Many Eurovision contestants have participated in reality television series such as The Voice and the X Factor across Europe. However, Ruth Lorenzo’s X Factor journey was a rare case for me. This was the first time I had followed an act from the start of their journey, through to their Eurovision participation. I saw her make it through the emotional manipulation and onto a stage where she would be celebrated and appreciated for the talent she was.
When I was assigned Spain as my country for my first ‘Throwback Thursday’ feature, I faced a conundrum. As a relatively young Eurovision fan, I decided to only select an entry from a contest I remember watching. That immediately excluded Azúcar Moreno’s ‘Bandido’, which is probably my favourite Spanish Eurovision song of all time. With that rule in place, I was still conflicted. Three beautiful, talented ladies stood in front of me, but I only had room for one name in the spreadsheet. Like every minor decision I make in my life, I broke it down into the tiniest detail.
Candidate number one was probably the most acclaimed Spanish entry in recent years, vocal powerhouse Pastora Soler with ‘Quédate conmigo’. Though undoubtedly one of Spain’s best entries, I don’t quite have the passion required to write an entire feature on it. The next candidate was the adorable (and underrated) ‘Que me quiten lo bailao’ by Lucía Pérez. Kitschy, fun and annoyingly catchy; this got stuck in my head like no other song in 2011. Finally, there was Ruth Lorenzo’s joyous power ballad ‘Dancing in the Rain’, which holds a lot of sentimental value for me.
Ultimately, choosing the latter made the most sense. After all, I wouldn’t have nearly as much to say about the other two. Because it’s not just the song itself that I love, but the storyline behind Ruth, which began years before she participated in the contest.
Context: Ruth’s X Factor UK journey
The year is 2008, when the X Factor UK was still relevant and watchable. I remember being ten and instantly gravitating towards Ruth, despite some unsavoury editing choices. Viewers’ introduction to Ruth was soundtracked by a stereotypical ‘Spanish’ flamenco music. Before she could even finish telling the judges her name, Simon Cowell cuts her off with ‘and your from Spain? Got it.’ She was later asked “you think a spanish girl could win the X-Factor?” and just like that, her storyline was set.
As she went through the competition, I got the sense that she had to conceal her Spanish identity to make herself more palatable to the British audience. The show had a history for mocking contestants from different countries in the audition process. Ruth’s edit left a particularly bitter taste because she was one of the best singers that year, but wasn’t treated as such. To top it all off, she had the stigma of being in the ‘Overs’ category…despite only being 25 at the time.
When she fell into the ‘sing-off’ in week 2 of the live shows, my fears of a ‘connection issue’ were confirmed. They didn’t seem to ‘get’ her, for whatever reason. Thankfully, Ruth flipped the script with a powerful rendition of Prince’s Purple Rain. This has gone on to become one of the most iconic performances in the show’s history. She survived the sing-off and made it to the top 5, but I’m not sure that compensated for her treatment on the show.
Fast-forward to Eurovision 2014
As you can imagine, I was elated to see Ruth announced as a participant in the 2014 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. She would be representing her homeland of Spain, enabling her to showcase both of aspects of her identity. Bilingual songs are nothing new to the contest, but knowing the context behind Ruth as an artist, Dancing in the Rain felt extra special.
Spain often drop the ball when staging their entries, but Dancing in the Rain was staged immaculately. The LEDs looked like a genuine rain shower, aided by the water features that surrounded the Copenhagen stage. The glistening rain drops corresponded with Ruth’s elegant white dress, which sparked in the stage lighting. Completing the aesthetic was her purposefully ‘rain soaked’ hair, which she still managed to work and flip throughout the song (do you have any idea how difficult that is??).
As usual, Ruth was note-perfect throughout, sounding even better than she did in the studio version. After all, Ruth was a seasoned live singer who had form for performing under pressure. Exhibiting the vocal control that brought her success in the X Factor, she added additional texture to the song’s vocal melody.
Beyond the song
As we all know, the eventual winner of Eurovision 2014 was Austria’s Conchita Wurst. In the face of backlash and prejudice, Conchita handled herself with poise and dignity. The iconic quote from her winning speech ‘we are unstoppable’ can be applied to Ruth Lorenzo’s journey too.
What made Conchita’s winning moment all the more special was Ruth embracing her on the way to her reprise. The two had become very close in Copenhagen, with them (+ Portugal’s Suzy) being nicknamed the ‘Kardashian sisters.’ All three represent a goddess-like, statuesque presence on stage, albeit in different ways. In a year where Conchita received a lot of criticism and ridicule, it doesn’t surprise me that Ruth was on the right side of history.
Dancing in the Rain represents everything I love in a Eurovision package – polish, authenticity, impact and insecurity. Let’s hope Spain can reach those dizzying heights once more.
What our other editors had to say:
Ruth is an excellent singer and a performer. Also, the stage and the outfit matched the song really well. And for that it did deserve to be in the top ten. However, as I am usually not a ballad person, this was not on my personal top ten that year. One of the reason for that is the title and lyrics. The idea of ‘dancing in the rain’ does not sound appealing to an Icelander like me. The rain is cold and coming from all direction. It’s cold. And now this song kinda reminds me of a not as cool version of “Let It Go”.
I would imagine that by sending Ruth Lorenzo, the 5 and 6 points awarded by the UK and Ireland respectively, were slightly inflated due to her time on the UK’s X Factor – but not by much. That said, it is a great song and credit should be given to Ruth for nailing the vocal on what was a huge, open stage that could potentially have shown up a lesser singer. And if you have a long high note, you better deliver. She did. Spain managed a well-deserved spot on the left-hand side of the scoreboard. Bravo Ruth!
Whenever I see clouds forming above me, I frequently find myself yelling “THE RAIN, THE RAIN, THE RAIN” up at the sky. Maybe that’s why I have no friends and people run for the hills when they see me, but I know Ruth would understand. Back when everyone else was infatuated with Brequette’s hair during the pre-selection, I was fully on board the rain train. There’s just so much to like about this, from the melody to the powerful vocals, which get a bit shouty and loud at times, but if I was dancing in the rain I too would want people on the North Pole to hear about it. Good stuff.
I have to give it to Ruth – she performed “Dancing in the Rain” with real passion and emotion and she displayed to the audiences that she wanted her shot at the trophy! Even though she didn’t reach the trophy on the night, she still showed that she was in the competition to win it, and that is the type of performer that I like in Eurovision! One slight little problem I have with this song is I would have loved for it to all have been sung in Spanish; it was a beautiful song, but I do think the English lyrics and the constant use of the title “Dancing in the Rain” in the chorus took away ever so slightly from the beauty of the song. Otherwise, a great composition and performed beautifully. Ruth deserved the 10th place, if not even a bit higher.
Good stuff indeed. What are your thoughts about Dancing in the Rain? Next week we’ll be back to pay tribute to yet another Eurovision entry of yesteryear. Up next, it’s Sean with Cyprus’ “Life Looks Better In Spring”.