Ireland’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest at The Point
Depot Theatre became an annual event. RTÉ was down to the last penny. They obviously had to scale back and saved heavily on electricity giving this contest a very unique touch. It was literally a nocturnal year, because the stage background wouldn’t diverge much from either black, dark blue or brown. 1995 had also been the year of wild hair. Mike Spiteri most notably didn’t get the long mane memo and came totally bald. Rude!
Most of all it was the year that marked Eurovision’s 40th anniversary. The montage designed for this celebration was rather bleak, but it featured some great popular Irish hits (U2’s “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and Cranberries’ “Ode To My Family”) at least. This time Mary Kennedy was given the
burden honour to host the show. She led through the evening with a mixture of grandmotherly severity and senility (“Nostalgija” was not the title of the Norwegian entry, darling) and veracious enthusiasm for the job – one of the very last oldschool Eurovision hosts.
In terms of musical developments New Age had arrived in Eurovision. Seeking sense in science and rationalism wasn’t enough for those who wanted to explore ways of pursuing the spiritual life. There’s a bunch of songs reflecting and resonating with that sense of yearning and mysticism. And it made a huge impact on the years to follow in Eurovision.
Personally 1995 is a year I love. There’s a great variety of instruments. Many countries have experimented and took a new approach to what a song for Eurovision could sound like. To some extent I can deal with the songs that I don’t like which is very telling for this year. Here’s what my final ranking looks like:
23. Iceland: Bo Haldórsson – “Núna”
Too inoffensive and generic. Even after several runs I can’t remember the song, neither was Bo a singer with a memorable stage presence. Too bad!
22. Malta: Mike Spiteri – “Keep Me In Mind”
I like the mouth organ here, but I just can’t stop asking myself: Which came first? “Keep Me In Mind” or “Se på mig”? Well, a circle has no beginning. There’ll always be songs that sound similar to each other. What I found to be very intriguing though is that not only the melodies up to the first chorus are very alike, but also the whole backing track. The only exception is that the Maltese Uncle Fester isn’t supported by obscene phone callers moaning into the mic. If you haven’t been traumatised by this you will be by the next artist.
21. Russia: Philipp Kirkorov – “Kolybelnaya dlya vulkana”
What a performance! Pippa is really selling it. Too bad he’s scaring the shit out of me: Kirkorov applied 25kg of make-up with a spatula on his face and looked like a shabby drag queen in pirate’s gear. Only after the contest it was discovered that the song had been previously released by Moldovan singer Anastasia Lazariuc in 1985. Disguised as a lullaby to a volcano this song probably was a plea to his then wife Alla Pugacheva – who also was part of the Russian entourage in Dublin – to not go so harsh on him. Kirkorov came 17th which was reason enough for the Russian broadcaster to tweak the running order (the voting wasn’t shown at all), so viewers would get the impression that Russia had won. The Soviet Union might be no longer, but old habits die hard.
20. Germany: Stone & Stone – “Verliebt in dich”
First things first: Terry Wogan might have been the best known ESC commentator, but he often got his facts wrong; Stone & Stone were a textbook example for a one-hit-wonder as they only had a top 40 hit with “Wish You Were Here” in 1993. Moreover “Verliebt in dich” does not mean “I realized it’s you” (truth be told that was the English title of the German entry), but “In love with you”.
On that evening Germany learned a really valuable lesson. And that is to never mess with religiously themed songs in Eurovision which is as we all know the professional expertise of Israel. Amen to that! However, I do like the backing vocalists in this song, but the lead singer Cheyenne Stone really drags it down with her thin voice.
After only one year the broadcaster MDR gave up selecting the songs for Eurovision. Thus began a very slippery slope with NDR: Since 1995 Germany has finished last every ten years. Maybe reason enough to sit out the 2025 edition… .
19. Belgium: Frédéric Etherlinck – “La voix est libre”
It’s a catchy pop ballad, but just not impactful enough for an international song contest. Gone were the days of the obligatory French language ballad.
18. Slovenia: Darja Švajger – “Prisluhni mi”
I don’t get the love for this to be honest. To me it sounds like they tried to replicate the success of Poland’s debut entry – which I strongly dislike. The result is a schmaltzy Disney princess ballad sung by a lady who looked she could be the villain in that film.
17. Ireland: Eddie Friel – “Dreamin’”
Poor scapegoat. Almost pulled from the competition due to allegations that “Dreamin’” plagiarises a song I’ve never heard of before, “Moonlight” by Julie Felix. Listening to it I’ve to agree: it’s a complete rip-off. But as I said before…to identify the first case of a circular cause and consequence is a neverending job. And then Eddie got the death slot just to make sure he wouldn’t carry the trophy home. “Dreamin’” is an ok piece of country music and did its duty.
16. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Davor Popović – “Dvadeset prvi vijek”
I like the fact that there’s a key change in the chorus, but to be frank I don’t care much for it. There’s a weird imbalance between the lyrics that are quite pessimistic and the song’s jaunty jazz style. In fact there was no happiness to be found for Davor Popović in the 21st century as he died in 2001 from pancreatic cancer only aged 54. RIP.
15. Croatia: Magazin + Lidija – “Nostalgija”
Inspired by the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé duet “Barcelona” Tonči Huljić wrote the song trilogy “Simpatija”, “Nostalgija” and “Romantika” – a veritable feast for the ears of fans of Balkan schlager. The performance was flawless, but I’ve always got the impression that Danijela and Lidija were battling each other for the higher note – till the carotid artery ruptures. The Snow White and Rose Red costumes were something I didn’t quite get. A subliminal message to vote for Poland maybe?
14. United Kingdom: Love City Groove – “Love City Groove”
The 1995 UK national final was the BBC’s ambitious attempt to bring more or less contemporary stuff to the contest. It had the likes of Deuce, Samantha Fox or – my personal nemesis – Londonbeat (gosh how I hate “I’ve Been Thinking About You”). The public wanted a rap group called Love City Groove; the genre’s debut at the Eurovision Song Contest. It is by no means a brilliant song, but I quite enjoy its laid-back attitude. The two rappers harmonise well with each other, while the singer Paul Hardy is third-wheeling it hardcore. He was quite superfluous. Nevertheless it was a brave step to modernise the contest and it paid off with a top 10 finish.
13. France: Nathalie Santamaria – “Il me donne rendez-vous”
Corsica strikes again! It’s French Lolita pop, a little too demure (especially compared to the sassy Nina Morato) for my liking, but it’s still one of the better songs. The composers Didier Barbelivien and François Bernheim were known for their work with Patricia Kaas in the late 80’s and early 90’s and it really shows.
12. Turkey: Arzu Ece – “Sev”
After Turkey’s previous attempts have been met with lukewarm response they hoped to succeed with a more Western approach to Eurovision. A respectable comeback for Arzu Ece, but in the strong starting field of 1995 her ballad got a little overlooked. I love the harmonies in the chorus which by the way is extremely infectious and hummable! And although Arzu is vocally at the top of her game (the backings not so much), I did find her more convincing in her role as the tempestuous fury in 1989’s “Bana Bana”. Also she didn’t look like Michael Jackson then.
11. Hungary: Csaba Szigeti – “Új név egy régi ház falán”
After their succesful debut in 1994 Hungary picked a song that went in an entirely different direction – one that made it very clear that it was not gonna do very well. It just wasn’t competitive enough, but finishing second-to-last with three points was really harsh.
In particular I like the song’s structure: it goes from this moody ballad to a positive outburst in the final chorus. Musically there’s barely something else going on. It’s Csaba’s voice that sounds like four packs of Marlboro a day carrying the song and much like Mia Martini I get the feeling just by the mere sound of his voice that this is a man who has lived, who knows what he’s singing about.
Israel, 1 point: Liora – “Amen”
I’m a huge Israel fanboy when it comes to Eurovision. And this is quintessential, classic Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest: The religious context, the outfits, the choreographed performance and more key changes than a locksmith in Harlem. For the Dutch commentator and Sakis Rouvas’ worst nightmare Paul de Leeuw a little too much of a cliché: He walked out of the commentary box in disgust, but not before calling the following entry from Malta a “kutnummer” (a shitty song). Yikes!
I’m not even mad at Liora for preventing Dana International from getting the ticket to Dublin, because I don’t think the juries would’ve been that accepting of her and it would’ve ruined Dana’s legacy – although she did a pretty good job herself in Düsseldorf. Anyways, this song is just soothing to my ears. Amen!
Sweden, 2 points: Jan Johansen – “Se på mig”
It happens quite often that I prefer Sweden’s ballads to their common uptempo schlagervinnarna material. And it just so happened that Jan snatched my two points. My praise goes out to the backings moaning so ecstatically that even Monica Seles would have surrendered and gone red in the face with shame. Was it a strategy to intimidate the other bookies’ favourites?
Similar to the Liora/Dana International incident I don’t mind “Se på mig” winning over a song I consider better than it: “Det vackraste” written by One More Time and performed by Cecilia Vennersten. Nanne & Peter Grönvall and Maria Rådsten would get their revenge in 1996 with an even stronger entry.
Portugal, 3 points: Tó Cruz – “Baunilha e chocolate”
Continuing with the country I am fanboying equally hardcore to Israel: Portugal. I absolutely love this song, although I do understand why it did so poorly with the juries. The song needed more interaction with the choir and a livelier performance. I’m thinking of Austria 1996 – well, not that exalted – but at least something more than just waving in Tó’s direction. Very understated and underrated.
Cyprus, 4 points: Alexandros Panayi – “Sti fotia”
It’s interesting we got introduced to Alex and Kirkorov in the same year, two characters who would put their stamp on the contest for many years to come. The Hellenics were outstanding this year which was both a curse and a blessing, because I’ve got the feeling both were competing against each other for votes, thus hindering each other to do better.
At this point I’d like to thank Mr. Giorgos Theofanous, Evridiki’s husband at that time, who rearranged and conducted this song for Eurovision. The Cypriot delegation really worked hard between the time the song got selected and its performance in Dublin. To be fair the song has just been carefully revised, the switches between the time signatures are there, but it’s the mystic atmosphere and presentation that secured Cyprus a good spot at the close of the voting. This is by far my favourite entrance by a singer in Eurovision.
Greece, 5 points: Elina Konstantopoulou – “Pia prosefhí”
Moving on to the country with the highest Eurovision diva ratio: Greece. When I write my short reviews I try to pick up on little things I notice during the performance and exaggerate them to build the story, but with Elina what’s there to pick? This is pitch-perfect and I would be genuinely shocked to learn if her compatriots hadn’t built a temple to honor and worship her. Maybe a little too perky you might ask? Who knows? Maybe she’s standing up peeing in the shower. Everybody’s hiding something.
The dark staging adds to the overall atmospheric, intimate feeling of the song. I love everything about it: the spoken word intro, the panpipes, Elina’s goddess-like presence. I wish Greece would get their shit together and come back strong again.
Austria, 6 points: Stella Jones – “Die Welt dreht sich verkehrt”
The first song in the original draw that was more uptempo. Stella was a breath of fresh air and had a very natural, down-to-earth stage presence that suited her jazzy pop song. Her choice of wardrobe (was she trying to do a Harley Quinn impersonation?) wasn’t the smartest though. However, her saxophonist (Candy Dulfer, is that you?) really rocked the stage in that burgundy red dress and made Stella look like a scrawny little schoolgirl. A bit unfortunate, but it made for another iconic moment of Dublin ’95.
Ireland Norway, 7 points: Secret Garden – “Nocturne”
Another song that sparked some controversy prior to the contest. The Swedish delegation spoke out vehemently against its participation saying it shouldn’t be featured because the song only consists of 24 words. During the voting procedure Sweden showed Norway the cold shoulder. So much for bloc votes. This caused an uproar in Norwegian press and the Swedish ambassador ended up apologizing. Incredibly next level petty. The only thing topping this two-way Scandie catfight would’ve been a tight race between Sweden and Norway for the rest of the voting, but pesky Anabel would get in their way.
Fionnuala Sherry, violinist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and Rolf Løvland, the conductor for the Norwegian entry of 1993, met in Millstreet for the first time and again in Dublin in 1994, Løvland this time as Norway’s songwriter. Sherry asked Løvland if he would consider writing a song for her solo album. It was the kick start for Secret Garden. “Nocturne” featured some guest musicians, for example the SWEDISH nyckelharpist Åsa Jinder. Music knows neither boundaries nor borders.
Poland, 8 points: Justyna – “Sama”
Boy, where do I start? I’ve collected numerous anecdotes on this entry. For example how the Steczkowska sisters (Magda and Krystyna joined Justyna as backing vocalists) caused a traffic jam in Dublin’s city centre just by singing an acapella version of En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”. How Maciej Chmiel, TVP’s junior artistic director at that time, secretly took the predictions list which had Poland placed last on the day of the dress rehearsal; he tore it in shreds and hid it in his pocket, so that Justyna wouldn’t be affected by it.
It was a gutsy choice. Wiktor Kubiak, protégé of Edyta Górniak’s early career, tried to push through his wife Alicja Borkowska, one of Edyta’s backings in 1994. In the end the winner of Szansa na Sukces‘ first edition got the go: Justyna Steczkowska whose career yet had to take off, but the potential seemed there. What I love about the performance was that the song’s structure and lyrics are translated to Justyna’s body language; her arms crossed during the first half and wide opened when she’s raising her voice and doing this mantra-esque part. Trebunie-Tutki, the folk ensemble providing guest vocals on the song, add some traditional górale (ethnic group in Southern Poland) vibes. It didn’t pay off, however the whole Eurovision experence didn’t harm her. Justyna is one of Poland’s most decorated artists and even 25 years later she’s still going strong.
Denmark, 10 points: Aud Wilken – “Fra Mols til Skagen”
Ever went on a train journey and got super horny reminiscing about your lover? I have multiple times, but it didn’t get me Eurovision fame yet. Clearly I must be doing something horribly wrong. “Fra Mols til Skagen” is a winter’s tale of longing and separation co-written by Lise Cabble who later went on to unleash weapons of mass brain cell destruction upon the world such as “New Tomorrow” or “Only Teardrops”. But I’ll forgive her because of this song which was a radical departure from Denmark’s trademark happy sound. It’s a match between music, performer and visualisation. There are lots of close-ups to Aud which helps creating this intimate atmosphere that goes perfectly with the song’s lyrics. The sporadic banjo parts also give it a nice touch. This is Denmark at its best.
Spain, 12 points: Anabel Conde – “Vuelve conmigo”
This is the last time I’ll do that, but the first 40 seconds remind me of Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer”. Recycling pays off. Moving on: Rather anemic in its studio version this is one of those songs that blossomed in its collaboration with the orchestra. Anabel Conde successfully graduated from the Mariah Carey Academy of Vocal Gymnastics with a degree in unnecessary hand gestures. Furthermore she gave a convincing interpretation of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”: Those close-ups don’t show Anabel from her best side.
It’s sad that this is still Spain’s best most recent result, not having achieved a top 5 placing since. It’s all there. They’ve got talented artists and songwriters, but they just can’t tie it together. Today Anabel works at Madrid Airport giving the acoustic signals on the takeoff/landing runway. What a waste of talent!
That’s it, 1995! Thank you for joining me on this review!