Tag: Eurovision

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Just occasionally the annual TV's song fest gets it right

Portugal's Eurovision entry 1974 - consolation prize: Revolution!

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus"

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus" (And After Goodbye)

Flopped at Eurovision - but started a revolution back home

The song is about the end of a relationship. It's not in any way political. Paulo de Carvalho gives a good professional vocal performance, and he's singing in Portuguese. It's a respectable entry. But the musical paradigm is entirely American. And, even for 1974, out-of-date.

Eurovision is a song contest - it's for the best original new song. And the Portuguese entry sounds like something Sinatra, Matt Munro or any Sinatra clone might have sung. It is a mainstream American-style song, old-fashioned and behind the times. The UK had Matt Munro sing at the Eurovision contest - but a decade earlier, in 1964.

Stuck back in time

Portugal in 1974 was itself old-fashioned and behind the times. In fact so far behind the times it was still in the grip of a backward-looking fascist dictatorship, and running a ramshackle colonial empire after all the other European powers had turned away from empire. It was stuck in a timewarp, and its people were suffering - locked in a long war, economically going nowhere and with no end in site.

Culturally Portugal was isolated, and the autocratic regime was afraid of anything subversive or modern. Economically, it was ultra-protectionist. Coca-Cola, even though it was American, was banned - to protect the local soft drinks industry.

Singers and music were licenced by the state and song lyrics subject to censorship. Older American music was accepted, but not the new 60s stuff or anything with anti-war or political

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Salvador Sobral sings playful version of his 2017 Eurovision winner before the contest

Salvador and Luísa Sobral
Salvador overcame life-threatening illness to win

Salvador and Luísa Sobral "Amar Pelos Dois"

Salvador and Luísa Sobral "Amar Pelos Dois" (To love for both of us)

Salvador comes across as wildy eccentric and unworldly, while at the same time level-headed and sincere. There is a genuine backstory behind this, surprising in this age of made-up hype. In December 2017 he had a heart transplant, getting out of hospital on 12 Jan 2018.

He was already ill seven months earlier. He'd had another lesser operation just before the Portuguese heats. His sister Luísa Sobral was at the Eurovision final in Kiev in May 2017 not only because she wrote the winning song. She had special dispensation from the organisers to stand in for her convalescing brother during the rehearsals and meetings leading up to the event.

This family support meant that when Salvador was there he could concentrate on the essentials, such as his stage performance. And he had another advantage - he had thought deeply about what music and Eurovision meant in his life, and why it was worth making the effort to turn up. This showed up in his performance. It wasn't the usual frantic attempt to impress. He was very visibly concentrating on the song.

“We live in a world of disposable music - fast-food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks. Music is feeling.” Salvador Sobral, May 2017 in Kiev, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest

His victory speech, with its famous "Music-is-feeling-not-fireworks" remark, was way outside the Eurovision norm. He is

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