Maybe it’s my inner Harry Potter geek coming out, but more likely it’s my emotional soul speaking up. The 2017 edition of our beloved Contest proved to me that magic does indeed exist.
The cliché that magic’s hidden in unexpected places, proved all the more right on the Big Night. It hid in the most beautiful of songs, and in what has to undoubtedly be the most beautiful of wins ever to have happened at Eurovision. (I soon hope to prove this statement wrong though *glares at VRT & RTBF). Despite this unusually bewitched introduction, it wasn’t all sparkles on May 13th though. Let the breakdown begin!
With a little help from their Swedish friends, NTU managed to pull together a decent set of shows. I quite loved the spacey design of the stage (I blame my Star Trek obsessed geek ex-boyfriend) and the way they used it. Side note: if any of the participating countries let them that is – what’s with the hiding of the backings this year? Is everyone trying to transform the stage performance into a music video? Bring back the live feeling I say! But I digress.
Presenters Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk and Timur Miroshnychenko (I ❤ the copy-paste function right now) did an okay job. They tried to follow into the giant footsteps of Måns & Petra (mission impossible) and were only mildly successful – blame it on their limited knowledge of the English language and their plastered smiles. Charming enough though.
The theme of Celebrating Diversity ran nicely through the shows, and the way the LGBT part of the audience was embraced really warmed my heart – it’s nothing new in Eurovision, but from a country like Ukraine it actually means something. The interval acts were (certainly in the final) very enjoyable, so no complaints from this side. No wait, I feel one coming up! Lots of camera crews on camera, more than any other year. Pity.
This is the second year of the new voting system, and I have to say it really works. The way the tension builds, the glaring differences between juries and audiences across Europe: it makes for an exciting evening. Pity they’re rushing through the lower scoring countries a bit, we hardly get any time to digest (let alone swallow) the scores that are announced.
The way the top two obliterated the competition is almost bewildering, dare I say flabbergasting. Top two yes, cause Bulgaria got a monster score as well – comparing the results to 2016, it’s a whole different ball game. Certainly did not expect, hope yes, Portugal to finally win let alone bulldozer all over the field. In the quietest way possible even. Portugal! Who’d have ever thought?
Until Salvador’s acceptance speech that is, which managed to spark some controversy. Stating that “We live in a world of disposable music; fast food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music with people who make music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks; music is feeling. So let’s try to change this and bring music back” could indeed be seen as stepping on people’s toes or even attacking other artists. And even though it seems to go against this year’s Eurovision Theme, it actually doesn’t. Salvador’s simply a bit of an oddball, like many great artists are, and he seems to be reasoning from within his own little wondrous musician’s world. A world where there’s no auto tune, or synths aplenty. Anyone who’s seen or read any jazz musician’s autobiography surely understands, without necessarily agreeing. I for one am happy the two (music that simply wants to entertain, and music that expresses emotion) can go hand in hand, certainly at Eurovision. I don’t think it was an attack, I see it as a call for more variety and (cultural) personality instead of keeping to some standardized format – surely we as Eurovision fans get to hear the phrase ‘that sounds so Eurovision’ a hundred times over, and we all answer the same thing: “there’s more to the songs than you give them credit for.” Usually only a handful per year though, it would be nice to see and hear less formatted and more genuine stuff. No? Celebrate diversity, yes.
Which neatly brings us to the main course of this post: the songs. I admit I was very afraid of how this edition would turn out by the end of February, and luckily some countries came through with excellent entries that brought the oomph this edition needed. And even though almost all the right entries made it to the final (glances at Finland and Iceland), there still was a lot of ‘meih’ to be found. Sadly. Here’s what my score sheet said by the end of the night:
26. Romania – I mean: no. Just no. He’s hot (which doesn’t at all justify that enthusiastic kiss slash face rape at the end) but is vocally all over the place, and once she stops yodeling and starts singing she doesn’t prove to be much better. Put them in those canons and shoot them to a place far far away, please.
25. Croatia – Only @ Eurovision. Simply preposterous. This and Romania should die a slow and painful death. At least Jacques hit the notes right.
24. Germany – What a snooze. Ripping off Guetta without even getting us excited, tsk. It starts and stops one too many times, and could’ve been an album filler Natalie Imbruglia. She tried her best, but that wasn’t nearly good enough to save this.
23. Spain – Well that was a whole bunch of nothing. Endless repeating of the same line in an attempt to brainwash us, but the only thing I remember is the shriek when Manuel actually tried to sing.
22. Poland – The Rhymezone is strong with this one. Overpowering even. Just like her voice. I only like the crescendo ending, but by then the annoyance was also strong with this one.
21. Denmark – Some Zafura realness at the end there for you. It all came across a lot weaker than in the NF I have to say. It was all so…average.
20. Australia – The little awkward duckling – what was with that walk? He could be Daenerys’ twin brother, but there’s really no need for all those pictures of him in the backdrop – I call it the Lisa Ajax syndrome – so a tad more creativity would/could have been welcome. Same goes for the song, which was just too boring to captivate. I was pleasantly surprised the televoters agreed with that.
19. France – We’ve entered the Land of Average it seems, cause this one evaporated while it was still on. The fact that they had to rely on the Eiffel Tower to rescue this says about enough. (Side thought – I had something like this (not Paris, but the light effect that pictured it so efficiently) in mind for our own Blanche – pity they didn’t go for something similar.)
18. Greece – Jedward has buffed up it seems. The water feature was as ridonkulous as it was with Ireland 2012 and added nothing to the performance. Demi, her outfit, her song and parts of the staging reminded me of Cascada (Germany 2013). Not the best of references.
17. Cyprus – Just a hint of Loic Nottet and Sergey Lazarev here and there, but I quite like the staging (funny seeing Hovig supported at times while balancing – he needs some serious training before he can call himself a flamingo). The song is just one big pile of meih though.
16. Belarus – Just because you’re called Naviband doesn’t mean you should take the naval route, you know. The boat stage and the backdrop were such odd choices for this hippie-like little number. I expected something along the lines of dancing around a tree of sorts. Or something Avatar like. It’s happy-clappy and I kinda don’t even mind the airhead-factor here. The almost-fall keeps entertaining me even after five times. Easy on the tongue there at the end though, guys.
15. Austria – And now in the Land of Bland, our yearly campfire song. Adequately sung in the semi but completely strangled in the final, das war aber schade. The moon and cloud kinda work for me, and Nathan is cute as a button. I completely get the zero from the televoters, though it wasn’t the worst by a long stretch. It was just…there.
14. Netherlands – Technically marvellous, and the three sisters really sold it for all it’s worth. Too bad the song, beautiful as the reason behind it may be, wasn’t as captivating. It’s a bit heavy on the stomach, and not completely accessible.
13. Israel – Complete opposite of the Dutch entry: accessible enough, and admittedly adequately staged – but THOSE VOCALS. Imri was sadly all over the place – presumably too busy eyefucking the camera, while flexing his arms and other muscles.
12. Moldova – Did NOT see that bronze medal coming AT ALL. Granted, the guys ‘n galls sold the pants off this…thing. But it really is such an empty box. The sax bit is alright, I have to admit. And they were one of the few countries to actually build a party on stage. But still…
11. Azerbaijan – So arty. Too arty. Well at least they tried. It’s all just so hollow. LOVE the backings here, and big up for including them in the act. Dihaj gives it her all, and if it hadn’t been for the impossibly silly lyrics, it would have been in my top 10.
As per usual, the majority of the final was just a bit #meih for me. But as per usual, there were some gems to cherish as well. It was an entertaining evening, but not even my entire top ten managed to convince me. Thank heavens for my top five… Here are the points of the Dimivision jury!
1 point: Italy – Francesco Gabbani – Occidentali’s Karma
I’m still torn (not thorn) between this and Azerbaijan for this valuable point, and the catchy chorus is what makes me go for this one. But seriously, throw the kitchen sink at it while you’re at it. Embracing the LGBT community is one thing, but do you have to rub the rainbow in our faces like that? The stripe on the vest, the effect on the trousers, the sweaters on the backing and even the bowtie on the gorilla – give it a rest already. Add to that Francesco’s erratic behavior and his shouty, scrappy vocals and the conclusion is simply that it’s sooooo oversold. Textbook case of ‘how to ruin your chances of winning’.
2 points: Sweden – Robin Bengtsson – I can’t go on
No hick-ups in the final on the treadmill, but this quickly went from a pre-contest favorite to my yearly disappointment. I think it’s all to do with the live vocal effects versus the pre-recorded ones in MF (and studio). It sounded less full all of a sudden, and Robin had nothing to hide behind vocally so you could hear him struggling in the second part. Still in love with the choreo though, too slick for its own good as it may be. All hail backwards strutting!
3 points: United Kingdom – Lucie Jones – Never give up on you
(disclaimer: Youtube didn’t find the final performance)
When I saw the preview bit in the semi, I got excited. But the final version was a bit off-putting in a strange way. The mirrored shell was still a bit too Valentina Monetta, and while Lucie was vocally very strong her facial expressions were perhaps a tad too strong. Strangely off-putting even. Loving the explosion effects in the backdrop. It’s been a while since the UK were in my top ten – they still have a bit of a way to go in terms of full resurrection though.
4 points: Hungary – Joci Pápai – Origo
I know the gay community isn’t that appreciated in Roma circles, but good heavens what a hunky piece of man candy. My hormones notwithstanding, this was a prime example of what Salvador was referring to in his acceptance speech (imho). I love the diversity this brings to the table. While I know the combo of ethnic and rap was too much for some, I personally loved it – the rap bit brought some extra power to it. The song goes on for one chorus too many, but I thoroughly enjoyed this.
5 points: Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov – Beautiful Mess
Believe 2.0 – a more contained and powerful performance, but sadly a bit of a so-so song for me. I still can’t manage to sing it after all this time, it simply will not stick. It’s easy to see why it did so well though: the performance was well thought out, and vocally the young chap was pretty much on par. Well done to Bulgaria for getting to second place, they’ve really caught on with what’s happening.
6 points: Ukraine – O.Torvald – Time
I can’t help it, this bunch of guitars just calls to me. I love me some power, and the bridge here is simply delicious. I know that the melody is a bit ‘been there, done that’ and the vocals are wobbly in the parts where he’s actually singing and not shouting, but I don’t care. I love the wild factor here. So there you go.
7 points: Norway – JOWST – Grab the moment
Happy these guys got to tenth. It sounds like Years ‘n Years and other stuff that’s currently reigning the charts, so I was surprised that the fan community ignored this as much as it did. Loved the vibe here. Was perhaps a bit too static, but the special effects made up for that – though the ‘kill’ effect was a bit odd (and can someone explain to me how they did the vocal aspect in those bits?). Nicely contemporary.
8 points: Armenia – Artsvik – Fly with me
Even though I LOVED that performance (handography and armography are SO my thing), I can’t help but wonder if this shouldn’t have been the video act and vice versa. Just a couple more people on stage would’ve really brought out the power that is hidden in this gem with a rather strange build-up. But it is what it is, and what it is is simply awesome. Vocally well done, the direction is exquisite (especially at the start, to the beat) and the only thing I can say is that it’s a god damn shame that the left one is ten centimeters too much to the left in the hand/face close-up at one point. That’s all.
10 points: Belgium – Blanche – City lights
Didn’t she do well, our little Blanche? Still slightly frightened, but much more secure than in the semi. Loved her low register, and thought she really excelled in the last chorus. Loved the handywork myself (see above), but could’ve used a bit more oomph. And the backdrop could’ve used a bit more…eum…lights. Still easily the most current sounding song in this bunch. So proud, and so happy – I can’t even explain.
12 points: Portugal – Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois
Ow, how happy I was when this walked with it. I’ve been enchanted by it from the start, and I’m so so so happy they pulled it off. It was all so magical – the voice, the quiet song, the forest in the backdrop. Even his mannerisms were on point. I love everything about this. Even after having heard this countless times it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when he starts to sing. Pure magic.
So, there you have it: let PED kick in and the countdown to Portugal begin! Portugal! Finally! After decades of trying! Such a fairytale win.
In closing, let’s take a look at my all time top 25 where Belgium reclaims the third position, Norway strengthens 5th, Portugal overtakes Italy (ha!) and Hungary enters the top 25 at the expense of Serbia. Now Christmas is officially over, read you next year!
1 France 237 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 213 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Belgium 193 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
4 Finland 188 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
5 Norway 180 (1966 – 1982 – 2000 – 2013)
6 Sweden 171 (1974 – 2012)
7 Germany 169 (1959 – 1975 – 2011)
8 Portugal 169 (1972 – 1998 – 2017)
9 Italy 166 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
10 United Kingdom 135 (1961 – 1965)
11 Spain 132 (1973)
12 Ireland 126 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel 118 (1976)
14 Turkey 105
15 Switzerland 96
16 Denmark 92 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
17 Greece 87 (1981)
18 Austria 78 (2014)
19 Bosnia-Herzegovina 66
20 Slovenia 65
21 Iceland 63 (1987)
22 Estonia 63 (1999)
23 Russia 61 (1994)
24 Croatia 49
25 Hungary 48