Eurovision Song Contest 1990 Review

So sorry for not making any reviews lately, I was busy with my master’s thesis. But now I’m finished with it and ready for writing more. We’re entering the 90s, a new decade, widely considered to be the best Eurovision decade. We’ll see if this really is so (I already have my opinions on this, but no spoilers).

No changes in the lineup this time around, the same 22 countries that took part in 1989 are taking part, which is the last time this has ever happened. Let’s see if everyone brought their A game or if some countries participated simply because they felt obligated to.

Preface

Woooo, Yugoslavia won it and we’re in Zagreb this time. We open the year with Terry Wogan, as always, snarking instead of actually being helpful. We also get a pre-filmed insert about Zagreb, which is nice. But most importantly, Eurocat! The official Eurovision mascot (that sadly didn’t get reused - let’s hope Croatia brings it back for 2025 if Baby Lasagna wins in 2024).

After that, our hosts, Helga Vlahović (you’ll probably remember her for being the spokesperson for Yugoslavia in 1981), who speaks English, and Oliver Mlakar, who speaks French. They have an air of uncomfortableness around them, they’re a bit stilted, but still nice and warm. After talking for a bit, the songs are ready to start. I have to say, I definitely prefer quick starts like this.

Songs

Spain - Bandido

Language
Spanish
Performed by
Azúcar Moreno

Yeah, yeah, technical issues, I don’t care. The song is a proper banger! I have to agree with Terry Wogan, nobody but Spain could’ve sent this song. It’s flamenco, but way more accessible than the 1983 attempt. That one made me want to plug my ears, but this one makes me want to shake my body. It’s just all-around well-made, though it lacks some “wow” moment for me to say “yeah, this is the best thing ever”.

And I definitely have to give them props for handling the technical issues this well.

Greece - Horis skopo

Language
Greek
Performed by
Christos Callow

Yeah, this is pretty dull. He has a decent voice and the instrumental is alright, but still, yawn.

Belgium - Macédomienne

Language
French
Performed by
Philippe Lafontaine

This is actually really well-executed. It’s understated and mellow, but not sad. There’s a little drop of drama and it actually feels like it’s going somewhere. And the lyrics are rather beautiful as well, they’re about the singer (and composer, and songwriter)’s wife, who’s from Macedonia. It could’ve been too saccharine, but instead it’s just sweet.

But, once again, I have to agree with Terry Wogan, the abrupt ending feels really unsatisfying, which is a shame.

Turkey - Gözlerinin Hapsindeyim

Language
Turkish
Performed by
Kayahan

I love how laid-back and pleasant this feels. After a series of pretty hectic entries (that I mostly liked), it’s nice to hear something mellower from Turkey. It’s very chill and vibey and exactly the kind of song I’d listen to on my own. I also love the accordion, but then, I love accordions in general.

Netherlands - Ik wil alles met je delen

Language
Dutch
Performed by
Maywood

It’s a bit typical for a power ballad, but still pretty good. The singer has a nice, strong voice and the song manages to set a good feeling of melancholy and has a very nice sense of progression and a great, memorable ending with a lot of percussion. I like that it’s all in minor key, which makes it stand out from typical power ballads.

Luxembourg - Quand je te rêve

Language
French
Performed by
Céline Carzo

Ok, I actually really like this. The song is just really well-made in my opinion and doesn’t just stay in the same place. It starts out as a power ballad (I have to say, Céline’s voice is really suited to this sort of song), but then shifts into a brighter, mildly rock-ish style at the end.

…is what I would’ve said if they’d sent the studio version to ESC. But since the original song was four minutes long, they just cut off the final minute and sent that instead. I find that decision baffling and it’s a big shame because it could’ve been really good. I really recommend watching this edit which shows that they could’ve cut it down much better.

Still, even with this in mind, it’s decent.

United Kingdom - Give a Little Love Back to the World

Language
English
Performed by
Emma

On the other hand, this is really dull, both lyrically and performance-wise. Worse than that, it’s the kind of dull that doesn’t even lend itself to any kind of roasts. Sorry, Emma, but this is not it at all.

Iceland - Eitt lag enn

Language
Icelandic
Performed by
Stjórnin

This is what getting zero points can do to a country - they rethink their approach and send an absolute banger. And sure, this isn’t the be-all-end-all Nordic dance entry, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like this, absolutely not. I’m always happy to listen to this and it’s definitely the best Icelandic entry so far.

Norway - Brandenburger Tor

Language
Norwegian
Performed by
Ketil Stokkan

This isn’t as strong as Romeo, his 1986 entry, at least in my opinion. It also repeats the chorus way too many times, which already repeats the title way too much. But honestly, I don’t mind this at all, it feels very celebratory and I’m all here for it. It’s honestly one of the most undeserved last places, at least in my opinion.

Israel - Shara Barkhovot

Language
Hebrew
Performed by
Rita

Honestly, this probably deserved a better result. I know that this isn’t the most accessibe song (in fact, I’d probably compare it to Quien Maneja Mi Barca), but there’s something really enjoyable about this. I think it’s the passionate performance that makes it for me, even if some might say she’s just screaming.

Denmark - Hallo Hallo

Language
Danish
Performed by
Lonnie Devantier

This is just more of the same upbeat Nordic dance music that I always like a lot, so nobody should be surprised that I liked this as well. Lonnie’s performance isn’t very confident, but she still has enough charm to carry the performance for me.

Switzerland - Musik klingt in die Welt hinaus

Language
German
Performed by
Egon Egemann

Now this is really great actually. Egon has an amazing smooth voice and I love the violin here. To some people, it might sound messy, but I think it actually all comes together nicely. Musical instruments being used to mimic lyrics is one of my favourite tropes (for example, the piano in Gloria by Umberto Tozzi) and this song uses this trope to its full potential.

And honestly, it isn’t just the song, it’s the performance as well. Egon looks extremely happy to be taking part and it shows in his behaviour on stage because he makes it impossible to dislike this.

Germany - Frei zu leben

Language
German
Performed by
Chris Kempers and Daniel Kovac

Germanyyyyyyyyyyy, pleaseeeeeeeeeeee, start sending more upbeat songs. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s pretty uninteresting. I suppose the singers have nice voices at least.

France - White and Black Blues

Language
French
Performed by
Joëlle Ursull

While this song is as un-Eurovision-y as possible (it’s exotic and complex, not particularly accessible, and not in a language or genre most people are familiar with), it scored really well with the juries and I couldn’t be happier about it because it all just comes together. In this case, being different is good because it’s executed well.

For me, the instrumentation is what makes this song. It’s mostly drums (there’s even a drum break in the middle) and other percussive instruments, which creates a sound we’ve never really heard in Eurovision before and I would’ve been heartbroken if the juries put this in the bottom five. Luckily, this (together with Spain scoring very well_ proves that the juries are indeed open to more exotic music in Eurovision.

Yugoslavia - Hajde da ludujemo

Language
Serbo-Croatian
Performed by
Tajči

CHO-KO-LA-DA! Now, this is what I call a banger. It’s actually a pretty simple song, completely unlike the one that came before it. It doesn’t reach for the stars or try something new, but it does perfectly execute its formula and I’m all here for it. In my opinion, it deserved to score way higher than it did and I’m very happy it became such a fan favourite.

Portugal - Há sempre alguém

Language
Portuguese
Performed by
Nucha

This isn’t bad, but also isn’t interesting in any way. There’s honestly not much to say here, I wouldn’t turn it off, but I never seek it out on purpose.

Ireland - Somewhere in Europe

Language
English
Performed by
Liam Reilly

His pronunciation of Champs-Elysée has always irked me, but this is really good otherwise. I know that some might deride it as a boring ballad, but I really feel his conviction about what he’s singing, which helps me to connect with the song a lot. And the constant name-dropping of places does become a bit old, but I think he managed to avoid it becoming too irritating.

Sweden - Som en vind

Language
Swedish
Performed by
Edin-Ådahl

Oh my god, Sweden, why is this so dull? Again, I don’t have anything to say about this, except that the key change feels too abrupt and annoys me (I’m so glad key changes have fallen out of favour).

Italy - Insieme: 1992

Language
Italian
Performed by
Toto Cutugno

An, here’s a winner I actually agree with. Everyone knows Toto Cutugno of course, he’s probably the biggest artist to have taken part in Eurovision, so him winning makes perfect sense. While this is far from the best songs in his repertoire (especially not the cut down live version), it makes sense that it won anyway since it really is the best anthem about European unity this year. He delivers it with true conviction (of course, why wouldn’t he, he wrote it himself).

It’s one of those songs where I really don’t have any nitpicks. It’s simply executed perfectly.

Austria - Keine Mauern mehr

Language
German
Performed by
Simone

Now here’s a style you don’t hear often from German-speaking countries: an upbeat pop song. I have to say, I’m all here for it, it has a nice energy to it, though Simone is a bit too breathy at times. Still, I wish Austria (and Germany) sent more songs like this.

Cyprus - Milas poli

Language
Greek
Performed by
Anastasiou

Now this is rather well-done. It’s definitely the most elaborate choreography of the year (and easily the worst costumes as well - where’s Barbara Dex when you need her), which makes it quite memorable. As a song, it’s rather middling, but I still like it decently well.

Finland - Fri?

Language
Swedish
Performed by
Beat

Well, and here we have one of only two times Finland sung in Swedish (I wonder why they never tried it before, it seems like an obvious thing to try to solve their Eurovision woes). Sadly, it isn’t particularly interesting and I can see why it tied for last - it just isn’t memorable at all.

Results

  1. Italy - Insieme: 1992
  2. France - White and Black Blues
  3. Switzerland - Musik klingt in die Welt hinaus
  4. Yugoslavia - Hajde da ludujemo
  5. Spain - Bandido
  6. Turkey - Gözlerinin Hapsindeyim
  7. Ireland - Somewhere in Europe
  8. Belgium - Macédomienne
  9. Iceland - Eitt lag enn
  10. Austria - Keine Mauern mehr
  11. Denmark - Hallo Hallo
  12. Cyprus - Milas poli
  13. Netherlands - Ik wil alles met je delen
  14. Norway - Brandenburger Tor
  15. Israel - Shara Barkhovot
  16. Luxembourg - Quand je te rêve
  17. Germany - Frei zu leben
  18. Finland - Fri?
  19. United Kingdom - Give a Little Love Back to the World
  20. Portugal - Há sempre alguém
  21. Sweden - Som en vind
  22. Greece - Horis skopo

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 - 3 (1958, 1983, 1990)
  • 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)

Yup, agreeing with the real winner here, which doesn’t happen very often for me. But Insieme is just too amazing for me to disagree.

Conclusion

This was a pretty good year, at least in my opinion. Sure, there were few standouts, but I think the average quality was pretty strong. That can’t be said about the dull interval act though, which is certainly a contender for the most uninteresting interval act ever. It’s also why I always rewatch this year with Wogan’s commentary because his interview with Emma during it is actually quite sweet (his comment that he “hasn’t heard a peep out of the 1988 winner” has aged really poorly though lmao).

As for the voting, Italy got to the lead from the first set of votes and never really gave it up, though the rest of the votes were very scattered, with France and Ireland getting the joint second place after all.

Next up, an unforgettable host and an unforgettable voting procedure.