Eurovision 2018

Well, even for Eurovision, 2018 was a strange year!

I can’t off the top of my head think of another year where going into the contest there was no clear winner, with so many different songs taking a turn at being a favourite, and the winner ended up being the initial favourite anyway. Then there was the fact that it had so many shock non-qualifiers, with Azerbaijan, Russia and Romania failing to get past the semi-finals for the first time ever.

The entrant for my country, the United Kingdom, was SuRie with ‘Storm’. SuRie has a similar voice and look to Annie Lennox. She had also performed at Eurovision finals twice before in the 2010s, not as a main performer, but as a backing singer and dancer for two Belgian entries, Loic Nottet – ‘Rhythm Inside’ in 2015, and Blanche – ‘City Lights’ in 2017.

‘Storm’ was a nice song, the kind you’d hear a lot on the radio, but it was pretty generic. It grew on me though, massively in fact, and by the time the final came I found it very likeable. SuRie herself I found likeable from the start, she really “sold” the song with her performances. She seems so lovely, and was so optimistic and positive in spite the odds being against her (and they really were, I think she was 500/1 to win at one point!) I really rooted for her, and I genuinely think it was one of our best entries in years.

At the final, SuRie was giving a great performance, but she was interrupted by a stage invader who snatched the microphone out of her hand. At the very least that must have been shocking for her, and she later said she was bruised on her hand from when the invader took the microphone. But when it happened, SuRie carried on, she clapped along to the song until her microphone was returned, and then she really went for it, she seemed determined not to let that ruin her moment, and the crowd were very supportive too, they sung along with the chorus and she got a huge cheer at the end. The European Broadcasting Union gave her the option of performing the song again, but she declined.

When it came to the voting, I was so pleased when we got jury votes, small though they were, and that we weren’t among the first few when they announced the televote scores (as they go from smallest to largest). In the end we finished 24th, which seems to be our default position nowadays, but I honestly think ‘Storm’ deserved better than that. SuRie definitely deserved a better Eurovision experience than she got, but I will say that I have a huge amount of respect for her, as I think do a lot of people for how she handled the stage invasion. All the best to her.

My favourite performance was Saara Aalto, performing ‘Monsters’ for Finland. OK, I was already a fan of hers from her time on The X Factor, where she finished runner-up in 2016, and the staging for her Eurovision performance was also done by The X Factor‘s Brian Friedman. The concept for the staging for ‘Monsters’ was, I don’t know, Alien-Spider Ice Pyramid? Saara’s vocals were excellent, especially considering at some stages she was spinning around on a wheel, holding a firework and falling backwards from a plinth to be caught by her dancers! But it only ended up finishing in 25th place! Well, it was still my favourite.

The first performance of the night was another one of my favourites, Mélovin ‘Under The Ladder’, representing Ukraine. What a great start to the night this was! He had a goth vampire look, and rose up from a piano-coffin! Fire flew everywhere, and he went back up to play the piano, giving the performance a bit of a Phantom Of The Opera feel. The song was very catchy, and Mélovin is very cute and charismatic. It ended up finishing at the bottom of the jury vote, but I think it suffered from being on first. In any case, it did much better in the televote, finishing in 7th place. Thanks to Mélovin’s qualification from the second semi-final, Ukraine now also have the honour of being the only country with a 100% record of qualifying to the grand final!

Hungary‘s entrant is the one that really stole my heart though! They were a rock/metal band called AWS, and the track was ‘Viszlát nyár’, which translates as ‘See you, summer’. They gave a fantastic performance, I loved it. The band’s music sounded marvellous, and the lead singer had the most unique voice in the contest. It also had
fireworks, the guitarist stage diving and crowd surfing while still playing the guitar, and the lead singer running around barefoot on stage (well, I suppose at least one Eurovision contestant a year has to keep the Sandie Shaw tradition going). While I liked all the band, I especially liked the lead singer Örs Siklósi. I think he’s adorable! His delayed reactions and facial expressions every time they ended up qualifying further, from being declared Hungary’s representative and getting through to the grand final, ended up as gifs and they were the best Eurovision contestant facial expressions since 2014 UK entrant Molly Smitten-Downes’ reaction to being presented with a curlie-wurlie cake.

France were represented by Madame Monsier. They are a duo, a female singer and a male producer, and they are also in a relationship. They make a nice couple. Their song ‘Mercy’ was about a baby born on a boat to refugee parents, the plight of refugees fleeing from war and poverty, and thanking people who help. I really liked it, it was classy.

Italy‘s entrant was Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro with ‘Non mi avete fatto niente’, which roughly translates as “You haven’t done anything to me”. It was about the recent terrorist attacks in major cities, and being able to stand defiant against those attacks. It finished 3rd in the televote, and 17th in the jury vote, ending up in 5th place when the scores were combined.

Germany are often accused of just copying off hit US/UK artists and songs for their Eurovision entrants. Why on Earth do people think that?! Yeah, this year’s entrant Michael Schulte was a bit like Ed Sheeran, but there was a huge difference. Michael Schulte has CURLY HAIR! That makes it totally different. To be fair, the song ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’ was a tribute to Michael Schulte’s late father, and it was nice enough. But aside from that it could very easily be an Ed Sheeran track. Still, it was enough to get it to 4th place overall.

Denmark‘s entrant was Rasmussen‘Higher Ground’. I have to confess that I thought Rasmussen were a group rather than a solo artist as there were four other men on
stage with him. Or maybe I was confusing him with The Rasmus, but they are from Finland, not Denmark. Rasmussen and the others on stage all looked a bit like Vikings…
well, if Vikings wore leather jackets. There were also two huge ship sails in the staging. It was quite a majestic and dramatic performance, and they ended with a snowstorm. It was 5th in the televote, but only 20 in the jury vote. It didn’t pull the song down too much though, it finished in 9th place as a final score.

Ireland qualified for the first time in five years with Ryan O’Shaughnessy‘Together’. It was very Twink-ly Irish, being a jangly Irish guitar ballad performed by a twink and with two twink dancers playing a gay couple. The Chinese broadcaster blurred the gay couple and LGBT rainbow flags out from the first semi-final, and as a result the European Broadcasting Union withdrew permission for the channel to broadcast the contest, stating that the editing went against the EBU’s values of inclusivity and diversity, so the channel weren’t allowed to broadcast the second semi-final or the grand final. Good on the EBU for taking that stand! As for the song itself, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either.

Albania (Eugent Bushpepa – ‘Mall’) were another act who the Chinese broadcaster edited out, this time because of having tattoos, and apparently China passed a law a few months ago banning tatoos from being shown on TV. Personally, I was more bothered about Eugent Bushpepa’s bizarre jacket. It was like a mix of a corset and a tuxedo made of leather with studs.

Moldova (DoReDoS – ‘My Lucky Day’) was an absolute cheesefest, but the staging with them in brightly coloured purple suits and lemon dresses (lemon coloured, not
actually shaped like a lemon), in front of a giant piece of graph paper was “fun” I guess.

Norway‘s entrant was the comeback of Alexander Rybak, who won in 2009 with ‘Fairytale’, which famously scored a lot of points even for a winner. He didn’t do quite as
well this time, he was only 11th in the televote, 16th in the jury vote giving an overall position of 15th. But the song, ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ was almost offensively mediocre, so I think it got the position it deserved. Also, the interactive animated computer graphics seemed to be ripping off the staging for ‘Heroes’ by Måns Zelmerlöw which won for Sweden in 2015, and apart from anything else if you’re going to try to copy off a winner, wouldn’t it make more sense to follow the previous year’s winner rather than the winner from three years ago?

The Netherlands entrant was named Waylon. When I see the name “Waylon” my inner predictive text goes straight to Waylon Smithers from The Simpsons. He’d be a good Eurovision contender! There’s his ‘Licorice Whip’ song while dressed as a cowboy and his self-penned Malibu Stacy musical. He’s also a bit of an ABBA fan! The only thing he and this Waylon really have in common is a cowboy theme. Waylon is another Eurovision returner, having been part of The Common Linnets who finished second place in
the 2014 contest. I didn’t like them that much to be honest, and I didn’t like Waylon’s song ‘Outlaw in ‘Em’ much either. I don’t “get” this sort of thing. I don’t know, maybe growing up involuntarily hearing Rednex- ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ so many times put me off northern European cod-country and western for life.

Estonia were represented by opera singer Elina Nechayeva with ‘La forza‘. Undeniably, Elina Nechayeva has a brilliant voice, but I was a bit distracted by all the
stuff projected on her dress. The snowflake pattern looked pretty good, but I wasn’t sure about, well, everything else. One time it made her look like a volcano, another with spiralling water made it look like it was going down a plughole, and the multicoloured liquid effect at the end looked like a giant melting ice cream with Elina stuck in the middle as a wafer! It was 6th on the jury vote, and 9th on the televote.

My first of impression of Portugal‘s entry, Cláudia Pascoal‘O jardim’, was that Portugal don’t want to host it again next year, and if that was their goal then mission accomplished, because it came last in 26th place! It was just very forgettable and blended into the background. Cláudia Pascoal wasn’t even the most interesting performer with pink hair!

For my money, that was Lea Sirk, representing Slovenia with a track called ‘Hvala, ne!’, which roughly translates as “Thanks but no thanks!”. It had a lot of blue lighting, which didn’t really go with pink hair. The track itself wasn’t bad, it was kind of minimalist electronic, a bit tinny.

Bulgaria‘s entrant were Equinox, who are a supergroup created especially to take part in the show, and I liked their song ‘Bones’, particularly the dark, atmospheric production and the sparkling star effect on the staging.

Serbia (Sanja Ilic & Balkanika‘Nova deca’) were made up of a bald bloke with a beard wearing black robes, a balding bloke percussionist, an old man playing a flute
and three chanting women wearing black and white dresses. I thought it looked a bit like sci-fi/fantasy TV shows where the heroes have to beg some weird obstructive supernatural authority for something, as a way for the writers to pad out the episodes and put off the big fight to the season finale.

My least favourite song was Spain‘s entry, Amaia & Alfred‘Tu canción’. It was a really schmaltzy lurve song. It sounded like something that would be on the soundtrack to
one of those low budget rip-offs of Disney animated movies. They are a real couple, but sorry, them being all “I nubby nubby wuv ooo” made me want to reach for a sick bucket.

Speaking of sentimental glurge, there was Lithuania, Ieva Zasimauskaite‘When We’re Old’. This was relatively popular overall, 10th on the televote and 11th on the
jury vote, but I just found it drippy and feeble, and like a John Lewis version of a song. But then again, I hate John Lewis cover songs and they are popular too for some reason.

I wasn’t too keen on the Czech Republic‘s entry either, Mikolas Josef with ‘Lie to Me’. It has a horrible, sleazy brass sound all way through it, and Mikolas Josef was
annoying with his try-hard “Aren’t I cheeky?” routine.

I have to admit, I did get some Schadenfreude out Australia finishing bottom of the televote and Sweden finishing 23rd in the televote! Both those songs are the perfect
example of the juries overrating bland, overly polished generic pop. Not to mention the juries also this year seemed to be punishing entries that had any character whatsoever, so it was also satisfying when Ukraine and Denmark got such a boost when the televotes were added. This year I was totally team televote!

Australia‘s song ‘We Got Love’ was a really flimsy, sugary, banal song, and the singer Jessica Mauboy looked and sounded like she was singing karaoke. (And I’m not for
a minute saying she should have been marked down for this, but her dress looked like it was made of sweet wrappers!).

Sweden‘s song ‘Dance You Off’ was yet another from the conveyer belt of the Swedish pop factory. It sounds like an average Justin Timberlake track, because Sweden writes and produces so many major pop songs for international artists, and it could be one of millions of other songs on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, I think ‘Heroes’ by Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015 and ‘Euphoria’ by Loreen in 2012 were among the best winners, and Sweden did an amazing job hosting in 2016, but I think they’ve got a bit complacent now. The singer of ‘Dance You Off’, Benjamin Ingrosso came across as a bit of a smarmy, conceited git, so I guess that made the low televote score all the more satisfying.

In spite of there being so many favourites to win this year, I don’t think anyone predicted Austria to be a frontrunner, but in fact they topped the jury vote! It wasn’t so popular on televotes, finishing in 13th place, making it 3rd overall. This was the one time I was more in touch with the jury vote this year, as I thought Cesár Sampson ‘Nobody But You’ was very good. The song could easily be a hit in the UK charts, it sounds like something Rag’n’Bone Man would do, and Cesár Sampson has a great voice. But at the same time, I think the track is more worthy of a bronze medal than a gold one, so 3rd is about right for it.

The top 2 in the televote and overall were Isreal and Cyprus.

Runner-up Cyprus, Eleni Foureira with ‘Fuego’, was a late challenger, becoming a favourite in the last week. The staging had her coming out of a sort of ocean vortex, and most of the rest of it was filled with fire, lots and lots and lots of fire. The song was very fierce and sassy, Eleni Foureira performed it well and she had a glittery outfit. The sound was very ethnopop, but a more modern mix than what you got in Noughties heyday of Eurovision ethnopop. It was a good track and performance, perhaps not the most extraordinary track ever, but definitely one of the most enjoyable.

The winner was Israel, represented by Netta with ‘Toy’. This was the initial favourite, then fans and bookies seemed to lose interest in it, but it was popular when it mattered, at the grand final, and maybe that was due to most of the viewers seeing/hearing it for the first time? It’s a feminist pop song with chicken clucking, and there’s a chicken dance to go with it. Only in Eurovision. I always had mixed feelings on ‘Toy’. It’s a bit obnoxious and irritating, and I don’t get what purpose there was to having loads of maneki-nekos in the staging. But Netta performed it well, the production of the track was great, it’s catchy and memorable, and it stands out. There’s no way you’d forget it! While it doesn’t really do much for me on a personal level, I think it’s a worthy winner. Again, where else but Eurovision would you get a song like that? It was popular with both the televote and the juries (who placed it 3rd), and say what you like about it, it is interesting. It deserves its place among the winners.

Portugal as hosts were fine. The theme was All Aboard, and it had a seashell logo. I liked the underwater introduction as it reminded me of Blue Planet II. In Ukraine last year the presenters were three men, this year in Portugal they were four women, Sílvia Alberto, Filomena Cautela, Catarina Furtado and Daniela Ruah. They did a
decent job as Eurovision hosts go. They paid tribute to Lys Assia, the first ever Eurovision winner, as she passed away in March this year.

The only real criticism I have of the hosting is that the introductions and intervals dragged on far too long.

I say this every year, but I LOVE the scoring system of announcing the jury and televotes separately, even better this time when there was no clear frontrunner and there were several contenders for the winner, and that the jury and televotes had gone very differently. It makes the final reveal all the more exciting, so long may it continue.

Eurovision 2018 was certainly a strange one, but the bits I did like I really liked, and I think the songs were generally of a good standard.

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