60 Years of Eurovision: Ranking the Dutch – Part 5 (20-11): The Good(ish)

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So, what’s the deal with those semi-finals?

Well, it turns out that’s actually quite a complicated story. But let me try to explain it here in the shortest and clearest way possible…

When Eurovision started in 1956, seven countries participated (Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, and Belgium)1. Of course this number rose pretty quickly over the years that followed. Up to today, a total of fifty-two countries have entered, twenty-five of which have won first place at least once.

But what exactly makes a country eligible for participation? Not its geographical inclusion within the continent of Europe or belonging to the European Union, funny enough. Originally, participants had to be active member broadcasters of the European Broadcasting Union (or EBU), which founded Eurovision 60 years ago and still organises it today. And to be an active member, these broadcasters must be in the European Broadcasting Area.2  And this is where things are starting to get complicated…

A map of the European Broadcasting Area - By Vanjagenije (own work), via Wikimedia Commons

A map of the European Broadcasting Area – By Vanjagenije (own work), via Wikimedia Commons

(I could dedicate a very, very lengthy alinea on how the European Broadcasting Area is defined by so-and-so-many degrees East of the prime meridian etc., but as geography has never been a hobby of mine, I decided that it is probably in everybody’s best interest if I simply show it to you with the help of this map on the left.)3

Initially participants stayed within the geographical borders of the European continent, though. This changed when Israel entered Eurovision in 1973, followed by Morocco in 1980, and Armenia in 1981.

So anyway, as I also stated before, the number of participating countries grew considerably as time went on. From seven in 1956, to over twenty in the 1980’s, and to as much as forty-three in 2011. But seeing how the broadcasts started to get out of hand length-wise, several measurements were taken over the years to reduce this broadcasting time…

This started in 1993, when several new countries were formed after Communism had collapsed in Eastern Europe, many of which eagerly wanted to enter Eurovision.4 A special pre-selection named Kvalifikacija za Millstreet, or Qualification for Millstreet in English, was held a month before the actual contest. (Millstreet being the Irish town where Eurovision was hosted that year.) Of the seven Eastern European countries that participated, three were qualified for the official Eurovision contest. 5

After 1993’s Kvalifikacija za Millstreet, a new regulation guideline was introduced: the six lowest-placed countries of the official 1993 contest were excluded from competing the next year. But apparently this system had its flaws, as it was already replaced in 1996. That year an international jury pre-selected twenty-two entries out of twenty-nine that been sent in on audio tapes. This, however, only a lasted year, so it probably wasn’t much of a succes either.

After that (from 1997 to 2001) a very complicated system was introduced in which the countries with the lowest average scores over the previous five years were excluded from the competition for a year. And then, between 2001 and 2003, for some reason they suddenly decided to re-introduce the regulation system from 1994 and 1995. 

So as you probably can see by now, it all was kind of a mess. But then the EBU came up with a new pre-selection method: a semi-final…

The first Eurovision semi-final was held in 2004. The ten highest placed countries of the prior year automatically qualified for the grand final, the others had to compete in the semi-final. The ten highest ranking participants from the semi-final then qualified for the grand final, resulting in twenty-four competitors in total.6

And how, you may ask, does ten plus ten make twenty-four? Well, that’s because of the so-called “Big Four”: France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. And what makes them so “Big” is actually pretty straightforward; it’s cash. Being the biggest financial contributers to the EBU, these four countries have automatically qualified for the final since 2000, no matter what their Eurovision scores are. These “Big Four” turned into a “Big Five” in 2010 by the way, when Italy all of a sudden decided to enter again after a fourteen-year absence.7

But back to the semi-final: it turned into two semi-finals in 2008, and this is how we still do it today. With its 60th anniversary in 2015, Eurovision got another interesting participant though: Australia. Certainly not an active member broadcaster of the European Broadcasting Union (as the map above also clearly demonstrates), but intended to be a one-time-only honerary contestant due to Eurovision’s extreme popularity down under.8 However, the EBU is currently discussing whether to make Australia a permanent contender, so we’ll see how that turns out. And will it stop there? Probably not, because now China wants to enter Eurovision next year as well. So, the upcoming years will be interesting to say the least…

*Autch* My short explanation turned out so much longer than I anticipated! Hope I haven’t bored all of you to death by now.
So let’s quickly continue with my actual topic: the Dutch and their Eurovision entries. Which, incidentally, haven’t fared particularly well since the semi-finals were introduced. I’m not even exaggerating here: over the past eleven years, we’ve only managed to reach the grand final on three occasions. These three being 2004 (Re-Union — Without You), 2013 (Anouk – Birds), and 2014 (The Common Linnets – Calm After the Storm), all of which I discussed in part 4 of this series. Did the Netherlands deserve better? You decide for yourself…

Dutch party snack of the day: miniature wraps and dates stuffed with cream cheese, straight off the Albert Heijn fancy snacks shelf. Yes, I know I’m stretching a bit here, seeing how none of these are actually Dutch, but these are the kind of snacks you get served at almost every party or get-together nowadays. (Plus they were the only remaining food option that wasn’t completely brown…)

20. Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk along (2015, 14th place in the semi-finals)

If I had to believe the critics and the internet this year, Trijntje wasn’t pleasing anyone. Seriously, she just didn’t seem to be able to do anything right. First, they kept ridiculising the dress she intended to wear. Apparently it was unflattering and too revealing. Then the song, that most simply put down as containing too many “ajajajajs”. And when she finally chose to wear this pantsuit in a last minute decision (not because of the negative comments she received, but because the heels that came with the other outfit proved too much of a challenge for her during rehearsals)9, that became a new subject to ridicule and nagging.

Fortunately, Trijntje was a surprisingly good sport about it all and simply laughed it off. Kudos for that. And the infamous dress eventually did get its moment after all, when former Eurovision contestant Edsilia Rombley, who also happens to be Trijntje’s sister-in-law (and who coincidentally is also featured in this blog a few numbers below), wore it when announcing the Dutch votes.


As for the song: it’s not anything special, but I do think it is very well done. Trijntje a good singer, we all know that here. But what I actually like most about this performance is its cinematography; it’s amazing! Think about it: this is all filmed in one shot. I can’t imagine how many hours of choreography and directing it must have taken to accomplish such a flawless outcome.

19. Sieneke – Ik ben verliefd (sha-la-lie) (2010, 14th place in the semi-finals)

Forget the Gouda; when it comes to Dutch cheese, it can’t get any better than this!

Titled “I’m in Love”, Sieneke sings how she has difficulty remembering… another song, ‘because she’s so in love’. But not only can’t she remember how it went exactly, she also doesn’t know where she was when she first heard it anymore. Which isn’t strange, considering all the places where she and her loved one have been together according to the song: Lisbon, Paris, floating overseas in an air balloon, Trinidad, Moscow, Oslo, Berlin… If you ask me, Sieneke must either be very rich, or she has found herself a sugar person.

Anyway, this is just one of those ‘so bad it’s good’-performances. I especially like and admire Sieneke’s confidence. I honestly can’t imagine anyone else performing this song in front of a giant street organ (complete with slightly creepy looking living figurines) with this much conviction.

Some random lyrics:

I cannot remember where I heard this song. In the summer sun?
I believe it was back there with you at the beach in Lisbon.
Or was it there in Paris,
Behind a bowl of fresh mocha ice cream?
It could also have been when we floated overseas in an air balloon.

‘Shalalie shalala, shalalie shalala’
I can’t get it out of my head.
‘Shalalie Shalala, Shalalie Shalala’
It’s with me when I get up in the morning.

I’m in love with you,
That’s why I easily forget things and cannot remember.
‘Shalalie shalala, shalalie shalala’,
That’s sort of how it goes.

18. Greetje Kauffeld – Wat een dag (1961, 10th place)

Translated “What a day”, Greetje sings how she has the best day of her life, now that she realises she’s in love with a man who she has known since her school days. A sweet but incredibly swinging little song about a girl in love.

The only thing that personally bothers me to no end is Greetje’s cheecky ‘oopsy’ pouting – finger when she admits to having picked flowers in the park (found between 2:20-2:26 in this clip), as this song and performance are strong enough in itself and simply don’t need some extremely forced (and failed) attempt at being sexy cramped in somewhere at the end. I don’t know who decided to put that in there, but I think it’s a bit insulting to Greetje Kauffeld’s competence.

Some random lyrics:

In class together, sometimes he carried my bag.
Later a day at sea, every once in a while.
Nothing special, but if you only knew
What I feel for him, since today.
You have no idea.

What a day, what a day!
Really a day when anything goes.
When all that first seemed a dream
Turns out to exist for real.

What a day, what a day!
Really a day when everything succeeds.
I even managed to pick flowers
in the park across the street without getting caught.

I walk down the street, singing.
Hey, old neighbor, don’t look so sour.
I’m harmless.
I’m just insanely happy.
Never mind me.

What a day, what a day!
People, can I please
Waste this day on crazy things for once.
I am so in love!

17. Thérèse Steinmetz – Ring-dinge-ding (1967, 14th place)

Like Greetje Kauffeld, Thérèse sings about having a wonderful day. Unlike Greetje, however, her day being wonderful has nothing to do with being in love. Thérèse simply has a great day because she wants to have one for herself. A ring-dinge-dinge-ding day; a day when anything goes – whether it is by starting the day by drinking wodka in the morning together with the baker, by shooting a water cannon from out of an air balloon while trying to hit the rooster on top of the church tower, or by calling a government member to tell him the joke of the day…  Thérèse will make sure it happens, and no one will even try to get in her way. Someone please give this woman a medal!

Some random lyrics:

If I want to sing out loud.
Jump through the house and the streets.
When a street musician, very elegantly,
Bows to me with his hat in his hand.

If I already want to drink vodka in the morning,
A
nd spontaneously want to toast together with the baker.
Well, then it’s not a question:
Today will be
A
nother day without one dissonant.

This will be a ring-dinge-dinge-ding
Ring-dinge-dinge-ding
Ring-dinge-dinge-ding
Ringe-ding day.
Ring-dinge-dinge-ding
Ring-dinge-dinge-ding
Ring-dinge-dinge-ding day.

16. Bernadette – Sing me a song (1983, 7th place)

Bernadette simply wants to unite the whole world in song. Though not very original, I think this song is catchy as hell. And I want that dress.

Some random lyrics:

Sing me a song, one of those small chansons,
Blues, ballad, or folk.
Children’s songs are also okay.
Let people from all countries sing it.

Sing me a song, sing me a song.
Music is what the world is about.
And music creates understanding.

Sing me a song, sing a chanson.
About your country.
About what it’s like there, and what you do there.

Sing sing sing me a song song.
Sing a chanson song.
Sing me a song song.
Sing it,
And let me know
If I can help you, perhaps.

15. Mouth & MacNeal – I see a star (1974, 3rd place)

What can I say, the street organs are running strong in this blog. This performance is so incredibly over the top, it’s simply hilarious. And: mini-me puppets! What’s not to love!

So yeah, 6 years before Maggie MacNeal, or Sjoukje Lucie van ’t Spijker as she is actually called (as apparently MacNeal is a ‘Scottish’ wordplay of her surname, “spijker” being the Dutch word for “nail”),10 sang her Eurovision ode to Amsterdam, she and Hagrid look-a-like ‘Big Mouth’ Willem Duyn here were a succesful duo of international fame.

I’m not even kidding, they even managed to reach the US top 10 in 1972. With this!11 The 70’s were a weird time…


I really, really love this guy, by the way. He just seems to enjoy himself so much every time he’s on stage. I had to laugh so hard when I noticed him petting the head of a girl in the audience in the video above! Not to mention him doing the horned hand thing over, and over in their “I See a Star” performance. I probably should write a separate blog about him sometime, as I found out there’s much more to tell about him. So stay tuned…

14. Marlayne – One good reason (1999, 8th place)

For me, this extremely sweet song is simply nostalgia in its purest form. I can remember it being played everywhere back then. Still a song I love to sing along to after a few glasses of wine.

13. Edsilia Rombley – On top of the world (2007, 21st place in the semi-finals)


Listening to this again a few months after putting this list together makes me wonder why I ranked this song as high as I did, as it doesn’t seem to be that remarkable. But then again, it’s a solid song. I would even dare to go as far as to say it’s a rather typical oo’s song, performance-wise and all. And, well… I guess that’s actually all I can say about this.

12. Sandra & Andres – Als het om de liefde gaat (1972, 4th place)


“Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg” (‘Just act normal, that’s crazy enough already’). It’s a motto most Dutch seem to live by, down to earth as we are. Anyone who grew up in the Netherlands can vouch for that. But what “[w]hen it’s about love”, as this song’s title states? Sandra Reemer (who would return to Eurovision as a solo artist a few years later to sing about going to Colorado, and about a party “that’s over now”)12 and a certain Andres share some dating advice, the Dutch way. And although sung in the cheeriest way imaginable, their conclusion will probably not be that surprising…

Having that said, these two just seem to have so much fun with this! And I love the way they move on stage together. Not to mention their enthousiastic “hoi” (which in English could be translated as something along the line of “yippee”) at the very end that puts Benjamin Ben to shame.

Some random lyrics:

Oh, what is it hard to be an honest person,
When it’s about making a move on someone.
You can’t always say what you really feel.
You’re afraid to look foolish.

Yes people, act normal,
We‘re already crazy enough,
Especially when it‘s about love.

Na na na na na na na na
What shall I do,
To be yours today?
Na na na na na na na na
What would you do
To be mine today?

Ohohoh, should I be original or is it too early for that?
Just act normal, that’s crazy enough already!

Na na na na na na na na
The question remains,
Am I yours and are you mine?

11. Ronnie Tober – Morgen (1968, 16th place)

Interesting fact 1.: 1968 marked the first Eurovision in colour!

Interesting fact 2.: Ronnie Tober actually grew up in the US (his family moved there when he was 3 years old), and was already quite a succesful singer over there in his early teens, starring in a TV show called “The Teen Age Barn” on a weekly basis for several years,13  and performing for both Kennedy and Nixon in 1960.14

I really like this song. And for some reason I love the use of a full orchestra here, it simply seems to fit really well . As for Ronnie Tober: he looks like the type of guy any mother would love if you brought him home with you. And in the case of this performance, that appears to work to this song’s strength. Although it is not very clear what the song is actually about. Not only because the Dutch word “morgen” means both ‘tomorrow’ and ‘morning’, but also because the rest of the song’s lyrics are kind of obscure. It’s a song about being separated from a loved one, but that’s basically all I could get out of it. Yet, as I already said earlier, I really like this song. Maybe because all its ambiguity seems to work to this performance’s strenght as well? I put a full translation below, so you can decide for yourself.

Lyrics:

Tomorrow/morning, please come quickly.
That tomorrow/morning, chooses you for its wife.
That tomorrow/morning, sun, happy, and blue,
What a day!

Tomorrow/morning, will take another night.
That tomorrow/morning, summerly and mild.
That tomorrow/morning, sunlight and laughter,
What a day!

You are a night away from me, day away from me.
Hours of my life, time that seems to last forever without you.
I was so long on the road, long on the road.
Road without end, time that seems to last forever without you.
My distant wife.

Tomorrow/morning, seemed like an idea.
That tomorrow/morning, you refused to come with me.
That tomorrow/morning, turned into a cliché of
A day.

Tomorrow/morning, the grass will spread its scents again.
That tomorrow/morning, when you were there.
That tomorrow/morning, sad farce of
A day

You stayed away from me that night, away from me that day.
Stayed out of my life, the end suddenly arrived without you.
I was on the road in vain, on the road for so long.
Road without end, the end suddenly arrived without you.

You stayed away from me that night, away from me that day.
Stayed out of my life, the end suddenly arrived without you.
I was on the road in vain, on the road for so long.
Road without end, the end suddenly arrived without you.
My distant wife.

Apparently there’s an English recording of this song as well, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find it, safe for its lyrics, which aren’t much of a close translation to its Dutch original. At least they were sensible enough to translate “morgen” to the less ambiguous “someday”. Smart move.

 

What do you think of these songs? Please leave your answers in the comment section below.

Next time: 10-1 — The Best

Zo gaan die dingen
10.35
Het eiland van het tweede gezicht
36.00
Folmer verdwijnt en andere verhalen
9.95
Het duister dat ons scheidt
8.00

 

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Gabrielle Pinkster

Gabrielle Pinkster

Gabrielle Pinkster (a.k.a. The Reading Dutchwoman) studied English Language and Culture at the University of Groningen and specialised in early 20th century literature and poetry. Like most (former) students of literature she is ‘currently working on her novel’.
Gabrielle Pinkster

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  1. Found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurovision_Song_Contest , last checked 22-5-2015 

  2. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest, last checked 20-10-2015 

  3. For a more accurate description, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Broadcasting_Area, last checked 20-10-2015 

  4. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest, last checked 20-10-2015 

  5. Found on  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kvalifikacija_za_Millstreet, last checked 20-10-2015 

  6. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest, last checked 20-10-2015 

  7. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurovision_Song_Contest#Big_Four, last checked 20-10-2015 

  8. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest, last checked 20-10-2015 

  9. As she explained in RTL Late Night 

  10. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_MacNeal, last checked 23-5-2015 

  11. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouth_%26_MacNeal, last checked 13-10-2015 

  12. As is also discussed at length in “60 Years of Eurovision: Ranking the Dutch – Part 2 (50-41): ‘Meh’“ 

  13. Found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronnie_Tober, last checked 19-10-2015. 

  14. Found on https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronnie_Tober, last checked 19-10-2015. 

Gabrielle Pinkster

About Gabrielle Pinkster

Gabrielle Pinkster (a.k.a. The Reading Dutchwoman) studied English Language and Culture at the University of Groningen and specialised in early 20th century literature and poetry. Like most (former) students of literature she is ‘currently working on her novel’.
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Comments

  1. […] as I’m concerned. But why change the vote count? I loved that part, with its in-jokes (remember Edsilia rocking Trijntje’s controversial dress last year?) and its numerous counts of bloc-voting and the way the audience responds to them, not […]

  2. […] « Felix Von Luckner: The Life and Times of a Sea-Devil 60 Years of Eurovision: Ranking the Dutch – Part 5 (20-11): The Good(ish) » […]