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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 It presented a comfortable image of what European pop was: gaudy, kitschy, ironic and out-of-date.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. 31
    iconoclast on 22 Nov 2013 #

    There’s a half-decent song in there somewhere, but it’s buried under an annoying hyperactive production which sounds like it was dashed off in half an hour and can’t wait to finish. Frothy, lightweight, and ultimately forgettable: FIVE.

  2. 32
    punctum on 22 Nov 2013 #

    #29: one year to be exact – “Love City Groove” peaked at #7.

  3. 33
    JLucas on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I find the frothiness of this song to be a huge part of the charm. It sounds positively giddy with excitement, which of course suits the lyric down to the ground.

    I remember her immediate followup single ‘I Belong To You’ was basically the exact same song with different lyrics (Whigfield also pulled this trick with ‘Another Day’), but her last significant hit ‘Ti Amo’ was a decent little La Isla Bonita pastiche.

  4. 34
    EndlessWindow on 22 Nov 2013 #

    The ongoing dearth of Eurovision in the UK charts is yet another indictment of the fatal mix of arrogance, ignorance and plain laziness with which the contest is handled by the Beeb. The constant string of cheesy no-hopers that comprised the noughties entries may now have been replaced with a brace of older, calmer (but equally hopeless, as proven by Mr. Dorsey) entries, but it still reflects a complete cluelessness in how the competition has changed. Maybe these entries might have stood a chance in the early nineties against the balladzillas of Ireland: right now, then Eurovision has finally caught up with prevailing pop and dance trends, not a chance.

    An interesting discussion could be had in that, in the last few years, the Eastern influx might have helped to rise the bar – there’s certainly been a far greater sense of the contemporary in the mix these last few years. Lena won in 2010 with a Lily Allen pastiche before returning the next year with a bloody great track that came across like Lykke Li doing Love Cats (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqZprvpWlcE), while 2012’s winner Euphoria did the whole David Guetta four-to-the-floor thing that’s so prevalent but with a much, much better song than usual for that sound. Maybe if Britain could get the fear in the way some other Western countries have done and throw the established rulebook out, we might actually get somewhere…

    As for Gina G…it’s a serviceable enough bit of pop fluff. At least it managed to be of its time, and Gina sells the basic innuendo pretty well. Number 8 on the night seems a fair placing, but as a single it’s only 5 points from the EndlessWindow jury.

  5. 35
    iconoclast on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Oh, and speaking of countries being represented at Eurovision by artists from somewhere else, does anyone remember Switzerland’s entry in 2005, which was performed by Vanilla Ninja from Estonia, on the grounds that their producer (who’s part of the writing credit) was a Swiss German?

  6. 36
    James BC on 22 Nov 2013 #

    A ballad could have a chance, still. The UK’s best result in recent years was the Jade Ewen/Lloyd Webber song, which finished a not-too-shabby fifth. Serbia also won with a ballad not too long ago.

    I’m constantly surprised that there is no currently successful artist who wants to have a bash at it. You’d think somebody would be up for the challenge. I wonder if McFly would fancy it.

  7. 37
    JLucas on 22 Nov 2013 #

    There are loads of examples of Eurovision countries being represented by foreigners.

    None of Luxembourg’s five winners were actually performed by Natives. Jean-Claude Pascal, France Gall, Anne-Marie David and Corrine Hermes were all French, while their most famous winner Vicky Leandros (Apres Toi) was Greek. They also fielded Belgian hitmakers Plastic Bertrand in 1987 and Lara Fabian in 1988.

    Canadians also seem particularly popular with the Francophone nations. Notable French-Canadians have included Celine Dion (Switzerland 88), Annie Cotton (Switzerland 93) and Natasha St Pier (France 01).

  8. 38
    Cumbrian on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Didn’t Tony Iommi help pen Armenia’s entry last year too? I don’t think they got out of the qualifying but nevertheless, another country at least partly represented by a foreigner.

  9. 39
    glue_factory on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Re: 5, my mind rarely leaves the gutter, but even I struggle to detect much of a bum-sex theme to the lyrics here.

  10. 40
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Tony Iommi is an honorary citizen of all nations and indeed worlds

  11. 41
    EndlessWindow on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Has to be said though, Armenia really got something that Iommi left down the back of the sofa twenty years ago on that one…

  12. 42
    Mark G on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Regarding the whole “lost credibility” of the entries, was it only that time when Jonathan King took over and had “Love City Groove” as a ‘brave’ venture? OK, it only got to sixth position, but wouldn’t that be an acceptable level of success thesedays?

    There was a rumour (JK reckoned he started it, someone ask Noel..) that Oasis were going to enter, probably with “All bunny bunny the bunny” but.

  13. 43
    Kinitawowi on 22 Nov 2013 #

    #19: I maintain that we’ll never get anywhere with Eurovision until Saint Etienne are involved in some way with every entry we send.

  14. 44
    James BC on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Also the first occurrence of “Ooh aah” in a number 1 hit since the Wurzels in 1976.

  15. 45
    mapman132 on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Being an American, it’s safe to say I don’t “get” Eurovision. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve never actually watched one all the way through, although I’ve seen Youtube clips of individual performances, and know a little about the history, such as the breakout win of ABBA, etc. There’s a lot I don’t understand such the apparently barely existent nationality rules, but the biggest thing I don’t get is why a country like the UK, with its rich history of pop music, doesn’t enter better songs that could pretty much dominate the competition every year. Is Eurovision considered beneath the major established pop acts? I’m assuming that’s why the UK doesn’t do this…

    As for Gina G, it’s already been remarked that this was an actual US hit (#12 the record), VERY rare for a Eurovision song. The only other one that comes to immediate mind for me is “Waterloo” (#6). I personally thought, and still think, “Ooh Aah” was fairly underwhelming for this unusual distinction. 4/10 I guess.

  16. 46
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Nov 2013 #

    For the UK, Eurovision is a no-mans-land. Bandit country.

    It’s because we’re a nation terrified of losing our natural resources; one of which is irony, and something stony-faced by an effortlessly cool indie band would also be treasonous to Britain by making us lack a sense of humour (on the international stage no less!) There’s also a lineage running through everything including the kitchen sink – war, football, cookery, cars, where the British are inclined to use earthy, dry wit to make those sharp-suited, black-and-white chain-smoking Continental upstarts look far less sophisticated than they think they are.

    However, there’s no reason why someone like Morrissey or Jarvis Cocker couldn’t enter for the UK, respectively “writing for Coronation Street” and their love of 70s disco kitsch, they’ve got the indie/”alternative nation” chops but their eclectic tastes in pop culture dilute any real snobbish tendencies.

    As for this one, I can’t listen to it and not feel some naive optimism, and it’s got as many great tailgating hooks as the Eurodance we’ve discussed at length recently (i.e. Dreamer, Mr Vain, Corona’s string of near-misses (vive la revolution!)) Notwithstanding the nationality controversy, It’s also truer to the spirit of Eurovision to have a glittery, over-the-top diva doing her bit rather than some gloomy AOR chump.

    However, unlike those records’ Continental/South American effortlessness, this feels like the studios deliberately overcooked it to within an inch of its life; as few nationalities but the British would intend to, maybe consciously making a “cheesy” record. And I find that kind of thing extremely cynical and unpleasant.

    4.

  17. 47
    Alan Connor on 22 Nov 2013 #

    Not what I expected. But then I’m a wee bit obsessed with Motiv-8’s appeal across boundaries that then still seemed to matter and kind of think of him as a 90s Zelig. Perhaps I listen to He’s On The Phone too often. I mean, I definitely listen to it too often, but perhaps that’s why I try to pursue that line. Also I was kinda wishing for a nineish.

  18. 48
    Nixon on 23 Nov 2013 #

    Ooh, I can’t resist a bit of the old UK Eurovision post mortem analysis.

    Plausible things I have seen cited for thebrecent underwhelming performance of British entries, other than “political voting” which is a canard:

    The wrong people picking the songs. There’s a significant argument to say that any British audience vote is a waste of time because that’s the one demographic guaranteed not to be able to vote on the night (of which more in a second) and there persists a trend of Eurovision as campy fun which makes no sense at all. Scooch are the epitome of this but there are other offenders too. Gina G hitting #1 may have muddied the waters further – people seem to think this did better on the night than it actually did, the sound of Eurovision as cheesy pop rather than slick production values.

    The songs themselves being shit. By and large it’s hard to really argue that one. I did an honest to God spit take seeing someone upthread cite Daz Sampson as a high point. These songs wouldn’t (and didn’t) cut the mustard as chart hits, and yet they’re pumped out as if they’ll get a free pass from the punters and the voters alike, since it’s Eurovision. Kind of like the FA Cup final single.

    The marketing is insular and mental. Jade Ewen picked up votes from cointries she’d been to pushing her song, Blue had toured extensively overseas and represented a clever move. But most of the recent UK acts seem to think British daytime and light entertainment shows are the best way to win hearts and minds in Kyiv or Rijeka before the night. Engelbert’s plodding entry was accompanied by a quote from some gonk saying it was the kind of song that you really came to appreciate after a few listens. Spot the flaw in that reasoning.

    Terrible performances at the show itself. If you’re not going to properly try and be the outright silliest, your presentation had better be very well mounted and you as performer need to be on your best game, especially if you’ve done naff all laying of ground work, especially if nobody has seen you in the semi final and everyone is now hearing the song for the first time. But surely it’s not too much to ask that you not save your worst, most leaden, most off key performance for when it counts?

    Finally though, what is a success anyway? 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. There are twice as many countries and vastly higher budgets involved in Eurovision now, the days of pointing and laughing at the funny Greek attempt to ape northwestern European pop tropes, or the funny Finns in traditional dress wondering why their traditional folk song isn’t crossing borders like Sandie Shaw, are long over. Anglophone pop music and its American influences are so long established in continental Europe that the UK has lost its role as paternal interpreter and missionary; we’re just one of 40 now, with no more divine right to a top ten placing than anyone else, and not taking it seriously has exactly the same effect as in football: you get left behind very fast.

    Gina G had a follow up single advertised by her being naked and covered in chocolate, which played merry hell with my teenage hormones. Otherwise I’d forgotten all about this. 6 seems about right.

  19. 49
    swanstep on 23 Nov 2013 #

    Heh, some of the comments above made me wonder what sex Doris Day might be going on about in Ooh! Bang! Jiggily! Jang!.

    Anyhow, to my surprise I think I can stretch to a 7 for ‘Ooh Aah’ – it’s an efficient delivery system for a sugar rush and nothing more, but that’s all Kylie, most of J-pop, et al. manage most of the time, and at the right time and place that can be perfect. The verses here are properly perky, the chorus not quite as good (agree with Tom on that), but I appreciate the middle eight. Pretty slick professional job by Motiv-8 I suppose. (I want to add “Aqua will make bank on this stuff soon enough adding in lots of ‘personality’.” but that may reflect my relatively limited acquaintance with happy ’90s dance esp. from around this time – couldn’t have cared less about anything up-beat in 1996/1997!)

  20. 50
    AMZ1981 on 23 Nov 2013 #

    #32 fair enough, I’d overlooked that Love City Groove got that high although if memory serves it wandered around the bottom half of the top twenty before peaking in Eurovision week and dropping down soon after.

    I remember that in the early nineties the UK organisers would choose their singer who would then sing a selection of songs for viewers to choose the entrant. In 1995 the format changed two eight different artists performing songs of different genres (I remember the token rock song came last, the token rap number by Love City Groove won by a landslide – among the also rans were Deuce who managed to equal Love City Groove’s chart peak with their song and Samantha Fox). Perhaps this new approach re-awakened interest in the contest chartwise, however although I recall 1995 strangely vividly by 1996 my interest was elsewhere – I’m assuming a similar format was used.

  21. 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?

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 55
    thefatgit on 24 Nov 2013 #

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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?

  28. 58
    punctum on 25 Nov 2013 #

    That is not a fact but a possibility.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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