Yesterday something happened, something this Dutchman hasn’t seen in a very long time. The Dutch Eurovision entry was released. Probably in the same low-key manner as in previous years: presenting the song in the Dutch early-night talk show “De Wereld Draait Door” (translation: As The World Turns, no kidding). The show has now become the podium for all internally chosen Dutch Eurovision entries. It was used by Anouk, The Common Linnets, Trijntje (Traincha), Douwe Bob, OG3NE, Waylon, and now Duncan Laurence. ■ By: Gert Waterink ■
Yet, after yesterday’s song release of ‘Arcade’, the Eurovision frenzy internet community is going crazy over this entry. Odds on Eurovisionworld and Oddschecker have been slashed to numbers that almost equal the current ‘market leader’ Russia. On YouTube the entry got more than half a million views in less than 24 hours. Comments on various forums and on the YouTube channel are coming from across the globe, and like 90% of those are using terms like “Goosebumps!”, “Winner!”, “Incredible!” and the off course the lazy acronym “OMG!”.
But what has this Dutchman not seen in such a long time? Well, being bombarded one of the top favourites to win this year’s Eurovision crown. I really have to dig deep in my mind to recall something similar happening to a newly released Dutch Eurovision entry. It didn’t happen with the previous three Dutch entries, which managed to do OK-ish to good in my playbook: 11th in 2016, 11th in 2017 and 18th in 2018.
The Common Linnets then? Well for goodness sake, No! We all know that story. ‘Calm After The Storm’ was heavily criticised both in and outside The Netherlands. It took the incredible staging ideas from minds like Hans Pannecoucke, Ilse de Lange and the Danish stage directors from DR to let something magical happening on the first rehearsal day in Copenhagen. Only then pundits saw the true potential of The Common Linnets, resulting in odds that let The Netherlands hoover around 2nd place.
Yes, that was during the rehearsals, which are still two months away. No, I have to go back to the Nationaal Songfestival 1998, the Dutch national final that existed until 2012 and was brought to the graves after the disastrous result with Joan Franka’s ‘You And Me’ in Baku 2012. It was Jochem Fluitsma’s & Eric van Thijn’s ‘Hemel En Aarde’, performed by Edsilia Rombley, that became an instant favourite after it won NSF 1998. Internet was still in its infancy, yet the first (fan)polls did appear. Netherlands was constantly around 2nd place there. And the bookmakers then, which weren’t that fast as today Formula One speed bookies, were heavily enthusiastic too.
Yet, in the end The Netherlands didn’t win. ‘We’ came lovely 4th. In those days people were more easily satisfied. But we live in 2019 now. Social media has taken over our lives. And perhaps a 4th place would be a disappointment in today’s opinions of fans and bookies alike. Becoming more critical, most of the press disagreed with Edsilia’s gown, which wasn’t flattering to say the least. Perhaps it was a tiny detail in those days, but staging has become 10 times more important 2019 AD.
Formula One Eurovision
Performances in today’s ‘Eurovisionland’ need to grab televoters, juries, fans and betting pundits by the balls. They need to be ‘LIVE’ videoclips that convey instant magic and heartfelt pure emotions. From a melancholic sweetness with Salvador Sobral (Portugal 2017, 1st) to a pure crazy feeling of joy with ‘Toy’ (Israel 2018, 1st). Televoters and juries alike need to stand up and say “Wow! I’m going to vote for that!”. And then it doesn’t matter if the music genre is a melancholic ballad or a modern up-tempo chicken dance.
Now back to Duncan Laurence and his ‘Arcade’. To stay in the TOP 3 of the current betting odds, broadcaster AVROTROS needs to realize that it all comes down to staging. To actually win the contest is a whole different ball game. The magical emotions that Duncan caused in the last 24 hours need to be translated on stage. I don’t expect Duncan to be performing his entry naked, but it does take a conscious understanding of what means, what instruments broadcaster AVROTROS has to its disposal in Tel Aviv. And that’s a lot.
From lighting (spots) to LED-visuals (and there will be a big LED-wall in Tel Aviv, like in Copenhagen 2014), from animated camera/colour filters in the editing room (think about the smoky-black corners in the cinematography of The Common Linnets and the swirly cute youthful animations in the camera filter with Kristian Kostov) to obviously fitting camera shots/angles (watch John Lundvik’s performance next Saturday in the Swedish Melodifestivalen).
And obviously there’s the singer, whose natural charisma should already be present and apparent in previous performances. Vocals are important, but people need to be drawn into the singer’s intentions. The European audience doesn’t need to literally understand Duncan’s lyrics, but they do need to understand the song emotionally.
Ilse de Lange & AVROTROS: experts?
Having said all that, there are still a lot of unknowns for this year’s Dutch entry. Yes, Ilse de Lange sees Duncan Laurence as her protégé, being team lead for Duncan in the 2014 edition of The Voice Netherlands. Her ideas are pivotal. She is not to be underestimated and has this understanding of universal beauty that her own concert performances always convey.
I feel more assured now that she is going to Tel Aviv, because even concert programmer and stage designer Hans Pannecoucke can’t do everything by himself. He needs to be supported by an entire team whose goal is to do damn well on the Eurovision stage. So in the end Hans Pannecoucke will oversee the camera direction, but he will be aided by Ilse de Lange (creative consultant staging) and Ignace d’Haese (lighting director). Having heard Dutch commentator Cornald Maas in yesterday’s edition of “De Wereld Draait Door” makes me more assured of that. He literally said: “As a selection committee we sad down and we wondered how we could improve on the televoting results from the last three years, which weren’t all that good with Douwe Bob, OG3NE and Waylon”. It seems AVROTROS are taking things seriously.
The irritating uncertainties of internally selected songs
But we still have to see if that translates in a jaw dropping, magical performance. And that’s the thing with internal selections. Pundits mostly have to wait for a first live performance to draw at least some conclusions. And even that doesn’t always help. Look at Waylon’s wonderful country performance in the TV talkshow “De Wereld Draait Door” last year, which wasn’t repeated on the Lisbon stage. Far from it. For me as an occasional better, who is more a fan that still longs for a 5th Eurovision victory that’s no problem. I can wait, stay objective and enjoy the road towards Tel Aviv with less risks involved. However, pundits from sites like sofabet.com (Rest In Peace dear Daniel Gould), entertainmentodds.com, realitytim.com and esctips.com actually live from their bets. What they do, trading on entertainment shows, is their salary, their living.
To them I can say: let’s not get too excited with The Netherlands just yet. The song is a slam dunk hit, and that obviously helps. Duncan is a charismatic singer, although he is young, relatively unexperienced and made some vocal mistakes during The Voice 2014. Internally selected entries also add more unknowns and variables to the prediction mix. A potential winner? Maybe. But currently I have Duncan Laurence and his ‘Arcade’ rather safely on 5th place (out of 33). That can sink to 10th place after rehearsals, or move up to that uttermost desirable 1st place. For now I prefer to stay a more cold-hearted 40+ Old Amsterdam Gouda Cheese and not get carried away with emotions.