And then once we’ve got to the end of this, I’ll add in the phone vote and it will change everything.
26. Sweden (Frans: ‘If I Were Sorry’ – 5th place)
It’s really weird for me to sit through Eurovision actively rooting against Sweden, but their decision to send this piece of pisspoor mumblecore pop left me with little choice. It’s an intensely annoying song, delivered charmlessly by Sweden’s answer to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and while it probably wasn’t the worst song or performance of the evening, I expect so much more from Sweden so I’m ranking it here to send a message to them to never let themselves down like this again. Sure, it did pretty well with both the juries and the televote, but I’m going to assume that was just the voters’ way of thanking Sweden for putting on such an entertaining show, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
25. Georgia (Nika Kocharev & Young Georgian Lolitaz: ‘Midnight Gold’ – 20th place)
The UK has suffered many indignities at Eurovision over the years: Jemini, Electro Velvet, that time we hosted it and it sounded like Ulrika Jonsson called Conny van den Bos a wizened old croone, but for my money nothing has ever shown us up on the international stage quite like giving this shitshow 12 points from our jury. Poor Richard Osman, actually having to stand there and say that. Apparently the music industry professionals chosen to represent the tastes of the UK at Eurovision really rate subpar Shed Seven tribute bands who deploy visual effects that make Tim Curry’s musical number in The Worst Witch look like Sandra Bullock somersaulting through space in Gravity. However bad we might be at picking good songs to send, apparently we’re even worse at selecting jurors. I demand an inquiry. HEADS MUST ROLL.
24. Hungary (Freddie: ‘Pioneer’ – 19th place)
Not so much representing Hungary as representing Thirsty, Freddie was best enjoyed on mute.
23. Israel (Hovi Star: ‘Made Of Stars’ – 14th place)
Israel’s answer to Adam Lambert sings a well-intentioned but unmemorable song about how we are all made of stars, throwing in a spoken Wizard Of Oz reference at the end for good measure. The sort of performance that could’ve won The Glee Project, but not really the sort of performance that wins Eurovision.
22. Poland (Michał Szpak: ‘Color Of Your Life’ – 8th place)
Poland were one of the countries that made the new scoring system genuinely exciting: after finishing 25th with the juries, the televote scores started rolling in from worst to best and one country remained conspicuous by their absence: Poland. The longer we went before the announcement, the more we all wondered just how much of a massive leap they were about to make, and while Australia and Ukraine were far too far out in front to be realistically caught by them at this point, it was still brilliant to watch Poland lurking at the bottom of the scoreboard, knowing that at any moment they were going to make a superjump into the top 10, possibly even the top five. I bet they’re kicking themselves now for not sending Margaret with ‘Cool Me Down’, which probably would’ve rated much better with the juries and might just have won them the whole thing.
21. Italy (Francesca Michielin: ‘No Degree Of Separation’ – 16th place)
Before the contest I heard quite a few people saying Italy could be a dark horse this year because they had a really good song, and after hearing it I’m really not sure what any of them were on about. It had a pleasant enough chorus and some cute visual effects, but it sounded like that same yelpy ballad that turns up at least three times every year in slightly altered forms.
20. The Netherlands (Douwe Bob: ‘Slow Down’ – 11th place)
After watching other countries chase the folk-country vote last year with Common Linnets-inspired acts while their own, poppier entry failed to escape the semi-finals, this year the Netherlands clearly decided they might as well follow in their own footsteps and treated us to a bit more Dutch country – with diminishing returns, sadly. Despite clever use of the secondary stage and some impressive eyebrows, Douwe Bob didn’t pose the same threat to the top spots that the Common Linnets did in 2014. Also, what on earth were those 10 seconds of silence in the middle of the song all about?
19. Germany (Jamie-Lee: ‘Ghost’ – 26th place)
After their humiliating nul points finish last year, Germany rebounded by…sending a song that didn’t really sound that different and ended up at the bottom of the table again. Oops. I suspect they thought their best chance of hosting the competition in 2017 was just to sit back and let Australia win it, so poor Jamie-Lee was just a placeholder.
18. Croatia (Nina Kraljić: ‘Lighthouse’ – 23rd place)
Pretty sure I fought her at the end of Snowpeak Ruin in The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
17. Cyprus (Minus One: ‘Alter Ego’ – 21st place)
Cypriot cover band decides to enter Eurovision with some original material; has a last minute change of heart and just does a quick rewrite of ‘Somebody Told Me’ by The Killers instead. Still, at least I appreciated them finding quality material to rip off in the first place. That bloody light show, though – not only did it nearly blind me on the night, it made it nearly impossible to get a decent screengrab.
16. Czech Republic (Gabriela Gunčíková: ‘I Stand’ – 25th place)
I actually gave this one a really high score at the time of watching it and then went and downgraded it at the end. Not because it’s a bad song – it’s that kind of grand Eurovision ballad that really hits my sweet spot, and I thought Gabriela sang it very well – but it just didn’t linger in my mind in the same way that some of the other songs did, as evidenced by Gabriela not picking up any points in the televote. Mind you, she was singing in THE DEATH SLOT, so she did the best that she could in rather trying circumstances.
15. Latvia (Justs: ‘Heartbeat’ – 15th place)
Knowing where to put this was quite tricky because I think it’s a great song, but in both the semi-final and the final (and hell, even on the radio edit to some extent) it was made very clear that Justs is not the right person to be singing it because it’s just not in the right key for his voice. In the end I asked myself “was his singing so terrible that it actively ruined the song?” and the answer was no, so I let this one stay reasonably high. Also he wore a really nice tan leather jacket in the Latvian national finals, so I might have given him an extra point for that.
14. Malta (Ira Losco: ‘Walk On Water’ – 12th place)
One of the songs that did incredibly well with the juries but got stung by the televote, I feel like Malta’s entry could’ve probably won Eurovision about 20 years ago, but was probably a little too dated to really be that much of a threat in 2016. (I will submit this along with the UK’s jury results in my call for an enquiry into the general competence of this year’s jurors.) Still, I enjoyed it, and bonus points to Ira for rubbing her hands over her stomach at the end as if to say “yeah, I’m pregnant at Eurovision bitches, you better vote for this.”
I must admit I had my doubts when it was revealed that Måns Zelmerlöw would be co-hosting with Petra Mede this year, but I thought he acquitted himself well – not just by taking his shirt off, but by being relaxed and (dare I say) charming on camera and bringing seemingly limitless reserves of energy, particularly in the final with the amount of musical numbers he had to do. Speaking of which, I think ‘Love Love Peace Peace’ – Måns and Petra’s computer-generated song guaranteed to win Eurovision – was an absolute triumph, possibly even edging out ‘Swedish Smörgåsbord’ in the list of all-time greats. Petra was wonderful, of course, and never better than during the interminable exchanges with the national representatives during the jury voting when she politely but firmly informed several of them that she wasn’t in any great hurry to visit their country and would just like to hear their 12 points please. Sure, things went a little bit wrong for both of them during the reveal of the televoting at the end, but that looked like technical problems more than anything, and I think they did a good job of keeping things running as smoothly as possible.
The one thing I would like to take issue with in the whole evening, however, is the inclusion of Justin Timberlake. I’ve heard so much talk about what a coup it is for Eurovision to get Justin to perform for them, as though he’s not probably going to be performing on Loose Women and Up Late With Rylan in a couple of weeks and sounding equally convincing in his attempts to claim what an honour it is for him to be there. I’ve heard talk about him legitimising Eurovision with his very presence, as if the people who have deigned to assign credibility to Justin Timberlake (whose opinions I couldn’t give a shit about anyway) are all going to start throwing Eurovision parties and arguing the case for San Marino in the 2017 semi-finals. And I’ve heard Justin Timberlake’s new single, which frankly isn’t very good. I get why they wanted him on the show, but for me the whole time he was on it stopped feeling like Eurovision and became an X Factor results show, where someone who neither knew nor cared what was going on had just stopped by to shill their product. I don’t want this to be the state of things to come. I don’t want to have to endure Meghan Trainor in Kiev in 2017 or Katy Perry in Oslo 2018. Let’s make this a one-off experiment, like Australia should’ve been, and not make it a template for the competition in the future, eh?
13. Belgium (Laura Tesoro: ‘What’s The Pressure’ – 10th place)
Belgium had pretty much the same idea as Cyprus in terms of recrafting an existing pop song rather than building their own from scratch, sending this affectionate tribute to Fleur East’s ‘Sax’ (which was already fairly derivative in the first place). It was catchy, of course, but it really needed some sort of turbo boost in the final third to bring it on home and that boost never quite arrived. Still, Laura was exceptionally cute and her dancing was on point, which helped to cover over a few of the cracks in the song’s craftsmanship.
12. Serbia (Sanja Vučić ZAA: ‘Goodbye (Shelter)’ – 18th place)
Everything I could google about Sanja prior to the performance made me think “Serbian Paloma Faith”, so it’s no great surprise that I really enjoyed this one. I bet she’s a hoot on talk shows too.
11. Lithuania (Donny Montell: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night’ – 9th place)
This one topped the UK televote in both the second semi final (ie the one we were allowed to vote in) and the final, so clearly something about guys somersaulting off trampolines really strikes a chord with the British public. Still, at least I feel like our televote was a lot less damaging to our national pride than our jury vote was, because this had the feel of a decent contemporary pop song even if it was a smidge more album deep-cut than it was lead single.
10. United Kingdom (Joe & Jake: ‘You’re Not Alone’ – 24th place)
Those poor boys. I really felt for Joe & Jake this year after we did moderately well (not brilliant, but not terrible) with the jury votes, actually picking up votes from countries other than Malta, San Marino and Ireland, and ended up in 17th place, only to utterly stack it in the televote, receiving a mere 8 points and having to watch as all the countries beneath us leapfrogged right past us until we were back in familiar territory right down the bottom. It’s hard to know what went wrong, but perhaps it was the fact that even though this was a step up from the sort of thing we normally send to Eurovision, it still didn’t really stand out from the pack on the night. It was a competent pop song, performed well, but clearly that’s not enough. (Also I’m wondering if it was the best idea to have the pre-performance VT showing Joe & Jake showing off their sporting prowess because Joe is not a man who looks particularly comfortable in shorts.) Still, what I will say in its favour is that it sounded like a radio-friendly pop song that someone from this country would release as an actual single that they genuinely believed in, rather than a song that someone might write for Eurovision at gunpoint, which is what we’ve sent in the last few years. It’s a step in the right direction, it’s just that we’ve got a long way to go, obviously. I still believe in us. France made the top six this year, and they take Eurovision even less seriously than we do.
9. Ukraine (Jamala: ‘1944’ – winner)
So for the second year in a row, the overall winner finishes in ninth place in my personal ranking. (It wasn’t even deliberate, I swear.) I was thrilled for Jamala winning, mostly because this was a very personal song that clearly meant a lot to her – that much came across every time she performed it, and she was obviously deeply touched to win the competition, particularly in a year when Russia had been the favourite for over a month. I found her performance incredibly moving, particularly the deep, guttural howl she made just before the tree grew on the screen behind her in a triumph of both singing and staging. So why isn’t this higher? Well, mostly because it’s not something I actually see myself listening to that much outside the context of the contest itself. I’ll be pleased if I’m listening to the entire soundtrack from this year and it comes on, but I don’t imagine I’ll be actively seeking it out that often.
8. Spain (Barei: ‘Say Yay! – 22nd place)
The United Kingdom wasn’t the only country this year to attempt to step up its game and end up with no notable gain: after years of mostly singing in Spanish to general indifference (apart from Ruth Lorenzo, obviously), Spain performed their song entirely in English and ended up one place lower than last year. (Interestingly, they were one place above us in both the jury voting and the televoting. Maybe we should pool our resources or at least compare notes and see if we can figure out where we’re going wrong.) Anyway, yet again I appeared to like the Spanish entry much more than everyone else did, but maybe hipster Caroline Flack doing a deliberate pratfall in the middle of the song so she can sing from the floor just touches me in a profound place.
7. France (Amir: ‘J’ai cherché’ – 6th place)
For a while in the run-up to the contest it looked like France were the biggest underdog threat to Russia, which was quite a strange position to be in considering how France usually performs at Eurovision. Like Spain, they sold out this year by singing in English (although in a very calculated way, by just doing the chorus in English and keeping the verses in French), but to much better effect, which presumably had something to do with the chillout club vibe of the song and the fact that Amir is very handsome. (Of all the thirst traps sent to Eurovision this year, I think he was my favourite.) It was never quite the powerhouse in the voting that the bookmakers had us thinking it might be, but sixth place is still France’s best result since 2002 and an excellent result for a country that clearly doesn’t give a fuck about Eurovision anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the template we try to follow next year, with predictably humiliating results.
6. Australia (Dami Im: ‘Sound Of Silence’ – runner-up)
As the jury votes came rolling in and we all found ourselves wondering exactly how we were going to explain to our non-Eurovision-following friends that Australia had won the Eurovision Song Contest, I realised something: I didn’t want Australia to win. Perhaps it’s the parochial in me, worrying that allowing Australia to become a regular participant rather than a special guest (as they were last year) means that it’s essentially going to become the Worldvision Song Contest and lose its idiosyncratic charm. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was still moderately pissed off about Australia’s transparent cheating getting blithely waved through by the EBU (the song contains the line “trying to feel your love through FaceTime”, which breaks the rules of the competition about the incorporation of brand names in lyrics. The composers argued that it wasn’t “FaceTime” but “face time”, as in the concept of being face to face with someone, except that is clearly a BLATANT LIE when you listen to the lyrics in context. Quite why the EBU allowed this when San Marino had to remove all their references to Facebook in 2012 and Belarus had to remove a single reference to Google Maps in 2014 is a mystery to me, but it smacks of Australia being given special treatment and therefore being MORE CORRUPT THAN RUSSIA AND AZERBAIJAN PUT TOGETHER or something). Anyway, when Ukraine snuck past them in the televote, I breathed a sigh of relief. I like Dami Im. I thought this was a great song. But I didn’t want Australia to win. Sorry guys.
5. Russia (Sergey Lazarev: ‘You Are The Only One’ – 3rd place)
So, how long do we think it will be before Putin has poor Sergey summarily executed for bringing disgrace to Mother Russia by finishing in third place when they were hot favourites to win, and losing to Ukraine, of all countries? After a slightly underwhelming performance in Tuesday’s semi-final, I actually thought Sergey clawed it back pretty well on the night with a better vocal and generally a more confident performance, and he can, I’m sure, take some solace from having won the televote. It was the juries that let him down, and I don’t know whether that was deliberate, political anyone-but-Russia tactical voting or simply the musical professionals on duty this year deciding that the song wasn’t up to scratch despite the shitloads of money that Russia had obviously thrown at producers and creative directors trying to make it a showstopper. Clearly they’ll just have to bribe everyone much harder next year. Still: absolute banger, though.
4. Bulgaria (Poli Genova: ‘If Love Was A Crime’ – 4th place)
One of only two songs to end up in the same position in my ranking as it did on the night (the other being Latvia at 15th), this was a great year for Bulgaria. As I said in my semi-finals ranking, it’s easy for us in our complacent, Big Five position to forget how much Eurovision means to some of the other countries who take part, and Poli was a great example of that. Seeing the absolute glee on her face as she brought in Bulgaria’s best ever result at Eurovision (since their debut in 2005, they’ve only qualified for the finals once, finishing fifth in 2007) made it clear that this was as good as winning as far as she was concerned, especially considering this was a three-horse race for the most part. She had interestingly diverse influences (a touch of Emmelie de Forest’s panpipes, a little of Electro Velvet’s light-up costumes) and shaped them all into a cohesive whole that did commendably well in the televote despite performing so early in the evening. Party at Poli’s house when she gets home, we reckon.
3. Armenia (Iveta Mukuchyan: ‘LoveWave’ – 7th place)
First of all, I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to write this woman’s name and almost written “Iveta Lukosiute” through sheer muscle memory. Iveta Lukosiute at Eurovision would be quite something, so somebody needs to get on that. As for Iveta Mukuchyan herself, this was a near flawless performance, bringing the entire show to a close in a three-minute onslaught of smoke, caping and powerhouse vocals, all the while looking as if she was still just warming up. At the viewing party I attended on the night, this one got the highest combined score from our (admittedly non-professional) jury and it’s not hard to see why.
2. Azerbaijan (Samra: ‘Miracle’ – 17th place)
Last year I ranked Azerbaijan 23rd out of 27 and told them in no uncertain terms to buck their ideas up. Well, they’ve *checks analytics* clearly been reading this blog because this year’s entry was an absolute stormer of a pop song that ran like a high-speed train through an explosion of fireworks, spark showers, and male dancers who clearly came straight from their second job in low-budget gay porn about American football without having time to change. There were some worries about this entry because the word from rehearsals was that Samra couldn’t cut it live like, at all, but she managed to emerge more or less unscathed on both nights (though I suspect those two female backing singers who were always lurking near the back may well have been doing most of the heavy lifting). Admittedly none of this translated into a better performance in the actual league tables, as they finished 5 places lower than they did last year, but at least they entered a much better song in the first place, and that’s the real victory.
1. Austria (Zoë: ‘Loin d’ici’ – 13th place)
The true underdog star of this year’s competition. After the embarrassment of finishing last in 2015 as the host country, Austria had a lot to prove this year, so there were a fair few raised eyebrows when it turned out they were sending a slice of cutesy happy house in French. French isn’t even a national language of Austria, and even actual France generally does itself no favours by performing in French. Did Austria have a death wish? But after Zoë gave probably the best vocal of Tuesday’s semi final, they qualified rather unexpectedly and even landed a fairly plum performance slot. Then Zoë was systematically ignored by the hipster jurists who couldn’t handle her Disney Princess realness, only to emerge eighth overall in the televote and scoot 11 places up the leaderboard to a very respectable mid-table finish for a song that had seemed like such a tough sell before the competition. I think what nobody saw coming with this one was just how well Austria had mastered the connection between performer and staging, with Zoë doing her best Giselle-from-Enchanted impression as flowers blossomed and woodland creatures scampered all around her. Of all the surprise come-from-behind triumphs that occurred when the televotes were revealed, Zoë being such a phone-in favourite was the biggest heartwarmer for me, and clear evidence that sometimes nice girls really do finish, um, eighth in the televote and 13th overall.