Well, where do I even start to describe last night? It’s taken me a large portion of the day to get over the shock (and the not inconsiderable amount of whiskey involved in our Eurovision party’s traditional bingo game), but I’m finally ready to put pen to parchment, as it were. It was our first in-person get-together since the beginning of the pandemic, and honestly, it was so nice to feel (at least a little bit) that we were returning to some sort of normality. The fact that the show last night went off almost without a hitch (a few communication problems aside), and that none of the artists were unexpectedly unable to perform feels like proof of that. So this is my traditional day-after write up – for those of you who are new here, what I usually do at around this time is take ten of my favourites from the contest and discuss them… the list took some compiling this year, let me tell you. But I’ve finally managed to whittle it down, and I’m ready to go. So, without further ado…
The show in Turin was hosted by (from left to right) Italy’s answer to Dermot O’Leary, Alessandro Cattelan, British explorer of high notes Mika, and Italian songstress Laura Pausini. Apart from a few notably cheesy moments, and a particularly cringeworthy moment where they visibly had to fill time with very little material to work with, I think the hosts did remarkably well. It was a little jarring to see that the interval act was kind of just an advert for Mika’s new single, but I guess that’s one of the perks of agreeing to host something like this. At least it wasn’t as flat-out embarrassing as importing a big American name who has no idea what Eurovision is or why they’re there (see Justin Timberlake, Madonna). I liked Mika’s music, don’t get me wrong, it just seemed a little out of place. Laura Pausini’s opening medley didn’t grate in the same way, because at least she’s Italian so it was a showcase of local talent. But it is what it is! As always, the theme was a little nebulous and didn’t really mean anything (apart from some very pretty typography), but nevertheless I think the show hung together very well.
Last year I know I discussed a re-jig of my homemade bingo cards, but that didn’t quite materialise… to our great cost. I assume that you all know the final result by now, and as I’m sure you can imagine, there are two boxes in the rightmost column that generally tend not to see much use. Last night, that changed. Thankfully, to stick with tradition, my two favourite songs weren’t destined for greatness – so alas, I didn’t manage to fill my bingo card this year either. There’s always next year. But for now – on to the songs! I’ve put them in alphabetical order because ranking them in any more detail would be frankly too difficult!
Australia • 🇦🇺 • Sheldon Riley, ‘Not The Same’ – You know, it’s hard to know where to start with this one. The lights go up and immediately there’s drama. You’re struck by the starkness of the staging compared with the extravagance of the outfit, and obviously, Sheldon’s incredible voice. Although the song is about his own personal struggles of growing up feeling different, I think there’s a quality that makes it relatable to pretty much anybody. It was honestly a breathtaking performance. My only slight bit of criticism is that I would have liked some more lyrics – there was a point that it did feel like he was just repeating the same line over and over again, which can of course be effective, but in this case it seemed to make the song drag on. But that’s just a minor thing!
France (Bro-C’hall) • 🇫🇷 • Alvan & Ahez, ‘Fulenn’ – Well this one was inevitable. The first time we’ve seen Breton in the competition since 1996 in Oslo, this song and its staging are really leaning into the Celtic vibe, and I’m totally here for it. Sure, Alvan has a tickle of the lupine about him which makes him not exactly difficult to behold, and that certainly helps. But somewhere between all of the bold green lighting and the burning braziers on the stage and the minority language representation, I think there’s actually a very bankable pop song in here. I don’t know if this union of artists is a one off or if they’re planning on working together more, but I’ll be watching them with interest!
Iceland (Ísland) • 🇮🇸 • Systur, ‘Með hækkandi sól’ – Apart of the elation involved in hearing Icelandic back in the competition (RÚV, if you’re reading this, please stop translating the songs from Söngvakeppnin into English, thanks), I was really taken aback by how different this sounded on the big stage. On the CD, it was more your average country song, but in the arena it took on an almost ethereal quality and it became so much better. I did expect it to do a little better in the voting… well, a lot better in the voting, frankly. 20 points in total was a bit of a shock, especially after Iceland’s recent success… but as anyone who has seen my record for choosing favourites at Eurovision, it’s a bit obvious that I have no idea what makes a winner!
Lithuania (Lietuva) • 🇱🇹 • Monika Liu, ‘Sentimentai’ – This one was a bit of a dark horse. Originally I was mostly interested because it’s in Lithuanian, which I love the sound of, but when I heard the recording for the CD, I wasn’t exactly blown away. Then seeing it live on stage at the semi-final, it really came into its own – as was the case for Iceland. It had a definite retro vibe (and that wasn’t just the haircut), and it was the sort of song that wouldn’t seem completely out of place if accompanied by a theremin. The recorded version will definitely grow on me now that I’ve fallen in love with it. And I think at this point it’s worth mentioning how vocal Lithuania were in their support of Ukraine, which was genuinely lovely to see.
Moldova • 🇲🇩 • Zdob și Zdub, ‘Trenulețul’ – When I first heard this song, I knew it would be in my top two. Catchy, weird, and not in English? That’s basically all I look for in a Eurovision song. When they started performing at the semi-final, my heart sank when I heard the guitar riff. They’d changed it. Thankfully, that only lasted a few seconds and it was right back to the folky madness. I sort of predicted it would be unpopular with the juries but beloved by the public, which turned out to be true. It still ended up being Moldova’s highest-scoring entry ever, so I think that’s something to be proud of! Not bad for an insane little ditty about a train route.
Netherlands (Nederland) • 🇳🇱 • S10, ‘De Diepte’ – You know, this is another one that grew on me from the semi-final – didn’t make much of it when it was released, but seeing it performed completely transformed it. It was nice to hear Dutch again in the Eurovision final (for the first time since 2010, though it’s felt like a lot longer), it was just nice to see a song like this make it to the final – the performance was quite simple, though I could more generously call it raw; it’s a lot to be on that stage on your own and still to fill it, especially at just 21 years old, and I think S10 did marvellously. She’s another artist whose work I’ll be checking out more of in the coming days.
Norway (Norge/Noreg) • 🇳🇴 • Subwoolfer, ‘Give That Wolf a Banana’ – I mean, where the hell do I start with this one? Every Eurovision needs a sprinkle of madness, and… you know when you’re putting salt on your food, the cap comes off and you end up with a pile of salt all over your meal? Well, that’s what I think happened here. When it came to the voting, I was really shocked it didn’t do a lot better than it did (though obviously tenth place is beyond respectable), but novelty songs like this tend to be panned by the juries and I’d have to say that seems to be what happened here. I’m still absolutely dying to see who’s underneath those wolf masks (I’d say the smart money is on Gaute Ormåsen, Norwegian Idol finalist, and Ben Adams, of British-Norwegian boyband A1)… though I don’t think we’re ever likely to find out.
Serbia (Srbija/Србија) • 🇷🇸 • Konstrakta, ‘In corpore sano’ – From hearing this and thinking ‘surely she didn’t just say Megan Markle?’ to seeing it live at the semi-final, I absolutely love this. As I said with Norway, every Eurovision needs a sprinkle of madness and this definitely provided that. I tend not to look at translations of songs I don’t understand, and as a result I have absolutely no idea what was going on here. And I think that makes it better! Interestingly, after having a Finnish song with a Latin title, this song marks the first time we’ve ever had Latin lyrics in the Eurovision final! So that’s pretty nifty, isn’t it?
Ukraine (Україна) • 🇺🇦 • Kalush Orchestra, ‘Стефанія’ – I don’t think you need me to explain the background of this song, it’s been hard to avoid the news of what’s been going on in Ukraine over the past few years (and then much more intensely for the past few months). There’s been a lot of talk about there being a ‘sympathy vote’ for Ukraine, and although the war has undoubtedly affected the result here, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t genuinely like the song and think it was a worthy winner. A show of support to the tune of 439 points (out of a maximum of 468 from the public vote) sends a clear message, and I’m very pleased they won. The one thing that baffles me that I’d absolutely love for somebody to explain… how the hell does he get so many notes out of that flute?! It’s got no sodding holes in it! I’ve lost a lot of sleep already over this and I simply refuse to lose any more.
United Kingdom • 🇬🇧 • Sam Ryder, ‘Space Man’ – Gobsmacked doesn’t even begin to cover it. There was a lot of screaming ‘no way!’ and ‘shut up!’ and, as we got steadily drunker (because of the oft-unused The UK receives 5+ points square on our bingo card), ‘fuck off!’. I still don’t quite believe it. I still don’t really know who Sam Ryder is, I just know that he’s got a good attitude and BLE (Big Labrador Energy), so it’s kind of hard not to love him. The performance he gave was incredible, I can’t say any other; I hadn’t heard it before the final and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The UK is usually a bit of a footnote in these blog posts, but… I mean… second place, who on earth could have seen that coming?!
So that’s it for this year. As Sam Ryder would say, ‘big up’ to the EBU this year for including every participant’s pronouns in their bios on their website, which made the writing of this blog post that much easier. A huge congratulations to Radiotelivisione Italia (RAI) for organising such a fantastic show, and not least, a huge congratulations to Kalush Orchestra on their win – hugely deserved, guys, and don’t let anybody tell you any different. Слава Україні!
That’s it from me this year! As always, sorry that it’s a bit of a marathon (just over 2,000 words, yikes!), thank you to all of you who made it this far, and now I’d love to hear about you – what did you think of the contest this year, did you enjoy it? Do you agree with the jury, do you think the public have gone mad? I’d love to hear from you. As always, you can reach out on Twitter and Instagram (I’m @sprakskatan on both) or leave a comment below. And of course, I’ll see you next month for a return to our regularly scheduled programming. Thanks for reading, see you soon!