Editorials & Opinion

Xtra’s pick of the ’90s

Time for another of our editors to select a song from an era of Eurovision gone by. It’s Thursday today, which means we revisit 90s Eurovision, and it’s Simon who is doing the revisiting.

Poland 1997: Anna Maria Jopek – Ale Jestem (11th place)

The 1990s were a time of European awakenings, and Eurovision was no exception. Central European nations swelled the party and brought a breath of fresh air to proceedings.
Poland were a key part of this. Their 1994 debut was a true early ‘90s diva ballad, followed by eccentric darker ballads in 1995 and 1996. There was a joy in participation from many new competing nations, not a hint of desperation that victory was the only objective. The opportunity to partake and compete was relished.
Anna Maria Jopek took responsibility for Polish hopes in 1997 with a slightly quirky folk-rock song with a lively tempo. From my first hearing I loved the dissonant strings in the intro, lively percussion, the leaping guitar chords and the range of moods in the song. The vocals are pin-point accurate among a swirling instrumentation that nicely joins the band and orchestral setups.
‘Ale Jestem’ (‘But I am’) is an authentic performance of an authentic song, not falling into the traps that increasing numbers of nations have in recent years; entering what they think Europe wants (See: UK), or conjuring spectacular rabbits out of imported hats without much consideration given to the song itself (See: Azerbaijan). In that, it encompasses the positive side of ’90s Eurovision.
Now 44, Anna Maria is married with two sons. She found considerable success in Poland in the few years after her Eurovision performance, but has not released new material since 2011. Ale Jestem reached 11th place in Dublin, which remains Poland’s third best finish at Eurovision.

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