Eurovision 2017

The Eurovision Song Contest in 2017 didn’t exactly have the smoothest path, and it had a something of a surprising winner.

The planning stages were chaotic, with the European Broadcasting Union threatening to pull the contest from Ukraine after apparently there was bad organisation and budget issues. Then the day after tickets went on sale nearly every senior organiser quit!

Russia’s entrant Julia Samoilova was banned because of previously entering the Crimea via Russia instead of Ukraine, which is illegal over there. There were some suggestions of her competing via satellite link-up, but Russia ended up pulling out of this years contest entirely.

With all that in mind, Ukraine actually did a reasonable job hosting, though certainly not among the best. As many people pointed out, the slogan was “Celebrate Diversity”, and the hosts were… three white men! Or more like three wax droids. Timur Miroshnychenko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk and Oleksandr Skichko were so stiff and awkward, the “comedy” moments throughout were painful. To be fair, I found them all more likeable when their human side came through, at times when they started nervously laughing and getting impatient with it all and they weren’t so much slaves to the script.

Expectations for my country, the United Kingdom, were very low. Brexit aside, the UK has generally performed poorly in the competition in the 21st century, with the exceptions of Jessica Garlick (3rd in 2002) and Jade Ewen (5th in 2009). We seemed to be going for a similar entry to those this year, with a young woman with a big voice singing a classy ballad.

This time it was Lucie Jones with ‘Never Give Up On You’. But it didn’t do that well, finishing 15th overall. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to do that well, I found it very mediocre. Lucie Jones has a very nice voice, and she performed it fine, but it’s an average song. I don’t think the staging was as great as people made out either. Lucie standing in front of a giant glass clamshell and lots of gold dust flying around?!

I think we deserved better than 15th though. But by “better” I mean maybe low top ten, and it finished in 10th place in the jury vote. It finished 20th in the public televote. Well at least we got more televotes than last year, we only got 2 points from the televote then!

We also did better than my favourite this year, which was Austria‘s entry Nathan Trent – ‘Running On Air’. That got to 16th place overall, and it got there entirely on jury votes, as it received no televote points whatsoever! I really, really liked the track, it was a sweet, radio-friendly indie-pop song, and Nathan Trent himself seems nice. Not sure about the staging though. He was stood on what I think was supposed to be a crescent moon, but looked more like a disco ball after a giant had taken a bite out of it.

My second favourite was the entry from the host country Ukraine. They sent in a rock band O.Torvald with a track called ‘Time’, which finished 24th overall and in the jury vote. Televoters liked a bit more, but not much (it finished 17th place in the televote). I suppose rock isn’t really the most popular genre in Eurovision. Sometimes it does well, but I’ll admit that this entry was a little dated. It reminded me of Limp Bizkit’s song from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack, ‘Take A Look Around’ from 2000.

I really liked Azerbaijan‘s entry, Dihaj – ‘Skeletons’. The staging didn’t have any skeletons, but it was still brilliantly creepy. A chalkboard with many random words scrawled on it, a man in a suit on top of a ladder with a horses head like a Knight chesspiece, and an incredibly intense performance by the singer Diana Hajiyeva. It looked like viewing someone’s nightmare.

Armenia‘s entry (Artsvik – ‘Fly with Me’) was quite hypnotic. It had intriguing production, lots of fire and smoke effects and purple lighting. I particularly liked the bird graphic at the end looking like it was flying into the audience!

I wasn’t sure what to make of Norway‘s song, ‘Grab the Moment’ by JOWST, to begin with. It had a DJ wearing a fencing mask, electronic vocal distortions and a TV static effect. I quite liked it by the end though. It was interesting anyway.

Belgium‘s entrant was 17-year-old singer-songwriter Blanche with ‘City Lights’, which was a very good song, it reminded me of Lorde – ‘Green Light’. It finished 4th overall and in the televote, but only 9th in the jury vote. You’d think juries would mark a song like this higher, I don’t know if they marked her slightly down on performance? I felt sorry for Blanche really, the poor girl looked terrified!

Apparently Blanche wore a white dress during the first rehearsals, but she switched to a black dress. She didn’t change her name to Noire to match the dress though.

Actually, come to think of it, loads of the contenders were wearing white! It’s a good thing Amber Sherlock wasn’t announcing the Australian jury results, she’d have been furious, telling them off for all wearing white and that she asked some of them to put jackets on two hours ago.

Poland‘s entry, Kasia Mos -‘Flashlight’, very much had a white colour scheme. Kasia Mos had a white dress, there were white clouds, there were flocks of white birds in the background. It had the dreaded cursed position of performing second, finishing 22nd place overall, though it was kind of a boring song anyway.

Belarus were represented by Naviband – ‘Story Of My Life’. Not to be confused with Iceland’s 2008 entry Euroband – ‘This Is My Life’. Similar names, but the songs sound nothing like each other, in fact they are quite different acts. Naviband are folk-pop while Euroband are eurodance. Just found it an interesting coincidence. Anyway, Naviband performed on a speedboat floating on some dry ice. It looked more like clouds, and them wearing all white gave the effect that there had been some tragic boating accident and they had died and gone to heaven.

Denmark‘s entry was Anja – ‘Where I Am’, which was a serviceable ballad with a singer with a big voice, which might be why juries voted it 13th place, but I found it quite dull, and perhaps televoters did too, as it finished 21st place there, making it 20th overall. Personally I think Denmark should have gone with Sada Vidoo – ‘Northern Lights’ which was put forward as a potential Danish entry but wasn’t chosen.

The Netherlands had the Wilson Philips-esque act OG3NE with ‘Light And Shadows’. The band name is pronounced “Ogene”, not “Ogthreene”. To be fair, the 3 has a point other than just being an annoying pop group spelling, as they are a trio, three sisters to be exact. Like Wilson Philips, they also have a bit of a Blonde, Brunette, Redhead thing going on. This was another one where I was more in touch with the televote than the jury vote, as I was fairly indifferent to it, but juries ranked it 5th place, while on the televote it was 19th place, making it 11th overall.

Moldova‘s entry was Sunstroke Project with ‘Hey Mama’. If you expect that to sound cheesy from the group name and title, you’d be right. It had a sleazy saxophone sound and the backing dancers were dressed as brides with bouquets which had microphones in them. It finished 3rd overall, and in the televote.

I wonder if Israel (IMRI – ‘I Feel Alive’) were going for something like the Sweden’s 2015 winner ‘Heroes’ – an electrodance track with literal interpretation of the lyrics projected behind the singer onscreen. ‘I Feel Alive’ goes “breaking to pieces”, and sure enough the picture in the background is IMRI breaking to pieces. It finished 23rd overall, an occasion where the jury vote (21st) and televote (22nd) were near enough in agreement with one another. In fairness, performing first when there are 26 songs and the lines don’t open until all are performed is a pretty bad deal. This might be Israel’s last ever Eurovision too, as the station which broadcasts Eurovision there, IBA, is closing down, so Israel won’t be eligible to take part in the contest next year.

Hungary‘s entry (Joci Pápai – ‘Origo’) played a butter churn. He looked a bit like a wrestler wearing a gold patterned rug. Oh, he rapped as well.

The Cyprus entry (Hovig – ‘Gravity’) was forgettable. They were trying to balance on a projected white line on the floor like a tightrope, which fits the title ‘Gravity’ somewhat I suppose? It didn’t make much of an impact on me.

Greece’s entry (Demy – ‘This Is Love’) was a slightly trashy electrodance nightclub track.

Croatia‘s entrant, Jacques Houdek, had such a shiny, plastic face! He looked like The Fat Controller from Thomas The Tank Engine plus a beard and minus a top hat. His song ‘My Friend’ was a sort of duet, except he sung it by himself, as he can sing very high and very low. Speaking of very high and very low, very high position on televotes (9th), and very low position on jury votes (22nd), making it 13th overall.

The biggest disagreement between the juries and the televoters was Australia. They ended up 9th overall, but juries ranked it 4th place, and in televotes it was 25th place! I wonder if the novelty of having Australia in is wearing off for many viewers? The Special Guest has outstayed their welcome. They’ve become like someone who moved into your flat temporarily “just till they can sort something else out” then wouldn’t leave. The song itself, ‘Don’t Come Easy’ performed by Isaiah was very generic, it could be one of millions of other songs on the radio. That might be another reason. Juries may have considered it “relevant”, for televoters it might blend into the background.

Sweden‘s entry was like something the Swedish pop factory would do for big American superstars. Sweden have proved time and time again they can do Eurovision in their sleep too. It got 5th place very easily. It would probably be a hit, but ‘I Can’t Go On’ is perhaps a little too polished for me, and the singer Robin Bengtsson certainly comes off as too much of a preening peacock for me.

Italy were the odds on favourites to win with Francesco Gabbani – ‘Occidentali’s Karma’, but ended up finishing in 6th place. Occidental refers to Western, just like Oriential refers to Eastern. Who said Eurovsion isn’t educational? I am kind of pleased ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ didn’t do as well as expected to be honest. The dancing man in a gorilla costume (wearing a bow tie as well!) was admittedly hilarious, but the whole track was just a bit too smug. It’s nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. It’s making fun of pretentious Westerners using stuff from Eastern cultures and taking selfies all the time, but it kind of comes off as a bit pretentious itself. The staging was colour vomit as well. What was with the long, bendy Mr. Tickle arms in the background?

I’m also pleased that the bottom 2 in the end were Germany and Spain, overall and in the jury vote. They were the two laziest entries by far, and as part of the Big 5 they got to go straight through to the final without having to qualify in the semi-finals. OK, countries in the Big 5 get that because we put the most money into the contest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort. Germany‘s entry (Levina – ‘Perfect Life’) was just a cheap knock-off of ‘Titanium’ by David Guetta feat. Sia.

Spain‘s entry ‘Do It For Your Lover’ had a chorus that went “Do it for your lover” over and over again, and the performer Manel Navarro really couldn’t sing, either that or he really couldn’t be bothered to sing. It finished in last place, and it deserved to.

Romania was one of the most memorable, in fact I think this will be one of those entires that’s remembered for years. Ilinca feat. Alex Florea – ‘Yodel It’. Rap and yodeling! The rapping provided by Alex Florea, and the yodeling provided by Ilinca. It was more colour vomit staging, in the form of multicoloured butterfly silhouettes and fridge magnet letters, and silver glitter cannons on wheels. I quite liked it, it worked a lot better than you’d expect. It was certainly very Eurovision.

France‘s entry, Alma – ‘Requiem’ was alright, kind of pretty and pleasant and nice enough. The Eiffel Tower was in the background of the staging, to make it feel all the more French I suppose.

The top 2 were also the top 2 in the jury and public vote, and in the same order, so there was a consensus this year.

Runner-up was Bulgaria, represented by Kristian Kostov singing ‘Beautiful Mess’. To use an X Factor cliché, Kristian Kostov looks like a popstar. He had just turned 17, but he can sing and perform very well. The song itself was well produced too, if a bit generic pop. It’s been a good couple of years for Bulgaria in Eurovision, with their entrant last year Poli Genova – ‘If Love Was A Crime’ becoming a dark horse in the contest finishing in 4th place, Bulgaria’s highest ever, and this year Kristian Kostov with ‘Beautiful Mess’ does even better and comes close to winning!

(‘If Love Was A Crime’ also turned out to be the song I played the most from last year’s Eurovision, I played it for months after the final).

The winner was Portugal, Salvador Sobral with ‘Amar Pelos Dois’. It had a handsome hipster singing an old fashioned, nostalgic track, which was very quiet, intimate and delicate. It wasn’t my cup of tea to be honest, but I felt quite positive about it as a Eurovision winner. Similar to last year, ‘1944’ wasn’t one of my favourite songs, but I still kind of liked it winning.

At least ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ stood out and was trying for sophistication, and it was taking a chance at something different for Eurovision. It’s also one which breaks the language barrier, it wasn’t sung in English, but Portuguese. It’s also heartwarming in both a triumph of an underdog sense, in that Portugal have competed in Eurovision for 53 years and never won before. Salvador getting his sister Luisa Sobral, who wrote the song, to sing it with him in the final winner’s performance was a nice moment too.

Do you know what Portugal’s entry reminds me of more than anything though? That Galaxy chocolate advert with a CGI Audrey Hepburn and ‘Moon River’ playing in the background.

There were cameo appearances from former Ukrainian Eurovision stars. 2007 runner-up Verka Serduchka (and her mother) popped up a few times. 2004 winner Ruslana performed her new single in an interval, and last year’s winner Jamala performed her new single too, in her case she had the misfortune of a stage invasion with some bloke mooning. She took it in her stride though.

There was a hyped interval act ONUKA & NAOFI, which were traditional Ukrainian instruments with an electronic act, but I didn’t think it was all that special really. It made me think of that Pete Tong “classical house” thing where they’ve got an orchestra to play old house tracks, and I didn’t really ‘get’ that either.

I like that they have kept the way of announcing the results the same as last year, first going round the countries and getting the jury votes, then adding the televote points afterwards. As jury votes and televotes both count for 50% of the final vote it means the scoreboard can change dramatically and we don’t know the winner for sure until the very end. They could still play with this though, maybe one year go round and ask for the televote results and then add the jury votes all in one go.

I don’t think Eurovision 2017 will go down as a one of the greatest years, but it was alright. It is kind of strange that was the end result of this year, the run-up to it was so volatile, what we ended up with was a final that was… OK.

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