ESC 2010 Reviews: Switzerland
Switzerland, like Belgium, Germany, France, and Spain, is another one of those Eurovision veterans who haven’t been able to catch a decent break over the last few years. In one of my first entries on ESC Insider, I spoke a bit about the first Eurovision winner, “Refrain” by Lys Assia. Since then, the Swiss have only won once (although it was one of Eurovision’s most legendary performances…more on that in a moment), and they haven’t scored in the Top Five since 1993. Furthermore, the Swiss have the tendency to recruit singers from outside their country, and they haven’t placed in the Top Ten with a Swiss-born singer since 1991.
One of the classic performances out of Switzerland was 1963’s “T’en Va Pas (Don’t Go)“, sung by Israeli singer Esther Ofarim. Barely beaten by the Danish entry that year (and some conspiracy theorists insist that there was some sort of foul play with that year’s voting, but nothing has even been proven), Esther’s pristine voice and emotional delivery really carried this beautiful chanson, and it’s one of my favorites from that decade.
It was in 1988, however, that Switzerland finally made it back to the top of the Eurovision podium. They had drafted a little-known young singer from Quebec to do their heavy lifting, and what followed was one of the earliest international performances for a future legend:
Celine Dion not only defeated 20 other contestants that night, but she also vanquished the horrors of “Bad Eighties Hair and Wardrobe” to win in Dublin with “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Don’t Leave Without Me)”. She has gone on to sell over 200 million albums worldwide, win five Grammies, 21 Junos, and have a wildly successful standing gig at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Nothing to sneeze at, by any stretch of the imagination!
Over the past few years, Switzerland has been sorely lacking when it comes to translating interesting and original songs to success on the scoreboard. Before the last three contests, bookmakers and fans had favored Swiss songs, but they failed to reach the finals. In 2007, there was the off-the-wall DJ BoBo with “Vampires are Alive“, which scored in 20th place out of 28 in that semifinal (note the creative use of mannequins, as only six people are allowed on stage). The next year, Italian-Swiss singer Paolo Meneguzzi didn’t live up to the potential of “Era Stupendo (It was Amazing)“, and his slightly off-key performance kept him out of the finals. Sadly, the same thing happened with last year’s song, “The Highest Heights” by Lovebugs, one of my favorites before the competition.
This year, veteran performer Michael von der Haide is trying to undo the pattern that Switzerland’s been falling into recently with “Il Pleut de l’Or (It’s Raining Gold)”. Michael’s no Celine, but the song is a lot of fun, and I can easily imagine it playing on the video screens at the gay bar near my home that my friends occasionally drag me to. (What? The drinks are good and they play “Project Runway” on big projector screens…what could be bad?) The second semifinal’s going to be extremely competitive, but von der Haide’s a veteran performer, so I doubt that falling out of tune like Meneguzzi or Adrian Sieber of Lovebugs both did, but it might be a tough sell to get into the finals.