10 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and the Interval)

This tournament bracket may pit country against country, but it does so song by song. Just like the Eurovision Song Contest itself! What I loved about becoming a Eurovision fan is the mini education I've been getting just by appreciating the music. There is the lovely language aspect, of course, when the songs are in German, Italian, and French; but the cultural and historical frames around the entries can be just as fascinating.

When you have over twenty songs competing for your hearts, your votes, and a single crown, well, there are going to be some really good ones that you fall in love with but won't see win. And if you are a real Eurovision fan, you'll spend the rest of your life loudly refusing to get over it. (It's the principle of the thing.) I'm going to do a bit of that now, but more politely, with a Final Four of runners-up that I personally love more than the songs that beat them.

Round 3A
The "L'Amour . . ." Four

Germany . . .

If Bucks Fizz hadn't had that skirt-ripping moment back in 1981, would the UK still have beaten Germany by that tiny four-point margin? I said yes two weeks ago, but every time I've played the haunting Johnny Blue since then, I've felt less certain.

As I discovered last year, when the "Two or Three" Book Club was reading Der Kleine Prinz, German is a deeply emotional language. Paired with music, it can be devastating. I have literally cried in the shower singing certain deutsche Lieder to myself--one of which was this ballad about a blind musician who spins the loneliness of his childhood into music that touches the hearts of millions. Johnny Blue tells you what a great song can do, then proceeds to do it itself. That it is also a Ralph Siegel song is just a bonus.

Siegel has composed numerous songs for his Vaterland and other participating countries: seven of these got Deutschland into the Top Five and one did the same for Luxembourg. The most successful of these was Germany's first winner, Ein Bisschen Frieden, which also won its heat in our "Insieme" Sixteen. But while it is easy to hear the same hand behind this and the equally folksy Johnny Blue, you might never guess that he also gave us the hyper cult favourite Dschinghis Khan. The thought that Germany sent a song about a mass-murdering tyrant to an ESC hosted by Israel totally warms my heart--not because it was epic trolling, but because it was a sign that the wounds of war had truly started to heal. The better example is probably Israel's giving twelve points to Ein Bisschen Frieden, a German song about peace, three years later . . . but then again, no. =P These days, Herr Siegel mostly composes for little San Marino, but his best ESC years seem to be behind him--overlapping with those of Germany.

. . . United Kingdom

There was an age, British Eurovision fans insist we remember, when their country sent only its best talents to the ESC--and thanks to English's lingua franca status, its best talents were also often world-famous. Yes, every country sent its share of superstars; but only the United Kingdom has names that the average Shredded Cheddar reader likely knew long before I made him care about Eurovision. Sandie Shaw, The New Seekers, Cliff Richard, Lulu, Mary Hopkin, Olivia Newton-John, Brotherhood of Man . . . And by the way, everyone I just named either won or finished in the Top Five.

But you have you heard of Lynsey de Paul? I hadn't! But apparently, she's the female Elton John. And her talents helped to make the 1970s for many British people who remember those good old days: she gave them some hit singles, the theme for a popular TV series, and (with collaborator Mark Moran) the Eurovision favourite Rock Bottom. And although they were ultimately beaten by France's L'Oiseau et l'enfant (a less successful contender in the "Insieme" Sixteen), they went on to outsell it all over Europe. Long before all the other ESC participants, the UK figured out that there were two battlefields available for them to conquer.

So it's interesting to me that with the exception of Brotherhood of Man's Save Your Kisses for Me from our "Insieme" Sixteen and Cliff Richard's Congratulations, I haven't really grown up with UK's Eurovision entries. I had to look them up the way I looked up Germany's. Unlike today, when artists use Eurovision as much as Eurovision uses them, stars had to perform songs they might not have chosen for their own albums. Songs that weren't expected to reach beyond Eurovision's borders, as long as they rang like the bells of sweet victory within it. Well, it adds to the charm.

Winner: United Kingdom--because few countries can beat those ESC stats . . . much less the musical impact behind them.

* * * * *

Wild Card!

Monaco is back because it won its face-off with Portugal. Not bad for a microscopic principality that was never represented by a homegrown singer with a homegrown song! =P What would Monaco have done without all the French and Swiss talent happy to have two entries per contest (three if you count Luxembourg!) to lend a little cousin a hand? Disco delight Les jardins de Monaco at least pretends to be too Monagesque to be from somewhere else. It hasn't been my favourite Eurovision country, but I wouldn't mind seeing it back if it means we get a small Francophone voting bloc to hold its own against those of Scandinavia and Mother Russia. (I just want a Latin country to win again. Is this so bad?) So here's your wildcard deal, my friends: tell me what you'd rather hear in the Final--a French-Swiss-Monagesque-Luxembourgish entry or something in good old Anglais?

As usual, voting to decide whether we shall have a wildcard or not will get you points in the Philippine Literature Giveaway. Please enter below through the Rafflecopter.

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Brandon said...

I vote to give Monaco a chance.

cyurkanin said...

Good ol Anglais.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Brandon and Christopher! =)

Itinérante said...

Monaco je pense :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Merci! =)