After the drama of the semi-finals (especially the second one) the biggest night of the year finally arrived and it was time for the 58th Eurovision Song Contest from the Malmo Arena in Sweden.
The show began with a travelogue starting in last year’s host city, Baku to Malmo in the form of the life of a butterfly. There was a touch of the Olympics about the next part of the opening sequence, with the 26 artists walking across the on-stage bridge behind a flag-bearer to a song called We Write the Story, sung by a choir. Host, Petra Mede made her first appearance of the evening and welcomed the world to Malmo before briefly explaining how the contest was created all those years ago. Then it was time for the music!
France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’enfer Et Moi – The French usually send a song that is chic and sophisticated but that you feel will not do as well on the night as it should. In a few years time, this song will still sound good while others from this contest will attract a bemused response and thoughts of “how did that make the final?” Amandine smouldered on stage and sold her soft rock song very well.
Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something – This was the big surprise qualifier from the first semi-final. While it is a pleasant enough song and was given an adequate performance, it didn’t sound strong enough to make the final. Having got there, he made the most of his chance, playing to the camera for all he was worth.
Moldova – Aliona Moon – O Mie – Aliona grew in stature during her performance, literally! She maintained her concentration as she was raised into the air, her dress extending so that the bottom stayed rooted to the floor. In fact, her dress was the showpiece of the three minutes, designed in such a way as to allow lighting effects to glow through it. It was a wise move to sing in Romanian as the English lyrics are very repetitive and would have taken the edge off a very good powre ballad.
Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me – And the award for worst lyrics goes to…..Finland! Krista was adorned in one of the most inappropriate wedding dresses ever designed and, although she tried her best, the whole thing was twee and irritating. The three ‘male’ backing dancers transformed themselves into bridesmaids near the end. The blatant political statement at the end of the performance should have resulted in disqualification if rules were to be adhered to, but all things considered, that was never likely to happen.
Spain – ESDM – Contigo Hasta El Final – Is this the Spanish entry or another Irish song? Celtic sounds abound and lead singer Raquel del Rosario’s voice even has a Celtic lilt to it. Once the song gets going, it’s actually a very pleasant listen. The problem is that it takes too long to get to that stage.
Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills – Another talent show winner, another nervous performance! Chosen from one of the most bizarre national selections of the season, the version presented in Malmo was much improved on the version that won the Belgian final. If love didn’t kill him, the choreography might! Two sour-faced dancers surrounded Roberto, looking like they were being forced to dance for their supper. Helpfully, the lyrics were shown on the video wall in the unlikely event the viewers wanted to sing along.
Estonia – Birgit Oigemeel – Et Uus Saaks Alguse – Simplicity was the order of the day for the Estonians. Birgit’s gentle ballad was given a simple presentation, starting in black and white. Even the video wall was not over-used (something to be grateful for these days) showing uncomplicated yellow images throughout.
Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh – Occasionally, a good song is ruined by the staging. The two performing monkeys prancing around Alyona like an ancient Belarusian mating ritual added nothing, neither did her emergence from a giant glitter ball at the start. Not that most men would have noticed as they would have been staring at what there was of Alyona’s dress. Solayoh is easily strong enough to stand on its own two feet and was one of the catchiest songs of the night. You’ll still be singing it later in the week, you know you will!
Malta – Gianluca – Tomorrow – The Maltese song tells the story of a lonely man finally finding love in a chirpy style. Gianluca couldn’t stop smiling as he presented his George Formby- in-sombre mood style ditty.
Russia – Dina Garipova – What If – This is a peach of a song, at least judging by the colours present of stage! Dina won the Russian version of ‘The Voice’ and her performance showed us why, even if she was a little nervous. Hers is an anthemic ballad and appeal for everyone to love each other. How could it possibly fail?
Germany – Cascada – Glorious – There is always one song that causes a bit of controversy and this year it was provided by Germany. Accusations of plagiarism were made about Glorious due to its similarities with Euphoria, the victorious song from last year. The style is similar, starting slowly and building to the anthemic chorus. There is a female soloist (don’t be fooled by the group name, it’s all about lead singer Natalie) and both have one word titles. Even the lyrics follow a similar theme. However, the tune is sufficiently different for the accusations to fall on deaf ears.
Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet – On the face of it, the Armenian entry has among the best credentials of any of the participants this year as it was written by Black Sabbath guitarist, Tony Iommi. However, the words have been heard a million times before and the melody, in as much as there is one, lacks a solid structure. That it managed to reach the final was one of the biggest shocks in the history of the contest.
The Netherlands – Anouk – Birds – After The Netherlands failed yet again to reach the final in 2012, Anouk, one of the most popular singers in her country, put herself forward to change the nation’s fortunes. Birds is a song that was likely to go down well with the juries, so it was a question of how the public would react. It managed to achieve the remarkable combination of sounding unusual while at the same time being familiar. Maybe it was Anouk’s unique voice which brought the sense of the original. Her extremely professional performance demonstrated why countries should ask an experienced singer to fly the flag instead of a talent show winner.
Romania – Cezar – It’s my Life – Pop-opera anyone? Cezar’s voice is remarkable but he was very close to the point of being over dramatic in his vocal gymnastics, facial expressions and hand gestures. There was nothing understated about his ‘Dracula in camp mode’ cloak, either. All of this makes the song memorable – that was probably the point, but it was too over the top by a considerable margin.
United Kingdom – Bonnie Tyler – Believe in Me – As usual, the rumour mill in the U.K. was rife with speculation as to who would follow in Engelbert Humperdinck’s footsteps. One name mentioned was Bonnie Langford so perhaps someone was muddling their Bonnie lasses! The B.B.C. had managed to persuade another big star to represent the country. She gave us a country style ballad that went down well in the fan polls prior to the contest. It was a good decision to give her a backing band, not so good to give her choreography, even if it was limited to arm and hip movements. She should have been allowed to be natural.
Sweden – Robin Stjernberg – You – Early impressions of those arriving in Malmo were that Sweden would suffer the same fate as befell their own Christer Bjorkman
when the contest was last in Malmo in 1992, when he finished in second
last place. You is an up-tempo song that struggles to get going and
passes by virtually unnoticed. Robin did his absolute best but the
material didn’t give him much to work with. Even looking like Jedward after a haircut couldn’t save him.
Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem – Part of the charm of this song is the Hungarian language, it just wouldn’t have worked if he had sung in English. If the preview videos formed part of the scoring, there would be no doubt Hungary would be in the top 5 and there was a lot of good feeling towards ByeAlex, but that is not always enough. What was performed was an alluring folk-like tune which had the audience clapping along with from the start, just like it did in the semi-final. The presence of Hungary in the final showed that it is possible to reach the final without an over-elaborate performance, lots of flashing lights or ridiculous gimmicks. Ukrainians and Romanians take note!
Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops – Going into the two weeks of rehearsals, Denmark was both the bookies and fans favourite for victory. She even started the song sitting on the floor a là Loreen. With the help of a couple of extras from the revolution scene of Les Miserables, the presentation added to the enduring nature of the song. The pyrotechnics induced a sense that the Danes felt they had it all wrapped up. Time would tell.
Iceland – Eypor Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Eg a Lif – Things calmed down a bit with the arrival of the Icelandic song on the stage. The Icelandics seem to know how to make very effective use of the video wall, and this year was no exception, with a beautiful coastal scene complimenting the atmosphere on stage. The preview video was one of the best, too. All the effort that had clearly been made to prepare the song for Malmo had paid off. Eypor’s backing singers walked on stage to flank the main man at precisely the right moment as the song started to build in an undramatic but very effective way.
Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me – The hosts of the 2012 contest came back strongly this year. The choreography on a clear box was totally unnecessary and having a dancer inside it acting as a mirror image of Farid was risky. One wrong move and they’re rumbled! That said the powerful instrumental break after only the first chorus was very striking and took the song up a notch early. Women all over the continent swooned – probably.
Greece – Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol is Free – So that’s why the country is bankrupt! Anyway, do you want to have fun? Do you want to dance? Do you want to sing along? Then your time has come, my friends! The Greeks are among the biggest culprits when it comes to a vastly overblown stage presentation of a song, but this year, although there was plenty going on, it seemed to work in a bizarre way. A good thing too, as the song doesn’t scrub up to much when only listened to. More credible songs were left behind in the semi-final, but the contest isn’t just about the song anymore!
Ukraine – Zlata Ignevich – Gravity – On the strength of what was put in front of the audience, this song did not deserve to qualify! Carried on stage by a giant (yes, really!) Zlata did her best with a messy song that lacked anything worthy of being in the final. However, Ukraine is one of those countries that always seems to qualify no matter what. It makes you wonder how dreadful a song Ukraine would have to enter to not make final would be!
Italy – Marco Mengoni – L’Essenziale – Fresh from his victory the Sanremo festival with the same song, Marco arrived in Malmo as one of the favourites. The staging was kept lucid, Marco didn’t even have any backing singers. His is a steady ballad that moves along at almost the same pace throughout without becoming plodding.
Norway – Margaret Berger – I feed You my Love – Continuing the trend this year of the ladies dressing in white, Margaret brought with her a contemporary pop song. It would have been all too easy to create a stage show that would have been too dynamic, but the choreographer showed restraint. It was left to Margaret to deliver a strong vocal in order to sell the song and she repaid the faith put in her.
Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall – Written by Sweden’s Thomas G:Son, who is quickly becoming the new Ralph Siegel given his prolificacy and willingness to write for any country that will have him, Georgia’s ballad is of the ‘big’ variety. The pyrotechnic golden shower at the point when the song builds is predictable but effective. Other than that, Nodi and Sophie where left by themselves to get on with it. The producers would have had questions to answer had it won, given a fellow Swede wrote a song that they put at the end.
Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love – Moving away from the (probably enforced) trend of the last couple of years, the main singer of the Irish song actually sung the lead vocal instead of the ‘backing’ singers. Drums and Celtic images were to the fore for the high energy number. I wonder how long it took the backing dancers to have the body paint applied.
While the good people of Europe were phoning and texting their votes, Loreen, wearing one of Roger Pontare’s rejects, sang a medley of her hits which inevitably included the reason we were in Malmo, Euphoria. After declaring the voting lines closed, Petra sang a humourous song about the delights of Sweden. When she had caught her breath, she concluded her voyage through the history of the contest that she had started during the semi-finals. Swedish singer, Sarah Dawn Finer, a name very familiar to fans through her participation in the Melodifestivalen, sang a slowed down version of Abba’s The Winner Takes it All.
When San Marino started the voting, they gave nothing to favourites Denmark and the maximum to Greece. After the sixth country, the United Kingdom, had voted, Denmark had taken the lead. At the half stage, Denmark was still in the lead with, surprisingly, Ukraine chasing them. With a few sets of votes to be given, Denmark could not be caught and her walk from the Green Room started early. Azerbaijan finished second and Ukraine somehow ended up in third place. Being drawn last did not help Ireland, as that was also where the finished the evening on the scoreboard. Maybe we can expect the return of Jedward next year!
So, a short trip across the Øresund Bridge next year to Copenhagen where we will go through all the excitement and drama all over again.