For most of Eurovision’s history, songs were performed with a live orchestra. For the first few years, the microphones were such that the singers weren’t permitted to move around the stage. Hence, the path of least resistance was to send a ballad. Additionally, between 1977 and 1998, songs had to be performed in the native language. One of the easiest ways to get around the obvious difficulty in getting Italians to understand a song in Swedish and vice versa was to stand in place and sing a highly dramatic number of some kind. Most of the time, the singers just had to stand there and look wistful, and they were set.
Nowadays, all instruments at Eurovision are playback. The language rule is long gone. The rule about standing there left the building in the early 60s, about five contests in. But vestiges of these institutions still exist, and there’s no shortage of entries that follow them. Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorites, Spain’s 2012 entry, “Quédate Conmigo,” sung by Pastora Soler.
1) A focus on the singer’s voice,
2) Sparse or non-existent choreography and staging,
and 3) An overwrought yet simple emotional story so as to be understood by everyone.
There are no instrumentalists onstage with Soler, but it’s very easy to imagine an orchestra right behind her. The song is also somewhat timeless; it could have existed thirty (or more) years ago. The viewing public is able to figure out what the story of the song is very easily, even if they don’t speak Spanish. Her facial expressions scream “passionate sadness,” so the audience at home is able to figure everything out. And if the audience at home does speak Spanish, they’re in for a treat, since the lyrics deliver Shakespearean levels of emotion. The lyric when the key changes translates to “and now that I watch you leave, I know that I will never forget you.” The build helps deliver some of the passion, too, which is another cue for non-Spanish speakers. That kind of “starts off soft and low and goes out with a bang” build is not uncommon in this set.
Even though a full contest of stand-and-sing numbers might get a bit boring, having a few classy ballads with nice lyrics really gives the contest some grounding and legitimacy. Enjoy and anon!
(A few other entries I could’ve discussed: