Twitter was abuzz with #Indiaan and #Songfestival last night, as Dutch TV viewers helped pick the country's song for this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan. During and after the event, performer, Joan Franka's Native American chief's headdress was occupying the minds of many.
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Monday's newspapers, too, were full of Joan's presentation style for the song she co ]-wrote. As she explains, her self-chosen clothing reflects the story of You and Me, about an innocent young love at an age when she was still playing 'Indians'. The tweets and other comments have continued, with people saying Joan should stick to her own clothing style when she goes to the 57th Eurovision this May; others that she'll be a laughing stock, with her campfire party distracting and detracting from the charm of her song. "Doomed to fail again," was one remark. (continues)
Why all the controversy? The Nationaal Songfestival has often managed to grab national headlines. This year the event was already under closer scrutiny and, as a result, the TV audience much bigger due to a much publicised revamp [see box]. This revamp was prompted by the fact that the Netherlands – a four-time Eurovision winner - has not won the contest since 1975. Worse still, it has managed only once to appear in the grand final since 2004 when a semi-final system was introduced.
The Dutch Nationaal Songfestival underwent a re-vamp this year with host public broadcaster TROS calling on the services of the Talpa TV company, creator of recent TV talent show format success, The Voice of Holland, of TV billionaire John de Mol to inject new life into the format and, more importantly, come up with a winning song that could take the Netherlands into the final of the Eurovision in Baku, Azerbaijan, this May.
The outcome was a brighter, more modern style and décor for the show, a new system of 'song duels' to come up with 3 finalists from the six songs taking part and an evident boost for the viewing figures.
With this poor record, the result has been that the Eurovision Song Contest is not as popular here as it once was. Moreover, with the Dutch not making the traditional Saturday-evening grand final for the past seven years, domestic viewing figures have dropped rather dramatically. All the more reason for public broadcaster TROS to want this year's show to 'shine' and produce a song that brings in votes from the rest of Europe in addition to positive domestic download and record sales.
In the end, the national song contest produced a tense and exicting final 'battle' between three songs: a somewhat predictable 'power ballad' performed by powerful singer Pearl, Joan Franka's 'campfire' singalong and a solid though somewhat run-of-the-mill R&B number by male singer-songwriter Ivan.
From last to first
A group of 100 people from the other 42 countries in this year's contest (including your author) gave an advisory vote, with Ivan emerging as their favorite. But it was actually up to the professional jury – including Dutch DJ Afrojack and rapper and 'favourite Dutch Moroccan' Ali B – to give the 'real' points. They, too, put Ivan first and Joan in last place. Finally, the Dutch public gave their votes - by text message, phone and over the internet – and changed everything.
The final result:
1. Joan Franka 37.1 percent
2. Pearl 33.6
3. Ivan Peroti 29.3
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So, will the unusual singing style of 21-year-old Joan Franka and her simple, but memorable song do the trick? Might she even take the Netherlands back into the top 10 at the grand Eurovision final? Could she, in fact, do again in Baku what she managed to do last night at the TV studio in Hilversum: surprise those who have doubts about her presentation and her simple but catchy song?
(Video editing by Eric Beauchemin/rk)