It turns out this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is a big nailbiter, with the lead changing hands several times and no one proving to be unconditionally dominant. It turns out there are a lot of entries that polarized the juries and the public. I’ll discuss about them more in a full-fledged review.
I got six of the eventual Top 10 right, with three in my “Bubbling Under” list. The one entry that was totally outside my radar was the winner of the jury vote, Austria (“Nobody but You” by Cesar Sampson). Yes, it’s a high quality entry, but I found the presentation generally too simple to be as impactful as the other colorful and splashy entries out there. I didn’t anticipate the massive love the juries have for this entry, and to be blunt, I found that hype overrated. But I have a feeling the jurors all around wanted to make an “inclusivity” statement by awarding a win to a black solo act for the first time in history*1
*1 There is a black performer that won already, Aruba’s Dave Benton who was part of Estonia’s entry in 2001, “Everybody“, but it was in collaboration with white natives Tanel Padar and 2XL.
A welcome surprise was Germany (“You Let Me Walk Alone” by Michael Schulte)’s 4th place showing. With an effective LED presentation and heartfelt vocals,it tugged at the heartstrings of both the juries and general public to a great finish. It more than vindicates three past years of last- or near-to-last-place showings. Interestingly, it seems this is the time this country and Austria achieve vindication from those unfair and dreaded nil points earned in 2015.
Czech Republic (“Lie to Me” by Mikolas Josef) upended the traditional theory about how well could this country fare in this contest. Not only that based on jury scores he has outdone the points amassed by Gabriela Gunčíková two years ago (66 over Gabriela’s 41), he also earned a massive 215 points from the public, showing that with a catchy song and a lively presentation this country can win over audiences and break through traditional bloc resistance. Could this be encouragement enough for us to see neighboring country Slovakia back in this contest?
Despite rave reviews from the press (and myself), I was shocked at the weak 21st place finish for Hungary (“Viszlát nyár” [Goodbye, Summer] by AWS). I think it only shows that the general European audience (both juries and public) are not that ready to embrace this brand of hardcore rock.
I want to spare a thought for Australia (“We Got Love” by Jessica Mauboy)–some fans and pundits thought her mediocre 20th place finish might indicate that this country has outworn its Eurovision welcome, but I think differently–Jessica had the potential to outrank Isaiah’s showing last year but the real issue was the state of her vocals in both semifinal and final. We hear signs her vocals was ravaged on the semifinal, but I was praying she’ll recover enough for the final. Unfortunately it was not so and she sounded even more strained and ravaged during the final. I felt sad for her and if you ask me, Jessica should take it easy for now and perhaps see a doctor to ensure her pipes recover so she can continue her music career.
Portugal (“O jardim [The garden]” by Claudia Pascoal) may have ended up in last place, but it’s a well-fought, respectable last place, if you ask me, as it amassed 39 points (normally in most year a last-placer would only garner single digits). The last time a last-placer garnered this much points was back in 2009, with Finland’s Waldo’s People, with “Lose Control” actually having respectable regard. Like 2009, this year is loaded with high quality entries that the competition proved almost cutthroat that making the finals is considered achievement enough. But this year, I like all the entries and found them all listenable, but back in 2009, there is one song that I absolutely detest, and that song’s 11th place finish is something I continue to rue to this day–Russia’s “Mamo” by Anastasia Prikhodko.
Speaking of 2009, I know some were surprised at the middle-of-the-table showing of Norway (“That’s How You Write a Song” by Alexander Rybak). Well, the song polarized fans since its national final debut and everyone felt this song pales behind “Fairytale” in all measures anyway. Same could also be said about Netherlands (“Outlaw in ‘Em” by Waylon) but in his case, the polarizing reaction was more towards his presentation and less of the song itself.
Many salute the United Kingdom (“Storm” by Surie) as Surie proved generally unflappable when a stage invader came and snatched her microphone to make a screed against “UK Nazis” for a few seconds before being hauled away by security. I understand why they chose not to perform a re-do unlike what happened to Spain eight years ago. as SuRie’s professionalism amidst an untoward incident was commendable. It probably helped her garner televote points that she probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and it helped her garner a 24th place finish (when many fans and pundits felt she’ll end up in last place).
Thanks to her fiery, Beyonce-inspired performance, Eleni Foureira delivered Cyprus its best finish ever with “Fuego“. For those who heard the demo performed by Helena Paparizou, some might speculate if Helena could have pulled off a consistent run of Top Three finishes*2, a feat that has only been achieved by Germany’s Katia Ebstein for her participation in 1970, 1971, and 1980. But then again, one might wonder–can Helena dance with the fiery abandon that Eleni delivered in her performance? I had previously mentioned that not only did Eleni made Cyprus proud, it also serves as vindication for all the times her country’s broadcaster rejected her bid to represent her home country to this contest.
There were many fans who almost gave up on Israel (“Toy” by Netta) based on rehearsal footage as a possible champion, but she seemed to peaked when it counted, in the grand final, and with that the general public scored her high and hence preserved Israel’s 20-year cycle.
Considering disparaging remakrs last year’s champion Salvador Sobral said about her song, it was a potentially awkward moment when he handed the microphone trophy to her. Well, the handover ceremony went without incident and while some pundits thought his buss gesture serves as a mea culpa, I watched an interview he made with Wiwibloggs, and I think what we see here is more of what he termed a “yellow smile”, an idiom that means an insincere gesture as he is the sort who stands by his word. I do respect that he’s entitled to his opinions, but I do have to note that his view of music seems to be a tad narrow-minded, and is something that is contrary to what Eurovision espouses. Sure, there is validity that slick commercial music could be crap, but sometimes there are gems that can be found under that genre.
The spirit of Eurovision seems to be in effect with most of this year’s batch of contestants, especially those in the 1st semifinal, as many of them prove to be in a lovefest and enjoying each other’s performances and music, as exhibited in this video of them grooving to Eleni’s performance. These artists prove to be exemplars that future editions should follow, in my opinion.