The Eurovision Lemur Seal of Approval: Birds

Now that I’ve finished my analysis of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, I can turn my attention to other projects that I’ve been dying to do for the Eurovision Lemur blog.

In previous years, I’ve awarded the Eurovision Lemur Seal of Approval to my favorite Eurovision songs of all time. I bestow a seal because that sounds a lot fancier than me just saying, “OMIGARSH I love this song so much!”

I’ve already added Måneskin’s Eurovision-winning song “Zitti e buoni” to the pantheon page, and over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at other songs that are still in heavy rotation at my house.

It seems appropriate to start with something from the most recent host of the Song Contest, The Netherlands. Going into Eurovision 2013, the country had failed to make it out of the Semifinals eight years in a row. So Dutch broadcaster TROS asked multi-platinum selling artist Anouk to help change their fortunes.

Anouk’s offering, “Birds,” was a track on her album Sad Singalong Songs, the title of which tells you a lot about the lyrical content of the single. The song captures with melodramatic flair all the heartache and depression that comes from the end of a relationship. “Birds falling down the rooftops/Out of the sky like raindrops” are quite possibly the most bleak lyrics I have ever heard at Eurovision.

Yet “Birds” is hauntingly beautiful. The lush orchestrations carry an eerie power to them, perfectly accentuating Anouk’s smoky vocal tone and morose lyrics. If gothic horror pop is a musical genre, then “Birds” is a prime example.

The song could be relentlessly dour, but glimmers of hope flicker throughout. “Birds” ends on a major note, and its bridge is sung by a children’s choir. Rather than being creepy, the choir’s vocals instead sound like the clouds are beginning to lift. Of course, the bridge leads right back into the chorus, so let’s not get our hopes up too much.

The live version at the 2013 Song Contest replaces the children with adult singers, but rather than diminishing “Birds,” the switch infuses it with an uncanny quality that makes it even stronger. This is one of those rare moments where I prefer the live version to the recorded one, because the vocal arrangement is so much more opulent and powerful.

Anouk led The Netherlands to the Finals and finished ninth overall. She also kicked off a new era for the Dutch at Eurovision. TROS merged with AVRO the following year to form AVROTROS and celebrated by finishing second with The Common Linnets’ “Calm After the Storm.” It would take them just five more years to get that long-awaited fifth win with Duncan Laurence’s “Arcade.” They’ve put out some quality entries since 2013, but Anouk’s song still resonates with me the most all these years later.