Last Saturday, hundreds of millions of viewers around the world gave in to the guilty pleasure that is the Eurovision Song Contest – Europe’s best-known and longest-running music show that is as kitsch as it is enjoyable.
It is customary for Eurovision to be held in the country of last year’s winning representative, meaning that this year’s event was held in Italy, in the city of Turin, following Måneskin’s victory in 2021.
The three hosts – singers Laura Pausini and Mika teamed with television presenter Alessandro Cattelan – did an impeccable job hosting the contest. Whilst Laura Pausini’s outfits were hit and miss (sadly more miss than hit), I do not recall seeing individual hosts mesh so effortlessly together since Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw did a similarly stellar job for Sweden in 2016. Especially fun was a crash course on Italian hand gestures – the latter being an inalienable part of the Italian culture – while the fantastic medley of Mika’s greatest hits must be one of the best interval acts at Eurovision of all time.
HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT
A runaway bookies’ favourite for weeks before the event, Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine took the trophy home with ‘Stefania’, a creative fusion of hip hop, rap and Ukrainian folk motives, a style increasingly popular with Eurovision viewers. The emotional track had originally been dedicated to the lead singer’s mother but was seamlessly repurposed to encompass a greater love for the motherland – Ukraine – following the tragic events of the past three months. Some of the lyrics, like the widely quoted ‘I’ll always find a way home even if all roads are destroyed’, gained chilling significance in light of the ongoing destruction.
It was no doubt a night few British viewers will forget: in a great reversal of fortunes, the UK scored its best result since Katrina and the Waves won the contest in 1997. The last two decades saw the UK end in the last place five times – two of them the much-dreaded nul-point or zero points – generally trailing in the lower half of the scoreboards and earning the country a reputation of sorts. It all changed last Saturday when Sam Ryder took Europe by storm with his bombastic hit ‘Space Man’, winning the jury vote and coming second overall, all whilst scoring more points than all UK entries for the preceding decade combined. Even the UK delegation looked surprised by the outcome – in the words of Graham Norton, the legendary BBC presenter of the contest, some probably wished they had dressed up more given all the sudden camera attention.
Spain’s Chanel finished third with ‘SloMo’, a song originally written for Jennifer Lopez (it showed, as did significant parts of her body), while Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs and Serbia’s Konstrakta came in fourth and fifth, respectively.
It was a disappointing outcome for Germany whose ‘Rockstars’, performed by Eminem soundalike Malik Harris, very narrowly avoided the nul-point but raced into last place – the country’s third in the last decade letting them again do something better than the UK. Other woes of the night include Switzerland’s Marius Bear who received zero points from the public for ‘Boys Do Cry’ (he didn’t, although the bland ballad successfully reduced my husband to tears), Iceland’s forgettable Corrs-esque sibling act Systur (stunningly originally meaning ‘Sisters’ – their brother obviously ignored during the band-naming discussions) whose ‘Með hækkandi sól’ many of us no doubt used for a comfort break, and Czech Republic’s We Are Domi who, despite naming their entry ‘Lights Off’, not only used every light available at the venue but seemingly sneaked in some of their own, too.
AND THE AWARD GOES TO…
On to the random nominations of the night: the best lyric award goes to Norway’s Subwoolfer who memorably recommended ‘before that wolf eats my grandma, give that wolf a banana’; the rest of the lyrics were similarly surreal. The duo keep their identities hidden by always performing in yellow wolf masks and using pseudonyms of Jim and Keith, though it is rumoured that one of the artists is Ben Adams from the 1990s’ boyband A1.
The best staging goes to Serbia, whose Konstrakta spent her entire act of ‘In Corpore Sano’ obsessively washing hands (Macbeth, anybody?) in an apparent critique of Serbia’s healthcare standards. Where was this song when we all desperately needed guidance on a proper hand-washing etiquette? An expert at inserting herself into the most unlikely scenarios, Meghan Markle (or, more specifically, the secret to her healthy hair) managed to feature in the lyrics, the only surprise being that it was the Serbian entry.
The worst costume not worn by Laura Pausini goes to Australia’s Sheldon Riley who, in his pursuit of an angelic look, ended up lugging a 40-kilo monstrosity across the world that reportedly featured 200 thousand Swarowski crystals and 90 thousand Swarowski pearls and took an eye-watering 2,500 hours to create. I’d certainly like to see that excess luggage bill – did nobody think to tell him the designer’s factory was just up the road in Austria? In case that wasn’t enough, the singer performed in a tiara and a crystal face veil, the latter no doubt a good idea following his track ‘Not the Same’ coming second last in the televote.
The best language solution goes to France’s Alvan & Ahez for performing their electropop entry ‘Fulenn’ entirely in Breton, only the second time this has ever happened at Eurovision. The stage performance, featuring live fire effects and seemingly inspired by a wild pagan ritual, was similarly memorable, leaving many of us to wonder if it was to be followed, off-stage, with a human sacrifice should they fail to win. Interestingly, this year’s contest was the first in the history of Eurovision not to feature a francophone song.
I will end by crafting a special award for my personal favourite of the night. The best transport-related Eurovision entry of all time goes to Moldova’s Zdob și Zdub and Advahov Brothers whose bonkers ‘Trenulețul’ oddly celebrated the railway link between Chisinau and Bucharest (yes, really). It was the third time for Zdob și Zdub to represent their country at the contest, and it paid off – Moldova came second in the televote, losing only to Ukraine, and seventh overall. I highly encourage you to watch the official video of the song; to be fair, this is how I imagine every train ride involving Chisinau and Bucharest.
And that was the night! Glory, glory to Ukraine!