Home stretch now as we reach my top 10 songs from 2003’s Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in Latvia. While some of the songs haven’t aged especially well, the upper echelon will happily find a place on my iPod after this writeup is done.
All in all, I think the results for the contest – as close as they were – turned out pretty reasonably, I don’t think there were many songs that did well that I didn’t like to some extent. In fact, my top 10 shares 7 songs with the actual top 10, as I’m sure avid fans of this blog(!) might have pieced together already. But which outsiders made the top rung?
F.L.Y. – Hello From Mars
Latvia eh? Hindsight somehow makes it even more improbable to think they ever won Eurovision. Their latter-day entries have largely been horrendous, and more often than not end up as my least favourites of any given year. Of course there are exceptions, and in fact the host nation’s entry for 2003 worked rather nicely for me.
Typically though, they came within a whisker of joining the UK on nul points, getting a last-minute bailout from neighbours Estonia on the last set of scores, which went down very well with the audience. (Apols for getting Estonia & Latvia’s fortunes mixed up in the last post). Sure, “Hello from Mars” is pretty naff but how good-spirited it is. My better judgement makes me think this should be a stinker that got what it deserved, but I really enjoy every nonsensical minute of it. Certainly they’ve done worse. A LOT WORSE.
Jostein Hasselgård – I’m Not Afraid To Move On
I sort of thought this would end up washed up at the bottom of the scoreboard, but 4th place was an exceptional finish, especially given the three-way pile-up for the victory. It’s a pretty unextraordinary old ballad, with a (sort of) fresh-faced blonde Scandinavian sitting at a piano.
For me it was a grower, I quite like the rough tone to the voice. Growers don’t usually get such benefit of the doubt in their limited exposure at Eurovision, but it seemed to chime well with the public at least. Before you know it, it’s grown into a rather gorgeous crescendo – nothing like finishing off on a high is there?
Birgitta Haukdal – Open Your Heart
Opening the show is always a tough gig, but Birgitta kicked off what would be a decidedly optimistic-sounding setlist with plenty of energy. I sort of thought this would get lost too, but that chorus is simple enough to be an instant hit, giving remote island nation Iceland another solid finish.
There’s plenty of weight and optimism in the verses choruses, but that middle-eight is the real showstopper. Really energising and wonderful with that vocal backing too. Key change too! Fantastic! Even a dozen or more listens later, I still get a little surprised at how much I enjoy this one.
Esther Hart – One More Night
Remember when the Netherlands made it to Eurovision finals? Well enjoy it while you can! Fortunately Esther made the most of her platform and delivered a powerful pop performance, full of sunshine. This was a happy bunch of songs, wasn’t it?
While the simplicity of Birgitta’s tune paid off for Iceland, Esther just wins out with sheer power, tempo & energy. That chorus is really catchy, and a key-change seals the deal in the end. Really fantastic, I love this one.
Stelios Konstantas – Feeling Alive
Talking of keeping it simple, Cyprus outmanoeuvred Greece’s ballad (at least in my mind) with one of the most well-rehearsed Euro archetypes: Mediterranean dance-pop. I mean it could be No Mercy singing it really, and it’s not exactly going to win any awards for creativity on that front, but there’s no doubt that this sort of song is one of the bedrocks of 21st century Eurovision.
But goodness, it might be a cheap thrill, but a lot of the best songs are. He at least sings Sakis off the stage and doesn’t resort to stripping (more’s the pity). It’s easy to level criticism at it for being a pretty basic song, but no moreso than some of the blonde bombshells I’ve just listed. I don’t care, I loved the song before I saw the guy, get over it.
Right, top 5 coming soon! You can work out who they are, but what order?