26. Croatia (Jacques Houdek: ‘My Friend’ – 13th place)
Okay, so I put the Slovenian sex offender in last place in my semi-final ranking, and now I’m putting the Croatian homophobe in last place on this ranking. But before you accuse me of not being able to separate the art from the artist: this song was crap and his gimmick of sounding like he was doing a duet with himself by doing half of it in opera voice and half of it in pop voice was severely undermined by neither of those voices actually being much cop. Sorry for it.
25. Spain (Manel Navarro: ‘Do It For Your Lover’ – 26th place)
When the first three clips from the Big Five were played during Tuesday’s semi-final, Twitter was awash with people predicting that Spain would be finishing dead last this year, and so it came to pass. This wan slice of surf-pop reeked of “will this do?”, and three minutes later I still wasn’t any the wiser as to precisely what I was supposed to be doing for my lover. Come on, Spain. Get it together. Even Germany beat you this year. Germany.
24. Armenia (Artsvik: ‘Fly With Me’ – 18th place)
Easily the most boring song to have actually qualified from the semi-finals (with the possible exception of Denmark), literally all I can remember about this one is the armography. It was good armography though.
23. Germany (Levina: ‘Perfect Life’ – 25th place)
However despondent we may get about the United Kingdom’s approach to Eurovision, we can take some solace from the fact that we’re still not as bad at it as Germany have become recently. After two consecutive last-place finishes, Germany’s efforts this year extended as far as a blatant rip-off of the bassline to ‘Titanium’ by David Guetta and Sia, with a much less interesting vocal melody over the top of it. I mean, I know Eurovision always features one or two “tributes” to existing popular material (last year we had ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Somebody Told Me’, remember?), but at least most countries make a vague effort to adapt or disguise it slightly. This was just lazy.
22. Poland (Kasia Moś: ‘Flashlight’ – 22nd place)
Many’s the time a Eurovision fan has wondered how exactly you tackle Poland’s unassailability when it comes to the phone vote. Apparently the answer is: get them to send a really drippy ballad sung by a woman with inadequately-supported boobs and stick them in the death slot. Seriously though, what did she have against her left breast? Why was she doing that to it?
21. Ukraine (O.Torvald: ‘Time’ – 24th place)
It’s always interesting to see what sort of song the host country sends to Eurovision, because I imagine most places want to strike a balance between “we don’t want to look like we’re coasting” and “we don’t want the arseache of hosting this thing two years in a row”. Ukraine, though, just seemed to throw such caution out of the window, and instead made the most of having a free pass by sending some random metal.
20. Denmark (Anja: ‘Where I Am’ – 20th place)
Kudos to Denmark for being quick to spot that since Australia seem to be getting a “advance directly to ‘Go'” card each year right now, a smart move is to send somebody who has a tertiary connection to your country but has lived most of her life Down Under. Apparently Anja has recently started trying to learn Danish on a home-study course, which makes this possibly the first time in Eurovision history that I speak more Danish than the actual Danish entrant. Så mærkelig! (The song was really boring though, sorry Anja.)
19. Australia (Isaiah: ‘Don’t Come Easy’ – 9th place)
Oh, so that’s what Luke Pasqualino has been doing since The Musketeers finished. This, to my mind, was easily the weakest entry Australia have submitted in their three years at Eurovision, so I was slightly dismayed to see it doing so well with the juries on Saturday night. But then – PLOT TWIST! – it turned out that they hadn’t resonated with the viewers at home at all, only picking up two points from the Danish televote. And then when the full stats were released in the small hours of the morning, it turned out that things had panned out similarly in the semi-final – they’d fared poorly in the phone vote and were only dragged up to qualifying level by their jury scores. So this is where it gets interesting: was this just an off-year for Australia, or is this an indication that the novelty is wearing off for the voters at home? Next year’s competition should be quite revealing…
18. Austria (Nathan Trent: ‘Running On Air’ – 16th place)
The cruellest part of the way the results are revealed now is that there is actually the possibility that someone will get singled out as having received no points in the televote – it happened to poor Gabriela from Czech Republic last yer, and it happened to poor Nathan from Austria this year. Strangely, I actually thought he performed much better on Saturday than he did during the semi-finals (where he did better in the televote, albeit in a less competitive field), but I think he might just have been hampered here by going on fairly early in the running order, and whatever “nice young man” votes he might have picked up probably ended up getting vacuumed up by Bulgaria in the end. Incidentally, my favourite Nathan fact from the competition is that he really wants to duet with Ariana Grande. Still waiting to hear whether he “just hasn’t met the right girl yet”.
17. Hungary (Joci Pápai: ‘Origo’ – 8th place)
If this year’s contest taught us anything, it’s that the received wisdom of “sing in English or you’re screwed” might not be all that relevant any more. Three of the top ten songs, including the winner, were primarily in non-English languages, and this one was even a blend of Hungarian and Romani (or so I’m told, I wouldn’t really know). If anything, I think not being sung in English probably helped this one’s chances because when translated the lyrics are kind of terrifying: “if you don’t need me let me go / I was born to be a John Doe / suffering’s a thing I know”, “at the age of four God talked to me / and armed me well to set me free” etc. Yikes.
16. Belarus (Naviband: ‘Story Of My Life’ – 17th place)
Honestly, look at that pair and tell me they don’t look like the sort of bit-players who’d be unleashed on you in Knightmare to give you a vague clue about a puzzle you won’t even be facing for another two weeks, and give you some cheese to put in your shoulderbag. That said, there was something charming about this folsky Belarusian effort, even if it was maybe a little bit too self-consciously quirky. The best bit was when they grabbed onto each other and started twirling around and she nearly fell over and then pulled a total “what am I like, I’m MAD ME” face. ❤
15. Norway (JOWST: ‘Grab The Moment’ – 10th place)
This was bizarre, and I loved it. Proper 1980s computer-movie visual effects over a guy repeatedly singing about “killing the voice in my head”. I hope there was a medic on standby.
14. Sweden (Robin Bengtsson: ‘I Can’t Go On’ – 5th place)
Another interesting thing to take home from this year’s results is that in a weak field overall (which I think this year’s contest probably was), a lot of people will just default to voting for Sweden even if, as in this case, even Sweden’s entry was only them operating on about 60 per cent of what they’re capable of. This was perfectly acceptable, slick, Timberlake-esque pop music, but it was entirely unexceptional, and even the staging seemed a bit old hat – not only is the OK Go-esque travelator idea a bit Big Brother 9, it also sort of defeats the point if the travelators are actually doing all of the work for you, rather than constantly running in one direction and forcing you to occasionally fight against them. Also, just in the interests of full disclosure, I could never really get behind Robin because his entry for Melodifestivalen 2016 was called ‘Constellation Prize’, and that’s honestly one of the most laboured puns I’ve ever encountered in my whole life.
Obviously the slogan for this year’s competition was “celebrate diversity” and then they got three white men to present it, and that particular irony has already been covered at length by people far quicker and wittier than I, so I won’t go into that here. But in terms of the presentation, I think Ukraine done good – it was very smoothly staged, and I’d go as far as to say the direction was excellent. And honestly, I think people were a little too harsh on the presenting trio. Sure, they were a little rusty on Tuesday, but they’d found their feet by Thursday and by the time Saturday’s final rolled around they all seemed completely comfortable with what they were doing. They weren’t Petra Mede-level, but they were significantly better than the Austrian hosts from 2015. In terms of their individual skills, I think Vova was the most natural-seeming host with the best timing (yes, yes, and also blatantly the hottest one, don’t look at me like that), Timur actively embraced the role of the presenting team’s butt monkey and I think that really worked for him, and Oleks…was also there. I mean, he was fine, but I think he was the least distinctive of the three. I think the jokes at their own expense worked well (“nobody in Ukraine knows who we are either”), and the weird badly-dubbed VT where they had an intensive training session from Måns Zelmerlöw in how to present Eurovision was a nice touch
whoops, oh dear, how did that get in there, but I do worry that we as a viewing public are in danger of overrating the abilities of Måns as a presenter. He did a good job last year, and I said as much at the time, but decouple him from Petra and he’s just another handsome man who can read a cue card.
Let’s also have a moment of appreciation for this work of sartorial excellence:
and for Vova’s very tight trousers here.
Also the clear highlight of the entire week, presentation-wise, was Vova patronising the shit out of the young girl who won Junior Eurovision as she calmly laid out her plans for total world domination. ❤
13. Cyprus (Hovig: ‘Gravity’ – 21st place)
When I was scanning around this year’s entrants before the contest to see which ones were the most attractive, Cyprus caught my attention – but then along came Israel. Sorry Cyprus. This one was mostly noteworthy for sounding quite a bit like ‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone Man, but at least it made an effort to have a decent melody over the top in its own right, Germany.
12. Portugal (Salvador Sobral: ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ – winner)
I’m really struggling to have strong feelings about this one way or the other. On the one hand: it’s quite a nice song, he has a lovely voice, I like the fact that his sister wrote it for him, I’m thrilled for Portugal getting their first-ever win at the competition and demonstrating that singing in Portuguese isn’t the death knell we apparently thought it was. But on the other hand: I’ve heard this so many times now and I still don’t think I could hum it back to you if you asked me, and I just find him as a performer really affected. So much like last year: I have no problem with it winning, but I don’t see myself going to any great effort to listen to it again.
11. Greece (Demy: ‘This Is Love’ – 19th place)
Apparently Demy took time off from her starring role in a Greek production of Mamma Mia! in order to represent her country at Eurovision. I don’t think they ever said which role she was playing, but I really hope it’s Christine Baranski.
10. Italy (Francesco Gabbani: ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ – 6th place)
So where did it all go wrong for Italy? They were the hot favourites going in with seemingly unassailable odds, the song was apparently a hit all across Europe and therefore seemed likely to appeal to both juries and televoters. Sure, they weren’t given the most favourable of performance positions, but Måns Zelmerlöw won from 10th in the running order just two years ago. It certainly seemed to go down well in the arena – I hated this song when I first heard it a few weeks back, but I could appreciate how much it benefitted from being played to an audience that were familiar with it and joined in the call-and-response sections – but while sixth place is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at, it’s still a surprising placing for a song that seemed such a lock-in a few days ago. It didn’t really deliver gangbusters numbers with juries or televoters – in fact, only Albania and Malta gave it the full 12 points – and never gave Portugal much of a run for its money in the end. Guess we’ll just have to chalk this one up to one of those strange acts of Eurovision capriciousness.
09. Israel (IMRI: ‘I Feel Alive’ – 23rd place)
It was definitely a bittersweet year for Israel, as their spokesperson confirmed on the air that this was likely to be their last year in the competition, as IBA is closing down this weekend and being replaced with a station that is ineligible for EBU membership. It’s a sad way to be ending 44 years of competing, particularly with such a lacklustre placing on the leaderboard, but I quite liked the song at least it gave two-time backup singer IMRI a chance to take the spotlight. Also, quite frankly: WOOF.
08. Moldova (Sunstroke Project: ‘Hey, Mamma!’ – 3rd place)
Every year there’s a success story at Eurovision that completely catches me off-guard, and this year it was Moldova – though to be fair, it’s perhaps my own fault for not knowing my Eurovision lore or my memes well enough to recognise what a big deal it was that Epic Sax Guy would be returning to the competition. I also enjoyed that Sunstroke Project’s backing singers actually had bridal outfits on, considering the number of vaguely-but-not-quite bridal white dresses we endured in the semi-finals, plus they had a neat skirt-switching trick and they had microphones concealed in their bouquets, which was inspired. But yeah, it was mostly Epic Sax Guy, let’s be honest.
07. The Netherlands (O’G3NE: ‘Lights And Shadows’ – 11th place)
I expected this one to do a little better than it actually did on the night – not only do the Netherlands usually do pretty well at Eurovision, but I thought the old-fashioned harmonies would go down well with the juries, while the karaoke visuals and Wilson Phillips homage would be fairly convincing to the home voters. In the end, it wasn’t quite the double-threat I expected, but it was still one of the better vocals on the night, and quite a catchy song. I’d say maybe it was a bit too dated to succeed, but this is still Eurovision, so who knows?
06. United Kingdom (Lucie Jones: ‘Never Give Up On You’ – 15th place)
Going into the competition, there were two schools of thought about the UK’s chances: either we’d finally cracked it and we were on course for our first top 10 finish in nearly a decade, or we were going to get an absolute kicking because of Brexit and everyone always hating us anyway etc etc and in the end…neither one happened? We did better with the juries than we’ve done for a while (although we seem to have upset Malta and Ireland for some reason) and pulled in votes from a much broader selection of countries even if we still didn’t get many 10s or 12s, but the televote is still a problem: we did better than last year, but not by much. I’m slightly disappointed with our finishing position because I think Lucie gave one of the best vocals of the night and we finally did a decent job of staging our entry, but in the end I suspect the song itself was probably just a bit too weak to do the job. Still: I think this year demonstrates that we are gradually figuring out what we need to be doing at Eurovision, even if we’re still not quite there yet. I still have faith.
05. Romania (Ilinca ft. Alex Florea: ‘Yodel It!’ – 7th place)
The number one earworm star of this year’s contest by a long way – who knew yodelling and rapping was such a perfect combination? I enjoyed nearly everything about this, particularly Alex’s accent occasionally mangling the words and the way that Ilinca just started going off on a massive yodelling improv kick in the middle eight because she could, dammit. I would’ve ranked this higher, but they did both go fairly massively off-key around halfway through and I can’t shake the feeling that they performed it slightly better in the semi-finals. Also that bit right at the end where he basically violated her face was genuinely disturbing.
04. Belgium (Blanche: ‘City Lights’ – 4th place)
I loved the fact that it was implied that each act’s intro video featured them doing something that they enjoy, and part of Blanche’s showed her at a press conference when she was clearly hating every single moment that anyone was looking at her. It’s a shame that her stage fright was so apparent whenever she was performing, because the song was fantastic – but at least those in charge made a virtue of her abject terror and just got her to stand still for her performance and allow the song to do the rest. I don’t think either the semi-final performance or the one on Saturday night fully did Blanche or the song justice, but at least by the end of Saturday’s performance she almost sort of looked like she might vaguely not be hating every second. Progress!
03. Azerbaijan (Dihaj: ‘Skeletons’ – 14th place)
“So, Azerbaijan, we have this fantastic state of the art visual effects package. We have an amazing screen all around the stage that we can display pretty much anything on, and we can even project stuff happening around you on stage. Look at these cool wiggly lines we’re putting on Bulgaria, or this funky facial-mapping we’re doing with Norway. What d’you fancy?”
“Eh, nothing thanks. We’re just going to wheel in some blackboards with GCSE Drama-style statements scrawled on them and put a man on a stepladder wearing a horse’s head.”
❤ ❤ ❤
02. Bulgaria (Kristian Kostov: ‘Beautiful Mess’ – 2nd place)
I am absolutely loving the emergence of Bulgaria as an underdog Eurovision powerhouse. From Poli Genova’s fourth-place finish last year to Kristian Kostov providing the only song to even come close to putting the wind up Portugal this year, Bulgaria are Bringing. It. Pretty sure it’s now a case of when, not if, we’ll be off to Sofia for the whole thing. ‘Beautiful Mess’ was easily one of the strongest songs in the competition this year and Kristian’s control and presence on stage were amazing, particularly for someone who is only 17 (thank you, Graham Norton, for the reminder that he was the only contestant in this year’s competition who was born IN THIS CENTURY). I can’t wait to see what Bulgaria have got up their sleeves for ESC2018.
01. France (Alma: ‘Requiem’ – 12th place)
When exactly did France suddenly start giving a shit about Eurovision again? That’s two years in a row now they’ve sent an attractive young person (Jana Kramer from One Tree Hill in this case, apparently) singing a catchy track, making the concession of at least singing partly in English. This was the song I found myself singing more than anything else in the week running up to the grand final, and probably the song I’ll end up listening to the most in the aftermath (once I get ‘Yodel It!’ out of my system, anyway). Shame this one didn’t seem to resonate with the juries more, because France actually seem to be getting the hang of winning over the televoters now. I’m looking forward to see what combination of infectious song and thirst-trap singer they’ll be sending next year…unless they just decide to revert to type and start sending middle-aged women singing something very French and angry-sounding again.