Eurovision Song Contest 1991 Review

I wanted to do this review before Eurovision 2024, but alas. Netherlands decided to skip because the contest clashed with Remembrance Day, so Malta was allowed to enter (they’ve been trying to do so for a couple of years by this point, but the EBU capped the participants to 22 all the way back in 1986).

Preface

Well, this is the year of one and only Toto Cutugno. He proudly puts himself first, ahead of his co-host Gigliola Cinquetti. He’s brash, loud and annoying and can’t speak either English or French to save his life (which is weird since he was a huge international star for many years by this point, surely he must’ve learned to speak at least one of those languages).

Thankfully, the performers are here to save the day by bringing in some absolutely amazing songs. I’m absolutely dreading to pick my winner because there are five candidates for that title for me, so we’ll see how I feel right now.

(Seriously though, I actually really like his year, it’s extremely memorable - maybe for the wrong reasons, but memorable nonetheless).

But before before we move to the songs, we have an introduction to get through. First, we get a pre-filmed insert with some contemporary (and English-language) music played on top, which I actually find pretty nice. On the other hand, everything afterwards is too self-indulgent for me, Toto reprises Insieme from the previous year, after which Gigliola reprises Non ho l’eta, but Toto still forces himself into that and makes it a duet, ugh. Dude, just lay off and let her have her moment. That said, it’s a nice duet and their voices match really well - and Gigliola finally got her solo moment in 2022.

After a lot more talking (as someone used to Sanremo’s pacing, I don’t actually find this too irritating - this is just how Italians are), we finally get to the first song, hooray.

Songs

Yugoslavia - Brazil

Performed by
Baby Doll
Language
Serbian

And to start an iconic mess of a year, we have this iconic mess of a performance. Is her singing any good? No, not really, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. In a way, this is the opposite of the previous year’s Yugoslav entry - that one was a fairly average song with a great performance and this is a much more interesting song, but a much worse performance.

But I have to say, the Jugovizija performance was much better (especially her costume, they should’ve kept it - but I’m not the fashion police, so I don’t really care about fashion). Not the arrangement though, I think the final one is more interesting.

Iceland - Nína

Performed by
Stefán and Eyfi
Language
Icelandic

Nevermind, I do care about fashion. Hello, fashion police? Yeah, please bring me an emergency Barbara Dex award (and also arrest these people for crimes against fashion). Purple and turquoise don’t go together at all - and the jackets the female backing singers are wearing are dreadful.

The song itself isn’t that bad honestly. The piano is pretty lovely, though I’m not entirely sold on their vocals.

Malta - Could It Be

Performed by
Paul Giordimaina and Georgina
Language
English

Malta has been trying to enter Eurovision for a while by this point, but they’ve always been denied entry because the EBU set the maximum number of participants to 22, but because the Netherlands skipped, they were allowed to enter (but just as a one-off). It honestly baffles me that the EBU didn’t think of a solution to this issue before, the USSR was expressing some interest, Hungary and Poland were considering a participation as well, Monaco and Morocco were former contestants that could’ve returned. Would it have killed the EBU to consider a solution to a growing number of countries interested in Eurovision before it became a problem? Well, clearly yes because they left their homework until it was due, implemented a slew of different(ly bad) solutions until finally settling on the current system in 2008. Jesus Christ, EBU. For now, their solution was to increase the limit to 23 countries for 1992.

Ok, enough ranting about the EBU, let’s talk about the song. I think it’s amazing, though that’s a pretty new thing. When I first heard it, I didn’t think much of it, but it really grew on me with every listen. It’s got a wonderful piano intro (I think you all know that I love pianos, I haven’t exactly tried to hide it). And, while I can’t say that something is a 7th diminished chord or whatever, I can tell an interesting progression apart from a boring one. This song is firmly on the “interesting chord progression” side for me, which makes it very stimulating to listen to. I’m also completely in love with the pauses in the instrumental while they sing the “won’t you just call me” line before each chorus because when it starts back, it just hits me every time. And the singers harmonise really well. I feel like I’m insane, but why isn’t this talked about more?

If they had the Marcel Bezençon awards in 1991, this probably could’ve won the Composer Award.

Greece - Anixi

Performed by
Sophia Vossou
Language
Greek

I have to applaud Sophia’s restraint because I would’ve stopped performing after the butchered saxophone solo and beat the saxophonist with his sax. This is one of a few songs the orchestra will ruthlessly murder tonight, which is such a shame because I absolutely love this song in the studio. I also love Sophia’s powerful voice, the composition and the rest of the orchestra’s performance (the strings in the intro to each verse are just great). But I can’t really ignore the sax solo. But I’ll say, placing this 13th was a daylight robbery.

Switzerland - Canzone per te

Performed by
Sandra Simó
Language
Italian

It isn’t bad at all, but also isn’t very great - it’s merely pretty good. Sandra has a nice voice, the chorus is fairly rousing, the verses are a bit ballady - it just all around competently executed.

Austria - Venedig im Regen

Performed by
Thomas Forstner
Language
German

The key change at the end is extremely unnecessary and annoys me every time I hear it (I have no idea why this one annoys me more than a lot of other key changes), but it’s otherwise not that bad, definitely not deserving of nul points. But I’ll admit that it isn’t particularly interesting either (and also sung in German, which the juries tend to dislike).

Luxembourg - Un baiser volé

Performed by
Sarah Bray
Language
French

On the other hand, this is a less interesting ballad sung in French, which the juries like, so it scored higher than Austria.

Sweden - Fångad av en stormvind

Performed by
Carola
Language
Swedish

And finally, we have what might be the most controversial winner and my opinion on it is… that… I… love it! Yes, I think this was a completely deserved winner. I made a post some time ago that a key change after a bridge is one of my favourite song tropes and I stand by it, something about it makes every neuron in my brain dance around. It’s extremely memorable and perfectly represents the schlager genre and Swedish music. I also have to give huge props to the backing dancers since it must be difficult to dance in formal wear.

There was a technical fault that caused her to not be heard by the audience in the hall, but didn’t affect the broadcast, so she didn’t have to perform again. You can also see her look at the conductor in confusion when that happens, but she carries on regardless.

France - C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison

Performed by
Amina
Language
French

And here’s another outstanding performance and oh my god how will I ever choose a winner. Carola was energetic, but this is more introspective and mysterious. I absolutely love the atmosphere Amina creates while she performs the song. And I also love the wordless singing she does, but that’s something I generally tend to enjoy. Honestly, it’s hard for me to say what part of this appeals to me exactly, there isn’t one specific element I can point to and say “a-ha, that’s the best part”. It’s simply a well-rounded, harmonious package where every part comes together to boost every other part.

Turkey - İki Dakika

Performed by
Can Uğurluer, İzel Çeliköz and Reyhan Karaca
Language
Turkish

Oh my god, Toto, just stop for a second. The title is pronounced pretty much how it’s written.

Anyway, this reminds me of Sonntag from 1982 a lot. And I don’t mean that they’ve plagiarised it, but it’s still a very similar melody (the only difference being that this is about 1000x better). It’s a flashy, upbeat, Nordic-ish pop song with a hook everyone can sing and remember. If it wasn’t sung in Turkish, I could easily believe that this came from Denmark.

Ireland - Could It Be That I’m in Love

Performed by
Kim Jackson
Language
English

I feel bad picking on Ireland in almost every one of my reviews, but I just can’t with them. This is just so dull and uninteresting - both lyrically and musically. And her vocal performance sounds very strained too.

Portugal - Lusitana paixão

Performed by
Dulce
Language
Portuguese

Despite being about fado, this isn’t a fado song. Instead, it’s a fairly average power ballad (though it has a nice harmonica). The vocal performance is certainly outstanding, though I can’t say I find it particularly appealing to me - besides the parts with the harmonica, which I’ve already mentioned. And I’m glad that this scored well, Portugal has always been criminally underrated.

Denmark - Lige der hvor hjertet slår

Performed by
Anders Frandsen
Language
Danish

This was, well, not exactly robbed, but it definitely deserved better. There’s something warm and cozy about this song and his performance (plus I’m a bit of a sucker for piano ballads - as I’ve mentioned countless times before). To be honest, I’ve been slowly getting tired of upbeat Nordic dance songs anyway (granted, I’ve worn out a lot of them by listening to them on repeat), so this is a nice change of pace.

Norway - Mrs. Thompson

Performed by
Just 4 Fun
Language
Norwegian

This is the only time Norway has selected a song internally (because the quality of the submissions wasn’t good enough according to NRK) and it’s kinda baffling that they went with this. It certainly isn’t bad - it’s actually quite fun and upbeat, but it isn’t good either. And the poor orchestration doesn’t help either, the studio version is much nicer. But even if the orchestra was perfect, the performance is a bit of a mess, especially the part where they start to “oooh-woooah”. Mostly it just confuses me that this was an internal selection - especially since they rejected an entry that would come second a couple years later (but more on that when we get to it).

Israel - Kan

Performed by
Duo Datz
Language
Hebrew

Now here’s an entry with a great sense of build up (and build up is something I love in music). It’s noticeably calmer than a lot of Israeli entries up to this point, but that doesn’t mean it lacks energy. It still follows the same Israeli dance formula fans (and me) are so fond of, just in a more subdued way. And I don’t know about others, but I definitely prefer it this way.

Finland - Hullu yö

Performed by
Kaija
Language
Finnish

Aw yeah, this is really nice. It sounds very characteristically Finnish and I really like the contrast between the slow verses and the more upbeat chorus. The transition is a bit abrupt, but not in an off-putting way. I also really like the electric guitar all throughout the song, it makes this into a very lovely rock ballad. And the outro is pretty well-executed as well, I like that it doesn’t just end abruptly.

Germany - Dieser Traum darf niemals sterben

Performed by
Atlantis 2000
Language
German

I really like the trumpet solo in this, but otherwise this sounds like something that could’ve been written by Ralph Siegel. I can’t say it’s bad, it’s still competent, but it isn’t particularly interesting either.

Belgium - Geef het op

Performed by
Clouseau
Language
Dutch

This is neither here nor there. It’s got a fun hook (the hook is “geef het op”, as the title says), but it also lacks any sort of progression. And it also ends very abruptly, which kinda sucks, I wish it had a better outro.

Spain - Bailar pegados

Performed by
Sergio Dalma
Language
Spanish

Ok, this is actually a rather lovely power ballad. Sergio has a nice, strong voice, there’s a nice sense of progression, but I just fail to click with it, which is always a risk with ballads: you just never know if one’s going to click or not. Sadly, this one doesn’t, but it clearly did click with the juries and scored 4th place (and, just like with Portugal, I won’t complain about it because I’m just happy for Spain, who haven’t had much luck).

United Kingdom - A Message to Your Heart

Performed by
Samantha Janus
Language
English

You know what this reminds me of? Doctor in Distress. Both are quite horrible fauxctivism songs, except this one is supposedly about a serious topic. It feels totally inauthentic with its pumping 80s sound and horrendous lyrics (“Say a little prayer and sleep tonight”? Really? Maybe actually do something?) and just kinda makes me annoyed every time I hear it. And the sad this is that I probably could’ve liked it if they just completely threw out the lyrics and rewrote them to be about a more mundane topic.

Cyprus - S.O.S.

Performed by
Elena Patroklou
Language
Greek

It’s nice to get a good activism song after a bad activism song to prove that it’s something that can be done well. I definitely believe her more than Samantha. Unfortunately, it’s also quite dull.

Italy - Comme è ddoce ‘o mare

Performed by
Peppino di Capri
Language
Neapolitan

There was a huge cheer for Peppino before his performance, you just love to hear it.

First of all, this is Italy’s only entry not in Italian (or a combination of Italian and English). We could’ve had another Neapolitan entry in 2024 if Sanremo was televote-only, but I’m glad La Noia went instead (even if it scored “only” 7th place).

But let’s talk about the song - it’s great. It has a great flow to it, without any abrupt or weird changes that kill my interest in the song. It feels both waltzy and jazzy and was definitely designed to take full advantage of the orchestra (and wasn’t just a synthpop song half-assedly adapted to one). It’s just so classy and lovely, it’s hard to dislike this. Again, I don’t really have any specific reasons for why it appeals to me, it just does.

Results

For the longest time, I used to consider Greece as my clear winner, but I’ve finally changed my mind. Therefore, here are my new rankings.

  1. Malta - Could It Be
  2. Greece - Anixi
  3. Israel - Kan
  4. Sweden - Fångad av en stormvind
  5. France - C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison
  6. Turkey - İki Dakika
  7. Italy - Comme è ddoce ‘o mare
  8. Yugoslavia - Brazil
  9. Denmark - Lige der hvor hjertet slår
  10. Switzerland - Canzone per te
  11. Finland - Hullu yö
  12. Norway - Mrs. Thompson
  13. Austria - Venedig im Regen
  14. Belgium - Geef het op
  15. Iceland - Nína
  16. Cyprus - S.O.S.
  17. Spain - Bailar pegados
  18. Germany - Dieser Traum darf niemals sterben
  19. Portugal - Lusitana paixão
  20. Luxembourg - Un baiser volé
  21. United Kingdom - A Message to Your Heart
  22. Ireland - Could It Be That I’m in Love

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)
  • Malta - 1 (1991)
  • 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)

So, yeah, Malta has made it to the winner list instead of any of the fan favourites. Surprised? Well, I am too, but I think it’s more than deserved.

Conclusion

This was an absolutely lovely year, there were so many great, memorable songs. And this all was topped off by a really cool interval act - a drag queen singing opera with orchestral accompaniment. It reminded me a lot of the 1973 interval act for some reason.

The voting sequence was absolutely iconic for multiple reasons. Of course, we had a very close race between Sweden and France which resulted in a tie for only the second (and last) time ever. But also, Toto just simply couldn’t conduct the voting procedure and made blunder after blunder after blunder. But honestly, as someone who watches Sanremo every year, this is kinda how Sanremo is - the Italians just don’t take stuff too seriously and just go with the flow. Maybe that’s why I mostly find this year charming and hilarious instead of awful as so many other people do. But it was clearly not the right way to host an international event. My award for the most iconic voting sequence flop goes to Toto making funny faces and missing the Luxembourgish spokesperson’s announcement of the one point and just asking “Eh????” with a confused face.

In any case, I’ll see you in Malmö for a much calmer and professional year.