Is it too late for love? Better love! Fire of love! Love is forever!
Who said hate will prevail? Eurovision 2019 was clearly here to prove the contrary.
The dust has settled, several jury votes have been corrected, the winner is celebrated, the hangover is gone and Post Eurovision Depression is starting to rear its ugly little head – high time for this year’s review! Who will prevail?
Not gonna lie here: 1999 left me traumatized. Nothing really clicked for me twenty years ago, from stage design (!) over presenters and postcards to the overall production. Luckily both television production in general ànd our beloved contest itself have evolved immensely and that clearly showed.
When this year’s theme was announced though, I wasn’t all that confident we wouldn’t go down the 1999 rabbit hole all over again. ‘Dare To Dream’ still sounds a bit flimsy, but the Israeli production team took it and ran with it. The way it was integrated in the various aspects of the show was nicely measured and made for a – here it comes – dreamy overarching feel.
Same goes for the graphic aspect of the contest. The triangles made me go ‘meh’ initially, but the team played them out ever so clever. At least the logo was clean-cut and up to date (unlike last year’s) and the stage design followed suit. It looked impressive on screen and had a lot of possibilities. Loved the way the countries’ flags were incorporated in the hall’s ceiling by the way.
And the wave of positivity keeps on giving, as the postcards as well were nothing short of awesome. The usual fake amazement at the host countries’ monuments/historic places made room for all sorts of movement and dancing and I’m here for it. Bonus points for the visual aspects, such as outfits versus backdrops – they were really incredible to look at. Simple but effective, much like so many other elements in this year’s production.
When it comes to the show itself, I sadly feel the need to repeat myself and ask why the heck we need four hosts. No, really. You hardly spend enough time with any of them to really appreciate them. The more experienced Erez Tal fell a bit short as he gave the impression of feeling either lost in translation at times or wanting to rush through things. The less experienced Lucy Ayoub, sympathetic as she may seem, wasn’t exactly the best choice for the green room interviews as she failed to put any kind of energy into things – and that final dress needs to go die in a ditch. Bar Refaeli was there because she was Bar Refaeli and not much more. Only Assi Azar really made an impression – he seemed genuinely happy to be there, connected well to the artists and the audience (both in the hall and at home) and was generally just cute as a button.
The show kicked off in a fun way, with Netta flying in this year’s hopefuls and Jon Ola Sand failing spectacularly at trying to get to her level of excitement. The flag parade had a nice speed to it and before we knew it things were already taking off (ha!) – a nice change of pace versus 2018.
Much unlike the interval between songs and voting. Almost one hour? Seriously. How do you expect the average (non-fan) viewer to stick with you? Why do we need a voting window that long anyway? Kan gave it as much as they could with all of the acts, the one more interesting than the other, but really EBU: no. Finishing the show at midnight, or 00.30h CET at best, should not be too difficult. Cut the crap.
Speaking of crap: we need to talk about Madonna. First off, you need to know that I’m a huge Madonna fan. I’ve seen her live six times now (from Re-Invention to Rebel Heart) and all of those concerts belong in my all-time top live experiences. But. Even my die-hard-fan-heart was bleeding through what all of us witnessed. Why couldn’t she simply build a party on stage? Why did she have to go all preachy on our asses? And above all: what happened out there on a vocal level? Was it stress? I’ve heard her sing Like A Prayer so well, I’ve heard her sing ballads and acoustic versions before and she can do it – but let’s not call each other Nancy now: this wasn’t up to scratch. Like, at all. Very unfortunate – in this contest context, in the context of promoting her new album and in the context of her legacy. It’s a shame that a lot of people now take this one performance as an example of who Madonna is or what she is capable of. I suggest taking a look at one of her shows (Drowned World Tour is my personal fave) or even simply her Wikipedia page before dismissing her that easily. She changed the face of society and helped pave the way for diversity. Women, gay people, people of color and other segments that fight for equality in this world would be poorer off without what she has done. That being said: releasing a ‘corrected’ version afterwards was a bit of a weird move. And the amount of autotune/vocal effects on her recent performances and albums are getting a tad out of hand. Just a tad. My unconditional love stands though. Just too bad that the combo of two of my favorite musical legends turned out to be a bit of a bust. *insert sad face here*
Anyway, back to the competition and the annual jury versus televoting differences. These were only emphasized by having the televote reveal changed: in order of jury results rather than the actual televote order. It made for some uncomfortable situations: some didn’t get enough recognition (especially Norway winning the televote), others got the kind of attention they probably could have done without (North Macedonia & Sweden being put on the spot for the lack of love from the televoters). It was hard to follow, caused all kinds of confusion and kinda left us with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. The previous format worked better, so here’s hoping they’ll turn back time *insert Cher hair swoop*
So, now to the essence of it all! I have to say: I really liked this year’s selection. The eliminations in the semis were quite logical, even if sometimes painful (Belgium of course, but especially the lovely Latvia). The final was packed with goodies, and even the baddies were entertaining enough. So Dimi is a happy bunny. After having watched the contest a couple of times – as my impressions on the night itself might have been influenced ever so slightly by the magic potion that is called wine – I’m ready to dive in in detail:
26. Israel – It can hardly get any cornier and more syrupy than this, can it? WRONG, is what Kobi thought at the end when he tried to squeeze out the last of clichés along with some tears. Which apparently worked in every single one of his rehearsals, except when it actually mattered. It made the cringy moment somewhat entertaining though. This wasn’t all that horrible, to be honest – even if I could have done without the typical Israeli choir choreo and the multiple Kobi’s (a running theme this year). But it was still kinda repelling.
25. United Kingdom – In the words of Bianca Del Rio: alright, calm down Beyoncé! I’m not at all a fan of this kind of vocal trickery, which to me distracts from rather than adds to any emotional vibe. Not that there’s much of that to begin with – this is just an endless repetition of the word ‘bigger’, what a sizequeen. This ain’t my cup of tea, and the way they sold it wasn’t too smart I feel – the circle moment is super weird, why would you turn your back to the audience in the hall ànd at home? I can tell the BBC tried, but this is too X-Factor anno 2005 instead of Eurovision anno 2019.
24. Estonia – Sounds like a copy of a copy of a copy of a summer hit from about three years ago, with lyrics to match – again: rhyming ‘this’ with ‘this’ has to be the epitome of laziness. Unlike the staging, which is very, even too, elaborate. A disappearing and reappearing guitar, lots of effects and thunder and lightning but never really exciting… It can’t cover the fact that this is fifty shades of meh, from the song down to Victor’s vocals and hair. No really, he looks like he just stepped off of the set of Dawson’s Creek. That show ended 16 years ago, just saying.
23. Spain – Everything but the kitchen sink, and I think I even spotted that in that poor excuse for a house. I didn’t quite get what was going on in this performance, but I did get that it was A LOT. At least three ideas should have been thrown out the window, starting with that giant thing. Whatever happened to simply throwing a nice summer party, which is the only thing this song requires? It made it on to the music list of my Zumba class though, so at least it achieved something. Oh, and: hi, Miki!
22. North Macedonia – I initially had this dead last cause I simply can’t deal with the oversold drama in this song. But Tamara is really too good of a singer to place her below the likes of Israel and Estonia. Still, can’t deal with the song. Too on the nose for me. I understand why people would like it, but I’m still flabbergasted this won the jury vote. Now that was a bewildering experience if ever I had one in Eurovision. I’m happy to be surprised though, even if I don’t agree. Like, at all. I’ll gladly see Tamara back in the contest but with something more current sounding. And in another dress, because hello Barbara Dex award.
21. Germany – I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO TELL YOU. Is what basically sums this up one a nutshell. The subtlety of the entry is practically non-existing and it is only emphasized by the lack of staging. There’s loads I don’t really get here: why are they out on the catwalk, right in between the audience? Why is there no visual story? Why are their faces projected on the big screen like that? Why are they nose to nose and still screaming at each other? Why am I wasting this much time thinking about this entry anyway? Much like the UK, Germany is on a steady course – it’s just got nothing to do with the one Eurovision is currently on.
20. Belarus – Zena is only 16 but she commands the stage as if she’s at least double her age, so kudos to her. She even got her vocals right at some points, nasal as they may have sounded. But can anyone tell me what was going on? It was all so…loud! Vocally and visually. Heaven knows what she was on about – I’m still hearing ‘is he gonna like it’ instead of ‘yes, you’re gonna like it’ by the way – and that stage presentation was all over the place. Not to mention that verrrrry 90s outfit, which to me was the only real competitor for North Macedonia in the run for the Barbara Dex award. Still a nice pop song though.
19. Serbia – Quite the opposite of Belarus actually: a balanced visual presentation with awesome effects that added to, rather than distracted from, the song. And a vocal performance that made the song feel it was worth more than it actually was. No really: this is the kind of ballad that simply doesn’t cut it anymore. But big up to Nevena, she really delivered.
18. Greece – I feel like I should place this even lower, somehow – but it’s the song that makes me put it above Serbia. Even if Katerina didn’t really live up to vocal expectations. She sounded out of this world alright, but not the way she probably intended to. The final performance was better than the semi, but it’s still a visual concept that doesn’t really go with the song. It’s so baroque in springtime at Versailles, while the song sounds so current – as if the staff from Beauty and the Beast would suddenly sing a Jessie Ware song mid-movie. Bewildering, to say the least.
17. Russia – First off: Sergey really is a class act. He sang this like the pro that he is (with a tiny exception at the end perhaps), he emoted the desperate feeling very well and he very much looked the part (I can stare at those back shots forever I think). But. This is not my cup of soup. The sugary drama is, much like with North Macedonia, laid on too thick. The lyrics are simply daft at times. (It was quite hilarious to have this right behind Germany in the line-up by the way.) And that visual presentation… I don’t know, did we really need 8 Sergeys – or even more, that rainy window? That really had the opposite effect for me, all I could think of was this scene with Joey from Friends. The drama, the drama! Meh.
16. Czechia – This is still every bit as pleasant as it was beforehand. It’s a nice pop song, with at times a bit of a weird flow in terms of lyrics, and the visual performance was cute even if a bit basic. I like the play with the rectangles on screen and the minimalistic approach works but needed just that bit more near the end of the song. Ow, and the jumpers in the colors of the Belgian flag were a bit confusing. Or am I being too much of a patriot now? Anyway, this was nice – but nice didn’t cut it this year.
15. Cyprus – A much better performance than the semi, both vocally and in terms of confidence. Everything came across much more steady. But I don’t really get the choice of styling here. The stage is super dark, the dancers are in black outfits with MJ-Thriller-hats and Tamta herself is ‘rocking’ a latex outfit that feels completely out of context. The vibe beforehand was that this was Fuego 2.0 but not quite as together or focused, and the stage performance only underlined that feeling. I wanna say ‘she’s not Madonna’ but after tonight that has a bit of a different taste to it. Let’s keep it at Kylie then.
14. San Marino – So yeah, this completely won me over in the final. It’s still daft beyond all reason but that is actually what makes it so fantastic. I adore the simple but focused approach they took here, from the effective visuals on screen to the minimalistic choreography. To call Serhat a singer would be a taking it a couple of notches too far, but an entertainer he definitely is. And what’s even more important: he looked like he was having fun. Like a serial killer on a night off. Super weird, super camp and super fun. I will probably ‘say na na na’ all summer long – a sentence I thought I’d never say before Eurovision week.
13. Sweden – While I still think this was a rock solid package, this simply wasn’t my kinda jam. John is a fantastic singer (if we ignore the last ten seconds of the performance), but he did seem a bit nervous for the first time in all those performances we’ve seen from him. I don’t really get why the ‘raise your arms and the lights switch off’ moment from MF wasn’t repeated (by choice or by accident?) either. Picking on details here, yes, but somehow it all didn’t really click for me.
12. France – While I originally had this down as my number ten, I decided to take it out of my top ten simply because I didn’t feel like the vocal performance was up to scratch – even if it was better than expected/anticipated. I also feel like the entire performance was just a tad too on the nose and/or oversold – I could have done without the opening visuals and the written text here and there. Mayhaps I’ve been thrown off balance by all of those fucking flags disturbing the effectiveness of some camera shots, especially the one at the end that was so crucial for the entire performance. I’ve been yelling about this for years – so either build the stage up higher, don’t allow larger flags into the hall and/or opt for other camera shot choices. Do you read me, EBU? Anyway, Bilal was lovely, as was his message, and I was happy he was there and he did far better than I’d feared.
11. Albania – I still want to put this in my top ten, but then I’d have to chuck something out that I don’t want to chuck out. Jonida and her team did a splendid job in selling this, both vocally and visually. I do somehow feel the power of the performance degrades after she moves to the front of the stage. But those drums are everything, the backings are to die for (especially in the first part where Jonida joins them – chills!!!) and the overall feeling is one of some Egyptian High Priestess performing some kind of voodoo ritual. Intriguing and powerful.
Ever so sorry, Jonida. But it is what it is – here are the actual points of the Dimivision jury:
1 point: Norway – KEIINO – Spirit In The Sky
I’ve been listening and singing along to this ever since it got chosen and I was surprised to initially be quite underwhelmed when I saw this – so much so that I put it right outside my top ten on the night. What threw me off were those visuals on screen, I suspect – those looked like 90’s Windows screensavers to me and didn’t really fit the vibe. But I got over myself and realized I still love the electronic parts, the swell vocals and the overall inexplicable Eurovision feeling in this. Especially adore the last 30 seconds where everything comes together ever so convincing. Side note: love Tom’s relief when he gets those first few bars right. I was surprised to see this win the televote (in retrospective analysis of course *rolls eyes*) to be honest, but well done to them. Schlagerelectro at its best. So 1 point it is.
2 points: Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever
C. U. T. E. ! As a button! I’m a sucker for this kind of retro Lolita-Amelie-Poulain-Parisian-Petit-Prince little pop song (see: Switzerland 2011 and Austria 2016) and everything about this feels right. Even the large chair, yes. Leonora ditched her creepy stare from the Danish NF for a much more charismatic vibe, giving the odd little smile, nudge and wink and it worked wonders – well, to me at least. Good choice in ditching the elevating platform in favour of ladders, and in adding two people on the chair. Lovely to see how backing vocals are being integrated more and more (again), by the way. Everything about this was lovely, actually. I do feel like I need to go take a sarcasm bath though.
3 points: Slovenia – Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi
Much like Denmark, this is right up my ‘dreamy’ alley. Love this kind of atmospheric song and this is in a universe of its own (the one from Avatar, according to some…). They got the camera work absolutely right here, the work of Hans Pannecoucke for NL in 2014 has clearly inspired a lot of delegations (see also: Latvia). But for this kind of set-up to work, you also need emotions – and it must have been the first time in months where Zala was actually able to crack a bit of a smile, project emotions through her eyes or even make contact with both Gasper ànd the audience. The subtlety of it all was endearing, simply endearing.
4 points: Malta – Michela – Chameleon
Well spank me on the bottom and call me Fanny. I have Malta in my top ten. Is the sky falling already? I am really shocked and amazed to find myself saying that I thought this was really cool. The fuss at the start was a bit redundant – you have projections, wauw – but once the chorus kicked in I was here for it as the atmosphere was simple but effective. The choreography was on point, even if Michela could have made a tad more effort herself – but she was probably too busy focusing on getting her vocals right, which she did (for most of the time). Or still confused by the everlasting changes they’d made during rehearsals, apparently. Pity about that last shot though (cfr my flag-remark for France). I genuinely loved this, and I do hope Malta can follow through in this new vibe.
5 points: Switzerland – Luca Hänni – She Got Me
I may or may not have been too influenced by Fuego, I now realize. But come on, this too was all kinds of delicious. The song? Not so much, to be honest – even if it did come across better on stage than on MP3. But the stage act was ever so clever – some reports were ‘complaining’ about the abundance of red, but in my book it provided for a cool vibe (ha!). The playing with the framing of it all added a nice touch as well. Surprised to see the Swiss being all modern and up to date! And then there’s Luca of course, mr Charming & Self Confidence himself. Although those first thirty seconds felt a bit off, he clearly felt more nervous than in the semi – but he made up for it in the rest of the performance. Props to him for combining dancing and singing like that, which is no easy feat by any means – especially with the challenge of that almost acapella bridge. Loving the jump during the beat drop near the end, and loving the way he pronounces ‘Dirty Dancing’. I certainly wouldn’t mind a bit of dirty dancing with him. Call me, Luca. We can work something out.
6 points: Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity
Another one, together with Malta and Switzerland, I didn’t really expect to be in my final top ten. While I’m still not really convinced this is an actual song, it’s clearly a strong Eurovision package. Kate is an incredible vocalist, especially given the fact she’s that high up in the air and swinging and swaying all around – her amount of bodily and vocal control is nothing short of impressive. Much like that visual presentation. Just enough trickery to make it ever so special – I wasn’t too convinced by the visual of the earth at first, but it makes for a nice contribution to the weightless feeling and is a nice first phase into the song – three minutes of poles/brooms would have been too boring probably. Speaking of: the shot where the three of them lean forward on their pole is nothing short of breath-taking. I was surprised that this didn’t end up higher in the televoting, to be honest. But one thing’s for sure: she’s a witch, bitch.
7 points: Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth
So. This went from being one of my two pre-Contest favourites to sliding down after the semi to climbing back up again once I’d made peace with the choices they’d made. I simply imagined a totally different act for this, one that played more to the rhythm and the beats of it all. This was all a bit too static for my liking, however ‘cool’ it all may have been. The robotic arms were a nice touch but came a bit out of left field, the beating heart in the backdrop didn’t do too much (and didn’t match the laserbeams) and the out-of-body experience was a nice touch but made for too little diversion from the lack of dynamic on stage. I still adore the song to bits though and Chingiz gave a great vocal performance. Even if – let’s call it the Ingrosso syndrome – it’s a bit bewildering to hear another voice so dominant in the mix and only see one person on stage.All in all there’s only one word for this: choices.
8 points: Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade
As far as intimate performances go, this one really hit the nail on the head. The simple visuals, the dark atmosphere, the choice of lighting (orb included) – everything was done perfectly. Well, near perfection: the ‘hits the piano’ moment got lost in the final performance, pity. The only thing I’d have changed would incidentally be the piano – just having him stand there and connect just that bit more to the audience (in the hall and at home) might have had even more impact. But it’s such an emotional song, brought in such an effective way – beautiful. Really beautiful. Duncan is such a great vocalist as well, my hat off to you sir. Lovely seeing our neighbours win, a well-deserved win it was.
10 points: Italy – Mahmood – Soldi
Not gonna lie, while watching the final I suddenly thought it would be Italy’s game after all. This performance was really powerful, Mahmood translates his anger and sadness ever so well – vocally, but also in his face and the way he moves. Some visuals were excellent, especially the shadows of father and son midway through. Other visuals…not so much – the burning money was a bit literal. The dancers and choreography were on point, even if they could have been framed just a bit more efficient. But a nice focused performance from Italy – that last statement on the screen (Money Can’t Buy Your Love) was spinetingling, as was Mahmood’s face after he had finished.
12 points: Iceland – Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra
Inevitably my douze, even if I found a couple of things to be improved in that final performance. Of course there was always going to be the fact that the falsetto bit was a bit too fragile in their live version, and that the act was just a bit too overboard to really take it all the way (the outfits, the giant ball, the slave, the chains, the pierced head on the screen). But in the final the lead singer/screecher went off timing ever so slightly in the second verse – I’ve heard the song hundreds of times, so I heard it immediately while my besties still don’t know where he went wrong. But I’m really nit-picking here. I still adore the industrial beat, the combo of both voices, the dramatic and cynical lyrics and of course the apocalyptic feeling of it all. Even if I’m not sad this didn’t win, I have no choice but to give this my douze – I’m so happy something like this was in the final, may it be an inspiration for more alternative acts and music to enter the wonderful world of Eurovision.
It’s been a great edition, all in all. A fantastic production, a varied and entertaining field of participants and a lovly end result. Let the countdown to 2020.
But first, let’s take a look at the Dimivision all time ranking, where Italy jumps from 9 to 7 and comes sneaking closer to the top 5. Meanwhile Slovenia has exactly the same amount of points as Yugoslavia ever managed to rack up and Switzerland crosses the magic border of the three digits.
1 France – 244 (1960 – 1977 – 1991 – 2002 – 2009)
2 Netherlands – 221 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Belgium – 193 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
4 Finland – 189 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
5 Sweden – 183 (1974 – 2012 – 2018)
6 Norway – 181 (1966 – 1982 – 2000 – 2013)
7 Italy – 178 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
8 Portugal – 174 (1972 – 1998 – 2017)
9 Germany – 169 (1959 – 1975 – 2011)
10 United Kingdom – 135 (1961 – 1965)
11 Spain – 132 (1973)
12 Ireland – 126 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel – 118 (1976)
14 Luxembourg – 107 (1956 – 1967)
15 Turkey – 105
16 Switzerland – 101
17 Denmark – 93 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
18 Greece – 87 (1981)
19 Austria – 78 (2014)
20 Slovenia – 76
21 Iceland – 75 (1987 – 2019)
22 Estonia – 67 (1999)
23 Bosnia-Herzegovina – 66
24 Russia – 61 (1994)
25 Cyprus – 50
Read you in the spring of next year!