21
Nov 13

GINA G – “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit”

Popular82 comments • 6,915 views

#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 It presented a comfortable image of what European pop was: gaudy, kitschy, ironic and out-of-date.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. 1
    Tom Ewing (@tomewing) on 21 Nov 2013 #

    Popular and the Eurovision Song Contest part ways http://t.co/sgCbcDpnV6

  2. 2
    The Woose on 21 Nov 2013 #

    And Australian, if I recall correctly…

  3. 3
    Rory on 21 Nov 2013 #

    Yes, she is. A Song for Europe must not be too picky about nationalities… she ended up as the UK’s Eurovision entry within a year of moving here, according to Wikipedia. Maybe she has a British parent.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 21 Nov 2013 #

    I found this refreshingly cheery and free of baggage – I think I’d prefer it if it was even simpler

  5. 5
    thefatgit on 21 Nov 2013 #

    The only thing that lasts in my memory is the chorus. Unfortunately the chorus alone is one big sexual innuendo. I feel I’m doing this song no favours at all, judging it on the strength of the chorus alone. I also feel no desire to revisit the song, so this is it, this is my memory: an Aussie girl singing about bum sex for the Eurovision judges’ esteemed consideration.

  6. 6
    Mark G on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I got interviewed, vox pop style, in the Virg Meg by J.King, the week before this got chosen as the UK representative. A bunch of us got played about four tracks, and we had to choose one, and say what we thought of Eurovision in general. I managed a “Well, I think the Gina G track would probably be the best one for the eurov but I prefer (forgotten)..”. Other people managed to go ” Urr it’s all a bit crap innit?” and when asked which one they liked would go “Um, the second one”. Needless to say, the film was not used.

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Six is very generous! Watered-down HI-NRG, an extended jingle: vaguely reminscient of Whigfield’s number one, above all in that ‘one’ (well, I, anyway) would not choose to listen to it away from a dancefloor, and in fact would prefer not to be on such a dancefloor in the first place.

    Britain has submitted at least one, maybe two, better Eurovision entrants since this one: although in both cases (Daz Sampson, maybe Scooch), but in both cases they were too obviously gimmicky/consciously ironic to cross over. Although Frances Ruffell’s ‘Lonely Symphony’is surely ‘the one that got away’..while the less (not as awful, merely as mediocre) said about the 1997 European Blair love-in vote winner the better. (Political Eurovision voting benefiting Britain, possibly for the only time)

    Two, and a yawn.

  8. 8
    CarsmileSteve on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Eurovision contestant status is about the songwriter, not performer. Celine Dion, Katrina & the Waves etcetcetc

  9. 9
    ciaran on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Quite a bore this. Even Gina doesnt seem too overjoyed in the verses.As Chevolek above says reminiscent of Whigfield but nowhere near as playful.A Conference league Kylie really.

    3.

    ‘Fresh’ in 1997 was even more boring than this.

    ‘There’s nothing I wont do’ by JX was the standout dance track from this time.Would have preferred to be discussing that than OA…JALB

    This was also the last time Ireland won it aswell.Eimear Quinn’s ‘the voice’ becoming our 4th winner in 5 years.Can barely recall it.If ye havent heard it I can say your not missing much.

    The great “My Lovely Horse” from the eurosong episode of father ted just before this time is more famous than any of the 1992-96 Irish winners now.

  10. 10
    mintness on 22 Nov 2013 #

    @8 It’s not even that. e.g. Azerbaijan buys a Swedish-written song every year (and the Maltese douze points, but that’s a different matter). Some countries have nationality rules for composers and/or performers in their national selection processes, but it’s very much self-imposed.

    As a Eurovision nerd, this song’s chart success was naturally very pleasing after Love City Groove had broken the ice the previous year, but its most notable feat may have been its chart run to number 1, given the era – a slow bobble around the top ten from not long after the Great British Song Contest (ahem) culminating in a week at the top at the end of Eurovision week itself, rather than the following week when you might have expected the Saturday night exposure to kick in.

  11. 11
    Will on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I disagree with the notion that the UK assumed ‘Eurovision meant nothing but cheese’. Not in the mid 90s any way. After all the UK winner in ’97 was a ponderous ‘let’s take this very seriously’ AOR anthem. If anything Ooh Ah was an abberation. The previous few years had seen us try all sorts of things – earnest balladry, moody soul, Michael Ball, even hip hop (the best forgotten Love City Groove) – without any success.

    I bought this at the time and I still think it’s bloody brilliant. Perhaps not quite as good as the remixes Motiv 8 pulled off for Pulp (or Saint Etienne’s He’s On The Phone for that matter) but a solid 8 none the less.

  12. 12
    mintness on 22 Nov 2013 #

    “Without any success” is part of the problem with the way Britain views Eurovision, of course – we had a heap of 2nd-place finishes in the 88-93 period with pretty mediocre fodder, but when winning is everything, I suppose it makes sense that, in a 40-country era, we’ve now given up even trying.

  13. 13
    Kinitawowi on 22 Nov 2013 #

    British interest in Eurovision ceased when we realised we didn’t have a hope, when the rise of tele- and text-voting over juries exacerbated the already-present politicking. And the beast continues to eat itself; we don’t take it seriously, so they don’t take us seriously, so we send shit like Scooch and Jemini, so they tell us that they’ll take our money to fund the EBU but we’ll barely give you a point in return, etc.

    Juries are making a comeback, slowly. It might help. It might not.

    As for Gina G, well I always liked it. No, it wasn’t exceptional, and yes I’m pretty sure the performance she gave in Oslo that night was in fact dire, but it was an okay-enough dance track and 6 is about right.

    (Also, point of order – Ooh Aah didn’t finish second, it finished eighth. Gina G was the second act to perform that night. Learn to sort your tables by the correct fields next time. :-p)

  14. 14
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Nov 2013 #

    This week I went to a cafe in Bristol for the sole reason it was called “Roll for the Soul” as in “I wanna roll inside your soul” from Corona’s Baby Baby which was this song’s biological dad and perhaps the superior. I’ll add something slightly more constructive when I’ve sweated off the Exhibition cider. (We’ll get to talk more about that act circa May 2027.)

    Good to see Popular back, though! Just when I thought I was out, you pull me back in..

  15. 15
    weej on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I’d really like to see a source to demonstrate that “political” voting really has the effect on Eurovision people think. I suspect there’s an aspect of “Those Eastern Europeans gave 12 points to those other Eastern Europeans!” without realising that “The East” = around half the countries involved, and that Western Europe tends to stick together in the same way.

    This isn’t the first UK entry to work on the assumption that Eurovision = Maximum Cheese, but from this point onwards it’s basically the norm, and we’ve got nothing much to show for it (Katrina being a deviation from this rule.) France, on the other hand, have put some rather good things in over the last decade. They haven’t won either, but at least they tried.

  16. 16
    mintness on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Well, yes. More than a decade ago we had Wogan tutting at Estonia for voting for their “neighbours” in Slovenia. Combine that level of ignorance with a situation where the age-old westerners don’t bother any more because they’re sure everyone instinctively hates them – and let’s ask a Hannover lass called Lena about that – then it’s no wonder the Grand Powers generally end up at the arse-end of the scoreboard with their half-arsed, paranoia-infused-from-the-outset entries.

  17. 17
    23 Daves on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Simon Napier Bell has gone on record (on his Facebook page) as saying that bribery of television stations and juries is widespread in Eurovision, and claims to have witnessed a couple of instances in Eastern Europe of “give us 12 points and we’ll agree this trade deal”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t name names or go into depth.

    As for Gina G – yes, I’m stuck for much to say about this single. It’s frothy and enjoyable, but on the rare occasions I hear it these days (usually during a video compendium of previous UK Eurovision entries) I don’t jump for joy.

    I agree completely with Tom when he says that the 00s era of the Eurovision contest was the best, though. An amazing smorgasbord of pop styles and ideas, with a lot of buried treasure which really deserved to do better in the UK charts. It seems to have become less varied again in the last few years, unfortunately.

  18. 18
    hardtogethits on 22 Nov 2013 #

    #15 I’d love to see that analysis too. Unfortunately, whilst people SAY they want the research they decry even the most robust study once it’s made public. See all that Pop Science stuff about boozy hits post 1981 elsewhere on FT (not on Popular).

    I know of a professor at a University in the North of England who is examining why people say they want data and analyses only then to disregard (or fail to act upon it) when it’s provided. Slightly different from traditional confirmatory basis, this is more about why people display that appetite for evidence in the first place. Obv it has serious implications in some professions – if a Dr says “show me the evidence that x is more effective than y” you might expect that when presented with that evidence the Dr would act upon it.

    Back to the more important matter of Eurovision. It’s difficult to separate political voting from voting for one’s neighbours for other reasons – eg cultural, geographic. There have been years when the most statistically unusual pattern has been the UK and Ireland’s mutual support. But gosh, what a non-story THAT is.

  19. 19
    punctum on 22 Nov 2013 #

    By 1996, it had been fourteen years since the last Eurovision-related number one, and not without reason; in 1995 Britain committed an act of extreme bravery by submitting a rap song as its entry, “Love City Groove” by Love City Groove, featuring Q-Tee, the same female rapper who contributed so memorably to Saint Etienne’s “Filthy.” True, it otherwise sounded very akin to a 1983 idea of rap, to the extent of borrowing part of its melody line from Booker Newberry III’s “Love Town,” but in the confines of Eurovision it felt almost like the Sex Pistols. It finished a debilitating tenth behind the equally unlikely winner, the largely instrumental “Nocturne” by Norwegians Secret Garden. “Eurovision isn’t quite ready for rap yet,” mused Wogan sadly.

    Australian Gina G was drafted in for 1996’s contest, and the overwhelming international success of “Ooh Ahh” may have signified a commercial death blow for Eurovision – at least in the Western markets – since it was so obviously a good pop record that it shamed the ageing Eurovision judges, still rooted in a sentimental fifties ideal, who voted it into eighth position behind the winner, Einear Quinn’s highly memorable “The Voice,” the latest in a long string of soulful, passionate and honest Irish underdog entries. It has to be pointed out that Eurovision judges continue to persist in voting for the type of song that people no longer really make.

    It is true that “Ooh Aah” marks an evolutionary step from 1983 rap to 1984 Hi-NRG since it fits in very snugly with the “Male Stripper”s and “Love Reaction”s of that period. But producer Steve Rodway knew which buttons to push, and Gina G how to respond to them; her vocal is excited, frustrated (I love the vibrating emphasis that she puts on the “hate” in the line “Every night makes me hate the days”), confident and utterly sexy (her lowering of the voice to a conspiratorial “just a little bit” in the chorus) and the record is a splendid harbinger for those other girls who are shortly to follow. Ironically, Britain did win the following year with the soulful, passionate and honest “Love Shine A Light” by the expatriate American group Katrina and the Waves (do we note a trend here?), but since it was Katrina (and Kimberley Rew) it deserved its top three success. Thereafter the contest opened up to the former Eastern Bloc states, all of whom have since demonstrated an unflagging commitment to voting for each other; I am unsure how long the contest’s Western bankers will permit this situation to continue, or perhaps they just need to realise that the tide of balance has in its own way turned.

  20. 20
    Cumbrian on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I’m not hearing much similarity to Whigfield here, to be honest. Saturday Night is lumbering for much of its time until the piano comes in, and I don’t particularly find it playful either – that track seems like forced fun to me, what with the cheesy dance moves and all of that. Whereas I find this is more light on its feet on the back of Motiv-8’s work and has more of a rush to it as a result.

    Maybe I am just more disposed to it because (at 15 and with a bit of a thing for redheads), I quite fancied Gina G. I have no shame in looking back fondly on something for those reasons either – if conversations I have had at weddings I have been to are any judge, some of those clunky early Take That hits are looked back on fondly by some of my female contemporaries for similar reasons (subject raised due to the DJ playing them). 6 seems fair.

  21. 21
    Tom on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Unsurprisingly there is a LOT of academic literature on Eurovision voting bias. Here’s the most recent full paper I can find via a quick trawl of Google Scholar.

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1308.6312v1.pdf

    This has a handy review of pre-existing literature, too, namely:

    – voting patterns exist
    – they seem more organised on cultural affinity rather than political blocs

    The paper is a dense statistical one but its conclusions are interesting: there is some positive bias (countries more likely to vote FOR each other) but no statistically robust evidence of negative bias (countries likely to NOT vote for one another). In other words, from a UK perspective our not being in a particular friendship group may harm our chances, but the “they all hate us” argument is hooey.

  22. 22
    punctum on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Maybe the rest of Eurovision hates Britain because of Iraq, and suchlike?

  23. 23
    Tom on 22 Nov 2013 #

    That’s what the paper suggests isn’t true. I mean, they might very well do, but Eurovision voting isn’t how they show it. It’s probably just that we send shit entries.

  24. 24
    Tom on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Apparently the country which comes nearest to getting significant negative bias is Albania.

  25. 25
    Jon (@octojon) on 22 Nov 2013 #

    ‘Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit’ is a 10/10 amyl rush RT @tomewing Popular and the Eurovision Song Contest part ways http://t.co/CKRUSwJq4Q

  26. 26
    punctum on 22 Nov 2013 #

    The trouble with UK Eurovision is that the only people interested in it here are Radio 2, and therefore songs and singers are picked who people think will appeal to Radio 2 programmers. Radio 1 considers it beyond naff and won’t touch it with a bargepole. So until that kind of thinking is turned around and Eurovision is forcibly wrested away from R2, we’re going to keep getting tuneless power ballads, or insipid little brioches of songs, from out-of-shape people who were in the charts forty years ago.

  27. 27
    James BC on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Did you play this one to your children, Tom? I’d be interested to know if they liked it.

    I’d give it an 8, in large part for the instrumental bits, although Gina’s performance on the Eurovision show itself was a bit flat – about a 5 or 6.

  28. 28
    Tom on 22 Nov 2013 #

    #26 – no! I shall do when I get back from Leeds.

  29. 29
    AMZ1981 on 22 Nov 2013 #

    A lot of people have skirted around the big question, namely why did this record take off so strongly? No UK Eurovision entry had been a significant hit for years before this got to number one. In the context of the time it wasn’t a major success at Eurovision and the UK’s slump years were still a good five years away.

    I thought this record was rather weak at the time – there was better pop out there, there was better dance out there but not only did this top the charts but it has, to an extent, stood the test of time – commercial radio and 90s nights still feature it.

    Since Eurovision won’t come up again, my two cents. It’s a long time since I’ve bothered to watch it but the problem, from the UK’s point of view, is that twenty years ago it was an honour to enter the contest. Now nobody will risk their reputation with it (we went through a phase of sending second division talent show stars and not even they touch it now). I always used to feel desperately sorry for the young artists (Josh Dubovie being a case in point) who went abroad to give it their all even when saddled with a dreadful song and came back tarred and feathered as a failures. It’s probably better that we’re sending experienced singers now – even if Bonnie Tyler had scored nul points it wouldn’t have stopped Holding Out For A Hero blasting out on a Saturday night – but to me it’s a sign that everybody has given up the ghost.

  30. 30
    JLucas on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Despite only finishing 8th (largely due to a poor live vocal by Gina on the night), this is one of the most significant Eurovision songs ever. When it went on to not just top the UK charts but become a massive worldwide smash – even reaching the top twenty in America – while winner Eimear Quinn made barely a ripple, it was clear that the contest was becoming woefully out of date. As a result, Televoting was trialled in 1997 and fully rolled out in 1998 – resulting in far more populist winners like Dana International and Charlotte Nilsson, both of whom saw UK chart action after winning.

    A few years of Eastern dominance (not by “political” voting insomuch as the fact that they were sending better, more ambitious songs) dented the contest’s popularity in the west, but the rise of downloads seems to have really revitalised the show. Of the last five winners, four were UK hits (Alexander Rybak reached #10 in 2009, Lena reached #22 i 2010, Loreen got all the way to #3 in 2012 and Emmelie DeForest went to #14 this year).

    I find the whole “It’s all political, innit?/Europe hates us” argument painfully boring, but I could rant all day about that…

    This is a great song. It’s pure cheese, but production wise it was very on-trend for 1996, hence its enormous success outside the contest.

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