Sunday, June 21, 2015

Eurovision Revision II: Love Enough for Two

Having last time discussed the entries from all seven countries competing in the first Eurovision Song Contest, today we discuss... the entries from all seven countries competing in the first Eurovision Song Contest. Confused? Let me explain.

Essentially, Eurovision is the world's longest-running reality show. And much like basically every one of the bigger modern competitive reality shows is vastly different in its first season than it is from its second season onwards, the first Eurovision was very different from the contest we know and grudgingly watch each year to see which country in Eastern Europe Scandinavia gets given the trophy by default. In addition to being the only one of the sixty contests to date without a female host or cohost, and in addition to being the only contest where voting results were not revealed, this is also the only contest where each participating country sent more than one song, mostly to help fill the broadcast at a time when broadcasting simultaneously in seven countries was prohibitively expensive and thus needed to be justified. (By the following year there were ten countries, and voting was used to fill out the remaining time instead because the thought of a Eurovision with twenty songs competing would just be nonsensical.)

And now the stage is set, on with the show.

#8. Voorgoed Voorbij (Corry Brokken, Netherlands 1956)

Going into this marathon, I was expecting a lot of these early songs to be difficult to get into, just by virtue of being the sort of music even Eurovision doesn't bother giving exposure to any more. But in spite of being a pretty standard break-up song, this doesn't feel all too different to the sort of thing France would send to a modern contest just to be faux-edgy? Of course, the fact that it's good is an easy way to tell it apart from most recent French entries, but let's not split hairs. In fact, it's good enough that Corry Brokken is one of only three artists from this contest to return in later years (along with St. Lys Assia and Poor Fud Leclerc), and the first in a long line of singers to also be found guilty of Attempted Hosting. Not for twenty more years, but still. Pays-Bas, huit points.

#9. Refrain (Lys Assia, Switzerland 1956)

So... I'm supposed to love this one, right? Because it was the first winner, and that's supposed to be important or something? I'll work on it, I swear. But right now, I kind of feel like the lyrics (an old couple remembering when they were young and carefree) don't fit with the music? It's a fine entry, sure, but the reputation it has is a little overdone considering the actual quality of the song, which is really just a piece of background music from a 1920s silent film scene showing a love interest's introduction, with some lyrics over the top that feel a little too strongly-voiced for what it is. Or to put all of this another way, it's a good winner (and we'll have some truly awful ones in later years), but it's not one of the greats. Suisse, sept points.

#10. Le Plus Beau Jour de Ma Vie (Mony Marc, Belgium 1956)

Oh, Belgium. You're not going to make this behemoth easy on me, are you? Everyone else, you know how sometimes with old music the way the notes are held in that weird way that makes the voice sound distorted like you're literally listening to them through a foam cup with a piece of string attached? That's this song in a nutshell, even before you get to the story basically being a woman explaining how seeing her husband on her wedding day was the proudest moment of her life. Which despite failing the Bechdel Test on its own somehow manages to not be the most outdated Eurovision entry about weddings containing the words "ding dong" as a key part of the lyrics, so that's a plus for it. But it's pretty much the only one. Belgique, trois points.

#11. So Geht das Jede Nacht (Freddy Quinn, West Germany 1956)

Whereas Germany's first entry in this contest was something that would make you wonder just how big Shatner was in the country, this one's a bit more of an actual song. It's still not the sort of thing that would work at Eurovision - we've seen numerous times that swing is just one of those genres that never really catches on that well within the confines of the contest (rap and Motown have both failed in the past, and it took until the final song of this year's contest for someone to actually do well after trying to bring opera to the masses), plus the lyrics are pretty damn slut-shamey - and it's not even the best swing entry the Germans have sent, but taken on its own it's not that bad. That said, I'm not judging these songs in a bubble, and all of those things combine to give it a mediocre result. I'm sure Germany will wise up in future and send us a string of truly great entries, right? Right? Allemagne de l'Ouest, quatre points.

#12. Il Est Là (Dany Dauberson, France 1956)

In recent years, it's become common for the lesser singers to be overwhelmed by their backing tracks. And certainly this started in the same way, almost as if it was a deliberate attempt to lull you into a false sense of security like Dany's psychosomatic stalker seems to be. But then it kind of turned it around and became an adequate if unremarkable entry to the Eurovision canon. Unfortunately, by the time it did it I'd already zoned out. Sorry, France! France, six points.

#13. Les Amants de Minuit (Michèle Arnaud, Luxembourg 1956)

What I Thought The Song Was Going To Be About Before I Heard It: Consoling a premature ejaculator. What The Song Is Actually About: The 1950s version of a one-night stand, involving a late-night snack that isn't that kind of eating. So... close enough, but I still like my version better. And that's really the problem here - the version of this song I had in my head was much more interesting and involving than the song actually is. Especially compared to Ne Crois Pas, it just doesn't hold up. Luxembourg, cinq points.

#14. Amami Se Vuoi (Tonina Torrielli, Italy 1956)

And so we finally wrap up the first contest with... more of the same, really. I've been splitting hairs a lot of the time trying to work out how to analyse these songs since so many of them are pretty similarly slow and meandering, but this little ditty about how love never dies (or, if you prefer, only love survives) is among the best of those entries this time around. However, being the best of a mediocre bunch only gets you so far, and as it turns out that's somewhere around the upper-middle of the best-to-worst ranking right now. Italie, sept points.


NEXT TIME: Austria. Also Denmark and the UK, but it's not like either of them ever produce notable Eurovision entries, so I don't know why I'm even mentioning them. (Also: video!)

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