Wiwibloggs continues our new series in which we are taking a look at all of the countries currently participating in the Eurovision Song Contest and why we love them. Today we’re taking a trip to the lowlands to examine the wonderful history of the Netherlands.
The Netherlands was one of the seven countries participating in the very first contest in 1956. They have won four times overall – twice in the first four years of the contest (1957 and 1959), and then again in 1969 as one of the legendary four winners, and last in 1975. In recent years, their fortunes have either been very low — with an eight-year streak of non-qualification from 2005 to 2012 — or very high, with five qualifications in six years including a close second place. They have been a staple of enthusiasm for the contest, and are admired for their great spirit and creativity. Here are 10 reasons why we love the Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest.
1. They opened the very first contest
Switzerland may have hosted and won the first contest back in 1956, but the Netherlands really started it all. Jetty Paerl, who back then was very famous in her home country, opened the contest with “De vogels van Holland”. It was a very pretty chanson-style song, singing typically about the beauty of Jetty’s homeland. The Netherlands also performed a second song that year, “Voorgoed voorbij“, sung by Corry Brokken — winner of the second contest and future Eurovision legend.
2. They revolutionised how to the host the contest
After the 1969 contest ended in a four-way tie for first place, a draw took place to decide which winner would host in 1970. The Netherlands, who won with Lenny Kuhr and “De troubador“, was chosen. However, due to many countries being angry with the voting structure, only 12 took the trip to Amsterdam. This led to the Netherlands introducing two Eurovision staples to fill out the contest — an introductory film showcasing the host nation, and postcards introducing each act before they performed. The 1970 contest was truly a special one, and we have the Netherlands to thank for that!
3. They proved the douze points system works
After many experiments with the voting system, in 1975 the now iconic douze points system was introduced. The contest was held in Stockholm after ABBA’s win, and the Netherlands opened it with “Ding-a-dong” by Teach-In. This led the Netherlands to give the very first 12 points. The Dutch themselves were awarded six sets of 12 in total, helping them claim their fourth — and currently last — win. “Ding-a-dong” went on to hit the charts all over Europe, and become a Eurovision classic.
4. They kept the contest going when no one else would
Keeping things running despite a massive boycott in 1970, the Netherlands truly have never shied away from the prospect of hosting. After Israel won for a second time in a row in 1979, they chose not to host the next contest. After second-placers Spain, and the usual reverse hosts the UK reportedly also refused to host, it was up to the Netherlands to step in. The Dutch returned to the same venue they’d used in 1976 and found many ways of cutting costs. Rather than use postcards, each act was introduced by a spokesperson from their country. The contest also saw featured, for the first time, a host interviewing the contestants in the green room.
5. Hidden gems
The Netherlands may have scored an impressive four wins, but their history is also peppered with unexpected favourites that didn’t make their mark on the scoreboard. While 1974 may be famous for ABBA, the Dutch entry that year also made its mark. “I See a Star” by Mouth and Macneal was an eccentric song about… erm… we’ll let you decide that for yourself. When the Netherlands hosted the contest in 1980, their entry, “Amsterdam” — despite coming only fifth — also became a retrospective fan favourite. From “Rechtop in de Wind” and “Hemel en aarde” back in the day, and “One More Night” and “My Impossible Dream” this century, the Netherlands have many a hidden gem.
6. They never stopped trying
The semi-final era initially wasn’t kind to the Netherlands. They qualified from the first one back in 2004, but then it all fell apart. The Netherlands holds the dubious record for most consecutive non-qualifications, with eight. But they never lost their enthusiasm and always got behind their entry. Their eighth failure, “You and Me” by Joan Franka, still went to No. 1 in the Dutch charts. And to be fair, it is a really cute song.
7. They showed that serious music can work
2013 was a turning point for the Netherlands at Eurovision, if not the contest as a whole, thanks to Anouk. The veteran Dutch singer brought “Birds”, a very mellow and dark song not usually seen on the Eurovision stage. Not only did this give the Netherlands its first qualification, but also their first top-ten placing since 1999. It was a risk that paid off and showed that mature sounds do work at Eurovision.
8. A true dark horse
It seemed impossible that the Dutch would do even better in 2014, and at first we all thought that Anouk was a fluke. When “Calm After the Storm” was first revealed, it was written off as boring and flat; the bookies had it at 150/1 to win. Oh, how wrong we were. After the first semi-final and the incredible staging was revealed, the odds slashed dramatically to a mere 10/3, and a Dutch victory looked very possible. They ultimately came second — an amazing result for a song that no one cared about at first. The Common Linnets‘ debut album charted all across Europe and they became massive stars in the Netherlands. That beautiful, intimate staging and soft strumming rests in the hearts of many a Eurovision fan… don’t ever write off a song!
9. Strumming those acoustic guitars
The Netherlands showed that they were very good when it came to country music, and why mess with a good thing? Douwe Bob proved it once again in 2016, telling everyone to “Slow Down” if you can’t go on and scoring 11th. Waylon, of the Common Linnets, came back in 2018 with a higher energy take on country, that also brought the Netherlands to the grand final. Even back in the 1960s, the Dutch proved they know how to work a guitar. In 1969, they were one of the four winners with the guitar-based song “De troubador” by Lenny Kuhr. We love a bit of guitar action at Eurovision, and the Netherlands can provide.
10. That dress
Poor Trijntje. It was never going to work out. Trijntje Oosterhuis is another veteran performer from the Netherlands, and sang “Walk Along“, written by Anouk, in 2015. The song didn’t exactly have the polish that “Birds” had, but that wasn’t what had everyone talking. Trijntje revealed her dress a week before the semi-final, and it was quickly called “the slutty window”. In the end, the negative reception was too much and it was abandoned… if possible, for something worse. Trijntje ended up winning the Barbara Dex Award.
The dress lived on, however. Edsilia Rombley wore it for the voting segment, and it ended up being auctioned for charity. Trijntje did end up wearing the dress, on an episode of It Takes Two. It’s nice that she still takes her poor performance at Eurovision in good humour.
What are your favourite moments from the Netherlands at Eurovision? Share your thoughts below!