Eurovision Song Contest 1998 Review

The UK won, they’re hosting it in Birmingham (Jesus Christ, seriously? Every time I think about it, I just want to laugh. They chose Birmingham of all cities). Because of relegation, there’s a huge swap in countries (as always). North Macedonia debuted, Belgium, Finland, Romania and Slovakia returned after relegation and Israel returned after skipping the previous year. Austria, Bosnia, Denmark, Iceland and Russia got relegated and Italy left voluntarily. Now, let’s get to the year itself because I think it’s another good one (also, the final year with the language rule and the orchestra).


So yes, the UK won it with Katrina (and her Waves) and are prepared to try to outdo Ireland and Norway. Will they succeed? Well, we’ll see, won’t we? For now, we open with Terry Wogan praising Birmingham a bit (it’s the first time I hear someone do that - though he was Irish, so that might be the reason). Quite quickly, we get introduced to him coming off-stage (where his commentator box was placed - he hosted and commentated at the same time). Luckily, it was back when he didn’t hate the contest as much, so he’s still bearable (and tbh, I would’ve watched it with the BBC commentary anyway).

He’s clearly enjoying himself since he doesn’t make any snide remarks and makes some very lovely statements about Katie Boyle (the 4-time host of Eurovision) and the previous hosts, as well as speaks some Irish with Carrie Crowley, who’s one of the hosts from last year. Then, we finally get introduced to our other host - Ulrika Jonsson, who’s going to have some funny moments later on. For now, they make fun of each other a little bit, but in a funny way. They really have a lot of chemistry together, but then, the UK almost always has great hosts. Another interesting fact about them is that neither one is British: Terry Wogan was Irish and Ulrika is Swedish, though both lived in the UK and worked for the BBC for a long time. As Terry Wogan left for his commentator booth, Ulrika stayed on the stage for just a little bit more to talk and then we finally moved onto the songs, in just under 11 minutes, which is a little longer than a year before, but considerably shorter than the year after. But let’s move onto the songs, as they’re the most interesting part of this all.


Croatia - Neka mi ne svane

Performed by

I think this really benefitted from opening the contest. The right kind of entry can do really well from the first slot and this, for sure, is one. In fact, I want to say that if this performed like 19th, it wouldn’t have got anywhere near as many points as it did.

And the reason for this is that it’s very flashy and memorable when compared to a lot of entries that follow it. The six entries after this one all scored in the bottom half and four of them scored 20th place or below, for various reasons, so the viewers must’ve remembered this even better as it was followed by a bunch of crap from their perspective.

And it’s easy to see why it ended up being so memorable - Danijela is just a very expressive performer and gives a memorable performance. It starts out quite lowkey, but builds up a little over the course of the song - and then really kicks in (well, for a relatively slow ballad) after the dress change. Despite Bucks Fizz winning in 1981 with a costume change, nobody really used them until the 2000s and I think this is the entry that revived them. Obviously, this caused the viewers to remember it much better than they would’ve otherwise and other delegations definitely took notice. But, of course, an entry can’t survive on a gimmick alone - it still needs to be a credible song and this is definitely one of these. Danijela is very passionate during her performance and manages to transcend the language barrier well (though I might not be the best judge of that in this case). In any case, it’s a great opener - and one that would’ve never been chosen by the producers in a thousand years.

Greece - Mia krifi evaisthisia

Performed by

I think this was quite underrated. Obviously, it came after a flashy entry and needed to grab the viewers attention somehow, but it clearly didn’t (although BBC has released the UK’s full televoting breakdown for this year and Greece was 15th with 4913 votes - for comparison, Malta was first with 69000 votes in total (nice) - so there was quite a bit of catching up to do. Even Sweden, which got 1 point from the UK, got 12177 votes, so about 2.5x as many as Greece). And it definitely does feel like an entry that would get stuck in the middle of everyone’s rankings - it’s alright, but it doesn’t inspire you to grab your phone and vote for it.

But I have to say, I’ve always liked the interplay between the ballady verses and a rock-ish chorus, although there should’ve been a pre-chorus to bridge both sections together better, as they can feel a bit disjointed. Still, this effectively got 0 points (12 points from Cyprus really don’t count), which is a bit harsh in my opinion.

France - Où aller

Performed by
Marie Line

On the other hand, the score for this song was about deserved. While I love France’s previous experimental entries, I think this one veers too much into being absolutely structureless. The backing track is kinda crap and the strings elevate it a bit, but the repetitiveness really brings it down. And while I would’ve normally been able to forgive the lack of flow in a song, Marie’s lack of singing ability really kills my enjoyment of this and makes me unable to appreciate this at all. Which is a shame because I think this could’ve been really good.

Spain - ¿Qué voy a hacer sin ti?

Performed by
Mikel Herzog

I think the Spanish postcard is the funniest one so far. They show a Roman bath house, which becomes a modern amusement park and the Spanish flag is formed out of the ketchup and mustard on a hotdog. This is exactly the kind of witty postcards I love (and I also like it when a postcard has flags being formed out of seemingly unrelated objects - spoilers for 2014, I guess).

It’s really nice to see that Harry Potter decided to pursue a singing career, though why he moved to Spain is beyond me. Jokes aside, this is nice and pleasant if a bit safe and unexciting. He has a nice voice though, that’s for sure.

Switzerland - Lass ihn

Performed by

I always forget just how terrible this dress is. Slightly see-through, glittery and of a horrible shade of red. Without a doubt, this was way more deserving of the Barbara Dex award than Guildo (but more on it in a bit).

The song is fine, honestly. I always thought that zero points was a bit harsh, but I can see why it failed to grab people’s attention. It isn’t exactly flashy, even though Egon came back from 1990 to mime playing the violin for this entry. But somehow, I click with this enough to appreciate it, even if I wish it could’ve just done more.

Slovakia - Modlitba

Performed by
Katarína Hasprová

And here’s another entry that really deserved more, though, once again, I understand why it didn’t score well. It just really doesn’t transcend language barriers and has a pretty unremarkable melody - something unforgivable in the televote era. But I really like the lovely guitars and a strong performance by Katarína. Without a doubt, it’s Slovakia’s strongest official entry so far.

Poland - To takie proste

Performed by

After 4 years of esoteric and out-of-the-box entries, I think Poland has earned the right to send something a little more standard. It’s still a pretty nice, enjoyable pop song with a nice instrumental. My only big criticism would be that it lacks progression, so I get a little bored of it by the end.

Israel - Diva

Performed by
Dana International

Let’s get it out of the way: yes, she’s trans. No, that doesn’t make her any less of a woman in my eyes. Her win was really important and really began the LGBTfication of the contest, and I don’t think I would hold this contest so close to my heart if it wasn’t so LGBT-friendly.

Now, Dana might be very blatantly off-key at times (ok fine, most of the time), but I don’t actually care that much simply because the song is really good. It’s a rousing, anthemic capital-G Gay banger (don’t ask me what makes a song gay or not gay - my gay mind can just tell implicitly).

And to be fair, what Dana lacks in vocal skill, she makes up in stage presence. Also, let’s not pretend that there haven’t been any winners that gave a very vocally flat performance before (hell, 1965 is one of the most beloved winners and France Gall really wasn’t all there vocally). After all, it’s a song contest, not a singing contest. Plus I mostly listen to the studio version of this, not the actual live performance, which sounds much better.

Speaking of the studio version, here’s a fun fact: Spotify has a song titled Diva - Hebrew Version, which is indeed in Hebrew, as the title suggests. But it also has Diva - Original Hebrew Version, which is in… English. Yeah.

Germany - Guildo hat euch lieb

Performed by
Guildo Horn

“This is a Serious contest for Serious music made by Serious people,” I hear some of you say and my reply to that is simple: like hell it is. I think it’s very important to have entries like this: crowdpleasers, ones that are fun for people that attend the show. If Eurovision was all serious, it would really lose a huge part of its charm.

This also represents a change of fortunes for Germany (for a little bit). Tired of sending Siegel schlock, NDR has turned to the one and only Stefan Raab (we call this technique “foreshadowing” in the industry). Or rather, he turned to them, probably tired of seeing Germany at the bottom of the scoreboard year after year (figuratively, since the scoreboard was still static back then). To finally turn the tide, he made the earliest ever televote bait entry (well, sure, perhaps Denmark and Iceland were televote bait as well, though I doubt they were made with full knowledge that televoting will be used - on the other hand, this definitely was). Now, I’m sure he was actually just taking a huge stab in the dark, since it wasn’t obvious that the televoters would like this any more than the juries - after all, the televote results mostly agreed with the juries the year before and more data just didn’t physically exists.

So why does this work for me? Well, like I said, it’s fun. It isn’t complex and doesn’t pretend to be and there’s no real deeper meaning to this. It’s just made to be fun and make you laugh. And this is why novelty entries will always be divisive: if something is only made to cause you to laugh and it fails at that, you’ll dislike it. So I do understand why people dislike this and other entries like this, but I think that a lot of them are a delight.

Malta - The One That I Love

Performed by

Malta had the luckiest draw ever this year. Coming after Israel and Germany - both being very grand and attention-grabbing entries - must’ve felt scary, especially for a very simple and unflashy ballad like this, but it was certainly to its benefit. It provided a reprieve for people who are decidedly not fans of those kinds of entries and want something more down-to-earth. Luckily, Chiara was there to give them exactly that.

As an aside, let’s talk about televote and ballads. I know that ballad haters love to claim that the televote hates ballads, but it’s just simply false. Ballads can receive (and have received) great results in the televote. The secret is quite simple: the viewers need to be able to connect with the performer. In those cases, it really isn’t about the song for the most time, but about the performance. You can have the most inane lyrics ever, but if you perform them with utmost conviction, you’ll sweep the vote.

And this was the case with Chiara (twice). The song might be simple, but she’s the kind of performer that really manages to charm you with almost no (visible) effort on her part. She comes off as down-to-earth and likeable, which is just the thing a lot of people need to connect with someone. And, again, especially in contrast with Dana and Guildo.

Hungary - A holnap már nem lesz szomorú

Performed by

I actually really like this! It has a lovely, laidback vibe to it, and Charlie’s raspy voice fits this song really well. It’s not a song I can say a lot about, unlike the previous three, it doesn’t have something specific I can discuss at length. But the harmonica is lovely, I really like it when songs have an accordion or a harmonica, so I’m glad this does. I’m also really glad it’s played live right into the microphone, that makes me appreciate it even more.

Slovenia - Naj bogovi slišijo

Performed by
Vili Resnik

I don’t hate it, but I don’t really love it either. Slovenia has had better ballads before and an amazing non-ballad. I wish their 1993 entry got a better score so they wouldn’t have been afraid to send more stuff like that. Or they could’ve at least sent a better ballad like their 1995 or 1997 efforts. Because, as it stands, this really doesn’t feel as compelling as anything else they’ve sent before. My love of sad Slavic ballads only goes so far.

Ireland - Is Always Over Now

Performed by
Dawn Martin

This was just fine. I was better than a lot of other Irish ballads, but not as good as some other Irish ballads (and definitely not as good as a lot of other ballads in general). It’s just there, not bad, not good, just fine. Can we have more songs like Horoscopes please? Pretty please?

Portugal - Se eu te pudesse abraçar

Performed by
Alma Lusa

I feel like they tried to recreate O meu coração não tem cor with this, but it just isn’t anywhere near as good. Now, I still like it, it’s rousing and upbeat, with lovely rich instrumentation, but it just doesn’t have as much of a wow effect as their 1996 entry did. Though still, it’s quite good.

Romania - Eu cred

Performed by
Mălina Olinescu

I also quite like this. It’s pretty rousing, though she does sometimes go a bit off-key and too breathy at times, but I still kinda enjoy it. I honestly wish it could’ve scored better, Romania really had a rough start in Eurovision, being forced to skip the final for 3 years in a row before this. So is it a wonder they didn’t seem to have a lot of enthusiasm? If they’d been allowed to participate every year, they (and Slovakia) would’ve been able to build up some momentum and try to send different stuff. God I hate the idea of relegation, 2004 can’t come soon enough.

United Kingdom - Where Are You?

Performed by

Nottingham mentioned! It’s always nice to be reminded that other people live in Nottingham too. In fact, my secret wish is for the UK t host Eurovision in Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena should they win (or get hosting rights in any other way), purely for selfish reasons of course.

But enough about me, let’s talk about one of my favourite Eurovision entries of all time. I think it’s great for one simple reason: Imaani. She gives a world-class performance of a highly compelling and contemporary songs we’ve heard so far. The main thing for me is that I fully believe what she’s singing: she would indeed drive through the rain to find me and walk a desert plain behind me. As I talked about in my review of the Maltese entry, this will become a lot more important as televoting goes on. A lot of people might not speak the language the singer is singing in, but they will feel the emotion and intent behind the performance.

But that’s not to diminish the quality of the song itself. Good performers can try to elevate a bad song as much as they want, but some songs are simply unelevateable. Luckily, this is absolutely not the case here, Imaani has a lot to work with here. It has quite a rich instrumental, especially for a dance track. The orchestration definitely helps here, unlike with a lot of other contemporary entries, where it would’ve taken away from it. It adds some tension and drama, which complements the dramatic (and a bit desperate-feeling, in a good way) lyrics. Like I already said, I really feel the lyrics she’s singing, but I also have to praise their originality from a songwriting perspective. It’s very easy to write trite dross when writing a love song, so thank god the songwriters managed to make something that feels fresh and original. While I don’t truly care about lyrics that much, I do think it’s good when they’re well-written.

Also, let’s give some recognition to her backing singers/dancers. I think their synchronised movements add a lot to the performance and elevate it even further.

Cyprus - Genesis

Performed by
Michael Hajiyanni

Poor Cyprus got a very unlucky draw both this year and the next and got sandwiched between two much flashier and memorable entries. Which is not to say it would’ve done much better otherwise, it’s quite meh. The verses are alright, I suppose, but the chorus is extremely uninteresting. At least he’s good-looking.

Netherlands - Hemel en aarde

Performed by

The Netherlands had a very tall order in front of them: not get relegated in 1999. The good result achieved by Vrede in 1993 was about to get erased from their average and they needed something even better (if you look at the averages, the bottom three non-relegated countries had an average of 42.25, but next year, the bottom three had 41.20 (a fluke due to Hungary withdrawing), 44.25 and 50.67). So whom else to turn to than the same composers that made Vrede? And what a success it was, they really outdid themselves.

I won’t spend a lot of time on analysing this since most of what I said about the UK applies here as well: Edsilia is a brilliant performer that was given a very strong song and she clearly connected to it a lot to give such a strong performance. It’s really unsurprising that Terry Wogan liked this so much, it really is similar in style to the UK entry, while also remaining completely Dutch at heart.

Sweden - Kärleken är

Performed by
Jill Johnson

I’ve always found this to be strangely compelling. Like I said a couple times before, it’s probably the performance, I really like Jill as a performer. Plus it has a pretty varied instrumental, combined with a good vocal performance by Jill as well as her backing singers, so it’s really hard not to like this for me.

Belgium - Dis oui

Performed by
Mélanie Cohl

I think this is really cute. Also, fun fact, it was second in the odds to win at the time, and I can kinda understand why. It’s a nicely performed pop song, though it’s a bit dainty for my tastes, even if I like cute entries most of the time. But still, it isn’t a bad addition to this at all.

Finland - Aava

Performed by

The instrumental is actually quite lovely, atmospheric and mysterious, but the vocal performance is pretty poor at times. She;’s almost inaudible during the first verse and then alternated between being decent and screechy. Plus the super repetitive lyrics bore me by the end of the first minute. It’s a shame that this wasn’t better because we all know that atmospheric music did pretty well in the previous three years.

Norway - Alltid sommer

Performed by
Lars A. Fredriksen

Fun fact: MGP that year allowed songs in English, and this actually won it in English under the title All I Ever Wanted Was You. Of course, as the language rule was still in effect, it was translated into Norwegian for Eurovision. And honestly, I can’t say it was either an upgrade or a downgrade, both versions are pretty much the same in quality for me and Lars sings well in English, so I can’t even complain about his accent.

As it is, I really enjoy it. It’s fun and upbeat, well-performed, he’s quite a pretty boy and catchy. It also has lovely summer vibes, which makes sense given that the new title translates as “Forever Summer”. It wins me over by being shamelessly fun and joyful, as well as because Lars is a damn good singer.

Estonia - Mere lapsed

Performed by
Koit Toome

I think this has a really great flow. Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for a piano ballad, so I’ll obviously be a bit biased for this, but I also think that it’s performed really well. We really need more male piano ballads because male vocalists give them a different vibe than female ones. I also like the progression in this with the instrumentation getting a bit more complex. But I’m not convinced by the drum beat. But what I am convinced by is the language, it really fits Estonian well. It’s also the last time we had both Finnish and Estonian in the same contest.

Turkey - Unutamazsın

Performed by

I really like his powerful delivery. In a way, it transcends language barriers as even I, a person with no knowledge of Turkish, can understand the gist of the song without having to look up the translation. This is definitely the kind of a song that really benefits from an orchestral accompaniment, since I don’t think it would’ve been anywhere near as impactful with a backing track.

North Macedonia - Ne zori, zoro

Performed by
Vlado Janevski

And here we are, at the final song of the year and the final song performed with live instruments. I really like how there are plenty of shots of the orchestra playing - it’s like the camera operators knew that this would be the last year with it and wanted to give it a good farewell.

The song itself is nothing special honestly. It’s nice, but that’s all I can say about it. I do enjoy his gravelly voice though, it adds to the song in my opinion. I wish I had more to say about this because I don’t, it’s just nice.

Final thoughts

Well, and here we are, closing the chapter on the orchestral era of Eurovision. In all honesty, I can’t say I’ll miss it much. By 1996, it was really stifling the genre diversity and its removal was the right move. While I would like to see an option for the performers to play the instruments live, the sound check would be a nightmare for 26 different delegations with different setups. So it’s probably never coming back unless the budget suddenly triples or quadruples.

But for now, we also get to enjoy the last interval act accompanied by an orchestra. It’s no Riverdance of course, but it gets the job done - it entertains me while the public sends in their votes and the votes from the backup juries are being tallied. I did like the musical diversity on display here, though it’s far from my favourites.

The voting sequence was really exciting though. I really like the scoreboard this year - it feels like another big step forward with fancy animations and 3D graphics. I just wish the BBC could’ve made it animated, since real-time animation was already possible by that point. And it was used to display one of the closest races ever. Even after the 20th set of votes (from Belgium), the top 7 could still win. For comparison, that’s when the UK became mathematically impossible to catch up for every other country. Unfortunately, the next set of votes (from Finland) knocked Germany out of the race and the votes from Norway did the same to Belgium and Croatia. By that point, only the top 3 could still win and it all came down to the last set of votes from North Macedonia. They’ve awarded just 8 points to Israel and 10 points to the UK, so it all came down to their 12. If they gave it to Malta, Malta would win. If not - Israel would. Sadly for Malta, and happily for Israel, the voters from North Macedonia gave their 12 points to Croatia, letting Malta slip all the way down to 3rd place.

After such an exciting voting sequence - and a popular winner - televoting was here to stay. What wasn’t here to stay is the host city, as we’ll be going to Jerusalem next time, which will abolish the language rule and the orchestra for good, as well as wrap up this millennium. So this is where I’ll see you next time.


  1. United Kingdom - Where Are You?
  2. Netherlands - Hemel en aarde
  3. Norway - Alltid sommer
  4. Israel - Diva
  5. Hungary - A holnap már nem lesz szomorú
  6. Sweden - Kärleken är
  7. Malta - The One That I Love
  8. Estonia - Mere lapsed
  9. Croatia - Neka mi ne svane
  10. Germany - Guildo hat euch lieb
  11. Slovakia - Modlitba
  12. Turkey - Unutamazsın
  13. Portugal - Se eu te pudesse abraçar
  14. Belgium - Dis oui
  15. Poland - To takie proste
  16. Greece - Mia krifi evaisthisia
  17. Romania - Eu cred
  18. Switzerland - Lass ihn
  19. Slovenia - Naj bogovi slišijo
  20. North Macedonia - Ne zori, zoro
  21. Ireland - Is Always Over Now
  22. Cyprus - Genesis
  23. Spain - ¿Qué voy a hacer sin ti?
  24. Finland - Aava
  25. France - Où aller


  • 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 - 2 (1960, 1998)
  • Yugoslavia - 1 (1987)