Eurovision Reloaded: Riga 2003 – My Top 5

Wow, talk about drawn out. I just realised that I first loaded the 2003 contest entries onto my iPod on New Year’s Day! Granted, things got a little clashy (as they do) as it came during the buildup to the 2013 contest, and I felt I was writing a LOT of Eurovision stuff already, but I mean honestly. Anyway, 8 months later, it’s finally time to draw up my top 5 from Riga’s Class of 2003.

Eurovision 2003 Latvia Riga logo

As I commented in an earlier post, I think the results broadly came out well – 7 of my top 10 came finished in the actual top 10, including the whole top 5. The reveal of the results was the tightest I’d ever seen, really incredible. Even while knowing what the results was going to be, my recent viewing of the show on YouTube was nailbiting (I’m so cool right now). But anyway, let’s do this.

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sweden

Sweden Sweden

Fame – Give Me Your Love

5th place

Ah Sweden, always good value, and at this point still one of the big powerhouse acts at Eurovision. I came across this song first listening to that “Absolute Schlager” compilation a few years ago, and I never quite got into it. Maybe it was because it was alongside more modern-sounding Swedish tracks. But in the context of the 2003 contest I’ve really started to like it.

It’s a bit cheesy but Jemini WISHES it had a tenth of the joy that this duo gives out. Good harmonies, catchy melody, ABBA-esque chords in places. Tooth-rottingly cheery but still sounds good today. Schlageriffic!

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russia

Russia Russia

t.A.T.u. – Ne ver’, ne boysia

3rd place

Controversy! t.A.T.u. had made a big splash on the international scene only months before being selected as Russia’s entry for Riga. I love t.A.T.u. and at the time it was probably a bit of a coup to get them into the contest. I don’t know why they got booed so much though, do people hate them? Either way, they brought their brand of lesbionic angsty dance-pop with that ultracool Soviet spin.

I LOVE the studio version of this, that subtle little bass riff, the urgent energy, it’s totally apart from the rest of the decidedly happy-clappy set of 2003 entries. Granted, the actual live performance was a bit of a train-wreck vocally, and the lesbian kiss was deftly avoided by the skittish Latvian TV station, but it was definitely something to talk about.  I wonder what would happen if they had won, which they only narrowly missed doing. Would Eurovision have attracted bigger names? Things like that might have diverted the whole flow of Eurovision history. But we’ll never know…

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spain

Spain Spain

Beth – Dime

8th place

Spain rarely come up with amazing songs in my opinion, but when they hit that target they really make something magic. In the last 10 years I’d only count Pastora Soler’s 2012 entry, D’Nash’s 2007 entry and this one from Beth, one of the first times in recent memory that they’ve reached the top 10. It’s a glorious and understated summer dance hit, and I really love the Spanish language on this one.

It’s not overbaked schlager, nor does she get swamped by the backing track. She even traverses a key change effortlessly, it’s such a smooth ride. I suspect they can’t get away with this again, as poor Soraya found out in 2009. But I’m always open to the prospect of a Spanish success, they are about due.

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turkey

Turkey Turkey

Sertab Erener – Everyway That I Can

1st place

It was a finish as tight as anyone could handle, with Sertab clawing the victory out of Belgium’s thunderstruck hands with the last set of votes, and securing Turkey’s first Eurovision victory. With hindsight it feels so simple, this is one of the classic Eurovision winners of the decade and set the course for a massive array of ethno-pop entries trying to emulate the same commercial appeal.

Only watching the show itself, I was shocked at how badly the song translated in the live performance. Vocals were alright but a bit breathless, and Sertab is a bit of a fierce beauty to put it mildly. The viewers don’t have the benefit of the studio-recorded version and repeated listens, so I wonder how it managed the win in the end. It had more of an edge to it than the la-di-daa optimistic entries of other countries, but not to the point of alienating the public like t.A.T.u., so maybe it just hit the right balance. A deserved winner, but as you can see there’s one I would have preferred.

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belgium

Belgium Belgium

Urban Trad – Sanomi

2nd place

My heart goes out to the poor Belgians, who have had trouble coming even slightly close to emulating the success of 2003. How cruel to have denied them the win after enjoying a narrow lead throughout! It made for nailbiting TV but poor Urban Trad were the losers standing small.

It sounds contrived and awful – with the language restrictions lifted, why not make up a language to sing in? I don’t know how you’d start, but Sanomi was the result. A pseudo-New Age chillout track in the vein of Enigma, it would have been a unique entry in the Eurovision winners’ pantheon. It’s just got such a strong simple melody, that “Lei la la lei” refrain in the chorus is just gorgeous and emotional. The overall effect is spiritual and graceful without sounding too cheesy and fake (even if it sort of IS fake).

Truly intriguing stuff, and while it’s hard to argue with Sertab hitting the ethno-pop bullseye, I really love this song, and the way it came so close to victory is adds that final veneer of tragedy that all the best Eurovision songs have.

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So there we have it. What did you think? Who did you want to win?

If you enjoyed this, click the “ESC” link on the top banner to see my writeups of 2004, 2005 and 2011-13. I’ll be filling in the blanks when I can. I’m loading up the 2002 songs tonight, and the 2010 results will be up fairly soon too. Well, it keeps me off the streets… enjoy!

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2 Comments

Filed under Eurovision, Music, Reviews

2 responses to “Eurovision Reloaded: Riga 2003 – My Top 5

  1. Mike

    OK, not a bad list at all! (Not totally sure I agree with Fame as #5, though…) I agree that Sanomi was strangely great, very nice melody and somehow, that fake language worked really well. My number top three would prob. be Dime, Sanomi and Open Your Heart, with maybe a slight edge to the latter.

    Speaking of Dime, very nice to see this on your list. I (still) think it’s a lovely song, and prob. one of the nicest Spanish entries ever.

    Your rankings were lots of fun and very enjoyable. I forgot how many great songs there were that year. To me, this is probably when the contest went from being just fun to fun AND reliably good. Riga (and maybe the one the year before) seemed to mark a turning point in quality; the year the stinker & snoozer count really started to shrink. Perhaps the increased participation and competition of the Eastern European countries raised the bar a little?

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I really like the whole top 10, none of them were just there to fill up the slots.

      I’m braced for 2002 to be a bit crap though from what I’ve heard – apart from a great UK entry, those are few and far between this century!

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