An unexpected first-time victory for Estonia in the 46th annual Eurovision Song Contest caught record companies and music publishers off guard. There are no deals yet in place for the winning song, “Everybody” — written by Ivar Must and Maian-Anna Karmas and performed by Tanel Padar and Dave Benton with boyband 2XL — although Must expects to have a deal in place by Wednesday (May 16).
While “Everybody” is available on a compilation album released by BMG Germany, there is no commercial single available anywhere, including Estonia. A promotional single was serviced to Estonian radio and was distributed to media representatives during the competition, held at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
If the 40,000 people at the Parken Stadium and the 120 million viewers across Europe were surprised at the outcome, it’s because Estonia didn’t figure in the top-10 of any oddsmaker. Instead, they favored the ABBA-like entry from Sweden, “Listen to Your Heartbeat” by Friends, and the Celine Dion-like entry from France, “Je N’ai Que Mon Ame (Only My Soul)” by Natasha St-Pier. The former, released on Mariann Grammofon in Sweden, was picked up before the contest by Universal for release in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland, and in a separate deal, for Norway and Denmark. The latter is signed to Sony and released in France on the Columbia label.
The runner-up song, “Never Ever Let You Go” by Denmark’s Rollo & King, was a No. 1 hit in Denmark on Mega Records, and is set for international release by Mega’s parent company, edel, according to Peter Skovsted, international manager, Nordic region. “We received top scores (12 points) from Norway, Spain, and Germany, and second-place (10 points) from Holland, Sweden, and the U.K.,” says Skovsted. “For those countries, we expect a lot of sales. An English-language album is being completed in the next 10 days.” Third-place “Die for You” by Swedish-based Greek act Antique is signed to Bonnier Music and is a likely candidate for the best-selling single of this year’s Eurovision crop.
The Estonian entry pairs Padar, a backing singer for Estonia in the 2000 Eurovision Song Contest, with Benton, an Aruba-born Dutch citizen living in Estonia, backed by a popular Estonian boy band, 2XL. Both artists have their own careers, but were teamed by composer/producer Must for the Estonian national final to decide which song would go forward to Eurovision. Must wanted a party atmosphere on stage for the song, and so decided to add the gymnastic 2XL.
The Estonian win rewrites the Eurovision history book, as Benton is the first black artist to ever win the competition. It is only the third time in the 46-year history of Eurovision that a male duo has won. Ireland’s Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan won in 1994 with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids,” and Denmark’s the Olsen Brothers were triumphant in 2000 with “Fly on the Wings of Love.” The win for an eastern European country breaks a 10-year cycle; with the exception of Israel in 1998, the only countries to win since 1991 have been Ireland or the U.K., or the Scandinavian block of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Estonia first entered Eurovision in 1994, and is the first first-time winner since 1989, when Yugoslavia captured the most votes with “Rock Me” by Riva.
The Eurovision Song Contest, originally designed to bring the countries of Europe closer together a decade after World War II, has helped launch acts like ABBA (victorious in 1974 with “Waterloo”) on to the world stage. A 19-year-old French Canadian named Celine Dion sang for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” and won by one point over the U.K.
A revision of the European Broadcasting Union rules for Eurovision means that the top-15 countries will compete next year, with the bottom eight relegated until 2003. Those countries relegated this year, including Finland, Cyprus, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are automatically eligible to compete in 2002. Previously, relegation was determined by the lowest average scores over a five-year period.