The finals of the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest delivered on entertainment, pomp, splendour, musicality, and suspense. There were also some hiccups in this journey, too–I guess with this contest you would never expect anything to be done smoothly or perfectly, and that is perhaps part of this contest’s charm and intrigue. Eurovision 2015 presenters Alice Tumler, Mirjam Weichselbraun, Arabella Kiesbauer, and Conchita Wurst
The entire event has three main presenters, all female–Alice Tumler, Mirjam Weichselbraun, and Arabella Kiesbauer. It’s the first time that an all-female main presenting team was hosting this event, and it seems befitting as pop culture is a bit female-dominated at this moment, what with last weeks biggest box office hit movies being female-oriented: Pitch Perfect 2 and surprisingly, Mad Max: Fury Road (yes, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa character is the actual main protagonist of this film with the titular character played by Tom Hardy more of a partner to Furiosa’s mission, not to mention that the film has a strong feminist bent to the point that an organization of male chauvinist pigs actually called for a boycott).
Despite their very German surnames, the appearances of the three main presenters are actually more reflective of a rainbow tribe instead of an all-Caucasian one as one might assume–two of them are bi-racial. Mocha-complexioned Alice Tumler (her mother is from the French Caribbean island of Martinique) played the role of the liaison between several other cultures, because of her multilingual skills (fluent in English, German, French, and Italian plus proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese). Nappy-haired dark-complexioned Arabella Kiesbauer (whose father is Ghanaian) served as the voice of maturity and reason among the trio. Finally, the Caucasian blonde Mirjam Weichselbraun provided a bubbly, innocent vibe to the proceedings.
Though we do regard her as a female even if she isn’t in the anatomical sense of the word, the one with the role of interviewing the performers at the green room was last year’s champion Conchita Wurst. But her role actually went beyond that, as during the now-traditional parade of nations she was the one announcing the names of the countries competing. On top of that, she also sang two songs from her latest album as the results were being compiled (which is what a reigning champion would traditionally do in this day and age).
But her finest moments were when she behaved like the gracious ambassador of goodwill towards people who for one reason or another, were associated with controversies that seem to attack people of her kind. For instance, halfway when the results were announced and Russia was in the lead (with the crowd at the Wiener Stadthalle booing), she interviewed the Russian singer, Polina Gagarina, praising her performance and assuring her that she deserved to be in the lead at that moment. Then, the final moment when the eventual winner was declared, it was a lovely sight when Conchita and the hunky winner hugged each other–remember that the winner garnered some flak last year over misconstrued homophobic remarks that has since been forgiven. Conchita was so refreshingly classy that I can’t help but contrast it with the contenders of Rupaul’s Drag Race, which usually involves the drag queens confronting and/or throwing shade at each other.
Let’s talk about the non-competitive-related highlights. First, there was the awesome opening number. It started a female violinist playing a few strains of Udo Jurgens’ 1966 winning entry “Merci, Cherie”, followed by orchestral strains of Conchita’s “Rise Like a Phoenix”. It then segued to the techno beat of the opening theme song, “Building Bridges” and Conchita rising to the stage. The three hosts then came in black gowns singing the chorus (chirping like a lost 1980s perky Stock-Aitken-Waterman pop act), and Conchita flying across the Wien Stadthalle while hitting soaring high notes. After seguing to an instrumental featuring the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, onstage were a choir of children singing the chorus followed, and then Austrian rapper Left Boy leading said chorus to a call-and-response chant that includes rhyming “We would be on” with “Celine Dion” (1988 Eurovision champion for Switzerland, if you could recall), and then all the protagonists gathered together, and immediately following that, the parade of nations. The parade of nations is a bit of a mess as the artists tend to walk a bit too casually and not really in an orderly manner, but, well, at least we get to see them being introduced and entering the stage.
As part of the “Building Bridges” theme, they also asked fans to send videos of them and a partner from another country where one would do one action and the other would continue it. One of those submissions was a guy from Turkey sending a paper plane that is then received by a guy from Armenia, and when he opened the message, it seems to be a message of love and peace–this is pretty poignant considering the continuing contention within Turkey about the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Then, there is the interval act. Martin Grubinger with the Arnold Schoenberg choir. Their mainly instrumental and mostly wordless highly rhythmic orchestral number was a worthwhile way to pass the time as the audience waited for Europe to complete transmitting their televotes. Musically and stylistically it provided listeners everything including the kitchen sink. Bravo to them…
The process of tallying the scores is a long process that lasted about an hour. Compounding matters was that there were technical gaffes, with disconnections when Portugal, Estonia, and Georgia were about to announce their votes, forcing them to have them announce last instead of their intended sequence. But there are some good moments like seeing former Eurovision contestants announcing their country’s votes. Highlight announcers include:
* Finland’s Krista Siegfrieds referencing her 2013 “Marry Me” declaring she’s engaged.
* Denmark’s Basim (2014 competitor) singing the chorus of the song they gave their 12 points to.
* San Marino’s three-time competitor (2012-2014) Valentina Monetta singing her three songs as she announced her country’s Top Three. This led to Mirjam jokingly quipping that she’ll see Valentina perform for San Marino again at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.
* UK’s food goddess Nigella Lawson speaking German (in greeting the hosts), Italian (to announce Italy as one of the Top Three) and French (to announce her country’s top choice) when announcing the results was a major treat–utterly delectable, so to speak.
COMING UP: ANALYSIS AND TRIBUTE TO THE LOWER-RANKED FINALISTS