28 July 2015

Imaani: Where Are You? : 1998

Imaani / Eurovision UK 1998

It Should Have Won

United Kingdom: Where Are You?

Back in 1998, the United Kingdom was still on a Eurovision high. The previous year the country had won the Contest with Katrina and the Waves singing Love Shine a Light and it was now preparing to host the event from the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. The country also had another solid contender vying for a successive win.

Imaani Wins the National Selection

The British buzz surrounded the selection of Where Are You?, one of four compositions competing in that year's Great British Song Contest - the UK's national final. It would be sung by newcomer Imaani, who was suggested to the song's writers by Debbie French, a member of The Collective - a group which had also graduated to the final.

While the entry by The Collective did not click with the British public, Where Are You? caught the imagination and raced to victory, registering over 4,000 more votes than its nearest rival. It was not surprising, really: the song had pedigree, particularly with hit songwriter Scott English on board.

English had already penned or co-penned big sellers such as Bend Me, Shape Me and Hi Ho Silver Lining, as well as appeared in the UK Top 20 himself with his own composition Brandy. This later underwent a metamorphosis to become Mandy - Barry Manilow's first big hit.

The United Kingdom Vs. Israel

Dana International / Israel
Dana International
This kind of reputation stands no chance, however, when there is unending controversy and media attention surrounding one of the other national contestants. It transpired that Israel was sending the act Dana International with the song Diva

In any other year, the performer and the song wouldn't have caused much of a stir. However, Dana International was formerly Dan International: the first openly transgender singer to enter the Contest. As a result, none of the other nations really stood a chance, no matter the quality of their songs.

Imaani's superior vocal and production gave Diva a run for its money, however, but many voters were already seduced by the Israeli story and Dana International went on to secure Israel its third victory.

The UK Finishes Second...Again

Chiara / Malta
In fact, just eight points separated the Top Three. Another battle had ensued between Imaani and Malta's Chiara - another 'It Should Have Won' contender - with the Brit securing the runners-up spot by just one point. Either could have been a better choice than the eventual winner, particularly Where Are You? which actually sounded current for its time and continues to impress today.

Imaani gives a soulfully explosive, yet measured vocal over a driving mid-tempo dance beat, helped in the storytelling by some excellent backing singers. They all contribute to the sense of anguish and heartache that the song evokes, painting a vivid picture of longing and despair.

Replacing the year-long high, the UK's result instead became a major cause of despondency. Despite being one of the nation's best entries, the United Kingdom was in second place again - albeit the song received points from every participating country, including top votes from four of them.

Eurovision is never fair, it seems. 1998 was less so than most years.

What do you think?

Imaani Performing at Eurovision 1998

Imaani image by Richard Kaby [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 
Dana International image by Daniel Kruczynski (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Chiara image by The Foto Grafer (photographer) and TVMalta (licensor) (The Foto Grafer) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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