Editorials & Opinion

Xtra’s Pick of the 80s

Welcome back to our picks from Eurovision past. For today’s choice, we visit the 80s, although really this song could have been from any time before that – and as far as Peter is concerned, it’s all the better for it.

Denmark 1989: Birthe Kjær – Vi Maler Byen Rød (3rd place)

I couldn’t go through a season of these picks without paying tribute to one of my favourite Eurovision entries of all time. It’s not a “Eurovision anthem”, it’s not a deep and personal song, and it’s not particularly unique or left-field, but as far as I’m concerned it’s one of the most joyous three minutes in the contest’s history. Not only is it a song from the year of my birth, but it’s by a singer who shares my birthday! Or should I say Birthe-day…? No?
This was something of an old pals’ supergroup, with Søren Bundgaard of Hot Eyes (1984, 1985, 1988) writing the music, Keld Heick (1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1988 and a ludicrous number of Danske Melodi Grand Prix songs) on lyrics duty and Birthe Kjær also having participated in DMGP several times before winning with this. Henrik Krogsgaard had also conducted several Danish entries up until that point and provided my favourite conductor moment and one of my favourite Eurovision gimmicks of all time, by running over and joining Birthe onstage halfway through the song, camping it up with the other two backing vocalists!
And the whole thing really is camp – it’s practically a drag cabaret performance but with a real woman. The finger-clicking, the puffy dress, the cheesy melody and orchestration all hark back to old-school cabaret and musical theatre, but it fits in well with the schlager that had been dominating the contest in the mid-80s. Even though the contest was finally catching up with the 80s by the end of the decade, it was nice to see that something as quaint as this could do so well.
Look, it’s predictable but how can you not smile during this? It’s catchy as crabs, and the choreography can easily be recreated during the final old-school portion of the night in Euroclub. If you can’t even appreciate this then Bah Humbug to you too!

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