Perhaps it is just the after effects of a particularly potent punch, but today I am feeling some serious post-Eurovision blues. My girlfriend and I had spent all day actively avoiding social media and absolutely anything else that might spoil the winner of the contest prematurely – Europeans will never understand the lengths Australian fans have to go to. With our stomachs filled with food and booze and our hearts filled with expectation we finally sat down on Sunday night to watch Europe’s biggest spectacular – and it did not disappoint.
This year’s contest was in danger of being overshadow by politics. Despite the rules of the competition discouraging political overtures, last year’s wining song was a thinly-veiled criticism of the 2014 annexation of the Crimea and this year Ukrainian authorities decided to ban the Russian performer from entering the country altogether. There were also fears of a Brexit backlash affecting the United Kingdom’s entry. But just like it does every year, Eurovision continued on oblivious of all its political imbroglios.
The slogan for the contest was ‘celebrate diversity’, yet Kiev decided to ignore that and use three identical, and completely unqualified, white men as presenters. Their creepy flirtations with any passing female and blunders with English were at odds to an otherwise professional production. Australia’s new commentators, Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey did well enough, though I can’t help miss the dry sarcasm of Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro’s genuine passion for the contest.
Twenty six countries competed in the final this year, with the vast array of bizarre and kitsch performances we’ve come to expect from the contest. Sadly, Montenegro’s metre-long braid wielding Slavko Kalezić missed out on his place in the final after failing to qualify from the semi-final.
Romania’s entry featured a catchy blend of yodeling and rap that no one has ever asked for, whilst Croatia’s Jacques Houdek performed a duet with himself, dramatically pivoting and switching voices between a tenor and a soprano throughout the song.
Francesco Gabbani’s song for Italy, which featured a man dancing in a gorilla suit, was the overwhelming favourite coming in to the contest but only managed to finish in sixth place. Meanwhile, Moldova brought back the spirited saxophonist, the Epic Sax Guy, trying to capitalize on their internet fame and surprised everyone by finishing in third place, their best result so far.
Even entries as disastrously bad as Azerbaijan were still entertaining. Singer Dihaj stood in front of a blackboard that was graffitied with unrelated words, whilst a man in a horse mask watched on, perhaps trying to find some artistic meaning to it all.
Belgium’s Blanche looked rather stunned by the whole affair, barely blinking during her performance. Although no one was an unfazed as last year’s winner Jamala, who kept performing whilst a bare-arsed Australian crashed the stage during her interval performance. It was later revealed that the streaker wasn’t actually from Australia but the damage had already been done. Australia received only two points from the popular vote. Dami Im was robbed of victory last year, and now it seems like the European public are disgruntled at Australia’s participation in the competition. Of course, we aren’t the only non-European nation it the contest, with countries such as Israel having competed since the 1970s.
Last year’s hosts, Sweden, clearly wanted to win again sending another overly manufactured pop song and dance routine. It was entertaining and finished a respectable fifth, but the night was a victory for genuine, raw music. After 48 previous attempts, Portugal finally achieved their first win in the contest with Salvador Sobral’s ‘Amar Pelos Dois’. An old fashioned love song sung by a quirky singer was enough to capture the hearts of both the jury and the public.
In his acceptance speech Sobral criticised what he called ‘disposable music’, saying that his win was a ‘victory for real music with feeling’. Whilst I agree with his sentiments, you cannot enter Eurovision, win Eurovision and then go on to criticise the very core of Eurovision. In a competition where all songs must be under three minutes, he has certainly come to the wrong show. This isn’t the first time something out of the ordinary has won the contest. In 2006 Finish band Lordi surprised everyone by winning the contest with a hard rock song. However, it didn’t leave an impact on the contest, and the following years reverted to pop songs winning the contest. Whilst Salvador’s song was by far the best of the night I can’t see Eurovision adapting any time soon.
Nobody really quite understands the Eurovision Song Contest but there can be no doubt that it is thoroughly entertaining. This year the atmosphere was infectiously optimistic, the standard of songs surprisingly high, and the winning song especially heart-warming.