And the winner is … SWEDEN!
After what can only be described as one of the most tense voting sessions of any Eurovision Song Contest I’ve ever witnessed – at one point, first place was an effective three way tie between Russia, Italy and Sweden, with Russia edging ever more steadily ahead – Måns Zelmerlöw of Sweden, a country which has won the contest five times before, made it clear we are all “Heroes” when he crossed the finish line with 365 points to his credit.
An understandably emotional Zelmerlöw, who wholeheartedly embraced last year’s winner Conchita Wurst as he accepted the crystal microphone trophy, declared that “… we are all Heroes, no matter who we love, who we are or what we believe in – we are all heroes.”
It was one of those transcendent moments that we all love at Eurovision – a gifted singer with a brilliant song and spot-on performance (including impressive split-second timing as he interacted with the clever animated graphics used throughout) awarded the prize that is absolutely his after years of trying to make it to Eurovision at all.
Zelmerlöw returned home to Lund, Sweden to a victor’s welcome, one he described as “the second best day of my life” – no prizes for guessing what the first might be – with an unquestionably bright future ahead of him, not something that cannot be said of every Eurovision winner (apart from you know ABBA, who did rather nicely out of their 1974 win, and the 2012 winner Loreen, also from Sweden).
And if watching Zelmerlöw alone is not enough for you, here are the highlights from the grand final which featured standout performances by Italy, Spain, Russia, Georgia and a host of other strong contenders …
But the victor aside, whose song is now nestled high atop charts all across Europe, proof that it was a song people actually liked, there were a few other things that defined this year’s contest.
Take for instance the obsession with using trees as background visuals in more acts than you could count, clear evidence that Austria must have received a bulk deal when it came to the graphics used in the performances on its dramatically large “eye” stage with its unmissable, malleable raft of synchronously-moving, brightly-lit balls …
Country after country had an arboreal theme – check out France (war-ravaged trees), Armenia (large and spreading, quite apropos given their genealogy theme), Poland (pink cherry blossoms of love), Hungary (pretty black and white trees) and Azerbaijan (creepy Wizard of Oz-type forest) to name but a few.
And dressing in black.
Gone are the wacky costumes often worn back in the day with only Aminata from Latvia truly sporting a dress, not so much wacky as gloriously red and beautiful, that drew the sort of attention that on stage outfits should do (although Georgia’s Nina Sublatti impressed with her goth-influenced “Warrior” get-up).
In their place are seriously chic black outfits that scream earnest and important … and well, yes, cheap sale at the local fabric shop …
And this year more than most, deeply earnest lyrics – a mainstay of the competition from the start given it was founded in 1956 in the destructive, divisive aftermath of World War Two – on all sorts of themes ranging from parents being forced by economic necessity to leave their kids behind while they work overseas (Romania), never forgetting the pain and sacrifice of war (France), a person’s unsuitability for love, even though they want it more than anything else (Norway and Estonia), and the rights of the marginalised in society (Poland).
And of course the one-off very important presence of Australia as a contestant in honour of the Eurovision Song Contest’s 60th anniversary.
Guy Sebastian, who performed perfectly not putting a foot or vocal chord wrong throughout his mesmerising performance, did Australia proud, coming fifth in the overall tally with 196 points.
He, and the opportunity to vote in Eurovision for possibly the one and only time (for the record I gave points to Sweden and Latvia mainly with some for Norway too), made getting up at 4.50am to see the grand final live on SBS, the public broadcaster which has telecast the contest since the 1980s in Australia, more than worth it.
And finally every year everyone plays a drinking game where you have to down your alcoholic beverage of choice when an act pulls off an amazing costume reveal, or makes copious use of a wind machine, pyrotechnics or backup dancers in weird and amazing ways.
This year’s winner by virtue of the fact that they used almost, though not quite, every trick in the Eurovision book at their disposal was … SERBIA!
And now on to Sweden my friends for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016!
Remember whatever happens between now and then, we can be “Heroes!” whoever we are …