ESC 1959: Overview and Song Rankings

You have to hand it to the French: they decided to do something different in Cannes, where they hosted for the first time, and they did it well. While not all the innovations were successful (more on that later), the visuals were a marked improvement on previous years, starting with footage of a bustling Cannes foreshore in the evening before shifting to the venue, where three revolving platforms were used to introduce each contestant against a backdrop featuring an image which represented their country. These platforms continued to be used for the performances, so the singers appeared either on the left side, right side, or in the centre of the stage depending on where they were originally introduced. It was a refreshing change from the previous formats.

Now, to the performances themselves — or at least, the ones that stood out for me in one way or another.

While I had moderately high hopes for Denmark going in, Wilke overacted the song, and the pacing and dress-flicking during the instrumental break made it all feel very forced.

In contrast, The Netherlands showed why it was the winner that evening, with Scholten giving a masterclass in restraint. Her delivery felt natural, and I’m sure she charmed quite a few members of the juries that evening. It was also a good move to focus the camera on the orchestra for the instrumental break rather than on Scholten standing there doing nothing.

Despite the obvious lack of space for dancing, I thought Germany’s entry worked quite well: the twins were engaging and clear in their delivery. This moved up a few places in my ranking as a result.

Throughout these reviews I’ve been trying to find a recorded version of the song rather than a recording of the contest performance, but Switzerland’s entry might put me off doing this in future. The poppy elements of the recorded version I found impressive weren’t present in the live performance. However, the song in itself retained enough to make it one of my preferred ones on the night.

So, I didn’t realise Eurovision was a children’s program, but going off the United Kingdom’s performance, clearly I was wrong. The song in itself is okay, but the dreadful gimmicks of the bird puppet and “watching an invisible bird fly by” were embarrassing, and the song dropped several places in my ranking as a result.

The entry from Belgium probably got a boost because of the two songs before him (I’ve decided to omit Austria’s trainwreck from my commentary), ending the night with a well-performed, unpretentious song.

The voting was messy as usual, and excruciatingly slow at times, but the most bizarre moment was after the winner was announced, when the top three songs were invited back to perform their songs again. This was ridiculous and fortunately did not become a feature of the contest.

My ranking:

1) The Netherlands – “Een beetje” by Teddy Scholten

2) Belgium – “Hou toch van mij” by Bob Benny

3) Switzerland – “Irgendwoher” by Christa Williams

4) Italy – “Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina)” by Domenico Modugno

5) Germany – “Heute Abend wollen wir tanzen geh’n” by Alice & Ellen Kessler

6) Denmark – “Uh, jeg ville ønske jeg var dig” by Birthe Wilke

7) United Kingdom – “Sing, Little Birdie” by Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson

8) Sweden – “Augustin” by Brita Borg

9) France – “Oui, oui, oui, oui” by Jean Philippe

10) Monaco – “Mon ami Pierrot” by Jacques Pills

11) Austria – “Der K und K Kalypso aus Wien” by Ferry Graf