Eurovision reloaded: Istanbul 2004: My Top 10

Much prolonged, but it’s finally time to count out my top 10 tracks from Eurovision 2004. The top 10 is always a tough group to pick, but I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out, even if the top 3 really didn’t have much separating them.

Eurovision Song Contest Istanbul 2004 logo

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United United Kingdom

James Fox – Hold On to Our Love

#16 in the Grand Final

British entries haven’t had the best reputation in the last decade, though they’ve got nothing but themselves to blame most of the time. They needed to bounce back after 2003’s humiliating nul points finish, and while this wasn’t a total disaster, it did highlight that the UK’s glory days would take more effort to maintain.

I vaguely remember this guy from Fame Academy, and while this didn’t do a lot for me at the time, I’ve really grown to love it. It’s cheesy and MoR, but that chorus really works for me. It’s the sort of chorus you’d sway along to if you’d had a bit too much to drink, and as old-fashioned as it sounds, it certainly didn’t shame the UK.

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Croatia Croatia

Ivan Mikulić – You Are The Only One

#12 in the Grand Final

Balkan ballads are a funny thing, I don’t know what makes me love one and snore through another. I think if there’s a bit of the mystery that Eastern Europe holds for me, and a bit of melodrama and an ear-catchingly unusual melody (to Western ears), that’s a good start.

Ivan sings his way through what I can totally understand most people for thinking was a pretty tepid midtempo. But the chorus really sticks in my mind, maybe it’s his accent as he belts out “You are the only waaaaaannn”. He’s just got a curious tone to his voice, maybe his breathless vocals remind me a bit of Enrique or something. Weird as it is, I’m still fascinated by this.

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Cyprus Cyprus

Lisa Andreas – Stronger Every Minute

#5 in the Grand Final

Barbra, is that you? Teenage Lisa bravely kicks this off with a cute acapella segment. It’s a pretty dated song, like a schoolgirl singing a Carpenters track, but her voice is so pretty that it’s hard for me not to get all sentimental.

OK the vocals weren’t 100% in the semi-final, but she certainly held her own against more experienced vocalists on the night and gave Cyprus a top 5 result that hasn’t been matched since. Shame they were STILL beaten out by Sakis’s midriff in the end.

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Ukraine Ukraine

Ruslana – Wild Dances

#1 in the Grand Final

It was clear from the first performance that Ukraine were looking to raise the bar with the performance this time around as they blew the cobwebs out of the semi-final. A photo-finish secured Ukraine their first Eurovision victory, just pipping Serbia & Montenegro in the last few sets of votes, who had beaten Ukraine in the semi-final.

It’s a largely unintelligible tour-de-force with battle horns, crazy Xena Warrior Princess outfits and bags of energy. Ruslana was a thoroughly likeable character, who would later be instrumental in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution after a rigged election later that year. A memorable winner that demonstrated that winning Eurovision wasn’t as formulaic as it seemed.

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Russia Russia

Julia Savicheva – Believe Me

#11 in the Grand Final

I’ve always had a soft spot for this track, with a melancholic disco tragedy vibe about it. The verses are pretty mid-tempo but those choruses really have a great sound to them. Just as well, because the lyrics are a little lost in translation at times.

Her vocals weren’t amazing live sadly, perhaps victim to nerves, or a rather OTT dance routine involving multi-coloured dancers and multiple lifts. The choreography was iffy in places, and she looked like an uncomfortable Avril Lavigne, but there’s a great Russian pop track at the heart of this.

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Bosnia Bosnia and Herzegovina

Deen – In the Disco

#9 in the Grand Final

Oh lord, how did this happen?!? Moments like this are why I love Eurovision. Fiercely heterosexual Deen tried his best to get some chemistry with the female dancers for the more deluded viewers, but all said and done this is a fantastically full-on Eurotrash disco masterpiece.

There’s not a huge amount to it lyrically, it’s just about loving music in a disco, with a frankly astonishing hi-NRG dance routine. His vocals might sound a bit weak, but it all feels like that’s how it’s supposed to be. He hits the notes despite the frantic choreo and struts confidently around underneath that awesome mutant disco-ball. A real joy, even though Europe were never going to be totally on board, but 9th place is a great achievement for something like this.

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Belarus Belarus

Aleksandra and Konstantin – My Galileo

Did not qualify, #19 in Semi-final

Highest non-qualifier here, and I get why it might have floundered a bit, but my God, this is the lightest most uplifting bit of ethno-pop I think I’ve ever heard at Eurovision. Not sure how to describe it… speed new-age? I’m still astonished that this is in English, I dare you to decode more than 10% of the words without the internet.

What does “My Galileo” even MEAN? Anyway I don’t care, treated as a foreign-language track it’s totally magical, heartwarming and of course totally doomed. I’ve just seen the music video for the first time, what the hell? Is she controlling the solar system? What an enigma!

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Belgium Belgium

Xandee – 1 Life

#22 in the Grand Final

It’s not easy being a Belgian Eurovision fan, consoling yourself that at least you aren’t a Dutch Eurovision fan. For there have been disappointingly few times Belgium have had justice served in their favour. OK they haven’t been amazing, but at least Kate Ryan should have qualified in 2006. Xandee at least didn’t have to qualify for 2004’s final, with Belgium’s Sanomi missing out on a second Belgian victory the year before by only 3 points.

Still, let’s not dwell on that, nor the fact that Xandee came a sad 23rd in the final. What we have is a powerfully-performed Europop titan. My only criticism is that it sounds pretty dated now, in the great way that trancey-pop music from that region was great at the time, like Ian Van Dahl and Lasgo etc.

It sounds a little more like a tampon advert soundtrack than those acts, but Xandee gives it her all, with a frantic arm-waving dance routine. Some great camera shots from behind the stage too, it just all came together for me.

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Sweden Sweden

Lena Philipsson – It Hurts

#5 in the Grand Final

A golden rule of Eurovision is never to rule out Sweden. The adoptive motherland of the contest, they (usually) give it their best every year. This time it’s Schlager superstar Lena’s turn with a minimal routine of her doing everything she can with a mic stand.

This is classic Schlager heartbreak, with that campy wry smile from Lena doing her best drunk inappropriate aunt persona. I must admit I thought the Swedophiles made a bit too much of the microphone dance, but it’s such a solid pop song that it’s difficult not to get taken in.

I’ve loved the handful of Lena songs I’ve heard so I’ll certainly look into her when I get a chance. She worked the crowd in Istanbul, and was rewarded accordingly.

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Albania Albania

Anjeza Shahini – The Image of You

#7 in the Grand Final

I know! I was surprised too! The usual suspects normally nab my favourite entry of the year, but Albania has quietly amassed several hot little tracks, the first of which being their debut that – until this year in Baku – was their biggest hit.

Starts off timidly enough, with Anjeza and a simple piano kicking off a light uptempo beat. It’s got quite an unusual melody, but it builds so beautifully, until that “Queen of the world of make-believe” line that still hits me when I hear it.

The harmonies the backing singers in the choruses really add some richness to the vocals that Sweden and Belgium missed out on. Her vocal performance might not have been quite as assured as Lena’s, but she was enjoying every second, and so was I. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, that slightly unhinged final burst finishes on a high.

I might weigh the success of this one more on the studio version than Sweden’s, but this is still such an adorable song after hearing it so many times.

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Well I hope you all enjoyed all that. I think I might post some of the latest contests up before I do another vintage year. Before we know it, the 2013 entries will start pouring in, and I won’t have time for anything else!

What is your favourite song of the contest?

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5 Comments

Filed under Eurovision, Music, Reviews

5 responses to “Eurovision reloaded: Istanbul 2004: My Top 10

  1. Dinlo

    What a great top 10! I am fully on board with it! My personal favourite remains My Galileo (admitting such in certain quarters can get you near hung, drawn and quartered :o), but Anjeza isn’t far off. She’s such a joy on that stage, especially in the semi-final performance. It’s a really interesting song to listen to, because of its odd structure.

    Good luck with 2003, it’s probably my favourite of the ones I’ve heard so far (with the possible exception of 2012). There’s fewer songs due to there being no qualifying round, and what’s there is concentrated goodness. Germany, Iceland, Belgium, Russia, Turkey, France… even Austria! All are top Eurovision moments.

  2. Ukrainians are very joyful people and if you want to meet some local people ant talk to them, tourist should go to a bar. This is my directory of good Ukrainian bars http://ukraine-vacation-guide.com/dir/bar/826 but if you know other good places where tourist can spend free time, feel free to add this bars to this directory.

  3. bay

    Iceland! Despite the voice is not perfect, but the lyrics and the music itself is really touching. I feel likea woman now.

    • Iceland has really grown on me since I did this write-up. I can see why it didn’t do well, but Jonsi is really good.

      I think I prefer his 2012 entry, but I nearly always like Iceland’s entries

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