The Swiss can yodel but can they sing?

May 28, 2010, 6 Comments

So for the fourth year in a row, Switzerland has failed to make it through to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. Michael von der Heide dressed up in a gold suit in an attempt to jazz up his entry, ‘Il pleut de l’or’ but failed dismally to capture the hearts and earholes of Europe. Another year, another failure, and that doesn’t sit so comfortably with many Swiss. One newspaper asked if Switzerland really had no friends in Europe, or if it was being punished for the banking scandal? Actually, it was that the song just wasn’t good enough. Certainly this year it all seems to be women with big hair and big lungs belting their way to potential glory. Poor old Michael was just too male and too flat-chested.

The funny thing is that up until a few years ago, Switzerland had always done rather well at Eurovision. The Swiss won the first ever contest, held on home soil in Lugano, with ‘Refrain’ from Lyss Assia and then went on to finish in the top ten almost every year for the next three decades. Overall, Switzerland is in tenth position in the country standings, having managed:

  • 2nd place – three times
  • 3rd place – three times
  • 4th place – five times
  • 5th place – twice
  • 6th place – three times
  • 7th place – never
  • 8th place – five times
  • 9th place – once
  • 10th place – twice

Rather bizarrely, they have also finished 17th three times. And achieved the dreaded ‘nul points’, not just once but four times (1964, 1967, 1998 and 2004, in the semi-final).

For a long while, Eurovision songs had to be sung in the national language, but that gave Switzerland quite a lot of leeway, given that it has four. However, French has been the most popular choice for its songs (23 French, 12 German, 9 Italian, 5 English, 1 Romansh), despite French-speakers making up only a quarter of the whole population. So it’s no surprise that both Swiss winners sang in French.

Switzerland’s second and biggest win came in 1988, though it had to import its winner from Canada. In Dublin that year, Céline Dion won with ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’. The most memorable thing about the victory was not the one-point margin over the UK. Or even that it’s the last time a song sung in French won the competition.  But that Céline won despite looking like a poodle dressed in a lampshade. Of course, it was her voice that won it, but it didn’t take her long to have a make-over.

For me, the best ever Swiss entry wasn’t Céline (her dress really is too horrendous) but the Pepe Lienhard Band in 1977. ‘Swiss Lady‘ is a jaunty number (in German, despite the title) that starts with an Alphorn and has a yodelling piano player in the middle. Short of dressing up as Heidi, you can’t get much more Swiss than that. Sadly, they finished sixth.

Maybe Switzerland, like neighbouring Austria and Italy, will pull out of the event. Certainly many people see it as a waste of time, now that the show is dominated by Eastern European and Scandinavian voting blocs. Or perhaps they should find a song that appeals to the Contest’s three core audiences, as defined by one newspaper here – Grannies, Girlies and Gays. Switzerland has plenty of all three, so finding a winning song shouldn’t be so hard, should it?

At least now, when it comes to the final tomorrow, you’d think the Swiss can be studiously neutral and vote purely on the basis of merit. Think again. In 2008 (the last year with a popular televote and no juries), the Swiss vote gave douze points to Serbia, 10 to Portugal, and 8 to Albania. Now guess where a lot of the immigrants living in Switzerland come from. There is no such thing as unbiased voting in Eurovision, even in Switzerland.

6 Comments on "The Swiss can yodel but can they sing?"

  1. Bruce Caldwell Saturday May 29th, 2010 at 04:58 AM · Reply

    “…too much man.”????
    As you may not know, Michael is as queer as a three-dollar bill and is very much a girly-boy.

    • swisswatching Saturday May 29th, 2010 at 08:29 AM · Reply

      Hmm. Last time I looked, Bruce, a gay man was still a man. Just ask my boyfriend.

  2. Balthazar Saturday May 29th, 2010 at 09:13 AM · Reply

    Well, it’s more that Michael Von der Heide’s song did NOT have that “instantly-being-drawn-to-the-song thing”, and the show was – to be frank – pretty lame. In a time of pop culture and visual overexcitement everywhere, this was just not enough, pretty underwhelming actually.

    The best example for an extremely catchy song is Hadyse’s Düm Tek Tek from last year – even though she didn’t win. I heard the melody once and is still in my head.

    • swisswatching Saturday May 29th, 2010 at 12:16 PM · Reply

      It was indeed lame, or perhaps lamé given his hideous gold suit. As for catchy songs, there don’t seem to be many around at this year’s Eurovision. It’s all big ballads with hair blowing in the wind. Except for maybe the German entry, which seems to be playing everywhere at the moment. Annoyingly difficult to get out of your mind – but will anyone vote for Germany?

  3. Bruce Caldwell Saturday June 5th, 2010 at 04:32 AM · Reply

    Yes, I know Diccon, I am 2 times two-thirds gay (=ga-ga) myself and the last time I checked (in the shower) I, too, am a male! Thanks for the interview on Radio RaBe. Here is the link for the archive of the entire three hour show. We split your interview into three parts to be sure to catch all of our listeners. Congrats on the instant success of your new book.
    (RealPlayer required).

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