02 July 2017
Long time, no Eurovision Song Contest. After an extended break overseas following Kyiv and then taking time to reintegrate as a productive cog in our nation’s society, Eurovision has been a low priority. While some of that was due to time eroding the memories, and some of that was Stockholm 2016 – my first – had set such a high standard in comparison, much of it was due the 2017 edition being not that good. No songs inspired great passion or excitement. The organisation was perfunctory at best, sterile at worst. The voting was boring as hell. The winning song was too pretentious. Oh, and Australia’s entry was rubbish. The only salvation was that Portugal won. Great for the nation as they’ve never been close to winning before, and it’s always great when a new country wins.
That was the live experience, of course. As we know, Eurovision is a television experience, and that’s made most abundantly clear when in the venue. Cameramen running across the stage and the stage dominated by the giant and busy background screens, it really becomes a distraction and can be a betrayal to the finished product. At times the live experience is overwhelming and you really need to step back and look at a screen. Even doing that in Kyiv, all the screens were placed in positions that could be caught by cameras looking out to the crowd, and during these times the screens would go blank. Notably this was for the roving cameraman, so the times you really wanted to see the screens as per the TV, you couldn’t. Portugal was the worse for this with the screens off nearly all the time. Apparently it would create flicker if the camera accidentally filmed one of the screens, while there was the obvious problem of it looking odd for viewers seeing an image of an image. Strangely, by the live grand final show, this was mostly rectified and we got to see most of Portugal. The irony being that there never was much to see of them anyway.
Watching the SBS recordings, it all certainly looked much more impressive, and very slick. There was no hint of a stage in a giant shed that was actually the case. The fan zone looked vibrant and the atmosphere in general looked good. The really notably difference was the sound seemed so flat. It didn’t project like previous Eurovisions, even with the volume on the stereo system up. I’d say this would have hurt the more powerful vocalists and exposed weaknesses in energetic songs. Israel is the classic example where IMRI sound weak in recordings, great in the arena, and weak on the broadcast. Georgia also suffered on TV compared to the dazzling vocal performance by Tamara in the arena. Better news is on the DVD, the sound is much better, with the vocals much punchier.
Georgia was still great vocally on the broadcast, and didn’t deserve to miss the final (only by one spot). Malta was faultless. Obviously, finishing 16th of 18 in her semi, the song didn’t connect. It lacked a moment or an X factor that you need to break from the pack, especially for a small country. Again, as per the live review, Estonia didn’t do anything wrong other than maybe it felt a bit cold. Koit’s winking and gesturing were unnecessary (didn’t notice this in the arena), and the dopey glares excessive. Laura doesn’t seem the most cuddly of women, and the black and silver staging would not have helped reverse that. The two seconds of silence at the start due to a technical issue didn’t matter. As Laura put it in her quaint Estonian-English grammatical style, “I do not think it’s so tremendously influenced when a few words remain unheard”. Still, put Sweden on the banner and I’m certain it’s top 5.
Switzerland – Miruna was just too gorgeous. When I wasn’t distracted by her, I was distracted by all the yellow. A shame, because it’s a great song. Belarus were always fun to watch, while the Netherlands were even better on TV – with the imagery working extra well. The United Kingdom were both impressive live and on TV. I was staggered Lucie Jones finishined only 15th and figured she did not project as well on TV. Wrong. She was equally as impassioned. I guess the UK will continue to be dismissed by voters every year unless they produce something totally compelling. Bulgaria, who finished second, impressed more on TV, particularly their imagery, and noticing for the first time the electric pulses wrapped around Kristian’s arm.
Croatia was one really made for TV, and featured the corresponding slick camera switching required. They were almost slick enough to avoid seeing all the constant lip-licking. Eew! Belgium was memorable because it was Blanche. So vulnerable early in the week, and then good by the end. In the arena it sounded like she had backers doing the final section with her, whereas at home they’re so subtle they seem to barely exist. Finally Romania. As fun as this was in the arena, the graphics did overwhelm it, especially the tin-men at the start. On TV, it all worked perfectly, to the point it confirms Romania ahead of Belgium as my favourite from Eurovision 2017.
Seeing these songs so often already, it would naturally dampen their effect on TV. Those that were straight reprisals from their national finals, like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, suffered even more. Anja added some physical drama when kneeling down and slamming the floor to compensate. I’m not convinced it was necessary. Others like Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia were more impressive in the arena due to their graphical effects. No doubt Moldova’s excellent third place was due to it being the only up-tempo fun song in the contest, while Armenia’s main problem was it took too long to get going. Poland was nicely controlled, unlike the national final, and would have won votes with the big note finale. Hungary proved more enjoyable on TV, and it survived the purge process on my phone, so much so that often these days I have “you’re the mullah” stuck in my head. Serbia, FYR Macedonia and Iceland, songs I really liked, were too generic to stick out from the pack. FYRM Macedonia’s vocals were flat too.
Italy was too jovial and casual – like he was performing for friends. I really noticed Demy’s lower jaw sway for Greece, and it was good to see the water-boys splashing about up close. In Kyiv, it took until the grand final that I realised they were in water. Cyprus, your song is Gravity, not Balance Beam, so the graphical presentation looked a bit odd. Cyprus would have done it on the cheap, so can’t fault them too much, especially since they made the final. Portugal – mannerisms were excessive. France’s amazing graphics lost effect on TV. For others, like Germany, Czechia, Ireland and Slovenia, they tried too hard and added unnecessary gimmicks like lying and sitting down, standing in a balloon, and a silly Disney revamp of the song. Just stand there with a band or piano and sing the damn thing. Get your hair under control, too, Levina!
Israel was the one that really lost impact on TV, while several songs were too dull to begin with, notably Austria and Finland. Finland really missed a crescendo to implant it deeper in the minds of viewers. Latvia proved too repetitive, as did Lithuania with their “yay, yay, yay” and I hated the ridiculously exaggerated “oo” sound is in “yoooou” and “revoloooootion”. In fact, on TV, they seemed quite pretentious and indifferent to being at Eurovision. It was like “we do our thing; like it or get lost”. The viewers said get lost. Montenegro had potential to be memorable for the right reasons if Slavko had a better voice and the choreography was more professional. Albania had too much going on visually and vocally to be of much sense. There was a super long note during the song and from there it was wailing away until the end. You need to put these sort of notes at the end – like Poland did.
Australia was the same disaster as remembered in Kyiv, and it was the first time I heard the much publicised failed high note on “easily” in “to love easily” in the semi. I doubt viewers really notice or care about these things. He dropped “easily” in the grand final and extended “love” for a tidier result. Curiously, Isaiah smiled afterwards – probably happy it all worked out. Watch at about the 2:17 mark of the performances on youtube for the differences. More relevant to Australia’s weak result – especially only 2 points from the televote – was a novice singing an average song with dreadful staging. San Marino was worse than ever, if that’s possible. Valentina seemed only in Kyiv for the party. Minimal effort went into the song, and even less into the performance. Other than replacing the song and artist, nothing could save Spain.
Azerbaijan still makes no sense. A guy on a ladder with a horse head, the word “alchemy” getting unusual prominence in a song, and Dihaj constantly flashing like a pervert, what the hell does it all mean?
As boring as it was in the grand final, it’s always exciting in the semi finals because it’s total uncertainty. Even more interesting is watching the expressions of the artists. The jovial ones are typically those that give themselves no chance so enjoy the occassion. Specifically about SF2, Austria was the main example there. Then there’s the hopeful optimistic ones, like Serbia and FYR Macedonia sitting nervously, and the hopeful pessimistic ones like Netherlands sitting patiently. Finally the expectant ones, with the notable example being Estonia. Initially quite relaxed, with three songs to go, they became worried, and eventually fearful.
Watching the emotions change, and how they deal with it, is fascinating. Koit hoped hard, and with one song left to announce, had a look of disbelief. Laura became nonchalant, watching the screen, then breaking into a soft smile when she spotted herself. While the techniques contrasted, the objective is the same – hope for a miracle, prepare for disappointment. Afterwards, in the stadium, I watched them through the zoom of my camera and Laura had the look of disbelief while Koit had the look of “that’s Eurovision”. Of course, it’s a total contrast to Eesti Laul, where they were stunned to beat the hot favourite Kerli.
The jury is still out about the new voting procedure for the grand final. While adding the televote as one block at the end to keep the result unknown until the last minute has merit, it destroys much of the excitement from the jury voting phase. Once the leading contenders are revealed after 5 or so juries, it’s now a matter of going through the motions until the end because everyone knows the result can flip once the televote is added. To compound the problem, only the 12 points are read, which means noting all the minor votes is quite difficult, therefore reducing the drama overall and for the 12 points itself. The only interest now is seeing which Eurovision stars from yesteryear will pop up, admire Iceland’s stunning background vista and boo Greece and Cyprus for exchanging 12 points yet again.
Surprisingly, Australia’s new commentators of Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey performed well. Far better than Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang. They didn’t chatter inanely, didn’t engage much in stupid jokes, didn’t talk over songs, didn’t introduce any song by its number (eg: Latvia, with song 5), often didn’t bother to introduce songs at all, had pleasant speaking voices (Myf sounded 20 years younger than her real age), Myf had a cute giggle compared to Zemiro’s annoying grunt, and were dutiful with the information provided. Most of all, hardly any errors. The only real one noticed was the confusion between Timebelle and Apollo being the band or the song. Myf initially said Timebelle performing Apollo before “correcting” herself that Apollo was the band. To compound the problem, she confused the name of the lead singer as Alexandru, not Miruna. Obviously not reading correctly from their information sheet, it was Miruna added to the band as lead singer by producer Mihai Alexandru, not that the lead singer’s name was Alexandru. We all make mistakes pretending to know something, so we’ll let them off with a warning, especially since it was their first year!
My Top 10
Grand Final – Arena
Romania, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Croatia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Germany.
Grand Final – TV
Romania (-), Belgium (-), Netherlands (+2), Croatia (+3), Denmark (-2), Greece (-2), United Kingdom (-1), Ukraine (-), Azerbaijan (-) and Germany (-).
Overall – Pre-ESC
Belgium, Estonia, Romania, Denmark, Greece, Azerbaijan, Czechia, Ukraine, Germany, Netherlands.
Overall – Post-ESC
Romania (+2), Belgium (-1), Estonia (-1), Netherlands (+6), Denmark (-1), Greece (-1), Georgia (+14), Malta (+5), United Kingdom (+21).
Switzerland only just missed out, and it was sad to drop Czechia. Azerbaijan likely would have held a top 10 spot with a less abstract performance. Germany, as with Czechia, will probably go into that “great radio song” category. Ukraine never lost anything other than I began to prefer others. To think, before the revamp, I had UK as my worst song. The only song I can recall with a greater leap is Belgium 2013 with Love Kills. Other songs that have grown on me over the interim are France and Hungary.
The betting agencies, which are really a representation of the betting public, got it mostly right. Before the rehearsals started, they had the winners Portugal as fourth best, second placed Bulgaria as second best and third placed Moldova around 30th at 100/1. Their favourite, as was most people’s, was Italy, who finished sixth. Fourth placed Belgium they had fifth and fifth placed Sweden they had third. These odds are before the event. During the event, once the rehearsals started, all the money went for Portugal – so much so that they were clear favourites on the night.
No surprised that my predicted top 3 of Italy, Azerbaijan and Romania was rubbish. I often tip with heart more than head. Although, I did sense Bulgaria was the danger to the favourite Italy, and that proved correct, other than the favourite had become Portugal. Personally I was never a super fan of Italy, and upon seeing them at the jury show semi final, that feeling was only reinforced. Belgium was the interesting one through the rehearsal stage. Early reports of a disaster and Belgium was a likely semi final loser proved all wrong in the end because song counts. There was something in City Lights that grabbed people, including myself. While others remained puzzled by this, clearly there were millions that felt the song, hence its worthy fourth place.
It’s been difficult to find ratings for all the Australian broadcasts, even from SBS, and there’s a reason why: a significant decline. The only ratings found for the live shows were the grand final on Sunday morning. It rated 148,000 – well down on 302,000 from 2016 with Dami Im. The Sunday evening replay was 308,000 compared to 407,000 last year. Given SBS’s goal has been to grow the final to 1 million viewers, an aggregate of 458,000 is a disaster.
The semi finals painted a similar bleak picture with the Friday night replay of SF1 attracting 403,000 viewers and the Saturday night replay of SF2 attracting 350,000 compared to 599,000 last year. Traditionally the Saturday night replay is SBS’s top rating Eurovision show, so it looks like Australia’s inclusion in Eurovision has had a negative effect on the non-Australian SF, turning it into a “If Australia isn’t involved, why bother to watch” show. This is a familiar trend in Europe too. Possibly it’s also affecting the grand final, where a poor Australian entry won’t attract people to watch. We see this effect in sports when TV viewing and live attendance decline for less popular teams or those out of form. Ironically, Australia’s involvement is harming the overall interest in the contest.
In terms of audience share and general popularity, all shows boosted SBS’s audience share to at least 8% during each broadcast, and an average of 5.8% for the week. Traditionally SBS hover between 4% and 5% audience share. For some perspective, Iceland had a 98% audience share watching the grand final (meaning, of all people watching TV, only 2% were not watching ESC) and Iceland were’t even in the final. The winners, Portugal, had a 32.5% share, runner-up Bulgaria a 39.4% share and hosts Ukraine at 18.8%.
Compared to other Australian shows on their respective nights, SF1 was the 16th most watched show, SF2 the 10th most watched, and the GF the 17th most watched. For more perspective, TV news across two channels and The Voice attracted over 1 million viewers on Sunday night to be the three most watched shows. So the whole “Eurovision is huge in Australia” really is a warped exaggeration. There’s still a long way to go, especially when the current trajectory is down. The grand final replay of 2016 featuring Dami Im was almost 200,000 down on 2015. This was offset a little by the live show up by 40,000.
Given Salvador’s controversial criticism about “fast food music” and “music is not fireworks”, it will be interesting to see the sort of Eurovision Portugal will provide. Already confirmed for the capital Lisbon, why not strip the contest back to a basic form, so there’s no fireworks, flames, smoke, holograms, giant background screens and crazy lighting? We saw this year that many artists indulge in these effects simply because they are available, and it often proves a detriment to the song. It would also help level the playing field, because these effects cost money. If you want fireworks, you pay thousands of euros for them. That’s why you don’t see such things with the smaller countries. All the “action” can then be provided by, umm, how about a band! Or a group of dancers with a well choreographed routine. Remember those? From 2002 to 2005 they were winning Eurovisions, whereas this year was almost totally devoid of them. Music truly is feeling, and if there’s one “take-out” from this year’s contest is that it lacked feeling.
Thank you Kyiv for the great access to the Red Carpet for fans! Let’s hope this tradition continues. Australia’s commentators Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey were strangely the first people along the red carpet. The plan was to say hi as they approached, only for them to be accosted by Estonian media (an Australian works for them), and by the time they went past I thought screw it. Similar with Australia and Isaiah. He was constantly being accosted by both media and fans, so by the time he went past he had enough. It was 270 metre long carpet, a warm day, and would have been an arduous process stopping for the same dull interviews and incessant photos with fans. I wasn’t that fussed anyway. Curiously, head of delegation, Paul Clarke, strayed ahead of him, so while Isaiah was distracted with Estonian, French and German media (Germans were directly opposite me, so I was constantly on German TV), I spoke at length with Clarke. We spoke about the “process” that saw Isaiah selected (there was none, and the likes of the Veronicas were busy), the delegation’s confidence of progressing, whether they had any tricks (especially after I praised the flourishes added to Dami Im’s song last year). Clarke said they were holding something back for the grand final. That something was probably the failed note in the semi final. Feedback from rehearsals wasn’t impressive, so I guess that’s why they brought it forward to maximise their chances.
The first person I wanted to speak to was Blanche from Belgium. She was accosted by fans next to me, seemingly for ages (they had fan accreditation and seemed to have been to every rehearsal and were recognised by most artists), and then suddenly she was her way without me prepared. She glanced at me, I glanced back, and she moved on. Before then, other less popular artists were coming through (note it’s in alphabetical sequence). Alma from France stopped, I said hi and asked she stopped so I could photograph her. She obliged. A woman in a white suit was passing through with FYR Macedonia. Many recognised her; I didn’t. I thought it was a dancer with FYRM and a former entrant. She seemed a bit lonely, actually looking to speak to someone, anyone! It wasn’t until days later I realised it was Martina from Czechia. Damn! I’d love to have congratulated her on her excellent song.
Estonia was the first one I accosted, particularly because I wanted Laura to sign my CD of hers I bought in Tallinn the day earlier. Just as she was coming over, German TV accosted her. I showed the CD and a texta to one of the delegation so they got the hint. I then proceded to drop the CD over the barrier only for Sven Lohmus (the songwriter) to retrieve us. I told my sister, that’s the magician, he wrote the song. He smiled. After German TV was done, I yelled out “Laura”, and she was happy to come, especially once she spotted her CD. She actually hadn’t seen it before. It was a compilation and only just released. She asked where we bought it, and we said the day before in Tallinn. So she signed mine and then started flicking through my sister’s to check it out. She was quite funny and obliged taking photos with us. My CD got a tongue added to the smiley.
Mostly I wanted to speak to Anja from Denmark (and Australia!). When she finally arrived (with the M and N countries, that was her popularity), she was happy to stop, especially when I blathered I’m from Australia. Normally I’m embarrassed to admit that, or use it to explain deficiencies in my behaviour, mental stability or general knowledge. I told her that many in Australia are proud of her, especially her perseverance succeed with her career after Australia treated her so badly. She was touched by that and we took a few selfies. Full detail under Denmark in the live review
Norway were next, and I said I heard they were real party guys. They weren’t so sure. I asked about their expectations and some general chit chat. Selfie time. No one could move forward at this time because of Anja! Moldova was next, and we told the Epic Sax Guy that our mother loves their song so much. He was pleased to know. Selfie time! Slovenia was looking a little lonely too, so I called Omar over. I told him how ManuElla was my favourite last year, and my sister mentioned she met us for coffee. He was surprised by this. I asked if he was confident of progressing and he immediately displayed a forlorn look about it and said it’s up to the viewers. My sister was a much bigger fan of his and prattled on out of control. He was clearly confused. We told him to tell ManuElla he met the crazy Australian fans. Selfie time! I also asked for a photo of just him. I regret never asking about the silly revamp in the song’s arrangement. Next time I’ll be prepared with questions. I never really expected to get this much access.
Netherlands were next and my sister and I both yelled out that “we love your song”. I told them I loved the harmonies and wished them luck. Selfie time! Somehow I totally missed Switzerland because Sweden was next. Again, general questions about rehearsals confidence to achieve a good result, and Robin answered diplomatically that they’re happy with everything and it’s basically up to the viewers. I tell you, his glassy eyes are even more vivid in real life. Selfie time! Finally, Romania, and unfortunately Ilinca was being rushed through because the event was running so late. Then I remember Switzerland, so ran towards the end and got a few photos. Mega hot. My photos
Mr Eurovision Awards
The Cool Vibes Award for Best Song
Yodel It from Romania. It had to be. It was always a fun catchy song, they really harnessed that in the presentation, and it was pure Eurovision too.
The Goodbye To Yesterday Award for Best Presentation
My Friend from Croatia. It would always be curious to see how they managed this one-man two-voices act. From the important life philosophy at the start to the silly grins at the end, it was brilliant. Requiem from France is probably next, especially with the background effects. Not to forget Hey Mamma! from Moldova. Excellent background effects and choreography.
The Tornero Award for Best Artistry
Never Give Up On You by the United Kingdom. From all the people I spoke to, they were all equally so impressed with the staging and general presentation that the United Kingdom brought. It was a performance far more worthy than a lowly 15th spot.
The Open Your Heart Award for Best Pure Song
City Lights from Belgium. No contest really. Estonia was up there for a while initially before fading against the staying power of City Lights. I’m loving This Is Love from Greece more and more each day too. Not that it will overtake City Lights!
The Lenna Kuurmaa Award for Best Voice
It was a weak year for beautiful, sumptuous voices that make me go weak. While Blanche from Belgium was the most interesting, I dug the electronic vibe of Laura from Estonia and the jazzy style of Martina from Czechia, I’d have to go for Claudia from Malta. The slight husk to her tone, and she was brilliant live too.
The Dami Im Award for Best Vocals
Tamara from Georgia. Undisputable! Her vocals were hotter than the stage, and her dress. Next best is Lucie from the United Kingdom and Anja from Denmark (and Australia!).
The Igranka Award for Biggest Surprise
Never Give Up On You by the United Kingdom. As I said earlier, at one point this was my worst song of the season, and then it hits the overall top 10. Credit that to the revamp, far improved vocals and a stunning presentation. By the way, that contraption Lucie had, they could never set it up within the 45 seconds required, so structured one of the breaks around her song.
The La Mia Citta Award for Biggest Disappointment
Skeletons from Azerbaijan. Not so much a disappointment, more a case of what could have been. Something more generic that relied on powerful vocals and visuals would have returned a much better result. It was something I expected too. I’ll also mention I wasn’t rapt entirely with Belgium’s staging. I expected more dark and moody and with use of intelligent lighting, and believe it would suited the song much better. Greece was also a surprise. Once that instrumental section kicks in, you really expect to see a posse of dancers going nuts. Instead Demy’s just standing there posing.
The Piret Järvis Award for Hottest Girl
If I haven’t given enough hints already, it’s Miruna from Switzerland. Rarely am I so often mesmerised by one person. She constantly did it. Next is Alma from France and Anja from Denmark (and Australia!), while Ilinca from Romania extraordinarily cute.
The Michal Szpak Award for Hunkiest Guy
Not a great year for super hunks, so I’ll go Koit Toome from Estonia ahead of Francesco from Italy and IMRI from Israel.
The Nina Sublatti Award for Best Outfit
Naviband from Belarus! They kept it stylish, and with a hint of tradition. Next is Kasia from Poland in her stunning white dress and Kristian from Bulgaria was stylish.
The Francesca Michielin Award for Worst Outfit
A category introduced last year, I thought it was harsh Francesca would own it, and figured that ownership wouldn’t last beyond a year. No. This year nothing really bad, not even this year’s winner, Martina from Czechia. As bad as the gold foil suit is, it’s better than Francesca’s overalls.
The Petr Elfimov Award for Best Interview
I actually have seen too much because of the travelling after Eurovision. From the interviews and stuff I have seen, it would be Slavko from Montenegro. He was fun on stage too. I’ll never forget the cries of laughter from the group of Ukrainian girls standing near us at one of the rehearsals as Slavko revealed his full costume and dance moves.
The Stacked Shipping Containers Award for Best Postcard
It was unimaginative year for postcards. The only ones that stick out are Poland with all the dogs, Croatia and Jacques’ struggle to climb the stairs, and Estonia because of Laura sky-diving and I’m a sucker for images of Tallinn. Malta also had some great images from Malta. We’ll go with Poland because animal rights is very important for Kasia Mos, and she showed that with her postcard, and her background graphics on stage.
The Space Award for Best Lyrics
Given the owner of the award category, it’s Space from Montenegro. Normally I rarely notice lyrics or care about them, hence I started the category this year. Only a read of the first few lines is enough to convince you:
Linen is covered with feathers
Wet dreams, wild nightmares, I surrender
Come into me from within
We can be as one in the sin
The spaceship is ready to blow
Drunk in love, I’m gonna explode
Be my Bonnie, will mix and match with Clyde
Let’s explore this galaxy of stars
Indeed, let’s explore this galaxy of stars, in Lisbon 2018. Do pobachennya!