Eurovision Song Contest 1989 Review

For the first (but maybe not last) time, Switzerland is hosting after winning (since they hosted the first contest back in 1956, they couldn’t have won before that). Cyprus is back, 22 countries, you all know the drill. Let’s dive right in.

Preface

Woo, Céline won it for Switzerland, so this is where we are this year. Specifically, Lausanne, which is quite a large French-speaking city. Fittingly, the hosts - Jacques Deschenaux and Lolita Morena - also spoke French for the most part. Luckily, I know French, so this isn’t an issue (since I haven’t been able to find the show with any commentary).

We open with a pre-filmed insert of a Swiss child eating some bread and drinking milk. Ok? Sure? Why not? Then we see her walk in front of a bunch of soldiers, ride a car and… ok, fine, I’m stumped for words. This is easily the weirdest opening film I’ve seen so far, but I can’t say I’m not enjoying it. It’s pretty funny actually (and kinda cute). At the end of the film, she walks into the building the contest was held in accompanied by Céline and actually appears on stage for a brief moment.

But enough about children (well, enough about this specific girl - we’ll have more children later on). After Céline reprises her winner song, we get a very brief welcome from the hosts and then Céline promotes her newest single - which is fine by me, though I’m not her biggest fan, a lot of her songs seem to be made purely to showcase her vocal capabilities (though she does have quite a few great standout songs).

After a bit more talking (predominantly in French, though also in English, German and Italian - as well as a tiny bit of Romansh at the end - you gotta love the Swiss), we move to a small orchestral number, which felt completely unnecessary, at least in my opinion. Though afterwards, we do finally start with the songs, so yay. I think this was dragged out way too much because to this day, it remains the second longest opening to a show at 20 minutes and 17 seconds (only 2015 exceeds this with an opening that lasts 21 minutes and 23 seconds - and 2023 comes close with 20 minutes and 14 seconds).

Songs

Italy - Avrei voluto

Performed by
Anna Oxa and Fausto Leali
Language
Italian

Not a bad opener to the contest. I like the minimalistic opening, though it turns into a fairly normal rock ballad is considerably less interesting. Still, it’s actually well-composed and has a nice progression until the end, where it just ends abruptly as if someone accidentally muted the backing track. Also, I actually like how they sound together - but then, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for raspy male vocals combined with clean female ones.

Israel - Derekh Hamelekh

Performed by
Gili and Galit
Language
Hebrew

I don’t like children singing. I never have and I never will. There’s a reason why I watch normal ESC and not JESC. This song doesn’t change my mind about child vocals in any way, I find it annoying and unpleasant. Thank god the EBU raised the participation age to 16 next year. We won’t have to suffer through anything like this ever again.

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit too harsh, this isn’t terrible, but I still don’t like it. The “backing” vocals to a lot of heavy lifting here.

Ireland - The Real Me

Performed by
Kiev Connolly and the Missing Passengers
Language
English

Oh look, it’s everything I don’t like about a song rolled into one easy-to-hate package. Sugary, repetitive instrumental? Check! Vaguely inspirational lyrics with no real substance? Check! Flat and boring performance? Check! A love duet with people looking each other into the eyes? Check! Yuck, can we not please. This came 18th, which shows that most people didn’t like this.

Netherlands - Blijf zoals je bent

Performed by
Justine Pelmelay
Language
Dutch

Woooo, another good song. This time, a ballad, which starts out (and stays) mellow and soft (for the most part). I definitely prefer this sort of ballads over generic power ballads - and it’s got some nice piano parts - though she gets too shouty by the end, which kills the mood for me (dear composers/songwriters/performers - please stop doing that). A shame too, I enjoy the first 2-ish minutes of this.

Turkey - Bana Bana

Performed by
Pan
Language
Turkish

Mwah, thank you for staying Turkish, Turkey. This may be a total mess, but it’s a wonderful and fun mess. I can’t help but bop my head and move my body when I hear this. Yeah, it may be a bit hard to get into, but I’m totally into this. Yeah, it’s all chorus interrupted by another chorus I suppose - this song has no real structure to it, no discernible verses of any kind - which is usually a bit of a pet peeve for me, but I’m willing to let it slide here since I actually like it. Maybe irrationally, but it’s just very interesting and completely unlike any other song this year.

Belgium - Door de wind

Performed by
Ingeborg
Language
Dutch

Here’s another example of Belgium (Flanders specifically) being great. “Why great though, this is just a generic ballad?” I hear you asking. Well, thank you for the question, my hypothetical reader (I doubt anyone is reading this, but oh well, I’m mostly just writing this for myself). And the answer to this is the structure of this song. As you all know, I love song with a strong sense of progression (without abrupt shifts - though I also love abrupt shifts, but it’s very easy to bungle harsh transitions up) and there’s progression up the wazoo here.

We start off with a very simple and understated tune with a prominent xylophone (I want to say, I actually don’t really know what’s the instrument making it sound a bit celestial). But it doesn’t just repeat the same instrumental again, in the second verse, the instrumentation gets a bit more complex with some brass and the backing singer walks in and starts “dududu"ing a bit, but joins completely for the chorus. In the final verse, the song soars and becomes much more majestic once again. And the final chorus goes all out and it’s just mwah.

And, of course, Ingeborg gives an amazingly cute and charming performance. She manages to look both sincere and vulnerable, but also confident at the same time. My only wish would be for the male backing singer to be slightly more prominent after he comes in. I wish they fully harmonised for the final verse and chorus. But still, I love this so much, always have and always will.

United Kingdom - Why Do I Always Get It Wrong

Performed by
Live Report
Language
English

The UK not sending sleek modern pop? Huh, must be opposite day, but thank god they didn’t since I rarely like their modern pop entries. On the other hand, this is a really good 80s ballad with a singer who has a very raspy voice. It’s also pretty interesting musically, it feels slightly dissonant to me, but not in an off-putting way (we’ll have to wait well over a decade for a dissonant song that does sound very unpleasant). This isn’t a song I’m very passionate about, but second place was well-deserved here.

Norway - Venners nærhet

Performed by
Britt Synnøve Johansen
Language
Norwegian

This is just dull. Sure, she does have a “grand voix” as the hosts said, but it’s so plain and uninteresting and barely has any progression - aside from a key change, which isn’t a proper substitute for actually varying your song up.

Norway should’ve sent Jahn Teigen with his song Optimist instead.

Portugal - Conquistador

Performed by
Da Vinci
Language
Portuguese

And here’s the most questionable entry of the year - a song about celebrating colonialism. Yeah. Not really a good look for Portugal, but hey, it makes up for it by being a load of fun. The singers fully embrace it and have a lot of fun on stage, and I just can’t resist having fun with them. It has a catchy, memorable melody, especially in the chorus and dropping place names doesn’t even annoy me too much this time since it fits the song really well.

Sweden - En dag

Performed by
Tommy Nilsson
Language
Swedish

Even not knowing Swedish, I can still sing along with this entry, which means it’s one of the few entries to transcend language barriers very well. It’s an insanely well-executed power ballad with a very catchy hook “en dag” that everyone can remember and sing along with, even if they can’t really sing the rest of the lyrics. It’s repeated many times throughout the song, which is actually very effective. And it also has a very good sense of progression, starting out fairly minimalistic and building up all throughout and then BAM, key change, guitar solo, the backing vocals join in and the trumpet becomes prominent (though it’s prominent throughout the whole song in the studio version, which, in my opinion, is better).

Luxembourg - Monsieur

Performed by
Park Café
Language
French

Yuck, thick English accent. Still, the song isn’t that bad, it has a nice, chill vibe, a pretty good performance (apart from the accent) and it’s in swing rhythm, which I always kinda enjoy. It does lack any kind of progression though, which sucks since it probably would’ve been right at the top otherwise.

Denmark - Vi maler byen rød

Performed by
Birthe Kjær
Language
Danish

This is the Nordic schlager formula, perfected. There isn’t a single flaw in this song, which is why it was another one I voted for in ESC250. Birthe is one of the most charismatic and captivating performers this contest has seen - she just takes control of the stage and doesn’t let it go until the song ends. Her vocals are flawless, she does some choreography - which wasn’t something common at ESC in those days.

The most memorable moment is when the conductor stops conducting and joins Birthe on stage after the bridge. At the same time, the key changes and the viewers get a burst of energy. Sometimes, I complain about gimmicks, but this is a gimmick done right. It feels fun and inviting, as well as extremely memorable, so well done on that, whoever thought of this idea.

Combine all of that with an insanely infectious melody and you have a total earworm that won’t get out of your mind for days (or years, in my case. Or decades, in most Danish people’s case).

Austria - Nur ein Lied

Performed by
Thomas Forstner
Language
German

Yay, another cool ballad. This one doesn’t wow me as much as some of the other this year, but it’s still very good and memorable. I especially like the piano parts here, and Thomas has a very strong voice, but doesn’t flex it around, but actually sings it properly.

Finland - La dolce vita

Performed by
Anneli Saaristo
Language
Finnish

Aaaaaaaaaaah, yeeeeeeeeeeees. I love this entry, I’ve always loved it and I always will. It’s something so weird and eccentric in the best way possible. This is Eurovision at its core - weird, wacky, but executed really well. Where else would you hear a Spanish salsa song, but not in Spanish, but Finnish. It’s just so wacky in every right way possible. It really shouldn’t work, it should feel weird and uncanny, but it does. It totally works and it works gloriously.

I won’t get into any detailed analysis here because, while this song deserves it, it isn’t why I love it. I love it for managing to pull off the unpulloffable - and in such graceful and catchy manner too.

France - J’ai volé la vie

Performed by
Nathalie Pâque
Language
French

Yuck, children, again. At least this time, Nathalie isn’t horribly off-key and annoying, but I still don’t like it. Whoever thought this was a good idea should feel ashamed of themselves. She’s clearly too nervous (rightly) and inexperienced to perform on par with the adults participating (Birthe, for example, has been singing for about 20 years by this point). I feel bad placing this low, but this just isn’t good and I’m not one for pity voting.

Spain - Nacida para amar

Performed by
Nina
Language
Spanish

Not bad, but also not very good. She alternated between being breathy and shouty and it’s just an all-around alright power ballad, the kind that slips from my mind as soon as it’s over. Meh. Though I have to give props to Nina, she’s very likeable, which saves this song for me.

Cyprus - Apopse as vrethoume

Performed by
Fanny Polymeri and Yiannis Savvidakis
Language
Greek

This is insanely anonymous. There’s nothing memorable about it and the marriage outfits gimmick doesn’t help one bit. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it.

Switzerland - Viver senza tei

Performed by
Furbaz
Language
Romansh

And here we have it - the only song in Romansh, quite fittingly for a Swiss host entry. Is it any good? In my opinion, yes! It’s really good! There are plenty of good harmonies between the female lead and male backing singers, but she also gets a lot of time to shine on her own (thankfully, because she has a lovely smooth voice). And there’s piano too! What’s not to like here. Well, I suppose it’s a bit lacking in progression, it just alternates between the same verses and the same chorus, but it never bored me that much. Maybe I’m just overrating it because of being in Romansh, who knows.

Greece - To diko sou asteri

Performed by
Marianna
Language
Greek

It’s pretty cute and has a nice melody, but the verses are a bit too average for me. The chorus is nice and it picks up right at the end. I think that it pulls this off pretty well and I honestly wish the whole song was in the same style as the ending - I definitely would’ve liked it better that way.

Iceland - Það sem enginn sér

Performed by
Daníel
Language
Icelandic

Nope, extremely boring. The performance is insanely static, the instrumental is boring and repetitive and it’s just way too repetitive. Though Icelandic sounds nice, I guess, but that isn’t something we can credit the song with. The zero points are very understandable honestly, even though I don’t think it’s the worst song of the night.

Germany - Flieger

Performed by
Nino de Angelo
Language
German

I don’t dislike it as much as a lot of other people do. Sure, it’s very generic, and barely leaves any impression on me, but I always enjoy it in the moment. The little bit of drama definitely helps it stand out.

Yugoslavia - Rock Me

Performed by
Riva
Language
Croatian

HOORAY! Yugoslavia won! Did they deserve it with this song? Yeah, I’d say they did. It isn’t as good as a lot of other Yugoslav entries, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. This definitely benefitted from its running order, closing the show after seven ballads in a row (Moldova had the same effect in 2022, when they came after 11 ballads in a row).

But yeah, I think it was a deserving winner, even if it isn’t my winner. It’s fairly simple and accessible, has a strong, memorable performance and, most importantly, a strong English hook repeated all throughout the song. Yugoslavia figured out the formula all the way back in 1987, but it took them two years to refine it and here they are, winning.

Basically, there’s nothing wrong with being a bit basic if you know what you’re doing.

Results

Can I pick two winners this year? No? The rules I set for myself don’t allow me to do that? Damn. Well, I guess I’ll have to pick the song I return to more often, but I have a shared winner this year in my heart.

  1. Denmark - Vi maler byen rød
  2. Finland - La dolce vita
  3. Belgium - Door de wind
  4. Sweden - En dag
  5. Portugal - Conquistador
  6. United Kingdom - Why Do I Always Get It Wrong
  7. Yugoslavia - Rock Me
  8. Switzerland - Viver senza tei
  9. Austria - Nur ein Lied
  10. Turkey - Bana Bana
  11. Italy - Avrei voluto
  12. Luxembourg - Monsieur
  13. Spain - Nacida para amar
  14. Greece - To diko sou asteri
  15. Netherlands - Blijf zoals je bent
  16. Germany - Flieger
  17. Cyprus - Apopse as vrethoume
  18. Norway - Venners nærhet
  19. Iceland - Það sem enginn sér
  20. France - J’ai volé la vie
  21. Ireland - The Real Me
  22. Israel - Derekh Hamelekh

Winners

  • Austria - 1 (1965)
  • Belgium - 1 (1961)
  • Denmark - 2 (1963, 1989)
  • Finland - 2 (1974, 1985)
  • France - 4 (1969, 1976, 1977, 1979)
  • Germany - 3 (1957, 1972, 1978)
  • Israel - 1 (1988)
  • Italy - 2 (1958, 1983)
  • Luxembourg - 3 (1956, 1964, 1973)
  • Monaco - 2 (1968, 1970)
  • Netherlands - 1 (1959)
  • Norway - 1 (1966)
  • Portugal - 2 (1967, 1984)
  • Spain - 2 (1971, 1982)
  • Sweden - 2 (1962, 1980)
  • Switzerland - 2 (1981, 1986)
  • Turkey - 1 (1975)
  • United Kingdom - 1 (1960)
  • Yugoslavia - 1 (1987)

Conclusion

This was a much better year than any other year since 1983. It seems like a lot of the countries actually tried and sent something that wasn’t terrible, so good on them. Also, I really like the stage this year, which isn’t a very popular opinion, but the entry from Yugoslavia is elevated a lot by it. And the hosts were pretty good too - maybe a bit too formal and slightly too talkative, but still pretty likeable and charming.

I have no idea how the EBU approved this interval act with shooting an actual live crossbow, but it worked out, so meh, clearly there wasn’t anything to worry about. And it was great entertainment, much better than a pre-filmed insert or a basic musical number. Still, I don’t think I’d let anyone shoot an apple on my head, that’s a bit much for me. But again, it worked out, so perhaps there was nothing to worry about.

The voting was pretty good too, very scattered, which means there wasn’t a single standout entry (which is true, there wasn’t). This has always led to and will always lead to voting that feels like the juries are rolling dice.

But all this means is that I’ll see you for the only (and hopefully last) time Eurovision was hosted in a socialist country.