EUROVISION 2014 FINALS: SO YOU THINK THEY’RE JOKES? THINK AGAIN! (CONCLUSION)

I admittedly only got five out of my predicted Top 10 right, though three in my “Bubbling Under” list made the cut, so in my reckoning, I did pretty okay with a total of eight out of 10.  It’s still a bit shocking about certain songs that I thought would do well but did not generate enough points.

I think the most surprising disappointment was the United Kingdom, as prior to the contest many fans and pundits expected this would figure in the top tier, but somehow ended up a mediocre 17th place–considering that with the exception of one, it fared better than the other “Big Five” entries it could be considered respectable, but still it fell far short to what was expected.  I do note that Molly and her back-up singers were not as commanding onstage as the song required, but she still delivered a solid enough performance that deserved to earn more points than it actually got.

It was also notable that streaks were broken for some recent Top 10 “permanent residents”–by faring in 21st place, Italy missed the Top 10 for the first time since returning to this contest in 2011, and at 23rd place, Azerbaijan ended its Top 10 streak that it enjoyed since joining the contest in 2008.  Severe pitch problems marred the former performance, while the latter was rather imperfect (though the trapeze prop made me think about San Marino’s entry last year as they could’ve entered the finals last year if they brought in that aerialist in the music video) and the song not as striking as past entries.

To no one’s surprise, France took up the rear in last place–its worst showing in this contest ever.  Both juries and televoters placed it dead last.  The only thing appealing about the act Twin Twin was when they bared their bodies on French TV a few days later.

Upon further review of their performance, I started to appreciate Iceland and realize they are not a trashy novelty act as they seemed.  First, though they delivered their message of “No Prejudice” with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, their sentiments actually served as a precursor to the rest of the evening, especially with who eventually turned out to be the winner, and it’s interesting that amidst the lively flash, they were earnest in their message. Second, there is strong musicianship and showmanship underneath the flashy outfits and the segues from punk-ish rock to a Franz Ferdinand groove were actually cool.  I’m no longer mad at their 15th place overall finish.

Like Romania’s Cezar last year, there has to be an entry that polarized the jury and televoters.  This year, that polarizing entry is Poland.  The common TV audience loved the in-your-face heaving display of hefty cleavage that they voted it to 5th place, while the juries disliked it to relegate it to 23rd place.  I do have to note that Cleo displayed strong talent and showmanship that belies the quality of the song.  Overall, its 14th place finish is a very respectable return for this country.

Another entry I thought deserved to fare better was Romania.  It’s 12th place overall finish was respectable and improved over the 13th place finish of its craptastic predecessor, but I suppose their thunder was stolen by another duo.  Admittedly, their hugging pose after Paula Seling delivered her climactic high notes was a tad contrived and with most people believing their previous foray with “Playing with Fire” deemed superior, it was expected they would not equal their previous showing.

Finland performed better than expected, actually garnering the same number of points as Romania but with more number of countries giving it points, it would be ahead of Romania based on current tie-break rules.  Europe do have a taste for rock-oriented music, which are typically in short supply in this contest so this might be considered refreshing for this audience.

Of the “Big Five”, only Spain survived the “Big Five” rubout, as it landed in 10th place with a well-sung power ballad, just like “Quedate Conmigo” two years ago.   Ruth delivered a great job and deserved to be in this hallowed level.

Denmark was actually tied with Spain with 74 points, but because Denmark got points from 18 countries compared to Spain’s 17, Denmark was officially ranked 9th.

I was slightly surprised that Norway made the Top 10, but Carl Epsen hits his notes better than Dilara, and he’s augmented by an all-female four-piece string section which made a striking visual.

The ex-Soviet bloc was still very much on, which is why Russia still managed to place 7th.  I bet if it weren’t for the recent political events, it would’ve gone even higher (though I have misgivings about the song’s quality).  But then again, I suppose the policy of “no prejudice” also worked to its benefit that was why it managed to do well.

In general all members of the Top Five were worthy of placing as high as they did.  Though I hoped Hungary would place higher than 5th, but this placement is the best this country had since 20 years ago when it placed 4th.  Despite Andras Kallay-Saunders fixing his minor pitch issues from his first semi-final (plus wore a jacket this time), I suppose Hungary was just simply overshadowed by the love Europe showered over a certain duo, who also beat this for the prestigious Marcel Bezençon composer’s award.

I’m surprised at the love lavished on the Netherlands, bringing forth its best finish since last winning in 1975 (with the amusingly titled “Ding-A-Dong”).  Yes, the song and performance are undeniably strong, though The Common Linnets were more impressive during the 1st semi-final than in the final.  I wouldn’t mind them, but for me they stole the thunder that could’ve been lavished for three entries that were my major favorites–UK, Romania, and to a lesser extent, Hungary.  But their sincerity and solid musicianship could not be denied, even if in my opinion they are overrated (but I know many would disagree with me here).

With all those political tensions involving Russia, and the message of “no prejudice” as explicitly sung by Iceland, it is probably so apt that the winner of this year’s contest is also a very potent symbol.  Many pundits earlier thought that the selection of Conchita Wurst to represent Austria in this contest was a novelty or a joke.  But as the days wore on, and as Conchita performed her entry, “Rise Like a Phoenix” in various events, one could not deny that Conchita’s presence and actual talent are qualities that one must reckon with seriously.  Though the song is not really my favorite in itself, the way Conchita delivered her song with passion and virtuosity was something that audiences all over Europe–even in the less-gay-friendly corners of Eastern Europe–admire, marvel, and appreciate.  With her stirring delivery, it even becomes an anthem with a deeper message than what the song is on the surface.  I’m glad she wore down resistance even in supposedly homophobic Russia, where she actually garnered 5 points.  I thought her going into the Top Five would be a major achievement, but little did I know that she would end up bringing forth Austria’s victory after previously winning 48 years ago.

I love her gracious victory message after she was announced the winner: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are – we are unity and we are unstoppable.”  It made us believe and hope that peace and tolerance will eventually prevail despite all the prejudice and bigotry that all of us still encounter in society.  I’ll be discussing a bit more about Conchita Wurst in my next blog, but for now, all I have to say is: All hail the new Queen of Europe!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH