21
Nov 13

GINA G – “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit”

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#739, 25th May 1996

gina The passing of an era – this is the last (to date) directly Eurovision-related Number One, 29 years after the first. And honestly, even Gina is an outlier: the Eurovision Song Contest had intersected with mainstream UK pop less and less often since its 70s and early 80s heyday. Glam, bubblegum, AOR balladry and soft rock had been good fits for it – hip-hop and house distinctly less so.

Freed from any hope that it might reflect or divert the currents of modern pop, Eurovision could settle fully into the role in British pop it had half-played for years. It presented a comfortable image of what European pop was: gaudy, kitschy, ironic and out-of-date. Marketers, then waking to the idea of the pink pound as an untapped resource, seized on the show’s popularity with gay audiences (and students) and promoted it to the UK mainstream as an unabashed festival of camp. At the same time, though, the definition of Europe itself was expanding. It seemed post-communist countries wanted to use Eurovision the way Western Europe once had: as a symbol of European belonging and a fillip to national pride. The tension between these two trends made for fascinating contests, and Eurovision in the 00s was the competition at its best – after it had ceased to ‘matter’ in UK chart terms.

The UK made no real contribution to this late flowering: we continued to assume Eurovision meant nothing but cheese, and so cheese was what we delivered. This glossy, hi-tack Gina G song bounced its way to second eighth in Eurovision 1996, and might seem like a prime example. But it’s at least a little better than that suggests.

“Ooh Aah” is the work of Motiv8, producer and remixer Steve Rodway, who’d become known for colourful, energised, wonderfully unsubtle mixes that smooshed up pop songwriting with handbag house euphoria. He liked big keyboard sounds, and melodies splurged onto songs like poster paints. A great Motiv8 mix – like his work on the Pet Shop Boys’ “A Red Letter Day” – would make its original feel pedestrian as his rainbow synth lines burst up through the song. The same joy carried over to lesser known acts – girlband Crush and their superb “Jellyhead”, for instance.

“Ooh Aah” is well off those peaks, but a decent example of Motiv8’s approach. It’s brisk, good-quality bubblegum: a springy keyboard part, a chugging rhythm, and a few fine lines – “Every night makes me hate the days” – laid down with enough conviction to cross the line between corny and effective. The main thing that marks it as a Eurovision entry is the chorus, simple enough to hammer its way into listeners Europe-wide, and begging for a bespoke dance. That chorus could have been the follow-up to “Making Your Mind Up” and it makes “Ooh Aah” a smidgen too cosy. But unlike most British Eurovision attempts from this point, at least it doesn’t feel cynical.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Izzy on 23 Nov 2013 #

    I remember now. There was also a token indie number, Then There’s A Knock On The Door by a trefoil-sporting ensemble called FFF, of which the presenter boasted that it been written by actual classic songwriters. Sadly I can’t remember who – I want to say Godley & Creme but surely not?

  2. 52
    23 Daves on 24 Nov 2013 #

    #51 – Eric Gouldman and Eric Stewart according to YouTube. I have to admit I’d forgotten all about this one (though on re-listening, it’s easy to understand how…)

    http://youtu.be/lQs-CycxoUU

  3. 53
    Jimmy the Swede on 24 Nov 2013 #

    #37 – Apropos foreigners cuckooing in Eurovision nests, perhaps the most infamous example of this was when a very lovely Israeli girl representied Switzerland in the 1963 contest in London. In what has since become the “Eurovision Scandal”, there was a discrepancy in procedure when Katie Boyle called up Oslo for the Norweigan vote. The man out there went off script when delivering his set of votes and Katie interjected and asked him to repeat. The guy in Oslo then fell silent before returning to ask Katie if she could call him back. Miss Boyle carried on calling the rest of Europe and then returned to Oslo to speak to chappie again, only to hear that the Norweigan vote had mysteriously altered. The beneficiary was fellow Scandies Denmark who ended up topping the poll at the expense of the Swiss who would have won if not for the Norweigans’ apparent volte-face. And who was the “very lovely Israeli girl”? It was none other than Esther “Cinderella” Ofarim.

    Just as an afterthought, the Danish song which won was actually extremely good, I thought.

    # 43 – You’re spot-on, of course, Kinitawowi, and we’ve been bullying poor old Lineman about getting St Etts to try for it for ages. Perhaps one day the bugger will get his finger out!

  4. 54
    anto on 24 Nov 2013 #

    I largely agree with the review on this one. Spirited bubblegum which felt contempory at least – going to number 1 was two fingers up to the judges.
    On the subject of political voting I have my suspicions that Katrina & The Waves’ 1997 win was tactical – a kind of please-don’t-pull-out gesture after 3 reasonably good UK entries (Frances Rufelle, Love City Groove, Gina G) had failed to win. This might explain why it felt like such an anti-climax – the phrase you never hear ‘Remember that glorious night when Katrina won it for us’. Actually, it was virtually forgotten about by August.

  5. 55
    thefatgit on 24 Nov 2013 #

    #52, I can buy into an AU where every member of 10cc was called Eric.

  6. 56
    punctum on 25 Nov 2013 #

    #54: tbf that line is still regularly wheeled out on Radio 2, round about Eurovision time. Katrina Out Of Katrina And The Waves even got a DJing stint on R2 out of it.

  7. 57
    Mark G on 25 Nov 2013 #

    If it was all “political voting, the end”, then it would be the same winner every year.

    What about the fact that an eastern european country would vote for another eastern european country, as they both like that sort of music?

  8. 58
    punctum on 25 Nov 2013 #

    That is not a fact but a possibility.

  9. 59
    James BC on 25 Nov 2013 #

    I think a lot of it is to do with people living across borders. There must be a lot of Czechs living in Poland, Latvians living in Lithuania and so on (or people whose parents had those identities), and these people take the chance to ring up and vote for their own entrant. Not politics but human geography.

  10. 60
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 25 Nov 2013 #

    Also neighbouring countries often share language types, can tune into one another’s radio and TV broadcasts, naturally form informal trade blocs — cf the legendary pre-war French onion seller on a bicycle in Kent etc — and so on. So the fact that there’s some cultural overlap between adjoining nations is pretty unremarkable.

  11. 61
    punctum on 25 Nov 2013 #

    Eurovision paradox:
    a) throw out public vote and confine voting to specially selected panel of specially selected experts who know exactly what’s hot and not hot in pop;
    b) if they do that, absence of revenue from ‘phone calls etc. means no contest.

  12. 62
    wichitalineman on 25 Nov 2013 #

    The bulk of the work on Ooh Ahh was by a future Popular regular Brian Higgins, then a mere engineer for Motiv-8’s Steve Rodway but essentially the bloke who did all the work. Which makes this single the end of one era and the beginning of another.

    I never thought of Love City Groove being old-fashioned for sounding like Booker Newberry’s Love Town – the mellow late seventies soul thing was a nineties staple (Wu Tang Clan, Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Warren G etc), so the move into early 80s territory seemed a natural step. Q-Tee wrote Love City Groove as well, which was a Eurovision entry when she was still a teenager.

  13. 63
    Ed on 26 Nov 2013 #

    Nixon @48 “The American comment above about British pop music dominating the world and there being a commensurate expectation that thw UK should therefore trounce a recently independent post-Communist state with no pop tradition to speak of, that’s a severely skewed viewpoint. Not dissimilar to how the England based tabloids seem to believe England should win every World Cup because the country “invented the game”, failing to recognise everything wrong with that view.”

    Yes!

    I am only a fair-weather Eurovision fan, but the impression I get is that the shows are more entertaining than ever, because of the wider range of ideas and tastes that get an airing. It’s like a Pop European Cup, on TV.

    I don’t think anyone could point to a Golden Age of Eurovision when the winners were so much better than they are today, because the UK and a few other NW Euopean countries dominated.

  14. 64
    Kylie on 26 Nov 2013 #

    Sigh… the last Eurovision #1. The closest any ESC entry has gotten to achieving it since were our 1997 winner, and Norway and Sweden’s winners in 2009 and 2012.

    My 8 year-old self remembers this at the time, but as my family had emigrated to the UK from NZ in Oct that year, I had no idea what Eurovision was and it was a number of years before I discovered it was an ESC entry.

    I run a Eurovision-related site and you don’t know how much it frustrates me that my own country has such a shitty attitude to Eurovision. Europe doesn’t hate us (many of our music acts are very successful in mainland Europe, but try tell that to the xenophobes churning out that excuse every year), they just hate our crappy and badly-performed entries.

    If only we could look at Sweden for example, their national selection is the biggest show in the country and most of the songs taking part reach the Swedish charts. If only we had that here, I mean it’s not as if we haven’t got one of the biggest music industries in the world to stop us from making it happen. Come on BBC!

  15. 65
    punctum on 26 Nov 2013 #

    See what I said above (entry #26). The BBC are the main obstacle to Eurovision being taken seriously in this country. Actually one could substitute the word “Eurovision” with the words “pop music over the last sixty years” and it would still be true.

  16. 66
    Billy Hicks on 26 Nov 2013 #

    This is where I come in to Eurovision, the earliest contest I remember thanks to this song getting huge play on various Children’s BBC programmes and Newsround coverage. I remember thinking it was basically a given we were going to win and being somewhat underwhelmed when we didn’t. The contest itself I remember watching a substantial amount of but it wasn’t until 2002 when I started really following it.

    As said, the contest now is perhaps in much better shape than it was during most of the noughties when it seemed an endless stream of let-the-Eastern-Europeans-win, the songs since 2009 have been for the most part pretty brilliant and rewarded with excellent UK top 10 places in the case of Alexander Rybak and Loreen. It’s a shame that whoever is in charge of choosing the entrants simply doesn’t care. If the BBC want to win Eurovision, they’ll make an effort. Right now it’s clearly not on their agenda.

    Also, for possible curiosity, here are the UK ratings for every contest since as far as I’ve been able to go back in 1998. Note the early noughties slump only to recover a little when Jessica Garlick represented us in 2002, the abysmal 2010 rating (Josh Dubovie+glorious heatwave of a day) followed by the huge 2011 rating (Blue+Jedward) and not doing too badly in recent times. Seems like seven million is the average Eurovision audience in the last decade.

    1998: 9.68 million
    1999: 8.91 million
    2000: 6.54 million
    2001: 6.98 million
    2002: 7.81 million
    2003: 7.94 million
    2004: 8.38 million
    2005: 7.97 million
    2006: 8.33 million
    2007: 8.77 million
    2008: 7.15 million
    2009: 7.91 million
    2010: 5.59 million
    2011: 9.68 million
    2012: 7.59 million
    2013: 7.83 million

  17. 67
    iconoclast on 26 Nov 2013 #

    @65: ‘The BBC are the main obstacle to Eurovision being taken seriously in this country. Actually one could substitute the word “Eurovision” with the words “pop music over the last sixty years” and it would still be true.’

    Interesting remark; could you elaborate a bit on what would your vision of the ideal be, with Eurovision/pop music taken seriously? As in, what would you like to see different?

  18. 68
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2013 #

    #66 And here are the Eurovision ratings up to 1991 (1964, 1966, 1987 and 1988 all failed to reach the top 20 programmes for their weeks, so I don’t have the figures):

    1963: 13.2 million
    1965: 12.32m
    1967: 19.58m
    1968: 20.9m
    1969: 17.6m
    1970: 20.24m
    1971: 18.7m
    1972: 20.02m
    1973: 21.56m
    1974: 18.04m
    1975: 17.6m
    1976: 18.92m
    1977: 20.02m
    1978: 15.1m
    1979: 15.4m
    1980: 14.1m
    1981: 15.3m
    1982: 14.5m
    1983: 12.5m
    1984: 9.8m
    1985: 13.9m
    1986: 9.8m
    1989: 9.5m
    1990: 10.2m
    1991: 10.2m

  19. 69
    Billy Hicks on 27 Nov 2013 #

    Amazing, thanks! A fair few discrepancies with what Offthetelly wrote in 2000, it agrees with the late 60s/early 70s being its peak but quotes a rather astonishing 23.2 million for Bucks Fizz’s win in 1981. But then the ratings system as we know it today didn’t properly begin until August ’81, so that’s probably where the confusion lies.

    Quite a major drop between ’77 and ’78 that never seems to recover, but then ’78 was a rare miss for the UK at the time, failing to make the top 10 at the contest with Coco. Similarly Vikki Watson had one of the best scores of the 80s in 1985 and ratings jump up for that year. 1991’s isn’t too far off from 1998 so guessing it hovered around 10 million for much of the 90s.

  20. 70
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2013 #

    There are two different sets of ratings before August 1981 – JICTAR and the BBC Audience Research Department and there are usually significant discrepencies between the two. Offthetelly are probably using the BBC figures.

    1977 is perhaps exceptionally high because the contest came from Wembley and was therefore a) a BBC production rather than a feed from an overseas broadcaster and b) Seeing whether Lyndsey de Paul and Mike Moran could successfully defend the crown won for Britain by the Brotherhood of Man in ’76 was a narrative that maybe caught the public imagination more than usually.

  21. 71
    hardtogethits on 27 Nov 2013 #

    #66 From the figures given, the yearly average across the decade would round to 8 million. This applies whether the definition of “last decade” is 2000-9, or 2004-13, and whether “average” is calculated as the mean or median.

  22. 72
    James BC on 27 Nov 2013 #

    7 or 8 million is pretty good these days, isn’t it? Especially considering that the UK isn’t guaranteed a top ten place any more.

    I wonder whether the UK’s bye to the final might work against them. Countries that have been through the semi are being heard by the voters for a second time and thus more familiar, whereas our entry is going in cold. A bit like France complaining that they were at a disadvantage in the 2002 World Cup because they hadn’t had to qualify.

  23. 73
    Cumbrian on 27 Nov 2013 #

    Re:72 Working in TV research, I can tell you most channels would give their arm for a programme that was more or less guaranteed 7m viewers watching it. There are not many programmes that pull in that amount of viewing.

    I realise that this is not the exact issue at hand – but the show itself is undeniably popular in the UK. Even though the raw numbers may have come down somewhat due to the changing TV landscape, it’s a successful TV show in the UK by quite a few measures.

  24. 74
    Cumbrian on 27 Nov 2013 #

    Apologies for boring numbers post that follows.

    As an addendum to my above post @73, I just did a quick run on the software for the ratings I have here. As pointed out at #71, the average audience rounds to 8m (for the last 12 finals, the average audience is 7.904m – for comparison, X Factor’s Live and Results shows are currently averaging 8.5m this year, Strictly averages around 10.4m). We’re comparing a one off with a series and there are other issues but still, by this measure at least, Eurovision is a big TV programme in the UK.

    It is also somewhat more balanced than these shows – something like 56% of the adult audience is female (more gender balanced than you might expect – X Factor’s main show and live results current gender balance is 62% female and Strictly’s main and live results shows are also 62% female) and 48% of the audience is ABC1 Adults (X Factor is 46%, Strictly is 58%).

    Given the size of the audience and its relatively broad profile, you’d think the UK/BBC might be more invested in ensuring a good song/performance is chosen for the night.

  25. 75
    glue_factory on 27 Nov 2013 #

    …or not, given that they seem to be able to get those varied, 8 million without bothering too hard.

  26. 76
    Cumbrian on 27 Nov 2013 #

    Well, quite.

  27. 77
    Ben Cook on 27 Nov 2013 #

    This should have won in 1996. The performance was a bit ropey (though as much to do with sound engineering and staging as her actual vocal if you ask me) and going second on the night didn’t help, but I think it was the old-fashioned juries that killed it, not politics. It was a big hit in Euroland after the show.

    Disagree completely with people saying Katrina’s win was political. Anyone saying that didn’t see the other 20 odd songs. It was far and away the best song of the night, very well performed and actually one of the best winning ESC songs ever if you ask me.

    In modern day Eurovision I don’t think political/diaspora voting is preventing the UK from doing well. Just two years ago we came 5th in the televote with Blue (11th overall due to a miserable jury score). Though we came 3rd in the jury vote with Jade Ewen, so there’s nothing stopping us getting a good result in both. We just need to send a good song. Forget how famous the artist is, we just need a good song, well performed with memorable staging. If Germany can win it, we can too.

  28. 78
    Cumbrian on 12 May 2014 #

    Given we talked about Eurovision viewing figures on this thread, just a quick note to say that 2014 in the UK managed 8.9m viewers – so up substantially on recent averages and in the ballpark of X Factor’s recent figures. As I noted previously on this thread, TV execs for any channel would give their arm for numbers of this size for any programme – especially one that is reasonably cheap for the BBC (when the UK doesn’t have to host the contest).

  29. 79
    Erithian on 10 Jan 2016 #

    Seeing this again, the intro is sprightly enough – the old SAW trick of getting the hook in early – but nothing of any great merit builds from it. Hi NRG performance of course, but it also reminds me of the other meaning of the initials NRG – No Ruddy Good. I YouTubed this alongside Love City Groove and had my recollection confirmed that the latter was of much greater interest – featuring, as Punctum noted at #19, Q-Tee, who also features on one of my St Etts favourites “Calico”. About the most interesting thing about “Ooh Aah…” is wondering whether Eric Cantona had any influence on the songwriters.

  30. 80
    Kinitawowi on 31 Jan 2016 #

    …and as the Floral Dance never made the top spot, Eurovision seems to be the best place to mark the passing of Sir Michael Terence Wogan. Fuck 2016 and fuck cancer.

  31. 81
    Phil on 31 Jan 2016 #

    Never mind, it’s February tomorrow. February will be fine. We’ll look back on January 2016 and grimace.

    Here’s hoping.

  32. 82
    weej on 1 Feb 2016 #

    Year of the Goat ends in less than a week. It’s all the Year of the Goat’s fault.

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