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Meet the ESCXTRA Team! Part 35 – OLIVER

As our team continues to grow, it means there are more of us that you can get to know! Therefore, we will continue to bring back our “Meet the ESCXTRA team” feature each time we have someone new for you to meet. What is our personal Eurovision story? Why did we want to be a part of this website? What are our favourite Eurovision songs of all-time? Also, how can you get in touch with us on social media? Read on to find out!

Oliver Lewis

Hello! I’m currently halfway through studying a Masters degree in Comparative Literature in London, UK. You may be asking ‘what is comparative literature?’. My response is simple: SAME!

Feel free to follow me on the below:
Instagram: @ojl2283
Twitter: @ojl2283

Your first Eurovision memory?

My first memories of Eurovision have been of the same feeling: bemusement. My first vivid memory is watching Michalis Rakintzis from Greece in 2002 contest. I didn’t get it. The song itself didn’t make much sense, the performance was slightly strange but the robot outfits, frankly, was upsetting. I remember going to see a Greek friend’s house a few days after the contest, biting my tongue to ask what that was all about.

My next memory is similar. Watching the winning performance of Lordi’s with no context and nd being confused and concern for the moral fibre of the continent. Of course, it wasn’t until much later that I realised the brilliance of Lordi… No such luck for Michalis Rakintzis’ however.

Your Eurovision Journey?

While I was exposed to the contest for a few years, it wasn’t until 2007 that I watched the contest from start to finish. I immediately fell for the diversity of genres that generally was leaning towards the rockier side of the musical spectrum (I’ve got a HUGE soft-spot for rock). To this day I have a huge gratitude for ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, which prompted many delegations to broaden out into the umbrella of genre and, in turn, attracted to me to the contest. Back to Helsinki. I hated the UK’s entry and saw it as an embarrassment compared the competent entries that missed out on the final (Eiríkur Hauksson and Anonymous I’m looking at you!). After the contest ended, I had a craving to rewatch some of the performances I enjoyed. One video led to another which led to playlists, point spreadsheets, lyric pages and I was hooked. I had willingly jumped into the rabbit hole that is Eurovision and there has been no turning back!

Though I was making my way through listening to every song – it wasn’t enough. I needed others to join me in my newfound musical cult. It wasn’t long before I became a regular user of a few Eurovision sites and chat rooms. Things rapidly descended from there. It was not uncommon of me to stay up till the early hours of the morning discussing and debating Eurovision.

During my undergraduate degree, Eurovision took a big step back as it was too much to juggle everything at once.

True to form with any research I engage in, I ended up willingly jumping into the Eurovision rabbit hole. I was an avid user of several sites to get news and updates for the next contest. All was well until I encountered a site with a chat room.

And finally; your top 5 Eurovision songs of all time?

With over 1500 entries, it is almost impossible to pick just five songs. I’m going to be somewhat sneaky and borrow a tactic from Jakob and give my top 10! Preface that this is not a stable top 10 and can change by the hour, day or month!

10. Hanna Pakarinen – Leave Me Alone (Finland 2007)

9. Dami Im – Sound of Silence (Australia 2016)

8. Mor ve Ötesi – Deli (Turkey 2008)

7. Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave (Armenia 2016)

6. Aminata – Love Injected (Latvia 2015)

5. Minn Hinsti Dans (Iceland 1997)

For three minutes Iceland showed Europe a post-modern Dorian Gray, meeting a more dignified ending than Wilde’s original. I love the dark tone created by the provocative performance, creating a subversive intrigue. Reading a translation of the lyrics makes me adore this song even more: the narrative of a hedonistic lifestyle that has ultimately become unfulfilling and unsustainable. Furthermore, I can’t help but feel that while this song placed criminally low, it was ultimately revolutionary for the contest. It paved the way for more diverse, spectacular and sensationalist staging. It stretched the perception of what it means to be a ‘Eurovision’ performance and the topics of conversation it can address.

Simply put, this was truly a song and performance beyond its time.

4. Hari Mata Hari – Lejla (Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006)

Easily my favourite Balkan ballad entered into the contest. The lyrics are beautiful. I think what makes this so special to me is the fascinating structure of the song.This song is layered with exceptional instrumentation that rouses as the song continues. This is strengthened by deviating from the conventional strophic song construction of ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus’, Hari Mata Hari truly builds his anguish into an emotional climax.

3. The Common Linnets – Calm After the Storm (Netherlands 2014)

A masterclass of staging. This song is incredibly simple, which has led to its success. It allows you to really hone in on every harmony and grasp the poignant layering of a relationship both fray and entwine.

Loreen – Euphoria (Sweden 2012)

A little cliché, but Loreen and Euphoria transformed the contest. This song synthesised the iconic and commercial success of ‘Waterloo’, with the ground-breaking performative moment of ‘Minn Hinsti Dans’.  this song changed the direction of the contest for the better. Ironically, as soon as it rightfully won in Baku, I’ve struggled to listen to ‘Euphoria’. It has slightly become a victim of its own success for me to actively choose to listen to the song.

Blanche – City Lights (Belgium 2017)

This song captivated me the moment I listened to it. The richness of Blanche’s voice blankets the song in a dark and alternative vibe. Meanwhile, the hypnotic octaves that dominate the chorus draws you in. The rather static performance lends itself to the endearing vulnerability of Blanche’s song and personal panic. This is further teased by the specifically-vague nature of the lyrics, creating a universality of meaning that can resonate to a personal level.

Stay tuned for the next part in our Meet the ESCXTRA team series! Remember, you can share your Eurovision stories with us in the comments section below or via the comments sections on our Facebook page @ESCXTRA. We would love to hear them!

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