We are in the week of the Eurovision Festival and this Thursday 20th May Portugal will play the last Saturday the 22nd. My 10 favorite songs that represented Portugal on Eurovision.
It goes without saying that this is a personal list that has inevitably been influenced by my childhood as I followed the festival more closely. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered from the disappointment of seeing Rui Bandeira (big hair, O Rui) sink in the 1999 Eurovision, followed by black years of poor performance and memorable songs, until that magical night in 2017 in Kiew.
Without further ado, let’s go to the top 10:
10. Da Vinci – “Conqueror” (1989)
After I was born in November 1985, I was only 3 years old at the 1989 Festival, but for some reason (there will surely be an explanation for this) all of my earliest memories are related to music and the first subject I was familiar with the song festival came the “conqueror” of Da Vinci. In kindergarten, it was a hit hammering the room ad nauseam, even though nobody knew what it was about at the time. Of course we went to kindergarten. A harmless topic like “Conquistador” can no longer be achieved on television these days. I can already imagine the screams of “colonialists”, “imperialists”, “racists” and other nonsense that would be thrown at the Da Vinci. Ah, the 80s. If we could have fun with everyday things.
9. Paulo de Carvalho – “And after parting” (1974)
The song that will forever remain associated with the April 25, 1974 Revolution, as it was the first password that signaled the troops on the night of the 24th to be ready for what was to come. “E Além Do Adeus” had nothing to do with politics and was therefore the chosen topic in order not to avoid suspicion. Paulo de Carvalho was immortalized that night after a humble appearance at the Brighton Eurovision Festival a few weeks before the revolution.
8. Dina – “Amor D’Água Fresca” (1992)
We continue with my memories of Jardim Escola (here “I was already” 6 years old), this time for a cross-cutting topic. Love and fruit, what do you dislike? In retrospect, “Amor D’Água Fresca” was too light for Eurovision and Dina as they had a rare talent for melodies (CDS music never gets out of mind), but it didn’t have exactly the look Pop Star had to face the prints of Hungary and Lithuania triumph. It’s a shame the music was very good.
7. Dulce Pontes – “Lusitana Paixão” (1991)
After the Da Vinci in 1989, we started looking for the feeling again in 1991 with Dulce Pontes. To kick off a phenomenal career, Dulce brought the “Lusitana Paixão” to Rome, an ode to Fado, MAS (wink, wink) There was more of Stevie Wonder than Amália. Not that that’s bad, and it’s proof that Europe liked it and Dulce did a great job. Well, at least for the Portuguese context, which in Eurovision is an escape from relegation.
6. Salvador Sobral – “Amar Pelos Dois” (2017)
In Eurovision as in the ball, a huge fall pops up from time to time and even Sporting wins the championship and Portugal wins the Eurovision Festival. In 2017, Portugal appeared in Kiev with a theme that was the opposite of all the festivities represented by Eurovision, and the unthinkable happened – we won. And we not only won, we also won with the least possible Eurovisionable song. Much was written at the time about how Salvador Sobral’s victory with the beautiful “Amar Pelos Dois” represented a paradigm shift in music and in Eurovision. Law. The following year he won the worst song I heard at Eurovision, the Lisbon Festival. What has changed since then? Nothing. Salvador was a foreigner at Eurovision and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The alien is ours.
5. Carlos Paião – “Play-Back” (1981)
At the height of the synthesizers, Carlos Paião brought Portuguese synth-pop to Eurovision, with a critique of plastic music and singers without a voice that was beginning to multiply at the time. The subject was brilliant and accurate, but Europe didn’t notice and “Play-Back” didn’t go beyond 18th place. The following years would prove the cap served Eurovision and Carlos was right. Take a closer look at the editions of the last few years and consider how many topics try to emulate Paião’s “playback”. Great Carlos, great talent.
4. Sara Tavares – “Chamar A Música” (1994)
Hide yourself Whitney Houston coming to Sara Tavares. Sara went to Dublin at the age of 16 to show Europe a loud voice and what a shame she did not exceed 8th place. I know it was a good classification for Portugal, but Calling the Music caught me in the euphoric phase with Eurovision and the song was so good that I was convinced we would win. A feather.
3. José Cid – “Um Grande, Grande Amor” (1980)
“Addio, adieu, goodbye, goodbye / Amore, amour, my love, love of my life”. If there is one Eurovision song that has entered the canon of Portuguese popular culture, it was this ode to José Cid’s love for emigrants. Zé brought to Holland a hairstyle that defined Ribatejos Agrobetos for decades (I met some drawn on carbon paper) and a song to win. I would even say that in the entire history of the Song Festival I cannot think of a Eurovisionable theme other than “Um Grande, Grande Amor”. Okay, the title can be sliced (I haven’t used that word in about 15 years) but the song ticks all the boxes. Starting with the letter, European and accessible. To justify the comparisons, José Cid never sounded as good with Elton John as he did on the subject (in fact, in 1980, Cid sounded more to Elton than to Captain Fantastic himself, and it’s quite controversial who was better). José Cid was like Carlos Mendes in Portugal’s all-time best at the time (we were 7th), but he knew a little. He deserved more, Zé.
2. Simone de Oliveira – “Desfolhada Portuguesa” (1969)
Simone, the Portuguese hurricane, traveled to Madrid in March 1969 to win the Eurovision Cup. The bet was strong, but well founded. The “Desfolhada Portuguesa” was a powerful and addicting theme that appeared as one of the top favorites for this year’s win. Portugal stopped to see Simone de Oliveira make and reach a seismic interpretation … An inexpressible 15th and penultimate location. “Portugal won with the penultimate place”, denounced the then magazine Flama. Europe must have blushed with shame when they gave Simone de Oliveira 4 points. Well, Europe I don’t know, but the Spaniards certainly blushed for rushing to their dressing room to apologize immediately for the embarrassment. Your shame, of course, that Simone was fantastic. “I still sing,” she said of the top of those who know she did her part. She is the queen of the Eurovision Festival and every list of the best songs must have Simone on top. Not mine, but you’ll understand why.
1. Anabela – “The City (By Day)” (1993)
Anabela was my first big crush for a kid, I was 7 years old (she was 16 so hey it’s not that weird). Maybe because of my childhood crush I am so partial to the perfection of “Die Stadt (until daylight)”. For me, the song that brought Anabela to Ireland remains the best that Portugal had on Eurovision. Everything is perfect. From the urban charm of the trumpets that heralded the choir, through the vocal crescendo, to an impossible note in the choir (“Cidadeeeeee” – in the overcrowded version of the Song Festival semifinals, she still didn’t risk it) until the triumphant performance of the Background vocals that perfectly complement Anabela’s angelic voice. Almost 30 years have passed and I still fall in love with her when I remember the video on Youtube. If this isn’t the power of a song I don’t know what it is.
You can hear it all on the London Calling Podcast on NiTfm.