Speedy through Luxembourg

Don’t believe it, but this is another first in Eurovision history. I mean, of course, it is Luxembourg’s first entry into the competition, but no, that’s not what I had in mind. This is actually the first up-tempo song in the competition. It is, however, a trade-off between speedy delivery and length of the song. It is with regret that I have to inform you that this short break from drawn-out chansons is not even two minutes long. Listen to it for yourself:

This, of course, is Michèle Arnaud with her rendition of Ne Crois Pas. For once it delivers a break from all the slow chansons the competition offered so far. Wikipedia makes me hopeful it will at least not remain the only up-tempo entry, but I don’t know yet if, “In contrast to most of the other entries of this Contest, the song is an up-tempo number […].”, is just the authors hedging their bets.

The song’s fast tempo might be fitting with its general message of the vanity inherent in beauty. The song is a plea to a lover to disregard their beauty because it would be meaningless in the long run. In a way, this topic reminds me of German baroque poetry. Vanitas and evanescence, beauty as a temporary good, are all things that crop up in German poetry of the 17th century. Germany as a state didn’t exist by then, but the general area of what would once become Germany was thrashed by the turmoils of the Thirty Years War then. There’s a parallel to Luxembourg only 11 years after the end of World War II.

Similar to the Thirty Years War, the Second World War was a pointer to the evanescence of life, beauty and safety and showed the depths humanity could descend to. Ne Crois Pas in itself isn’t a reference to said turmoil but it’s a mirror towards society’s ingrained believes about evanescence. A young lover could have very well been drafted into a war and have lost his beauty within months of fighting, perhaps, through injury, perhaps, just through the ceaseless trauma of war laying its creases on their face.

But there is a twist to the baroque motifs. While the poets of the 17th century put their fingers up and warned of the fleetingness of beauty and in the same breath extolled a veritable form of nihilism, Michèle Arnaud’s song gives more practical and less philosophical advice: Use it while it lasts!

My take on this song is probably deeper than the author of the song ever intended, but I am of the strong opinion that for every medium there’s one important adage: “The author is dead.” I don’t mean that literally, though at least for this piece it’s probably the truth. At least Arnaud died in 1998 already and I don’t think the composer Christian Guitreau is still alive.

If we come back to the surface. I can, but agree, that this song could also just be a story about vanity and jealousy. Vanity not in the sense of baroque vanitas but strictly speaking as a negative personality trait. Though a look at both words alone should hint you at a deep etymological link between the two.

I don’t enjoy this song enough to put it in any of my personal playlists, but I very much enjoyed the variety it brings to the 1956 lineup of songs. I hope up-tempo songs get a second chance for this first Eurovision year. I’ll leave you with the current playlist of reviewed ESC 1956 songs:

If you want more Eurovision Reviews, you can find them here. If you want something different and would like to see more of my art, how about my reflexions on this year’s Inktober? And maybe you’d enjoy Part III of my ongoing story about trees.

Can I Interest You in an Old Merry-Go-Round?

YouTube offered its mercy to me. The first recommendation all the while I was listening to this work, was Billy Joel’s Piano Man, an in my opinion fundamentally superior song. Though while YouTube was reaching out a hand of good-will to me, I hit it away and made myself listen to the second entry of 1956’s Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne: Das Alte Karussell by Swiss singer Lys Assia.

This is the first song from Switzerland to ever grace the stage of Eurovision finals and the second song of the entire competition. For a view on the first entry be sure to visit my last post about it here. It also contains a bit more information on what I’m doing in this series of blog posts.

This song is way worse than the last one. I’m sorry. Maybe it’s just the fact that I understand German better than Dutch, or maybe it is just that with less complex lyrics about birdsong you can do little wrong, but I sure didn’t need a repair manual for an old carousel.

But let us start at the title. Das Alte Karussell means The Old Merry-Go-Round in German, and that’s probably way more descriptive of the song itself than it should be. The instrumentation surely makes a good effort at evoking the slightly monotonous and out of tune music of an old-timey fair. Though I, myself, wouldn’t count that as a positive. After all, I want to listen to a song and not find the background music for my career as a 20th-century showman. To be fair the instrumentation is not the worst this song has to offer, at least if you ignore the fact that at some points it almost completely blocks out the timid vocals.

Well actually, I don’t know if that’s a genuine downside. The lyrics don’t draw me in either. Sure, they are a weird pastiche of a derelict fairground, but certainly, no one who tried to restore a run-down merry-go-round would need a song as a reminder to lubricate the mechanisms if the carousel ran too slowly. I know I’m taking this way too literally, but I can’t help it with a song as empty of metaphor and depth as this one. Just block my ears as the instrumentation tries to emulate the sounds of the broken organ of the merry-go-round.

In my mind, there’s a clear reason why Lys Assia, who died only last year, didn’t win with this particular song. Though remember her, she will come up again, and I said “this” for a reason in the last sentence.

Thank you, next!