that I’ve taken a shine to, not unlike another Belgian surprise from recent memory. 😉
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 5 | Preference: 14
Total: 7.35 pts.
Song 11: Italy
“L’amore è un attimo” – Massimo Ranieri
It really can’t get more Italian than this, can it? A grandiose, building, huge song about a break up sung by a man who can belt the notes out f the park with ease. The lyrics detail the struggle Massimo has when telling his love that they can no longer be together and how unhappy he is. For the year, they’re surprisingly repetitive and a little bland but still pretty decent. In particular, the line “who knows if there will be a flower for you under the snow” is the best thing about the song, aside from the performer. Musically, it starts out with a painfully traditional instrument before becoming normal pop ballad fodder. It does its job well and discreetly. Aside from a last-minute key change, it’s perfectly average.
Despite the somewhat lackluster song, Massimo’s vocals were totally stunning. His voice would be utilized so much better on something less poppy and pointless as this. I loved that part of this entry to pieces. And while everyone heard how great he was, it was hard to see because the shots were terribly done. Maybe it has something to do with the camera setup but the two contests that chronologically precede this one had a greater variety and quality. I’m confused. Nevertheless, I’m not crazy about this song, only its performer.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 11
Total: 6.9 pts.
Song 12: Sweden
“Vita vidder” – Family Four
After channeling Italy’s spirit energy for their song, Sweden comes along and drops all the pretenses and sings about the wonders of winter in the North. As a person who can’t stand beaches, I’m a fan. The lyrics are pretty much nothing more than that, except that they describe life on the Mediterranean before sinking into describing the “eternal sun” and skiing “down steep dizzying slopes.” The chorus breaks typical tradition for Sweden and only pops up once. By doing this, the lyricist made room for another description of the beautiful country. Musically, it feels sort of like a Christmas song, especially in the verses. It’s sort of indescribable but it’s a very warm feeling that’s inviting, almost like a seat by a hot fireplace in a terrible blizzard. I like it, even if the rest of the melody is quite generic.
Onstage, the group looked like a pre-Waterloo ABBA, complete with complimenting hairstyles and colors. Their outfits looked nice enough and their stage presence was inviting. Thankfully they had a decent vocal performance to compliment those. However, once again, the camera never captured this properly and when they were waving their hands toward the audience, it looked wrong. All in all, this is a little surprise that doesn’t do anything special but is pleasant and unassuming.
Live: 7 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 6 | Preference: 14
Total: 7.95 pts.
Song 13: Ireland (Hosts)
“One Day Love” – Angela Farrell
Compared to most pieces from this contest, this is a pretty off the wall song and it’s all the better because of that. First, there’s really no chorus to speak of, since the song is pretty much just verses taking turns. It’s an interesting idea that creates something that flows very fluidly and I like it. And the lyrics that are flowing oh so well tell Angela’s story of being tossed aside by someone only in search of a “one day love” and how it will end up biting that person in ass, because they’ll fall “deep in love, and the one that they want will not answer their call.” It’s not too original or even executed superbly but it works. The music doesn’t just fade into the background like one most other songs and ends up being a nice compliment to the music. As a wall of sound, it was effective and enjoyable.
For a singer, Angela has a wacky voice, almost Lena-like in its oddness. But unlike the latter, our Irish lady has a more reedy tone than Lena’s thicker, huskier voice, which doesn’t necessarily play off too well with this song. At some points, it sounds like she’ll stop singing completely, which is never good. Had she, however, we could’ve focused more on that crazy pink dress. And the fact that, since she never seemed to interact with anyone or anything except an imaginary character off-camera and away from the audience, the disconnect between Angela and the camera made sense (unlike the awful dress) and looked good on the screen. When it comes to entries, this isn’t one of the more memorable but for Ireland, it’s a solid improvement.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.2 pts.
Song 14: the Netherlands
“Tijd” – Saskia & Serge
Dark, sad, and serious are not adjectives that I’ve used recently but this song fits them all to a “T.” The lyrics are a metaphor-filled account of the apparent terrible slowing of time before Saskia’s lover returns. I’m not sure what to do because these are some absolutely fantastic lyrics and I don’t know how to talk about them. However, I will say my favorite stanza is “a bird migrates southward on the exact hour and day and those who didn’t shed tears don’t recognize a real laugh” because it’s such an elegant description of how vested in this person she is and how unexpectedness can be so taxing on a person. It’s truly stunning, all of it. And it doesn’t stop there; the music is absolutely perfect for this song. That harpsichord playing that chord progression throughout the song matches the emotion of anxious waiting unbelievably well while adding a hint of insanity if this person doesn’t return soon. The wind instruments aren’t nearly as deep but compliment that and the orchestra flawlessly. It’s absolutely amazing.
Like the Dutch co-winner of 1969 Lennie Kuhr (I might not know most songs from that period but I do know “De troubador”), Saksia has an absolutely gorgeous rich and full voice that’s ideal for this song. And then it goes to a whole other level because she sounds so connected with what she’s singing. Serge doesn’t come close to being as good or plugged in but at least he doesn’t hurt the song. The plain black attire and somewhat stark performance worked well with the song and were also harmless. Overall, this is a real treat and a surprise find from a year that was shaping up to be unbearably average. Dank u, Netherlands!
Live: 10 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 10 | Preference: 20
Total: 11.7 pts.
Song 15: Portugal
“Menina do alto da serra” – Tonicha
Continuing the somber theme, Portugal graced the stage with this song that has some pretty striking and gorgeous imagery. This fair maiden is ascending a ridge to become the “people’s rose” when she finally makes it. Unfortunately, the second meaning that is obviously there (hopefully) is something I just can’t make out, although I think it might have something to do with the Bible but I’m not sure. At least the gorgeous score is there. The richness and vibrancy of it so exquisitely compliments the starkness and vividness of the lyrics.
The one problem of this entry is not Tonicha’s vocals, because they were fabulous. No, it’s the wardrobe. Those bright colors, especially that highlighter orange shade on the backings, were so wrong for this song. Linen, cotton, or anything else textural would’ve been a better match. However, in spite of all the quality of this song, I just don’t feel it. Not that’s it’s not special, I’m just not a big fan.
Live: 9 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 8 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.8 pts.
Song 16: Yugoslavia
“Tvoj dječak je tužan” – Kruno Slavbinac
It seems like the better songs of the night got drawn in the latter half of the contest because this song continues the high quality we’ve seen recently. Kruno, which is one letter away from my middle name (take a wild guess), sings from the heart but the state of that heart is left to us to decide. What that stunningly odd sentence meant is that this song lets us pick the meaning of the lyrics after giving us a jumping off point. So, his heart could be broken and filled with rage over an unfaithful wife who left him and his son or it could be broken and filled with loss over the departure of his beloved from the Earth (my sentences refuse to be simple today!). Personally, the latter meaning makes more sense but the former would be more interesting and unexpected. Anyway it’s your choice to decide and that’s great! Oh and the lyrics either way are shockingly gorgeous but that’s to be expected.
Moving on, the music is nice but not something I’d expect for this song. The overall mood of the piece is heavy but poppy, which doesn’t work for me. Lyrics that are as deep as these shouldn’t be accompanied by a rhythmic beat but by something simpler and more emotionally connected. Maybe I’ve just been listening to too much minimal music but that’s what it feels like to me. Now, that’s not to say that it’s a bad score. It moves along nicely and still sets up a feeling of sorrow with the full orchestra. And the guitar, a highly emotive instrument, is a nice touch. It all just feels mismatched, though.
While it would be nice to have this paragraph be completely glowing, I would be amiss to mentioning Kruno’s outfit. It’s so pointlessly loud and brash that the attention given to his beautiful vocals is diminished. That and the camera angles shifted a little too much for my taste will sink this point total. However, the aforementioned vocals will save the day, like always. The technical quality and emotion displayed in his performance are like dark chocolate in their richness and moodiness. It’s a total joy to listen to. And it’s the reason this song will get a place on my pedestal of excellence. Well done, Yugoslavia.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 7 | Preference: 16
Total: 9.45 pts.
Song 17: Finland
“Tie uuteen päivään” – Markuu Aro & Koivistolaiset
Maybe I’m just missing something but I don’t get the Finnish lyrics for the second year in a row and it’s bothersome. Other than my lack of understanding, this doesn’t seem like a bad set of lyrics. By a very, very, basic and upfront interpretation, it seems to be about transformation but I’m not sure. The music is a jaunty little 70s number that one would listen to while strolling through a meadow. There’s nothing wrong with it except maybe that it’s a little anonymous.
In a pleasant change, Markku and the Kouivisto Sisters looked very nice onstage, as the brown outfits suited them nicely. They sounded good and looked like they were having a good time so props to them for that. I’m honestly at a loss as to what else I can say about this entry. It’s fine, maybe even a bit better. And I sort of like it.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.6 pts.
Song 18: Norway
“Lykken er” – Hanne Krogh
Junior Eurovision anyone? Even though Hanne’s shrill, young voice irked me, the song oddly enough wouldn’t have worked without her. Lyrically, it’s an ode to the simple joys of life, like “breakfast in bed,” “an hour in the bath,” “getting tax money back,” and “herring in dill” for that little Norwegian touch. Part of me wants to dislike it but I just can’t help but smile and enjoy picturing these things. And if lyrics can take me to a special place like that, they’ll get a nice nod from me. The music is incredibly sugary sweet but appropriate for the subject matter. Little flourishes with the flute and bells work well here and create a mood of enjoying frivolities.
Hanne should’ve closed her parasol because it obviously caused them to finish second to last. Oh, and it looked totally ridiculous while, again, still fitting the theme of the song. In spite of the “Downton Abbey” outfit, she did look nicely put together and was probably the most presentable of all the contestants. Her voice I’ve talked about already but I need to add that she was technically fine and never over performed, so good on her. There’s a part of me that knows I shouldn’t like this song, but I don’t care enough and do like it. A lot. Thanks for ending the night well, Norway.
Live: 7 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 7 | Preference: 14
Total: 8.7 pts.
Average score: 7.292 pts.
Hall of Fame Entrants: 2
My Favorite Song: the Netherlands (1st)
Technically Best Song: the Netherlands (1st)
My Least Favorite Song: Luxembourg (Last)
Technically Worst Song: Luxembourg (Last)
Thankfully, Ireland got to present a better lot of songs this time around than they did before. That Dutch diamond was a big surprise for me and I’m so happy to have found it. Maybe it’ll even be a provider of a future username. So, if you see someone named “southwardbird” in Eurovision-land, it might be me. 😉 Anyway, for the next contest, we don’t even have to leave Dublin, as we head off to 1997 and the most recent Irish contest. Best wishes to all.