Michael Rice will represent the UK in Tel Aviv after winning Eurovision: You Decide with his version of entry Bigger Than Us.
Eurovision: You Decide saw six hopeful artists delivering their version of one of three competing songs. In the end, it was Michael Rice with his version of Bigger Than Us who got the ticket for Tel Aviv. Could the revamped format of its selection give a better result for the UK this year?
For the first time, Eurovision: You Decide was broadcast from MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester. Like last year, the hosts were English TV presenter Mel Giedroyc and Eurovision 2015 winner Måns Zelmerlöw.
Unfortunately, the organization was marred early on due to over-provision of tickets. Ticket holding fans, some of them having traveled from distant parts of the UK in order to attend, had to be turned away because the seating capacity of the studio was smaller than the number of tickets allocated.
1 The 2019 format
2 The Duels Round performances
3 The Duels Round results
4 The winner results
5 The show
The 2019 format
As in the previous three editions of the show, the shortlisted entries were sourced by a combination of open as well as invited submissions of entries. Once more, fan club OGAE UK, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) were invited by the BBC to each assist with different parts of the shortlisting process.
For the first time, it was international juries, as opposed to a panel of music industry experts, that were asked to select the three finalist songs for tonight’s show.
The major format change for 2019 however was that each of the songs got performed in two different musical versions by two different acts during a duel round. Once each pair of acts performed, a panel of judges decided which version would go through to a final public vote.The panel was comprised of presenter and DJ Marvin Humes, girl group The Saturdays’ Mollie King and chief judge, presenter and singer Rylan Clark-Neal.
The Duels Round performances
The contestant performances for each song were as follows:
Song 1: Sweet Lies – Kerrie-Anne
Kerrie-Anne was joined by four dancers on stage, two male and two female, dressed in black sequined numbers to her silver and gold fringed mini dress. This was a well-worked and confident performance that got the audience going.
Head judge Rylan Clark-Neal sounded pleased: ‘Kerrie-Anne, this is the kind of song I want to see for a long time’, later liking the artist to Eleni Foureira, the Cypriot entrant last year and Kerrie-Anne’s self-confessed inspiration for taking part in the British selection this year.
Song 1: Sweet Lies – Anisa
Anisa appeared on stage playing the piano dressed in a low cut black dress with two female backing vocalists accompanying her atmospheric performance. She later started to move around the stage with the crowd occasionally breaking into applause in response to her vocal delivery.
‘Your vocals were flawless’ were Marvin Humes’ comments, liking her to Ariana Grande.
However, in the end, all three judges voted for Kerrie-Anne to go through to the final vote.
Song 2: Freaks – Jordan Clarke
Jordan’s brush with fame started when, aged six, he appeared as one of the lost boys in the film Finding Neverland, starring Jonny Depp and Kate Winslet. However, the artist is probably best known for having reached the final of talent show Britain’s Got Talent as part of the group The Luminates. He sounds very enthusiastic about the possibility of getting the ticket to Tel Aviv: ‘to represent my country at Eurovision would mean so much, it’s like representing England at the World Cup if you’re a footballer, this is my World Cup – I’m so excited!’
This version of the song is characterized by richer backing vocals for the chorus and a playful counter-melody that add memorability – the short of tune that you are likely to whistle even after the performance has finished.
A very confident Jordan, wearing a gold-braided velvet jacket was joined on stage by two male and two female dancers. Both his vocal performance and stage presence as he moved on stage were very strong
‘Absolutely loved it!’ was Mollie King’s reaction, while Rylan likened the contestant to Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic 2018), Jordan’s favourite Eurovision entrant, adding that he expected he would win people over with his personality during a promo tour.
Song 2: Freaks – MAID
According to the official BBC Eurovision website, MAID are Blythe, Miracle and Kat. They come from from Edinburgh, Devon and Bristol respectively. Kat is half-Norwegian and says that she can remember Eurovision parties while holidaying in the Fjords. They formed a band in 2018 after meeting at drama school. They have often found themselves as understudies in West End musicals, and their name refers to the fact that they often feel like a secret society just like the maids they come to play, as they think that maids are often in a secret society gossiping about the families they serve.
They describe Freaks as being ‘about celebrating everyone’s individual personality, about the people who maybe don’t fit in and it’s about bringing everyone together.‘ Their mid-tempo take has a lot of quirky electronic percussion accompanying their beautiful harmonies.
The trio appeared standing behind microphone stands and wearing bodysuits in different cuts and colours. They followed a well-worked routine, which was appropriately quirky. The harmonies were not always as strong as they sounded in the recorded version of the song.
Rylan did not sound enthused: ‘I have to be honest, girls. Everyone backstage has being saying what lovely girls… I don’t love it, I’m afraid’, with Marvin agreeing. Mollie, however, expressed support to a fellow girl group.
There was not a unanimous verdict for Freaks, as Marvin and Rylan voted for Jordan and Mollie for MAID
Song 3: Bigger Than Us – Holly Tandy
Despite being just seventeen, Holly has already participated in the 2017 edition of The X Factor, where she reached the semi-final of the competition while being mentored by Sharon Osborne. She singles out Lucie Jones (UK 2017) as one of her favourite Eurovision entrants.
This is a sparser take on the song with an acoustic guitar featuring prominently. Holly’s voice is beautiful and her delivery is warm and engaging. There is also a catchy electronic counter-melody in the second half of the song as the musical production gets richer. Holly’s own words were: ‘my version of Bigger Than Us is a country pop song which is really current and cool, and similar to a Taylor Swift / Miley Cyrus vibe.’
Holly appeared sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage wearing an impressive red fringed bodysuit. There was a geometric impression of mountains in the background. She soon stood up and two male dancers dressed in black and wearing cowboy hats joined her on stage carrying out, true to the style of this version, a line dancing inspired routine. The performance went down really well, with the audience clapping along and giving it a strong applause in the end.
‘This was a great song and you did it justice’ was Marvin’s comment, whereas Mollie was impressed with Holly’s live vocals and Rylan considered the jury vote element at Eurovision: ‘this song would do very well with the jury’.
Song 3: Bigger Than Us – Michael Rice
Michael Rice is the winner of BBC One talent show All Together Now and an enthusiastic advocate for anti-bullying. He counts Salvador Sobral (Portugal 2017) and the co-presenter of tonight’s show Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden 2015) as his favourite Eurovision winners.
Michael describes his version of Bigger Than Us as ‘an epic, big song with a big key change and harmonies, and I think the lyrics resonate with everyone.’ Indeed, whereas this version starts as a simple arrangement showcasing Michael’s emotional delivery, the musical production and backing vocal build up in volume for the chorus – suitably in time for the ‘bigger than us’ line – adding the ‘epic’ element that the artist himself mentions.
Michael started his performance in the middle of the stage. On either side of the stage, there were a pair of a male and a female vocalist. There was a beatiful backdrop of an impression of stars that changed into one of headlights in time for the chorus of the song. Michael got more confident as the performance progressed winning over the crowd who sung and moved along.
‘You should be so proud of yourself, that was outstanding!’, said Mollie King. Head judge Rylan added that he should let his voice take the lead and not bother too much with the choreography he had been taught, commenting about his performance: ‘you were so believable’. Marvin’s comment was: ‘you are a proper proper singer. That for me was a proper Eurovision performance!’
This was probably the toughest decision to be made by the judges. In the end, all three judges voted for Michael, adding how brilliant Holly was, too.
The Duels Round results
Maria Broberg, Lise Cabble, Esben Svane
Jon Maguire, Rick Parkhouse, Corey Sanders, George Tizzardg
Bigger Than Us
Laurell Barker, Anna-Klara Folin, John Lundvik, Jonas Thander
The winner results
The three finalists got to sing their songs again. This time it was the viewers, through both telephone and online voting, who got to cast their vote.
Bigger Than Us
Current Eurovision winner Netta was the surprise guest act. During a special video, Netta gave a portrait of Tel Aviv as well as noting that the contest goes to Israel every twenty years and introducing some of the 2019 entries that have already been selected.
After all three finalists had finished their performances, Netta, in a very characteristic hairdo and silvery frock, performed her winning Toy, standing behind her characteristic mixing deck to start with and then moving onstage surrounded by two female dancers to enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
During the public voting, there was also a video featuring Graham Norton, the BBC’s commentator for Eurovision. Norton commented on the way the contest is perceived in other European countries as well as on previous entries, including Conchita’s 2014 win for Austria.
This was succeeded by last year’s UK entrant, SuRie, giving an atmospheric performance of Storm at her piano and accompanied by a string quartet.
There was a lot of banter between presenters Mel and Mans about the recent, less than successful UK attempts at Eurovision before Mans broke into a string of British entries, including Puppet On A String (1967 winner), Congratulations (1968), Save All Your Kisses For Me (1976 winner), Making Your Mind Up (1981 winner), Better The Devil You Know (1993), Ooh Ah Just A Little Bit (1996), and, joined by Katrina, Love Shine A Light (1997 winner).
In the end, with all three finalists were brought onstage. Michael was announced as the winner and went on to sing Bigger Than Us, the UK’s 2019 Eurovision entry.
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One of the easiest games for Eurovision fans to play is the “What If?” game. What if the televote had been around for Gina G? What if Abba had sung in Swedish? What if Valentina Monetta entered Sanremo? There’s no such thing as a wrong answer, but you can have some great discussions and some wonderful dreams.
Ahead of the UK public choosing the winning song and performance from ‘Eurovision: You Decide’, let’s take a look back at what could have been for the United Kingdom and play a Great Big What If Game for the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Dusty Springfield’s Sanremo Substitution
Now this is a tough one. Kathy Kirby was at the height of her star power in the United Kingdom, she had her own TV show, and had scored four consecutive Top 20 hits before ‘I Belong’ finished in second place in 1965’s Eurovision Song Contest (while singing from second in the running order). Even the EP of her six National Final songs reached the Top Ten!
The easiest ‘what if’ in 1965 is to change the running order (switch ‘I Belong’ with the eventual winner ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son’, which sung in 15th out of the 18 strong running order) but there’s someone far more interesting in the wings. Having just left the folk-pop trio The Springfields, Dusty Springfield’s solo career was building in intensity. 1965 saw her enter Sanremo with ‘Tu che ne sai?’ and ‘Di fronte all’amore’. Also in Sanremo and catching her ear was ‘Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)’, performed by Pino Donaggio.
She promptly snagged an acetate 45 rpm of the track, but waited a year before calling on some session musicians to sort out a reworked instrumental version ready for new lyrics. In 1996 ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ was released, and became an instant classic.
I’d still love to know what a Dusty Springfield version of ‘I Believe’ would have sounded like, but if you want a huge what if for the sixties, it’s this. Dusty does Sanremo, picks up the acetate, and doesn’t wait a year. She gets back to London, sorts out the English version, and BBC Executive Tom Sloan takes the difficult decision to switch out Kirby for Springfield to chase for the UK’s first Eurovision victory.
(Seriously though, you know the song, but this live rendition is spine chilling…)
Slade Slays Cliff
This one takes a few hops, but the hardest hop to make is accepting the first premise. Listen to Cliff Richard’s second Eurovision song, ‘Power To All Our Friends’. You’ll recognise the pop sensibilities and light entertainment value of the song, but if you listen closer you’ll hear the driving beat and power that lies at the heart of the early seventies Glam ethos.
This song, which finished third at the Song Contest, can sit comfortably alongside 1973’s big chart hits, such as ‘See My Baby Jive’, ‘Can The Can’, and (ahem) ‘I Love You Love Me Love’. A year before Stig Anderson polished the glam formula for Melodifestivalen and Brighton, Cliff tried to smuggle his interpretation of glam rock into the Eurovision Song Contest.
What if instead of a subtle bit of glam, the BBC went all out. In the month where ‘Power’ was confirmed, a huge marketing campaign was taking place on radio and on TV ahead of the release of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ was a new entry at number one in the charts – an instant classic. That’s it, there you go, skip Cliff send Jim Lea, Don Powell, Noddy Holder, and Dave Hill to the Grand Theatre in Luxembourg City.
As Abba went on to prove with their not-so-subtle homage to The Sweet, glam works really well at Eurovision in the seventies.
The Strictly Song Contest
Sure, we sent Prima Donna (‘Love Enough For Two’) and that gave Sally-Ann Triplett a taste of the Contest before the bopping Bardo in 1982, but come on, you had Bruno Tonioli choreographing and appearing on stage as part of Duke and The Aces… and it was a Paul Curtis penned number as well. Everything there is for the perfect early eighties what If.
Part of working on ‘what if’ alternatives is that they can reflect current trends and thoughts with a different context. With that in mind, you have to ask why Bros never got around to representing the United Kingdom, or if there was even an opportunity. With a tip of the head to Mr Hacksaw, there was.
Let’s be fair to Scott Fitzgerald, there’s no way Bros would have considered the Song Contest in 1988, so ‘Go’ remains in the Eurovision discography (thankfully). The year after that? Maybe if the management team had been feeling reckless but ’89 saw the Matt, Luke, and Ken show continue to ride high in the charts and in popular culture – who wouldn’t be proud of Smash Hits’ ‘Best British Newcomer’ and ‘Best Song’ awards?
So let’s turn to the 1990 season. Specifically, let’s turn to Bros’ ‘Chocolate Box’, the single that charted at #9 and allowed the tabloids to get stuck in with negative headlines in October 1989. What if management decided the focus needed to be more outside the UK and to tap into the huge European market of fans? And the best stage to do that would be the televised stage of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Hold back the next single – the emotionally powerful ‘Sister’ – and enter that into A Song For Europe. At that point the BBC had introduced a 100 percent televote into the selection process, and you just know the Brosettes would have been organised enough to pile on the phone lines and push Emma back into second place as the Goss brothers gave a little bit of Bros back to the world.
Wogan’s Final Correct Call
So much about the UK’s current attitude to the Eurovision Song Contest comes back to the attitude of Terry Wogan to the Song Contest, and that attitude changed throughout decades of his involvement. Sometimes it was superb, sometimes it was scurrilous, but in his final regeneration, Wogan managed to get a few things right, even if was decided that it was an accident brought about by the pressure of live TV.
This is probably the easiest of these what if moments to picture. Following a superfinal between Scooch and Cyndi at the UK’s National Selection (then going under the SEO-friendly ‘Making Your Mind Up’ moniker) the two co-hosts (Wogan and Fearne Cotton) proclaimed the winning act was “Scooch!” (Cotton) and “Cyndi!” (Wogan).
The results confirmed Cotton was right and Wogan mis-heard, but what if it had played the other way around? Let’s replace the innuendo-laden pale imitation of ‘The High Life’ with ‘I’ll Leave My Heart’ (and try not to sing ‘Loch Lomond’)
Cool Me Down It’s Hotter Than Hell
One of the big fan ‘What If’ moments in the Contest is Poland not sending Margaret with ‘Cool Me Down’ (although I’m perfectly happy with the cheesy slice of soft rock from Mike Starling) but there’s a bigger ‘What If’ in 2016 for the United Kingdom… Dua Lipa’s ‘Hotter Than Hell’
It was the summer of post-dancehall pop, and as ESC Insight’s Ellie Chalkely noted, ‘Cool Me Down’ had all the required elements. The same could be said of ‘Hotter Than Hell’:
Electropop with a dancehall influence has become a major presence in the pop charts all over the world, thanks to huge singles like Rihanna’s Calvin Harris collaborations, the prevalence of Sean Paul as a featured artist on records like The Saturday’s ‘What About Us‘ and a handful of huge one-off singles like ‘Lean On‘ by Major Lazer, MØ and DJ Snake. Another factor that can’t be ignored in the rise of post-dancehall pop is that the international songwriting market is likely to be flooded with songs that were written with a lucrative collaboration with Rihanna in mind, but which get picked up by other artists. In short, the post-dancehall sound is basically inescapable and it was only a matter of time before it appeared at the Eurovision Song Contest.
…speaking of Calvin Harris, what song was at the top of the UK charts during the Eurovision Song Contest 2018? The Calvin Harris/Dua Lipa duet of ‘One Kiss’.
Arguably ‘Hotter Than Hell’ was the song that helped Lipa break out into super-stardom during 2016 and 2017, but it never had the same impact in the charts that it had with music critics around the world. Again, it would have needed a bit of insider knowledge and confidence to bring this to the UK’s first National Final in many years, but this was the sound of the approaching summer, and it was just within reach of the BBC.
Always The Bridesmaid…
To date the UK has finished in second place at the Eurovision Song Contest fifteen times, many of them by the finest of margins. Could a few tiny changes have improved the country’s chances? Would bigger decision such as those above have had an impact on the podium places gained by the BBC? And what would you change in the UK’s Song Contest history?
A bad kept secret is now officially confirmed. Sergey Lazarev will represent Russia at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. After narrowly missing out on victory in 2016, does he have what it takes to bring the trophy back to Russia for a second time?
After months of talks, the truth is out. Sergey Lazarev has been given the Russian ticket to Tel Aviv and will represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time. The song that he will compete with is not yet known, but it is written by Greek composer Dimitris Kontopoulos, who has written eight Eurovision entries over the years, including Lazarev’s 2016 entry You Are The Only One. In the Russian team this year we also find Fokas Evangelinos as stage director, Ilias Kokotos as project manager and vocal coach Alex Panayi, who previously represented Cyprus twice (1995 and 2000).
Sergey Lazarev becomes the second singer from Russia to enter the contest more than once. Fellow pop star Dima Bilan finally brought Russia their first victory in 2008, two years after his first time competing where he finished in 2nd place.
With his dazzling light effects and him climbs up on the backing screen as it spun around, Lazarev caught attention with his 2016 performance. For many, he was the sure winner of the contest, but it didn’t work out that way. Although he won the public telephone vote, he received a disappointing jury result, which made him finish in third place. Many felt that the jury vote was politically biased as Ukraine’s Jamala became the overall winner despite neither winning the jury or the televote.
I was very worried about whether I should go back to the competition because on the one hand it was the best professional experience of my life but on the other I do not like to repeat myself. It is magical, however, that music can give to an artist all the answer to his thoughts, as by listening to the song, in a magical way I was totally questioned.
Sergey Lazarev to Channel One News
Dimitris Kontopoulos’ eight Eurovision entries
Greek composer Kontopoulos first appeared at Eurovision in 2007 for Belarus. Over the years, he have written seven more Eurovision entries and represented a total of five countries. Seven of his Eurovision songs reached the final and most of them scored a result in top 10.
Work Your Magic
This Is Our Night
You Are The Only One
This Is Love
X My Heart
Did not reach the final
Although not officially credited, Kontopoulos also wrote Moldova 2018. This was revealed at a press conference in Lisbon.
Sergey will be hoping to put Russia back on the Eurovision map. Last year, Julia Samoylova became the first Russian entrant not to qualify for the grand final. Her entry I Won’t Break failed to impress as she finished the semi-final in 15th place.
In the video below, you can be reminded of Sergey’s first attempt at Eurovision when he performs You Are The Only One in Stockholm.
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“Release Me” is the title of the first of three songs by Darude and Sebastian Rejman, which Finland will have to choose among in their national final. The coming two songs will be released on the 15th and 22nd of February.
On the 2nd of March, Finland will select their song for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. We already know that it will be the famous producer/DJ Darude with Sebastian Rejman on vocals who will perform the entry on the stage in Tel Aviv, Israel in May.
2013 Danish Eurovision winner Emmelie de Forest will perform in the final on the 2nd of March.
Since the news about Darude were released little over a week ago, his old hit Sandstorm have gotten quite some extra plays. Fans were excited and really looking forward to what he has for them for this year’s Finnish Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK) final. Last year, Finland introduced the format of internally selecting one artist, and having him or her perform three songs in the national final. Saara Aalto were chosen, and in the final, it was the song Monsters who won. Despite finishing 25th, she did make it to the final after Finland the previous three years had left the competition after the semi-finals.
Could Release Me do any better than Saara Aalto last year? Judge for yourself as the song is now available to listen to.
Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest
Finland have had a shaky history at Eurovision. They have finished in last place 10 times and have only won the contest once. In 2006 Lordi brought their Hard Rock Hallelujah to Athens and earned 292, being the first rock music song to win the competition. Since their victory, Finland have failed to enter the top 10 and have failed to qualify for the grand final five times.
Last year all hopes were on Saara Aalto to restore some Finnish pride at Eurovision. Her song Monsters was much loved by Eurovision fans across Europe, but it did not translate into points on the night. Saara finished in 25th place earning just 108 points.
You can watch Saara Aalto performing last year’s entry at Eurovision In Concert below:
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This week sees the 69th Sanremo Festival, with the winning act given first refusal to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest. But Sanremo is far more than just a way for RAI to pick a name for Tel Aviv. It has a rich musical tapestry with arguably more cultural impact than any other National Final on its country.
So, ahead of the names for 2019, We’ve asked a number of Sanremo followers to talk about the songs from the history of the Contest that have had a memorable impact.
Roy Delaney (Eurovision Apocalypse)
‘Bastardo‘, by Anna Tatangelo (2011)
The 2011 running of Sanremo was the first that I got to watch right through, and to that end it harbours many favourites. Indeed, Roberto Vecchioni’s winning song ‘ Chiamami Ancora Amore‘, is textbook Sanremo – an old stager grumbling emotionally about faith and hope and a better way forward, in that uniquely Italian manner. If I could have chosen three songs then it would definitely have been on this list.
But the song that year that got me hooked on this contest was ‘Bastardo’. Crashingly unpopular amongst the voting great and good that year, Tatangelo’s dark, almost angry delivery looked like it spoke from deep personal experience and got its hooks right into me, showing too that a contemporary hate/love song can benefit from an orchestra to give it pure gut-wrenching power. This song still gives me the shivers to this day each time I hear it.
‘Mi Va Di Cantare‘, by Lara Saint Paul (1968)
Sanremo in the sixties was home to a whole load of cracking beat pop songs that skirted the line between cool and cabaret, and the pure mistress of the field was Lara Saint Paul. Born in what was then still Eritrean Ethiopia, she’d been around the contest since her 1962 debut under the name of Tanya. But for me she hit her peak here in 1968.
‘Mi Va Di Cantare’ starts with an absolute killer a cappella intro, but the second the beat kicks in a nation of hips were swinging involuntarily, her charm and awkward grace winning you over in seconds. If you’ve been unlucky enough never to have witnessed Ms Saint Paul before, be warned – just thirty seconds in and you’ll be head over heels in love.
Alessandro Banti (OGAE Italy)
‘Almeno Tu Nell’universo‘, by Mia Martini (1989)
1989 saw the return of one of Italy’s greatest singers return to Sanremo. Mia Martini had already sung on the great stage in 1982 (and represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1977), but decided to retire in 1983.
The return in 1989 led to a resurgence in her creative output, starting out with ‘Almeno Tu Nell’universo‘, an instant classic which is now regarded as one of the key tracks in Italian music from the eighties and was voted ‘The Greatest Sanremo Track Of All Time‘ at the turn of the century. She would return to Sanremo in 1992, claiming victory and the right to fly the Italian flag at Eurovision once more, but in musical terms it’s all about ’89.
‘Come Foglie‘, by Malika Ayane (2009)
With three appearances at Sanremo Campioni (the ‘Big Artists’ section), Malika Ayane has picked up two Critics Choice awards, her class and musical style are highly recognisable and distinctive.
She debuted in the Nuove Proposte (Newcomers) section in 2009 with ‘Come Foglie‘, drawing instant vocal comparisons to Ornella Vanoni. This song was originally written by Giuliano Sangiorgi (from the Italian band Negramaro) and has performed it numerous times with the legendary seven-times Sanremo entrant Gino Paoli.
‘Lontano Dagli Occhi’, by Mary Hopkin (1969)
I was sweet sixteen (aww…) when I bought ‘Temma Harbour’ by Mary Hopkin one cold January morning in 1970. To my surprise the B-side ( ‘What’s a B-side?’ , the youngsters are asking.) was an Italian song . ‘Hang on’, I thought, ‘I’ve heard that somewhere’. Finally, I remembered I’d heard ‘Lontano dagli occhi’ sung by Sergio Endrigo in Italy the previous summer.
It was in the days when a ‘song contest’ was a ‘song’ contest. He’d performed it at the Sanremo 1969 edition, and unknown to me , Mary Hopkin had also performed it there. In those days each entry was performed twice , by two different artists, one of whom was often an international guest. It finished second to Iva Zanicchi’s ‘Zingara’ with Bobby Solo.
The prolific lyricist Sergio Bardotti went on to collaborate with Lucio Dalla (of which more in a minute), who composed ‘Occhi di Ragazza’. It was intended to be performed by Ron and Sandie Shaw at the 1970 Sanremo edition, but it was eliminated by the selection committee at the preliminary stages . A couple of months later Gianni Morandi was offered the opportunity to represent Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest with it.
Cristina Giuntini (OGAE Italy)
‘Un Discorso In Generale‘, by Noa, Carlo Fava & Solis String Quartet (2006)
Three years before representing Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest together with Mira Awad in 2009 (‘There Must Be Another Way‘), Noa took part in the Sanremo Festival together with jazz artist Carlo Fava and the ensemble of the Solis String Quartet. Sadly, the song did not qualify for the Grand Final on the Saturday night, but it remains a hidden gem. A sweet and sad ballad perfect for Noa’s silver voice opposed to Carlo’s soft one, and is represent something you do not often hear in Sanremo!
‘Per Sempre E Poi Basta‘, by Renzo Rubino (2014)
In the 2014 Sanremo Festival, on the first night, each artist presented two songs, of which just one was chosen by the juries to proceed in the competition.
Everybody was shocked when Renzo Rubino’s ‘Ora‘, a sweet uptempo song but nothing more than that, was preferred to this masterpiece strongly influenced by Umberto Bindi’s music. The song was greeted by a standing ovation: no other performance received such a warm welcome. Eventually ‘Ora‘ came third, but this song could easily have won the whole thing.
‘24.000 Baci’ by Adriano Celentano (1961)
I’m a relative newcomer to the wonders of Sanremo, and have yet to catch up on most of the pre-2011 contests. However, looking through some of the highlights, I found an evergreen by an absolute icon. During the 1961 Festival, versions of each song were performed by two different artists, with ‘24.000 Baci‘ (24,000 kisses) sung by both Adriano Celentano and Sammarinese singer Little Tony. While the bones of the song were the same for both artists, Celentano, then a relatively new artist on the Italian scene, sold his version with incredible flair and panache in his Sanremo debut. ‘24.000 Baci‘ was arguably one of Sanremo’s first forays into rock and roll, and it helped launch a legendary career that would influence singers the world over, even spilling over into obscure Moldovan National Final submissions in the twenty-first century.
The song came in second place that year, which begs the question: what would have happened if this had gone to Eurovision in place of Betty Curtis’s ‘Al di là‘? In the days before France Gall, would Adriano Celentano have been seen as too wild, too off-the-wall, and ultimately too ahead of its time? Or would it have modernised a Eurovision that, at the time, was still rather full of chansons and balladry?
Luana Caraffa (Belladonna)
‘Vita Spericolata‘, by Vasco Rossi (1983)
It was impossible to ignore the appearance of Vasco Rossi at the Sanremo 1983 with the song ‘Vita Spericolata‘ …at least for me it is was impossible.
In the midst of so many ordinary singers with perfect, virtuoso voices and of songs of sheer ordinary melodramatic monotony, he suddenly appeared as if he had been just dragged on stage from the hazy smoke of a drunken night spent in a bar – maybe the bar mentioned in his song, the Roxy Bar.
The Roxy Bar immediately became a place where one would want to go and take refuge and witness the fleetingness of life in the eyes of every customer, a place of passage and of nostalgia for what had never been, a place where things could still actually happen for those who felt imprisoned in an ordinary life and dreamed about living a reckless one. Yes, I think it was as if Vasco that night was a link between the past and the future, between nostalgia and hope: he totally enthralled me.
And the way he sung his song, as if was truly talking to you and saying something real. I mean, you could feel that every word was really heartfelt and not just sung in order to show you how a great singer he was… and in fact he came second-to-last at the Festival because authenticity is always too much for those who have been exposed only to appearances.
I dreamed of becoming like him one day, of having a real voice and not a fake, glossy one… he has been a great inspiration to me!!
Dani Macchi (Belladonna)
‘Luce (Tramonti a Nord-Est)‘, by Elisa (2001)
I have never really had much of an emotional connection with the Sanremo Festival, I’ve always mostly ignored it, but of course I am aware that a few true pearls have emerged.
One of those is ‘Luce’, the song with which singer-songwriter Elisa won the Festival in 2001. The song managed to have a great, strong Italian melody – the fabulously uplifting chorus never fails to send shivers down my spine every time I hear it – and profound, poetic lyrics (penned by Italian singer-songwriter Zucchero) without sounding as cheesy and trite as inevitably almost all Sanremo songs do. Its minimal yet powerful arrangement gave the song a contemporary edge, another true rarity for Sanremo and in general for Italian music.
Every time someone remarks to me that Sanremo songs are always cringeworthy I play them this song, and even though it is a rare and very wonderful exception, it is also yet another proof that daring to be yourself without obliging to whatever is expected of you is always the key to creating great, memorable work.
Belladonna have just released their sixth album, ‘No Star Is Ever To Far’. You can follow the Rock-Noir band on Facebook, or listen to their essential tracks on Spotify.
‘Arrivera’ by Modà ft. Emma Marrone (2011)
With Italy’s return to the Eurovision Song Contest there was more international focus on the 2011 Festival from the Song Contest community, which included myself. And while the Contest followers were watching the Giovanni Contest to see who was heading to Dusseldorf (the jazz pianist Raphael Guallazi, who nearly sneaked the Eurovision win), I was drawn into the whole experience.
And driving that was what has become one of my acknowledged weaknesses – the Italian Power Duet – specifically Moda and Emma Marrone’s ‘Arrivera‘. Frankly it’s one of the best examples of the genre; you’ve got an over-arching story thread in the presentation, you have singers who tell the story through action and intonation, you have multiple layers, contrasts, rising tension, it’s every single box that I love.
Moda’s lead singer Kekko Silvestre fights for the stage as much as Emma Marrone reflecting the balance of emotions during the song, and the band has everything turned up to eleven. Emma would go on to win Sanremo in 2012 with ‘Non è l’inferno‘ (much like Roy above, if I was nominating three, this would be the third pic), and turn up at Eurovision with the weaker ‘La Mia Citta‘, but this is the one that sealed Sanremo in my heart.
‘4 Marzo 1943‘, by Lucio Dalla (1971)
Let’s just be clear for a moment. Lucio Dalla is an absolute bona-fide legend. He’s worked within multiple genres, his career spanned over fifty years, the number of collaborators is immense, there are 54 album releases with his name, he was jamming jazz clarinet with Chet Baker as a teenager…
His first Sanremo appearance was in 1966 with ‘Pafff… Bum!‘ where he was joined by Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. He’d return the following year, and make numerous more appearances at the Festival.
But it’s the 1971 entry ‘4/3/43‘ (the title is never quite consistent throughout the decades) that lifted Dalla to a higher plane of arts. A song that pushed the red lines of censorship, requiring a change in the title (…to Dalla’s birthday, even though it is not autobiographical) and alterations to the lyrics before the Sanremo committee would let it into the Festival. It tells the story of a young mother, who had a son with an unknown allied soldier during the Second World War and deals with issues of the loss of a child and of a parent. It may only have finished third, but it achieved critical and commercial success around the world.
A few years after his death in 2012 his former backing band, Stadio, decided to enter Sanremo with ‘Un Giorno Mi Dira‘ which went on to win Sanremo 2016. Stadio also picked up another prize in the Ariston Theatre that year. To a standing ovation they won ‘Covers Night’ with ‘La Sera Dei Miracoli‘ …from Lucio Dalla’s 1980 album ‘Dalla‘.
If Sanremo represents the best of Italy, I would argue Lucio Dalla represents the best of Sanremo. And if you take a look outside of the Ariston Theatre this week, you’ll find a small bench with a life-sized bronze sculpture of the man himself, with round glasses, a comfy knitted cap, and the love of everyone who walks by him.
After Eleni Foureira’s second place last year, Cyprus seems to have thrown all in to win it this time. Is it too soon as many countries fail to do well two years in a row?
Cyprus made their debut in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981, they have had mixed levels of success but never won. Over the past decade the country have failed to qualify for the grand final 3 times and until this year, had not earned a top ten position. The change in Cyprus’ luck came from Eleni Foureira who brought her Fuego to Lisbon and earned Cyprus their best result in the contest ever; a 2nd place. It seems like Cyprus want to keep up the momentum as they have chosen another powerhouse to the Eurovision stage; Tamta.
Tamta, who was born in Georgia, first came to prominence in 2003 when she entered Greek Super Idol finishing in 2nd place. Since then she has had a successful career in Greece and Cyprus releasing several albums before being asked to join The X Factor Georgia and The X Factor Greece, but this time as a mentor. This year, she was internally selected to fly the Cypriot flag in Tel Aviv with the song Replay.
In Eurovision, it is rather unusual for a nation to score highly at the contest two years in a row, at least in recent years. We have seen this with Russia when in 2016 Sergey Lazarev finished in 3rd place, his successor, Julia Samoylova who competed in 2018 (due to her being withdrawn from the 2017 contest) failed to qualify for the grand final.
Bulgaria came close in 2017 when Kristian Kostov and his Beautiful Mess finished in 2nd, Bulgaria pulled out all of the stops the following year to create super-group Equiniox but sadly they failed to hit the mark and finished in 14th place. A little earlier in 2014, The Common Linnets were pipped to the post by Austria’s Conchita Wurst and were succeeded by Trijntje Oosterhuis who failed to qualify for the grand final.
More often than not, the winning song tends to be from a country who has ‘come out nowhere’ with a great song that has taken everyone by surprise. Portugal is a perfect example of this as in 2017 after failing to qualify for four years prior. Austria had failed to qualify for two consecutive years before their 2014 victory. Denmark who won in 2013 had finished in 23rd place in the year prior to their win with Germany, Finland and Turkey also having a series of bad spells in the years recent to their victory.
However, it isn’t unheard of as Ukraine and Sweden who always tend to earn top 10 places have also won the contest recently which shows that it is not impossible, just very unlikely.
So, are Cyprus right to strike while the iron is hot? Can Tamta bring Cyprus their first ever Eurovision win?
This reflection article is based on the author's ownpersonal experience. Views expressed belongs to him or her, and are to be seen as unrelated to EuroVisionary.com.
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