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Throwback Thursday: The youngest winner of Eurovision

This week’s edition of Throwback Thursday takes a look back to 1986. We’re taking you Bergen in Norway and remembering Sandra Kim’s winning performance of “J’aime la vie.”

Ah, yes. 1986. The year Iceland debuted and no one got the dreaded nil point. A sigh of relief from our Norwegian friends, I hear! It was the first time that Norway hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, after Bobbysocks! win the year before with “La det swinge“.

Sandra Kim and “J’aime la vie” was one of the favourites that year. A popular winner, her victory did not come without controversy. The Belgian won despite being only 13 years old. The song lyrics to her song suggested that she was in fact 15 years old. The Swiss, who came 2nd, appealed for a Belgian disqualification but it was rejected. This meant that 1986 saw the youngest ever Eurovision winner, and a record that is unlikely to ever be beaten.

The performance

Well, actually, before the performance came one of my favourite Eurovision postcards. We are presented with a scene from Bergen fish market. Superimposed onto this background is Sandra Kim as she walks up to a man selling his goods. Sandra picks up a fish that looks like it’s on the man’s table, turns to camera and waves. This is everything I love about the 80s!

Once the orchestra begins, Sandra strides out onto the stage in hot pink (spandex?) trousers, matching white top and jacket, and a hot pink bow tie. In short, this was 80’s glamour at its finest. As you might expect, Sandra’s voice is quite high which suits the song completely. So, a strong start to the vocal with some easy 2-step dancing and basic arm choreography.

The performance progresses in the same way and with similar camera shots. We get to see the backing vocalists’ part in the call and response with Sandra. A few more shots of individual musicians and we’re well away into the bridge. Sandra brings it home with a vocal that is unbelievably flawless, given her age and it being live. These were the days of stuffy men and women in suits in the crowd, but the applause was enthusiastic and a sign of things to come.

The votes

J’aime la vie” received votes from every single jury – this was before any kind of televote. Belgium led Switzerland for most of the voting and received 5 lots of 12 points. At the end of the evening, Sandra Kim won the contest with 176 points which at the time was an all-time record points scored.

What our editors had to say…

Simon

On the surface, this was dated to start with and hasn’t improved with age. But any time you listen to it, you can’t help but smile and follow along. In my memory it is inorganic and frivolous, but to my ears it is joyful. The wrap up of the first chorus into the second verse it a little gem of musicality and the tune is certainly catchy. That said, it is firmly camped in the 80s and unlike many a winner, couldn’t ever translate to the modern day.

Tim

J’aime la vie is such a bop, from what you can hear, I would not believe that this is sung by the youngest Eurovision winner ever. Whenever I need an upbeat throwback, I would always listen to this song. I had the pleasure of watching Sandra Kim sing this at EiC (Eurovision In Concert) earlier this year, and can I just say that, you should never ever skip this song when it is played!

Nathan W

J’aime la vie” is simply an iconic Eurovision entry. Both by withstanding the test of time and breaking records, this entry will go down as an all time classic. It fully represents its era well in the composition of the pop song, and to this day it’s exceptionally catchy and an absolute bop. For me, as much as I adore modern day Belgian pop, there will always be a place in my heart for an entry as iconic as Sandra Kim’s is.

Nathan P

This song goes right through me and not in a good way. Her shrill vocal triggers my tinnitus something rotten. It is the worst form of saccharine and is really jarring. The musical arrangement to the song is really dated, so the song has aged like milk. Not a fan at all and a poor winner in retrospect. Shame when that wins and songs Belgium has recently sent like “City Lights” and “Rhythm Inside” doesn’t.

What do you think about “J’aime la vie”? What do you think about the past winners from the 1980’s? Let us know in the comments and on social media @ESCXTRA!

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Matt Baker

As a writer with the Eurovision disposition it was only inevitable that I should find myself merging these two interests. If it wasn't Sonia singing "Better the Devil You Know" that got me hooked on Eurovision, then it was the Gina G banger "Just a Little Bit". The 90's is where it all started for me, who knows where I'll end up!

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