For the past two years, I’ve written a blog post running through all the best and worst bits of Eurovision lyrics. It’s not something I cobble together in a few minutes. The post is a culmination of months’ worth of irksome syntactical grumbles and bewildered searches for meaning where there is none. Sometimes this even extends to the songs I love.
Goodbye To Yesterday, by Elina Born and Stig Rästa, is, as far as I’m concerned, by far and away the best song submitted for Vienna and it has great detail in the lyrics. I do, however, find it hard to pin down exactly what happens on the day the song covers. This requires more than a one-paragraph skim-through in my annual lyric audit.
What stands out for me from the start is how incredible Stig’s body clock is. He hasn’t opened his eyes yet, but he knows the time. There’s obviously no alarm involved as that would wake Elina up, nor would it be likely to be light enough outside this time of year in Estonia for Stig to get a sense of daybreak. I thought it could be possible that Stig had overheard early-rising binmen or milkmen, but that would suggest it was a weekday morning. We know from later on in the song that Elina has nothing better to do than lay in bed all day, so that seems unlikely.
Anyway, after an indeterminate amount of time, in which Stig could easily have drifted back to sleep, he decides to make a move.
I find it interesting that Stig’s keys would jingle specifically at the door. Did Elina lock him in? It certainly would open up a whole new interpretation of the song. Many consider it a breakup song, but maybe it’s an escape. That could be why Stig is so precise with his timekeeping. He’s planned this run for freedom meticulously, fashioned some rudimentary keys to pick his way out of the house and has taken advantage of the fatal flaw in Elina’s secure compound: the complete incompetence of her guard dog. The stupid mutt has one job to do. It doesn’t let out a single woof as Elina’s man walks out of her life.
Okay, so maybe this is about a consensual relationship. First impressions here suggest Stig is playing the role of the guy who’s pulled and has second thoughts in the morning. It’s interesting how he walks out due to low self-esteem, but at this point it seems to be a fairly conventional story of a one night stand. Elina’s verse makes things more complicated.
Something else is going on here. The story is developing. We’ve gone from a hostage/captor scenario, to a one-night stand, to some sort of ongoing relationship. It may be that they’ve known each other for a while, but have now only just got it on.
I like the first line above. It’s not a particularly original phrase, but the sentiment is interesting. Elina isn’t angry and isn’t attaching blame for Stig’s departure. She’s trying to understand. She can also anticipate his responses, so it seems they know each other very well and there may be hope for them together.
From this closeness one could think Elina and Stig are boyfriend and girlfriend. They’ve had a fight and in the morning Stig’s done a runner. This scenario doesn’t explain why Elina’s naked, though.
It’s a bit of an odd line, isn’t it? It seems principally designed to make the listener imagine Elina naked, sprawled out on a bed with a phone by her side, as if she’s presenting an unusually quiet night on Babestation.
The phone bit, doesn’t ring true. It should really be “playing with my phone”. Any normal person would be obsessively checking their texts, whatsapp, facebook and twitter for signs of Stig. The only conclusion one can make is that Elina expects Stig to phone her on the landline. Who uses the landline? I don’t think my last girlfriend even had my home phone number. Unless Stig works in a call centre, that phone’s not ringing.
Aside from Elina’s surprisingly old school approach to phone technology, the main thrust of the story of the song is fairly clear with Stig gone and Elina wanting him back, except for one detail.
Elina has doubts too. She’s sad now, but recognises that if her stupid dog had done its job and woke her up, she might have kicked Stig out anyway. There’s still a lot of room for ambiguity.
The line also makes Elina less of a victim. She may have been left behind and wants Stig back, and doesn’t have any clothes, but she doesn’t come across as desperate. The thought of a life without her man has crossed her mind.
Even here, I have no idea what they’re saying goodbye to. Most likely it’s the events before Stig walked, which could still either be an argument or a shag. Actually, what day is it? Did Stig walk out yesterday? Maybe they’ll carry on as usual and pretend Stig just went to the shops. “Yesterday”, doesn’t even have to be literal; it could be an event further back in their story that was the cause of their argument/shag/trip to the shops.
I love the lyrics to this song. The only other Eurovision entry I can think of that tells such a good story is Fairytale. Yet it’s also one of the great strengths of the song that they leave large parts of the narrative untold.
I may be picking the song apart and trying to figure out what’s actually going on, but the point isn’t for us to know everything. One can form a story for yourself and it becomes universal. Unlike its live presentation, not everything is black and white and I like it that way.