It’s Sunday, which must mean it’s time for another slideback! This week, we’re going to Oslo where Harel Skaat took to the stage with “Milim”.
Has it really been 10 years?
Going back to 2010, it was only my second year watching Eurovision as an 11-year-old who was intrigued to find out what the contest had to offer next. This was, of course, following the events from the year before, where I had witnessed a violin playing Norwegian take the trophy. At the time of the 2010 contest, I was foolishly hopeful of my home country of the United Kingdom to do well, as I didn’t take much notice of the other 24 better songs in the final. I always preferred saxophones and glittery shorts anyway.
Fast forward to (roughly) 2017, and I find myself looking back on entries of the past. I come across a lyric video of “Milim” and end up playing it on repeat. Despite this, anyone who knows me would probably be saying, “but it’s a ballad, you don’t like ballads!”. While that’s pretty spot on, I happen to make exceptions if said ballad is not sung in English. Safe to say, I’m sick of the English language as a native speaker. So please, go ahead and sing in a language I don’t understand. I’ll be forever grateful.
It was to my disappointment afterwards that I discovered Harel recorded an English version of the song. But enough of that. “Milim” is my favourite entry from Israel by quite a margin. Even 10 years after Harel performed it in Oslo, the song still gives me chills and leaves me wanting to play it once more.
Turning our focus onto the live performance, it was all going so well for Harel. The staging was simple but enough to focus on the man himself. Performing as the penultimate act must have been considered an added bonus too. Watching it back, it didn’t take long for “Milim” to give me goosebumps. It’s haunting, beautiful in many aspects and leaves a significant impression on you. Well on its way to finishing high on the leaderboard…
Until that tragic voice break.
And just to add insult to injury, it was even included in the voting recap. Was that the factor which ended Israel’s hopes of finishing in the top 5 like the betting odds suggested? Possibly. But look at it this way, “Milim” won all 3 of the Marcel Bezençon Awards. Something that had never been achieved before until then.
This week’s guest star: Gilad Mandelboim
This week’s guest star is Gilad Mandelboim, an Israeli currently living in London. He has been a Eurovision fan for as long as he can remember, and has traveled to seven contests. He also launched the first Eurovision party in New York, Europhoria, back in 2012.
I was excited when I heard Harel Skaat was selected to represent Israel in Eurovision. He was a young, talented and handsome emerging artist in Israel. He placed 2nd at the Israeli reality show A Star is Born. He was my favourite back then. He had a beautiful voice and had this old-fashioned, yet relevant uniqueness to him. This was also the first Eurovision I actually attended which made it the perfect combination. I first heard “Milim” at the Israeli pre-selections (Kdam) in which Skaat performed 4 different songs. ”Milim” wasn’t my favourite out of the four songs. I actually thought “Lean” was much more suitable for Eurovision, but the public and the judges decided to send “Milim” to Eurovision. I remember the Eurovision community being a bit outraged, claiming there was a conspiracy theory to send “Milim”. Fans claimed the entire show was staged in favour of the song and it was even staged and filmed much more professionally than other songs. You’ll be the judges of that. You can find the songs on YouTube.
All of a sudden, “Milim” started climbing to the top of the betting odds chart and the frenemies became friends. Why not ride a winning horse if you can? The world loved “Milim”, the betting agencies put their faith in “Milim” so how can we not love it? Eurovision week has arrived and the buzz was real. Can Israel actually win with “Milim” in Oslo? I was still a bit skeptical but hopeful Skaat qualified after an amazing and accurate performance at the semi final. We were celebrating with loads of adult beverages at the Euroclub waving Israeli flags.
Step one in conquering the Eurovision galaxy has been successful. 3 more minutes to go. 3 more minutes until we take the trophy back home to Tel Aviv? The big night has arrived. Skaat takes the stage. Good start. He is a professional. He knows what he’s doing. Yes! Good job, Harel. Almost there. We got this! Go for that high pitched tone…Nooooooooooooo! Unfortunately back home in Israel, everybody remembers those 3 seconds out of the 3 minutes, but it must be said, he did a great job. Not perfect, but he made us proud, even if we didn’t win.
It was after Eurovision that I actually learnt to really love this song. It’s very dark and sad with beautiful lyrics, but this is probably why it didn’t place higher. It’s more of a grower than an instant pleaser. It probably wouldn’t have won if the final performance was perfect. I’m not a big fan of Skaat’s post Eurovision career or public image, but “Milim” will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first Eurovision and it was a part of my life’s soundtrack throughout a few heart breaks.
Opinions from some of our team
I remember listening to Josh Dubovie’s recent podcast that centred on his Eurovision experience, and he mentioned that Harel’s song was his favourite by a long way. “Milim” sits in stark contrast to my favourite Israeli entry, “Golden Boy in 2015 – you probably could not get two songs further apart. While I can appreciate songs such as Harel’s, I tend to veer towards more upbeat and catchy tracks – which puts “Milim” at a handicap. It really is not the type of song I enjoy but saying that, it has been one I have remembered over the years – whether it is due to the fantastic vocals or the distinctiveness of the title, I’m not sure. Again, I can appreciate the song without it being one I listen to or rank as one of the ones I really enjoy.
This is a pleasant ballad with a sombre and haunting melody. That said, to this day I have no idea why it was considered 4th favourite to win the contest. Even though the lyrics are wonderful – the staging, which veers on the generic, does little to help sell the package. Even ignoring that moment towards the end of the song, this is a good song but doesn’t do a huge amount for me personally – sorry!
A strong male vocalist singing a melodic, powerful, emotional ballad in his own language? Yes, please. Even though I’m often considered to be the ultimate rock chic, I do very much appreciate good music of all (at least most) genres. And in it’s genre, I think “Milim” is quite a good song. Harel is a really accomplished singer, and I feel so sorry for that little mishap at the end there. Oslo was my first Eurovisison as press, and Harel was always very friendly and open when we met. I remember there was much talk in the press center about whether or not Harel should attempt *that note*, as he didn’t always make it, or even go for it, during rehearsals. I belonged to the “skip it” camp, as I believe the song is strong enough without it, and the risk was massive. Also, I remember thinking what a gamble it was to pick just that part of the song for the recap. Brilliant if he made it, disastrous if he didn’t. “Milim” was just outside my top 10 back in 2010, but it is one of the songs I still listen to from that year. My fave Israeli Eurovision entry is “Time” (2012).
“Milim” was included in the first Eurovision I watched live, but I must admit I have little memory of it from then as it’s not a song I’d have noticed when younger. Going back to it since, it has a rather lovely amount of drama and emotion that Harel manages to put into his relatively simple concept of a song (“Words”). It finished midtable which is about where I’d place it, it lacks the power of some other songs in this genre like 2012’s “Kuula” or “My Heart Is Yours” from the same contest. But that it’s in Hebrew gives it an extra bit of Israeli power, something that we haven’t seen in the final, even in their ballads since then. I would probably enjoy more Hebrew power ballads. Perhaps not my favourite among the Israeli entries, but I can definitely respect a choice to go for this.
That concludes this week’s Slideback Sunday! Let us know your thoughts on “Milim” in the comments below.