2004 ESC Song Reviews

2004 EUROVISION SONG CONTEST – ISTANBUL

 

Many people spend years searching on the web for Daniel Viles’ song reviews of the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest held in Istanbul. Your search, however, has come to an end. The contest, hosted by Meltem Cumbul and Korhan Abay on May 12 and 15, was won by Ruslana of the Ukraine and was the first to feature a semi-final.

 

Semi Final

 

1. FINLAND - Jari Sillanpää - Takes 2 to Tango

 

2. BELARUS - Aleksandra & Konstantin - My Galileo

 

3. SWITZERLAND - Piero Esteriore & the MusicStars - Celebrate

 

4. LATVIA - Fomins & Kleins - Dziesma par Laimi

 

5. ISRAEL - David D'or - Le'ha'amin

 

6. ANDORRA - Marta Roure - Jugarem a Estimar-nos

 

7. PORTUGAL - Sofia - Foi Magia

 

8. MALTA - Julie & Ludwig - On Again... Off Again

qualified for final, review in final section

9. MONACO - Maryon - Notre Plančte

 

10. GREECE - Sakis Rouvas - Shake It

qualified for final, review in final section

11. UKRAINE - Ruslana - Wild Dances

qualified for final, review in final section

12. LITHUANIA - Linas ir Simona - What's Happened to Your Love

 

13. ALBANIA - Anjeza Shahini - The Image of You

qualified for final, review in final section

14. CYPRUS - Lisa Andreas - Stronger Every Minute

qualified for final, review in final section

15. F.Y.R. MACEDONIA - Tose Proeski - Life

qualified for final, review in final section

16. SLOVENIA - Platin - Stay Forever

 

17. ESTONIA - Neiokőső - Tii

 

18. CROATIA - Ivan Mikulic - You Are the Only One

qualified for final, review in final section

19. DENMARK - Tomas Thordarson - Shame on You

 

20. SERBIA & MONTENEGRO - Željko Joksimovic - Lane Moje

qualified for final, review in final section

21. BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA - Deen - In the Disco

qualified for final, review in final section

22. NETHERLANDS - Re-union - Without You

qualified for final, review in final section

 

Final

(^ denotes song qualified from Semi Final)

 

1. SPAIN - Ramón - Para Llenarme de Ti **

Ramón plays guitar for the first five seconds of this song before realising that you’ve worked out that this is the Spanish entry and don’t need it to be rubbed in. In the great tradition of Spanish Eurovision entries, Ramón spends three minutes singing very loudly at you while a band plays mariachi pop behind him. I’d like to pass a Eurovision rule that bans backing dancers from holding microphones. It only encourages them to sing – and nobody wants that.

2. AUSTRIA - Tie Break - Du Bist **

Ah, the good ol’ boy band. Can someone please tell the boy bands of the world that if you’re going to sing a slow love song, the dance moves have to match that tempo. Maybe boys that young are just too full of hormones to stand still. Whoever wrote their vocal harmonies didn’t do Tie Break any favours either. Nor did the bright spark who decided to include a key change that they boys took two bars to get the hang of. It’s a simple song, therefore, keep everything simple.

3. NORWAY - Knut Anders Sřrum – High **

The last time Norway won Eurovision, they teamed up with Irish folk musicians and performed an Irish folk song. Knut hasn’t quite got the right idea. He seems to think he’s Ronan Keating, a performer not exactly known for his folk credentials. You’ve all heard this type of up-tempo pop ballad before. The English-as-a-second-language songwriters have struck again. The song is called ‘High’; the last note is high. It’s also out of tune.

4. FRANCE - Jonatan Cerrada - A Chaque Pas **

Jonatan has a wonderful life ahead of him winning karaoke contests and singing at middle class weddings. He’s even got his own white suit! This is a power ballad that, to be fair, does have the necessary vocal power and probably makes snotty little French girls’ hearts swoon. The staging of this song was very odd. Jonatan is a short man so, logically, his one dancer is a female African shot-putter on stilts who dances like she has the ebola virus. In addition, his four backing singers wear the traditional national dress of Thunderdome. France can often be relied upon to raise the standard at Eurovision. Not this year.

^5. SERBIA & MONTENEGRO - Željko Joksimovic - Lane Moje ****

Here is proof that even a crooner can sing an interesting song. The folk-music-meets-slow-dance-beat recipe could easily lapse into cliché but manages to avoid it through an intelligently written melody and a vocal performance from Željko that is still and strong without being dominant. The wood pipe (not sure what the exact name of the instrument is) introduction works, the violin melody in the middle works, the percussive rhythm works and the simple staging works. This deserves to be a five-minute song but still stands up despite Eurovision time limits.

^6. MALTA - Julie & Ludwig - On Again... Off Again **

This song is fucking scary. Julie, dressed as a flamingo, manages to pass as a tacky club singer who will try to sound as big-voiced as possible no matter the mood of the song. Ludwig, dressed as a choc-dip dildo, tries to sound as ‘poperatic’ as possible. He fails to achieve pop or opera... or popera. Julie, incomprehensibly, is inspired by this and starts practicing her arpeggios two minutes into the song. This is a fast pop song that only your poker-machine-feeding aunties could love. And if all of that isn’t enough to make you hate the song, Ludwig has a mullet.

^7. NETHERLANDS - Re-union - Without You **

Re-union, Fabrizio and Paul, used to be in a boy band. Well, there’s a big surprise! You know how about halfway through a boy band concert, one of them will put out a guitar, sit on a stool and start playing it while the boys start going through the really wussy part of their repetoire? This is one of those songs. I think the idea of these songs is to be close to the stage to make it easier to collect all the teenage lingerie that has been thrown on stage during the show. Surely guys who sell that many records can pay someone to pick that stuff up.

8. GERMANY - Max (Maximilian Mutzke) - Can't Wait Until Tonight **

I love that the random draw scheduled Re-union immediately before Max, as though to show the young Dutch boys what they’ll look like in 20 years time. Musically, this song is almost identical to ‘Without You’. The big difference is that Max is under the unfortunate delusion that he has a soulful voice. He doesn’t. A soulful voice is one that can communicate a wide range of emotions. Max just sings like he doesn’t give a shit how he sounds. Certainly when he gets to the high notes towards the end of his song, you’ll feel just like Max.

^9. ALBANIA - Anjeza Shahini - The Image of You **

Question: Does a vocalist with classical training who suddenly thinks she can sing pop mix well with a dance beat and an electric guitar solo? Answer: Only in Albania. If this is what years of atheist dictatorship does to pop music, then God bless you all. Anjeza didn’t have much of a chance here. The song possibly worked as a slower pop song, but someone in a suit with a business degree decided that dance beats sell more, so this is what we got. And can anyone explain to me what “you make me feel the image of you” actually means?

^10. UKRAINE - Ruslana - Wild Dances *****

Very rarely at Eurovision, someone produces a masterpiece. Even more rarely, the voting public recognise it as such. Ruslana has created three minutes of raw energy. The lyrics are hardly Shakespeare but she so obviously understands how to use rhythm to pound the listener into submission that it doesn’t matter. She wrote the song, she directs her own videos and, unlike most performers at Eurovision, she can sing and dance with power. Don’t underestimate the complexity of the composition either; there are lots of clever little layers that combine majestically so that by the end of the song, both you and Ruslana are utterly spent.

^11. CROATIA - Ivan Mikulic - You Are the Only One **

The start of this song is exquisite. Soft, melting, Brian Ferry-like vocals with no intrusion from those meddling Eurovision backing singers. Girls all over the world are staring at his crotch wondering what it tastes like. Then without warning, Ivan started shouting a chorus at me. I covered my ears but he just sang louder. I was damn near trampled by the rush of girls running away from the stage. Why would you create a mood like that and then slaughter it so ruthlessly? Ivan, if you never get laid again, you will only have yourself to blame.

^12. BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA - Deen - In the Disco **

Deen seems to have grasped one concept that eludes many of his fellow performers. When the music is low and moody, sing low and moody. When it gets up and loud, sing up and loud. Just this simple skill puts this at the head of the list of Eurovision dance songs. There are two things I learned from watching Deen’s performance that won’t surprise anybody. Firstly, Deen is miming, and not very well at that. Secondly, just quietly, I think he might be gay. Just a hunch.

13. BELGIUM - Xandee - 1 Life **

Xandee sings and dances like a white man. What’s that? It’s a woman?! Well, that explains the dress and the haircut but not much else. This is yet another techno number performed by someone so stupid that they can’t even master the simplest form of music yet invented. Maybe Xandee should go have a chat to Deen? Or Dana International? I’m sure they’d have a lot in common.

14. RUSSIA - Julia Savicheva - Believe Me **

Melancholy dance music? Interesting concept. Maybe they can play this song at night clubs for depressives. Julia’s vocal performance is weak and uncontrolled, but it does fit the song. She was only 17 at this contest and her whiny-little-girl-starting-to-demand-independence routine at least had consistency. At least it did until she did the big vote-for-me smile after she’d finished. Oh well, it’s only Eurovision.

^15. F.Y.R. MACEDONIA - Tose Proeski – Life ****

Eurovision performers take note: if you are a singer with classical training, your best chance of successfully crossing over into the pop world is to find a song with as much drama as classical music. Tose produces a heartfelt, dramatic performance both vocally and visually and what’s more, the lyrics actually match up to the performance. The song itself is a pulsing 7/8 rhythm (been a while since we’ve had 7/8 at Eurovision) and the cross-rhythms give the composition the drive to underpin Tose’s powerful voice. It’s so good to find a singer who thinks like a musician.

^16. GREECE - Sakis Rouvas - Shake It **

The song is called “Shake It”. You don’t really need me to tell you what it sounds like, do you? The only surprise is the balalaikas at the start but this is the Greek entry after all. The line “I would give my life for a night with you” probably appeals to Europe’s necrophiliac communities but cause concern for anyone else. Oh, and did anyone who saw the dancers wearing white suits at the start of the song really expect them to end the song still wearing them?

17. ICELAND - Jónsi – Heaven **

This is a really boring power ballad. It’s one redeeming feature is that Jónsi respects the music well enough to reign in his vocals so that it works with the music instead of trying to rape and pillage it. By the time he lets it rip towards the end of the song, he has earned the listener’s respect because they know that he has more than one volume setting. It was always going to be too bland to win, but Jónsi hasn’t disgraced himself here.

18. IRELAND - Chris Doran - If My World Stopped Turning **

Just to put you out of your misery, this song was co-written by Brian McFadden of Westlife. That’s why it sounds like a Westlife song. Chris sounds like he just missed out at the Westlife auditions. Where are the Irish singers who sound like Sinead O’Connor? Or Bono? Why do they all have to sound like boy bands? Or worse still, boy band rejects? For interests sake, this is the slow power ballad type Westlife song, not the fast get-the-girls-dancing-so-their-boobies-bounce type song.

19. POLAND - Blue Cafe - Love Song *****

Party bands with Caribbean rhythms don’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of Polish music. Who cares? Let’s bust some stereotypes! This is how reggae would sound if Jamaicans hadn’t doped their brains away. The Cat Empire with female vocals would be the closest way of describing the sound although, by all reports, the Empire are quickly doping their own brains out of existence. The highlight of this song for me is the backing vocal done by the guitarist who gives the song a big lift at crucial moments. Enjoy this one; lots of fun.

20. UNITED KINGDOM - James Fox - Hold On to Our Love ***

A power waltz, anyone? One man, one guitar, too many backing singers. The song is colourless, but at least it’s performed appropriately. Simple song, simple performance. That’s the only way to do it. Get the cigarette lighters out and enjoy this for what it’s worth.

^21. CYPRUS - Lisa Andreas - Stronger Every Minute ***

The term ‘middle of the road’ was invented for this song. There is absolutely nothing interesting about it at all. Neither is there anything vomit-inducing. It’s a slow song that one could easily imagine being sung by a heroine-to-be in a stage musical. Lisa does the song justice vocally without setting the world on fire. Congratulations for performing alone on a stage. It would have been so easy to throw some tacky ballerinas behind her.

22. TURKEY - Athena - For Real ***

Australian Eurovision commentator described this song as “not so much Cat Empire as Ottoman Empire”. Clever. Suffice to say that Turkish ska doesn’t sound anywhere near as good as Polish reggae. The best bits of this song are when the singer buggers off and lets the band do their thing. I think the singer wants you to see that he has tattoos. Just to show that he’s “for real”. Help!

23. ROMANIA - Sanda Ladosi - I Admit **

If they had strippers in Narnia, they would look like Sanda. I guess you’d call this Euro-dance given that the rhythm is driven as much by Spanish-style guitars as by percussion. But Sanda cannot sing. You can say all you like about the other elements of the performance (not that there’s that much to say), but Sanda simply has very little vocal ability to bring to the mix.

24. SWEDEN - Lena Philipsson - It Hurts **

Credit where credit is due. This song does not sound like an ABBA song. Yes, I know those backing vocals at the start sound slightly familiar, but, for mine, that is far too superficial a similarity. Repeat after me: this doesn’t sound like ABBA. Right, let’s continue. Not much to report here. Up-tempo pop sung by 38-year-old Lena who looks gorgeous in boots. That I’m openly mentioning my fetishes can be taken as an indication that this song can be ignored fairly easily.

 

 

Meltem and Korhan were two of the most inept, overly smiley hosts since the 1970s (Israel 1999, notwithstanding). No style, no class, no humour, no idea. The stage was a highlight after the inadequacies of 1999 and 2001. Plenty of space and plenty of atmosphere created by the lighting changes. The stage and lighting crew can take a bow.

 

This contest contained four excellent entries, namely, those representing Ukraine, Poland, Serbia & Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. For the first time in living memory, the voters got it right by selecting Ukraine’s Ruslana as the winner. Just behind the top four, the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Turkey were all bland but just had enough to put them ahead of the rest of the field. I’m not going to bother completing a top ten; there’s just not enough there. Likewise, there isn’t a real standout for the dud of the night, but I’m going to give it to Malta because I was really scared that Europe were going to make it win.

 

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