Building on the new normal of the 9-month Eurovision season, Netherlands today debuted its Song for Europe, Trijntje Oosterhuis and “Walk Along.”
Trijntje (pronounced: Traincha) Oosterhuis first got onto our radar nearly a decade ago, when we were in our “see the old crooners before they die” phase. In a span of 5 years, we made pilgrimages to see concerts from Andy Williams (in Branson, Missouri), Jack Jones (Elgin, Illinois), Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (Red Bank, New Jersey), Tony Bennett (Chicago), and Paul Anka (Atlantic City). These are folks who have made careers covering of the Great American Songbook, Broadway showtunes, and easy listening standards. The more ambitious have attempted to make themselves relevant for younger generations, to varying degrees of artistic and commercial success. But I digress.
Somewhere in that period, Trijntje Oosterhuis released an album of Burt Bacharach covers and it was fabulous. Here was an artist in her prime capturing the spirit of the “beautiful music” of the ’60s in a way that was modern, relatable and not at all annoying (I’m looking at you, Diana Krall). Our own generation, taking the baton from the previous.
So when earlier this year Netherlands announced Oosterhuis as their internal Eurovision pick, we were pleased mightily. And while we were happy, we were also a bit wary. Here’s a jazz singer, a standards vocalist (she was signed to Blue Note, for pete’s sake). Sure she can sing, but will she have a pop song that’s a fit? Will she come over well on stage and be able to appeal to a broad audience?
With the presentation of “Walk Along” I’m not sure that either of those concerns have been addressed.
“Walk Along” was written by Anouk. It is decidedly pop, of a decidedly bland theme, and is perfectly immediate. It feels like a song you might hear on an episode of Nashville or playing in a Walmart somewhere (I mean that in a good way). Oosterhuis does what she can with it. Worth noting, Anouk sang backup on the recorded version linked to here. The song is good, but Oosterhuis is better than this song. I found myself enjoying “Walk Along” in the way that someone enjoys a fine vodka mixed with cranberry juice. Yes, I enjoy the cocktail, but I would much rather drink a high-end vodka straight. There’s just one other problem…
Diction. I found myself ruminating on repeated the emphasis of the “yi” sound in the refrain, “Why-yi-yi-yi-yi”. There’s a disconnect between the use of the harsh, forward “i” sound in the chorus, and the rounder vowel that sits further back when we use the word “why” in real life. And while this may seem nitpicky, when it is the primary focus of the chorus, the thing that is emphasized and repeated, and the thing that sticks in your head after the song is over, it’s annoying. The issue is rooted in the lyric craft, and I don’t think it can be softened in execution. I’m not sure this song will wear well over time.
To cleanse the aftertaste of blatant pandering to mainstream adult contemporary pop audiences, here’s Trijntje Oosterhuis’ version of Bacharach’s “Walk on By” with Leonardo Amuedo on guitar. For songs about walking away, I’d much rather listen to this instead.