The announcement this week that Dana International will enter the Israeli Eurovision pre-selections, for the first time since she won the whole thing in 1998, has already been the cause of much homosexual excitement. For though she’s not the first Eurovision winner to come back for seconds, or even, arguably, the biggest name being lined up for this year’s contest, in the eyes of a great many people, Dana International is Eurovision.
As a battle-hardened champion of the relevance and (don’t laugh) dignity of the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s difficult not to see the success of Dana back in 1998 as something of a double edged sword. The image of Eurovision as a parade of freaks and gay interest minority acts was pretty much set in stone by the high-profile victory of a disco transvestite of, in all fairness, fairly limited vocal prowess.
But unlike the parade of cheap imitators that followed her, Dana was no one-joke gimmick. Diva was by far the most modern-sounding Eurovision winner of the 1990s, and unquestionably the one that the largest proportion of Joe Public could probably still hum. In terms of public awareness and impact, it gave the contest it’s biggest kick up the arse since a certain Swedish quartet twenty-four years previously.
Would any of this be the case if Dana had been born a woman? (As an unfortunate school-friend at the time mistakenly assumed, enthusing wildly about the ‘well fit bird’ who had won Eurovision the night before). The chances are she probably would have done, actually. Strip away the media circus that accompanied her and you’re still left with an amazing pop song. Diva is punchy, immediate and builds to the kind of frenzied climax that makes ‘Bad Romance’ sound like an Enya album track. The vocal is ropey, but she looks fantastic, and it’s a genuine star performance. It’s impossible not to love her a little bit as she struts on stage, arms aloft like a modern day Eva Peron. It was as if she already knew she’d won.
So can lightning strike twice for her? Returning winners haven’t had fantastic luck in recent years – 1999’s Charlotte Nilsson came 18th in 2008 and 1993 Irish victor Niamh Kavanagh came a dismal 23rd last year. We haven’t heard Dana’s new effort yet, but the title Ding Dong suggests that she probably hasn’t pulled out her acoustic guitar and gone political. At time of writing, David Guetta is rumoured to have produced the track, while other whispers indicate that RedOne may be involved. Whatever the truth is, it’s a safe bet that this Eurovision queen won’t be doing anything by halves. Long may she reign.