If the prospect of writing about Georgia‘s Eurovision back catalogue prompted me to procrastinate, there are no such problems the next country on the list, Germany.
Germany has appeared at all but one of the Eurovision finals since their debut right at the beginning in 1956. Right up until the late nineties, their entries and successes have demonstrated – save for a few toe-curling efforts – a commitment to the contest arguably borne out of a pre-existing culture for popular music in Germany – schlager. ‘Johnny Blue‘ (2nd, 1981), ‘Theater’ and ‘A Little Peace’ (1st, 1982) transcended the contest and went on to be international hits and major money earners for songwriter Ralph Siegel. The 1980s saw a preponderance of heartfelt anthemic numbers include ‘Fur Alle‘, ‘Uber die Brucke Geh’n‘, and the nauseating middle of the road song from mother and daughter duo Maxi and Chris Garden ‘Lied fur Einen Freund‘ (14th, 1988). Siegel then went on to secure a 3rd place for Mekada in 1994 with their song ‘We’re Throwing a Party‘ – if you’ve not listened to it before, be warned – the infectious song will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, some of them distressing.
Legendary Eurovision songwriter Siegel hasn’t been able to recover his previous successes or dominance (nor recoup his considerable financial losses) since. ‘I Can’t Live Without Music‘ (21st, 2002) goes down as a bit of a car crash, ‘Let’s Get Happy‘ (12th, 2003) hoped for the best but seemed irritatingly upbeat, and more recently writing for San Marino, ‘Chain of Lights‘ rambled musically and was hopelessly performance. What links all of Siegel output is his love of melody and, a lot of the time, his painfully simplistic optimism, the like of which increasingly jars with present-day Eurovision. That said, he doesn’t deserve the ire that some fans happy throw at him.
The notable thing about Germany at the Eurovision is the way they reignited the passion for the Contest amongst its TV audience. And that was down to comedian, musician and TV presenter Stefan Raab. It’s easy to forget how the comparatively gently send-up song he wrote for 1998 – Guildo Horn’s “Guildo hat euch lieb!” (8th) – not only provoked strong opinion, but had a strong impact on the running order that year.
Raab-enthusiasm reached new heights in 2000 with the ‘Wadde hadde dudde da?” – complete nonsense but utterly fantastically produced live nonsense that celebrates, ridicules and entertains. The irritatingly talented Raab returned in 2004 with the mid-tempo ballad ‘Can’t Wait Until Tonight‘ which he wrote, produced and appeared in.
After some persuasion, Stefan acted as Head of Jury for the 2010 national selection which plumped for Lena’s Satellite for the Contest that year. Little wonder that when Germany ended up hosting the Contest the following year, Stefan Raab formed part of the presenting duo in what was to date the most polished opening sequences in the Contest’s history.
Musically over recent years Germany hasn’t delivered quite so well. Distinctive as ‘Is it Right?‘ was, it failed to register much on the board languishing in 18th place come the final tally in 2014. Last year’s ‘Black Smoke‘ was a musically superior track and a pleasing alternative to the rest of the running order, but ended up coming last. I’m still not clear why.
Jamie-Lee will sing the mid-tempo foot-tapping hand-clapper number ‘Ghost‘ for Germany in 2016. Musically it feels like a bit of a retrograde step, a shadow of Germany’s former triumphs, which will feel like filler come the Final on 14th. The national final staging jars with the apparent integrity of the sound, making the finished piece one of those pleasant but forgettable numbers I sometimes see on Graham Norton’s Friday night chat show.