In this series so far I’ve tended to deal with countries which have a strong track record in Eurovision. When a Dutch Eurovision magazine asked me if I would like to write an article on the chances for the Netherlands this year, it was an opportunity to write instead about the country which has the worst record in recent Eurovision history.
The Netherlands has failed to reach the Top 12 since the turn of the millennium, and their only qualification since the semi-final system began was in 2004. They have often seemed trapped in a Eurovision timewarp, as their terribly dated and cheesy last two offerings showed. Have the Dutch learnt from their mistakes in sending 3JS with ’Never Alone’?
First, the good news. ‘Never Alone’ is a decent number by Eurovision standards. It’s a radio-friendly, midtempo song with plenty of nice little hooks. The lead singer has an interesting voice with an effective, plaintive tone in the high notes that suits the composition. You can watch a live rendition here.
The country’s sole semi qualifier, Re-Union’s ‘Without You’ in 2004, was a similarly gentle number.
‘Never Alone’ also has the great good fortune of being in the second semi-final, which has plenty of dross. To qualify it has to beat nine songs, and there’s no doubt there are nine worse songs in this heat.
The lack of big hitters in this semi is similarly good news for nations such as The Netherlands which are relatively friendless in televoting terms. The country has just the one ally – Belgium – and this time around they don’t have to compete with the likes of Armenia and Greece, who hoovered up the Belgian 12 and 10 in the 2008 semi.
That year was the last time The Netherlands sent a credible entry. Hind’s ‘Your Heart Belongs To Me’ was an enthnopop song that was compared, often favourably, to the Armenian entry that year. But it fared much worse, and here’s where the bad news starts for 3JS’s chances in 2011.
In part, what did for Hind was bad staging, and this seems to be something of a pattern for The Netherlands. Repeating their mistake from 2007 – Edsilia Rombley’s ‘On Top of the World’ – pointless and poor backing dancers distracted from the song (although Hind’s failure to use the stage or find the camera counted even more).
The staging in 2009 and 2010 also seemed to hinder rather than help, so it has to be a worry what the Netherlands team will come up with for this year – even though ‘Never Alone’ isn’t the kind of song that needs any theatrics. The comparable ‘Without You’ qualified in 2004 with just two blokes with stools and guitars. But even if this lesson is learnt and the staging is an improvement on recent years, a bigger problem lies in wait.
Re-Union were drawn last in that 2004 semi-final. Always helpful, it is especially crucial for a song like ‘Without You’ – as demonstrated by its disastrous showing in the final when it had an early draw.
3JS also have a terrible draw (three) in their semi and, sadly, I think this could prove fatal. Because while ‘Never Alone’ is competent and pleasant, it’s also easily forgettable. 3JS are hardly telegenic, either. Who, apart from the Belgians, is going to remember this inoffensive number by the end of the show?
If the Netherlands are to scrape into the final, therefore, I think they will have to rely on a high jury score. This isn’t impossible – as I say, there are certainly nine worse songs in this heat – but at the same time, I struggle to see the juries going for it in a sufficiently big way. It’s just too bland, and bland is about as damning an adjective as you can apply to a Eurovision song.
So, much as it would be nice to see the Netherlands reverse their disastrous run of recent results by qualifying for the big one, and a fair result as it would be in this semi-final, ultimately I fear it’s not going to happen.