2001 EUROVISION SONG CONTEST COPENHAGEN
Many people will give you their opinions on the songs of the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest, but this is the only place where you will get Daniel Viles' opinions, and, in my view, my opinions are superior to anyone else's. The contest was held at the Parken Stadium, Copenhagen on May 12, hosted by Natasja Crone Back and Sψren Pilmark and won by Tanel Padar and Dave Benton representing Estonia. The decision to hold the contest in a renovated football stadium worked only because there were no songs in the contest that required sensitive acoustics. The stage was probably too big for most performers to utilise properly given the quick changeovers required between songs, but the same could be said for Birmingham 1998. Natasja and Sψren hosted the show with every bit of dialogue formed in rhyming couplets, occasionally cute but generally frustrating.
1. Netherlands Michelle Out On My Own ***
It's not often in Eurosong that you hear a strong song completely devoid of percussion. This rather moody piece is driven entirely by picked guitars and a string ensemble. The song begins with a pastoral feel before gradually building through to a chorus that features some gorgeous vocal harmonies. Michelle possesses an almost jazzy quality to her voice, but is more Broadway than Harlem. The lyrics are fairly reliant on clichιs but at least the song is about self reliance rather than puppy love.
2. Iceland Two Tricky Angel ***
This is a fairly standard West Coast summer pop song; the sort of song for which the music video features a number of wet bikini-clad young girls running in slow motion past a guy with a flat chest. The main singer has the perfect voice for this kind of song, which is not bad for an Icelander. In fact, he sounds very much like the singer from the Rembrandts. The backing singers sound very dated indeed, so ignore them and enjoy the rest of the song.
3. Bosnia-Herzegovina Nino Hano *
What on earth is Nino on? Throughout this song, I think that the vocal effect he tries to achieve is 'breathy'; the vocal effect he actually achieves is 'pissweak'. It's a real shame too because there are parts of this song that really have a lot going for them: the dark vibraphone-flavoured introduction; the tribal chant feel throughout the chorus; the closely harmonised strings, these all help create the foundation for a good song. I guess it's still there if anyone wants to use it.
4. Norway Haldor Lζgreid On My Own *
When this song starts, you might think that this is a boring power ballad sung by a guy with a very girly voice. By the end of the song, you may have changed your position so that you now think that this is a boring power ballad sung by a guy with a fairly powerful voice. Either way, this is a great snooze.
5. Israel Tal Sundak Ein Davar **
There is a Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese holds a bus driver at gun point and demands of him, "Take this bus to Cuba!" Judging by the sudden leap this song makes halfway through the chorus from Meditteranean-flavoured rock to Cuban salsa, I'd say that this song was similarly threatened. This song has some bright moments but intersperses these with some rather pointless pieces of songwriting. Worth a listen just to hear what a Hebrew/Cuban fusion sounds like.
6. Russia Mumiy Troll Lady Alpine Blue ***
Easily the most individualistic entry in this year's contest. This is mid-tempo pop that employs some subtle textural changes to move the song at key moments. The singer has one of those voices that's so bad it goes back to being good again (e.g. Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg). This song just seems to aimlessly wander a little too much for me but Mumiy Troll obviously possess some real talent and I wouldn't mind hearing some other songs of theirs.
7. Sweden Friends Listen to Your Heartbeat
You simply should not be allowed to do this. Friends have been described as 'sounding more like ABBA than ABBA' and while there is nothing wrong with being influenced by other musicians, you can't just rip off an entire song. The chorus to this song directly plagiarises "The Winner Takes It All". Friends' bacon is probably saved because the verses of the two songs are different. Whereas Benny and Bjφrn put lots of thought and effort into melody lines, Friends haven't bothered. Not only is this song bad, it's probably illegal.
8. Lithuania Skamp You Got Style ****
If you want to hear an example of good dance music, listen to this. The style is very similar to Australian duo Madison Avenue, i.e. a combination of funky disco beats and sly female vocals. Eurovisions are often filled with poor pastiches of song styles but this is definitely the real deal. The vocals are perfect for the genre, the groove is tight, even the rap solo works. A true highlight of the 2001 contest.
9. Latvia Arnis Mednis Too Much ***
Like the Russian entry, this song misses the mark for me slightly but there is enough evidence to suggest that Arnis Mednis knows his stuff. The song opens with a Latin beat and an accordion solo before bringing in the heavy guitars for the chorus. Arnis' voice will either be loved or hated which suggests that it is probably an acquired taste. The English lyrics are a little awkward but contain more than a hint of humour. Overall, this is lots of fun.
10. Croatia Vanna Strings of my Heart *
50% disco tune, 50% violin solo, 100% shit! Vanna has one of those irritating screeching voices that I'm not sure that anyone likes (for Australian audiences, think Jackie Love). Only one thing could make this pathetic disco song worse a Vanessa-Mae style violin solo in the middle of the song. Thankyou Croatia for obliging. This is a nightmare.
11. Portugal MTM Sσ Sei Ser Feliz Assim *
Oh deary, deary me! How dated is this song? It's the sort of up-tempo rock ballad that you would expect bad vocal ensembles to sing on early eighties TV talent shows. There's even a bit in the middle where the instruments stop playing so that the audience can all clap their hands with the music! To top it off, the boys can't correctly pitch two notes in a row! For schmaltz fans only.
12. Ireland Gary O'Shaughnessy Without Your Love *
I was just sitting here listening to Gary croon his way through this rather boring power ballad when I started thinking how much this guy is influenced by Engelbert fucking Humperdinck. Then I heard the opening words to the second verse: "I want to wake up with you..." I literally recoiled in my seat. It's so comforting to know that after all these years, guys still want to wake up with beautiful, naked, slightly-sore-in-the-genitalia women in their beds.
13. Spain David Civera Dile Que la Quiero (composition: ***; performance: *)
I've already done the joke about a male singer going for 'breathy' and getting 'pissweak', haven't I? Oh yeah, back at Bosnia. Well, it applies here too. The song is unashamedly capitalising on the whole Ricky Martin/Enrique Iglesias thing, even to the point of throwing in a Spanish guitar solo, but the songwriter is not at fault. It needs a stronger singer and a guy who can actually play guitar, but, despite those drawbacks, this song will still have people dancing in the streets.
14. France Natasha St-Pier Je N'ai Que Mon Βme ***
People, take note; this is how you do a breathy voice. The song is a standard waltz ballad, starts softly, builds to a loud bit, and so on and so on, but the real star here is Natasha. There is a touch of Celine Dion in the voice but don't let that put you off. Natasha has the complete vocal range, changing the character of her voice throughout the song and giving a highly sensitive performance. This is certainly a case of a singer deserving a better song.
15. Turkey Sedat Yόce Sevgiliye Son *
This is the sort of song that people with no musical taste pay people to play at their weddings while the bride marches down the aisle. Basically, you've got a piano being mutilated a la Richard Clayderman, a string section in great danger of falling asleep and a singer who sounds like he gets paid to sing schmaltzy numbers at weddings. Don't get married in Turkey this year.
16. United Kingdom Lindsay Dracass No Dream Impossible **
Firstly, if you don't like Tina Cousins, you won't like this. Secondly, if you do like Tina Cousins, you may still not like this. The formula is easy enough, Euro-house beat, that stupid synthesiser sound that Tina always uses and, I have to say, a relatively talented vocalist singing 'uplifting' lyrics. I do, however, question her decision to overly accent the 'p' in 'impossible' to the point where it really does grate on the ears.
17. Slovenia Nua Derenda Energy **
Firstly, if you don't like Tina Cousins... Perhaps the 'Euro-house purists' will prefer this song to Lindsay's effort, (the song certainly is much darker than the U.K. entry), but the essential ingredients are still there, the same beat, the same sythesiser playing the same rhythm, the same sort of vocalist. We are definitely in the middle of the tripping section of the contest.
18. Poland Piasek 2 Long **
Remember in the eighties when white guys like Phil Collins and Huey Lewis tried their hand at Motown-flavoured songs? This sounds like a poor man's version of that. Piasek could probably borrow the wet bikini-clad girls I suggested for the Icelandic video for this song's video. The vocals here are bright and strong although the English lyrics do sound cumbersome. The horn section adds some nice touches to this song as well.
19. Germany Michelle Wer Liebe Lebt ***
After three years of quite kooky Eurosong entries, Germany have played it safe this year and gone for the power ballad. As usual, my theory with power ballads is that they can only be saved by a good vocal performance. Michelle provides a terrific vocal performance. There wouldn't be many voices in the world that combine strength and sweetness as well as this. The song is schmaltzy, but Michelle's voice must be listened to.
20. Estonia Tanel Padar, Dave Benton & 2XL Everybody ***
"This news just in, KC and the Sunshine Band have taken Estonian residency and will represent their new homeland in Copenhagen." This is great fun although it does owe just a little to those giants of seventies disco. The singing performance here is technically fairly poor but the singers are obviously having so much fun, I can't help but be forgiving. The addition of Aruban-born Dave Benton adds some well needed credibility to this song. It was certainly a deserving winner.
21. Malta Fabrizio Faniello Another Summer Night *
This song combines two of the more prevalent features of this year's contest a Euro-house beat and a pissweak male singer. Fabrizio sounds like he's auditioning for Young Talent Time. I'm sure the kid can dance but where's your voice, son!? Once again, if you like Euro-dance numbers, you can have this one.
22. Greece Antique Die For You **
Have I mentioned Tina Cousins yet? The main difference in this song is the little Meditteranean touch provided by the guitar. The vocals here are slightly computer-enhanced (as are several others in this contest) but greatly contribute to the bright, summery feel of this song, which, considering that the song is in a minor key, is quite an achievement. The same people who enjoy the U.K. and Slovenian entries will enjoy this.
23. Denmark Rollo & King Never Ever Let You Go **
Well, what better way to finish a Eurovision full of house music, soaring ballads and retro dance songs that with... a country song? Oh well, God bless random draws. This is essentially a truckers' song, rather like Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" or John Farnham's "Chain Reaction", and, to be honest, there is no faulting the arrangement. However, the English lyrics are woeful and the male vocals are weak as water.
Overall, this was quite a poor contest, not even measuring up alongside last year's effort, although it never really approached the depths of 1999. Only a couple of entries had any real originality about them (Russia and Latvia), but the real stars of this contest were the two songs that very craftily drew on disco influences, namely, Lithuania and Estonia. Just behind these two were the songs featuring outstanding vocalists: Netherlands; Iceland; France; and Germany. To complete my top ten, I would probably include Israel and Spain which came so close to being listenable songs. Sweden win the 'dud' award by default after ripping ABBA off for the second time in three years, but Ireland's awful ballad is the worst legal song of the contest.
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