Another year of singing descended on Europe once again as this past weekend saw the annual return of the Eurovision Song Contest. This time it was hosted in Vienna, Austria after they won last year with Conchita Wurst and his song; “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Much like in past years though the winning song wasn’t really played at the beginning of the contest. It was heard briefly, but Conchita did not really sing until before the announcement of voting, but sang two songs, neither of which was last year’s winning song. This isn’t necessarily all that new however. Back in 2005, the 2004 winner; Ruslana from the Ukraine sang at the beginning, but it was not the same song as the one she had Won with, all though it sounded very similar, if maybe a bit slower. I do think thought the contest is losing something if the winning song of the previous year is not celebrated at the beginning, or played at all.
This year’s presentation of the contest was terrific. The theme of “Building Bridges” was possibly a little over used, however for the most part it was used quite well. The presenting team of an all-female trio, plus Conchita, worked alright, I did however think that one of the trio had more time than the other two, and out of those two, one had more speaking parts than the other. It was a great improvement over the near jokers who hosted the event last year, but still had some chinks, and also some awkward moments of talking and speaking which were just un-needed. The presentation over last year though was a massive improvement. As for just the show (not mentioning the songs yet), last year was a bit disappointing. The set and other bits and bobs were pretty good, but the presentation left something of a sour note on the whole event, lowering my expectations a bit for this year. When the event started this year though, it reminded me of the kind of spectacle that Eurovision can produce if done to a good enough standard. The opening, was amazing; a nice combination of singing and pieces of music and video. The set pieces before each song, showing an Austrian Activity were really enjoyable (even if the accompanying song wasn’t so much). I did not get to see much of the big interval act, as I went downstairs to get some cake, but from what I saw, it looked pretty impressive. As for the voting, the ‘building bridges’ moniker was used quite nicely in a short animation before each country appeared to reveal their votes. The arena and set were brilliant, and provided plenty of features which were used to great effect. For next year, the caption should be: “Building Better Phone Lines”, especially after 3 countries suffered connection issues when announcing votes.
This year’s selection of songs was a nice variety. I was a bit disappointed that the Finnish entry did not get through to the final, as I saw it a few weeks ago and thought it was pretty good. The UK selection for this year I genuinely thought was much better than most years. Its style and presentation looked like a piece of music from what I thought was 1930’s America, but could not help think that it sounded similar to a dance I once saw in Strictly Come Dancing during the 2013 competition. This year of course there was a lot of attention on a country that is not even in Europe (even though there are more regular countries that aren’t either); Australia. Australia’s song was quite nice and I did briefly wonder about voting for it. I think though that having 27 acts overall was possibly a bit too much and I felt like I was flagging a bit as the last few acts came.
There was a lot of interesting acts this year. Belgium produced this weird thing that was well choreographed, but not exactly up beat. Azerbaijan brought back Elnur Hüseynov who entered back in 2008. Other countries of note included Serbia, Greece (with something that looked like a combination of Norway’s entry in 2013, and their own entry back in 2006) and Russia. For me though, it was between two acts. Israel and Georgia. Israel’s entry I thought was very boy band like (a bit like Spain’s entry in 2007), and a bit silly; however it was also very enjoyable. The only other song that I thought I liked more possible was Georgia’s entry which was very different, more like Gothic Rock. I quite liked it, even if the costume was very outlandish, making me think of Julianne Moore’s character in Seventh Son, and that wizard character in Warcraft 3.
When it came to choosing for which one though, I chose Israel, but accidently voted for both of them. What happened is that when I voted for Israel, I typed in two extra numbers that weren’t needed, so I voted for Georgia, I tried again to vote for Israel, but did it again. I then voted again successfully for Israel. I decided though not to vote for them again two more times in hope of correcting it.
As voting came, it was a surprise as it was quite a close vote between 3 countries, Italy, Sweden and Russia. It was a close race with Russia winning for a while until Sweden grabbed the top spot and held it. Several other countries did quite well though, including Latvia, Belgium, and even Australia finishing in 5th place, well enough I think to suggest a possible return for them. The UK suffered a bit only achieving 5 points, but did considerably better than France (4 points) and both Germany and host country Austria who both received no points. The big winner for the evening though was of course Sweden finishing on 365 points (just 22 points away from Norway’s record victory in 2009) with the song Heroes sung by Måns Zelmerlöw. The song I thought was actually pretty good and the dance and animations were quite fun and a good song to finish the night on. Sweden’s victory in 2015 makes them the second country, after Denmark to win twice since 2000, but also, with 6 wins to date, Sweden is no the second most successful country in the contest history, just 2 more wins and it takes the top spot from Ireland. Altogether it has been a terrific year for the contest, and a great way to celebrate its 60th Year.