If you look at the recent history of Eurovision, the Netherlands stands out when it comes to dedication and persistence. It was one of the seven original countries that competed at ESC in 1956 and, in ensuing decades, won the contest four times. But in 2005 the nation began its long descent into a dark and unpleasant place: relegation from the finals. Glennis, Treble, Edsilia, Hind, De Toppers, Sieneke, 3JS, and Joan Franka—these Dutch artists failed to qualify for the final eight years in a row.
But even when not qualifying, the nation—and its diehard fans—never backed down. Unlike so many fans and officials and politicians in other Western nations, the Dutchies never cast blame on anyone other than themselves. They swallowed defeat every time, only to come back with a smile, and, most of the time, another awful song. The Netherlands became the laughing stock of Europe. It began to resemble the orphan you feel sad for, one you would hold in your arms while whispering, ‘It will all be alright, some day’.
And indeed, that day has come. On May 14, 2013, someone answered Dutch Eurovision prayers. BeNeLux superstar Anouk went against the will of 17 million Dutchies, choosing a simple, but honest song staged with subtlety and darkness. There was no exploding stage. There was no barely-there dress. There was just a woman with a beautiful song and an intoxicating voice. She came, she sang, she won the Wiwi Jury. She also placed ninth in the contest, proving her critics wrong.
A year later, the Netherlands once again went for subtle instead of over-the-top with the Common Linnets and their song “Calm After the Storm.” The Nashville number is slightly dark and puts wistfulness and longing at its centre. The smooth and intimate staging made the massive venue feel like a local bar, with the artists connecting with each and every person in the room. The song is also a bit sneaky. The quietly feisty number attaches itself to you like a parasite. Before you know it the bug is already growing inside of you. It’s there to stay.
The Netherlands finally found what she has to offer Europe. The Netherlands can’t produce pop songs like Sweden can. And she doesn’t have what it takes to produce loads of power ballads, like Israel or Iceland used to do. She doesn’t have any typical folk or indigenous musical heritage, like Russia, Ireland or Bulgaria.
But there is one thing that she has proven she can do, better than any European or non-European country: hypnotize us with dreamy, simple and honest songs, enhanced with small staging and an intimate show.
To the Netherlands: We expect nothing less from you from now on. Keep it small, keep it simple and keep it real.
Daphne Dee contributed this report from Belgium. Follow her on Twitter @JacinthaD1. You can also keep up-to-date with the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the team on Twitter @wiwibloggs and by liking our Facebook page
Pictures: EBU (Dennis Stichel/Thomas Hansens)