The 58th Eurovision Song Contest was one of changes. There were amendments to how the running order was drawn, to the voting system, countries changed their songs and bands changed their names.
In order that the running order put the songs in a more balanced order, the producers made a decision to decide the order for themselves. The thought process behind this was to make sure that there wasn’t a run of four or five up-tempo songs or lots of ballads/female singers/male singers in a row to create a more interesting show. Fans from Reykjavik to Jerusalem were quick to express their disgust at this decision, believing the lack of transparency of the proposed system would bring the contest into disrepute. SVT compromised and instead suggested each country be put into either the top or bottom half of the running order via an open draw and then be place by the producers into a particular slot in the show. This applied for both semi-finals and the final.
For the voting, the system of a combined public and jury vote remained. However, the juries, instead of giving each song points and then adding the scores up at the end, ranked the songs in order of preference. After the contest, this led to allegations of impropriety and unfulfilled demands that all jury votes should be released so that everyone could see that the votes were fair, although some countries did voluntarily release their own jury votes. Russia was apoplectic that Azerbaijan did not give their singer any points at all, claiming that Dina Garipova should have received 10 points. The Azeri authorities, wanting to keep their neighbour sweet, promised an investigation. Even if it were true (and no proof was forthcoming) it would have made absolutely no difference to the overall placings.
Alyona Lanskaya represented Belarus…..finally! She won the national final in 2012 but, after interference, sorry, intervention by public demand, from the president, she was withdrawn and Litesound sent in her place. She won the final again in 2013 (is anyone else suspicious?) with the Lady GaGa esque Rhythm of Love. By the time she went to Malmö, Belarus had changed their song (they nearly always do) to Solayoh. Bulgaria also changed their song from the very ethnic Kismet to the not quite as ethnic Samo Shampioni. The Macedonians were originally offered a song called Imperija. They didn’t like it and so it was changed to Pred Da Se Razdeni, which was generally thought of elsewhere as vastly inferior.
The changes didn’t end there. In Switzerland, a band featuring members of The Salvation Army won the right to go to Sweden. In the final, the competed under the name, Heilsarmee. Not only that, but they also wore the uniforms. This breaches EBU rules and so they became Takasa and wore civvies.
One or two well know names lined up with the talent show winners. After much rumour and speculation, Bonnie Tyler was announced as the UK representative. Many names had been included in the rumblings. One was Bonnie Langford but perhaps someone was getting their Bonnies in a twist! In the German selection, dance act Cascada won through. Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi wrote the Armenian song, although he resisted the temptation to be part of the on-stage shenanigans.
There were two familiar acts on show in Malmo. Valentina Monetta made it two years in a row for San Marino and Elytsa and Stoyan returned for their native Bulgaria.
Of the participants from 2012, Slovakia, Bosnia and Portugal withdrew for financial reasons, while Turkey withdrew in a protest at the voting system. After withdrawing from the Azeri held contest the previous year for security reasons, Armenia returned giving us a total of 39 participating countries and songs.