Telling your friends that you are going to bed early on a Saturday night because you have to wake up at 4am on Sunday morning to watch the Eurovision Song Contest can be met with some rather strange and confused looks. But that is the commitment that any true Australian Eurovision fan must face. This year’s contest took place in Lisbon, after Salvador Sobral’s heart-warming song ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ gave Portugal their first ever victory. Over the last few years politics has plagued Eurovision, but nevertheless the contest has endured and continues to offer all the glitz, glamour and drama we’ve come to love and expect.
Ukraine kicked off the night with a performance that can be considered pure Eurovision goodness. Wearing one pale blue contact lens, reminiscent of David Bowie, singer Melovin emerged from a coffin, that also doubled as a piano. Oh, and it also was on fire. If this isn’t exactly what you are looking for in a Eurovision performance I don’t know what is.
Unfortunately what followed were a bunch of the bland, slightly out of tune, Euro-pop numbers typical of the contest. Estonia spent their entire GDP on a giant skirt that projected images onto it and which, combined with an operatic singer, made for a pretty great spectacle. 2009 Eurovision Song Contest winner Alexander Rybak returned for another go for Norway. Having apparently not aged in the nine years between performances he had all the charm and confidence needed to win. The only thing he didn’t have was a winning song, choosing instead a song that was a how-to guide to song-writing, featuring such questionable advice as ‘sing shoobie doobie dat dat, shabba dabba hey, say all day long, and that’s how you write a song!’ Ed Sheeran’s German doppelgänger sang a heart-felt song about his dead father, Einstein played the flute for Serbia, Denmark sent a bunch of bearded Vikings, Moldova performed a comedy piece with an Ikea wardrobe as the prop, Hungary sent probably the least Eurovision-friendly song in the contest’s history opting instead for screaming metal, whilst The Netherlands tried their hand at American country rock.
Cyprus was a crowd favourite, with singer Eleni channelling Beyonce-esque dance moves that was good enough to reach second place. But on the night it was the unique Israeli entry Netta who captured the public’s imagination with her song ‘Toy’. A song that somehow combined the very real message of the #MeToo movement with chicken impressions. I know… but it really was catchy and a worthy winner! Netta had been the favourite in the weeks leading up to the contest, but had been written off as others such as Cyprus, France and Ireland rose to the top. Out of nowhere though Austria, a good song that everyone had forgotten, won the jury vote, though could not hold onto the lead once the public vote was announced. Yet again this shows that the jury is very much out of touch with the general public.
Notable on the night was the UK’s performance where a man stormed the stage and grabbed the microphone. He was swiftly removed by security and performer SuRie continued on professionally, turning down the option to perform a second time. In the most Aussie way ever, commentator Joel Creasey called the man an ‘absolute cockhead’, earning him the respect of Twitter, including J.K. Rowling. Despite her calm reaction and the strong solidarity in the audience, SuRie still finished close to the bottom of the table, another poor result for the UK. This is the second year in a row where there has been a stage breach at the contest and security is certainly a concern going forward (especially as we will be in Israel next year).
Another notable event was that Chinese broadcaster Mango TV, shocked by Ireland’s depiction of a gay love story and even more shocked by the visible tattoos on Albanian performer’s arm, decided to censor the songs in the first semi final. The EBU’s response? To terminate Mango TV’s contract and ban them from broadcasting the final. Don’t mess with the EBU.
But let’s talk about the greatest travesty of the night: Australia’s Jessica Mauboy received the lowest public vote, finishing in 20th place, and the lowest since Australia started competing in the contest four years ago. Not since the Fall of Singapore has Australia been so let down by its European allies. There has been a lot of questioning of the EBU’s decision to let Australia compete in a European song contest and perhaps this poor polling could be seen as something of a backlash. But let’s face it, the whole competition is a bit of a joke anyway. Besides, winning nation Israel can be hardly be considered to be in Europe either. Fingers crossed Australia can bounce back and send a stronger entry next year.
Love it or hate it, its hard to deny that the modern era of Eurovision offers some slick production and makes for a bloody fun night (or early morning in my case), and I certainly look forward to doing it all again next year. Thanks Europe!