The European continent – and Australia, for some reason – are gearing up to crown the winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, a pop song extravaganza coined as an alternative to World War III.
The song contest brings together dozens of countries who each send an original song to be judged and ranked both by a host of expert judges and evaluated by popular vote. The hour-long show consists of the artists performing each country’s song, followed by an extended scoring ceremony in which each country hands out their scores: 12 for their top pick, ten for number two and various distributions from one to eight points. The country with the highest score wins and hosts next year.
Like the equally geopolitically relevant United Nations Security Council, the Eurovision Song Contest final has five permanent seats – reserved for France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The UK are notoriously bad at the contest, often coming in last, but not all of the ‘Big 5’ take their positions for granted.
Italy, for example, is hosting this year after winning the 2021 contest with a glam rock entry that made the band Maneskin an international hit.
2021 was a unique year in that the competition was canceled the previous year due to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, so countries had two years to prepare, which increased the quality significantly. The contest’s return was also more universally seen as a celebratory event, meaning countries sent in genuine fun songs instead of the usual barrage of moody, forgettable ballads that many phone it in with.
The ballads are most certainly back this year, as are the flagrant violations of the ‘no politics’ rule – some countries choosing to violate it by condemning hypochondriacal coronavirus culture, others by berating the world about climate change. . Russia, always the villain of Eurovision, was outright banned this year in response to its latest invasion of Ukraine (Russia was able to participate in 2015, however, when Ukraine didn’t send a song due to its invasion by Russia).
Compiled below are the best and worst of this year’s contest: the likely winners, the supposed winners, and the entries so bad you’ll enjoy hating them that will likely leave audiences baffled.
Will win: Ukraine – Kalush Orchestra, “Stefania”
Eurovision’s “no politics” rule prohibits countries from submitting songs with explicitly political lyrics, but that certainly does nothing to prevent political voting. In 2005, Greece won with a rather mediocre entry because the debt crisis galvanized European sentiment against Germany and fiscally troubled Athens. In 2004, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading directly into the Eurovision Song Contest Kyiv 2005. Nothing of historical significance really happened to Ukraine in 2017, but it submitted an anti song. -stealth Russian, so Europe crowned her the winner that year.
Ukraine’s phenomenal 2021 entry should have won this contest, but oddsmakers expect their entry this year to catch up. It’s a bit of a shame, because GoA’s “Shum” – with a video filmed in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – probably would have won in any other year that didn’t feature a band popular enough to perform at Coachella, and this year the Ukrainians have decided to submit… “folk-rap”.
Eurovision rap is always a mistake, there’s a Jamiroquai hat involved in this performance, and the geometric patterns are a bit convulsive, but it’s quite a catchy beat when they stop trying to rap on it and can Maybe Ukraine can have this guy as a host next year, so it wouldn’t be a particularly dismal outcome if the country won.
Should win: Serbia – Konstrakta, “In Corpore Sano”
Serbia are pretty clearly in breach of the ‘no policy’ rule with this one, but regardless, it’s about time someone laughed at the coronavirus-induced hygiene fanaticism. The chorus of the song is simply “be healthy” and ends with “a sick mind in a healthy body / a sad soul in a healthy body / a desperate mind in a healthy body / a scared mind in a healthy body / And now?”
Konstrakta, the stage name of performer Ana Đurić, more or less stated that the purpose of the song is to question the damage to mental and spiritual health that humanity can expect to suffer in order to avoid a coronavirus infection. The reference to Meghan Markle appears to be a parody of mainstream European centre-left culture, as does the fact that she spends her entire performance of the song washing her hands.
Rest of the best
Moldova – Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers, “Trenulețul”
Zdob şi Zdub are Eurovision veterans and perfectly encompass the goofy, lewd, lightly but not particularly committed traditional/folk spirit of the event. The concept of the song is, apparently, a dance party on a train from Moldova to Romania, complete with native outfits and lots of accordions. This song doesn’t care if you laugh about it – the smile is the goal – and that should be the goal of a Eurovision song.
Spain – Chanel, “SloMo”
Spain are usually terrible at Eurovision – lots of generic ballads or really awful attempts at having a sense of humor – but this year they cheated (just kidding, it’s not really against the rules ) and sent a Cuban contestant, so the song is actually pretty good. It doesn’t have a European sound at all, instead invoking the reggaeton dance beats popularized by Puerto Rico, but “SloMo” has the advantage of sounding like a song produced and promoted by a major record label and would be in the spotlight. comfortable on, say, Spanish-language radio in New York. Bonus points for the song being in the native language of the country, Chanel’s obvious Caribbean accent aside.
Czech Republic – We Are Domi, “Lights Off”
These entries trying to sound like major label hits are a double-edged sword, but when they work, they work. Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest last year because they clearly sounded like a band that would have achieved fame independently. We Are Domi brings that energy – the entry has an obvious Calvin Harris influence but is quirky, uplifting and fun. The music video has an actual plot, which makes it fun and not cringe to watch.
Italy – Mahmood & BLANCO, “Brividi”
Not to be too discriminating against ballads – which, for the record, should just be banned from Eurovision (it’s supposed to be a party!) – here’s the best ballad of the bunch. Highlighting gay relationships is a tired Eurovision trope at this point, eight years after a bearded drag queen won the trophy, but regardless of the video, Italians know how to write and perform a love song heartbreaking.
Norway – Subwoofer, “Give That Wolf a Banana”
You might think it’s a fun and quirky dance song, why does it deserve last place on more forgettable ballads?
Because we as a planet have already done it. He was called “The Fox” by Ylvis, it was awful, and he should stay in 2013 in his place.
Remains of the worst
United Kingdom – Sam Ryder, “Space Man”
The UK is a permanent member of the Sec – Eurovision’s “Big 5”, so they don’t have to worry about coming up with anything actually tolerable. To be fair, the song’s chorus isn’t terrible, but the “If I Were an Astronaut” falsetto is truly unfortunate. And then there’s the deep lyrics, like, “I’m in space, man/Standing in space, man” and “There’s only space, man, no/Oh, I’m in wrong place, man/ Nothing but, nothing but, nothing but space, man Nothing but, nothing but, nothing but space, man.
You know you can’t send anything, right Britain? You just couldn’t send a song?
France – Alvan & Ahez, “Fulenn”
A completely shameless rip-off of Ukraine’s spectacular 2021 entry “Shum”, down to using the same neon green and post-apocalyptic color tones, The 100–style outfits. The reason “Shum” worked is because it was based on a Ukrainian folk song and the video was recorded in a real post-apocalyptic wasteland. Eurovision desperately needs a ‘no plagiarism’ rule.
Iceland – Systur, “Með Hækkandi Sól”
Iceland often misses the memo and sends extremely boring and barely melodic sad songs to Eurovision. Last year was an exception – even Iceland sent a happy song, that’s how you know it was a good year! – but they seem to be back to their usual snoozefest. This song works as atmospheric background noise for the dramatic edit of a prestige TV drama, but not as much as the inspirational anthem that a Eurovision winner is meant to be.
What did I just watch? Honorable mention
Georgia didn’t make it to the final, and I wouldn’t call that “good,” but my life is better for watching it. Thanks, Georgia.
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