This past weekend, loads of people in sequined costumes arrived in Stockholm to participate in the annual European Music Bash that was being held there that year. Yes; of course it was The Eurovision Song Contest, being held in the lovely country of Sweden who of course won it last year with Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw.
Sweden is no new comer to hosting duties at the Eurovision song contest, having hosted it 5 times previously; including hosting it 3 years ago after Loreen won it in Baku with Euphoria in 2012. My excitement for this annual show always builds up the closer it comes, however over the last couple of years I have struggled to enjoy the show, and remember anything about the show’s held as in my opinion I thought that 2014 and 2015 weren’t all that good. With the contest returning to Sweden after not so long was a sign of hope for me, even more so when I discovered that the host of the 2013 show; Petra Mede, was returning for hosting duties again (I wonder if she would be willing to host it every year, even if it was not being hosted in Sweden?). I really did enjoy that year, it was a well done year. It wasn’t the case of having good or bad songs; it was more that even with those songs being performed, the overall show production was to such a high that even at the bad times, it can still be enjoyed. What worked so well for it that year was a number of reasons but simply:
1: The arena lighting had this brilliant effect where the lights above it would light up towards the stage, and would speed up and finish on a sort of light explosion signifying the start of the song, roughly.
2: More importantly, the show’s host. Every year hosting duties gets landed on a couple (or in some cases 3) people who would spend most of the night trying to act silly or suggest there is something going on between them. In 2013, it was just one host, a host who was an experienced performer and talented comedian in her home country. By being by herself, she was able to own the show, and present it so well without having to hang off anyone. Her presentation was also very funny and was able to use her talents to best effect.
This year, the presentation was good, definitely better than both 2014 and 2015. The return of Petra Mede was also a good thing, but, instead of her working by herself, this time was put in a situation with last year’s winner. This idea was rather interesting, but overall worked. It wasn’t as good as 2013, but overall was well done. The comedy was still there, the lighting effect was sort of brought back, but overall it was enjoyable. Over the last few years though, there has been some format changes to the show which has made it very confusing in spots. OK, the opening flag ceremony is a nice idea, and works very well in introducing the acts and countries instead of discovering them (unless you watched the semi-finals); however, it was hard to see the flags for exactly who they were and I was thankful that somebody pointed out who the countries were. The big thing though that has changed in recent years is the lack of performance of the previous year’s winning song. This used to be held right at the start of the show, but since 2014, has sort of been relegated to half way through, and then only as a brief mention. It is a shame, and it doesn’t really work either, it sort of takes the fun out of wanting to hear it and instead have it mentioned millions of time during the show until you hear roughly 30 seconds of it. As for this year’s half time show, we got a range of comedy moments such as The Winning Eurovision song moment; which was supposed to be a mash-up of ideas to create the Ultimate Eurovision Song (with guest appearances including of course, Lordi), a couple of funny moments, a nice montage of Swedish music (70 acts in total), and more bizarre; Justin Timberlake performing. I had no idea why he was doing this, I don’t see what he has to do with Eurovision, but overall it was relatively fun, and thankfully did not include that weird one he does where he gets the boys and girls singing these sentences. Although that on the whole does bring up the question of if in the future there is going to be more BIG acts like him in the middle (as long as the UK has Iron Maiden do it, I am absolutely fine with the idea, but that is dependent on the UK winning of course).
It was the year of the Ballad at Eurovision this year. What you would usually find at Eurovision, is the sort of copycat pieces mimicking what sort of helped win the previous year, this year though there was very little of that, and instead we got a load of ballads. The only one that comes to mind for me was Russia’s entry which had this sloped wall which allowed the singer to climb up and down it as pictures appeared on the background. Although saying that, a lot of songs this year did involve the use of lighting effects on the back walls and the stage floor, which also seemed to have moments where it was raised in spots, like Greece did in 2005. From the start we got a whole load of Ballad based performances, all being kicked off really by the first appearance in a Grand Final by the Czech Republic. Ok, it wasn’t the first song. The first song from Belgium sort of annoyed me, as it had this weird entry dance that just stayed in my head. The beat and general song was ok, but I was glad something else came to mind, although when I think of it now, it’s very easy to break out into another piece of music, one that keeps appearing in Adverts. Czech Republic’s song similarly was good in the second half too, and I did think early on, much like Belgium that I may have ended up voting for them.
The number of solo pieces just continued as the show went on ranging from the interesting to the downright weak. You had pieces from countries like Sweden, and The Netherlands, which were generally very uninteresting, to a country like Italy who confused you with one singer singing (in at least) two languages. Australia was allowed to return and their ballad was a bit more upbeat, but the general number of them made it hard to remember them all. Luckily there were some different kinds of acts in there to help break it up and add a level of interest. This was true for the UK with a song that was very…very…very…just very. It was ok I suppose. One of the singers appeared to be attempting to play a guitar, although it was obvious that he wasn’t. Overall there were really only two bands performing. One from Georgia late on, which sounded very similar to the works of Oasis I thought, but really wasn’t my cup of tea, while Cyprus entered something that was my cup of tea. It was this nice rocky track. It wasn’t majorly heavy, it was rather light in tone, but still hard enough for rock fans like me to enjoy.
When it came to choosing a country for me to vote for, in the end, my mind was made up from the moment I first hears it. No, not Cyprus; Russia. Russia’s piece was very dark, heavy and also rather mystic. It was a song which had this wonderful and memorable chorus which had this light disco like beat. The background images helped to provide something of a psychedelic trip as the song was performed and this was helped by the lighter chorus beat. It was not rocky, still more pop like, but generally upbeat and very enjoyable. No act this year I found was more enjoyable than or as enjoyable as Russia’s entry. In hindsight, I think it reminds me a lot of Eric Saade‘s entry in 2011, it has that upbeat fast tune but still feels dark and heavy at the same time, I like that.
When voting came; there was a supposed ‘new’ system in place. Throughout the night it was mentioned numerous times without being fully explained. For a few years now, the voting system has been half and half; half music judges from each country, and half the public vote. This year both votes were split down the middle. One thing that has become apparent in recent years is that even when a country has won, its announced before the votes are finished, which is rather annoying. The winner is announced and the vote continues. This year though, they introduced something that changed that, and actually worked. So, the judging panels would announce their scores like the votes were done normally, but this time, the spread allowed even higher numbers of votes, and so I do believe the winner this year might be the highest scoring song in the contest’s history. So anyway, each country is contacted, a host represents the judging and then half the votes are all counted. Then, came the interesting bit, by this time, Australia were winning. So what happens is that instead of countries being contacted again, the number of points per country is added in one fell swoop. That’s all the points awarded to said country by all the other countries. This allowed the tension to be built up, as the countries with the most awarded points were added later. It was tense, it really was, and as the countdown continued, it became interesting, as Poland who only got 7 from the judging panels would then get over 200 points in one second from the public voting and go from dead last, to 6th in a split second. It was really interesting and hectic, but meant that the last stage of judging wasn’t entirely one-sided, but rather built up and allowed change to take place. It’s hard to really say how it worked I know, but trust me, it worked, and I hope they do this again in the future.
In the end of course, it was Ukraine who took top spot with Jamala‘s 1944, which supposedly was about the Crimean Tatars. This is now Ukraine‘s second win, having previously won in 2004 with Ruslana (one of my all time favourite Eurovision entries). Their entry this year I am actually finding rather hard to describe. Another ballad in many, I sort of remember it, and sort of think its ok, I just don’t really get it right now, maybe listen to it a few times might help. The staging was good; the images in the background were really cool, and the winner did sort of begin to break down crying during the final performance, which is a big change from when Lena won for Germany, and was ecstatic. It has been a good year this year, it really has, some changes, some differences. A combination of weak songs, and great songs, but a consistency of ballad’s lost some value as it went on, which may be why I am struggling with the Ukrainian Winner, but overall a good year for the contest, with a sight of hope for a grand and continued future for one of my favourite events of the year.