We hardly knew ye.
16. Slovenia (Omar Naber: ‘On My Way’ – Semi-Final 1, 17th place)
I do my best to separate the art from the artist, but he is literally a convicted sex offender.
15. San Marino (Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson: ‘Spirit Of The Night’ – Semi-Final 2, 18th place)
Not to be too glib about this, but San Marino should be grateful that Slovenia sent a convicted sex offender because in any other scenario they would have been bottom on this list by a comfortable margin. This was the year that San Marino – the little microstate that could, the entrants that I stan for beyond all logic and reason year in year out – finally broke me, because they brought true Eurovision legend Valentina Monetta out of retirement, and for what? For this? I could barely watch, I felt so embarrassed for both of them as they hopped around the stage belting out what sounded like a bare-bones demo recorded on someone’s iPhone, with more key changes than I cared to count and none of them successful. Let’s just pretend that this never happened, and that Valentina retired permanently after the ESC2014 and that was the perfect and definite end to her Eurovision story.
14. Albania (Lindita: ‘World’ – Semi-Final 1, 14th place)
I’m not saying the fact that she stood Mel Giedroyc up for an interview during the week was a factor in Lindita’s low placement, but I am saying it’s not not a factor. I quite enjoyed the overall bombast of the song here, as well as the fact that sartorially she had quite a cool Madonna/whore dichotomy thing going on with Tamara from Georgia who was on two slots earlier, but in the end there were just too many interchangeable young women singing in white dresses for me to be able to hold them all in my memory, and Lindita was one of the early casualties. Sorry Lindita.
13. Ireland (Brendan Murray: ‘Dying To Try’ – Semi-Final 2, 13th place)
I could swear that prior to the competition I’d heard people saying that Ireland actually had a half-decent entry this year and might actually qualify for the grand final for the first time in four years. I’m not sure if I imagined those people or not, but if they did exist they were certainly very quiet after Brendan’s performance on Thursday. Apparently this one is an escapee from Irish boyband Hometown, a group whose existence I’m only really aware of because one of them was on Dancing With The Stars Ireland alongside genuine broadcasting legend Teresa Mannion and bothersome Big Brother nitwit Hughie Maughan. As far as the song goes, it was a fairly unremarkable performance of a fairly unremarkable song, with the only particularly noteworthy thing about it being Brendan’s falsetto, and my concerns about what would happen if he qualified and his voice broke before Saturday. Fun fact: I later discovered Brendan is apparently 20 years old. 20!
12. Czech Republic (Martina Bárta: ‘My Turn’ – Semi-Final 1, 13th place)
Well, on the bright side, that’s a hell of an outfit. I’m getting go-getting 80s businesswoman trying something a little bit more avant-garde for dress-down Friday, and it works for me. Shame about the song though, which sounded like the 11 o’clock number from a mediocre 1970s Broadway show.
11. Malta (Claudia Faniello: ‘Breathlessly’ – Semi-Final 2, 16th place)
I feel bad about not getting behind this one because Chris and I went to Malta for our honeymoon earlier this year and had a wonderful time, but this was one of several songs that I ended up writing “pleasant but forgettable” about in my notes. I felt even worse about it when I looked into Claudia’s history and discovered that she is something of a Maltese Eurovision stalwart, having entered their selection process on nine occasions, and this was her first time actually getting through to the main competition. Maybe the 10th year will be the charm?
10. Serbia (Tijana Bogićević: ‘In Too Deep’ – Semi-Final 2, 11th place)
There’s a lot to be said for knowing one’s limitations. Tijana’s song was pretty boring, but she seemed to know that much and arranged it so that just when everyone’s minds were starting to wander, out came the hot, shirtless male dancer. I mean, it wasn’t enough to actually save the performance but it was a valiant effort.
9. Lithuania (Fusedmarc: ‘Rain Of Revolution’ – Semi-Final 2, 17th place)
I warmed to Fusedmarc’s lead singer Viktorija instantly when she strode on stage and unveiled a true smugface for the ages. I mean, just look at it! Apparently, however, not everyone enjoyed her as much as I did. I don’t know whether it was the sub-Paloma Faith stylings of the song, or the fact that people were kind of grossed out by the anatomically-styled CGI heart on the screens behind them pumping out glitter throughout the song, but clearly this one didn’t register with the voting public the way it did with me. Ah well.
8. Georgia (Tamara Gachechiladze: ‘Keep The Faith’ – Semi-Final 1, 11th place)
Category is…Little Red Riding Ho. I also like to think that Georgia’s entry this year was a glimpse at an alternative future where Jessie Spano overcame her addiction to caffeine pills but ditched the rest of Hot Sundae and went solo. Seriously though, all credit for Tamara for sensing ahead of time that so many of this year’s contenders would be going bridal with their looks and ensuring she chose a colour that would make her stand out as much as possible. I actually really liked this song, which was very much of the “Eurovision does a Bond theme” well that at least one country inevitably draws from each year, and top marks to Tamara for seamlessly ditching the cape like a pro, but a dodgy key change near the end did slow the song’s momentum, and having to perform in the death slot probably didn’t do her any favours either. Still, you’d think that after our jury gave 12 points to that mess Georgia submitted in 2016, we might have been able to buoy them up a bit more when they actually sent a reasonably decent song.
7. Montenegro (Slavko Kalezić: ‘Space’ – Semi-Final 1, 16th place)
It’s odd – Slavko seems like the sort of guy who’d be up to date on his RuPaul’s Drag Race lore, but maybe the pressure of getting ready for Eurovision has left him a little bit behind on season nine, because he clearly didn’t get the message that was doled out to Alexis Michelle a few weeks ago: if you’re going to do a reveal on the runway, make sure that what you’re wearing underneath is more impressive than what was on top. Anyway, I saw a lot of outrage on Tuesday over Slavko not making the final, but it wasn’t a complete surprise to me. The deployment of camp at Eurovision is something that has to be handled with care – it can work, but it needs to be backed up by a solid concept and ideally a killer tune. Consider 2007, when Ukraine sent Verka Serduchka and finished second, while we sent Scooch and finished 23rd. I’m not saying that Slavko was quite at Scooch levels of ineptness because his ode to extra-terrestrial bumming was quite catchy, but that giant ponytail he was using as a gimmick turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help onstage, and his dancing was objectively terrible. So essentially: nice idea, but the execution needed a lot more work.
6. Latvia (Triana Park: ‘Line’ – Semi-Final 1, 18th place)
I was in the middle of serving up dinner during the last couple of songs of Tuesday’s semi-final, so let’s just say that walking back into the living room and being presented with this particular visual nearly made me drop my ravioli. That’s not a bad thing though: I know I’ve banged on this particular drum quite a lot, but in a year where so many entrants went “oh, just hand me that long white dress”, I appreciated any conscious effort to stand out visually. Also, the look worked really well with the song’s mid-90s club feel. In a very literal sense, the final’s going to be a lot less colourful without this lot, and that’s a shame.
5. Iceland (Svala: ‘Paper’ – Semi-Final 1, 15th place)
Last year there was a total Nordic bloodbath in the semi-finals, leaving only Sweden to represent on Saturday night (who hadn’t had to compete in the semis because they were the host country). This year was a slight improvement, with the bloodbath restricted just to the Tuesday semi, though I imagine that’s scant consolation to Iceland and Finland, who now each face their third consecutive year of sitting out the grand final. Iceland’s entry this year was their homespun version of Lady Gaga, with her platform shoes and impressive chest plate. I thought this was a fairly strong entry and might have done the job for them this year, but perhaps they just had the misfortune of being drawn in a fairly ballad-heavy semi-final.
4. FYR Macedonia (Jana Burčeska: ‘Dance Alone’ – Semi-Final 2, 15th place)
I liked the effort that Macedonia brought to representing as many of the stages of life as possible at Eurovision this year, as not only was Jana pregnant but she was of course also the lucky recipient of that surprise proposal during the second semi-final (which UK viewers didn’t actually get to see because we were watching Scott and Mel’s Nordic noir parody – an idea that made sense last year when the show was happening in Sweden but one that was bafflingly irrelevant this year when the host city was Kiev). I still don’t think we’re quite in “was robbed” territory with this track, but I did really like it – a Robyn-esque slice of dance-pop about keeping your head held high in the club – and at least Jana still gets to take some very happy memories home from Kyiv, right?
3. Finland (Norma John: ‘Blackbird’ – Semi-Final 1, 12th place)
Cheer up, it might never happen, etc. So, every year I write a feature about Eurovision for my day job, and I usually pick out five songs to watch in this year’s competition – I try not to listen to all of the songs in advance because I still like to have some surprises as a viewer, but I have a look at the bookies’ odds to see what the favourites are and I crowdsource a few suggestions on Twitter too. Norway was suggested to me by a few people, but at the time I remember writing in my notes that it was a good song but I had my doubts about whether it had broad enough appeal to qualify, and it looks like I had a point. I still think it’s a good song, but it did go on a bit, and I think it might have just been slightly too melancholic to be a crowd-pleaser in the way it needed to be.
2. Switzerland (Timebelle: ‘Apollo’ – 2nd Semi-Final, 12th place)
Here’s another fun fact: Timebelle were originally offered this year’s Romanian entry ‘Yodel It!’ as their entry for the Swiss national selection process, and turned it down. I wonder if they regret that decision now? Anyway, this is one of the two songs that I was genuinely quite gutted to not be seeing again on Saturday because this was one of the major pre-contest earworms for me and I really thought it deserved to do well. Plus that guy on the drums in the pink waistcoast was totally cute, I mean what more does Switzerland even have to do to get back in this thing?
1. Estonia (Koit Toome & Laura: ‘Verona’ – 2nd Semi-Final, 14th place)
And Estonia take this year’s “most robbed in the semis” award for this delightfully cheesy duet about two lovers with a load of heavy-handed Romeo And Juliet parallels. Truly, this performance had everything: Koit and Laura interacting with CGI versions of each other’s faces on the back screen, Koit and Laura making cheesey am-dram faces at each other, Koit timing his stares down the camera along to the backing track, Laura’s hair getting slightly caught in her microphone so it danced around every time she moved her arm, an easily misheard lyric that made it sound like they were singing about “two silly boats in the sea” and both of them quite frankly looking like they were genetically engineered in a lab for the sole purpose of representing a Baltic state at Eurovision. That Austria’s tuneless twink and Croatia’s Next Top Homophobe made it to the finals over this masterpiece should be a source of pan-European shame for many years to come.