The annual, irreverent, review of the European Song Contest. The notes for each song were my instant reaction to them having seen them for the first time on the night of the grand final’s performance.
As usual Graham Norton is doing the voice over commentary for the BBC coverage. I have included his salty comments for most portions of the event.
It opened with a cover of ‘Give Peace A Chance‘.
So that was definitely a political statement in a contest that has, in the past, declared itself to be apolitical when previous entrants had clear messages (e.g. We Don’t Wanna Put In) which forced the countries to find alternative representatives. A yellow court yard followed by a blue lit audience inside is all but screaming their position on current events no matter if it was officially sanctioned or not without the organisers saying anything explicitly. Also that the sponsor MoroccanOil is so largely featured on the idents between songs feels questionable even though it’s argan oil for hair care not crude oil they trade in.
One of the hosts, Laura Pausini, did a medley of her songs. The were accompanied on stage by costume changes (coats and robes mostly) for each of the songs in the medley.
Norton mocked that it was a whole album after the fourth or fifth section of it.
Then there was the parade of flags by the entrants in the order they would be performing.
It consisted of the finalists who were from 25 out of 40 of the countries that took part in the contest. During this Norton recounted the voting details e.g. the judges of the national panels represent 50% of the total votes. He thought the UK had a chance this year. We haven’t won it in 25 years but used to be amongst the top voted countries. Ukraine got a shout but nothing more than others got during their moment in the parade. There were a few metal bands in the semi-finals but power ballads seemed to be preferred by the semi-final voters this year.
The presenters entered to much fan fare. I don’t know them (I recognised one of them later but you’ll have to scroll down to see when that happened). I’m sure they’re very famous in Italy but, as is the case with those we have involved in this, they’re part of ‘the TV furniture’ as they seem to be in the media constantly or in some way are notable but not to a ‘national treasure’ level.
A warning about all the flashing lights and a named cartoon drone mascot making videos of some iconic locations around Turin and possibly elsewhere in Italy.
1 Czech Republic: We Are Domi – Lights Off
Synthesizers with lots of wires. It feels more for show than practicality in this day and age but has that retro appeal that seems popular. A club dance anthem feel to the song. Overall it feels understated for a Eurovision entry. The singer looks like she has just come away from painting a wall in overalls covered with some paint splashes. The lights are so manic it’ll have eliminated anyone with epilepsy straight at the start of the contest… ‘where are you now?’ / ‘on the way to the hospital’. Apparently they all lived in Leeds according to Norton.
2 Romania: WRS – Llámame
Bears according to Norton and it’s an example of the ‘great Italian shirt shortage of 2022’. A dancer. Vinyl trousers. Men in belly shirts and women in cat suits. It’s got a very Mexican/Latin American feel to it. Everyone looks sweaty. It’s okay for a Euro entry but I don’t feel it will stand out enough to do particularly well. The choreography is well gone. Oh, and a surprise sparkly under shirt reveal.
3 Portugal: MARO – Saudade, Saudade
A gentle ballad. They perform it in baggy shirts facing each other like it’s some sort of ‘women’s retreat to build confidence’. It’s all a bit ‘performance art’ on a shoestring budget. It reminds me of Enya. They harmonise well but… it feels very low energy. It could do well but at the point of seeing it for the first time it feels like the ‘cool down’ between more energetic pieces.
4 Finland: The Rasmus – Jezebel
I remember them! I tend to like Finland’s entries. They’ve been together for a bout 30 years. Norton warns if you’ve seen Stephen King’s It the start will remind you of it. It’s a yellow balloon instead of a red one. It sounds like a good song but the venue makes it feel smaller – like a small dog barking in a vast hall instead of an intense piece. The yellow ‘rain slicker’ waterproof coat doesn’t feel like a good choice of costume. A shirtless man in leather pants. You’ve seen it before and you’ll see it again a few times in this contest before the show is over no doubt. A good radio song but I can already feel it’ll lose out to other ones. Fun. Apparently the only rock song tonight (after Italy won with their one last year – but Finland tend to do rock songs usually anyway so it wasn’t copying last year’s winning formula).
5 Switzerland: Marius Bear – Boys Do Cry
I am sure I’ve seen him before. Interesting earring. A modern crooning ballad. An oversized baggy leather jacket. It’s a nice romantic song. You can imagine this in an emotional film scene or over the end credits. I like it and the fact the staging is minimal to have focus on it but not losing any showmanship for it as they use the lighting effectively. Apparently James Newman (the UK entry last year) wore a similar jacket.
Then some bad jokes by the presenters. Lots of gardening jokes as they’re in the ‘green room’.
6 France: Alvan & Ahez – Fulenn
Sung entirely in the Breton language I think Norton said. A middle eastern tone to the entry with thumping base as if it’s a ‘going into battle song’. Pyrotechnics and… I would expect this to be the entry by Azerbaijan or a country in that region. It’s very enjoyable but does feel like it’s a composite of various ideas. The camera is jumping all over the place suggesting they consider it over-staged as too much is going on to hold your focus in one location. Norton jokes ‘there now follows a human sacrifice’. It felt rushed.
7 Norway: Subwoolfer – Give That Wolf A Banana
Performed in masks and anonymous. Norton says it may be too novelty. Immediately it feels like something inspired by DeadMau5, Daft Punk and others in terms of aesthetics. It’s just a relatively standard dance track but definitely feels like they’re trying to give the song a bit of a boost with the aesthetics and the silly lyrics. If anything it’s not novelty enough for me. A sign of the times as I mentioned last year where everything feels far tamer than in the past. Ben Adams of A1 (an Anglo-Norwegian boy band) is speculated by Norton to be the shorter wolf.
8 Armenia: Rosa Linn – Snap
Considered an unassuming singer so the staging distracts from her according to Norton. So much toilet paper for the staging… In 2020 that would have got criticised… As for the song it’s quite nice. I am reminded of Nelly Furtado. The ‘snapping one, two, where are you?’ lines are very good. It’s a pleasant song. Enjoyable. Instantly forgettable. The twist – she was performing to a camera so the live audience only see her at the end. That is awkward staging and probably will stand against her.
Some more host jokes. Laura‘s hair doesn’t move. The male presenter reminds me of Nick Grimshaw the BBC1 radio DJ or someone who looks like him from a few years ago. They joke about Italians gesturing so there is the written, oral and gestural tests. Amusing. Norton jokes he is making a gesture too.
Norton wants to raise a toast to Terry Wogan who did it for the BBC before him (and was amazing but then he had more freedom to be acerbic in his mockery of events – even going as far one year as calling one host ‘Mr Death’).
9 Italy: Mahmood & BLANCO – Brividi
The host nation. Do they phone it in? No, I really like it. A duet between two men. A grand piano (which is stood on at one point which feels blasphemous). A feel good piece. Not intending to win but just show the host nation’s ability. The audience join in at the end. Great, but it won’t win – but who knows? It’ll do well I’m sure.
10 Spain: Chanel – SloMo
One of the bookie’s favourites. The singer is named after Coco Chanel. Norton notes she starts off looking like she couldn’t be wearing less but will. A bullfighter’s jacket. A driving beat and some very intense choreography for the dancers. Due to the shoulder pads of the jackets I keep imagining panels from the later parts of the manga Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s a pretty standard Eurovision entry really for the woof ‘sexy’ entry. The jacker gets removed. Lots of choreography with is done flawlessly. The fan comes out. A solid entry. Norton jokes ‘grandpa shouldn’t pick the phone up yet’ – joking it’s one to get the male vote.
11 Netherlands: S10 – De Diepte
The depth. Quiet, sincere, likely to get forgotten by the time the vote comes around. Very understated. Woof. It’s minimalist really. There’s not much to say considering the chorus is vocalisations i.e. ooh, ahh… I like it in the sense it would probably be used as the backing music to a really powerful dramatic scene in a TV series. Norton notes she is 21 years old so we might see her again like some entrants from the past.
12 Ukraine: Kalush Orchestra – Stefania
Due to current events this will win. Bookie’s favourite. Norton notes ‘possibly due to an emotional response’ but notes it’s a good song. OH COSSACK SINGING… I joke but this is very much traditional Ukrainian folk music at the start then breaks into rap for parts of it. MY FAVOURITE OF THE NIGHT. Yes, I am biased but… you’re reading a blog that specialises in Welsh and Russian (language) poetry so are you that surprised? I have CDs of traditional Ukrainian folk music I play often so I am completely biased even with the current events guiding people’s appreciation. The ‘fur monster’ rapper is a bit random but whatever. Of course at the end the guy says some political things. The usual Ukrainian commentator is actually in a bomb shelter this year Norton notes.
More host jokes. They can’t show favouritism. Poker face.
13 Germany: Malik Harris – Rockstars
Fourth of the big five. The guy was on Germany’s ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. The song feels generic pop song tonally. A guy in jeans, a baggy t-shirt with a gold chain – he could be a young man now or from the 90s. Seriously the only thing stopping me thinking this was a 90s entry is it’s filmed in high definition. The spoken word bit has a very ‘I’m a teenager and I’ve had some deep thoughts’ aspect to it before it begins to come across like an Eminem tribute mid song as he appears to run out of air. ‘We used to be the rock star’… meh, it’s okay. So okay it’s just okay. I’ve already forgotten about it.
14 Lithuania: Monika Liu – Sentimentai
Norton says it’s retro circa 1974. The performer considers it ‘spooky disco’. Apparently certain styles of 60-70s style ballads are ‘spooky’ now. The bowl hair cut is very distracting. Woof. ‘ooh, say ohh, say ooh’. I guess she is meant to have a Liza Minnelli inspired look. The song is okay. It does definitely feel like a song from a past contest. It’s nice but it’ll be an ‘also ran’. It feels like it should be performed to a faster beat to be honest.
15 Azerbaijan: Nadir Rustamli – Fade To Black
This has ‘serious contender’ written all over it instantly – he just has to make sure to not mess up this performance of it. The ‘guy sat on the bleachers’ staging is a bit odd but okay… I like the song and it’s rising energy only to cut back for the chorus. The dancer coming on to mirror him is a nice touch. If not for Ukraine appealing to my interests with the folk music this would be my favourite so far. Maybe the crescendo could have hit harder but it’s a serious contender.
16 Belgium: Jérémie Makiese – Miss You
His clothing is very ‘late 90s to early 2000s’ boy band with the silver jacket and blue jeans combo. It’s subdued but rhythmic which is really good. Another contender for winning potentially. The jerky head movements of the dancers remind me of certain scenes from Jacob’s Ladder and Silent Hill. Ends with trying to hit a note and… eh, maybe should have finished it a different way.
More host jokes. The female host pushes the official CD and DVD merchandise. He jokes he collected them since he was born. He is 32? No he is 38…
17 Greece: Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord – Die Together
A ballad and Norton likes the staging but we are seeing it in a batch of ballads so he fears it will be forgotten. Intense close up… She reminds me of Daisy Ridley in the Star Wars films due to the hair style. Woof. It’s a very nice song and the simple backlit staging assists it. I like the silhouetted dancers/video in the background. I really like it the longer it goes on but I can see it getting buried unfortunately though in any other context this would be a wildly beloved song people would be humming as they went about their daily lives.
18 Iceland: Systur – Með Hækkandi Sól
They’re sisters. The man is their brother. Norton compared them to The Corrs. He also says one of the sisters looks like Princess Beatrice. Woof. An American country/folk music style entry. It has that 1970s feel more than the one Norton considered retro. I enjoyed it but, while it stands out, I don’t think it’ll get much votes wise though this is the sort of song you think of when someone mentions classic Eurovision type songs. The brother is set off to one side so… you know they had the dad vote in mind. He really is like the brother in The Corrs…
The ballads are now done according to Norton.
19 Moldova: Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers – Trenulețul
Norton deems it a party starter. You think it’ll be like the Beastie Boys and then they break out a polka. This, musically, is very much a Eurovision novelty entry. It’s fun. You’ll either love it or hate it. I’m not sure what more I could really say. It’s like if you got members from multiple popular groups of the 80s and 90s and had them all perform together trying to make something to appeal to a young audience… this should have been the opening act to set the energy levels for the night.
20 Sweden: Cornelia Jakobs – Hold Me Closer
Sparkly strings over a sports bra top, short hair cut, heavy mascara with smokey eye shadow. Very 90s pop act costume but usually one you see in an ensemble girl group or dance troupe. Woof. It’s a relatively standard song. Very good but I am not sure will make it have that little something to get votes above other entries. It builds and I enjoy it but this could have been entered in any year and done about the same I feel. The costume and staging feel like they could have had more effort put into them. Norton thinks it’ll be at the top of the leader boards.
More host humour? What did you do for Eurovision in the past to enjoy it? Salty snacks, gathering with family? Considers it magical. He thanks the Eurovision and the artists.
21 Australia: Sheldon Riley – Not The Same
Did various ‘_____’s got talent’ talent contests around the world. The mask is interesting. It’s very ‘The Cell‘ (specifically the iconic costume designs of Eiko Ishioka). The song is interesting. The staging is impressive. I’m trying not to say ‘he reminds me of the comic book’s version of Hellraiser’s Pinhead…’ but the costume does share elements of the designs. It’s a good song. I can see it do well but… maybe not quite in the top five. Then the mask comes off and you see every hair of his eye brows has been fixed in place. It ends suddenly and he thanks the crowd. Nice.
A sing along by the hosts of a song from the past. I missed which one but you would recognise it instantly and the crowd sang along with it.
22 United Kingdom: Sam Ryder – SPACE MAN
It got a cheer when announced. Norton says it’s a good sign. The singer has many followers on TikTok. Norton believes it’s special. A high pitched singing voice, retro futurism frames for staging. An interesting detailed/embroidered jumpsuit of beads and pearls. Very anthemic. If this doesn’t do well it’s going to be bizarre. You can hear the crowd singing along too it seems. It’s not my sort of song usually but there are some nice elements to it. It’s both classic Eurovision but also very modern. A powerhouse performance as Norton described it.
The green room with the hosts. It’s in the centre with the hosts. They wander around a few of the competitors. They approach Ukraine but deny the singer the microphone as they’re moving onto the next act.
23 Poland: Ochman – River
Norton compares him to Gary Barlow and thinks he didn’t choose the dancers who accompany him. A nice rain effect. A man in a suit. A falsetto voice. Dancers who seem to be flailing about. I like the song. The dancers seem an odd addition due to their costumes more than anything. It’s quite good so will do well but I’m not sure it will do too well. Thanks the audience. As in previous years Poland tends to be a bit more experimental/risk taking in their entries in some ways.
24 Serbia: Konstrakta – In Corpore Sano
Performance art with a Eurovision song attached – apparently about private health insurance/case in Serbia according to Norton. A political entry. The main singer woof in a weirdly ‘how American comedy films depict middle aged European women as S&M mistresses with severe fringe haircuts’. I assume it is meant to symbolise the health care industry washing their hands clean of responsibility. As for the song… it’s what it is… Interesting but not something I feel Eurovision will like. It seemed to confuse people in the crowd according to Norton. It probably should have been put between some of the ballads to break them up a bit. I like it – but not as a song in a song contest.
25 Estonia: Stefan – Hope
With a title like that it was inevitably going to be either at the start or end. A man with a guitar in double denim or leather. It’s an uplifting anthemic piece. Very enjoyable. It has guitar chords like a wild west movie but used for a Eurovision song. He has the audience sing along with him. Very good. It’ll do okay but there are more serious contenders.
A reminder of all the performers.
Then last year’s winners ‘Måneskin‘ performed. They have worked in America and are on the recent Elvis biopic soundtrack too apparently. They remind me of the Stone Temple Pilots. Then one of the hosts talked with them saying he felt old but also proud as he saw them when they were starting. The lead singer jokes that his advice is ‘don’t get too close to the table’ to the people in the green room. Norton suggests googling it. Here is the moment to save you time.
They then performed a short piece of their cover of Elvis’ song ‘If I Can Dream’.
Another reminder of the competitors for those who are voting at home.
One host did a floating head discussion about phones and social media and saying he has a puffy nose. Then it’s revealed he is in a green body suit in the green room. Norton notes that whatever they’re paying him it’s not enough.
The entire room sang with her as she stood alone on the stage. Clearly a living legend whose still got it as far as the home crowd are concerned.
Then a VT about fashion at Eurovision discussing the costumes over the years. It really does show how tame it’s become in recent years though they showed a few from last year right at the very end.
More green room quasi-interviews before the next VT. About how people react to winning or sitting during the votes counting. Norton mentions it will be for the UK as we stand a chance of not coming at the absolute bottom of the scoreboard.
‘Magical Mika‘, as Norton called him, does another medley.
This time with lots of dancers. NOW I KNOW WHO HE IS! Well… that’s awkward… I did recognise him but couldn’t name who he was as I’ve not seen him in years. He’s good in a ‘pop music I forgot existed’ way. It’s a fun medley and you can tell a lot of work went into it to get everything perfectly timed and choreographed. I haven’t known the hosts in other years so it’s interesting to finally ‘get’ one of these ‘waiting for the votes’ medleys rather than being out of the loop of what it is I’m watching at this point in the show.
Another run through of all the competitors then the voting ended.
A female astronaut on the space station sends a message. Norton mocks her hair.
The head honcho of the Eurovision panel confirms they have the jury points. He almost said invalidated the results but corrected himself. Norton mocks it’s his catchphrase to confirm they’ve got the count.
The hosts explain about 12 points, the entry that gets the most points wins (surprising I know) and it’s a sum total of the juries and public votes with the juries representing 50% of each nations vote.
Points given to the United Kingdom by the jury votes
4 points for the UK form the Netherlands – Norton declares we are winning already (compared to other years)! Weird duvet coat as Norton notes. San Marino gave us 8 points. North Macedonia gave us 8 points – woof. Malta gave us 8 points. Ukraine woof gave us 12 points! Albania gave us 10 points. Estonia gave us 4 points. (At the moment we were in the lead).
Azerbaijan gave us 12 points! Portugal gave us 10 points. Germany gave us 12 points! Belgium gave us 12 points! Norway gave us 6 points. Israel gave us 10 points. Poland woof gave us 8 points (12 points to Ukraine and Norton notes he thought more would go that way but it is a song contest). Greece woof gave us nothing! Moldova woof gave us 10 points – 12 to Ukraine. Bulgaria gave us 10 points. Serbia woof gave us 1 point. Iceland gave us 7 points. Cyprus gave us 3 points (Norton jokes other years we would be pleased with three but this year how quickly we forget). Latvia woof over the top headdress gave us 8 points – 12 to Ukraine. Spain woof gave us 3 points. Switzerland woof but little girl dress though gave us 6 points. Denmark gave us 6 points.
The United Kingdom is still in the lead at this point.
They interview our representative and Norton notes we never get interviewed in the green room. As always a positive message by our representative saying how everyone competing is a credit to the sense of unity.
France woof gave us 12 points. Armenia gave us nothing (which this year is the outlier result compared to the past few years where it was the norm). Montenegro gave us 5 points – they gave Serbia 12 points. Romania gave us 8 points. Ireland gave us 8 points. Slovenia gave us 2 points. Georgia gave us 12 points. Croatia gave us nothing – 12 points to Serbia. Lithuania gave us 10 points – 12 to Ukraine. Austria gave us 12 points.
The United Kingdom is still in the lead!
Finland gave us 10 points. The UK, represented by AJ in Greater Manchester, gave our 12 points to Sweden. Sweden woof pregnant with a flat stomach gave us 8 points. Australia gave us nothing – 12 points to Spain. The Czech Republic woof gave us 12 points. Italy woof gothic gave us 6 points – 12 to the Netherlands.
After the jury votes the UK are leading the score board!
Germany has 0 points at this stage and France has 9 points.
Again with the UK representative and Norton jokes some of the team wish they had dressed up more having assumed we wouldn’t do this well. Again the rep is very positive.
Head honcho confirms the tele-votes are in but we will only know our votes last as we are at the top of the rankings.
The hosts explain how the votes work once more.
Now for the tele-vote… which could overturn everything…
Points given to the United Kingdom by the public vote
I’ll cherry pick the tele-vote for big shifts in position.
Germany got 6 points in the end so no one is going home with the dreaded ‘nil point’. France ends with 17 points.
The Rasmus were happy with 26 points for Finland – in fairness it wasn’t a year for rock music it seems. Moldova got 253 points rocketing up near the top suddenly!
Norway got 182 points in the end. Estonia 141 points in the end. Poland 151 points. Switzerland got 0 public vote points – brutal but they got a cheer as we got previously thankfully.
Serbia was given a collective 312 points which shifted them into the lead! Norton notes it’s a big upset so they’ll be top 5 but not the winners. Azerbaijan got 3 public votes so quite different from some of the jury votes where they scored well. The delegations show support to each other. Italy got 268 in the end so the possible agenda of ‘do well but don’t win’ was achieved if intended as Norton speculated.
Ukraine got 192 from the juries and combined with the public vote got 439 points so they’ve got 631 points in total! It’s been 10 years we are on the left side of the score board so there’s no shame as Norton noted.
Spain had a total of 459 so the 50 years since winning continues.
Sweden had a total of 438 points.
UK needed over 300 votes and Norton felt it was unlikely. We got 183 points WE GOT SECOND PLACE! IT’S STILL A MASSIVE VICTORY FOR US!
Ukraine won. Our tele-vote gave awarded the United Kingdom’s 12 points to them.
The lead vocalist shouted Slava Ukraini (Ukainian victory/glory to Ukraine – but in the same way in Welsh we say Cymru am Byth – ‘Wales forever’ – it’s not a strictly political statement… but… well… it kind of is. Even if the hosts were talking of peace and such immediately after.
Is it a political vote that won it for Ukraine? Well not by official bodies but ‘the public have spoken’ it appears. My concern is how are Ukrainian citizens going to feel about hosting it when the nation may still be in the middle of a conflict this time next year? (I hope they’re not but, this time last year, could anyone have seriously predicted this conflict would even exist let alone at the stage it is at?) It would be a drain on an economy which can’t afford it just to make other European nations feel like they’re showing support.
Will the Eurovision officials try to have it hosted in another nation as a proxy? Presumably they’ll host it right on the western edge of Ukraine in one of the western most cities – most likely Lviv which is a tourism hot spot and deemed “More quintessentially Ukrainian than the rest of the country, and distinctly more European” than other western Ukrainian cities by Lonely Planet.
Was it a given they would win? As I said I am biased as I have listened to Ukrainian folk music for years so cannot say. From what I recall, the votes have not looked too well on overtly region specific folk music entries in the past and especially not on rap so this is either a massive shift in pan-European tastes or something else shifted people’s voting views and there’s an obvious ‘show of support’ variable clear and present. Remove the rap and this is just like a song off one of the CDs I have.
Of course you could also make the same sort of assessment asking why the United Kingdom did so well this year compared to the past ten years. That is relatively obvious from a political point of view regarding being involved in a war and then later, in frustration, entering representatives who were gradually less polished than previous. I think last year was a turning point where we put forward an entry who clearly had made a recognisable effort without it feeling jaded. This year was an all out charm offensive with someone who clearly had an international following via social media so he was well known abroad while we put forward ‘famous in the UK’ entries prior or novelty acts during the lowest point just to show our faces since we were one of the ‘big 5’ contributors and so ‘obligated’ to appear whether the acts deserved it or not.
So the United Kingdom is taking this as the best case scenario for us as it’s not overshadowed Ukraine but we’ve proven we are capable of competing successfully.
Overall I felt it was dull. Not subdued, not that entries didn’t make an effort, just that it seemed like everything had a clinical gloss to it. You expect some level of artifice to the Eurovision as everything is embellished but, if anything, there felt less of a festive sense of wonder to the entire thing and more of a corporate sensibility on how things were presented. Could you honestly say any acts really represented the culture of their nation? A bull fighter’s jacket here, a fabric pattern there but only Ukraine seemed to really seem, on sight, unmistakably representative of their nation’s traditional aspects while others were very modern and therefore homogenous. But perhaps that is just me trying to recall the entries a few hours later and feeling it was more of a youth entertainment assembly than nations showing the best of their cultures.
I’ll check in the next day or two for anything that needs tidying up in the post.