Nearly there! I’m back from Amsterdam now so I can finally wrap this little adventure up in the next few days.
So we are down to the last ten. The Big Five are out of the way, with Italy ending up a creditable 11th, but the presence of only one DNQ leads me to think that Europe made some decent choices this year. Perhaps it didn’t all go my way, but it was definitely a pleasure to see nearly all of my favourite songs grace the Grand Final.
Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives
#26 in the Grand Final
Poor Ireland are feeling hard-done by (again). I can see their point this year though, thanks to an unfortunately quirk of the voting system that meant the series of mid-table rankings from many countries amounted to barely any points. Its last place finish in the final was a shock, but the fact that it was in hardly any nation’s top 10, and that’s how you get points.
Still, Ryan shouldn’t be sad, it was a well-received bit of dance-pop, and made a little go a long way. Ryan himself was in fine form vocally, and those glistening topless drummers can’t have hurt. Denmark might have ended up sounding more Irish, bodhrans or not, and the lyrics were pretty banal, but it was a performance difficult to resist. It’s certainly nothing that the Guettas of this world aren’t doing, and there’s even a “We Found Love” whorp-whorp amping-up of the excitement towards the end. Lots of fun. I just hope people remember that there were 13 other songs that didn’t even get as far as coming last in the final…
Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops
#1 in the Grand Final
Time to dispatch the winner then. Part of me felt a little bit contrary, thinking that I didn’t like it that much compared to other songs I’d have preferred to win. Indeed it took a lot of the excitement out to think that this was the runaway favourite to win so early on. The actual contest was a lot tighter than I had expected, with Emmelie only pulling clear of Azerbaijan’s advances in the last few sets of votes.
But actually I do really quite like this, I just don’t realise it until I’m listening to it. It might not have the smash hit potential of “Euphoria”, but Emmelie was thoroughly likeable and that chorus really is very catchy. It really builds up towards the end, and the little layers added on really raise it above more than just a catchy chorus. It might not have been my choice, but it was a worthy winner.
Farid Mammadov – Hold Me
#2 in the Grand Final
My award for best staging once again has to go to Azerbaijan. A lot of ESC fans seem to view them as the ‘baddies’ (along with practically all of Eastern Europe, except the ones without a hope of qualifying), but since their debut – let’s avoid that terrible 2008 entry – they’ve always come up with something interesting. Safura’s light-up dress, Sabina’s projector and now Farid’s perspex box of inner turmoil.
Seeing this at the semi-final rehearsal I promptly went and put £10 on Azerbaijan to win, and they came pretty damn close. It really blew me away, it’s such a simple idea, and I’d never seen anything like it before. Really well-performed too. The melody was simple but not easy to sing, and he rose to the challenge. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s totally gorgeous. We came close to Baku 2014, but never count Azerbaijan out, they’re now putting together a run of success that in a few years could even eclipse Greece’s golden era.
Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh
#16 in the Grand Final
FINALLY! Belarus send an amazing song AND it qualifies, where usually they only manage at most one of those conditions. After disappointment with their eyebrow-singeing “I Love Belarus”, they’ve send this in a similar vein. Gleefully admitting that the song title makes no sense, they blew several trillion Belarussian roubles on a superbly-executed dance routine and giant disco ball centrepiece.
Like all the best Eurovision entries there is a hint of traditional instrumentation in the mix, but otherwise this is awesome Eastern pop with inch-perfect beats and an insanely catchy chorus. CHA CHA!! Maybe a later slot would have helped them in the final, but I remember that whoop of excitement from the crowd when it kicked off the first of the pyro effects.
Zlata Ognevich – Gravity
#3 in the Grand Final
Ukraine had a shot to win this year, but didn’t quite manage it. But this still adds to their formidable record at the contest, and I imagine we’ll return to Kiev sooner rather than later. They are evidently keen to please – after “Gravity” won the national selection, extensive consumer research tried to work how how best to improve the song to make it more likeable. It paid off, and the final mix was big, bright and soaring. It’s about how undeniable certain emotions are, even if there’s no real reason for them to exist.
The amazing performance was by no small part down to the radiant Zlata, totally gorgeous and capable of hitting such huge notes without breaking a sweat. The staging was a little static, but that middle-eight with the butterflies behind her was quite lovely. Then there was the giant that carried her on stage. A bit unnecessary, but if they did it for attention then mission accomplished. I just felt a bit sorry for him, his cameo seemed to bring out a rather unpleasant freakshow attitude in many people. That aside, another strong entry in Ukraine’s Eurovision songbook.