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Throwback Thursday: Flying high with The Netherlands

On this “Throwback Thursday” we fly to The Netherlands. The luck of the Western nation at Eurovision has changed recently, having Anouk and her song “Birds” as the turning point. The way we look at The Netherlands as a competing country has clearly changed after that brilliant performance. They are actually competing now.

The year 2013 brings me wonderful memories. It was my first year as a Eurovision fan, and therefore, it was also the first year that I managed to hear the competing entries before the contest. Actually, before that year I thought that we could only hear the competing songs on the Eurovision night. I won’t lie: Anouk and her song didn’t impress me. I remember that the preview video was just Anouk singing the song in a studio, and I thought that it was just boring and amateurish. Probably, my negative reaction about the song was due to the fact that I was just 14 years old at the time, and wasn’t ready for that style of music. Anyway, the song was receiving mostly positive reactions, what was surprising for me. What was I missing?

Anouk; Not love at first sign – but love indeed

The time has passed, and fortunately my taste has improved a little bit. Yes, getting older has its advantages too. My first impression doesn’t correspond at all with my current opinion about the song. Therefore, as you can imagine, I don’t find it boring and amateurish anymore. Actually I don’t think it could be any better. During those three minutes all my attention is focused on Anouk. I just can’t think of anything else, as if I’m “drinking” every word she sings. It’s one of those performances where I wouldn’t change anything.

The simple staging creates a beautiful atmosphere and works perfectly with the song. I just love how all those flags “dance” to the rhythm of the music. However, the best part of this entry, apart from obvious talent and charm of Anouk, is actually the lyrics. I have used them one hundred times as a description on my photos, so thanks a lot for solving the big problem that my lack of imagination actually is. Despite having Denmark as my favourite since day one, I think it lost some of its charm over the years. “Birds”, on the other hand, just keeps getting better. It’s one of those songs that will never get old. It was great in 2013, it sounds great today, and it will sound great in two hundred years.

I think we all started to look at The Netherlands in a different way, on what it brings to the contest. It marked a clear break with those dark 9 years when The Netherlands failed to qualify, most of the times deservedly. Since 2013 they have been sending some pearls, and harvesting the fruits of the big effort they are putting into the contest. I am expecting another masterpiece this year. Don’t disappoint me!

The Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest

The Dutch debut at Eurovision goes back to the very first edition of the contest. The country has missed only four editions since then, and between its 58 appearances they count 4 victories. Despite the bad results in the first decade of the new millenium, the country has been achieving good results since 2013, where we can highlight the second place achieved by The Common Linnets in 2014. For 2018, the Dutch broadcaster has chosen Waylon, the male member of The Common Linnets, to represent the Dutch colours in Lisbon. Can he achieve their fifth victory?

This week’s guest star

Our Dutch guest star is Desirée Van de Velde. At present she works with esckaz.com, but previously she has written for both eurovisionartists.nl and escNorge.net. She has followed Eurovision since forever, and her favorite entry is the magnificent
“Kad zaspu anđeli”, Croatia’s 2000 entry.

Desirée on “Birds” and the Netherlands

The internal choice of Anouk for Eurovision 2013 turned out to be a new beginning for The Netherlands at the contest. In the previous years we had missed out on the final eight times in a row, and not just barely! After yet another failure, with Joan Franka’s “You and Me”, TROS decided things had to change, and already in October selected Anouk, one of our biggest stars.

It wasn’t the most logical choice, as Anouk is allergic to glitter and glamour; very no-nonsense. She had been a household name in the Netherlands for 15 years already, with hits, some of them international, varying from rock to ballads. Naming but a few; “Nobody’s wife”, “Lost” or my absolute favourite, “For Bitter or Worse”.

Unfortunately, I don’t recall what my initial thoughts were, when I first heard “Birds”. I can only guess that I was surprised, as this song was again different from anything she’d done before. “Birds” has a very unique atmosphere, with somewhat mysterious lyrics. It was rather restrained, exactly the opposite of the big ballad everyone expected.

During the weeks leading up to the contest, Anouk didn’t do any promotion, not even Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam. For her, however, it worked. An intimate performance, the focus solely on her, standing alone center stage. Vocally, especially in the semi-final, she wasn’t perfect and I was honestly afraid it would neck her. Those minutes of the envelopes were truly nerve wrecking, as for the first time we had a song I actually liked and believed in. With every country called my hope sank a bit…but then, in the very last envelope; the moment our country had been waiting for for so long! The relief was immense and I can only imagine how it must’ve been for the Dutch who were there. At that moment I regretted not having travelled to Sweden for the contest…

Finally, my country got to perform a second time in the contest, with a top 10 result! Could we have done even better if not for the flags ruining the atmosphere of her performance? Had Anouk not achieved this result, I wonder if the acts that followed her would’ve agreed to participate.

As for my own favourite Dutch entry – as cliché as it may be – I’m going to go with the last one, for many many reasons but not in the least as it is the first I entry I saw passing to the final with my own eyes live in the hall!

What the others had to say…

Miki

“Birds” will forever remain one of my favorite Eurovision songs of all time. The whole presentation just felt very honest and heartfelt, plus it gave us a little preview of what is yet to come from The Netherlands. Anouk is a seasoned performer and I had no doubt that she will manage to restore the Eurovision magic in the Dutch fandom. Despite having a rather fiery personality, her performance tied it all together by showcasing Anouk in a different light yet remaining true to her minimalistic aesthetic. There was no need for a big stage show or adding props and pyro, It was down to the pure emotion of the song and it totally paid off.

Vincent

I’m liking this song more and more. Bird’s lyrics are a bit hard to understand at first, but putting just a little effort into it enables one to realise how powerful and incredibly well-written they are (kudos to “If being myself is what I do wrong / Then I would rather not be right”). And the music, soft yet slightly “suffocating” is a delight. I would disagree with Emanuel on the staging, though: I find it too positive and optimist for a song that isn’t very optimistic. Anouk sings well but she smiles too much.

As for the Netherlands, I can’t deny the great quality they have showed since 2013, despite a weak song in 2015. I’m particularly impressed by how much the performance change their song. In 2014, 2016 and 2017, the studio versions of their song didn’t stand out much, and didn’t appeal to me. But I vividly remember how Douwe’s performance in the semi-final in Stockholm surprised me by miles, for reasons I can’t even explain. That’s the Dutch Formula: good yet kind of regular songs, with some magic added to the live version. And that’s how you break a curse!

Dominik

“Birds” is a really special song. I needed my time to “get warm” with the song. It wasn’t really on my list to end up so high in the contest or even get to the final. However, I saw how many of my not Eurovision friends liked the song after the contest. So this made me think, that “Birds” was appealing for a wide audience. It’s still a special song, because it took me a while, to realize how different and good the song is.

Jack

After several years of non qualification, Anouk’s “Birds” was a breath of fresh air for the Netherlands. I had been a fan of Anouk’s pre-Eurovision so was delighted when she was chosen. The song itself was beautiful and I adored her performance. One of the best Dutch entries ever and probably my overall favourite in Eurovision 2013!

Next week

Next week we will throw you back to Serbia, when our Sami will share one of his Eurovision memories with us. Which of their 10 (or should we include the two entries of Serbia and Montenegro and make that 12?) entries might he have chosen? 

Did you miss last week’s Throwback, when we took a walk down Bulgaria’s memory lane?

 

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