EUROVISION 2016: TRIUMPH OF THE SPECTRAL JAZZ SIBYL (CONCLUSION)

I got six of my Top Ten forecast correct and three of the Top Five, an improvement over last year’s forecast.  But adding my “Bubbling Under” choices, I only got seven and totally missed out on three entries (unlike last year where all the ones I didn’t pick in my Top Ten were in my “Bubbling Under” list.  This list is also notable for featuring two returnees from previous contests exceeding their previous standings, with one bringing forth her country’s best finish thus far.

It’s interesting to note the scoring is diffused this year compared to most years, as the Top Ten took a share of 66% of the total available points–the normal average is about 70% and last year it was particularly highly concentrated at 83%.  With this year’s caliber of entries, I can understand why the scores are more dispersed to give credit to other worthy entries than usual.

I am posting below the table the compares the scores and rankings using the 2015 system versus the new one, as I’ll discuss this extensively below.

10TH PLACE: BELGIUM (Laura Tesoro, “What’s the Pressure”).  What a difference two months would make.  When all the entries were made known by early March, this was regarded as a likeable also-ran, with many fans stating they feel the song was “nothing special”.  But then she released her official video, and positive buzz started to rise and fans started to reconsider and think that this could become a contender for the final.  Then came buzz from the rehearsals, with her entertainingly funky presentation loaded with swag and attitude featuring singing-and-dancing backup performers, and she’s then rated as a final shoo-in and a Top Ten possibility.  As the jury votes in the final was unveiled, we learned she finished at an admirable sixth place.   It’s partly expected that she’ll be weaker in the televote (she landed 16th), but it’s great that she’s able to sustain the strong finish by her predecessor, Loïc Nottet.  I also have to note that if we use the ordinals, she actually ranked higher with the juries and televotes (5th and 14th respectively) and would’ve been 9th overall using the 2015 system and in raw ordinals.

9TH PLACE:  LITHUANIA (Donny Montell, “I’ve Been Waiting for this Night).  Few fans expected that he’ll outplace his fellow Baltic Boys colleagues from Latvia (Justs) and Estonia (Jüri Pootsmann), but it turned out he ended up outranking both.  Yes, this song was better than his previous entry four years ago, “Love is Blind“, and he developed a slicker persona, but many (including myself) expected that with a high caliber of competition it will be a middle-ranked entry at best with Justs making the Top Ten.  I also have quibbles with his hairstyle and the simplicity of his presentation (the only “edge” is the high trampoline leap and jacket drop prior to the song’s climax), but the LED floor helped jazz up that austerely simple presentation.  The goodwill he gained from his respectable 14th place finish four years ago helped him gain lots of points from the jury and televote, ranking 12th and 10th respectively.  Interestingly, he actually got more points from the jury (104) than from the televote even if he ranked higher in the latter.  I think it can be argued this is Lithuania’s best entry ever, and I’m fine that he delivered his country’s second-best finish in this contest thus far (though to my reckoning, I will never recognize the 6th place success of LT United’s horrendously dreadful “We Are the Winners” back in 2006 and declare Donny was indeed Lithuania’s finest).

8TH PLACE:  POLAND (“Weird Al” Yankovic Michał Szpak, “The Color of Your Life”).  It was expected this entry would fare well with the televote (especially since Poland has a significant diaspora across several European nations.  But little did we realize how polarizing this entry turned to be between juries and the general public–it was 2nd to last with the juries with a mere seven points.  Judging from his semifinals performance, I can understand the low jury vote as he was shrieking at the song’s end.  To his credit though, for the final, he was able to temper the shriek.  As I learned that this entry was one of the Top Ten in the televote, I was expecting this to place probably between 6th to 10th.  But it turned out it ranked third and garnered a whopping 222 points to catapult it to 8th place overall, providing one of the most jaw-dropping results moments ever in this contest.

7TH PLACE:  ARMENIA (Iveta Mukuchyan, “Lovewave”).  Based from buzz by Eurovision fan sites, many expected this entry to make the Top Five, and maybe even equal or exceed the 4th place finishes of Sirusho and Aram Mp3.  I was a tad surprised as the points were revealed that she didn’t rank higher as her performance and presentation was fierce and flawless as usual, and performing last should’ve given her an edge,, but it’s still a strong finish, nevertheless.

6TH PLACE:  FRANCE (Amir, “J’ai cherché”).  I was not surprised he did very well with the juries (ranking third) as the song is simply so good.  But I noticed during the live final he didn’t do the expected key-change towards the end of this song like we hear in the Eurovision recording–he reverted back to the regular key of the original version.   Regardless whether he managed to hit that high note or not, however, the song and singer are loaded with so much puppy-dog charm that I’m pleased he was able to connect with both juries and the viewing public.  He did deliver his country’s best finish in almost 15 years, and if we look at ordinals and the 2015 system, he could’ve ranked 5th overall instead of…

5TH PLACE:  SWEDEN (Frans “If I Were Sorry”).  I was surprised it ranked high as most pundits felt his austere presentation might be a turnoff.  But, I have to accept it’s a solid, modern pop song, and modern audiences respond well to the Ed Sheeran-like sound.  It officially ranked 9th in the juries and 6th in the televote, pipping away from France by four points.  If we look at ordinals, its jury rank would actually be 12th as even if it got the points to rank 9th, there are 13 countries that ranked it in the bottom 10 (17 to 26), dragging the ordinals down.

4TH PLACE:  BULGARIA (Poli Genova, “If Love Was a Crime”).  Many fans felt that Poli needs to be vindicated for “Na Inat” not advancing to the final back in 2011.  It turns out, not only was she vindicated by advancing to the final, but she delivered her country’s best showing in this contest yet by placing 4th overall, beating the 5th place finish by Elitsa & Stoyan nine years ago.  This ranked 5th in televote and 7th in jury points, though I have to note based on average ordinals for the latter, she actually averaged 4th outranking Malta, Russia, and Belgium, showing that juries that did not give her points have a higher regard for her than those three.  I rejoice at this great showing and I concur with many who believed that this entry deserved Bulgaria’s best-ever showing because this is its best-ever entry thus far.

3RD PLACE:  RUSSIA (Sergey Lazarev, “You Are the Only One”).  Yes, Sergey Lazarev sang terrifically on point.  Yes, the song is catchy as hell.  Yes, the splashy LED effects and 3D effects were a visual treat–even if it inspired a meme where it is compared to a Super Mario video game.  And yes, Sergey is by all accounts a very gracious gentleman with a gay-friendly attitude.  It was the favorite to win by many fans and oddsmakers.  It won the popular vote with 363 points and all 41 countries putting it in the Top Ten.  So what stood at its way for a near guaranteed win?  Two things:  first, Russia is still being run by Vladimir Putin with his notorious proclivity for foreign aggression and antagonistic policies against the LGBT community; second, competing against this entry is a quirky spectral jazz sibyl who wrote and performed the song that reminded everyone of the past and present atrocities committed by this country–more on her later.  As a result, the juries scored it in fifth place–and the placement would’ve been worse if we use ordinals as it would drop to eighth as 11 of the 21 juries that didn’t grant this entry points placed it in their bottom ten.  It’s understandable that one of the writers of this entry, the famous Philipp Kirkorov, was upset and clamored for the EBU to dilute the impact of the jurors.  I also feel sad that this great entry (my favorite entry from this country ever) didn’t win, but it seems that as long as Putin is in power, no one will feel comfortable with the prospect of Russia winning and being granted the right to host (even if they promise a lavish production like in 2009), and will most likely to be marked down by the juries moving forward.

2ND PLACE:  AUSTRALIA (Dami Im, “Sound of Silence”).  Unlike Croatia’s disastrous attempt at avant-garde, Dami’s asymmetrical white gown drew raves.  She sounded a bit strained hitting the high notes of her sleek, dignified pop ballad during the final, but even that strained register still sounded awesome and fitting with the passion needed for the song so it’s no surprise she won over the juries and garnered 320 points, with douze points from nine countries.  She only came in fourth in the televote with 191 points, but I checked the number of countries that granted her points compared to third place Poland, and she actually got points from more countries, 37 compared to Poland’s 35.  Only the Armenian, French, Italian, and Montenegrin public didn’t give her a Top Ten placement.  The key why Poland garnered more points was that while both got two douze points (from Albania and Malta for Australia and from Azerbaijan and Belgium for Poland), Poland got eight dix points compared to Australia’s  one dix point (from Denmark).  If the 2015 system was in place, this could’ve been the winner as shown from the table from the top of this page, as if the juries and televote were combined she would’ve garnered points from every country as if she missed didn’t garner points from the televote it will be offset by the points it got from the jury and vice-versa (especially since in the countries she didn’t garner points, it only missed the Top 10 by very little).  In some ways, it’s such a shame she missed the opportunity in victory because they changed the system, and admittedly I would’ve preferred this to win instead of…

CHAMPION:  UKRAINE (Jamala, “1944”).  This jazz-pop singer of Armenian and Crimean Tatar descent is normally a sweet, happy soul with a quirky sound, as evidenced by songs like her 2011 attempt to become the Ukrainian representative, “Smile”.  However the Russian re-annexation of Crimea two years ago affected her deeply especially since her great-grandmother was one of the victims of Joseph Stalin’s purge back in the aforementioned year, and this recent incursion may adversely impact her relatives who returned there over a decade ago.  So from the happy, quirky jazz popster, she transformed into a spectral sibyl (a sibyl is an oracle in an ancient temple) and composed this ominously harrowing jazz-and-R&B-inflected art piece.

The song’s lyrics were not directly political even if it references a historical political event, which is clearly why it garnered headlines for being “political”–but then again the English lyrics sound universal enough that it could be applied to any situation that involves a persecution, like what’s going in Syria, South Sudan, and many other places currently.  It’s not an easy listen, though anyone willing to do repeated listens would be rewarded.  Listen to the minor-key groove and you will hear traces of the 1972 R&B masterpiece from the Temptations, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and Massive Attack’s1991  trip-hop classic “Unfinished Sympathy”–although Jamala herself noted in interviews she was inspired by Radiohead’s 2011 album The King of Limbs.  Then, there is her singing–her otherworldly wails may sound unpleasant to some ears, but no one can accuse her of being off-key or less-than-soulful; most would relate to the pain and anguish behind them, as if she’s channeling all the souls of those Crimean Tatars displaced or killed under Stalin’s purge in that aforementioned year.  The lyrics and her singing transport you to this very dark situation, and you cannot help but at least empathize with what was going on.

But clinching the deal was her wardrobe and staging.  Her navy blue tunic-and-trouser ensemble may be modern and chic, but the tunic’s style does have a Grecian feel to it that is why the term “sibyl” is apt.  The staging was tasteful and impressionistic–the lighting and LED effects evoked an otherworldly spell, and the song’s climax evokes the channeling of souls of all the victims gathering around her and then being unleashed into a glowing tree that implies both memory and healing.  It’s a cathartic experience for everyone involved, from Jamala herself to the audience watching the performance.

In the televote, she achieved a near consensus as she garnered points from 40 of the 41 possible countries–only Iceland was the one whose viewing public were not that into her (but actually it was close–it was 11th there).  In the juries, there were 17 countries that didn’t grant it points (which reflects a dispersed opinion on the juries’ side), with the Czech, Maltese and Russian juries ranking it in 24th place.  Anyway, in both juries and televotes she finished second in both, and amassed enough points to become the overall winner, even if the average ordinal analysis (and the 2015 system) would’ve generated a different winner.

As much as I would’ve preferred Australia as the winner (as it could’ve been if we used a couple of different systems), I’m not at all upset with Jamala’s win.  Sometimes it’s necessary that songs with dark topics are allowed to prevail to shed light at the existence of harsh truths, and as much as this is not expected to make serious impact in the record charts, it stands tall as a work of art.  There were petitions to the EBU to change the results by fans of the Russian entry, and they wanted to add fuel by the fact that there was video footage that existed where she performed a full Crimean Tatar version of this song (as “Bizim Qirim [My Crimea]”) in May 2015, much earlier than the September 2015 cutoff the EBU set for release of entries to the general public, but an exception was granted as it was not “released commercially” at that time and the number who witnessed the performance was not sufficient enough to bring unfair advantage for this entry (and there were several precedents to grant this exemption).  I agree with the EBU to let the results stand as it is.

I know with the limited resources that the Ukrainian broadcaster has, I’m not expecting next year’s Eurovision to be as spectacular as this one, and I doubt Ukraine will be able to field presenters as terrific as the combo of Petra and Måns, but I’m still hopeful that with Swedish broadcaster SVT offering its assistance, Ukraine will be able to pull off a great show next year.  I also have a wish that I hope they would grant–since Ukraine’s entries are predominantly divas, I like to see an all-diva reunion for next year’s opening or interval act–it would be awesome to see Tina Karol, Ani Lorak, Svetlana Loboda, Alyosha, Mika Newton, Gaitana, Zlata Ognevich, Mariya Yaremchuk, and Ruslana on the same stage with Jamala, with perhaps the two champions then performing a duet.  Okay, perhaps you can add Verka Serduchka to the mix even if she’s not quite a good fit with the aforementioned, if you catch my drift (and apologies to the two other male acts who’d get the short shrift).  Will the Ukrainian Diva Summit be realized?  I’ll see how everything unfolds in May next year.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

EUROVISION 2016: TRIUMPH OF THE SPECTRAL JAZZ SIBYL (PART 2)

In the 11 years that I have followed this contest, this is probably the one with the lowest dreck-to-quality ratio.  The “weak links” in terms of quality have redeeming qualities to them that they are not out-and-out undeserving duds.  As such, I would be commenting on all the finalists as I review their performances and analyze their scores and placements.

There was a lot of clamor to change the system again after the announcement of the final results, mostly coming from supporters of the odds-on favorite.  If you ask me I think this current system, as flawed as it may be, is the best system implemented thus far.  At least the credits garnered from one portion wouldn’t be nullified by being dragged down by a possibly very low ranking in the other portion. My main complaint about the current system is that I would prefer to see all entries’ ranking reflected so we get a fuller picture on how they are really regarded.  As evidenced by the situations encountered by Ireland’s Ryan Dolan in 2013 and Spain’s Edurne last year, their weak placements do not reflect how they were actually regarded by the juries and televote as scoring was limited to the Top 10 and those who missed the Top 10 are ranked equally when in reality that is not the case.  Their frustrating showings made me bestow particular scenarios in their honor.   So I have done a full ordinal analysis of the finalists (and semifinalists–I have an “epilogue” section about that after I review all the finalists), which is reflected on the Excel spreadsheet attached in this article (we’ll also feature the tables of the televote and jury split results below, along with the ranking differences between the two).

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Just like last year, Germany (Jamie-Lee Kriewitz) ended up in last place.  It was last with the juries and 24th with the public.  But unlike Ann-Sophie last year, it at least got some points, and Jamie-Lee’s vocal ability are undoubtedly strong (and the song a bit more melodic and catchier).  The staging and the disconnect with the song’s themes and the Harajuku girl wardrobe contributed to this placement.

The act I would’ve wanted to rank last is Georgia (Nika Kocharov and Young Georgia Lolitaz).  But I have to say the psychedelically trippy presentation fits the abrasive music very well, and the effects actually enhanced the listening experience of this entry that I started tolerating this better.  So instead of taking the rear, they were 20th overall.  Still, I wonder if the British jury were ingesting some hallucinogens to give this act their douze points.  That high British score (along with high marks from Armenia, Lithuania and Poland) helped them rank 14th officially with the jury, but when I examined the full ordinal rankings, this number actually ranked much lower at 19th–revealing that other juries ranked this entry very low.

Czech Republic (Gabriela Gunčíková) officially ranked 21st with the juries and dead last with the televote.  I can confirm there is no Ryan Dolan Conundrum that took place in the televote–she was indeed unfortunately dead last (many people would blame the fact that she performed 2nd for that dismal showing).  If the 2015 system was in place, the dismal televote placement would drag whatever credits she garnered from the juries and based on points would end up in the rear instead of Germany.  In terms of jury votes, it actually got points from more countries than Cyprus, and based on ordinals, she would’ve ranked 16th, so in a small extent, she was hit by the Edurne Paradox that dragged her score downwards from what is reflected on the ordinals.  This quality entry is one reason why I seriously object to diluting the weighting of the jury–without them this country would probably be permanently shut out of the finals, and may result with this country never seeing action in this contest if that system would prevail.  Despite the weak 25th place overall, the presence of this country in this year’s final was refreshingly welcome.

The two big jury darlings in this year’s contest are Malta (Ira Losco) and Israel (Hovi Star).  Ira ranked 4th with the jury and Hovi ranked 7th.  I do say their high placements with the juries was well deserved as they delivered quality performances.  However, they ranked very low with the televote, placing 21st and 22nd respectively.  If the 2015 system were in place, a significant chunk of points they earned with the juries would be nullified and both entries will fall down at least 10 notches below their eventual 12th and 14th place rankings.  In analyzing the average ordinal jury score, I found out Malta would’ve ranked significantly lower than 4th (9th place, in fact), as it’s dragged down by bottom-ten rankings by the juries of 10 countries–so in a certain extent, Malta polarized the juries a bit.

Generating significant points from the televote were Austria (Zoë) and Serbia (Sanja Vučić ZAA), the former ranking 8th and the latter 11th.  In the juries, they ranked a weak 24th and 23rd respectively, resulting in overall placements of 13th and 18th.  There are many that feel that these two deserve a better ranking that the jury scores may reflect–I especially agree in the case of Serbia, as I found no fault at all with her presentation or performance and felt it was actually moving and riveting.  It’s interesting to note that Serbia’s televote points came from only seven countries–Balkan bloc voting was in play as it received the maximum douze points from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia, plus another douze points from Switzerland and Italy tossing quatre points her way.  If we use ordinal averages, Sanja’s televote rank would dropped ten notches to 21st, reflecting that it ranked low in televotes from the other countries.  I disagree with the results for Serbia as I believe it deserved better than what it got.

Officially based on televote points, Azerbaijan (Samra) ranked 12th and Croatia (Nina Kraljić) 18th.  However, it turns out they have their bloc allies to thank for those placements as the average ordinals would indicate they would only rank 18th and 25th respectively.  Croatia was potentially a Top Ten contender, but everyone can agree the presentation was ruined by the wardrobe that it was the clear winner of the notorious Barbara Dex award.  Shame on the Croatian broadcaster for not giving Nina the support she needs.

Based on points garnered,  Hungary (Freddie) and Cyprus (Minus One) are 14th and 15th in the televote.  But when we averaged their ordinal rankings, they actually would be 10th and 12th.  Hungary demonstrated the Edurne Paradox in the televote as it garnered points from 14 countries, more than the number of countries that gave points for Serbia (7), Azerbaijan and Latvia (13 each) that ranked above it.  I guess having Freddie dress down very casually in a plain T-shirt and jeans was great eye-candy to the general public, but the juries must’ve felt the presentation felt unpolished as a result.  With Minus One, meanwhile, the abrupt closeups made the lead singer look kinda creepy to my eyes, but well, I can understand why the public dug the song as some might be in the mood to rock and this delivered for those with a rock fix.

My worst fear happened when Spain (Barei) was cursed with the Edurne Paradox in both juries and televotes that it ended up 22nd overall (one notch below Edurne last year).  Based on points, it ranked 16th and 23rd with the juries and televotes respectively, but if we average the ordinal rankings, it’s actually higher at 13th and 16th, and it would’ve been a more respectable 15th overall.  In the televote, despite getting the same measly 10 points as Germany it actually collected points from five countries (same as Croatia, who ranked five notches higher) compared to Germany’s two, and its low point collection despite a stronger ordinal ranking shows that it frustratingly was bubbling under the Top 10 in televote rankings in most countries.  Unlike what happened to Edurne, we can pin some blame on the presentation–not on Barei herself as she sang terrifically live and the song remained awesome, but on her backup singers, who didn’t seem to vocally jell well so they failed to bring power to the chorus and for a danceable song like this one, them being set up like static Motown backup singers felt flat–the delegation head should’ve hired those funky backup singers/dancers that accompanied Belgium (Laura Tesoro).  Admittedly the general public also didn’t like the “accidental” fall gimmick mid-song, and it inspired some memes like the picture below.  If it weren’t for those issues with presentation this song should’ve been the one that broke through the notorious “10th place ceiling” experienced by this country in recent years.

In some ways the 17th place jury rank for the United Kingdom (Joe & Jake) serves as a respectable consolation to last year’s debacle, but as expected it didn’t connect that much with the general public, ranking 25th in the televote based on points.

Two entries that ended up in the middle of the pack that I predicted would be in the Top 10 were Latvia (Justs) and Italy (Francesca Michielin), ranking 15th and 16th overall respectively.  They gave solid and simple presentations, but were simply overshadowed by the Jury Darlings like Malta or Israel, or the Televote Bait like Poland (Michał Szpak), Austria, or Serbia, or the sleeper hits like Netherlands and Belgium.  If the 2015 system was in place, both these entries would’ve ranked higher and be on the left side of the leaderboard at 11th and 13th respectively.

Ranking 11th overall was Netherlands (Douwe Bob), with an 11th place ranking with the juries and 17th place with the televote.  If the 2015 system was used, it could’ve been in the Top 10 as Poland’s ultra-low jury rank would’ve offset many of the points it garnered in the televote (more on that in the next section).  If we average the ordinals, its jury rank would actually be 7th, outranking Russia (Sergey Lazarev), Malta, Armenia (Iveta Mukuchyan), and Sweden (Frans).  In certain ways, it also exhibited the Edurne Paradox with the juries as it got votes from 21 countries, equal that of Armenia and more than the countries that gave points to Russia (20) and Sweden (17).

COMING UP:  ANALYSIS OF THE TOP TEN

 

EUROVISION 2016: TRIUMPH OF THE SPECTRAL JAZZ SIBYL (PART 1)

The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 delivered the goods on several fronts: grandeur, spectacle, quality finalists, entertainment value, star charisma, and nail-biting drama.  The Globen stage in Stockholm delivered on the state-of-the-art LED effects that gnerated the grandeur and spectacle, and the enthusiastic energy of the 15,000-strong crowd was very palpable all throughout the proceedings.  Just like during the two semifinal heats, presenters Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede were unconditionally terrific, delivering wit and musicality while competently running the entire proceedings.  It makes you want to vote for Sweden to win in subsequent years so you can see this terrific duo host the contest again and again (Yes, Petra, I’m rooting for you to beat British presenter Katie Boyle’s record).  In the eleven years I have been keenly following this song contest, this duo is for me gave the best hosting ever (in second place?  Petra solo, three years ago).

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Presenters Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede

Interestingly even if the show remains grand, it is also streamlined for the beginning portion of the program–normally, after the parade of nations that was begun in 2013 there would be this elaborate opening number; this year the opening only consists of a fashion show inspired by the dandelion logo for this year’s contest set to a medley of hits by Swedish DJ Avicii as they presented the finalists for this year’s contest.  Then after some brief opening banter by the presenters, they went straight to the competition–I’ll discuss this in a later installment.

I mentioned there was star wattage in the contest.  They piled it on during the 45-minute voting interval, starting with a pre-taped sequence featuring esteemed British thespians Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi acting as aged televiewers very critical of the contest’s length, akin to those Muppet critics Statler and Waldorf.

But the brightest star featured during the voting interval was Justin Timberlake.  He first showed up in the Green Room conversing with Måns, and you can see practically all the artists all thrilled and abuzzed by his presence–especially loved seeing Spain’s Barei and Bulgaria’s Poli Genova video-bombing in the background (and in photos, you’ll also see last year’s Latvian representative, Aminata taking photos on her smartphone on the scene).  Even Justin praised Måns for his hosting–deservingly so.

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New buddies Justin Timberlake and Mans Zelmerlow
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Finalists and delegations abuzz over Justin Timberlake

After a four-minute interval featuring a montage of Swedish acts that made a big splash in the internationally, Justin went on to perform a medley of two songs:  first is his now classic hit “Rock Your Body”, which then segued to his unstoppably infectious current hit single, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”.  Though I noticed his backup singers took some of the vocal load that normally should be his (like the falsetto portion of the chorus of “Can’t Stop the Feeling”), his performance was truly live and electric and a masterclass that the finalists could watch, learn, and emulate.  It’s such a shame that U.S. viewers, due to clearing issues, could not see this terrific number.

As is tradition, the reigning champion performs a medley featuring his latest single and his winning song.  In this case, Måns performed his latest single, “Fire in the Rain” and then segued into his winning song, “Heroes”.  The new song is a solid fusion of pop with acoustic folk touches, but it’s tough to follow “Heroes”.  Still a pleasant listen.

But for me the big highlight was the musical number Måns and Petra performed as they “analyzed” what makes a winning Eurovision song.  What results is “Love Love Peace Peace”, and it was terrific, over-the-top fun featuring appearances by previous champions Alexander Rybak (Norway 2009) and Lordi (Finland 2006).  Some of the visual elements may not be the hallmark of champions–remember Austria took the rear with nul points with their flaming piano–but well, it could help shore up your placement if you can’t win.

Sometimes you’ll see a former beauty queen reading out the results of her country.  This year, presenting the French jury results was Miss France and Miss Europe 2001 winner Élodie Gossuin (who also happened to be a Top 10 semifinalist at Miss Universe that same year).  For the French public, her presentation of the scores became a viral meme, as she goofily (read:  off-key) sang out the “you-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” part of “J’ai cherché” with awkward moves this side of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).  If Miss Universe 2010 4th runner-up Venus Raj is associated with term “major major“, Elodie is now associated with the term “youhouhouhouhou”.  There are videos made where her voice was spliced into Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, Adele’s “Someone Like You”, Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and the one that started it all, Amir’s “J’ai cherché”.

In previous editions, there would be typically a moment where one entry begins pulling away from the pack that about 3/4 on the way through the reading of the results the winner would already be obvious.  The new system where there are points for both jury and televoting, with the televoting total results being presented last, did provide an air of suspense and unpredictability, and it does make for a more exciting experience.  I don’t mind this new system at all, even if there was a resounding furor (targeted against the winner by fans of the oddsmakers’ favorite) that ensued thereafter.

COMING UP:  ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS