Last week we looked back to the distant past of 2019, when Tamara Todevska brought her country their first taste of the Eurovision top ten in Tel Aviv, Israel. This week we stay in Israel, but turn back to clock to 1993, when the country sent a group of performers to sing their song ‘Loud and High’ in the small Irish town of Millstreet. How did the Shiru Group come to be? Brace yourself for some Israeli drama!
Like most years, Israeli broadcaster IBA held a national selection, Kdam Eurovision, to select their representative for Eurovision 1993. Among those competing were future Israel entrant David D’Or and also the composer of the 1998 winner ‘Diva’, Svika Pick. The winners were the ‘Shiru Group’ accompanied by TV personality Sarah’le Sharon, with the song titled ‘Shiru’. ‘Shiru’ was composed by Shaike Paikov, who previously composed the 1989 Israeli entry. His involvement came after being contacted by Sarah, who begged him to compose a song for her to enter the national final. Originally hesitant due to Sarah not being a singer, Shaike eventually accepted upon the premise that he could select a group of singers to perform with her, becoming known as ‘Shiru Group’. In the national final performance, Sarah was mostly just a backing vocalist, while the group did the ‘heavy lifting’.
Drama in Millstreet
When the Israeli delegation arrived at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, controversy erupted. According to an interview given to the website ‘And the Conductor is…‘ by Shaike Paikov in 2012, Sarah decided to present herself as the lead vocalist during the rehearsals. She claimed the Shiru Group members were merely backing singers, and insisted the camera focus on her during the performance. This completely disregarded ideas already given to host broadcaster RTÉ by IBA in regards to the staging of the entry. Shaike intervened and explained to the director of the contest that the camera angles should focus on the group. Soon after this, Sarah called the director to again confirm herself as lead singer. Shaike couldn’t get the camera angles changed back for a fifth time and so the video of the performance focuses almost completely on Sarah, sitting at the piano.
According to Shaike this completely ruined any chance the song had. He contacted IBA stating that Sarah had ‘gone crazy’, and her out-of-tune vocals would lead them to last place. Shaike quit and intended to return to Israel, but he was convinced to stay in Ireland by the head of entertainment in IBA. The song didn’t end up coming last, but just one point separated them from eventual last place Belgium. This is still the worst result for Israel in a final.
What does our team think?
There’s a lot to say about this entry. I had only vaguely heard it before and it never really stuck with me, and not much has changed to be honest. The staging feels like a full cliché with questionable outfits and a typical eurovision group-esque choreography. The vocals are not perfect all the time and personally I think the women’s voices clash a lot. Yet, it’s still enjoyable with a catchy-enough melody. Of course, the language always works favors for Israel, always making their songs sound better than they are when they are performed in Hebrew. Would I listen to this in my own time? Probably not, but it’s not Israel’s worst.
Israel’s worst finish to that date, huh? Well, there’s a nice choral feel to the group singing in the background, and it comes across uplifting, though a bit flat for it. If there is a reason this didn’t do well, perhaps it was for similar reasons to the most recent Montenegrin entry failing, a group with good vocals that don’t use their performance to create a fun personality behind the song, we know the best of this era did it. I like this song listening to it, but I would not remember it favourably compared to, to pick a couple of others from the 1993 contest, the fun of “Better The Devil You Know” or the drama of “Don’t Ever Cry”. It’s fallen into the trap of trying to be uplifting and having that be the only emotion put in the song so it doesn’t stand out from the crowd, a fair number of Eurovision hopefuls fall into this, and with the awkward staging this one has, I don’t think it ever stood a chance.
Israel in the 1990s – they were a proper piece of work and with the exception of ‘Kan’ in 1991, they always found themselves at the bottom of my rankings. It always seemed like there was a standard routine, but one that never really clicked for me. ‘Shiru’ is no exception. I like a bit of structure and clarity… But in this song, you feel the woman at the piano is part of the group, until she starts to upstage everyone else performing. It almost looks like she’s their music teacher, unhappy with the performance, so she simply decides to take over the spotlight. It is highly confusing and not in an entertaining way… I’ve often seen people call it a school musical. Well, if my school would perform this song right there, I’d probably go for a drink and come back once it’s finished. Goodness me, this is so sweet, my teeth actually hurt every time I listen to it.
Israel prior to 2000 is easily one of my favourite Eurovision countries, there are several songs I like, especially 1978 and 1991. This song however does not feature among my favourites I am afraid. I have no strong feelings about it but the thing I like the most about this is not the song but rather the outfits of the performers, to that I would give 12 points. The instrumentation is solid and I appreciate the Hebrew language, but it takes until the English part for me to get interested … and then the song ends.