Today, twelve years ago, I attended my first Eurovision, in Oslo, Norway. Looking back on it now, I am extremely happy to have been there and seen it, the last dinosaur Eurovision ever held.
It is very much old school, the way the contest was in the 90's when people were mainly watching out of habit and nobody in the recording industry enthused particularly about the event. There is a huge orchestra that efficiently erases every single drop of originality and own profile of each entry, and most songs sent in more or less sopoforic ballads in an attempt not to stand out enough to annoy the judges and at least attract some sympathy points from some bored jury.
Compared to 1995, the level of songs were at least a few steps up. Quite a few of the songs are good ones, and had there been compilations issued back then, some of them could have become at least radio hits. Very few of the singers really shone on the night, however, and most of the ditties sound better on record.
The craziest entry, by far, was a violent gospel from Austria and the most modern effort, from Gina G of the UK, managed to get a new rule through - for the first time ever anyone could use a drum machine in the backing tracks. The following year, it would be up to every country how heavy backing tracks they wanted and if they wanted any orchestra at all.
NRK really wanted the show to look modern and hip, but made use of some visual gimmicks that look very dated today. Much fuss was made about the virtual reality-studio where the score board was animated, but the voting was like any old voting back then, complete with Irish victory and all.
It could come across as if I didn't like the 1996 contest at all, and I must admit that the total production isn't among my favourites. But it doesn't matter, it is the year that my dream came true, to see Eurovision up close and personal. And I got to interview Maja Blagdan and wave my handmade Estonian flags for "Kaelakee hääl". (If I had only known then that we had Kreisiraadio coming...)
Maarja-Liis Ilus & Ivo Linna - Kaelakee hääl - Estonia 1996
Mariana Efstratiou - Emis forame to himona anixiatika - Greece 1996
Maja Blagdan - Sveta ljubav - Croatia 1996