ESC 1961: Overview and Song Rankings

Back in Cannes, and the broadcast starts at the coast again: the beach with waves crashing in before the camera pans past the crowd lingering towards to the hall. The commentator (by chance I’m watching the Dutch commentary) explains that there are 2,000 attendees in the venue, with an estimated 35 million television viewers. For this year’s introductions, the competitors are awkwardly arranged around a “bridge” on the stage when the curtain opens. There are no changes in backdrop that I noticed: everyone sings with the same staging arrangements. It was a strange sight to see each contestant introducing themselves in running order as they walked off stage.

Spain‘s Eurovision debut was energetic and an animated performance the likes of which we haven’t seen very often at the contest so far. I was as impressed by the performance as much I was by the song. While I didn’t rate Monaco much going it I felt Colette Deréal was about to control and keep pace with what was ultimately a fairly frenetic song. I seem to be underestimating this country a fair bit lately.

Didn’t realise that the singer for The Netherlands was so young — she seemed a bit nervous, although the song made a bit more sense now (though not enough to lift it much in my estimation). Sweden‘s whistling was as irritating as I feared it would be.

Perhaps I’ve forgotten, but I don’t recall Germany beginning with a spoken word segment at the start of the song. I don’t think it helped matters, but it was clear that Lale Andersen was an experienced performer and deserved a better song.

France‘s “bing et bong” was even more annoying in person, and I felt that even the singer seemed to be tiring of the song by the end. In contrast, Switzerland‘s entry was a bit understated, allowing for the curious appeal of the song to shine through.

Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg was restrained, somewhat casual, yet remained engaging. His acting career arguably helped here: mostly he looked straight at the camera, knowing that his votes were going to come from juries at the other end, whereas other performers probably spent too much time on the audience present in the hall.

It’s a real pity that the lyrics for the United Kingdom‘s entry were so unpleasant, because the performance was pretty good. After an evening of mostly so-so acts which didn’t shift my opinion too much, the forceful performance by Italy‘s Betty Curtis won me over and moved the song up a few places in my final ranking.

With a longer list of songs to display on the large board, you didn’t always feel like there was a good overview of the state of play during the tallying of the votes. The United Kingdom led by a large margin early on, but an impressive comeback by Luxembourg in the second half of the voting gave it a clear victory.

I found it really difficult to rank the songs this year: there are a number of them in the middle where the difference between them is minor and could be overturned easily. Sometimes one song is ahead of another because I happened to like a particular verse or chorus more rather than the whole package, which is not something I’ve come across yet.

My ranking:

1) Luxembourg — “Nous les amoureux” by Jean-Claude Pascal
2) Spain — “Estando contigo” by Conchita Bautista
3) Switzerland — “Nous aurons demain” by Franca di Rienzo
4) Monaco — “Allons, allons les enfants” by Colette Deréal
5) Italy — “Al di là” by Betty Curtis
6) Yugoslavia — “Neke davne zvezde” by Ljiljana Petrović
7) Belgium — “September, gouden roos” by Bob Benny
8) Germany — “Einmal sehen wir uns wieder” by Lale Andersen
9) Finland — “Valoa ikkunassa” by Laila Kinnunen
10) Denmark — “Angelique” by Dario Campeotto
11) Norway — “Sommer i Palma” by Nora Brockstedt
12) Austria — “Sehnsucht” by Jimmy Makulis
13) United Kingdom — “Are You Sure?” by The Allisons
14) France – “Printemps, avril carillonne” by Jean-Paul Mauric
15) The Netherlands — “Wat een dag” by Greetje Kauffeld
16) Sweden — “April, april” by Lill-Babs