SONG CONTEST - OSLO
This is the page where I tell you exactly what I think about the songs in the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest held in the Oslo Spektrum on May 18, 1996 and won by Irish singer Eimear Quinn. This is one of my favourite Eurovisions, delightfully hosted by Morten Harket and Ingvild Bryn and staged on three stages set up using the theme of an oilrig. The quality of music was also high featuring a number of songs with folk influences, no doubt triggered by the success of Secret Garden 12 months previously.
1. TURKEY - Besinci Mevsim - Sebnem Paker ***
those songs that proves that there is room in the world for the word 'nice'.
The song never really reaches any great heights, but it never tries to. Sebnem
Paker, while giving us little taste of what was to come in 1997, brings
character to her vocal performance, and the fragile rhythm of the song gives
just enough support to the accompaniment of the violin, accordion and brass.
This song is very difficult to categorise, and that can only be a good thing.
2. UNITED KINGDOM - Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit - Gina G **
is pathetically easy to categorise, it's a disco song. After failing in 1995
with acid jazz, the U.K. turned to dance in 1996 and, thank goodness, didn't
win with it either. Gina G's vocal is weak, the song has no substance, and (and
this is possibly most damning) it's not really that good to dance to. If a good
song means to you that it's got a beat and you can dance to it, then there is a
small chance that you may enjoy this. Otherwise...
3. SPAIN - Ay! Que Deseo! - Antonio Carbonell
goodness! This is arguably the worst Eurovision song of the decade. The genre
of music is described as 'new flamenco' and, using this song as an example, it involves
a singer screaming his lungs out from the back of his throat and never really
hitting any note in particular. It's one of those vocal performances that is so
bad, it becomes funny. Would the song have fared better with a singer? I doubt
it. The rhythm is attractive but the music keeps falling over itself.
4. PORTUGAL - O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor - Lucia Moniz ****
takes a little while to get used to because of the several stylistic changes
that take place during the song (funk to pop to folk to funk again). Once
you've gotten used to those, though, this really is quite delightful. The
orchestra is used well and Lucia, while sounding a little underdone in the
opening section, handles the bulk of the song quite well. Many people go quite
crazy over this song. I'm not one of them but it's certainly worth many
5. CYPRUS - Mono Yia Mas - Constantinos **
you thought you weren't going to get a power ballad... Well, it's a power
ballad without the power. That's the song's fault, not Constantinos, although
his voice doesn't exactly overflow with strength. I was thinking that this song
sounds like it could fit into an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, but that really
is a harsh statement, and I don't think that this song is quite that bad.
Nonetheless, quite boring.
6. MALTA - In a Woman's Heart - Miriam Christine ***
is one you could easily imagine being sung by the Pointer Sisters or Gloria
Gaynor. Miriam Christine (only 16 at the time) has a wonderfully mature, deep
voice which is capable of really belting a tune out. As indicated earlier, this
song has a late seventies black American woman feel about it, so if you are
into that sort of thing, give this a go.
7. CROATIA - Sveta Ljubav - Maja Blagdan ***
There are a
great many Eurovision entries that contain wonderfully written songs, but are
compromised by a questionable choice of singer. This is another of them. It’s
what you might call a 'power waltz'. The verses build very slowly to a
wonderful climax in the chorus, which is quite majestic, and the instrumental
section is a marvel to listen to. Maja's voice, however, is far too breathy and
thin to cope with the extremities of the song. She imitates power with two
ill-placed high-pitched screams, but these only serve to show how thin the
voice is. This song deserved better. Still, many love it and even this version
has much to admire.
8. AUSTRIA - Weil's Da Guat Got - George Nussbaumer *****
is not just a gospel song; it's a great gospel song. George (who, incidentally,
is blind) sings with an unbelievably rich voice which would not be out of place
in the Deep South of America, and plays piano with great power and style,
bringing out the raw emotion of this type of music. This is one of the only
Eurovision songs that actually benefits from having five backing vocalists. In
my mind, this is one of the all-time great Eurovision songs and deserves
Oh wow, a
ballad. (yawn) I can hardly contain my excit...(zzzzzzzzzzz). This is a slow
ballad with one musical theme repeated about fifty times. Cathy's voice is
unremarkable but we'd never know if it was any good because this song is so
dull. Forget this.
10. GREECE - Emis Forame to Himona Anixiatika - Marianna Efstratiou *****
This is a
wonderfully creative composition capped by an excellent performance (musically,
that is, say what you like about the dancing). The song features a bongo-driven
7/8 rhythm and a chorus featuring an orchestral arrangement that evokes
memories of John Wayne (or, for Australian readers, the music in the Victoria
Bitter commercial). Mariana's voice is light but never light on and she works
well with the vocal harmonies in the bridge and chorus, giving this song great
warmth. The overall effect is a very original performance of a well-crafted
This is a
very pretty song. The recipe is fairly simple: one old male voice; one young
female voice; a gentle rhythm with a light accompaniment; build gently until
all ingredients are mixed together, and presto! - Easy listening heaven.
Personally, I find this song a little repetitive and lacking in anything that
sparks real emotion, but many people are very fond of it (particularly 4KQ
listeners) and you may be one of them.
12. NORWAY - I Evighet - Elisabeth Andreassen ***
power ballad. Not a bad power ballad, but, nonetheless, a power ballad. The pan
flute adds a nice touch to this song, and Elisabeth's voice, well, let's just
say that she’s brought class to Eurovision on each of the four occasions that
she has sung. However, I find the whole thing a bit formulaic. The song builds
nicely, but not in any way that's going to give you goosebumps. Give this a few
listens and then move on.
13. FRANCE - Diwanit Bugale - Dan ar Braz et L'héritage des Celtes *****
all-time favourite Eurovision song. Dan ar Braz is a legendary Celtic musician
and this piece has a great atmosphere. The song is quite slow with a very gentle
rhythm, yet builds very subtly, almost as though it wasn't trying to. By the
time the chorus is sung for the last time, following a chillingly beautiful
whistle and uillean pipe solo, the song has wrapped you up in it's warm sound
and carried you to a place where birds sing, children play, women swoon and men
dream. Not a bad way to spend three minutes, really!
like the songwriter had two good ideas and put them together to make one bad
one. The gentle rock rhythm is attractive, so is the show-style melody, but not
together. It doesn't help that Regina's vocals don't blend with the rhythmic
style OR the melodic style, so basically it's one big mess. There is also a
prominent oboe which, I suspect, was part of the same idea as the melody.
Someone could pull this song apart and come up with a couple of real gems.
15. NETHERLANDS - De Eerste Keer - Maxine and Franklin Brown ***
Queen, young and sweet, only seven..." oh, sorry, I thought I was
listening to something else there. This is a wonderful performance of a
seventies-style disco tune. Of course, it helps if you like seventies-style
disco tunes. The vocal performance can't be faulted, (Franklin in particular
has a wonderfully rich voice), nor can the orchestral arrangement, which
supports the song superbly. Basically, whether or not you like this song
depends on whether or not you like the style.
16. BELGIUM - Liefde is een Kaartspel - Lisa del Bo ***
This is a
wonderful performance of a seventies-style pop tune. (Can somebody send some
nineties music to the Low Countries, PLEASE?!) It sounds like something Elton
John circa 1976 might do, a little Philadelphia Freedom-esque perhaps. Lisa's
vocals are strong and her voice has an intriguing quality to it. If you like
this kind of stuff, go for it, but I do question the wisdom of sending a song
like this to the Eurovision in 1996! (unless, of course, people in Belgium are
still listening to stuff like this.)
17. IRELAND - The Voice - Eimear Quinn ****
not the best song of the 1996 Eurovision (we know that because it won!) but
there is a lot to like about this very Irish sounding tune, written by author
Brendan Graham and sung by Anuna vocalist Eimear Quinn. Eimear's voice is brilliant
for this type of music, although, regrettably, her performance on the night was
less than brilliant. For me, the highlight of this song is the wonderfully
written violin solo which transforms the entire character of the song from a
gentle whisper to a boldly made statement. Easily the best of the Irish songs
that won in the nineties.
18. FINLAND - Niin Kaunis On Taivas - Jasmine *
was invented for the skip button. In fairness, the basis of the song is very
good. The orchestra and band create a quiet country feel that does have a
pleasant sound to it. But the vocals are just wrong, both Jasmine's
inappropriate lead vocal and the mass of backing vocalists that create an ugly
mess that is simply too heavy for the instrumental backing. Listen to this if
you must but I wouldn't waste too much time.
19. ICELAND - Sjúbídú - Anna Mjöll Olafsdottir *****
If you haven't worked out the title yet, it's pronounced "Shooby-doo"
and the song is a big band piece that, lyrically, pays tribute to the great
American singers of the early 20th century. Anna's voice is fantastic for this
style and the backing vocals and orchestra complete the laid-back feel. This is
not a cheap imitation of jazz; this is the real thing. Definitely worth a
my all-time favourites. In a competition that tends to attract fairly light,
happy songs, this is a particularly dark and moody composition. It sounds like
a show tune but is more Bernstein than Hammerstein. The orchestral arrangement
is dense, the solo oboe is melancholic, and Kasia's vocals are compellingly
desperate and painful. In a year that included Eimear Quinn, Marcel Palonder
and George Nussbaumer, this was the outstanding vocal performance of 1996.
Kasia is also an accomplished actress and the theatricality of her stage
performance in Oslo is worth seeing. This is quite brilliant.
21. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA - Za Nasu Ljubav - Amila Glamocak *
arrangement of this slow ballad is catastrophic. The backing vocals are far too
dense and the orchestral arrangement is far too thin. With that in mind, I
don't really know what this song is trying to do. There may well be a good song
hiding in there somewhere but it is never allowed to create any atmosphere, and
Amila's vocals, which I don't think were ever really strong enough for this
piece, just get crushed in the mess. If you can find something here, please let
22. SLOVAKIA - Kým Nás Más - Marcel Palonder ****
There is a
lot to like here. Nothing original in the style, just a straight pop ballad,
but it builds through the verse well enough and creates the warmth that most
love songs try to generate. The most outstanding feature of this song, however,
is Marcel's rich voice. He switches effortlessly between power and delicacy and
there is a genuine friendliness to his voice, something almost fatherly.
Definitely worth repeated listening.
23. SWEDEN - Den Vilda - One More Time ****
vagaries of the draw for order in Eurovision often lead to weak endings to the
show, but this is a perfect closing act. This is a gentle song with a genuine
Scandinavian feel to it. The vocals move from unison to harmony and back again
very skilfully and the instrumental arrangement uses the orchestra, featuring
piccolo and piano, to create the icy backdrop to this Swedish folk tale. The
effect is that of making the listener feel warm while making them aware that
all around is freezing cold. A very well crafted composition.
In summary, this was an outstanding Eurovision Song Contest. For me, the standout songs were the entries from Austria, Greece, France, Iceland and Poland. On the rung below that I would put Portugal, Ireland, Slovakia and Sweden with Turkey rounding out the top 10. The dud of the night was easily Spain, whose entry has given me many a good laugh over the years.
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