Eurovision Song Contest 1997 Review

Ireland, pretending to be completely done with hosting, but actually loving every second of it, decided to host the contest in Dublin yet again, making it the only city that has received the Eurovision Song Contest six times. They even used the same venue as in 1994 and 1995. This time, only three countries were forced to miss this out: Belgium, Finland and Slovakia and five countries returned: Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Russia. Also, a little spoiler: this is my favourite year of the 20th century and second favourite year overall, so I’m excited to dive right in.


Welcome! To Dublin! The Irish are hosting it again and, in my opinion, they’ve really outdone themselves! The show has an even fresher and more professional than ever, especially with the stage being as it is (and the first appearance of headset microphones). We open with a montage of people appearing on TVs and wishing good luck to everyone, after which we transition into a CGI montage of the stage appearing, which also quickly transitions into an actual fly-over of the stage with some funky lighting as Terry Wogan snarks a little bit about everything, as he usually did, though this was back when he was still mostly kind about it and not bitter.

Quite quickly after this, we get introduced to our hosts: Carrie Crowley and Ronan Keating, who greet us all in Irish, French and English, as Irish hosts always did. Interestingly enough, they start with English this time, not Irish.

Also, televoting! Televoting, televoting, televoting! Televoting is here to save the contest. After the public’s favourite coming a disappointing 8th last year, the EBU decided to finally give normal people a voice too and brought in televoting. This year, it’s on a trial basis with only five countries using it: Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Sadly, this year also brought in the worst iteration of the relegation system. It was now based on an average score over the previous contests, so if a country scored poorly, they’d have that hanging over them for the next 5 years. How fun! But also, the requirement to mime the instruments on the backing track has been dropped, so all delegations have a completely free choice between using a full backing track, a full live orchestra, playing the instruments live on stage or miming them (or any combination thereof), which will bring in a lot of chaos as everyone will change their minds at the last possible second. The days of the orchestra are now numbered.

In any case, after a little bit more talking from the hosts (who are so much more charming than the previous year’s hosts, it’s crazy), we move onto the songs in just 7 minutes instead of 12 as in 1996, thank god. Unfortunately, we’re about to enter the era of very long opening acts, so let’s enjoy nice brief introductions while we can. With that said, let’s move to the songs.


Cyprus - Mana mou

Performed by
Hara and Andreas Konstantinou

Now this is what I call an opener. It really sets the mood and gets everyone’s moods properly set for the rest of the night. And there’s hardly anything to fault here: the combination of ethnic and electronic music works really well (and will become more and more popular as time goes on), the singers work really well together and it’s just all-around fun, well done, Cyprus. Fifth place for this was well-deserved, even in a strong year like this.

Turkey - Dinle

Performed by
Şebnem Paker and Grup Etnic

Şebnem is back from 1996 with a song that suits her talent much more. Usually, I hate songs that are vocal showoffs, but luckily, this isn’t one. Yes, she does get to show off her voice, but it’s also a really good song, which is why it doesn’t bother me at all, I guess. The instrumentation is brilliant: it has a lot of nice progression by adding instruments and changing the melody instead of just changing keys when the viewer gets bored. In fact, this doesn’t have a single key change and thank god for that, I think that the best number of key changes is usually zero.

A little more about the instrumentation: it’s really ethnic, which means this is the second ethnic-sounding song in a row. Greece, Turkey and Cyprus have slowly figured out that the best way to score a good result is to sound ethnic and send music that sounds like their music. Even western countries would join in on the ethnicbaiting at times in the 2000s, with varying success.

I’m also really happy for Turkey getting a good result out of nowhere. Most of the time, predictions are based on the country’s previous track record (we can see that with Latvia being last in the odds to qualify in 2024 and yet managing to do it safely anyway), so good on Turkey for smashing expectations. I don’t even think that Turkey getting 12p from Germany is strictly diaspora voting, after all, it got 12 points from two other countries as well, and they used juries. I just think that it’s a great song that actually transcends language barriers.

Norway - San Francisco

Performed by
Tor Endresen

Another landmark: this is the 750th entry performed at Eurovision. Let’s see if this number was lucky for Norway.

And the answer is no, it wasn’t at all. After having a streak of really great songs, Norway decided to have a year off and sent whatever this is supposed to be. My god, this is so dull, it’s insane. I can feel my brain withering away with every note that enters my ear, it’s so bad. It’s just some vaguely American-inspired dross (always my pet peeve in Eurovision, it isn’t Americavision after all) that has nothing to offer either musically or lyrically. Couple that with Tor being a pretty poor singer (though he does have a bit of an everyman charm, I have to give him that), as well as name-dropping American cities and people feeling insanely annoying (and not just that, he drops the phrase “man on the moon” in the middle of a song that always annoys me a lot) and you’ve got an irritating and unmemorable package that got every point it deserved.

Austria - One Step

Performed by
Bettina Soriat

And here we have it: the first time an entry didn’t feature any live music at all. The orchestra wasn’t used at all, and soon, most songs would be performed like that. Is that a bad thing? In some cases, yes, but, controversially, I don’t think Eurovision suffered a lot from the removal of the orchestra, but more on that later.

The song is pretty fun. It’s super 90s, and the choreography is definitely very advanced for 90s Eurovision. Plus it helps that they’re very likeable performers, so it’s hard to complain about anything here. Though Bettina does seems like she got a little winded from the dance routine, which is always a possibility with having a lot of choreo. And pre-recorded backing vocals are still over 20 years from being allowed, which meant that the singers actually had to be able to sing.

Ireland - Mysterious Woman

Performed by
Marc Roberts

Surprisingly, this was fully performed to a backing track, eschewing the orchestra as well, even though it doesn’t sound like that.

I actually think this is pretty good! Well, not 2nd place good, but good regardless. The verses are pretty nice and minimalistic and have a lovely piano accompaniment, though the chorus is way more generic and nowhere near as interesting. It’s really only thanks to Marc being a good performer that this scored so well, and I don’t just mean his voice. Ballads require a performer you can connect with, and I think that I definitely feel what he’s feeling when singing this.

Slovenia - Zbudi se

Performed by
Tanja Ribič

Just like with Poland last year, only a Slavic country could’ve sent this. It’s got a lovely minimalistic instrumental and some nice singing. Unfortunately, Tanja’s singing isn’t as clear as of the previous Slovene entrants, so picking up every word is a bit of a struggle, although I can pick out enough words to not have to resort to looking up lyrics online (I don’t revisit this enough to have memorised it). But basically, it’s a fairytale song about a little girl waiting for her prince to wake up and find her.

I do think that it needed a couple more passes to be properly great. The audience starts clapping too early because it sounds like an outro, but it;s actually just a lead into the actual outro, which sounds like the composer ran out of time before the submission deadline. I don’t think it’s a big issue, I still really like the song, but I just wish that it was just a little bit better.

Switzerland - Dentro di me

Performed by
Barbara Berta

I feel like I’ve head a song like this 100 times before. And I’d probably enjoy it, especially early on since it has a lovely piano that was a bit louder than Barbara’s voice, so I could mostly ignore it. Unfortunately, the chorus adds an extremely annoying trumpet that completely spoils my enjoyment of this. Add to this the fact that Barbara isn’t a very good singer (in fact, she’s a pretty bad one - alternately breathy and shouty) and you’ve got a pretty unenjoyable song, which is a shame because it could’ve been pretty nice.

Netherlands - Niemand heeft nog tijd

Performed by
Mrs. Einstein

Is this messy? Yes, very, it really doesn’t have a lot of structure. But (there’s always a but), it’s a lot of fun. I especially like the strings here, they make the song sound very hectic, which fits the theme. But again, I just wish it had some more time in the oven, it sounds quite unfinished. But I still like it, even if I probably shouldn’t.

Italy - Fiumi di parole

Performed by

And here we finally are, the last Italian entry before their long absence for the rest of the 90s and all of the 2000s (as well as 2010). Italy has never had much interest in Eurovision since the early days and, in fact, this is the first time a Sanremo winner has gone to Eurovision since 1972, which should explain why this is so good: it actually won a big contest against a bunch of other great songs. Why did they go to Eurovision? Well, simple: Italy qualified for the final because of new relegation rules by accident and didn’t inform the EBU that they were going to withdraw (if they did, then Slovakia would’ve been allowed to participate instead). So they just asked the Sanremo winner to go to Eurovision and Jalisse agreed.

There’s also a bit of conspiracy around this: Jalisse themselves said that RAI rigged the vote so that they don’t win, which is honestly total bs. Their biggest argument is that the Maltese jury - Italy’s biggest voting partner - didn’t give them a single point, though knowing how corrupt the Maltese jury was at the time, it doesn’t surprise me, they probably got paid by 10 other countries to vote for them.

As for the song, I think it’s gorgeous. It sounds very rich, but also ethereal, mainly because of Alessandra’s vocal performance, but also because of a great rock-like instrumental. I’d say this is a song where both verses and choruses are equally memorable and great in its own way. I also like Fabio’s singing as well, it’s a lot less flashy than Alessandra’s, but it complements it well.

Spain - Sin rencor

Performed by
Marcos Llunas

Even as someone who likes ballads, I find this one to be rather dull. It just has a bunch of key changes in lieu of actual progression and a pretty uninteresting instrumental overall. At least Marcos is a good singer, so I can’t be too mad at this scoring well.

Germany - Zeit

Performed by
Bianca Shomburg

Surprisingly, this wasn’t accompanied by the orchestra either, but it’s understandable - Germany was on an anti-orchestra bend lately and wanted to show everyone that you could just use a backing track for a song that would’ve normally used an orchestra. Honestly, I think it was a bit of a mistake, this would’ve sounded better with an orchestra. But even though, it’s pretty nice actually. It doesn’t have the vibes of those sappy, cheesy peace ballads Germany used to send: just like Germany’s 1993 entry, it’s a rather pleasant take on a ballad. My only wish would be for Bianca to be a little quieter, her voice is sometimes a bit too loud. But the backing singers are really good and add a lot to this when they harmonise. Overall, this is a good effort from Germany, I definitely enjoy this more than most people (though Terry Wogan called it the second best song - after the UK entry, of course - so maybe I’m not the only one).

Poland - Ale jestem

Performed by
Anna Maria Jopek

If I lose my focus a bit, I can almost believe that the first verse is sung in Ukrainian by someone with a speech defect. By that I mean that I can pretty much perfectly understand what she’s singing (but then, Polish is very close to Ukrainian - though there are plenty of words that sound the same, but have different meanings). It’s definitely helped by Anna Maria’s very clear pronunciation as well as me having listened to this about a million times already to the point that I’ve completely memorised the lyrics.

I also like that it has a little bit of a vaguely Celtic vibe, although I wouldn’t say that it’s grounded in one particular style. Instead, it’s just broadly ethnically European, which makes it really interesting and accessible to a wide variety of people, which is really great in my opinion. I feel like it definitely transcends the cultural barriers around the Polish language, which is a great achievement for Poland, they’ve tried their best to send songs that were interesting, diverse and yet accessible to the West without compromising their cultural identity.

Estonia - Keelatud maa

Performed by

I actually really like this, though I feel like I like Maarja more than the song itself. She has a very lovely fragile voice that’s suited really well to this kind of ballad, but then, I usually like ballads. Plus I think it sounds really great in Estonian, I would’ve liked it much less in English. It just has a lovely and calming flow and I can easily see why it scored so well.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Goodbye

Performed by
Alma Čardžić

This is so fun! It has a very fun instrumentation, very effectively combining a backing track and an orchestra. I especially love the “ta-dum"s during the chorus, they’re just so fun, but I also love the verses for being quite minimalistic and mysterious. It does a great job at balancing the melancholy and optimism of the verses and the chorus respectively. Plus it’s memorable as hell, which is always a big plus in my opinion.

And no, Terry, Bosnia didn’t get sympathy votes last year since they only got 13 points and finished second-to-last. You’re just starting to turn into a bitter old man.

Portugal - Antes do adeus

Performed by
Célia Lawson

I feel like I want to like this more than I actually do. I like the call-response section and I like the melody, but this song always slips my mind once I’m done watching this despite actually having this on my playlist for a while. I still find it pleasant, but I’m not surprised at the result at all, it must’ve completely slipped the minds of the juries.

Sweden - Bara hon älskar mig

Performed by

There’s something that reminds me of Diggiloo-diggiley here and it’s not just because Terry Wogan said it. It’s also not just because there are three blond Swedes singing a midtempo pop song, the instrumental is eerily similar to Diggiloo. I even went to check Cookiefonster’s reviews to make sure they aren’t in the same key and I haven’t developed perfect pitch all of a sudden, and no, they aren’t and no, I haven’t. So maybe it’s the beat? I don’t know, I’m actually really bad at all of this.

In any case, it’s a banger. I’ve always kinda liked boybands, so this is right up my alley: it’s nice, fun and likeable. They have good chemistry together, which is important for boybands, ditto for vocals. It’s just an all-around well-crafted entry. It also sounds very Swedish - and not just because of the language. It was an early addition to my playlist and hasn’t left it since.

Greece - Horepse

Performed by
Marianna Zorba

While this lacks some progression, I like the chill mood it has. It really shows that not all ethnic Greek music has to be hectic and dramatic - sometimes you can just breathe in and out a bit and relax. This has also been a mainstay on my playlist for a while and I always enjoy listening to it. It’s just an all-around nice song with strong vocals and a pleasant instrumental.

Malta - Let Me Fly

Performed by
Debbie Scerri

Oh shut up, Terry. “I think it would be better if every song was in English” boo hoo. I strongly disagree, I think it would be better if only 2-3 songs were in English every year, just like it was during the language rule era. Of course, I wouldn’t advocate for a return of the language rule, that would be too unfair, but I’m always happy when a country sends a song in their native language.

Also, this won the Barbara Dex award, really? I mean, the outfit isn’t particularly fashionable, but neither were most outfits in ESC. It’s just a nice dress with a very pretty colour combination.

As for the song, I love it, it’s so mysterious and vibey. I love Debbie’s vocals, she has a voice that’s perfectly suited to an entry like this, it’s deep and mysterious, and her mild accent really improves it and gives it a less clean feel, which I appreciate, I don’t like it when a song feels to sterile.

Hungary - Miért kell, hogy elmenj?

Performed by

I suppose you could copypaste my review of Sweden here because I really don’t know what more to say except that I enjoy the song a tad more, it’s a little more laidback and chill. It just has nice vibes, alright? Plus again, they have a really nice chemistry on stage and harmonise really well. And I can’t say no to some modern pop, we always need some. Though the most modern pop song is yet to come up.

Russia - Primadonna

Performed by
Alla Pugacheva

Sometimes I wonder: who was the biggest artist to do Eurovision at the time of participation. And every time, I manage to narrow it down to three names: Cliff Richard, Toto Cutugno and Alla Pugacheva. All of them have had big and productive careers both before and after Eurovision and their participation is honestly just a footnote for all of them. I suppose Toto is the biggest one of these three as he had a lot of success on either side of the Iron Curtain, while Cliff and Alla were only popular on their own side, but still.

Now, I don’t think this is her best song or anything (probably not even top 5, her 5 best songs, in no specific order, are: Ты Возьми Меня С Собой (Ty Vozmi Menya S Soboy, Take Me With You), Самолёты Улетают (Samolety Uletayut, Planes Fly Away), Фотграф (Photograf, Cameraman), Не Улетай (Ne Uletay, Don’t Fly Away) and Как Тревожен Этот Путь (Kak Trevozhen Etot Put, Oh How Anxious Is This Path). Though none of those would do really well in Eurovision, so I wish she went with something closer to the song she won the Sopot Festival with: Всё Могут Короли (Vsyo Mogut Koroli, Kings Can Do Anything) or the song that started her career: Арлекино (Arlekino, Harequin). I might not be a huge fan of those songs (though I still like them well enough), but I believe either one would’ve done much better.

That said, I still think it’s really good, even for 1997, which is a very strong year. The song lets Alla show off her vocal skills (duh, she wrote and composed it herself, as she almost always did - which is another great thing about her, she composed almost all of her songs, which was actually very controversial at the time). Plus she’s a great performer, which makes sense as she’s been touring and singing live for about 20 years by this point. I definitely think she was a bit underrated, this is really good and very recognisably “Alla Pugacheva”, anyone who’s ever heard one of her other songs would be able to recognise that this is also one of her songs. So, in a way, I’m glad she compromised only a little bit in making this a little bit more theatrical than she usually did.

Also, a little note on her surname. Yes, her surname is correctly written as Пугачёва and the more correct transliteration would be Pugachova. However, most Russian speakers really couldn’t give less of a shit about the letter “ё”. It’s almost never used, most people just replace it with “е” and you’re simply supposed to know how to pronounce it. It’s only prescribed to be used in literature for children and foreigners, otherwise its use is entirely optional. Of course, it’s useful to disambiguate the pronunciation of rare words as well, which most writers understand, but common people don’t use rare words, so that isn’t a problem for them. It’s also highly recommended to use it in proper names, but most people ignore that rule. And, of course, it’s almost entirely disused in normal, everyday words (unless you’re a pedant like me who uses it in every word it’s supposed to be used). So the transliteration as Pugacheva is perfectly acceptable in my mind, even if it’s a bit wrong.

Denmark - Stemmen i mit liv

Performed by
Kølig Kaj

Dear Terry Wogan, stop being so damn negative all the time. I forgot that he was already getting bitter by 1997, so I really should start seeking out other commentaries whenever possible. The UK televote gave this 2 points - I wonder how many it would’ve got if Terry just chilled a little.

I’m saying this because it’s a really great song. Now, this was the point of lowest interest in Eurovision in Denmark according to some Danes I know, so they sent this because nobody really cared about the result it would get. But honestly, thank got that they did because I’ve always found this absolutely brilliant. The biggest reason for this is simple: it transcends language barriers, which is a huge achievement for a song in Danish, since people always make fun of it, which is why I had to remark on it. I didn’t even need to look up the lyrics to get the gist of what the song is about first time I watched this, though I have looked it up since. The lyrics tell a story of a man who has destroyed his life by placing calls to hear a specific phone operator. And yes, it’s comedic, but I wouldn’t call it a joke entry.

Another remarkable thing about this is the orchestral arrangement. It actually works really well with 90s-style rap, which, again, is a miracle. The arrangement for Love City Groove wasn’t anywhere near as good as this one’s is. It’s rich in orchestral sounds, but doesn’t make it sound stiff or outdated - this was clearly composed with the orchestra in mind.

I also loooooooove the backing singer and the backing dancers here. The backing singer is easily one of the most memorable ones ever - she just oozes personality and charm. And so do the backing dancers, they just have that irresistable enthusiasm that makes me love this. And they have very coordinated fashion, even if it doesn’t look like that, but it really comes together, even Kølig’s leopard trousers, so I’m glad this didn’t win the Barbara Dex award - though I’m sure it was in the running.

France - Sentiments songes

Performed by

It’s really hard for me to say a lot about this song, even though I really love it. France has also gone minimalistic and esoteric this year. It combines a pre-recorded electric piano and the orchestra really well and both parts really complement each other. You just have to love France in 90s Eurovision - they always sent something interesting and different.

Croatia - Probudi me

Performed by

Oh my god, what are those outfits???? I keep being absolutely baffled at the lack of fashion here, how didn’t this win the Barbara Dex award? Compared to Malta’s mildly unfashionable dress, this is just a total disaster.

The song is really fun though. The Croatian Spice Girls really knew how to make a fun, danceable pop song and oh my god, it’s so fun. Is it some outstanding achievement in the field of music? Nah, not at all. But it just gives me good vibes and makes me happy, which is all that matters.

United Kingdom - Love Shine a Light

Performed by
Katrina and the Waves

This song just brims with winner energy. In fact, it has so much winner energy that it has overflowed and is spilling all over the stage. It really is the most Eurovisiony Eurovision entry of all and, if I didn’t know that it’s an actual entry, I would’ve assumed it was a parody. It’s super anthemic and memorable, Katrina (and her Waves) give an immense performance, it’s immediately obvious that they’re well-established and not just a rag-tag team of musicians from the streets.

Also, this really makes me wish the orchestra was kept. This is an example of how you can have a contemporary song that isn’t held back by the orchestra and is actually enhanced by it. The keen-eared amongst you have heard that the arrangement is different compared to the studio version: it’s way more rich, with some flutes and trombones thrown in to elevate it even more.

And, of course, Katrina absolutely owns the stage. Even her facial expressions elevate the performance, let alone her vocal performance. Did this deserve such a blowout win? Eh, I’m not so certain, but it definitely was a good winner.

Iceland - Minn hinsti dans

Performed by
Paul Oscar

And here we have it, the most modern song of the year. And not just musically, although it’s a very 90s techno track, but also in its staging. It’s perhaps the first Eurovision entry that tries to look like a music video and not like a theatre performance. It’s, without a doubt, the spiritual predecessor to a lot of the modern entries that try to do the same, especially the ones from Sweden (see: Euphoria or Dance You Off), as well as just entries with memorable stagings. Though honestly, I wish Iceland saved this for 1998 and sent something more jury-friendly this year to survive relegation.

Another thing I’d like to remark on is how well it integrates an orchestra with the backing track. Just like with the UK’s song, this really elevates it compared to the studio track. While the 1997-1998 rules did cause a lot of chaos, with delegations going back and forth on using the orchestra, I think that was the best iteration with regards to creativity (though not costs, obviously).

Final thoughts

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, what a great year. This is such a great year with such great songs. This was the turning point for Eurovision. From now on, unmarketable power ballads would be in a freefall and contemporary pop would finally be on the rise and I couldn’t be happier about this.

This is also really reflected in the hosting and staging this year, since the theme features a lot of TVs, which gave it a bit of an MTV feel instead of a “stuffy theatre” vibe. We’ve been slowly moving towards this and we’re finally here. You can even see this in the interval act, which is all about modern music, not going back to the past, which is another reason why, if asked “when does modern Eurovision start”, I’d say “1997”. I think the removal of the mandatory orchestra is the single most influential decision the EBU has ever made and its consequences continue shaping Eurovision to this day.

Another modern Eurovision-feeling thing is the voting. Before, most votes were pretty spread out, apart from a couple years, but this time, everyone decided to shower the UK with 8s, 10s and 12s - deservedly, I must add. But I really associate landslides like this with the televote era. But honestly, it was still exciting to watch just to know the order of the other countries. Also, the televote mostly agreed with the juries here - apart from a couple entries like Iceland and Denmark, again, foreshadowing the era that’s about to come (one for which I couldn’t be more excited even if I tried).

In any case, I’ll see you all in Birmingham, as the UK hosts for the second-to-last time.


  1. Poland - Ale jestem
  2. Denmark - Stemmen i mit liv
  3. Malta - Let Me Fly
  4. France - Sentiments songes
  5. Italy - Fiumi di parole
  6. Iceland - Minn hinsti dans
  7. Bosnia and Herzegovina - Goodbye
  8. Turkey - Dinle
  9. United Kingdom - Love Shine a Light
  10. Russia - Primadonna
  11. Cyprus - Mana mou
  12. Austria - One Step
  13. Croatia - Probudi me
  14. Slovenia - Zbudi se
  15. Hungary - Miért kell, hogy elmenj?
  16. Estonia - Keelatud maa
  17. Sweden - Bara hon älskar mig
  18. Germany - Zeit
  19. Ireland - Mysterious Woman
  20. Greece - Horepse
  21. Netherlands - Niemand heeft nog tijd
  22. Portugal - Antes do adeus
  23. Spain - Sin rencor
  24. Switzerland - Dentro di me
  25. Norway - San Francisco


  • Austria - 1 (1965)
  • Belgium - 1 (1961)
  • Cyprus - 2 (1992, 1995)
  • 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 - 2 (1966, 1996)
  • Poland - 1 (1997)
  • Portugal - 2 (1967, 1984)
  • Russia - 1 (1994)
  • Slovenia - 1 (1993)
  • Spain - 2 (1971, 1982)
  • Sweden - 2 (1962, 1980)
  • Switzerland - 2 (1981, 1986)
  • Turkey - 1 (1975)
  • United Kingdom - 1 (1960)
  • Yugoslavia - 1 (1987)