Well, that was interesting.
We think that as well as this year’s wildly entertaining Eurovision Song Contest went, the result may present EBU with more than a few headaches.
First, the EBU can no longer pretend that the Song Contest is apolitical. Its ham-fisted attempt to institute a restrictive flag policy backfired, and they ultimately scaled it back. Armenia and Azerbaijan’s strained relations were again on display in the first Eurovision Semifinal after the recent military actions over Nagorno-Karabakh. And Sweden as the host country made political points throughout the two Semifinals and the Final, most poignantly with The Gray People interval act.
Oh, and then there was this year’s winner. “1944” is a good song to be sure, and Jamala presented it with rich emotion. But it is the weight of the back story that propels it. While, yes, on the surface, this song is about Jamala’s grandmother during World War II, the parallels to the current conflict over Crimea are not at all subtle.
This year’s results, too, made it abundantly clear that the EBU is still struggling to find the right balance between jury and public vote in determining the outcome. Lest we forget, the jury vote was introduced in an effort to offset neighborly or political voting. The new Melodifestivalen-style voting presentation certainly made things more exciting at the end, but it also exposes that the national juries wield too much power. Even though the rules were changed this year to give more weight to the public vote, this is the second year in a row where the winner of the public vote finished third because of the juries. When the juries have such power to nullify their selections, it’s hard to sound credible when telling the people of Europe how much their votes count. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
All of which brings us to Russia. They won the televote but only placed fifth among the juries. Moreover, they lost to a song about Crimea. We can’t imagine that either of these things will sit well there. To be honest, we could see Russia sitting out next year’s Song Contest. (As has apparently already been suggested.) But beyond withdrawing in protest, the big question for Russia is this: Do they really want to send one of their performers into hostile territory? Not just a hostile crowd that could boo them, but a whole country that is quite hostile towards them. Then again, Russia has shown that they have chrome-plated balls and a complete disregard for what anyone says about them, so perhaps they’ll stick it out. Maybe they will be able to pick someone with broad appeal in Ukraine. You know, like Sergey Lazarev.
Given all of that, the EBU must be thanking their lucky stars that Australia didn’t win. We’ve never complained about Australia’s participation, but we also think that an Australia win would have made for an uncomfortable year of preparation. We wonder if the creation of an Asia-Pacific Song Contest marks the end of Australia’s participation. Then next year, the United States can take their place! (Just kidding)
You may have noticed that we haven’t discussed our predictions yet. Let’s get this over with:
Last place: Germany
Last place: Spain
Last place: Germany
We each got 6 of 10. We wildly overvalued Latvia and Georgia, and Chris overvalued Serbia as well. Netherlands finished 11, so we weren’t too far off on that pick. Jen would have nailed that Austria pick if it weren’t for those meddling juries, who placed it 24th.
Poland, too, should feel hard done by this year’s result. “Color of Your Life” finished 3rd with the public but was decimated by the jury vote, where they placed 25th. The same thing happened to them in 2014 when juries spiked “My Słowianie.” It seems that Poland are giving the people of Europe what they want, but the juries won’t let the public have it.
It was a disappointing night for most the Big Five: Jen was spot on about Germany, which finished in last place for the second year in a row. Spain and the United Kingdom finished in the bottom five as well, which is a bit gutting since the U.K. was actually pretty good this year. Even Italy, which is usually a top 10 finisher, landed on the right side of the leaderboard. The only good news was for France, which was seeing commercial success prior to the contest and got its first top 10 finish since 2009.
We were thrilled that Bulgaria finished 4th. Maybe a better draw and a better staging would have propelled them even further, but why complain about the best result in the country’s Eurovision history?
And how about that 9th place finish for Donny Montell? Again: whenever we doubt our faith in Donny, he pulls out a miracle. He truly is the patron saint of the Eurovision Lemurs.
The Sweden-hosted show seemed a good entry point for the first American telecast, as it offered humor, good hosts, and high production value. Sweden is really good at this. Away from home, Jen caught the show at a bar in Austin (thanks Russian House!). The Justin Timberlake performance was blacked out this side of the Atlantic, but folks in the crowd were moved by the Gray People number that was broadcast instead. Unfortunately, there were issues with the Logo.tv web feed.
As for Logo’s first attempt at presenting Eurovision to the United States, it went okay. Instead of proper commentary, what we got was Americans React to Eurovision. Michelle Collins and Carson Kressley were too chatty at the start of the show, obsessing over fashion choices at the expense of explaining what we were seeing. Also, they both messed up their facts here and there. (For example, Donny Montell competed in Azerbaijan, not for Azerbaijan. And, as a note for next time, never suggest that someone from Azerbaijan looks like a Kardashian.) Instead of muttering about not knowing what was going on, Carson could have asked thoughtful questions that would have prompted Michelle to offer context or background, as she is more than capable of doing. That said, they both got off some choice quips and were particularly fun during the voting presentation. An acceptable freshman effort, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.