Eurovision Song Contest 2021

united-kingdomWell, what a night that was! I’ve always written these posts the day after the big event while I’m still riding the Eurovision high, but I have to be honest, I’m feeling a little delicate this morning (thanks to the drinking game built into the bingo cards I made for our online party, a picture of which can be seen below). It isn’t just that, though – I feel utterly bereft. I can’t believe it was a two year wait, and now it’s over… It’s always the same at this time of year, the longest wait before next Eurovision. Not to mention the fact that last night was so intense and crazy, it’s genuinely hard to know where to begin. Well, as the old adage goes: begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop. So, let’s get this show on the road, shall we?

Normally, starting about a month ago, there would be a mad scramble to organise the annual Eurovision get-together, traditionally held at the house of a good friend of mine. She’s Swedish, so she’s had the importance of Eurovision drilled into her from an early age – which I, coming from a family who despises the contest and will audibly groan if subjected to even a second of it, am eternally grateful for. Obviously, that didn’t happen last year. This year we were still erring on the side of caution, as most of us are outside the age bracket for vaccination and her boyfriend is classed as high-risk, so we decided to do it online instead. There was a bit of a fumble as we tried to find a suitable platform, but in the end, it all went off without a hitch, streaming the contest for our small group on Discord. My responsibility, as resident Eurovision nerd and all-round A-type personality was to make sure everyone was set up and had their bingo cards at the ready. I made these bingo cards maybe five or six years ago, and the built-in drinking game is famously lethal – so for next year I think there could be a reshuffle on the cards (pun not intended). But they certainly did the job for last night. You have to pick two countries to support throughout, and if one of them gets over 10 points, then you have to drink. Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it? Well…

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It just so happened that my one break with tradition was to choose countries that are actually destined to do quite well. Normally at Eurovision, my support is like the kiss of death. In fact, the only block that didn’t get any love on the night was ‘The UK receives 5+ points’, which… we’ll come on to later. Normally what I like to do for these posts is pick ten countries from the contest and sort of talk through them, and why should this year be any different? Let’s get started. In alphabetical order…

3 FinlandFinland (Suomi)・🇫🇮・Blind Channel, ‘Dark Side’ – Well, what can I say about Finland? This was Finland doing what Finland does best. I’ve said Finland too many times now, it’s gone weird in my head. But that’s not what’s important right now. Quite honestly, of the two rock offerings in the contest, this was my favourite – though I don’t know if that’s simply because I listened to a shade too much Linkin Park in my youth (and indeed since). I’m still not entirely sure what the deal with the red middle fingers was all about, but hell, it wouldn’t be Eurovision if there wasn’t some quirk that only makes sense after it’s been explained a thousand times. I’m sure they’re a lovely bunch of lads but I definitely won’t be asking them personally. Though it seemed like Germany took their message to heart.

5 FranceFrance・🇫🇷・Barbara Pravi, ‘Voilà’ – Speaking of what countries do best, this was some Classic France™. I’d not heard any of the big five in full before the final, but I think this one stuck out as a favourite because the staging was so simple, but incredibly effective. The song was much the same way – the emphasis was placed on her voice rather than any of the extras, and it was one of the very few acts in the grand final not to feature pyrotechnics. I just think it was a classic Eurovision song, probably not the most memorable and it did have a tickle of Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulains about it. It’ll probably take a few more plays before it comes into regular rotation on my Eurovision playlist but I can definitely see it growing on me.

1 IcelandIceland (Ísland)・🇮🇸・Daði og Gagnamagnið, ’10 Years’ – I mean, what can I say about this? Daði Freyr is simultaneously your friend’s nerdy older brother and the coolest man on the face of the Earth. There are equal parts Eurovision cheese and cool indie vibes in his music and it’s no surprise that they ended up doing very well. In a way, it’s unjust – it seems fairly unanimous that Iceland would have been our winner last year if the contest had gone ahead, and this song, though good, didn’t quite have the same oomph (or indeed viral power) that last year’s entry did. I am glad one of them testing positive for the virus didn’t completely scupper their chances, because although I was hoping for more, fourth place seems about right to me. I certainly hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of them!

6 LithuaniaLithuania (Lietuva)・🇱🇹・The Roop, ‘Discotheque’ – Well, while we’re on the subject of lanky weirdos, let’s talk a little bit about Lithuania. There’s something about this group that’s just so lovable, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re single-handedly ushering in a new, more tolerant Lithuania with them. Converse to Iceland, the song they brought to the contest this year is (in my humble opinion) much better than the one they entered last year. It’s a real ear worm, I’ve had it stuck in my head all day and I still don’t really know the lyrics? So I’m not sure if his finger dancing has some magical mind control properties, but hey. If The Roop are assembling some sort of finger-dancing, yellow-wearing army… I have to say, I’m in.

2 MaltaMalta・🇲🇹・Destiny, ‘Je Me Casse’ – Oh, Destiny. My heart breaks for her. I didn’t know until Graham Norton mentioned it that she’s actually only eighteen years old. The girl has got a set of pipes on her like you wouldn’t believe, and she can put on a performance like nobody’s business. There wasn’t a thing about Malta that I didn’t like. The song was catchy, the singer seemed wonderful, and the performance fit perfectly with the message she was trying to send. She had my vote from the first time I saw her at the first semifinal, and I remember being absolutely stunned when the popular vote across Europe didn’t share my feelings. Still, seventh place in such a strong year is definitely nothing to be sniffed at, and she can be proud of the job she did, but I do think she deserved better.

7 MoldovaMoldova・🇲🇩・Natalia Gordienko, ‘Sugar’ – Now, here’s the thing. Moldova always bring the madness. They’ve been a firm favourite of mine since they sent that act that kept climbing in and out of a huge wardrobe a few years ago. And I thought this one was going to be more of the same. This was one of the few songs I heard before the contest and the music video was absolutely bonkers – there’s a part where she rips off a guy’s face and eats it, and it becomes clear that he’s been made of cake the entire time. It’s insanity! So when I saw the staging for the actual performance, I was disappointed. Where’s the cake man? Alright, maybe that would have been tricky to do on stage without it becoming an actual bloodbath, but god, at least give me a dancing ice cream cone! Nevertheless, I think the song is catchy and it’s only going to grow on me further. But could have done better with regards to the staging, even if the song did apparently feature the longest note ever held at Eurovision.

Skärmavbild 2021-05-23 kl. 14.51.12Norway (Norge/Noreg)・🇳🇴・TIX, ‘Fallen Angel’ – Okay, let me explain. I know this is basically your classic Eurovision ballad with weird staging and not a whole lot else. But honestly, what the hell is wrong with that? I’m mostly picking this because TIX seems like a genuinely lovely guy, and him being so open about his mental health and what is a widely misunderstood disorder can only be a good thing. I think it’s a perfectly harmless song, verging on forgettable, but it’s gone onto my Eurovision playlist where it will probably stay forever. I’ve just really enjoyed seeing TIX in Rotterdam, I’ve tuned into a couple of his Instagram broadcasts and he just seemed like he was having the best time, which is always an absolute pleasure to see.

10 SerbiaSerbia (Srbija/Србија)・🇷🇸・Hurricane, ‘Loco Loco’ – You know, this song wasn’t even on my radar until I came to write this up today. There was originally another song on this list but I made a last minute substitution, because listening to it again, this is actually brilliant. It’s Girls Aloud in Serbian, after a trip to the salon. There was just… so much hair happening, it was kind of distracting. As I believe one of our group said on the night, I would enjoy this a lot more if I didn’t have to see it. They’re talented ladies, and I think all of the skimpy outfits and hair swishing almost detracts from that and makes them seem a lot more like a talentless manufactured girlband than they actually are. But if that’s the way they want to do it, who the hell am I to criticise? You do you, ladies.

4 SpainSpain (España)・🇪🇸・Blas Cantó, ‘Voy A Quedarme’ – So, I can’t be the only one who genuinely thought that when he started off, they’d forgotten to switch on the backing track. There were actually a lot of musical changes with this one… not all of which were entirely unwelcome. I don’t know Blas Cantó outside Eurovision, but I would assume that he’s known for being able to hit the high notes. The only reason I’m guessing that is that he launches into one towards the end of this song for seemingly no reason, it’s completely out of context and there are no lyrics to it… it’s almost as if he stubbed his toe and tried to sing it out. And if I recall, the same thing happened in his song for last year, too. It’s just a little bit… ‘hey, look what I can do!’, and it bugs me. But other than that fairly mild annoyance, I think this is just another classic Eurovision ballad. It’s nice enough to listen to!

8 UkraineUkraine (Україна)・🇺🇦・Go_A, ‘ШУМ’ – I mean, what can you say about this Chernobyl hellscape folk rave explosion? I suppose I should start by saying that I absolutely love the whole ‘white voice’ thing that Go_A do. I loved it here, I loved in last year, and I loved it when Tulia did it for Poland in 2019, so I might be a little biased – I know a lot of people aren’t as keen as I am. But I just think this was absolutely wonderful. The staging was weird as hell, the song built to a crescendo, the costumes were absolutely insane… what’s not to love? I will say that I think I preferred their song from last year, but this was definitely a sight worth seeing.

All in all, I think this was a very strong year. Skärmavbild 2021-05-23 kl. 20.34.01The hosts did an incredible job: Nikkie de Jager brought a touch of class, Edsilia Rombley brought the enthusiasm and Chantal Janzen and Jan Smit managed not to visibly flinch while announcing that The Netherlands had received 0 points from the public vote. Sometimes hosts at Eurovision can be a little… cringe, to say the least; but not this group! And it wasn’t just the hosts, I know it was said on the night but it definitely bears repeating that roughly a year ago, Rotterdam Ahoy (the venue for the contest) was an emergency Covid hospital. To have it transformed into something so magical from something so bleak must have taken a monumental effort, and to have the whole event go off almost without a hitch (which, incidentally, wasn’t their fault and couldn’t have been avoided) is nothing short of jaw-dropping. That isn’t to say there weren’t some cringe moments, though. Carola Häggkvist announcing the Swedish jury’s vote was ridiculous – I was laughing so hard I almost didn’t hear her mention Jesus. And I think the less said about Amanda Holden the better – I hope she’s thoroughly ashamed of herself today, though I suspect she probably doesn’t have the capacity for it.

I suppose I really should talk about the winner at some point. But before I do,I have to just quickly say that the voting this year was especially exciting. I don’t remember ever being so shocked, or so overjoyed, or so tense as I was during those moments – especially at the beginning when all of those zeros came one after another! I’ve seen some shock around online for James Newman, the UK performer, but… honestly, I don’t understand why. It wasn’t… good? And people are surprised that it didn’t win? I mean, while we’re on the subject of things that just plain weren’t good, I think Germany got everything it deserved too. Don’t worry about him though, he doesn’t feel hate. But moving on to Italy… Skärmavbild 2021-05-23 kl. 20.47.49I honestly don’t know what to say. I’ll admit to being completely shocked when it leapt up the leaderboard after the public vote – the jury vote is always a little bit weird so I wasn’t too concerned while they were announced. I mean, the song was fine – wasn’t one of my favorites, but I’m happy for them. I’m mostly looking forward to Italy hosting for the first time since Rome in 1991, which, incidentally, they did entirely in Italian – so that could be pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks and months of information gradually being released, I’m definitely on the hype train already… it’ll take me a good few weeks before any of my other playlists get a look in! I might even have to add Italy to my Eurovision list. No, but seriously, congratulazioni per la vostra vittoria, Italia! You weren’t my favourite but someone’s got to win it, and it might as well be you. See you next year, I’m already looking forward to it. 

Well, thank you to anyone who managed to get through all of that. My keyboard has a tendency to run away with me a little when it comes to Eurovision. I’d love to hear what you guys thought, though – feel free to leave a comment below or, as always, you can reach out on Twitter and Instagram (I’m @sprakskatan on both). And of course, I’ll see you next month for a return to our regularly scheduled programming. Thanks for reading!

– J.

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