Most people who have known me for long enough know that I am a huge Eurovision fan. In my teenage years, I was left at home most Friday and Saturday evenings to babysit my little sister whilst my mum and step-dad went out on the legendary Barton pub crawl. It was boring – I had no mobile phone, I had no computer, and you could only play Bamboozle on Teletext once a day really. So, I’d often fill the evening by taping the evening’s episode of Robot Wars and watching over and over and over…
Yet, every so often, there was something on the tele to look forward to. Children in Need, Comic Relief, whatever the one ITV did that I’ve forgotten the name of (Telephon?), and of course, The Eurovision Song Contest.
For any readers not familiar with Eurovision, it is the world’s largest song contest and it has been going for 65 years. But, it’s much, much more than that. It was started as part of efforts to reunify Europe after the horrors and conflicts of two World Wars, set up to test a European-wide broadcasting network, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). It has grown massively, with many former Soviet countries joining, including Russia, wider Mediterranean countries including Morocco and Israel, and most recent, even Australia has joined.
Built out of a mission of peace and unity, Eurovision has always stood for being welcoming. It is a space where artists from each of the competing nations can express not just themselves but the culture of their country, and when they do it is when Eurovision is at its best. I love the opening ceremonies to sporting events, getting to see how the host nation has chosen to represent the best of themselves, and Eurovision is like getting to see 40+ opening ceremonies in the same week.
I wanted to write this post to run you through some of my favourite entries from this year and tell you who I think will win. But first, let’s go back a year…
In 2020 we were due to travel to Rotterdam for the final after the Duncan Laurence won the competition for Netherlands, in Israel*, with his song Arcade, a song that threatened a key change it never delivered. Across Europe, the nations had chosen their champions and prepped them for competition but as the world stood still, stunned by a global pandemic, the 2020 Eurovision was cancelled.
It is a commonly held view that had the competition gone ahead then the superb entry from Iceland, Think about Things by Daði Freyr, would have walked to victory. I’m not going to argue against that too strongly, I love the song and Daði has become a Eurovision legend, but I think Russia’s song, Uno by Little Big, would have run Iceland close. My concern for Iceland is staging and matching the performance, on the huge European arena stage, with the song. On the night, I think Little Big would have done this better.
I am still said that we were denied the chance to see both these songs on the Eurovision stage and to witness the voting that I’m sure what have been tense. At least I got to add Little Big’s back catalogue to my Spotify playlist and for that I am very grateful.
In 2021, we are finally in Rotterdam and after the two semi-finals there is a strong line up for the finals on Saturday night. Entries from 2020 are allowed to compete again this year but they must have a different song. Around half of the entries have returned and I am so pleased they will get their chance to perform.
First off, let’s talk Daði Freyr. He has returned this year with a new song, 10 years. It’s a good song although not as good as Think About Things and the novelty impact has waned over the last year. Sadly, he and his band, won’t be performing again as members have tested positive for Covid and they need to isolate. Instead, they will broadcast a recording of their last rehearsal, like they did on Thursday’s semi-final. It’s maybe unfair to judge but this confirmed to me that they struggle to translate the impact of their videos onto the stage. The song will do well, top 10, but not a winner.
My early favourite was Voila by Barbara Pravi, representing France. I loved it so much when I heard it I foolishly called it as my tip to win back in February… It’s a beautiful song. If you asked me to imagine what I think a French song would sound like, my stereotypes and biases would have imagined this song. It makes me want to learn French and listen to Camille. It will be on the left-hand side of the board but not troubling the winners.
Ukrainian group, Go_A are returnees for this year but their song Shum is a big improvement on last year’s Solovey (which wasn’t bad). I just love this song and its energy, I’ve been listening to it over and over, dancing around my kitchen. The performance at Tuesday’s semi-final was fantastic too with some great visuals. It’s overtaken France as my favourite from this year’s competition and I think it will do well with the public, less so with the judges. Left-hand of the board but no more.
Disappointingly, Little Big chose not to return this year to represent Russia and instead they are represented by Manizha with her song Russian Woman. This song is an anthem of empowerment and it’s progressive message is at odds with our Western perceptions of Russia. The song is fun, catchy, and is paired up with some quirky and clever staging. I can see this pushing for a spot at the top.
Now, almost every year Moldova gives us a treat. Whether it’s lucky coned-hat unicylcists, Epic Sax Guy, or my favourite piece of Eurovision staging ever, Moldova usually brings the fun. This year’s entry, Sugar by Natalia Gordienko, promises so much from its utterly, utterly bonkers video. The song is a great tune but I was massively let down by the staging of the performance during Thursday semi-final… it could have been so much more Moldova!
One thing I love about the performances we’ve seen so far in the semi-finals is the amount of 80’s and retrowave aesthetics being used. I don’t know if they brief the acts on a theme or style but its everywhere. You can probably tell from the retrowave style I put together for the Earth Arcade project, this is a style I adore and this year’s Eurovision is going to just look amazing because of it.
Ok, but who’s going to win, Chris, I hear no one ask. Well, I can only see the Maltese entry, Je Me Casse by Destiny, winning this year – it’s a triple threat: great song; positive message; staging that makes the performance pop. It’s time to grab your hand lens, a copy of Limestone Isles in a Crystal Sea, and spot yourself some globergerina with a bottle of Cisk or Kinnie next year in Valleta.
As for the UK’s chances? We’ve another act taken off the stage at Butlins that will finish in the bottom five again**, so here is a video of Daði Freyr playing Jaja Ding Dong to close. Enjoy Saturday, it’s a good year.
*the winning country is required to host the competition the following year.
**except Lucie Jones, she deserved better.