ESC 1999 Song Reviews

1999 EUROVISION SONG CONTEST - JERUSALEM

 

Welcome to Daniel Viles' semi-official opinions of the songs from the Eurovision Song Contest held on May 29, 1999 in Jerusalem and won by Charlotte Nilsson of Sweden. This was the worst Eurovision of the decade in terms of the standard of music, the presenters and the staging. Not in this decade has a contest been so devoid of quality in so many areas. This was the first ESC since 1974 to be free of language restrictions, so of course, most entries were sung in English, usually quite bad English!

 

1. LITHUANIA - Strazdas - Aiste Smilgeviciute ****

Quite a strange song, really, and that can only be a good thing. The song is a folk tale about the Song Thrush (sounds painful!) and Aiste's haunting voice, while not technically that proficient, gives the song a dark, brooding atmosphere. The Kenny G/Jan Garbarek soprano saxophone solo is a little insensitive to the mood but it does add colour to the composition. Overall, this song has a lot of potential that it never quite fulfils.

2. BELGIUM - Like the Wind - Vanessa Chinitor **

The first song to take advantage of the opportunity to sing in English has some lyrics that don't quite sound right to English-speaking ears, but there are some real shockers coming up, so this is O.K. by comparison. The song is a gentle waltz with an airy string and pipes accompaniment. Vanessa's voice is a little too low and too dense for this song, but she makes a good fist of it and there is obviously some talent there. Quite pretty.

3. SPAIN - No Quiero Escuchar - Lidia ***

This is a standard pop song with a mild funk beat, but it has great sensitivity and Lidia's voice is rich in tone and full of substance. There is the slightest hint of 'overharmonisatia' (see main page for definition) but it doesn't get too much in the way of the tune. Some may find this tune a little dull as it doesn't really do a whole lot. I, personally, find that the charm of Lidia's voice makes this song worth the listen.

4. CROATIA - Maria Magdalena - Doris ***

I never thought I'd see a woman trying to be sexy with the name of 'Doris'! This is a disco number that builds nicely and has a dark, mysterious feel to the chorus. Doris' voice is deep and strong and carries this song well. There's not a whole lot to hate here but don't get too excited.

5. UNITED KINGDOM - Say It Again - Precious *

In a contest that contained a lot of very bad songs sung in English, this is down there with the worst of them. It's rather ironic that the home of the Spice Girls and, therefore, home of the largest number of Spice Girls impersonators, couldn't find five girls better than this to perform in the contest. The vocal harmonies of this type of pop group are rarely good, but these are some of the worst I've heard. Seriously, don't waste your time.

6. SLOVENIA - For a Thousand Years - Darja Švajger **

This is a very melodramatic show tune, albeit one that is sung very well by Darja. I hate melodramatic show tunes, however, if this is your thing, you shouldn't be disappointed here.

7. TURKEY - Dön Artik - Tugba Önal ***

This is a good boppy Turkish tune with rich vocals and a good arrangement and I always feel that I should like this song more than I actually do. I think that there are two reasons that this song never seems to move me in any way. Firstly, the composition doesn't really go anywhere, it just sort of continues along. Secondly, and most importantly, to anyone who heard the Turkish entry of 1997 (Dinle - Sebnem Paker), this just sounds like a poor imitation.

8. NORWAY - Living my Life Without You - Van Eijk *

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What the hell happened here? The Danish broadcasters picked up poor Van off the street and said to themselves "Yeah, he's got the look we're after, let's enter him in Eurovision". Unfortunately, they forgot to check if he could sing! Even this piece of uninventive pop fluff suffers at the lips of this poor boy who probably just wants to go home and play basketball.

9. DENMARK - This Time I Mean It - Trine Jepsen & Michael Teschl *

Now, about those bad English lyrics I was talking about. In Danish, this song quite possibly had some thoughtful concepts, some crafty metaphors and a beautiful poetic style. In English, however, this is cliché-ridden shit! Trine's voice has a little substance to it but Michael's voice is embarrassing. The song, incidentally, is a mid-tempo pop song – just in case you care!

10. FRANCE - Je Veux Donner Ma Voix - Nayah **

Nayah, sadly, suffers from Celineophrenia; a rare condition in which its sufferers genuinely believe that they are, in fact, Celine Dion. Symptoms include emaciating your already frail body, making your hair dead straight and hacking the fringe, and pumping your fist football-style every time your backing singers sing the right notes. Nayah's voice is not bad and the song is a relatively faithful pop ballad, but we all know who she's trying to be.

11. NETHERLANDS - One Good Reason - Marlayne **

"Give me one good reason, and I will give you two, c'est la vie forever, say you will, say 'I do'." Contrary to popular belief, these lyrics do not actually make sense, although, credit must go the Dutch for finally stepping into the eighties after twenty years of seventies-style Eurovision entries. This is another mid-tempo pop song performed by a singer with a pleasant, yet substanceless voice. Can we see a pattern here?

12. POLAND - Przytul Mnie Mocno - Mietek Szczesniak *

You know you're watching a crappy Eurovision when you can't even rely on the Polish entry for some interesting music. This song is yet another slow ballad performed by a singer with a pleasant, yet sub...blah, blah, blah.

13. ICELAND - All Out of Luck - Selma **

This is a dance number, which, in the context of this ESC, actually constitutes variety. Amazing, huh! Once again, the lyrics make no sense whatsoever but apparently that's not important in modern Eurovisions. Selma's voice shows evidence of talent and the song has a nice melodic structure to it. Try to stay awake for the whole three minutes and you should enjoy bits of this.

14. CYPRUS - Thai Nai Erotas - Marlain Angelidou *

This probably qualifies as the worst vocal performance of the contest (which, in a contest including Van Eijk, is pretty amazing!) This is one of those annoying dance songs that starts off quietly before the house beat kicks in after the first chorus. But it's Marlain's attempts at ad libbing in her upper register that really gets you giggling. Listen to this song once, it's one of those jokes that gets less funny each time you hear it.

15. SWEDEN - Take Me to Your Heaven - Charlotte Nilsson **

Let me ask a simple diagnostic question: Do you like ABBA? If 'yes', then listen to this song. If 'no', then do not listen to this song. Easy! Seriously, this song sounds so much like 'Waterloo' it's not funny. Charlotte's voice is quite good, too. What a waste!

16. PORTUGAL - Como Tudo Começou - Rui Bandeira ***

This is one of the only two good pop ballads of the evening. The chorus is quite catchy and the harmonies are superb. Not a classic but a rare gem in the context of the evening.

17. IRELAND - When You Need Me - The Mullans **

A.M-T.P.B.P.B.A.S.W.A.P.Y.S.V., except in this instance there are two voices, not one.

18. AUSTRIA - Reflection - Bobbie Singer ***

This and the Portuguese entry are the only two mid-tempo pop ballads I would bother with in this contest. The beat of this song has a slight retro feel to it, and Bobbie's voice is charming and sweet. In a contest where the dominant music form was the mid-tempo pop ballad, this is the best of them.

19. ISRAEL - Happy Birthday - Eden **

This song is hilarious. It's not supposed to be! The song is a fast dance song with no character and the singing is a cesspool of mis-pitched weakness.

20. MALTA - Believe 'n Peace - Times 3 **

This is another dance song and the composition is quite charming with a simple verse, a catchy chorus and some subtle changes. The singing, however, evolved from the same cesspool that spawned the Israeli entry. Somewhere in Europe there is a giant hole in the ground and all of these crappy singers are emerging from it like abandoned aliens. Fill up the hole quick. Stop these talentless dickheads from taking over the music world!!!!!

21. GERMANY - Journey to Jerusalem / Kudüs e Seyahat - Surpriz ****

This song, sung in English, German and Hebrew, was obviously a direct attempt to gain favour with the locals, and unfortunately, this has overshadowed the inventiveness of this song. The song has a Middle Eastern feel to it and the rhythm is quite addictive. The singing (there are no less than five singers) is weak in parts but gets the job done. Listen to this one, there's a few surprises to be heard within.

22. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA - Putnici - Dino & Beatrice ****

In the worst Eurovision of the decade, this is probably my favourite, largely due to its quirkiness. The arrangement combines violin, bouzouki and percussion in a mild funk beat with a pulsating vocal rhythm that gives the song a strange kind of energy. The vocal style is also quirky with Dino rapping the verses and giving minimal effort when required to sing. Beatrice takes the lead in the second half of the verse and also the chorus, and the two voices actually combine quite well. It's a difficult song to describe this, but there's a lot to like about it.

23. ESTONIA - Diamond of Night - Evelin Samuel & Camille **

A slow ballad with bad English lyrics. Evelin's voice is irritating to me but others find it pleasant enough. The song tries to get a nighttime atmosphere going, much in the same style as 'I Evighet' from the 1996 ESC. It succeeds to a small degree, but it doesn't make the song any more interesting to listen to.

 

 

If this is the effect that removing the language restrictions has on the Eurovision Song Contest, then it's a bad idea. Everything that was interesting and rewarding about watching the Eurovision was completely absent this year, and the Israelis didn't make the contest any more watchable with their abysmal hosting. The standout songs of the night were Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lithuania with Germany and Spain close behind. The next group contains the entries from Belgium, Croatia, Turkey, Portugal and Austria. I'm struggling to complete the top 10 but I'd probably go for Slovenia to receive the one point. Surprisingly, the dud of the year contest is won fairly clearly by Norway, but there is a traffic jam of contenders right behind him.

 

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