EUROVISION 2015: MÅN-LY HUNK PREVAILS OVER PLUNGING NECKLINES (CONCLUSION)

Normally, I would be talking about a Top Ten but as I previously mentioned, this year’s voting patterns seemed to have the points mainly concentrated among nine countries, with three distinctive tiers/degrees of concentration.  All told, the Top Nine received 80.34% of all the total points that could be allocated, leaving the remaining 18 finalists with less than 20% of the points to battle for.   To put this into perspective, since the current point system was implemented in 1975, we have to go all the way back in 1976 to see a larger concentration of points for the Top Nine (even more for the Top Ten)–that year, the Top Nine hogged 81% of all available allocated points and the Top Ten hogged 86%).  In most other years, the points concentration of the Top Ten since the 2000s tend to be around 70%.  Another thing I noticed about the Top Nine is that these are the only countries that got points from more than half of the participating countries in this contest (all the rest this year got points from 12 countries or less).

TIER ONE:  This tier features entries that got votes from more than 20 countries but less than 30 countries and their scores range in the 90-110 level.

9TH PLACE: ISRAEL (Nadav Guedj).  No one can deny the energy delivered by this entry, with Nadav and the all-male back-up singers and dancers engaging the crowd with a fusion of hip-hop moves and belly dancing (yes, belly dancing!).  With most other entries going too classy, this is the closest thing to guilty pleasure trashy fun in the finals, and even if Nadav’s pitch went off in places (unlike in his semifinal performance), the entertainment value is such that you can easily overlook that.  It ranked high with the juries and general public alike, ranking 8th with the jury and 7th with the popular vote.  So why did it fall to 9th overall?  For starters, this seemed to exhibit the Edurne Paradox, as even if it got votes from 25 countries, it was outranked by an entry that got votes from 23 countries because its points were not as high–in fact, the highest points it received was one 8-point vote from Italy, and with the rest giving slightly lower points, it was overtaken and outranked by two entries that were only Top Ten in one metric instead of both.

8TH PLACE: NORWAY (Mørland & Debrah Scarlett).  As I predicted, this entry won the Marcel Bezençon Composer’s Award.  I was expecting this to be a Top Five contender, but its popularity was not as strong as I thought.  It ranked 17th based on points from the televotes and 7th from the juries.  It also had those crucial 10-point votes coming from Switzerland and Iceland, which allowed it to outpoint Israel even if it received points from two fewer countries.

7TH PLACE: ESTONIA (Elina Born & Stig Rästa).  In my opinion, I would’ve preferred Slovenia, Georgia, Spain, Azerbaijan or even Serbia to take this entry’s place in the elite circle, as in my opinion they ought to be penalized for constantly veering off pitch.  But the song is undeniably “cool” and the visual staging with the two singers forming long shadows were too striking that it added to the cool appeal to the general public.  The juries may have taken their pitch problems into account hence ranking them 11th place, but the general public was too enamored with the cool vibe and visuals that it ranked 5th in the televote.

TIER TWO:  This trio took 25.81% of all possible points that could be allocated, the highest ratio since 1991 (that set of 4th to 6th placers took 26.67%) that year).  Their scores range from 170 to 220 and they got votes from between 33 to 36 countries–almost a clean sweep.

6TH PLACE: LATVIA (Aminata).  Ranking 8th in the televote is not bad at all, but its ranking soared to this tier because of the juries, which ranked this entry 2nd overall.  It is fully justified as Aminata looked dreamy in her pink low-cut dress with black sheer overlay, and her singing was absolutely pitch perfect, added to the fact that her song has a coolness factor with its electronic instrumentation.

5TH PLACE: AUSTRALIA (Guy Sebastian).  Guy delivered a Bruno Mars-like presentation that obviously won over the juries (4th) and the public (not too shabby 6th), securing a Top Five finish.  A strong finish by the entry is always a foregone conclusion as Guy had his chops honed by being the first ever Australian Idol about a decade ago.  Despite receiving votes from 33 countries compared to Lativa’s 35, and Latvia receiving three douze (12) points over this entry’s two, Australia got to outrank Latvia thanks to receiving a whopping nine 2nd and 3rd place points (10 and 8 points respectivelY) compared to Latvia’s two.  If the EBU allows it, I would gladly like to see Australia back in this contest.

4TH PLACE:  BELGIUM (Loic Nottet).  I’m pleasantly surprised how well the public and the juries connected to the abstract, avant-garde staging and choreography of this entry.  The memorably striking presentation and Loic singing very well (well, diction, that’s another story, but you know that he’s not a native English speaker so you expect him to sing English with an accent) were key factors that led all but three (Montenegro, Malta and Azerbaijan) participating countries to grant this entry points, and three countries (France, Hungary and Netherlands) granting this the coveted 12 points.

TIER THREE:  This top tier decisively dominated the entire pack, eating up a record 41% of the available total allocated points.  The points amassed by this trio–290 and above–would’ve been enough for any one of them to become the winner of this contest in other years.  Obviously, these three entries got the lion’s share of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes–and early in the disclosure of the points, it was a neck-and-neck battle among these three, that they kept of swapping the lead until about the 30th country’s results were read out when one entry started to pull away for the win.  Two of these entries actually got points from all the participating countries, and the third only missed two countries–in a typical year, a winner will probably have at least three countries not voting for it, so this sort of near-consensus among all participating countries for three entries is very rare.

3RD PLACE: ITALY (Il Volo).  This entry actually won the televote, but was pulled down by the juries, which ranked them 6th.  Even if the juries pulled them down, this trio scored high enough that it earned points from all the participating countries (of course with the exception of the home country, since they are not allowed to vote for themselves).  This hunky trio delivered the operatic vocal fireworks and they looked elegant in their Armani suits, so this high placement is well-deserved.

2ND PLACE: RUSSIA (Polina Gagarina).  Before I discuss the merits and performance of this entry, I have to discuss a trend among female soloists in this year’s contest–it seems to appeal to male viewers, several of them wore clothes with plunging necklines.  This entry is of course a prime example of that trend, which you can also see on Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie–in her case, in a black jumpsuit).  There were female soloists who bucked the trend and went demure, though, like Poland (Monika Kuszynska), France (Lisa Angell), and Georgia (Nina Sublatti–though take note she’s in a miniskirt).  Serbia (Bojana Stamenov)’s neckline is actually a “V”-line but it can still pass in the modesty department.  Spain (Edurne) is a special case as even though her neckline didn’t go as low as the aforementioned five ladies, she was a dazzling sexy vision as her dress looked sheer when bathed in extremely bright klieg lights.

Plunging necklines, from top to bottom: Russia (Polina Gagarina), Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie)
Plunging necklines, from top to bottom: Russia (Polina Gagarina), Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie)
Not quite plunging, but sexy:  Spain (Edurne) with hunky dancer
Not quite plunging, but sexy: Spain (Edurne) with hunky dancer

The hosts likewise joined in the plunging neckline trend–during the first half of the show, Arabella Kiesbauer sported a lacy black number with that trend, and to a lesser extent Mirjam Weichselbraun’s black gown could also be classified as low-cut.  Then in the second half of the show, it was Alice Tumler’s turn to show a bit more of her chest.  Some of the female spokespersons announcing their country’s votes also joined in the fray–two most notable examples were Finland’s Krista Siegfrieds (who competed two years ago with the Katy Perry-ish “Marry Me”) and Netherlands’ Edsilia Rombley (who competed twice in this contest back in 1999 and 2006).

Taking turns: The hosts (Arabella Kiesbauer, Mirjam Weichselbraun and Alice Tumler) during the first half (top) and second half (bottom) of the finals.
Taking turns: The hosts (Arabella Kiesbauer, Mirjam Weichselbraun and Alice Tumler) during the first half (top) and second half (bottom) of the finals.
Krista Siegfrieds announcing the Finnish results.
Edsilia Rombley relaying the Dutch results.

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Now, let’s discuss Polina’s song and performance.  I have always maintained that this song is good, but not really something that I love with a passion.  Yes, its world peace sentiments are noble, but since this is coming from a country lately notorious for war-mongering, it feels hypocritical.  Also, the presentation reminds me of how Michael Slezak bash Season 10 finalist Thia Megia for being too “pageant-y”, as this is the sort of song that you would expect to hear sung in a Miss America pageant, or lately, Miss World (it will be interesting if there will be a contestant this year or in the next few years who will cover this song for her Talent performance).  Yes, Polina’s singing is unimpeachable, and the presentation undeniably polished, but she already has a built-in advantage going into this contest that her entry will rank very high, and even if San Marino and Lithuania didn’t give her any points, that advantage allowed her to outrank Italy even if the latter garnered points from all countries and got nine douze point votes compared to this entry’s five douze point votes (from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, and Germany).

CHAMPION: SWEDEN (Måns Zelmerlöw).  I’m so stoked that my favorite to win indeed won this contest.  I’m pleased he overcame all those little controversies and merits won out.  Though he was trumped a bit by Italy and Russia in the popular vote, he ranked first with the jury, and by all metrics, his overall points and ranking averages all point to him becoming Sweden’s 6th win in this contest.   Though 365 points is a staggering total, it’s only the third highest total amassed by any Eurovision  entry in this era, behind countrywoman Loreen’s “Euphoria” back in 2012 (372 points) and Norway’s Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale” in 2009 (387 points).  I don’t need to talk about his performance anymore as I’ve already raved about it in my song preview and in my results reaction on the second semifinal and all I’ll say about his finals performance is he remained consistently at peak form from his semifinals stint (while most others who competed in the semifinals we tend to see a bit wear-and-tear).

In some ways, the see-saw battle between Sweden and Russia became like a “good-vs-evil” battle to the eyes of many fans (especially those in the Wiener Stadthalle), with war-mongering homophobic Russia threatening to take over and the more politically liberal Sweden becoming the “hero” that prevailed in the end after a suspenseful fight to the finish.  This, despite Russia being represented by a pretty blonde with a pretty song about world peace.

Considering his controversy last year, it’s so wonderful to hear his reaction message, “We are all heroes, no matter who we love, who we are, or what we believe in.”  It’s a beautiful message, almost at the same level as Conchita’s message when she won last year.  Now, will Mans make serious inroads in the European charts the way Loreen’s “Euphoria” did?  Early indications seem to point to that direction.  Congratulations to a very deserving winner, and hope that like ABBA, this can be a springboard to a serious international career.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

The thrill of victory: Mans Zelmerlow right after winning the Eurovision Song Contest

P.S. Also looking forward to Sweden hosting next year’s contest–most likely Sweden’s answer to Kathy Griffin, Petra Mede, will return to host, but I wonder how will she top her previous spectacular hosting stint?

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