BLOGGER’S NOTE: Apologies this came a full month after the event. Work commitments and other matters prevented me from posting this earlier…
Besides the brouhaha over Russia (which, as expected, ultimately led to their withdrawal), one key characteristic I observed about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is that contrary to its “Celebrate Diversity” slogan, the Ukrainian broadcaster NTU wanted to reassert the dominance of the male species. This is demonstrated by the choice of their entry, an all-male rock group, instead of its usual series of female singers over the past decade, along with an all-male hosting trio. Are they able to advance their agenda?
Most observers (including myself) sense that there is no way this year’s edition can top last year’s acclaimed stellar hosting and production. And with all that talk about issues in the preparation prior to previous year’s producer Christer Björkman entering the fray. The question was how much of Christer’s touch would be reflected in the contest, along with if overall we would be treated to a worthwhile show.
Christer’s touch was obvious with the glossy, sleek production values delivered in this edition. It started with a taped sequence featuring those stylized beads from the logo going all around Ukraine. Then, came the parade of finalists. Unlike the way it was done since 2013, they eschewed the flags, and even if the countries’ names were announced with the nice illusion that the artists emerge as if they were teleported, it kinda reduced the splendor that the ceremony was supposed to entail. Also making this sequence a bit of a letdown was that perhaps due to a technical glitch no one could hear the names “Belarus” and “Armenia” announced.
What about the three presenters, Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk and green room commentator Timur Miroshnychenko? I have been acclimated to the Eastern European style of hosting ever since I watched Miss Supranational four years so unlike most people I can tolerate their accents. But they are aware of that, so it led to a filmed sequence played halfway through the competition where these three hosts were subject to a bootcamp led by previous co-host (and 2015 champion) Måns Zelmerlöw. Why not include his much more heralded co-host, Petra Mede? One might cite NTU’s male directive, but I suppose another consideration is Måns was slated as one of the commentators for his country’s TV network, SVT. Anyway, it’s a fun and amusing sequence.
It’s interesting that despite the male directive, the interval acts for the final are all female. First was 2004 champion Ruslana, who performed her latest single, “It’s Magical”. It’s almost as lively as her winning entry “Wild Dances”, with a dash of gentle folkloric touches.
The next itnerval act was the Ukrainian all-female ethno-electronica group ONUKA featuring the folkloric touches of the NAONI Orchestra. The vocalist has an ethereal quality in her singing and it’s indeed a display why the female musical acts from this country are the fiercest around.
Then, finally we have last year’s champion, Jamala who of course performed a new single, “I Believe In U”. She’s more in a romantic mode in this number, and it is a worthwhile listen. It’s just a shame that her number was trolled by notorious Ukrainian prankster Vitaly Sediuk, who invaded her stage clad in an Australian flag (so some people initially presumed it was an Australian prankster) and mooned the audience before being whisked off. His antics are very much un-called for, and there is a side of me that wish he be shipped off to Chechnya and be sent to those notorious concentration camps they set up for gay people in that territory.
Like last year, the announcement of the jury results are done where the points from 10, and 8-1 are shown on screen and the spokepersons only announce the country that got their douze (12) points. Besides seeing the various meme-worthy reaction shots from Portugal’s Salvador Sobral, a big highlight for me was seeing the gorgeous Zlata Ognevich (2013 Eurovision 3rd placer) announcing the Ukrainian votes. At least three of the four*1 most important Ukrainian entries have roles in this year’s contest and helped prevent the proceedings from becoming a sausage-fest. Anyway, there is also a fun three-minute “Verka break” where midway through the announcements the audience (and hosts) dance along with Verka Serduchka to her 2007 Eurovision 2nd placer “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”.
*1 Besides Ruslana, Jamala, and Zlata, the fourth fierce female I was referring was Ani Lorak (2nd place, 2008). Oh I wish there was room for her to appear.
This new scoring format does deliver on the suspense as many presumed Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov would win this round and one would wonder if it would be enough to overcome Portugal’s 100+ point lead. But for me the biggest shocker was the extremely low amount of points allocated for the acts below the Top 10 in televote. More on that in my scoring analysis.
COMING UP: SCORING ANALYSIS