Number 11: ESC 1991

Back from our detour, let’s get right into the next contest, 1991. The second and last tie in contest history was a close as could be (obviously) and two rounds of countback were used to determine the winner. But we can’t be captured by the drama because there are 21 other songs on offer tonight.

11 (1991)

Venue: Cinecittà Studio 15, Rome, Italy

Date: 4 May 1991

Hosts: Gigliola Cinquetti & Toto Cutugno

Countries: 22

This contest is renowned for being one of the most bizarre in Eurovision history. The ever-frantic Italian organization and attitude certainly had something to with it, since the contest was presented almost totally in Italian. But who said that chaos couldn’t be fun? Talking of, this was probably the most poorly illustrated finish to a Eurovision ever, since Sweden and France had to go to countback to determine the winner. Tie-break rules then said that whomever received the most 12 points, 10 points, 8 points etc. would win and after equal sets of douze, Carola’s 50 points trumped Amina’s 20. However, for this and the infamous/monumental four-way tie of 1969, had today’s rule been in effect, where the number of countries that voted is more important than the amount of points given, France would’ve come out on top both times! Quelle tragedie!

Song 1: Yugoslavia 

“Brazil” – Bebi Dol

“This is the show that never ends! Yes it goes on and on my friends…” After the seemingly endless opening banter between the hosts, Yugoslavia presented us with this brain-dead pop song that was just crying out to die but never did. The lyrics have Bebi Dol (or in the hideous postcard, Baby Doll) create the Brazil dance specifically for her lover. Before, though, she implores him to strip and states that “his kiss will be the sign” to start. Aside from the pretty random name-dropping of future ESC-alumnus Rambo Amadeus (the only future-referencing reference in history, maybe?), it’s just gross. The music, unlike many pop songs, is sadly present, as the triangle just beats on like chainsaws at hope. All of it is just a massive failure.

By far, the best part of this car crash was the decent vocals from Bebi. It wasn’t a stellar performance by any means, but it worked. The stage itself was abysmal and dinky, so this entry’s wannabe gymnasts looked ever sillier than they would’ve elsewhere. Finally those outfits are a disgrace to fabric and should’ve been given an award for hideousness. What an auspicious start to a wacky contest.

Live: 5 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 2 | Preference: 5

Total: 2.85 pts.

Song 2: Iceland 

“Draumur um Nínu” – Stefán & Eyfi

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how to ruin a fabulous song idea. “Nina” had died yet her lover can’t move on and questions “for what reason.” She frequently appears in his dreams and “caresses his cheek,” something she used to do before passing away. Even if they’re sort of repetitive, it’s very endearing without being too sugary. Musically, the short solos by the cello and piano were smart, as they had a nostalgic tone about them. For the most part, though, the composition was flatter than a plain, with only a semi-key change to rouse things from the status quo. Also, maybe I’m just weird but whenever more than one person sings a song that deals specifically with a relationship, it doesn’t sound right. Like, was the subject of the song a cheater who loved both of them or do the members of the group morph into one insanely cheesy being?

Right, the performance, aside from the suits that look like they were made out of aerobics equipment, was pretty unmemorable. Without a second viewing, I can only remember a cellist spinning his/her (I couldn’t tell but I think it was a she) instrument and a close-up shot of the piano player. Eyfi’s headband was beyond dumb and, together with Stefán, they didn’t make much of a vocal impact. Like Feminem’s “Lako je sve” from 2010, this was a job for one singer with tons of emotion. A duet just couldn’t do it.

Live: 6 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 4 | Preference: 10

Total: 6 pts.

Song 3: Malta 

“Could It Be?“ Georgina & Paul Giordimaina

Now here’s something I never expected to like. Despite the cheesy melody, riddled with key changes and general boringness, there are some great lyrics on display. The theme of the song is a relationship falling apart and both people fail to understand why. That’s interesting enough but the use of normal, “I’m in love” themes like rainbows and stardust adds a touch of the surreal; this relationship was as perfect as could be until the real world, with “falling leaves” and winter came into the picture. I really enjoy them, especially the fact that they use the same “guiding star” metaphor that Emmelie de Forest used this year but in a different way. Good work, all around.

Today’s abundance of fashion aficionados must stem from the fact that there was absolutely none of it during their childhoods in the 80s and 90s. Granted the shades of cerulean are probably the best clothes we’ve seen tonight but they’re still quite awful. So was Paul’s overall styling, actually. Georgina certainly came out of it better than he did. At least they both sounded great, because that’s this two-faced song’s savior from ending up on the wrong side of six.

Live: 8 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 4 | Preference: 13

Total: 7.5

Song 4: Greece 

“I anixi” – Sophia Vossou

With a gorgeous, albeit dark, evening gown and a soaring vocal, we’ve arrived at the first fully competent song of the night. Lyrically, it’s an invitation from Sophia to her lover to “hide in her body,” but done in a very poetic way, using “the spring” as a metaphor for climax. Despite being quite repetitive, the aforementioned graceful touches make it special. The music is sort of crazy, but that seems to be the image that she’s putting down with the lyrics. Had the saxophonist actually played his instrument properly, that part of the song would’ve been great. The instrumental was also rightfully epic.

Sophia herself absolutely sang the pants off this song, taking everything to another level. And for the first time all evening, her dress looked great! Maybe black wasn’t the perfect color for this song (I would’ve gone for maybe a red or even a violet) but it was effective and made her look like a siren of the night. If I’m honest, this song isn’t totally my cup of tea, so I hope she’s back with something I can adore as much as her.

Live: 9 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 8 | Preference: 15

Total: 9.3 pts.

Song 5: Switzerland 

“Canzone per te” – Sandra Simó

“Too 90s” is the only appropriate way to describe this song. Despite the unfriendly moniker, there are a few components of the Swiss song that actually are quite nice. The most obvious is Sandra herself, who gave us a great performance in an outfit that didn’t look like scraps found on a color blind tailor’s floor. The elegance and strength of the performance really helped to recover some points lost by the song.

And what a loss it was. Well, not totally. Musically, there are a few pieces of the melody that came across surprisingly well. Specifically, the atmospheric synth-like noise and guitar added some interest to an exhausted format, especially with the OKC. However, nothing saved the lyrics, which were drowned in clichés. The theme and title of the song was, literally, “a song for you;” it doesn’t get much cheesier than that. Annoyingly, though, they threw in some pretty decent verses in between the needy chorus. A sympathetic and slightly insane part of me wants to really enjoy this song but it’s just too dated for that.

Live: 8 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 5 | Preference: 10

Total: 6.3 pts.

Song 6: Austria 

“Venedig im Regen” – Thomas Forstner

How ironic that I’d spill a large cup of water during the performance of the song called “Venice in the Rain.” That nuisance was probably the most exciting thing to happen during this particular three minutes because boy did this sound musty. While the orchestra, particularly the lifeless trumpets, did this song no favors, the dated construction, reliant upon a boring formula, killed Thomas’ chances. Lyrically, it’s a plea between Thomas and his lover to “dream” together in “Venice in the rain” at night. As a fan of the cold and wet, I enjoy this idea but it doesn’t do anything in this song. Perhaps some use of water’s symbolism could’ve spiced this up a bit. The music was a time warp of ungodly proportions, using terrible pop-ballad clichés like the trumpets, standout chorus, and OKC. Stuff like this needs to stay in the 80s.

If they weren’t so evident, I wouldn’t mention them so often but those damn trumpets were a total disgrace. Sadly, they echoed Thomas’ performance, which was equally flat and boring. His voice had an unpleasant nasal tone that he should’ve been fighting against but wasn’t. His outfit was abysmal but seemingly par for the course during the 90s. Where’s the beautiful styling of the Kaisa Kowalskas and Tanja Ribičs of this decade? *Sigh*, this should just be an extension of the 80s. And after a perfect 12, too! Shame on you, Austria.

Live: 4 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 2 | Preference: 4

Total: 2.55 pts.

Song 7: Luxembourg

“Un baiser volé” – Sarah Bray

On the surface, this seems like more of the same, read: another sappy love song. However, a closer look reveals something still sappy yet not in a terrible way. This peace ballad is crafted in such a nuanced way that it’s almost harmful to itself. Using normal love struck images like hearts, kisses, and “dazzling eyes” is a very coy way to shade the message that a fleeting moment of love is still possible and can have powerful effects on the world. It’s cheesy but I enjoy it. Musically, it’s very infantile but purposefully, since these songs normally have some tie toward “the children.” Rather than shatter the lyrical illusion, using a child-like melody was an effective way of communicating that idea without being too up front. It worked, even it meant sitting through another OKC.

Until the aforementioned key change, Sarah sounded quite good, if a bit flat at points. But at the critical moment, her microphone seemed to give out and it was hard to hear her for the rest of the song. It’s a leering case of what I call “Sahlene Syndrome,” when the backings are louder than the lead. Named after Estonia’s participant in 2002, she was overshadowed by one of her backings only 15 seconds into her song. Since she was front and center, it sounded like Sahlene was far too sharp and ultimately might’ve given the victory to Latvia that year, (Estonia finished tied 3rd on home turf) because “Runaway,” despite being trite, was much stronger than Marie N. Anyway, back to Sarah. Her styling was très 90s but not too terrible. Save for the lyrics, the same could be said about this entry. Oh well.

Live: 5 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 5 | Preference: 9

Total: 5.4 pts.

Song 8: Sweden

“Fångad av en stormvind” – Carola

Our introduction to the Swedish Schlager Queen is her often-maligned winning entry. But compared to the first seven songs of the evening, this just comes off as very fresh and deserving. Sure it’s nothing original but there’s a really evident feeling of movement that was channeled well by the staging. In fact, it’s almost the same effect that staging had on the Swedish entry for 2013, but more on that at another time. Carola sings about a “hurricane” of love tying her and her lover together so that they can be with one another forever. Again, the water theme doesn’t have an actual purpose aside from making the comparison between love and a ferocious storm, but it’s okay. Musically, it’s orchestral schlager. Need I say more? The execution of both composer and conductor, though, was great and the track actually sounded decent when played by the RAI orchestra, which really has managed to ruin every song up to now.

In another pleasant change, Carola managed to give a really solid vocal performance. Despite running in and bouncing around the stage, her pitch was steady and articulation clear and crisp. The aforementioned staging was quite a welcome departure and probably what secured Sweden this win, because the song, while nice, just won’t cut it. In the end, I like it enough, but it’s certainly no standout in my eyes.

Live: 9 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 5 | Preference: 14

Total: 8.1 pts.

And now, the song that is literally in everyone’s all-time Top XX…

Song 9: France

“Le dernier qui a parlé…” – Amina

…Will not be in mine. (Oh my God, and it’s literally everyone this time).  Maybe it was the lofty expectations it had to live up to or maybe it’s just a grower but I can’t find a passionate flame for this song, only an ember. With that said, the lyrics are totally gorgeous and help the song function as a hugely fantastic youth anthem. The titular phrase comes off with a strongly derisive air, like she’s actually saying, “it’s the last one who spoke who is right in your house, and I hate it!” The next line, referencing those who “gave her a name,” says the same thing but in a different, more universal way. It could be about parents or about colonialism, which would make sense given Amina’s North African heritage. The next two lines serve as a warning to children that the “world is neither good nor bad” and doesn’t really make sense, like how random people have power over others… just because.  After some fabulous ethnic vocal exercises (that’s the nicest name I can think to give them), the following lines have her ask “for what country,” what idea or notion “do you scream like a violin without a music score for in her house.” The lesson that listening is better is given, which ties into the next line, “truth hides its face in silence.” She’s making sure that young people know to be the best and “speak last,” they must listen and have enough to speak about. Finally, she ends with the fact that “the seasons undo even passions” while reaffirming the idea that “the last one who spoke is right, unconditionally, here or there.” It’s a final message that makes it clear that, one day, those who are always wrong will be always right.

Was that long enough? Regardless, the central theme of “being careful and mindful will pay off,” is stellar. Then there’s the music, which introduces a whole new dimension to the message. For the most part, Eurovision had absolutely no room for anything that strayed too far from generic European music ideals. So now, here’s a vibrant, different, exotic piece that represents a whole new world in terms of relationships and connections. It makes it clear that the old idea of cultural restriction is just not going to work in the future and that this is the sound of a new generation. Within itself, plenty of thoughtful touches make the composition stand out but not too much to where it seems gimmicky; it’s 100 percent authentic, another future tenet of the world. That idea is exemplified through Amina and her “vocal exercises,” which channel that same fresh energy. Her crystal clear voice is full of meaning and investment into what she’s singing. It’s beyond obvious that she wrote it. Finally, she looked totally elegant and the little dance with the shawl, which represented the shedding of powerful old ideals (hence the red), was just the icing on the cake. I possibly underestimated my introduction because I actually do like this a lot. It’s just not the “be all, end all of songs” that I thought it would be. Still, what a marvel and what a terrible fate that befell it. Carola couldn’t hold a candle to this.

Live: 10 | Staging: 10 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 10 | Preference: 18

Total: 11.4 pts.

Song 10: Turkey

“Iki dakika” – İzel Çeliköz, Reyhan Karaca & Can Uğurluer

The song titled “two minutes” really should’ve lived up to its name, because it got old fast. And that’s a shame since, even though it was pretty awful, there was something endearing about its badness. Namely, the lyrics function as sort of an anti-love song, telling us “not to worry about passed ones for two minutes” and live in the moment. It’s cliché but a nice change of pace, especially from songs like Sweden or Switzerland. The music is, like the postcard and song box design, very 90s but unlike the other two, actually is decent. In particular, the trumpets really helped this song out by lifting it and adding a little bit of whimsy into the otherwise stiff composition.

Before talking about the performance, I just have to mention that the little byplay between Toto and Reyhan (Pink Skirt) was totally charming and a big plus for the unorganized chaos of the 1991… organization. Anyway, the group sounded pretty nice, although the girls seemed to go a bit sharp occasionally. The vocal performance was nothing to write home about and nor was the staging. Sure, the movement was fun and appropriate but it didn’t feel like enough to really channel the song’s energy. But to end on two positive notes, their outfits weren’t awful and the song bewitched me. I’m probably the only one.

P.S. Ironically enough, this song’s postcard had the nicest name design so far.

Live: 6 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 6 | Preference: 15

Total: 7.95 pts.

Song 11: Ireland

“Could It Be That I’m In Love?” – Kim Jackson

Ireland seems to have sent the same song on and off for over 40 years (which makes the last few years of parody, girl rock and bubblegum pop seem like the golden days for the Emerald Isle) and this is not one of the best incarnations.  There are missed opportunities left and right but let’s start with the lyrics. It’s basically one long question that Kim asks in reference to why she feels so special with someone. As if it weren’t already painfully obvious, the opportunity for some deeper thought into love, emotional barriers, and introspection were totally passed up in place of clichés like “my fears all go way when I’m with you” and “when I’m close to you, it makes me feel so good.” It’s sad. Musically, it’s full of the same also-rans, like an electric guitar, (terribly played) wind instrument, and business. However, no key change, which was slightly surprising and worthy of a pity point. The rest is a lost cause, I’m afraid.

Nothing really improves when the performance is considered. Kim sounded off at many points in the song, which took away from her otherwise strong vocal effort. Her voice wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea but it was good, I must admit. And for period styling, they did a pretty good job with the hair and outfit. Still, this tired old format was unwelcome 10 contests ago so I’m more than ready to hear something different.

Live: 6 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 2 | Preference: 5

Total: 4.05 pts.

Song 12: Portugal

“Lusitana paixão” – Dulce

The theme of Portuguese entries seems to be that absolutely no one cares how well they translate outside of the country but rather how well they reflect the country. And it’s evident here and I love it. However, it’s more evident in the lyrics, which detail Dulce’s relationship with the gloomy passion of fado music. This is exactly what I wanted from Ireland, because it focuses on how love becomes an internal conflict within the individual singing and supposedly living through the story. Though she tries to deny a great loss from the past, she comes to terms with it through the music. Just not the music she was singing with because that was not good at all. While the lyrics were brilliant, the composition was far, far too schmaltzy and dated for what was supposed to be an ode to a Portuguese way of thinking. It’s the same problem that Portugal’s entry six years later, nul-pointer “Antes do adeus,” would have. For this song, I want depth, sadness, fear, bitterness, and anything else that could make these lyrics pop.

Everything else about this entry was fine, from Dulce’s styling to singing. The clarity in her voice soon gave way to some much-needed emotion that felt truly genuine. It was quite excellent, in that sense. Excellence was also to be found in her outfit, which actually felt like it could’ve been seen later than 1991. That alone is a triumph. Despite what some fans say about this being the best Portuguese entry, it actually feels a little like a downer on one of Eurovision’s brightest and most vibrant countries. Ah well, they’ll have plenty of chance to redeem themselves, including this year (2014)! Yay!

Live: 9 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 3 | Preference: 14

Total: 8.4 pts.

Song 13: Denmark

“Lige der hvor hjertet slår” – Anders Frandsen

At this point, Gigliola and Toto literally have no shame about butchering the pronunciation of everything and I love it. And with a Danish title, there was bound to be trouble. 🙂 But that’s not (as) important because there’s a song on the chopping block. This certainly wasn’t the worst song on the night but it might’ve come off as the most boring. Beige outfits, beige lighting, beige staging, everything was beige and dull. Twas all beige, except the most inaccessible part of the song, the lyrics, which I’m strangely taken with, for some reason. It’s standard ballad fare, captivated lover edition, but the execution and imagery stands out as being much more interesting than usual. Anders never talks about what his beloved looks like or does, just about himself and how he feels and what he does. It’s a nice change. Musically, it’s not nearly as intriguing since it’s just a wall of sound to accompany the lyrics. Honestly, I can remember the chorus but only the sung parts, as if the orchestra wasn’t even there. At least there wasn’t a key change.

Talking of the performance, this was so uninspired it’s not funny in the slightest. Despite just saying that the music was unmemorable, I can remember that there was no piano in the score. And that little factoid begs the question why was he sitting at one for half the song? It looked stupid, as did the boring suit. At least he sounded strong. The Danish language itself helped in that regard, as it feels like every sound is falling out of the mouth rather than being produced. Overall, I don’t want to like this too too much but I do.

Live: 7 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 4 | Preference: 14

Total: 7.05 pts.

Song 14: Norway

“Mrs. Thompson” – Just 4 Fun

One more Nordic song just gives me another opportunity to be too nice. I don’t know why but I actually really like this song. Starting with the music, it just has some great construction that, unlike other entries, doesn’t rely too much upon one instrument to drive it. The piece feels very orchestral even if some instruments are highlighted more than others *coughtrumpetsagaincough*. It’s a nice departure. Lyrically, it’s a call to action for the “everyday hero,” everywoman Mrs. Thompson, to let go and follow a dream. It’s not the best nor brightest idea but I love it and the imagery is highly relatable, something that seems to be a hallmark of Norwegian entries.

The singers of Just 4 Fun *shudders*, mainly the guys, let the song down a bit because they just didn’t sound like the right kind of vocalist for this song. Maybe something more rock-oriented would’ve been up their street. Regardless of genre, they were still pretty strong. Somewhat less strong but still good were the outfits, which feel dated but not like they’re from the last millennium. The package itself might not be the most convincing but I’m charmed by this song and love it unashamedly.

Live: 6 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 8  | Music: 7 | Preference: 17

Total: 9 pts.

Song 15: Israel

“Kan” – Duo Datz

Let’s just jump right into the lyrics; they’re from Jesus’ point of view. The opening verse references the Sea of Galilee before straying into miracles, as he “plants grass in the desert” and “wanders for 2,000 years.” That last line is what ultimately convinced me and, aside from being repetitive, this song has some very strong lyrics. Instead of focusing on fanciful Biblical stories, the lyricist opted for something simpler and more humanistic. In the context of this song, Jesus actually seems like a person rather than the mystical, transcendent being that the Bible made him out to be. Also, there’s a strong nationalistic slant here, as it espouses how varied and abundant Israel is. Where else could there be “plains by the sea, lowlands, mountains, grassy deserts, and wells with plentiful water?” It’s actually worked into the song so subtly it’s brilliant but as a meaning, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

The music is different than what we’ve heard so far, mainly because it’s got a more dissonant feeling to it. There’s never a feeling of great togetherness between all the instruments, even in the chorus, when a lone tambourine keeps things spicy. Having said that, the orchestra does sound good, albeit a tad generic. Also, the use of two key changes was a good stand in for the lack of development in the lyrics.

Moving onto the performance, which was probably the weakest thing about this entry. Duo Datz looked like they were in a tango competition rather than one for songs. Unless it’s supposed to reference Joseph’s coat of many colors, it feels out of place and distracting, much like the appearance of the backings at the end. It didn’t serve a purpose in the meaning of the song. And while they sung well, it wasn’t too great and Moshe really sounded like he was struggling. Despite the message of the song, I actually enjoy this for being catchy and fun without sounding silly like Sweden. Also, the mortal touches given to Jesus really make me happy. For once, Bravo Israel!

Live: 6 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 7 | Preference: 16

Total: 8.7 pts.

Song 16: Finland

“Hullu yö” – Kaija

Or should it be “Khuuulu yoyy!?” That terrible pronunciation was on par with the song, I’m afraid. After an immensely strong opening verse, the awful, predictable 80s chorus rolls around and murders any chance this song had of being great. Then it just goes on and on and on though four iterations of the chorus. The absence of an OKC is the only thing saving this song from the dump, and it’s especially close after trashing that epic opening. Lyrically, it’s drivel about how “two travelers” shared “one crazy night” and are now yearning for one another forever. That’s boring enough but it gets downright annoying after four repetitions. Thematically, there are far more interesting ways to tell this story.

The saving grace of this entry was Kaija and the fantastic staging, which was a smart way to avoid showcasing the tacky stage provided by RAI. In spite of the song, the presentation felt pretty modern, with tight shots of her face and backings that danced and never interacted with the lead singer. And just as a plus, she sounded super and I really enjoyed that part of this car crash song.

Live: 8 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 3 | Preference: 9

Total: 5.7 pts.

Song 17: Germany

“Dieser Traum darf niemals sterben” – Atlantis 2000

Most of this is cheesy, peace fluff but on the back of “Insieme: 1992,” what else did you expect? However, there are a few very shiny pearls in here, like “in the search for freedom, we often let ourselves be seduced” and “someone deals the cards and we are in his power.” Part of me wants to give these standout lines high points just because of their existence but I can’t. Namely due to the second stanza of the chorus, which talks about “miracles” and “love triumphing.” Cut that and there’s a really nice anthem here. Well, at least there would be if the music wasn’t as tacky as the lyrics. Again, at least there’s no key change but that really shouldn’t be the only positive point of a review. Like many songs on the night, there was a prominent trumpet, which really doesn’t make much sense since trumpets and brass instruments in general conjure up a militaristic sound, at least to me.

As a group, Atlantis 2000 didn’t have any members who really rose above or sunk below the others. If I had to name a weakest member, it might be Jutta but she didn’t sound very bad at all. What was bad, though, were the sleep-inducing camera shots, which were mainly slow and panning. It was terribly, terribly boring! Looking past that, I honestly want to like this song a lot but I can’t find anything other than the lyrics, in terms of redeeming qualities.

Live: 7 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 2 | Preference: 10

Total:  5.55 pts.

Song 18: Belgium

“Geer het op” – Clouseau

The trend of Eurovisionizing music is perfectly on display here. Take a popular genre of music, in this case rock and roll, create a catchy chorus and repeat it ad infinitum, add a pointless key change, and, finally, make the performers wear garish outfits. Et voilà, the Brit… generic way to do Eurovision. There’s no doubt that the hook of this stupid little love song’ll be stuck in my head forever but I’d rather have something really cool and unique stuck there. Instead, the tune about how the singer is pleading for love and happiness at someone else’s expense will be there. Musically, the picture is far more interesting yet marred awfully by the UKC. Before that point, it had been a jazzy and fun yet repetitive pop-rock offering. But whatever, it is what it is.

At least this lackluster song was performed surprisingly well by Clouseau. Lead singer Koen had a formidable voice and energy was pumped into this song in buckets. And it’s worth mentioning that the orchestra, save for that little slip up at the end with everyone’s favorite instrument, did a good job at lifting this song. Unlike my little rant at the beginning of the last paragraph, Clouseau actually looked presentable onstage and the simple look was highly appreciated by me.

Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 4 | Preference: 8

Total: 5.25 pts.

Song 19: Spain

“Bailar pegados” – Sergio Dalma

This is the first totally competent entry since Israel, which now really feels like it came 2,000 years ago. Lyrically, Sergio’s trying to convince his lover to join in a tango with him and “dance closely as with fire.” The concept is somewhat interesting and the execution is actually pretty good, despite relying a little too heavily on clichés like fire. The music is pretty generic, though but gets the job done and comes off well.

Performance-wise, Sergio’s in a league of his own… with Amina. Those vocals were absolutely stunning I just wish I knew what they’d do on a better song. However, he made quite a few weird faces into the camera and the possibility of a romantic atmosphere was replaced with the reality of a schmaltzy one. Overall, I actually sort of like this song but I want to end on a better note than this. Still, good effort.

Live: 10 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 11

Total: 7.35 pts.

Song 20: United Kingdom

“A Message to Your Heart” – Samantha Janus

Aside from the Bradford quote, these lyrics suck. First, the focus on world hunger creates some totally ridiculous lines and constrains the writer more than what is necessary. Then, the chorus rolls up and she sings “it’s all right, say a little prayer and sleep tonight.” This was delivered without a hint of derision or mockery, which shoots the cohesiveness of this song to the high heavens and loses me completely. It’s about as trite musically as it is lyrically, so I won’t waste any more time on either one.

Samantha is certainly a capable singer but lacks any sort of touch that makes the song sound like her own; it’s a dime a dozen ballad (wasn’t that evident already?). The one positive thing I can say is that all the girls onstage looked elegant and sung well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t nearly enough to save this disaster waiting to happen.

Live: 6 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 2 | Preference: 3

Total: 3 pts.

Song 21: Cyprus

“S.O.S.” – Elena Patroklou

(Wow, this song really did sound good with the orchestra.) Activists seem to have come out in force for Eurovision 1991. There was the failed campaign for hunger awarness from the UK and the peace ballads from Germany and Luxembourg and now this environmental call to action. And similarly to two of the other three, this song falls victim to the allure of platitudes and awkward reality. Elena sings about Earth’s resemblance to a “comet, since it’s full of nuclear arms.” The planet itself is calling out “SOS” but no one is doing anything. Yawn. At least the music, with all its little frivolities from the woodwinds, drums, and acoustic guitar, dares to do something a little different. There’s the construction and the fact that it ends so abruptly and seems to die silently, after going through a hectic chorus. It’s a great metaphor for the course of the Earth, should it continue to be polluted.

Visually, Elena’s backings looked great, with varying shades of beautiful brown, abundant with life. The little golden touches and light frock the lead singer had on were the perfect tribute to Cyprus. Talking of Elena, she really sounded fantastic and sold the song well. It felt much more believable than the other songs of the genre. Does that mean I like more? A little, but it’s not enough to make a sizeable dent.

Live: 8 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 5 | Preference: 11

Total: 6.9 pts.

Song 23: Italy (hosts)

“Comme è ddoce ‘o mare” – Peppino di Capri

Damn! Stupidly, I thought we’d finally be treated to a darker ballad. But no, it was just more of the same overly sweetened stuff that’s filled the contest. At least this one had that initial promise in the verses. The immense richness of the sultry orchestra was wonderful, until the drums started and made it a saccharine mess. When followed by the non-sequitur Italian instrument, it just began to sound ridiculous. The lyrics are Peppino’s declaration of undying love to his beloved and how, “when he calls her butterfly,” they’ll fly to the sun together. Having it sung in Neapolitan rather than Standard Italian made it a little more interesting and smooth but the conclusion drawn from the lyrics is still the same; exhausted and boring.

Totally opposite of that was Peppino, who seemed to really believe and feel what he was singing. That authenticity was very much appreciated and a reminder that no matter how cheesy a song is, it can mean something very dear to someone (have I sufficiently covered my butt for future contests and ranks?). His voice had a raw edge to it that was wonderfully welcome after a night of mostly soulless performances. In terms of styling, it was pretty Italian, simple, elegant, and effective. What’s not to like about that? All in all, this was a pretty decent way to end a decent contest. Grazie per la follia, Italia!

Live: 9 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 7 | Preference: 13

Total: 8.25 pts.

11 (1991p)

Average score: 6.661 pts.

Hall of Fame Entrants: 1

My Favorite Song: France (1st)

Technically Best Song: France (1st)

My Least Favorite Song: Austria (Last)

Technically Worst Song: Yugoslavia (21st)

Based upon three contests, the 90s seems more like two different decades, one that’s its own level of class, entertainment, and excellence, and another that’s just an extension of the 80s. 1991 can thank France for saving it from having the worst average ever, instead of… 1981. As for the organization, it was the most haphazard and silly production of anything I’d ever seen. And I totally loved it. Toto and Gigliola’s naïvité was refreshing and the overall friendliness of the show was evident. The stage was pretty awful, probably the worst ever, but having the orchestra so close was nice. It reinforced the idea of live music, something that would be gone in 10 years.  But let’s not think about that because we’re going back, all the way to 1977. Let’s go.



Posted in Eurovision History
27 comments on “Number 11: ESC 1991
  1. marcpanozzo says:

    I haven’t finalised my rankings for 1991 yet, but I know for certain that France will be my personal winner as well. “Le dernier qui a parlé…” was virtually peerless in what was in my opinion a rather bland contest. Whilst like you I don’t include it as one of my absolute all-time personal favourites, it certainly introduced something totally fresh and new to the contest, in contrast to the musty 80’s schlager Sweden mined for their winning entry.

    I will post my full rankings in the next couple of days…

    • Nick P. says:

      Agreed on all counts. We’ll be waiting for your results.

      P.S. After a ton of problems with my iTunes pre-order, I’ve finally listened to all of “The Bones of What You Believe!” It’s so unbelievably fantastic, there’s not one dud out of all the songs, except for that “The Mother We Share” remix. Expect a review in the coming days/weeks. 😀

      • marcpanozzo says:

        My full 1991 rankings (subject to change…)

        12/12: France
        9/12: Greece
        8/12: Italy, Portugal, Spain
        7/12: Sweden, Israel, Malta, Cyprus
        6/12: Finland, Denmark
        5/12: Iceland, Switzerland, Luxembourg
        4/12: Belgium, Norway, Austria, Turkey
        3/12: Ireland, Germany
        1/12: Yugoslavia
        0/12: United Kingdom

        Looking forward to it 😉

  2. Eulenspiegel says:

    “[This year] can thank France for saving it from having the worst average ever”

    That’s what I would say about the next contest you’re about to review. 😉

    I love 1991, and I actually like the RAI Orchestra from this year. I think the loud drums gave some weight for most of the songs.

    1. France (12/12) *favourite ESC song ever*
    2. Italy (12/12) *favourite Italian ESC song ever*
    3. Portugal (12/12)
    4. Spain (10/12)
    5. Malta (10/12)
    6. Greece (9/12)
    7. Iceland (9/12)
    8. Switzerland (8/12)
    9. Cyprus (8/12)
    10. Israel (8/12)
    11. Sweden (8/12)
    12. Turkey (8/12)
    13. Yugoslavia (7/12)
    14. Finland (6/12)
    15. Luxembourg (6/12)
    16. Germany (5/12)
    17. Ireland (5/12)
    18. Norway (3/12)
    19. Belgium (3/12)
    20. Austria (3/12)
    21. Denmark (2/12)
    22. United Kingdom (2/12)

    As you said, Denmark is not the worst song but it’s just so extremely boring that it ends up in the bottom for me. And Thomas Forstner joined the troup of people who sung about towns or places and therefore ended up last.

    1962 Nur in der Wiener Luft
    1963 En gång i Stockholm
    1979 Heute in Jerusalem
    1990 Brandenburger Tor
    1991 Venedig im Regen
    1997 San Francisco

    In the same way was “Brazil” just one point away from joining him, and of course it was the Maltese “swimming against the stream” jury who saved them. But you won’t have me with you on Yugoslavia. “Brazil” is my (and Oxi’s) guilty pleasure, a saucy and playful dance song. 🙂

    While I of course would have liked to see France win, I’m still satisfied with Carola. “Fångad av en stormvind” is her best attempt imo, an energic and lively song, with clear inspirations from Pointer Sister’s “I’m so excited”. And I think she deserves some extra credit for managing to go through the whole song without hearing almost any sound from the orchestra except drums (the fan used to work as the “storm” stole all energy from the loudspeaker system).

    Finally, Israel is a bit down on my list. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Kan” and that’s mostly because I don’t think the verse and the chorus work so good together. And what is it with this Israeli ESC tradition that the backing singer join the main singers halfway through the song?

    • Nick P. says:

      Maybe that’s why there didn’t seem to be any paper thin melodies this year; the drums masked them. 😉 The orchestra wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. If I had to choose the best one (so far), I’d probably pick either the NRK orchestra from 1996 or the RTÉ orchestra from 1997.

      Has anyone ever name dropped a place in the title and not finished last, aside from 1980’s “Amsterdam?” That would be an interesting yet utterly useless statistic.

      Even with a guilty pleasure, I fail to align with the crowd. That designation falls to either Norway or Sweden, I guess. Talking of, my personal best Carola entry would be “Invincible,” even though the 30-year remix of “Främling” is a thing of beauty.

      It would be one thing if all their songs were anthemic numbers that sounded and looked better in, well, numbers but they never are! I’m at a loss. The same could be asked of Sweden’s flying fabric and Greece’s forgotten fabric.

      • thegoatmarket says:

        “Has anyone ever name dropped a place in the title and not finished last, aside from 1980′s “Amsterdam?” That would be an interesting yet utterly useless statistic.”

        “Der K und K Kalypso aus Wien” finished 9th (out of 11) in 1959.

        • thegoatmarket says:

          And if places includes countries, there are several others “De voegels van Holland” (NL 1956), “Hora din Moldova” (MOL 2009), “I Love Belarus” (BY 2011), “Portugal no coração” (PT 1977).

          • Nick P. says:

            Can anything from 1956 count, since the votes were never released? Anyway, the world of Eurovision feels a bit more full now. Thanks for your contribution. 🙂

            What about songs with places in the chorus? Ireland finished 2nd in 1997, Greece finished 6th this year and the obvious winner of 2010, Sieneke, finished in 15th out of 17. It would seem that an indirect reference is much more successful.

            • Eulenspiegel says:

              Just wait until you hear Ireland 1990…

            • thegoatmarket says:

              I think the conclusion is that we cannot conclude anything.

              Btw: here is a song that mentions a lot of towns and countries and that came last in the Dutch final in 1999. But probably not because of the namedropping:

              • Nick P. says:

                Annoyingly, that’s the conclusion to far too many things.

                Two questions about that: 1) Why did they think that it was a good idea to sing when they’re obviously terrible? Much less in laughable English! 2) How do you remember it? Is the wretchedness so leering that it’s embedded itself in your mind, sort of like Latvia 2001 for me?

              • thegoatmarket says:

                I don’t remember how I found it, but it’s definitely not easy to forget something so off-key. The song is silly and badly written too, but somehow it belongs to the so-bad-it’s-good category. It makes me laugh everytime I hear it (which is actually cruel of me, but sadly I can’t helt it).

                I have absolutely no idea how they ended up in the Nationaal Songfestival. But it became a cult hit in the Netherlands afterwards.

        • Eulenspiegel says:

          And we do have “Waterloo” of course. 🙂

          “Fra Mols til Skagen” and “Reise nach Jerusalem” are the other town songs that have reached Top 5.

          It also means that Vienna and Jerusalem hold the record of being mentioned most times in a Eurovision song title (both twice). Nerdy ESC facts. 🙂

          • thegoatmarket says:

            How could I forget…

          • Nick P. says:

            Like a plate glass window, it was so easy to miss the obvious. Thanks for your part, too. Oh, and there was Nora Brockstedt’s 1961 entry, “Sommer i Palma,” which finished 7th. And if we include national finals, Jay-Jay Johansson can be added to the aforementioned last-place group with “Paris.” Semi-interestingly, all four songs mentioning Vienna and Jerusalem are in German and three were from Austria. Just a little dash extra. 🙂 For the history!

  3. thegoatmarket says:

    I drop a bomb: I love the sax solo in the Greek song. Yes, it was poorly played, and of course it wasn’t supposed to sound that way. But it’s fascinating in it’s own way. Had it been a David Bowie song, people would have called it expressive, edgy (I’m thinking of some of his own sax solos which are quite reminiscent to this one).

    1991 is one of the few contest I haven’t rated yet, but I think it will be relatively high. My worst average so far turned out to be 1959, surprisingly.

    • Eulenspiegel says:

      Well, I’ve never been able to understand expressive and edgy stuff in the pop/rock world anyway. I mean, Velvet Underground’s banana is often considered the best album cover ever. A friggin banana!? 😛

      But maybe I was unfair towards Sophia. It wasn’t her fault that the Non-Epic Sax Guy couldn’t deliver, so maybe she deserves a 10/12 instead… It’s always a dilemma to rate songs (or things at all).

      • thegoatmarket says:

        I can’t really relate to the banana cover either. Or to most of Andy Warhol’s other stuff for the matter. But I love the album with its combination of grim, noisy sounds and sweet melodies. I would say that a music piece can be artistically great without actually sounding “good” in a classical sense – as long as it is expressing something.

        If we take Bowie again, the instrumental track “Neuköln” (from the album Heroes, 1977) is ending with a rather grim and disharmonic saxophone, played in a rather “unauthorized” way. To me it expresses desperation or chaos, but also sadness – emotional, but not pleasant. But still with its own kind of beauty.

        Here it is. Starts at 3:45.

        • thegoatmarket says:

          Actually the saxophone comes in very early. It’s grim from the beginning, but it culminates towards the end.

      • Nick P. says:

        Maybe it was supposed to be a work of modern art. I once remember modern art described as being more about the creative process and after effects of the piece more than the piece itself. Sort of like focusing on the wood frame of a window and the child tripping over a branch rather than the huge oak tree.

        And you win the award for best ESC fan of the day for that Epic Sax Guy reference. 😉

    • Nick P. says:

      The idea was great and the effect would’ve been to had someone competent actually been in charge of the instrument.

      I noticed on your Gravatar that 1991 was and empty spot in between 1990 and 1992. Why is that?

      • thegoatmarket says:

        It’s because I am in the proces of ranking all the contests, and I haven’t reached 1991 yet. Those I am yet to rate is: 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1998.

  4. togravus says:

    Regarding the production the 1991 contest has a very singular charm indeed. 🙂

    I also agree that there is only one timeless masterpiece in the 1991 line-up: France!

    On the other hand, I disagree with Nick because I think that there are a couple more good songs if we evaluate them within the cultural framework of the early 90s. However, I acknowledge that there is absolutely no excuse for the visual aspects of many entries.

    These are the entries I like for different reasons:

    Israel 11.50: I love the joy, the dynamics and the melody. Plus, I adore Orna. 🙂
    Spain 10.67: Straightforward yet emotionally effective melody performed by a fantastic live singer
    Portugal: 10.17: Compared to almost everything Dulce has done since 1991, “Lusitana paixão” is a musical nothing but Dulce is such a fantastic artist that she bestows soul even on this rather lifeless piece of music.
    Cyprus 9.50: The song does only very little for me in studio version but the live performance gets me everytime I watch it. Elena is so stylish (by early 90s standards) and even more beautiful.
    Italy 9.33: Authentic and traditional Italian quality schmaltz.
    Greece 8.17: Great in studio version and Sofia is a great performer. Unfortunately, the RAI orchestra drags this one down a bit.

    The winner Sweden has 6.17 on my list and is the only Carola song I can tolerate. I hate it nevertheless because nobody but France should have won in 1991

    I dislike Germany, Norway and Austria and absolutely detest the United Kingdom, in particular the despicable lyrics and the Bilitis aesthetics.

    On 1977: 1977 is the first contest I remember watching. France has been my runaway winner ever since. (My parents tell me that I already watched ESC in 1976 but I can only remember Austria from that contest.)

    • Nick P. says:

      The huge divide in score between France and the rest is probably because of the fact that, as a young person, cultural framework is a bit of a tough sell for me, at least before the mid 90s. However, there must be some connection since the songs you mentioned were also near my top.

      That disaster from the United Kingdom only got that 1 lyric point because the overall sentiment was positive. Still, what a disaster that was.

      Ooh! So after that we’ll have seen your first contest and my first contest (forget 2011, 2010 had better songs). I wonder if we’ve seen anyone else’s? For the first time since starting this project, I have literally no idea what to expect. I’ve never even heard the winning song from 1977, so it’s all going to be new. Can’t wait! 🙂

      • togravus says:

        The winning song is definitely worth knowing but all in all 1977 is a very weak contest imo. There are only 4 other songs that I see / hear any value in.

        The rest of the bunch is terribly bland or simply bad. 😦

  5. thegoatmarket says:

    I finally made my ranking:

    12/12: France
    8/12: Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Israel
    7/12: Iceland, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Italy
    6/12: Malta, Austria, Spain
    5/12: Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus
    4/12: Luxembourg
    3/12: Germany, UK
    2/12: Yugoslavia
    Average: 6,27

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