Firstly, my congratulations to Lena Meyer-Landrut of Germany, winner of Eurovision 2010! (better late than never, right?) Guess we’ll be seeing her again next year….though there’s another talented act we probably won’t be seeing.
Allow me to begin by saying that although many Americans may not have heard of the Eurovision Song Contest (at least, as compared to the Australian and South African fans, from what I’ve seen), the few, the proud does in fact extend beyond myself and my co-author (and, of course, you, our lovely reader). While respected local and national US news (ie Washington Post and New York Times ), media commentary, and entertainment industry sources alike commit the egregious error of framing the contest as a “European” version of American Idol to their readership, we the enlightened ones, however, know that to be utterly preposterous! It’s actually a Europeanized version of Italian Idol.
This may come as a surprise, but several members of our select circle have taken it upon themselves to venture into uncharted pseudo-celebrity waters as North American performers in the ESC. Yes, you’ve heard me right – people originating from our dear continent have actually traversed a fairly large ocean to represent countries competing in a European song contest!
Now, you may be asking: who are the honorable members of this exclusive club, and what the heck were they doing at Eurovision? Tricky questions, indeed, but nothing we here at Eurovision America can’t answer. Let us proceed in a chronological order, from the start of the contest to the start of the current century.
Luxembourg 1979, 1985, 1986
The word says it all: Luxembourg. Due to the apparent dearth of Luxembourgish pop performers (or perhaps just a preference for other means of expressing Luxembourgishness, which may at least partially explain why they are no longer in the contest, the Grand Duchy of a half-million denizens selected not one, not two, but THREE North American acts to represent them during their 38-year Eurovision tenure.
1979’s entry was Jeane Manson. Manson brought the true American success story to Eurovision –from being born in Ohio, growing up in Mexico and becoming a Playboy bunny to (naturally) moving to France to obtain a singing career, reality TV show, and YouTube channel. It was thus only fitting that she represent Luxembourg with “J’ai Déjà Vu Ça Dans Tes Yeux” (“I’ve Already Seen That In Your Eyes”). Déjà vu indeed…..I could’ve sworn I’ve seen those knights at Spamalot.
In an act representing nearly as many countries as those in the contest, 1985 saw American Diane Solomon represent the Duchy alongside a Dutchwoman, a German, a Briton, a German-Briton and (surprisingly) an actual Luxembourgian as 1/6th of a group mysteriously known as “The Internationals.” She had previously hosted a BBC show entitled The Diane Solomon Show and is currently a homeopathy/natural foods specialist. Though an admirable trilingual cacophony, “Children, Kinder, Enfants” came in an unadmirable 13th out of 19 entries; Diane is featured on the far right. Perhaps she should’ve stuck to a solo act.
In 1986, Sherisse Stevens (neé Laurence) became Luxembourg’s third North American and Canada’s first representative at the Eurovision Song Contest. Unfortunately for Sherisse, that distinction was partially overshadowed/robbed of her by her fellow countrywoman two years later (see below). Like Diane Solomon before her, she was previously a TV host, and finished a commendable third place as the inaugural ESC Canadian with “L’amour De Ma Vie” (“The Love Of My Life”). Which nobody other than the Huntsville Community Choir seems to remember….
Switzerland 1988 and 1993
There’s not much I can say about this act. Celine Dion, a then-rising star in her native Canada, was approached and asked if she would represent Switzerland at Eurovision 1988 (at least, according to the story: for a more visual representation, skip to 5:00). Though crossing the Atlantic to compete in a foreign country’s singing competition in a tutu may have seemed an unorthodox career-launching move, one can only respond thusly: when the Helvetic Confederation calls, you answer. It can even be said that choosing Ms. Dion was the first time the Swiss actually took a stand on something. And it paid off for everyone: Celine won the contest with her entry “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” (“Don’t Leave Without Me”), earning herself and her tutu cross-continental recognition and Switzerland its long-overdue quadrilingual place in the Eurovision sun.
Speaking of Quebec, Switzerland’s next North American selection, Annie Cotton, was Eurovision’s third Canadian in a contest in which Canada, I reiterate, is not a participating country. Her 1993 entry, “Moi, Tout Simplement” (“Quite Simply Myself”) came in third place that year with 148 points. From 1991-2000 she appeared in a TV show called “Watatatow”, which lasted for 15 seasons. Though with a name like that, it’d have probably been a successful title at Eurovision as well.
United Kingdom 1997
Despite the oft-quoted “special relationship” between the UK and US (though for reasons why I have yet to understand, seeing as it’s basically an issue of phonology), the United States has only represented its transatlantic brethren once (as opposed to twice for Luxembourg….yeah, I know). But we can’t blame perfidious Albion; on the contrary, you could say they were biding their time for a truly compelling American act (by featuring obscure Aussies in between). In 1997, that act was Katrina Leskanich and her band, Katrina and the Waves, best known Stateside for their hit, “Walking On Sunshine”. Across the pond, their ESC entry “Love Shine a Light” gave the UK its fifth (and latest) Eurovision win, America’s first (and only) one thus far, and the band its second hit before breaking up in 1998. After bashing the contest in ‘03, she later returned to Eurovision as a participant in Melodifestivalen 2005, presenter in “Congratulations”, and judge of Belgium’s Eurosong 2008. Regardless, whether you’re a fan of Katrina or modernist critiques of narrative fiction, there’s something in this ’97 entry for everyone.
I’ll save the past decade’s participants for the next post. (Phew! Who would have thought there’d be so much to say?)