One of the fun things to do as you watch the Eurovision Song Contest, and trust me “fun” is a relative concept in this instance, is to try and divine which songs Europe will, and just as importantly, won’t like, and thus which will progress from the two semi finals to the grand final, and then who will get to stand atop the pixel-heavy stage clutching the crystal microphone.
It’s not as straightforward as you might think with a whole host of variables at play – for the record, my strike rate for semi finals 1 and 2 was 70 and 80% respectively and my grand final top 10 prediction was 80% correct, though my ordering left something to be desired – and the odds of picking those songs that will resonate always exceedingly hit-and-miss.
However, one song that emerged as a favourite very early on was “Arcade” by Duncan Laurence from The Netherlands, a ballad rich with the kind of show-stopping inspirationalism that Eurovision embraces in spades.
In completely contravention of the usual odds of picking a winner, the Nostradamus-like soothsayers who predicted the triumph of relatively-new artist Laurence were bang on, with his heartfelt song garnering high votes from both the juries and the public who seemed to like it in equal measure (230 points and 261 respectively), and delivering The Netherlands it’s fifth win and its first since 1975.
It was easy to see why.
The song is passionate and intense but also deliciously, beautifully melodic, a tale about love that is truthful, real and dark and yet which leaves you feeling inspired, with the refrain “carried on, carried on” echoing strongly in the face of everything that would suggest that kind of tenacity is a fool’s errand.
While the song is divergent musically from last year’s winner “Toy” by Netta, who popped up all over the semi finals and grand final with a gorgeous effervescence (and fabulously out there fashion sense) that delighted at every turn, it reflects the same kind of emotional evocation as its predecessor and clearly connected with voters.
As did Italy (465 points) and Russia (369 points) who came in second and third place, though the divergence between jury and televote tallies were more divergent in their cases.
While Duncan Laurence and The Netherlands justifiably celebrated, the UK, once again at the bottom of the table, albeit with points this time, blamed Brexit for the their lack of Eurovision success.
Or rather their entrant Michael Rice did, throwing a bit of a tantrum and failing to appreciate that he was saddled with an astoundingly average song which seemed to have put together by Eurovision catchphrase-assembling committee, and which, unfortunately, he delivered in rather inconsistently-pedestrian fashion.
At the other end of the scale, Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke was brilliantly-good, delivering her quirkily heartfelt song, “Zero Gravity” in deathdefying, pole-sitting splendour; it was one of the showstopper performances of the night, the perfect marriage of song and visual artform.
Also impressive were Malta, France, North Macedonia, Italy, Norway, which got the arena thumping in appreciation and Switzerland, whose song “She Got Me”, performed by Luca Hänni, infused the entire audience, and I daresay all of Europe, with a danceable energy which drew the grand final, along with Australia and Spain’s La Venda (performed by underwear model Miki) to a fabulously fun finish.
The only downside to the night was Madonna’s dissonant performance of “Like a Prayer” and new song “Future” which went down like a lead balloon.
Thank goodness for the preceding act which saw past winners such as 2014 winner Conchita Wurst singing Måns Zelmerlöw’s “Heroes”, the 2015 winner then singing 2018 runner-up Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego” who then went on to give an energetic rendition of 2007 runner-up Verka Serduchlka’s “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”, which was followed by Verka reinterpreting, with manic drag passion, last year’s first place song “Toy”.
All five artists finished up by singing 1979 winning song “Hallelujah” by Israel’s Milk and Honey with original vocalist Gali Atari. As highlights go, it was hard to beat.
So that is it for yet another year! Can you believe it?
2020 will see us somewhere in The Netherlands which will be exciting in its own way and no doubt news will start filtering out about the event in no time flat. Yes, there is no rest for the Eurovision tragic.
In the meantime, sit back, watch and enjoy the highlights of the grand final which was spectacular fun and full of visually and musically-rich performances.