Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eurovision Revision IV: Another Time, Another Place

Following the Netherlands' win in Frankfurt, the responsibilities for hosting the 1958 contest went to the Dutch, and in an era when the show was still mostly a radio event it made sense to stage the contest not at a stadium or a theatre but in a well-resourced television studio in the town of Hilversum, hub of basically all major Dutch media organisations and perhaps ironically the least famous venue this side of Millstreet. The cast of competing countries was basically the same as in 1957 - minus the UK in their only post-debut absence, with Sweden substituting and popping their Eurovision cherry - and the entries very much had a going-through-the-motions feel to them for the most part, not helped by four separate performers (previous winners Lys Assia and Corry Brokken, plus Margot Hielscher and poor Fud Leclerc) all representing their countries again. On the other hand, one of the most well-known songs to ever come out of the contest was introduced to the world in Hilversum, so who's to say whether this year's contest is truly as dull as it feels? Shall we begin?

#25. Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Domenico Modugno, Italy 1958, 3rd)

What is there to say about this song, better known as Volare, that has not already been said? I mean, it's one thing to win the contest. It's another to finish third but go on to be not only the only Eurovision entry to win a Grammy, but for that win to make it the first ever Song of the Year. Over sixty years, there have been so few songs to transcend the contest and become major successes in their own right - really it's just this, Congratulations, Waterloo, and Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit, plus Riverdance - that for one of these songs to happen so early in the contest's history, in a contest (the second and last) without any songs performed in English, is remarkable. I mean, it even got performed on Quantum Leap of all places. Endlessly listenable, and if you're not throwing your arms up with Domenico at the start of the chorus there's probably something very wrong with you. Italie, DOUZE POINTS.

#26. Heel de Wereld (Corry Brokken, Netherlands 1958, tied for 9th)

It had to happen eventually. A Dutch entry I can't get wholeheartedly behind. Don't get me wrong, I really do like most of it. But every so often Corry Brokken has to break with the tempo of this slow ditty (about wanting to reveal a secret, for those of you playing along, just as Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu was about gettin' high on love) and run through about six syllables in a second just to get to the end of the line in time with the music. If the rest of the song was faster, or if the Dutch language wasn't so gloriously guttural, it could have worked. But it's not, and it isn't, so it doesn't. Pays-Bas, cinq points.

#27. Dors, Mon Amour (André Claveau, France 1958, Winner)

It may be that I'm listening to this shortly after listing to one of the true classic songs of the 1950s, but... eesh, this WON? I don't know what to say about it because it's such a blah song (its theme of being about sleeping to enjoy the future is, how shall we say, more than appropriate), relying pretty much entirely on Claveau's deep-but-not-too-deep voice to sell it. And failing. France, trois points.

#28. Un Grand Amour (Solange Berry, Luxembourg 1958, tied for 9th)

Move over, Imitation Beyonce, I have a new favourite Solange. It's not a particularly spectacular entry to Eurovision canon, but it's a good song sung well, and at this point in the contest's history that should be all you need to do well. Unfortunately, this is right around the time the visual performance is about to become important (as early as next year, it will play a huge role in deciding the winner), and we just don't have anything exciting to see here. Luxembourg, sept points.

#29. Lilla Stjärna (Alice Babs, Sweden 1958, 4th)

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The thing with Swedish entries is that I often find myself either really digging them or being completely bored by them, and this one, in which poor Alice Babs finds herself having to act like she routinely asks objects that can't hear her for romantic advice,  finds itself wedged firmly into the latter category. And... like, it's not that it's a bad song, and I can see how they finished fourth, but I know Sweden can and will do much better. Suede, cinq points.

#30. Jeg Rev et Blad ud af Min Dagbog (Raquel Rastenni, Denmark 1958, 8th)

No, Denmark. I don't forgive you for this mediocre regret-inspired song. Especially when the big note at the end of the song winds up being the smallest of all. The era of actual performances can't come quick enough at this point. Danmark, quatre points.

#31. Ma Petite Chatte (Poor Fud Leclerc, Belgium 1958, tied for 5th)

As excellent as this generic love song is - and fast-paced swing is a very difficult thing to get right at Eurovision, as demonstrated multiple times over the years until finally Electro Velvet almost killed the genre for everybody - it does seem like Poor Fud Leclerc isn't entirely comfortable with singing it, even though he sells the heck out of the performance better than any other performer this year (yes, even more than Modugno). There's just something kind of wooden to his act that detracts from its tone, and I'm not sure that can quite be explained away by the social standards of the 1950s. Belgique, huit points.

#32. Für Zwei Groschen Musik (Margot Hielscher, West Germany 1958, 7th)

In a contest that so far has pretty much been filled with soulful funeral dirges and Volare, an upbeat piece of social commentary on the ridiculous of corporate beauty pageants that changes after the first verse into a jazzy little number about the power and importance of jukeboxes is... a bit of a departure, it must be said. But it's not an unwelcome departure, in spite of its switch and in spite of it, you know, being jazz. It's easy to see why it didn't win - it's not a particularly European song or a particularly Eurovision song and is, still, jazz - but that doesn't mean it's hateable. And bonus points for being the first song to try and do something with the staging. Allemagne de l'Ouest, sept points.

#33. Die Ganze Welt Braucht Liebe (Liane Augustin, Austria 1958, tied for 5th)

Look, it's perfectly adequate. But with the previous two songs being solidly above average, adequate isn't going to cut it right now. There are times when it will. But this isn't one of them. I don't necessarily need every song to be spectacular, but I'd like to at least realise the song has ended and looped around before the third run-through, you know? Autriche, trois points.

#34. Giorgio (Lys Assia, Switzerland 1958, 2nd)

Or as I like to think of it, "Bambi Raps In Italian". And yes, it really is that bonkers to listen to, full of overly fast lyrics and the repeated use of the words Chianti, Risotto, and Polenta, almost as if you're trying to communicate with a waiter who speaks another language without having to do the ultra-slow slurred speech thing. Or you're just Marco Pierre White. Suisse, sept points.


NEXT TIME: The 1950s come to an end. And not a moment too soon.