Forget Brexit! For many European expats, this week’s dilemma is whether to give their hearts and their Eurovision votes to their country of origin or some other country. And though I can’t vote for the UK to stay in Europe, I can vote for the UK entry to the Eurovision Song Festival. But not for the Dutch entry, because I live there. But before we get on to this year’s contestants, let us take a trip down memory lane.
We love Eurovision
One of the highlights of the television year – or the lowlights, depending on your point of view – is the Eurovision Song Contest. The USA has Superbowl; Europe has Eurovision. Every year people throw parties to watch an evening full of cheesy pop, unexpected opera, glitter, false eyelashes and men with beards wearing dresses. You never know what you’re going to see. Every year there seems to be at least one act that involves ripping off a dress to reveal something skimpier. We’ve had gymnasts, men dressed in masks that make them look like they’re orcs from Lord of the Rings, Polish soft porn and more novelty acts than you can shake a rainmaker at.
Then we move on to the final voting that is supposed to be 50 % professional jury decision and 50 % public telephone vote. It could have been “exciting” except for the fact that neighbouring countries tend to vote for each other, especially the Eastern bloc countries that all vote for Russia and each other. It can’t all be a matter of similar taste, surely? Then there are countries like France that more often than not perform in their own language, whether that be a traditional chanson or hip-hop guys singing about moustaches. It’s all hilarious fun and the chances of hearing of the singers after the event are slim unless they were popular beforehand. The major exception to the rule being ABBA, whose international career was launched into superstardom by the experience.
Costume controversy and wardrobe malfunction
One of the joys of Eurovision is making rude comments about the costumes and in 1915 we were in for a real treat with the Dutch singer’s decisions. Trijntje Oosterhuis tried out several different outfits during the rehearsals. The first dress was a show-stopper by designer Tycho Boeker, a black figure-hugging creation with a jagged neckline slit to the navel, held together by a sheer skin-coloured insert. Daring, but was it tempting fate and wardrobe malfunction? Public debate was undecided and so was Trijntje; for her second rehearsal she wore a plainer black dress with a red jacket, but said she was just trying her options.
From vamp to vampire in one decisive moment
So everyone was wondering what she would wear on her big night, the semi-finals, hoping for a chance to wow the whole of Europe and random countries like Israel, Russia and Australia. The song was frankly pretty nondescript anyway, though annoyingly catchy with the meaningful words “Ai, ai, ai, ai.” There were probably more, but all instantly forgettable, though after 2 weeks, I could still remember the refrain. Scary! Imagine everyone’s horror when Trijntje turned up on the night wearing a black bat-winged jumpsuit with an elasticated waist that did absolutely nothing for her. Even if it was by Issy Miyake. Not even a snazzy belt to make it more interesting. Oh, and I nearly forgot, a lace mask covering her eyes at the beginning, none of which had any relevance to the song. If she’d been making a point about women in burkas, I would have understood, but it just seemed like she wanted to feel comfortable so nerves didn’t affect her singing. She would have been better off wearing a cute onesie. As it is, she looked like a sky diver in a wing suit, a fact not lost on the internet (see below). The designer was also disappointed that she didn’t choose to wear his dress; she didn’t tell him beforehand that she’d changed her mind, which seems a little callous. As it was, she stood almost motionless like a startled rabbit in the headlights. Needless to say, she didn’t go on to the finals and her final choice of outfit was also criticised. In fact, Trijntje Oosterhuis’ outfit was voted the worst at the 2015 Eurovision Song Festival.
Photos of overall and wing suit – Source: www.annicvw.com
Edsilia Rombley saves the day
However, the real dress did not go to waste. The woman who announced the Dutch points at the end of the show was Edsilia Rombley, a former Eurovision contestant, who just happens to be Trijnte Oosterhuis’ sister-in-law, and they had a surprise in store for us. Edsilia wore the much-maligned dress and looked stunning. The coven of witches presenting the show for the hosts, Austria, obviously had no idea that they were supposed to have noticed this, but Edsilia was grinning like the Cheshire cat. When she was interviewed later on Dutch TV, she told them that the designer had done a rush job to adapt the dress to her figure and skin colour. Good recovery!
Sadly, Trijntje’s outfit (presumably the batwing) was voted worst outfit of the whole competition, which is saying something. If only she hadn’t stood so still, she could have made it look amazing, as Stevie Nicks did during the Fleetwood Mac concert I went to a while back. Singing Gold Dust Woman, she wore an ethereal gold crocheted shawl over her black outfit and waved it like butterfly wings. I was mesmerised. I need a shawl like that. That’s how to wear a batwing!
The Common Linnets
The most successful Dutch entry since the Netherlands won in 1975 were The Common Linnets in 2014, coming second with a country-inspired song featuring Dutch country-style singer Ilse de Lange and Waylon. Both are known in their own right. I have to admit I wasn’t particularly impressed by their song Calm After the Storm at the time. However, I occasionally overhear it on the radio or TV now and it definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi. Apparently the Germans also agree as they have become popular there and were asked to perform at the German national final this year, though they sang a cover of Dolly Parton’s song Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jo-lee-hee-heen. Earworm? You’re welcome!
Continuing the historical theme, I came across a blog post about unsuccessful returnees to the Eurovision stage some time ago and have being saving it for my Eurovision post this year. One of the singers mentioned was the Dutch singer Corry Brokken who won the contest in the very first Eurovision show in 1957 with Net als toen (Just like it used to be). What a beautiful song and such a beautiful voice.
Douwe Bob – Dutch Eurovision entry 2016
Personally I don’t rate this year’s Dutch entry, Douwe Bob with another country-style song, Slow Down. Boring, boring, boring, vaguely catchy due to the interminable repetition, but instantly forgettable. By the way, Douwe Bob is a non-hyphenated double-barrelled name, a bit like Jim Bob in The Waltons. Douwe Bob is a good-looking young chap, however, and the reviewer at The Telegraph seems quite taken with him. Her reviews are sarcastic and funny; well worth reading. He performed well at the first semi-final with an odd 10-second pause, though he did forget to put in the usual flourish at the end, apparently. I have also just discovered that his guitarist used to play for the well-known Dutch band Krezip; I’ll have to write something about them another time. Also, the piano player has just become a father for the first time. After the performance at the semi-finals, he flew back to the Netherlands for the birth of his daughter Eleanora and will fly back to Stockholm on Friday to take part in the finals on Saturday. No slowing down for him, then!
Joe and Jake – UK Eurovision entry 2016
As for the UK’s 2016 song, I liked it from the first time I heard it, so let’s hope they do better than last year’s entry, the flapper-style Still in Love With You by Electric Velvet, that was truly atrocious. The voting agreed: 24th out of 27 with only 5 points. In 2016, the boy band-like duo of Joe and Jake are going to sing You’re Not Alone. They met when they were both contestants on The Voice talent show in 2015 and they’ve already been signed to Sony, even though they do sound like a TV programme for pre-schoolers. Boyish enthusiasm and a song that sounds like a cross between Coldplay and – so I am reliably informed – One Direction. And it’s catchy, so maybe if you listen a couple of times it will replace Jolene in your brain!