ROTTERDAM 2020 ■ It’s the song, always!

There are moments when I still can not fully fathom the victory of Duncan Laurence. We have already arrived in a new year, that coincidentally has the most perfectly sounding number since ‘2000’, but The Netherlands’ 5th Eurovision victory seems only yesterday. And make no mistake, winning a Eurovision Song Contest with around 40 participating countries statistically is a more precarious affair than it was some 17 years ago when there were only 23 to 26 participating countries (The treacherous Big 5 excluded off course). By: Gert Waterink


That very fact, statistics, makes me as a Dutchman extra cautious. It simply isn’t ‘easy’ to win a contest. Every year a nation needs to have that extra bit of luck to take the trophy. Eurovision isn’t a slam dunk football match where one physically scored goal makes you win the cup. Eurovision still is in its purest form a ‘jury sport’, making variables all that much more decisive for a possible victory. Every artist, every song is basically thrown into a pool at the mercy of the ‘deadly sharks’ that televoters and jurors are.

Director Eric van Stade © AVROTROS, 2019

Having said that, the 5th victory is in our pocket. In the recent weeks Duncan’s victory was on repeat again during several televised year reviews. So it’s obvious that Eurovision victories create a lot of buzz. And Eurovision suddenly is a ‘quality music event’ again.

Twice in a row ain’t that easy

The previous other recent winners from Ukraine, Portugal and Israel know exactly what I mean. But it’s interesting to find some differences too in the entertainment press of a nation’s winner. And moreover it’s interesting to see if a nation is serious about winning the contest a 2nd time in a row. The follow-up entries to Ukraine’s ‘1944’, Portugal’s ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ and Israel’s ‘Toy’ perhaps show that such a vibe isn’t really present.

Ukraine ended 24th in 2017, Portugal ended dead last in 2018, 26th, and Israel went the old-fashioned ballad tour and ended 23rd in Tel Aviv. Also, Eurovision year 2020 starts completely clean sheet again for all participating nations involved. Perhaps some recent winners dispassionately try to do a similar trick again (Portugal 2018) or others seem to deliberately throw the secret ingredients to win a contest into the garbage bin (Israel 2019). But then others can rise to the occasion and select (internally or nationally) a potential game changing product or a so called ‘potential winner’!

Judy Blank © Deborah van Wendel-de Joode

Enhance your chance

The only thing you can do is forgetting the very winner, in The Netherlands’ case ‘Arcade’, start clean sheet, and try selecting another unique song that has the potential to stand out after all entries has been chosen. The selection method is another discussion. Sweden has shown that their Melodifestivalen is a magnet for Eurovision success (although SVT needs to not ‘overproduce’ the purity out of their songs, resulting in a disconnect with televoters) and The Netherlands know how they can create success with their internal selection process (although AVROTROS should be careful that winning can only be done by also appealing to mass audiences; the televoters).

But the frantic media exposure in The Netherlands is there, thanks to Duncan. Luckily not only because the contest takes place on home soil, but also because the overall consensus here is that ‘we’ should not only try winning again, we should proactively enhance our chances to make a 2nd victory in a row happen again. Chairman of the selection committee and Dutch Eurovision commentator Cornald Maas was adamant about that in Dutch radio talk show’T Wordt Nu Laat”: ”We must win again, that should always be your goal, and you do that by choosing a song that is authentic, distinctive and instant in a field of 26.

Janne Schra © ST.Weicken, 2019

Let’s do our own selection committee

That selection committee is pivotal for another Dutch success story in Rotterdam later this year. And wouldn’t it be nice, given all that frantic Eurovision enthusiasm, to adopt that critical, serious selection method on a bunch of Dutch non-Eurovision songs? Just to find out what kind of sound would be ultimately dominant, unique and distinctive in a Eurovision line-up, I asked 23 people on Twitter, both Dutch and foreign, more famous and less famous, to listen to a playlist of 27 recent contemporary songs ‘Made In The Netherlands’. The music genres in that playlist vary from pop to electro, from rock to soul and from house, R&B (DJ’s) to singer-songwriters.

Easier said than done, as it’s not easy to listen to 27 songs (around 95 minutes of music), but this is exactly what the members of the AVROTROS selection committee, Cornald Maas, AVROTROS director Eric van Stade, Jan Smit, Coen Swijnenberg, Sander Lantinga & Joyce Hoedelmans had to do. And not just that, they also approached producers from the record industry and successful composers proactively. Anyway, the results are in and these already released power melodies could have been potential Eurovision contenders (Each voter had to send in a TOP 5 of ‘Best, Distinctive & Instant Compositions’, then points of 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 were added):

Numb’, ‘Back In The Water’, ‘I Belong To You’, ‘Red Eyes’ & ‘Golden Trophy’ were your favourites. Or better, they were the songs that our ‘committee members’ thought could be successful in a Eurovision line-up. It could be that sound, this melody, or that ‘yell’ in a song that could be distinctive and unique enough

Joshua Nolet © Paul Hollis, 2018

First news about the Dutch entry

Will the actual composers of these songs be contacted by the AVROTROS selection committee? We will probably never know the exact music network that this committee has been laying out in the recent years. But we do know, since last week, that a song has already been chosen. Per message of Dutch reporter Lammert de Bruin on NPO Radio1 last Thursday: “The director of AVROTROS, Eric van Stade, already knows the Dutch entry for Rotterdam 2020 and he is a bit shocked to say that we can win again. Shocked, because, who is going to pay that.” Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but who knows, maybe The Netherlands have another potential points magnet on their hands.

News that the Dutch entry has been chosen already was backed up today by another report that the name of the Dutch artist will start with a ‘J’. NPO Radio 2 DJ Timur Perlin: “Via a trusted source I know that the name of the artist that will represent The Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest will start with a ‘J’.” He added: “Maybe it’s time for a woman to represent us. I think it will be a woman!

Junkie XL © ScreenRant, 2019

Let’s take this news with a grain of salt until officially confirmed by AVROTROS. But to be certain, I have amended all names of singers, songwriters and composers from the results starting with a ‘J’. Could we expect Janne Schra to represent The Netherlands? Will it be singer-songwriter Judy Blank? Or a lead singer from a band, like Krezip’s Jacqueline Govaert or Chef’Special’s Joshua Nolet? I guess we all have to wait a little bit longer.

And a bit of luck

Until then we have to realize that there’s only so much you can do to enhance your chances of Eurovision success. The idea of a back-to-back victory is tempting, but winners like Spain 1969 (‘Vivo Cantando’), Luxembourg 1973 (‘Tu Te Reconnaîtras’), Israel 1979 (‘Hallelujah’), Ireland 1993 (‘In Your Eyes’) and Ireland 1994 (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’) were also created with that extra bit of luck. And if The Netherlands doesn’t win, there is an even bigger chance to achieve another TOP 10 result. And if that’s not achievable, there’s already this extra bit of home nation fun surrounding the 65th Eurovision Song Contest.

PS: To further indulge in Dutch popular music, feel free to listen the entire playlist here

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