Eurovision Song Contest 2019: better late than never?

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It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to provide you with the now-customary semi-finals and final blogs for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. OF COURSE I was watching, but my current project is a bit all-consuming, plus I’m living away from home which is emotionally all-consuming, plus plus plus – enough of the excuses.

Here’s ya post.

As the dust begins to settle, I’d like to take a look back on the events of the past week or so and we’ll all see if, as a family, we can make sense of what we’ve witnessed.

Let’s get the politics out the way first. Israel was always going to be a very contentious place to host the contest. We’ve discussed not mixing sport and politics before, we’ve very probably discussed not mixing music and politics before – but I think we have to agree now, in 2019, that that’s simply not possible. Your record as a nation IS going to come into it. I don’t want a week of protests; I don’t want a week of sticking our head in the sand either. I’m not sure a happy medium was achieved.

Now to the semi-finals.

The first one was an interesting one! Some of our favourite Eurofriends came and promptly went again (Portugal and Belgium, to name but two). The second semi was definitely this year’s Group of Death, with a lot of big-hitters like Russia (back and taking things VERY SERIOUSLY), Sweden and Norway in there. More Eurofriends, like Ireland and Lithuania, departed. There will definitely be a few enquiries back in everyone’s respective homes as to what went wrong (and indeed, what went right)

But it left us with an interesting mix for Saturday’s grand final. So here’s a rundown of the big night – and dedicated Eurowatchers will note the return of a few of our old friends – Sergey for Russia, Serhat for San Marino. I’m also really pleased about the amount that is sung in languages that are not English. We’ve seen a real move back to that in recent years and I think this can only be a good thing.

So we kicked things off with Malta! Michela Pace performed Chameleon – bless her, she was SO relieved to qualify, she looked petrified, but she absolutely nailed it. I always panic about people wearing plastic, because you know, I’d be a sweaty mess, but obviously Michela is not afflicted like me. A fine showing and a fun way to start the night.

Now we head to Albania, and I think it’d probably be fair to say, this was a surprise qualifier – Jonida Malaqi, with Ktheju tokës. That means ‘Return to the Land’, and it’s about Albanian emigration. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I really think this is classic Eurovision, and she really gave it a 100% improved performance from her semi-final!

Last year our friends Czech Republic brought Mikolas Josef to the attention of a grateful continent, finishing a wonderful sixth. This year – meet Lake Malawi:

Oof, yes. Dodgy east London accents, but a lot of fun and I’m a sucker for a synth.

Now we move to one of the so-called Big Five, and we have Germany – S!sters (their exclamation mark, not my typo), singing Sister. Surprise! They’re not really sisters! They’re very very pleased with their performance, but I confess I’m worried the smiles may soon be wiped off their faces by the votes.

As we all know (yes you do, keep up), Russia had a bad year last year – they didn’t qualify for the final, which was the first time that had happened. So you knew they’d pull out all the stops this year – and that most definitely was the case, as they sent Sergey Lazarev, who came third in 2016. This year’s song – Scream:

And you gotta say, he did a good job! Let’s see what happens come the voting.
Up next, it’s Denmark – Leonora performs Love is Forever, and I’m sorry but this is a bit twee for me. My cousins loved it though, so what do I know?

Have you ever wondered what Pitbull will look like when he’s older? Yes? Well, wonder no more, because Serhat is here, for San Marino, to answer your question. This is Say Na Na Na. I worry it hasn’t gone as well for them tonight, but if you were in the arena, I’d say you were just grateful for a bit of a dance!

Now it’s North Macedonia! Exciting times for them, new name and everything. Here we have Tamara Todevska in a lovely green frock, performing Proud. And (spoiler alert) (sort of), she can be very proud of what she has achieved tonight.

Anyone else got the slight sense that Sweden phoned it in a bit this year? Not to say it’s not a great song, it totally is, very immediate and a lovely gospelly section at the end, but it just lacks a certain “je ne sais quoi” for me. Or whatever the Swedish is for that. Their singer is John Lundvik, with Too Late for Love.

Slovenia were up next and sorry, but I really like this. It’s TOTALLY different to anything else in the contest. It’s otherworldly and they sort of do a toned down version of our favourite Eurotrope, yelling in each other’s faces. Yes the couple stuff is icky, and yes there were some great memes, but nice to see something different.

Would you like some pop fun? YES YOU WOULD. It’s Cyprus!

Ooh Tamta, you cheeky! This was probably my first obsession song from this year’s contest, and maybe I did overplay it a bit (but in my defence it is very good to march purposefully down the street to), but I think it’s a worthy successor to Eleni Foureira in 2018.

Our next artist is Duncan Laurence, from the Netherlands, with Arcade. This is the favourite with the bookmakers. I’ve always said betting on Euro is a mug’s game, because when did we ever guess the winner correctly? But we shall see…

 

My favourite friends Greece are here in the middle of the show – it’s Katerine Duska, with Better Love:

This makes me feel a bit emotional. I think it’s musically a very clever song, and the lyrics are lovely, and more than anything, it’s really a sign that Greece is understanding what it needs to do to move forward.

Our hosts Israel join us now – here’s Kobi Marimi with Home, which he surely is. May whatever spirit is watching over me strike me down, but I really did laugh at the end.

Another favourite next, it’s Norway – the group is KEiiNO, the song is Spirit in the Sky, and let’s be honest, this is a LOT of fun:

They’re a supergroup put together for the contest, and that special singing style is called joiking. It’s also partly sung in the Northern Sami language. Lots to learn, lots to love. Well done Norway.

I can but apologise for what you’re going to have to witness next. It’s the United Kingdom. Our act is Michael Rice, and he’s singing Better Than Us (co-written by Swedish entrant John Lundvik, by the way!) Now can I say this quickly – this is a good singer. A good song. It should come across way better. But I feel like, yet again, an artist from the UK has been let down by our organisers, who’ve just given him nothing to work with in terms of the staging. Anyway – I could rant about this for ages, but I fear the judges of Europe will not be kind…

To Iceland now, who have been receiving a lot of press in the run-up to the contest because – well, you take a look:

I am developing a crush on the lead singer and I don’t know how to feel about it.

Anyway what I do know is that Estonia are up next, Victor Crone is performing… something or other? I don’t know, because at our party, the Eurocrew took a vote, passed unanimously, to play Ukraine’s entry instead during his song. Ukraine should have sent Maruv with Siren Song, but for fun political reasons, she didn’t go. Pity, because it is an absolute TUNE:

We’re off to Belarus next, and Zena is performing Like It. Aye, it’s inoffensive, but not so special for me.

We have some clever Eurogimmicks for our next entrant though – Azerbaijan’s Chingiz is performing Truth, with some help from his robot surgeon friends. Now I happen to like this song a lot, but I will also acknowledge that Mr Chingiz is getting plenty of help from his backing vocalists. I no mind though. Nice arms Mr C!

Another country that was getting a lot of attention pre-contest is France. Will Bilal’s song Roi translate to the Euro mega stage? Let’s find out:

OK – yes, I think that was a job well done. Few things that were a bit “obvious” for me, but it’s another step in the right direction for France and a victory cannot be far away for them.

Another of our big five, it’s Mahmood for Italy, with Soldi. If you don’t do the handclaps you can’t sit at our table at lunch, sorry. Again, I think this is a real step in the right direction for Italy, and as you may have heard, he pissed off the far-right in his country, so Mahmood is doing some great work all round.

Tough job to follow that for Serbia – it’s Nevena Bozovic singing Kruna, which means The Crown, but I don’t think this song is about the history of the British royal family, sorry. All I remember of it is her dress, so that’s about as useful a summary as I can provide for you. In my defence we’re on song 23 and Switzerland’s fun bus is about to roll into town.

This is beautiful. To think we got to witness the exact moment in history when Switzerland understood Eurovision 2.0. Bravo! This is a great job and the shot in the arm we all needed as we headed into our third hour of Eurowatching. Don’t worry, we’re nearly there.

This next song is what we in the UK would call Marmite, after the advertising slogan for said product, which goes “you either love it or you hate it”. Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke performs Zero Gravity on top of a big wavy pole. I didn’t like it, but I was in a minority at our gathering (by which I mean, literally every other person liked it and I had to go to the bathroom for three minutes so they didn’t yell at me)

And last but by no means least, it’s Spain. Miki’s brought the party, with La Venda. Seems fun! I fear that this is going to go down like the proverbial lead balloon come voting time, mind you, but I liked the bright colours in the staging, and it was nice to have a bit of a dance, wasn’t it?

To the interval now, and we have a bit of a from the sublime to the ridiculous situation going on.

First we have what’s come to be known as the Switch Song – where four previous Eurofavourites take on each other’s songs. It’s a fucking TRIUMPH:

And after that, we head to Madonna. You probably heard she was going to be there. You probably read about how it went.

Madonna-Quavo
Madonna performing Future with Quavo. When asked by hosts what he thought of her, Quavo replied: “she great”. And you know what, she is.

I’m not going to criticise Madonna. It wasn’t a perfect performance; it probably didn’t need to be in Eurovision. But it’s lazy, sexist and ageist to go, “omg she looked like she was going to fall over and Like A Prayer didn’t sound like it did on a recording made in 1989”. Of course it bloody didn’t. For me, I’m not 100% sure if this type of performance (ie. by a global superstar) is what Eurovision needs going forward, but I don’t mind it every now and again.

Now to the voting. JEEZ.

The EBU was trying out a new system (this link will make you more confused) for delivering all the results, with the goal of increasing the tension. I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT THIS WORKED.

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Swedish entrant John Lundvik before voting – and after voting

Putting it simply, the whole set of results can get turned on its head, multiple times. For a good half hour, it looked like North Macedonia had won. You could almost hear their delegation wondering where on earth they were going to host thousands of Eurofans.

But we had a winner, oh yes we did – and it was….

THE NETHERLANDS! Duncan Laurence with Arcade.

Probably reflecting a general style in the charts at the moment, but it is a nice, memorable song, performed well, and it gave the Dutch a deserved win after a 45-year wait.

The top 10 was completed by Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Australia and Iceland. Gathering their wooden spoon – the United Kingdom, a result made even worse a few days later when it was revealed there had been an error with the Belarus jury’s points, meaning several scores were revised down – and the UK got even fewer than they had before. Michael Rice should NOT think this is about him. I really hope he is OK. We also feel for the German sisters who aren’t sisters, whose aggregated score meant they received a big fat ZERO from the voting public, which must be very upsetting, and again, I hope they are OK.

Overall – this was a great Eurovision. It wasn’t a vintage year, I don’t think that’s being unfair, but it was a marvellous show, and we’ve been left with a lot of great memories and a lot of great music. We’re in that awful comedown period now, where we think we can’t POSSIBLY get through the next 51 weeks. But we can, and we must, and WE WILL. See you in 2020…

About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them. (Update: two of them!)
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13 Responses to Eurovision Song Contest 2019: better late than never?

  1. Tracey says:

    I did not hear about Madonna’s performance! I would have thought she would count as bringing in a ringer, but apparently not!

    • gnidrah says:

      Ahhh I dunno. It *was* weird. But things like that, I feel like they set them up to fail, y’know? She couldn’t win. So I am going to back her, just cos.

      It did mean the show came in at a total of 225 minutes… Which was too much even for us obsessives. It was 2am before we finished and we were too exhausted to go out after.

  2. Kate says:

    I so wish I was allowed to view these videos! They sound fantastic from your descriptions. I feel like I might have told you all about this before, but I’m reading a funny, Hugo nominated sci-fi book called Space Opera and it’s about a Eurovision type contest but for the whole galaxy. Recommend! Especially for lovers of Eurovision.

    • gnidrah says:

      Oh I always forget they’re geo-whatevered. Drat. I think you’ll be able to view official videos so I’d recommend having a listen to Netherlands, Greece, Slovenia, just for starters.

      • hotspur says:

        I was able to google up some video despite living on the wrong side of the International Song Line.

        • gnidrah says:

          YESSSS

        • gnidrah says:

          What have you watched?!

        • hotspur says:

          I saw Slovenia’s rehearsal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkNZ5JM1Ss8) so I feel like I got the gist at least. Are they in high school? They look like juniors. I don’t know what “high school juniors” are called in Slovenia — if any Slovenians are lurking, this is your moment! Decloak! Help me! I also found the official lyrics video of Spirit in the Sky (which I sought partly because I wondered if it touched in any way on the Norman Greenbaum classic of the same title).

          (It did not.)

          Of course, non-performance Official Videos come through fine. I got a minute into the Maruv one before deciding the Sexiness Level was NSFW. It probably is safe, as I work in advertising, so all day I mainly erode social mores — but also, I have a standing desk, above the walls of the cube. So I’ll have to find out at home how Maruv’s story ends.

        • gnidrah says:

          Oh great, three faves. It’s been a wild old ride.

    • gnidrah says:

      Oh I always forget they’re geo-whatevered. Drat. I think you’ll be able to view official videos so I’d recommend having a listen to Netherlands, Greece, Slovenia, just for starters. And yes! I googled the book the other day – is it just one or a series?

  3. gnidrah says:

    All the replies. Great 😂

  4. taoreader says:

    I’m SO GLAD you posted about Eurovision. I have a lot of thoughts. I’m in the US and watch using a VPN. I have a subscription to Tunnel Bear (about $60/year I think) which lets me choose a server in the UK, so it’s as if I’m watching it there. Also very handy for the Olympics!

    First of all, ICELAND. I always like Iceland. They do some interesting, weird stuff and they’re not so concerned with winning that they won’t be creative. What I loved about this group is that they kept their artifice up the whole entire show. They were so down with their hard-core metal dystopian attitude that not once did the camera catch them off guard. It was awesome.

    So, my two cents on Madonna: I’ve been a fan of hers for many years. I saw her a few years ago live in Boston on her Rebel Heart tour and it was terrific. She sang at least three songs live, maybe more, and was in top vocal shape.

    Okay, so I’m a musician (singer/pianist) and I have never heard anyone sing that terribly off-key without self-correcting at some point. I’m wondering if she was sick. I mean, she wasn’t singing flat. She was seriously off, like painfully so. I was shocked. I remember her younger years before she took proper voice lessons, and this was worse. It’s possible the sound system wasn’t set properly and she was getting instrumental feedback that wasn’t tonally accurate. But holy crap. I was mortified for her. Then they kicked into the new song which was clearly pre-recorded, and it all sounded fine.

    Emotionally, it was lackluster, and did not complement the spirit of Eurovision at all. Here’s all these people singing their hearts out, not allowed to use autotune or anything, and what she did was not any fun at all. Not goofy, not weird, not entertaining, and if she’d sounded like that on her tour, I’d have been pissed. Here’s a vocal coach’s take on it: https://youtu.be/iYtKXeRsJdM

    I say all this all this as a huge Madonna fan. She is great *and* she was mediocre at best in this particular performance.

    Anyways, here are some lyrics that have stuck with me that make me love Eurovision.

    From the Czech Republic, the big spoken-word bridge exposition:
    She lived next door
    when we were thirteen.
    She moved back in.

    And heavy stuff from San Marino:
    Be a hero
    be the rainbow
    sing na-na-na!

    Okay dude!

    I thought Australia’s opera-type-singer-on-a-pole thing was kind of fun? Kind of tedious? I’m not even sure. I think the song was just to show off her voice, which was really great, but I guess the song didn’t quite cut it.

    You know, I liked France’s song okay, but there’s already so much let’s-all-love-each-other love and tolerance and togetherness etc. etc. that this song just seemed overboard to me. Reductive and, in the Eurovision universe, not at all new.

    So the Netherlands won, and I’m fine with that. It’s a fun, melodic song and he seems likable.

    As far as politics go, I was down with all the political statements, which were to-the-point but not intrusive. And didn’t the organizers forfeit any apolitical high ground when they banned Russia from competing a couple years ago? I mean, really. And there’s no way the lack of votes for the UK isn’t punishment for Brexit. Not political my butt. They deserved better.

    Next year I am definitely having a watch party. It’s all just too good.

    • gnidrah says:

      SO SORRY. Having massive internet issues at home and work’s been mad, but thank you so much for your comment/article 😉 😉

      What a whirlwind it’s been. Last night, 11:30pm, I get a message from my friend, “list me your top three Euro boys 2019”. We’re so not over it yet.

      I believe Brexit does play a part – how can it not? – but there are some good thoughts in this piece (ironically by the BBC): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48334089

      I just think the issue is bigger than brexit – it’s also about respect/taking something seriously. Which we don’t. But we should.

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