Look, I put a lot of time and thought into putting all of those dirgey ballads into some sort of quality-based order, okay?
27. Hungary (Boggie: ‘Wars For Nothing’ – 20th place)
It’s not that I object to anyone sending leaden, earnest songs about real issues to Eurovision (this one was reminding us that war is bad, mmmkay), but at least have the decency to send someone with some stage presence. Look at that picture, and you have seen every single facial expression Boggie made during that performance. You have also seen every single physical movement she made. Even Hungary’s use of the screens was boring: oh, look! It’s the earth and a tree! No. In a year filled with drippy ballads, this was easily the drippiest, and I resented having to sit through it a second time when I could have been watching Moldova instead.
26. Armenia (Genealogy: ‘Face The Shadow’ – 16th place)
Armenia also sent a shitty issue-based song, but they get slightly more credit for sending a song that was about something specific (the Armenian genocide). Apparently they were forced to change the title from ‘Don’t Deny’ after countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan claimed that it was overtly political in referencing their refusal to acknowledge their role in the atrocities, which I suppose sort of made Armenia’s point for them. Anyway: laudable intentions, rubbish song. Sorry.
25. Romania (Voltaj: ‘De la capăt (All Over Again)’ – 15th place)
24. Poland (Monika Kuszyńska: ‘In The Name Of Love’ – 23rd place)
After the amazingness of last year’s randy milkmaid extravaganza, this fabric softener advert was a serious disappointment. If you view it as a personal victory for Monika, who was once the lead singer of a popular Polish band but had to leave after becoming paralysed from the waist down in a car accident, it’s a fine achievement. As a song that I’d ever want to listen to again? Not so much.
23. Azerbaijan (Elnur Hüseynov: ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ – 12th place)
I mean, are Azerbaijan even trying any more? Perhaps now they’ve won the competition and hosted it they no longer feel the need to prove anything, but this feels like their second “will this do?” entry in the space of two years. Maybe I’m just cross because a title like ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ deserves a more exciting song than this, but I preferred Azerbaijan when they were cackling all the way to the top five and having homoerotic relationships with men in glass boxes while they did it. The lupine contempo-wafting that surrounded Elnur was at least marginally better than last year’s effort, but if I wanted to see that sort of thing I’d be watching So You Think You Can Dance (or possibly a rumba on Strictly Come Dancing, the way things are going), not Eurovision. Sort it out, Azerbaijan. Either turn up properly or don’t turn up at all.
22. Montenegro (Knez: ‘Adio’ – 13th place)
Montenegro sent Knez, their third most popular stage hypnotist, to represent them this year. Many citizens of Europe woke up on Sunday to find a Recent Calls log full of votes for Montenegro that they strangely have no recollection of making.
21. France (Lisa Angell: ‘N’oubliez pas’ – 25th place)
Given that the French’s participation in Eurovision each year is usually grudging at best, I would have thought they’d be livid that, in the first competition in 12 years that any country got zero points in the final, they actually managed to receive some votes from their European neighbours, thus robbing them of that honour. Of course, this assumes that France actually cares about Eurovision at all, which they don’t. So they probably greeted their finishing position with the usual Gallic shrug and then went out to buy some Gitanes.
20. Italy (Il Volo: ‘Grande Amore’ – 3rd place)
Italy were the only country out of the Big Five to not trip over their own shoelaces, fall down three flights of stairs and land in a pile of used toilet tissue with their pants around their ankles this year, so they should be commended for salvaging what remains of the Big Five’s positive reputation, but popera as a frankengenre has never done much for me and I’m not sure it ever will. Also I docked several points for that doink in the red glasses, because he was really annoying.
19. Germany (Ann Sophie: ‘Black Smoke’ – 26th place)
Poor Germany. First the winner of their selection contest, Andreas Kümmert, decided he didn’t actually want to represent Germany at Eurovision and pulled out, meaning that they had to send the runner-up instead, and then they scored zero points in the final. Zero points from 40 countries. I mean, I imagine Andreas is feeling pretty justified in his decision after that, but poor Ann Sophie though. (I quite liked it?)
18. Austria (The Makemakes: ‘I Am Yours’ – 27th place)
Still, however bad Germany might be feeling the morning after, they still didn’t have quite as embarrassing a night as Austria did, as they suffered the indignity of becoming the first host country in the history of the contest to receive no points at all. And to think they set fire to that piano for nothing. (I didn’t think it was that bad?)
17. Albania (Elhaida Dani: ‘I’m Alive’ – 17th place)
The only song this year to land in the same place in my ranking that it ended up in the overall finishing order (spoiler!), Albania’s entry was one of the bigger variables in this year’s contest. I was a fan of the song when I heard the recorded version, but there was always a question mark over Elhaida’s ability to perform it live. Basically, my response to this one was “I love her, but she doesn’t have the range.” I thought she sang it pretty well during the semi-finals (although Twitter indicates I may have been alone in feeling that way), but the wheels came off a bit on Saturday night. Let’s just say I think Albania’s presence this year may have been the reason that Slovenia’s entry insisted on wearing headphones at all times. Still, at least it gave us the best mondegreen of the competition in “you shat on my dreams”.
16. United Kingdom (Electro Velvet: ‘Still In Love With You’ – 24th place)
I went into this year’s contest probably more fearful for the UK’s prospects than I have been in some time. Not only was our song viewed as a joke by the vast majority of people I’d spoken to about the contest, but the early performances I’d seen had not been encouraging: they both had the air of people being forced to perform under duress, with Bianca looking terrified and Alex massively overcompensating for Bianca underperforming. Worst of all, they just had no chemistry together as performers. So if you’d told me in advance of the final that this would be the first year since Jemini in 2003 that any act would get nul points in the final, I would have assumed it might be one UK act inheriting that dishonour from another. So I was pleasantly surprised when it all came together on the night, more or less: it was still never going to trouble the top spots, but they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves for once, they interacted like people who’d actually met before they walked on stage, and even the light-up outfits were kind of enjoyably goofy. Sure, there were still some insurmountable problems – the battery pack ruining the line of Bianca’s dress beyond all measure, Alex’s dodgy posture, the spoken word bits, the scatting – but they exceeded my expectations and I was oddly proud of them for that.
15. Israel (Nadav Guedj: ‘Golden Boy’ – 9th place)
Going into the competition this year, I heard a lot of people saying Israel’s entry was brilliant and fun and a real contender to win, so I felt let down when it turned out to be entirely reliant on a melody borrowed from just about every middle-eastern-influenced pop song you’ve ever heard. That said, there was something quite sweet about how much of a total shambles the performance was both times we saw it (either the choreographer was drunk or the dancers were, and frankly I’m not prepared to rule out the possibility that every single person involved in this entry was off their face from start to finish), and “before I leave, let me show you Tel Aviv” was probably my favourite rhyme of the entire night. Especially if, like just about everyone I follow on Twitter, you assume that ‘Tel Aviv’ is Nadav’s pet name for his penis.
14. Australia (Guy Sebastian: ‘Tonight Again’ – 5th place)
I saw a lot of sarcastic huffing on Twitter about how Australia clearly didn’t understand Eurovision at all because they’d actually submitted a decent song, which suggests to me that a worrying amount of Eurovision viewers (or at least those who share their opinions on social media) actually want to hear Bruno Mars album tracks. It takes all sorts, I suppose. I think I might have liked the song more if I liked Guy Sebastian’s voice much, but I don’t, though I appreciate Australia’s commitment in actually sending someone who’s a legit star Down Under to represent them. And if the rumours turn out to be true and Australia does get an ongoing invitation to participate extended, even though they didn’t win, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Allow me a quick sidebar wherein I can lament the failure of San Marino to make the final this year. However, easily the best point of the entire evening was when Valentina Goddess gave the results of the Sammarinese vote and, as she read out the top three scores, sang snippets of all three of her Eurovision hits to go alongside each one. Genuine Eurovision icon. Please come back soon, Valentina, your country needs you and so do I. (Other amazingness from San Marino this year: giving the UK more points than anyone else did, and not giving Russia anything at all. A+ trolling San Marino, you guys are the best.)
13. Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou: ‘One Last Breath’ – 19th place)
Like the love child of Cat Deeley and Blake Lively guarding a Stargate, Greece’s entry had a lot to offer on the visual front. Song-wise, it was one of this year’s many (many, many) ballads but at least it was of the “overblown and melodramatic” variety, which is always how I prefer my Euroballads. I also quite enjoyed how Maria Elena forgot to tuck her thumb in when holding her index finger in the air to indicate “one” last breath, suggesting that she lacked either basic motor skills or basic numeracy skills. Hey, if you can’t make fun of foreigners at Eurovision, when can you do it?
12. Latvia (Aminata: ‘Love Injected’ – 6th place)
After the wasteland that last year’s competition was for the Baltic states, it was great to see them all launching such confident comeback efforts this year, with all three of them qualifying for the final and two finishing inside the top 10. Latvia’s entry was probably the biggest departure from last year, replacing those irritating cake bakers with the estimable Aminata, styled a bit like those Harmlequin boss creatures from StreetPass Mansion (niche gaming reference ahoy) and presumably using Latvia’s entire supply of double-sided tape to stop her boobs from popping out of that corset dress. I liked their minimalist approach to balladry as well, just letting Aminata properly belt out that chorus without much in the way of orchestration to distract from it. (Also hurr hurr “love injected”, hurr hurr. Maybe that’s what happens after Nadav Guedj shows you ‘Tel Aviv’?)
11. Slovenia (Maraaya: ‘Here For You’ – 14th place)
A screengrab from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, or a production still from Stone Cold Sober: The Paloma Faith Story, starring Rebecca Front as Paloma Faith? Maraaya doubled-down on gimmicks for the contest, being both a married couple (the group name is a portmanteau of their names, Marjetka and Raay, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, it’s pronounced the same way as “she has Raay” in Slovenian) and also with Marjetka wearing headphones in public at all times, and I rather liked their retro dance effort. If anything, I think they suffered a bit from being on first – it was a good opener to the show, but I think its uptemponess might have been better appreciated by voters after they’d sat through all those interminable ballads.
10. Russia (Polina Gagarina: ‘A Million Voices’ – runner-up)
I’ve said on a few occasions that I’ll never stop finding it funny that Russia is a total bastard on a year-round basis, and yet always sends white-clad wholesome young girls to Eurovision to sing songs about peace, harmony and loving each other, and yet…I’m starting to get a bit bored of it? I will always enjoy having Russia as the card-carrying villains of the competition (during the results, Russian representative Dmitry Shepelev cracked a joke about Russia awarding 12 points to themselves, knowing full well that if any country could find a way to do that, it’s Russia. Or possibly Azerbaijan), particularly since this year the hosts actually had to constantly remind the crowd not to boo the Russian entrant following their reception in Copenhagen last year, but I’d just quite like them to come up with a few new tricks. Still, as examples of that trope go this was a decent one, and I’m glad they had enough of a lead in the first half of the voting reveal to really put the shit up Måns Zelmerlöw for a while, but I’m also glad they didn’t win, because Russia in its current state is in no way a suitable home for the Eurovision Song Contest.
9. Sweden (Måns Zelmerlöw: ‘Heroes’ – winner)
The clear pre-contest favourite that won by a sizeable margin, but give credit to whoever chose what order the results would be announced in because it looked like Russia might actually take it for a while. Going into the final I had this filed under “like the song, not so much the singer”, but I warmed to him in the end, partly because Måns was clearly getting a bit nervous about having blown in for the first third or so of the results, and because those rumours about him being a homophobe gained so much traction that his desperate attempts to prove them groundless became kind of endearing. That “Heteros? Homos? Heroes!” t-shirt he wore on Instagram before the final was clearly the work of a man in freefall, but I did appreciate that he’d been so rattled at the thought of losing half his fanbase that he ended up garbling something about equality and being free to love whoever you like in his victory speech. (Also, that little CGI gonk who danced with him was adorable.) Whatever his private feelings may be, I expect Måns will be a lot more careful about what he says in public in future. And Dima Bilan can breathe a sigh of relief, because his reign as The Biggest Bellend Ever To Win Eurovision remains unthreatened for now, at least until such a time as Eric Saade wins Melodifestivalen again.
8. Lithuania (Monika Linkyté & Vaidas Baumila: ‘This Time’ – 18th place)
The one Baltic state that didn’t manage to crack the top 10 this year (or indeed get anywhere near it), but still somehow managed to top the UK televote for reasons I haven’t quite worked out. Not because I didn’t like the song – its position on this ranking should indicate otherwise – but because I was surprised anyone else did. It reminded me a bit of Malta’s entry from last year if it had been performed by Same Difference, so happy and Disneyesque as it was. Apparently Monika and Vaidas were being very coy about whether they were a couple or not during interviews, presumably to drum up publicity at any cost, but all I will say on that matter is that after that kiss he gave one of the queeniest whoops to the audience that I’ve heard in a long time. Anyway, fair play to Lithuania for actually getting their mid-performance gay kisses on camera this time (during the semi-final, the camera was only on Monika and Vaidas, because apparently semi-finals are heteronormative), well done to Europe for barely even kicking up a stink over it, well done to the choreographer who got them to close their eyes and hold each other’s hands on the line “every time I close my eyes I feel you” and well done to Vaidas for possibly being the most attractive man competing this year.
7. Cyprus (John Karayiannis: ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ – 22nd place)
This one attracted a lot of ire for being SO BORING on Twitter, but for me it fell more on the side of “gentle” rather than boring, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It sounded a bit like ‘To Be With You’ by Mr Big and made me express a lot of my feelings as questions – I quite like it? I think? It’s sort of nice? If you like that sort of thing? – but ended up appealing to me on an entirely emotional level where I just found myself smiling and a bit misty-eyed while I was listening to it. Then again I was on the cider at this point, I think.
6. Norway (Mørland & Debrah Scarlett: ‘A Monster Like Me’ – 8th place)
With apologies to Mr Lithuania, on reflection I think Mørland probably just edges it as the most attractive male contestant this year, but you both put up an excellent fight and I’m only sorry I missed the round where you wrestled shirtless in jelly for the title. Ahem. This one helped to separate itself from the abundance of male-female duets this year by being significantly darker and more morbid in tone, but I couldn’t help thinking that lyrics like “Honey, I’m telling the truth, I did something terrible in my early youth” made it sound a bit like a book number from Bat Boy: The Musical that got cut during the out-of-town tryouts. Still, Mørland and Debrah are pros and gave the sort of performance that stops you from dwelling on dodgy lyrics for too long, lacing everything with a level of subtextual aggression that is sadly all-too-rare in Eurovision (unless you’re one of those people who was convinced that Electro Velvet secretly loathed each other).
5. Belgium (Loïc Nottet: ‘Rhythm Inside’ – 4th place)
This one was pretty much the opposite of Albania’s entry, in that I didn’t really like it when I’d only heard the audio but it made complete sense to me as a performance when I saw it during the semi-finals. I like the way they deliberately thumbed their nose at the idea that anyone might want to read the on-screen hashtag by rendering it invisible with the combination of a brilliant white backdrop, bright white lights and eye-searingly white costumes for everyone except Loïc himself. This one possibly marched to the beat of its own drum a little bit too much to have been a real contender for the winner at any point, but to finish fourth in a year where the top three songs steamed out in front from the very beginning and were basically impossible to catch is an accomplishment in its own right. Especially if you’re Belgium.
4. Spain (Edurne: ‘Amanecer’ – 21st place)
I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong for Spain, because I thought the combination of a favourable position in the running order and a memorable performance would see this one doing well. It can’t have been that they weren’t singing in English, because: Italy. It can’t have been some sort of protest against the Big Five sailing through the semi-finals, because again: Italy. The only thing I can think of (other than the fact that she totally biffed the final note, which is unfortunate but not normally the sort of thing that sinks an entire performance) is that after brandishing that hot shirtless man-prop before the performance she gave us an unrealistic expectation of how much we were actually going to see him, and then when he was barely visible for most of the performance The Thirsty Women And Gays Of Eurovision were not amused. Perhaps that’s it. Still, she gets bonus points from me for being one of only two women that I saw actually make themselves cry during their performances. Now that’s commitment.
3. Serbia (Bojana Stamenov: ‘Beauty Never Lies’ – 10th place)
(Blimey, that Ginger Minj has done well for herself, etc.) The standout star of the first semi-final, this one kind of emerged from nowhere with a heartfelt ballad about loving yourself (“Finally I can say, yes I’m different and that’s okay”) that unexpectedly turns into a massive poppers o’clock CHOON halfway through. Sadly I think this is the sort of song that people in this country think does well at Eurovision rather than the sort of song that actually does well at Eurovision (I think it was always a bit too camp to ever be a real contender, sadly), but a 10th place finish is still very respectable. I might have even ranked it a bit higher if it didn’t take quite so long to properly get going.
2. Estonia (Elina Born & Stig Rästa: ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’ – 7th place)
Oh god, I loved this one. Sure, if you really want to, you can accuse it of shamelessly imitating everything about the Common Linnets from last year (personally I’d argue that it was nowhere near as twee as theirs was), but I just loved everything about it – the song, the singers, the staging, the perfect single tear that Elina managed to squeeze out halfway through the song (she was the other one who cried, you see). The one thing keeping it off the top spot for me was that it never quite sounded as good live as it did on the recorded version because some of those low notes were a bit uncomfortable, but whatever, I loved it, and I plan to play it to death over the couple of weeks.
1. Georgia (Nina Sublatti: ‘Warrior’ – 11th place)
Congratulations to Georgia on staging one of the most remarkable Eurovision comebacks I’ve ever seen: after submitting possibly the worst song ever written for last year’s contest, this year they came back fighting by entering Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s evil twin with one of two songs in contention this year called ‘Warrior’ (the other being Malta’s, which didn’t make it past the semi-finals). Nina did a fantastic job despite the number of things that were working against her: she was apparently very ill for most of the week, and the smoke machine was so overstimulated during this performance that she actually disappeared from view several times, but she was undaunted and belted out that song like a real trouper. Like a warrior, in fact. Also that costume is just darling. Brava.