Face of Flanders: Tom Dice
Last Wednesday, Flanders woke up to a new Tommeke. The night before, 20-year-old Tom Dice surprised Belgium by qualifying for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest – a first for Belgium in six years. More astonishing, his simple acoustic song “Me and My Guitar” placed sixth at the finals last Saturday in Oslo.
The original Tommeke, cyclist Tom Boonen, has lost almost as much shine as his sport, so the time was ripe for a new hero. Born in Eeklo in 1989, Dice is a graduate of the 2008 Flemish version of X-Factor, where he was coached by Maurice Engelen, aka Praga Khan. Dice came in second but led the field when it came time for Belgium’s representative for Eurovision to be selected by the VRT.
Dice wrote “Me and My Guitar” with Flemish songwriter Jeroen Swinnen and English songwriter Ashley Hicklin. Belgium’s expectations were low: the last Belgian to do well in Eurovision was Urban Trad in 2003, a folk group that reached second place singing in a made-up language. But something about the clean-cut Dice (he looks like a young James Taylor) appealed to the voters.
“I felt great, and then the results came, and I was really hoping, please say Belgium, and the cameras stayed with us, and then they said Belgium and everyone was flipping out. It was amazing,” he excitedly told the cameras after, in fact, winning his round of the semi-finals.
Sixth in the Eurovision finals is the best result ever for a Flemish artist – the previous best was a seventh place in both 1967 and 1969 by Louis Neefs. Dream Express’ seventh place in 1977 equalled that, but they were Dutch expats.
Dice, meanwhile, probably has a promising career ahead of him, first as a teen idol and later as an easy-listening singer-songwriter. That’s more than a lot of Eurovision graduates have done. Who now remembers Lily Castel (1971) Linda Lepomme (1985) or Vanessa Chinitor (1999)?
It was Germany, in the end, who won Eurovision this year: the cute, kicky 19-year-old Lena Meyer-Landrut’s song “Satellite” was already being heard on Flemish radio the week leading up to the final.