Editorials & Opinion

Missing pieces of a puzzle: Glennis Grace

Glennis Grace in 2005. Well, that’s a story. It’s a story like many others: A country had a great chance to do well, but somehow the puzzle didn’t click in the end. I’ll be sharing some of these stories with you over the next few weeks. Think of stories like Paolo Meneguzzi in 2008 for Switzerland, Gitte in 1962 for Denmark – just two of the examples we’ll be talking about in the next week. Perhaps it’s a little help to fight the PED you might be suffering from? A look back into the history of the Eurovision Song Contest is always nice to have in the weeks after the Eurovision Song Contest. The first part of these series is dedicated to an entry from my home country: Glennis Grace and her My Impossible Dream. We’ll be looking at her background, her song and what she should have done to complete the Eurovision puzzle she now missed a piece of. What all went wrong in Kyiv for Glennis Grace? How did the years of misery for The Netherlands start in Eurovision?

A background: The Soundmix Show

Glennis Grace was born in 1978. At the age of 16, she rose to fame in The Netherlands. She participated in a format called the Soundmix Show. It’s rather similar to Your face sounds samiliar we see in many countries (Greece, Hungary, etc.). Glennis impersonated her idol, Whitney Houston. The show brought the country quite a few stars. Marco Borsato, one of the leading artists, won by impersonating Danny Vera. Gerard Joling, the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest with Shangri-La. He came third in the 1985 edition of the Soundmix Show. He wasn’t the only Eurovision entrant to come from the Soundmixshow: Besides Gerard and Glennis, we had Edsilia Rombley. She went on stage as Oleta Adams before participating in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 (Hemel En Aarde, fourth place) and 2007 (On Top Of The World, didn’t qualify for the final). Glennis Grace was the winner of the Soundmix Show in that year with Houston’s song One Moment In Time. A video of her performance is available below:
After winning the Soundmix Show, there was a future career ready for Glennis. Singles, albums, charts, record deals… Well, that all went a bit wrong. Her first single in 1994 reached thirteenth place in the Dutch charts, but almost no one bought her first album. After 1996, things got really quiet around Glennis. People didn’t stop believing in her and a second album was released in 2003. She had some big names working on that album, but that didn’t help. Despite high hopes, the album flopped. Hopelessly.

Eurovision Song Contest 2005

As listed above, we can see that Glennis Grace followed the examples of Gerard Joling and Edsilia Rombley: First, you win a talent show imitating your idol, next you’re going to Eurovision. It took Glennis a few years though: Eleven in total. After doing the Soundmix Show, all of her new material flopped. Success was no longer visible for Glennis and she needed something to revive her career: the Eurovision Song Contest.
Back in 2005, the Dutch broadcaster was still NOS. They hosted an old-style national final. There were various semi-finals, followed by a final. There was quite a bit of competition for the then 27 year old singer from Amsterdam. A group of musical actors (with former Frizzle Sizzle member Laura Vlasblom), now called Air Force, entered with their song How Does It Feel. In itself, it was an inoffensive pop attempt which was rather old-fashioned. Basically the thing that would now finish last in a Melodifestivalen semi-final. That song however got massive promotion in The Netherlands because of its composer. Johnny Logan (no introduction needed) composed the entry, together with a Swedish musician – and that, in those days, was quite exotic.
In the voting, it soon appeared to be a race between those two: Air Force and Glennis Grace. In a complicated voting with various juries (including a professional jury, a jury of international music students and one with listeners of a particular radio station) and televoting, it all ended in 170 points for Glennis Grace versus 133 for Air Force. No Dutch entry written by Johnny Logan, no return to Eurovision from Laura Vlasblom. Soundmix Show-winner Glennis Grace had won her ticket to Kyiv, Ukraine with her My Impossible Dream. And that title should’ve told us more than it did at the time…

My Impossible Dream

In itself, you’d say that it makes sense. The woman (or girl as she was back then) winning the Soundmix Show in 1994 as Whitney Houston needs a big ballad for a European audience as well. Just give her a song that could feature as an album filler on a Whitney Houston album. Or a song that she gave away – something like that. What we ended up with was someone trying to compose a song for Whitney Houston.
This song was mainly made to highlight what the Dutch knew Glennis Grace could do and liked to do: Big ballads like One Moment In TimeMy Impossible Dream was an attempt to be that. Did the attempt succeed? No, it did not. It didn’t qualify for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Ukraine and it didn’t click with European viewers.
Her stage performance didn’t help her either. The static performance wasn’t a good idea either. Eleven years on and I still don’t get the arm movements she made with the lyrics of “Against all odds, I’m breaking free.” It was more like a car. Or a bike – either one. And why did anyone come up with the idea of her walking away with the microphone in the middle of the song? If you think about going away from the stand, do it at the end for the final note. Not in the middle of the song before returning to it seconds later. All in all, she suffered from the empty stage syndrome.

After Eurovision

In 2005, I thought this was all Glennis could do. Those ballads were her things, so when that doesn’t work in Eurovision, Glennis Grace doesn’t work in Eurovision. Her success was invisible in the next few years, radio stations refused to play her next singles until she made her comeback. She switched to songs in Dutch for a couple of years too and scored a moderate hit with a song for her son: Als Je Slaapt. Nice as that may have been, it would not have worked in Eurovision. She continued her Dutch career for a couple of years, doing both ballads and uptempo songs.
It’s been a few years now that we know how Glennis Grace does uptempo now she’s a bit older. She has switched back to the English language and says she just loves to belt out uptempo songs too. Her new material is rare, there’s not much of it. She mostly does covers now and she does them quite well. She has joined the Ladies of Soul, a group made up of Edsilia Rombley (1998 and 2007), Trijntje Oosterhuis (2015), Berget Lewis (Trijntje’s sister-in-law) and saxophone player Candy Dulfer. Before that, she had a guest appearance on the Dutch Night of the Proms in 2013. Where she sort of relived her Eurovision experience by performing Euphoria. It sounds different with a live orchestra, but that doesn’t change her vocal performance here.

Recently, she also appeared on a show called It Takes 2, where Dutch celebrities known for things other than singing (acting, sports, hosting TV-shows) were asked to sing. They were mentored by one of three singers: Trijntje Oosterhuis, Waylon (ex-The Common Linnets) or Glennis Grace. On that show, Glennis Grace reached the third and fourth place with her talents Fatima Moreira de Melo (former hockey player) and Jan Kooijman (dancer, actor and TV-host). One of her performances included a duet with Fatima, where they covered Runnin’ (Lose It All) by Beyoncé and Naughty Boy. A perfect example of the new look and a new sound Glennis has chosen.

Summary: The solution

So what do we know now? In 2005, Glennis and her team entered an attempt to recreate Whitney Houston to Eurovision. Her performance was static, her dress didn’t fit, but her vocals were on point – as they always are with Glennis. She can sing, that’s for sure, but she doesn’t necessarily always need to sing ballads. Or be like Whitney Houston (who, on a sidenote, obviously didn’t do just ballads).
Ballads are nice, but in a year with Chiara and Shiri Maimon, big female ballads were already more than present. Looking at the competition, a ballad was not the way to go. As we can see in her version of Runnin’, uptempo actually suits her better (or well, that’s what I believe at least).
I really wouldn’t mind to see Glennis Grace in Eurovision once more. 2017 would even be a good opportunity for her. But if she does: Less Whitney, less static, more uptempo, more modern, more character, more Glennis. And only then we’ll be able to see how well the combination of Glennis Grace and Eurovision actually works. My guess is that it actually could work really well.

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of ESCXTRA.com. Eleven years after the start, I'm proud to say that I am now the Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids... And cheering on everything and everyone Greek, pretty much. Pame Ellada!

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