Eurovision reloaded: Riga 2003 – My #26 – #21

Cast your mind back to 2002. I’m struggling because this is to reach into my Eurovision Dark Ages. Just like the other Dark Ages, little is knows about this period, only a few scant details of where major battles/contests took place, and limited information of the people on top at the time.

Eurovision 2003 Latvia Riga logo

I am reasonably sure I watched Marie N claim a first ever victory for Latvia in Tallinn’s 2002 contest, but that’s about it. I can’t remember if I liked the song, but that’s something for another day. It’s incredible to think Latvia ever won the contest judging by their recent form, but yes, this is a thing that happened, and over the last few months – actually quite a lot of months, Malmö 2013 took a lot of my energy – I’ve been listening to the songs, and watched the whole contest on Youtube. Now it’s time for me to countdown my picks of the show. This was the last year before the semi-final system came in, so there are only 26 songs to get through, including the Big Four (UK, France, Germany & Spain), the host Latvia, the 19 other top scorers from 2002, 6 countries relegated in 2001 to miss the following year’s contest, and finally debuting Ukraine.

So far, so good – 2002’s Marie N (real name Marija Naumova) co-hosted with Renārs Kaupers, frontman of Brainstorm, who took Latvia to 3rd place in 2000’s Copenhagen contest. They did a reasonable job to keep the show together, but nobody could have expected how insanely close the results were going to come out…

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austria

Austria Austria

Alf Poier – Weil der Mensch zählt

6th place in the Grand Final

Let’s get through the worst of the bunch first, and the clear choice here has to be this deadpan Austrian dirge. A ‘comedy’ entry that is totally lost on me, it starts with Alf droning away in German, broken up by clunky interludes of rock guitars and quirky little melodies. Really shit, I hate this, and another easy entry into the “comedy entries are terrible” songbook.

Troublingly this song got Austria’s best placing since 1989, and they haven’t bettered it since, tanking in 2004 and kicking off a decade of DNQ results and withdrawals.

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malta

Malta Malta

Lynn Chircop – To Dream Again

25th place in the Grand Final

I feel a bit mean ranking this one so long, but it seems Europe was in agreement, matching my 25th place result. I do love Malta, and I’m always rooting for them to do well. Indeed they usually outperform many larger countries when they are on form, but 2003 wasn’t one of those years.

Lynn was nice enough but the song was just so insipid – I mean I know it was the early 00’s and this was standard fare for ex-soap stars launching careers etc, but I’m getting nothing out of this one. The chorus is sort of nice but… no, sorry.

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united kingdom

United United Kingdom

Jemini – Cry Baby

26th place in the Grand Final

Perhaps I’m being too generous with this placement. The UK flinched in horror at our last place finish, not only was it our worst placing, an inevitable conclusion to the downward trend it had experienced since all the other countries were allowed to sing in English too, it was also the UK’s first nul points result. For my money it was totally deserved.

The song was barely passable, but while the dynamic duo blamed technical difficulties for the painfully off-key vocals, even the studio version starts off out of key. It’s sort of catchy, but a fairly cheap attempt for the UK to court European appeal with a generic Europop track that fell flat at every opportunity. Perhaps the single most damaging three minutes in the UK’s long history at Eurovision, it accelerated the British opinion that Europe were against us rather than facing up to our shortcomings.

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slovenia

Slovenia Slovenia

Karmen Stavec – Nanana

23rd place in the Grand Final

From this point there’s nothing really awful, but perhaps some songs have aged better than others. This is quite nice, though Slovenia always have an uphill struggle to get votes at the best of times, and this wasn’t the best of times. It’s got a good chorus hook. But at the heart of it, it’s an unextraordinary pop song that even failed to capitalise on its closing slot in the set list.

I smell potential from Slovenia, but they haven’t quite made it happen yet. Good try, but… just keep trying.

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poland

Poland Poland

Ich Troje – Keine Grenzen-Żadnych granic

7th place in the Grand Final

Oh lord, 7th place? This is painful in places, not least that sandpaper vocal from the lead guy. Fortunately there’s a female vocal to smooth over the cracks. The resulting package is a bit of a mess, but not entirely without merit.

It builds to a sort of rousing climax of a singalong. I feel like it’s a bit TOO Eastern European for it to really resonate with me, and I don’t think it’s a patch on their second entry for Poland in 2006, but I’ve heard worse.

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romania

Romania Romania

Nicola – Don’t Break My Heart

10th place in the Grand Final

Romania are another nation to watch – 2003 marked one of their best results at the time, and they’ve gone from strength to strength since then. Nicola wants to know what the French are for/phwoar. Her vocals, or more particularly her accent, are a bit of an acquired taste, and I feel that 3 minutes isn’t quite long enough to acquire it.

Still, it was a spirited performance with a rather busy set of props, with a song that sounds a little ahead of its time, at least compared to some of the Euro-cliches trotted out on the Riga stage.

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