The Eurovision Song Contest is over for another year.
It’s sad, as always, because if there is one thing Eurovision does better than just about any other event, it’s remind us that good and wonderful things still exist in the world.
Beset as we are by war, climate change, rising extreme nationalism and a host of other ills, it’s all to easy to think that there’s nothing good left to life our spirits, but Eurovision reassures that beguilingly lovely things like quirky creativity, unbridled passion and a desire for peace, support and inclusivity are still very much a part of our world.
That last precious part became even more patently clear last night when Ukraine, as expected, was announced as the winner of this year’s contest, scoring a blisteringly good 439 points out of a possible 468, taking it from fourth place after the Jury votes had been revealed to outright leader on 631, with the top five rounded out by UK (466), Spain (459), Sweden (438) and Serbia (312).
While the Ukraine was tipped to take out the contest, thanks to an envisaged massive show of support by European voters – “Stefania” by the Kalush Orchestra who were given special permission to leave Ukraine for the event – the fact is their win came down to submitting a brilliantly good song which was performed by a talent bunch of musicians, one of whom, Ihor Didenchuk, is a member of Go-A, who represented Ukraine at Eurovision 2021.
“Stefania”, while tipping to the folk sign of the folk/electronica side of things, very much presents the appealing syncretism of Ukrainian music which imaginatively and engagingly blends the old and the new, an approach which has resulted in an entry this year which ticks all the boxes as I reviewed:
“While Eurovision is technically apolitical, the contest has already kicked Russia out of the 2022 event and it will be all but impossible to ignore what is happening to Ukraine the the band performs in the first semi-final. The good news is that “Stefania” is an infectiously catchy blend of Ukrainian folk, pop and hip-hop that is going to get attention for its music as much as for the country the band is from, which means even if there is a great deal of sympathy voting, and how on earth could there not be, the band and their song will more than deserve any accolades they and it receive. It’s a great track performed by a spirited and creatively talented band …” (The Road to Eurovision 2022 – week 3)
It was, as you might expect, a highly emotional moment, compelling the audience to stand to their feet for the entire performance (they also did so in first semi final) but it was joined by the sheer exultation of Sam Ryder taking the UK to a second place after year-upon-year of the country finishing last and next to last.
Also upping the happiness factor was Norway (“Give That Wolf a Banana” by Subwoolfer) and Serbia (“In Corpore Sano” by Constrakta) who proved that while Eurovision might be a slick music promoting machine in many ways these days, it’s still possible for the quirky and the unusual to gain some attention and sizable numbers of votes. (Again, in both cases, the songs were very good and highly repeat listenable; the quirk came in, as if often does with Eurovision, through the performance.)
It was a little disappointing to see Australia only chart in 15th place – Sheldon Riley’s performance of “Not the Same” was a standout, garnering him healthy Jury votes but low public votes – and France (“Fulenn” by Alvan and Ahez) only finish in second last place with 17 points but that is the way of things Eurovision and I count us lucky as fans to have had such a strong crop of songs this year.
The grand final also saw us treated electric performances by two of the three hosts , Mika and Laura Pasini, and the return of 2021 winners, Måneskin (go to 2:22:33 on the embedded video to watch them) who rocked the PalaOlimpico Arena with a grippingly intense two-song segment which included new single “Supermodel” produced with Swedish music wunderkind Max Martin.
It was a huge big grand final (which had some narrowly-averted hacking issues) as always that gave us great songs, stunning performances, and the kind of fairytale ending which reassured us that while terrible things happen to good countries, good things can happen too, especially when all the just-minded people of the world – Europe and Australia voted in the grand final) – stand up and send a message that peace and love matters and they’re willing to use their votes to drive the point home.
The voting was usual was dramatic! First came the Jury votes where each country’s select panel nominates their top 10 participants and awards points accordingly which saw the UK at the top of the board – go Sam Ryder! – after a decade-plus of nil points or not much more, with Spain and Sweden nipping at its heels … watching the Jury voting was intensely gripping and delightful … the joy on Sam Ryder’s face in particular was one of those things that you’ll never forget …
Then came the televote which was overdone a little in an attempt to ratchet up the tension. As a tension-building technique it was impressive but lordy not that good for the nerves … I can only imagine what it was like for everyone in the Green Room …
Oh, and if you’re wondering how Ukraine might host next year, here’s an interesting thread from Twitter that charts the current state of play, less than 48 hours after the win…
See you next year everyone!