Here we are! It’s Saturday, it’s mid-May, we’re wearing glitter, it can only mean one thing – it’s the final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. By now you may well know the result, but please feel free to play along with the fun. For fun is what we shall have, as we traipse one last time to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
I’m in the pub, there are approximately 30 drunk Eurofans behind me (of course I got there early to get the best seat!), and as usual, we will have 26 acts for our delectation, as well as one or two, shall we say, less expected moments…
And as was the case last year, there is a twist to the voting – we’ll get all the jury (ie. technical) scores first, then move to all of the public scores, and as we saw in 2016, that can turn the result on its head. So where will we be heading in 2018? Let’s find out…
Opening things up for us is Israel’s Imri, a great party-starter – it’s I Feel Alive. You can’t fail to be impressed by this guy’s biceps, I mean, musical ability, musical ability. Actually really enjoying this one, but I am not sure if the first spot may mean he suffers come the voting.
A similarly tricky place to be for Poland, who are up second – tricky, because no one has ever performed second and won. Kasia Mos is highly unlikely to break that tradition with Flashlight.
Belarus continue the fun (ish), Naviband sailing their hovercraft into the arena to perform Story of My Life. I don’t remember this being as upbeat as it was tonight, so perhaps there’s something doing here.
Some felt this was a surprise qualifier – Nathan Trent from Austria, but the lad can certainly sing. Here’s Running On Air. I can’t say it does it for me, but if he can make the final, he can win it – everyone knows that…
Artsvik are representing Armenia this May, and by goodness, it’s bright. Fly With Me. Please.
Now, I know one should never make Eurovision predictions, because in (ahem) 30+ years, I think I’ve called it right the grand total of once, but surely The Netherlands have a strong chance of taking the title? OG3NE perform Lights and Shadows. Listening to this back today, I am less sure about their vocals but their sheer professionalism has won over a lot of the room. As have their dresses…
Another strong contender, it’s Moldova’s Sunstroke Project, with Hey Mamma! What this song benefits from is immediacy and good humour – both should stand it in good stead at the end of the night.
The mood will have to come down slightly now, for Hungary’s Joci Papai, and his song Origo. Yep, this has bathroom break written all over it. Sorry Hungary, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.
Italy next – the first of the ‘big five’ and the first we haven’t seen live yet. It’s Francesco Gabbani with Occidentale’s Karma. There’s definitely a gimmick, some might say two gimmicks – the ape and the orchestra shouting “Allez!” Except – no orchestra. And the whole thing just feels a bit flat. I’m sad to say that I don’t think this pre-contest favourite has hit the high many were predicting.
Denmark’s Anja is here, with Where I Am. I have to confess I pulled Denmark out of the hat in the sweepstake this evening and traded it with a friend for Greece. You can see how much confidence we have in both of these countries…
The bookmakers think Portugal has a very good chance here with Salvador Sobral. His song is Amar Pelos Dois, which translates as something like Love For Us Both, or Love For Two. He has the room holding its breath, and of course, the camera lights are out in force. I don’t know if I’d be able to sing it back to you tomorrow, but I do know that this will take some beating.
Without Russia, this year, I think Azerbaijan has a great chance of being the top placed country from this part of Europe. Dihaj performs Skeletons, and very much ups her game from her semi-final during the week.
I’ve made my feelings on Croatia clear before, so I won’t go into it again, but I’d be grateful if this was the last time I ever had to hear it. It’s Jacques Houdek and My Friend.
Australia are up next – it’s Isaiah, with Don’t Come Easy. I’m still not 100% sure about this one, but I do think he’s grown in confidence and makes a far better job of his performance tonight. Should go top 10, minimum.
Greece. Oh Greece. Demy is back with This Is Love, but will she attempt those high notes tonight? Yes, yes she will, and she’ll bloody nail them. A much better performance from Greece.
Now it’s time for another artist we haven’t seen before, big fiver Spain – their entrant is Manel, he’s going for a surfboard vibe, exhorting us to Do It For Your Lover. And why not? There are few better people to do it for. That said, I have a very bad feeling about this one for the Spanish. It’s a little flat.
Jowst’s back for Norway now, with Grab The Moment. It’s grown on me, this one, even though those face masks just freak me out. It’s a very ‘of its time’ tune, so perhaps that will shove it further up the results table.
The United Kingdom up now in the 18th spot, which is hopefully not where they will come when we hit voting later on. The UK entrant is Lucie Jones, singing Never Give Up On You, which many have dubbed Never Give Up On EU… Lucie really does give it everything, she is using her musical theatre training to the max, and she is backed by absolutely lovely gold graphics and lights. Look: the UK is not going to win on the basis of this, but it’s a far better showing than in previous years, and Lucie should be very proud.
Where has the time gone? We’re not far from the end now. Hovig’s Gravity comes next, for Cyprus. Whilst we have seen several performers drastically up their game from the semi-finals, I hate to say this but I think Cyprus may have gone in the opposite direction. The edge is not there. I still really enjoyed it though.
If you like yodelling, you’ll love Romania – Ilinca feat. Alex Florea, with Yodel It. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a sense of humour (honestly), and I think they are very good at what they do – it’s just not for me.
Germany – now poor old Deutschland came last in 2016, and I hate to say it, I really genuinely do, but I fear they could be in for the same fate in 2017. Levina is performing Perfect Life in a rather lovely dress.
Host nation Ukraine are up next, another we haven’t heard before. It’s O. Torvald with Time. This really mixes things up. We’ve not had any real rock like this this evening, and although it won’t score highly, it’s good to have this here.
Belgium’s Blanche (not actually her real name. She’s called Ellie!) will be needing a really strong performance of City Lights tonight. And hallelujah, she pulls it off. She still doesn’t really look like she wants to be there (maybe she doesn’t!) , but her vocals are strong and she looks a lot more comfortable on stage. This might be my favourite…
Another big hitter, Sweden, with Robin Bengtsson’s I Can’t Go On. He’ll be happier here closer to the end of the show than he was in the first spot in the semi-final, and yes, just like Blanche before him, gives an absolute barnstormer. I Can’t Go On is rather like the Moldovan entry in that it’s very immediate – if you haven’t seen the show before, then you hear this, you know exactly what’s going on. AND YOU LIKE IT.
I can’t help but feel there’s something tactical in the placing of Bulgaria in the penultimate spot… but am assured it’s all done through special musical algorithms… Anyway it’s Kristian Kostov’s Beautiful Mess. Just 17 years of age. I don’t know what I was doing at 17, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t representing my country at an international singing competition wearing a very sharp suit.
And last but by no means least, it’s France – dear Alma and Requiem. Lovely. Cracking use of graphics, a charming little song, and maybe there’ll be a Macron bounce? All will be revealed. Lovely.
What will this year’s interval bring us? It’s probably not going to be up there with last year, sad to say, but we know it will be unique, and most probably feature Ukrainian Euro legends Ruslana, Jamala and Verka Serduchka.
Hahaha. I drafted that before the show, so how was I to know that really the most interesting thing about the interval would be a streaker wrapped in an Australian flag waving his bum around whilst some poor Ukrainian tried to sing? Much to the disgust of Australians everywhere, this guy was actually revealed as a well-known Ukrainian prankster Vitalii Sediuk (thus pretty much confirming our view of pranks as “the worst”)
There’s also an ‘hilarious’ skit with the three hosts and previous winner Mans Zelmerlow that all four will probably want to forget. So let’s get to the voting, and despite Euro head honchos telling us that this new split system provides more tension and can turn everything on its head, it’s clear who our winner is from pretty early on. I won’t take you through all the votes as you will be getting this post quite late after the event, but here’s the top 10, in reverse order:
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral is the victor, and his emotional reaction (so emotional he has to let his sister Luisa take over the singing!) will linger long in the memory. It’s a fairytale for the Portuguese in many ways: this is the first time in 53 years that they have won, and over the past decade alone, they have been unable to take part several times for financial reasons. The president of Portugal has sent Salvador a message of congratulations and he is using his platform to speak out for refugees, all while suffering with a serious heart condition. There’s nothing here to even be snarky about.
A respectable 15th place for the UK, 12th for France, and sadly the wooden spoon goes to Spain, who managed just five points (contrast that with Portugal’s 758… or maybe don’t)
This probably wasn’t a vintage Eurovision year, but we enjoyed it nonetheless and I can highly recommend having a birthday clash with a major cultural event, because everyone is happy on the day when you feel tired and old, thus dragging your own mood upwards. Lisbon 2018 is looking very likely, and I have already reserved my accommodation (not a joke)