24 December 2018
Is there such a thing as too much Eurovision? After three successive years, I had a distinct sense of Eurovision overload. Even arriving in Lisbon this year I had the feeling of “again, already”. That quickly dissipated as I settled into the majesty of Lisbon itself, complete with its awesome sites and weather. Every day was low to mid 20s and clear skies. Once the shows started, I was fully engaged again. That Israel would win with Toy from Netta, a song I actually liked compared to the previous two, let’s say, boring winners, it proved quite a fulfilling event.
Staying on in Europe for another week, going to Porto, Madrid and Barcelona, meant the adventure continued. Other than a cloudy morning in Porto, the weather continued as glorious as in Lisbon. Barcelona, there on my second visit, is truly one of the world’s great cities and no doubt I will return. Coming home proved more challenging, with a family concern waiting and then football’s World Cup starting in Russia. I knew that would consume me for at least a month. While I managed to squeeze in watching the Eurovision Song Contest semi finals during this period, moving onto the grand final seemed to be on permanent delay. I dropped out of all online engagement too, only checked twitter a couple of times in 3 months, and only a few more times since.
Finally, it was all aboard for the grand final, and the 6 month delay actually proved advantageous. Everything felt quite fresh, like I hadn’t even seen the grand final yet or was super familiar with the songs. Watching it on a quick back-up means your enjoyment and impression is likely influenced by existing prejudices. No more is that pronounced than with the winning jury song, Austria’s Cesar Sampson with Nobody But You. It really had impact, and sort of made sense the jury liked it so much. A catchy song, very well presented, and the choir effects were stellar. In contrast, the televote and overall winner, Israel’s Netta with Toy, was underwhelming. I felt it fair to then watch the losing semi finalists again.
Semi Final 1
The semi final from hell, in terms of quality songs, and it remains so. While Azerbaijan was as flat as the live experience, elevating it was the graphics superimposed onto the TV screen and the glitter on Aisel’s chest. Not that I was fixated on that area; it simply caught the eye. The glitter did. Otherwise, the performance was all a bit confusing with the ramp things and I can only feel a more conventional and basic presentation with well choreographed dancers would have been better. Iceland was good, at least with the voice, as Albania excelled even further. Iceland lost out with the lame, all lovey, presentation. The group hug was all fake too, as it was seen at the rehearsal shows. Belgium started with the sparkling eyes before descending into a horrific outfit and arm-waving nonsense. Disappointing for a favourite song. Czechia was never my kind of thing so I had to wait for Lithuania to restore the occasion with an emotional and classic performance, even if some notes seemed off at times.
Onto Israel and it seemed a bit wacko and disjointed, although, still a fun, energetic song. Belarus had some great teeth and an exploding rose effect on TV, otherwise not much to elevate it. Estonia was as vocally superb as I remembered live, while Bulgaria was powerful – and the group looked like General Zod and his disciples had just escaped from the Phantom Zone. Then to WTF Macedonia and Eye Clueless. Never has there been a greater self-destruction of a good song in Eurovision history. Everything was wrong with it from the horror outfits and choreography, to the dreadful match of vocals with the backers, and even Marija sounded breathless for most of it.
Croatia had great vocals and a megababe trying to save an average song, and not really managing it, while Austria showed the qualities that impressed the juries: smooth voice, great presentation and lighting, and the backing choir was spot on. Greece simply didn’t provide a moment; otherwise a great sound. Finland was as cheap as ever, Armenia boring, and Ireland was better live as you could watch the entire choreography. It really was transfixing. Switzerland, my big favourite from SF1, and it appeared a bit disjointed. Great song, great voice, it just didn’t have that moment to climb above so many other good songs. Finally Cyprus, all presentation, especially the TV graphics and choreography, as the song was never a favourite of mine.
My Semi Final 1 Top 10
The only difference since May is Austria in and Belgium out. From the song previews before Eurovision, Belgium, Belarus, WTF Macedonia and Greece are out for Ireland, Austria, Albania and Cyprus. Ireland I had 40th in my Fab Five!
Semi Final 2
The novelty had long worn off Norway, leaving the only interested tidbit the fate of Alexander Rybak’s jacket when he throws it into the crowed. The grey bearded floor manager actually bustles his way through the crowd to catch it – a decent feat considering that area would be packed during the live broadcast. Romania: still love the song, and the rock voice; I wholly dislike the presentation. Total dummies! Better to be a conventional band with some fireworks. Rock songs always bring their own energy so need for nonsense. Serbia – again I felt the presence of General Zod and his disciples. Nice presentation and feel made it better than remembered. A1 for effort (or is that AI for effort?) for San Marino? Noticed the pounding heart of the robot holding the sign. Denmark presented well; it was simply a song that was too repetitive for me. Russia? That’s how you ruin a girl’s Eurovision dream. The decision to put Julia Samoylova in that contraption was utterly perplexing. I noticed she missed a line of the song half way through, trying to catch her breath.
Moldova was as fun as ever, and I learnt the whole thing was about a relationship between a woman and two men. I know this is obvious; it’s just I rarely look past the basic premise of being entertained or not. Mostly I was curious how 3 women were involved at one point early on, and it proved to be the third man wearing heels at this point then switching to pants and regular shoes. You see he’s the only one of the men without socks. Netherlands had the weird dancing in an entertaining display of a song that didn’t appeal much, and interestingly Waylon was last called into the final as he was with The Common Linnets in 2014, while weird dancing also appeared for Australia. It’s actually some indigenous tribal thing Jessica Mauboy does, and comes off a bit strange when dressed in a glittering purple dress and flashing lights. Despite the early criticisms from the rehearsals, it was an accomplished display of a solid song, and that Mauboy tried too hard in reaching some big notes, and the dress wasn’t that flattering, would be the only minor issues. She can be grateful for being in the weak semi final 2, too.
Georgia was a snooze affair again, Poland was cheap, while Malta was the usual all show and no go from them. Oh well, no doubt it will form pride of place in Christabelle artist’s portfolio. Same as in May, the screaming for Hungary let it down. More singing would have been appreciated. With the stage diving, much like with Norway’s jacket catch, “professionals” barged their way through the crowd to catch the performer. Latvia, an early favourite of mine, brought the sexy voice and vibe. Unfortunately it lost its impact by Lisbon and I was already tired of it back then. Sweden brought, basically, a video clip of a dreadful song, while Montenegro was more of “heard it all before”, Slovenia was again a no thanks, and Ukraine was already out of luck.
My Semi Final 2 Top 10
Really, after the first 5, I was just filling in places, especially the bottom two. Differences from the live experience in May is Netherlands and Denmark in, Ukraine and Poland out. Since the Fab Five preview, it’s Serbia, Hungary and Netherlands in, Russia, Malta and Poland out.
As Syliva, the receptionist at the MyStay Porto Centro hotel in which I stayed told me, Portugal returned to its rightful place at the bottom. I told her that at least they got a win, and it brought me to her wonderful country. That’s a plug for the hotel too, and Syliva was so helpful! Without the stage invader, the United Kingdom would not even be a footnote to this year’s event. Simply didn’t stand out at all. Germany was a great surprise and done really well. Typically Germany excels in bringing the word boring to new lows, and that was possible with this song. Spain brought another pleasant rendition while the much hyped France proved nothing special, and really only plodded to its conclusion. I was never a great fan of it so no surprise to see it finish 13th. Italy brought an emotional and powerful message – something not felt in the arena – which sort of justifies its third place on televote. Sort of.
Of the qualifiers from the semi finals, Estonia stunned again, and since Eurovision in May, reinforced the view that La Forza was simply one magnificent and unique mix of opera and pop that worked. All Elina’s opera stuff on social media since is the annoying opera of old. After all this time, the clapping by Albania’s Eugent during his song still seems weird. Lithuania was again so heartfelt and powerful.
My Grand Final Top 10
In May my 10 was: Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Israel, Hungary, Albania, Spain, Ireland, Germany & Australia. So I’ve bumped in Austria and Italy for Hungary and Australia, and shuffled the order a bit.
Austria winning the jury vote was a reminder of the old days of Eurovision, when the winner would be a total mystery until the whims of the jury were revealed. Sweden was also a shock to finish second, because it was such a cheap song and seemingly not really a jury song. That the televote snubbed it as fifth last was a moment of rejoice, and curiously it was great to see the grace in which Benjamin Ingrosso took the result. He posted a snapshot of his postcard that showed him with a selfie in front of two people having a picnic, with the caption “posing with all of my voters”.
Contrast that to Australia and it was denying the reality. As much as fans want to believe, there wasn’t much difference between the grand final and semi final performances. Other than Mauboy’s voice sounding a little tired in the grand final, it was an identical performance, yet Australians either must hyperventilate about a good result or make excuses for failures. On rehearsals she was bad, on qualifying for the final she was brilliant, on finishing last on televote she was bad again. Make up your mind! Then there’s pretending the result wasn’t that bad. Apparently 20th among 43 countries was a great result! Oh, and Mauboy wasn’t totally rejected by the televote because she got plenty of 14th and 15th places, and unfortunately only the top 10 get points. We see this exact syndrome at the Olympics, where a multiple world champion and world record holder finishes fifth and immediately the response is “fifth in an Olympic final is a great achievement”. Codswallop! For a hot gold medal favourite, fifth is a mega flop, and likewise at Eurovision, a country touted as a top 5 chance, for only 3 of 43 countries to rank Australia top 10 is an abject failure and rejection. When combined with a similar rejection in 2017, and not to forget even Dami Im suffered a huge disparity between the jury and televote, Europe is sending Australia a clear message: you’ve had your fun, now piss off. With Australia already invited for Tel Aviv 2019, another rejection from the public, especially a semi final exit, that should really be it.
My Overall Top 10
Only Switzerland, San Marino and Romania come in from the semi final failures, with Italy, Spain and Germany dropping out. It was really close between leaving Germany or adding Romania. Ultimately, I love Goodbye as a song too much not to include it. In my Fab Five preview, my top 10 was Estonia, Romania, Switzerland, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Latvia, FYR Macedonia, Lithuania, Israel and Spain. So it’s a massive change since then, and no surprise when six of them failed in the semi finals. Of those failures, only Switzerland and Romania stay in my overall top 10 thanks to the strength of their songs. Estonia, my favourite before Eurovision, did well to finish 8th, while Lithuania finished 12th and Israel won.
It was near impossible to find TV Ratings, and for good reason: they were diabolical. Whereby in previous years SBS would trumpet big numbers (for them) and aspire to gain 1 million viewers for the grand final, this year they were totally silent. The TV Ratings only list figures for top 20 shows, and only the semi final 2 replay on Friday night could manage that – squeaking in at 20th with 319,000 viewers. The 20th ranked show on Sunday was a morning political talk show with just 240,000 viewers, meaning neither the live show or replay of Eurovision could beat that. The comments section one reader said 208,000 was the total for the replay and similar for the live. If we look since Australia started competing in 2015, ratings are 592k, 407k, 308k and 208k for 2018. For semi final 1, the 20th ranked show on its broadcast day (Wednesday) was 456k, so it was never likely to be top 20.
Every year ESC has been losing 100,000 viewers for the big Sunday night replay. That 592k in 2015 wasn’t even an unusual peak because of Australia’s debut, because 2013 was 595k, 2012 was 531k and 2011 was 511k. 2014 had a dip to 476k. While we should note SBS changed the replay times for the semi finals to the same day, rather than wait until Friday and Saturday night, which could have affected viewing habits, there’s still no excuse for the hammering the heavily promoted and traditional Sunday night broadcast is getting. Personal theory is interest is now guided by the quality of our song or its chance to win, not the high curiosity of Eurovision as a whole for the years without Australia involved. We’re a nation that obsesses about ourselves, so if our song is weak, we lose interest. It’s just like sports viewing, interest drops when the national team is performing poorly. Are we at a point that to save Eurovision, Australia must go? Whether SBS officials takes this situation seriously enough, it depends whether they are willing to sacrifice their annual overseas junket each May.
Mr Eurovision Awards
The Cool Vibes Award for Best Song
Lithuania and Ieva Zasimauskaite with When We’re Old. I was always transfixed watching this, and the simple and elegant performance made it the clear winner. Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva wowed the audience with her magnificent projection dress and superlative voice with La Forza, while Moldova combined a catchy song and original routine to leave a great indelible memory. Special mention to San Marino and Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening with Who We Are. This song always had “trainwreck charisma”, and they brought it on stage to Lisbon too. The moment I first saw the robot lift the sign saying “size doesn’t matter” will live with me forever.
The Goodbye To Yesterday Award for Best Presentation
Easily Moldova’s DoReDos with My Lucky Day. This was a superb and perfectly executed routine. Ireland and Ryan O’Shaughnessy brought a mesmerising and evocative boy-boy routine with Together. It was a privilege to see this live. Germany’s Michael Schulte really lifted You Let Me Walk Alone by bring his own screen with meaningful graphics.
The Tornero Award for Best Artistry
It must go to Elina Nechayeva from Estonia with La Forza. A pure artist working at her utmost purest! As much as heavy metal can be art, you couldn’t fault Hungary’s AWS with Viszlat Nyar. In third is Lithuania’s Ieva Zasimauskaite with When We’re Old.
The Open Your Heart Award for Best Pure Song
This is the song that provides the most pure listening enjoyment, and typically these are the songs I liked before ESC. This year FYR Macedonia takes the title, thanks to Lost And Found by Eye Cue. It’s a classic song combining several styles, and as I said at the time, was still growing on me would have been higher given more time. Next is La Forza’s combination of a dramatic operatic feel and Elina Nechayeva’s magical vocals for Estonia, then Stones by Zibbz from Switzerland and Goodbye by The Humans for Romania. Those last three were my original 1, 3 and 2 songs, respectively, while Lost And Found was 7th.
The Lenna Kuurmaa Award for Best Voice
This category is more about personal affection than technical ability, and it was tough to find something that really grabbed – unlike the recently completed Junior Eurovision with Marija Spasovska of FYR Macedonia. The one that always had appeal and I still like is Marija from Eye Cue – also of FYR Macedonia! While the performance was a trainwreck, and even her vocals were off, she has a lovely clean tone and that was evident in a live acoustic version of Lost And Found on youtube. Next is Coco from Zibbz with her classic rock voice, and then it’s Eugent Bushpepa from Albania. It’s rare that I award a man, even in this day of gender fluidity, so congrats Eugent!
The Polina Gagarina Award for Best Vocals
This is the technical category and the winner is Albania’s Eugent Bushpepa with Mall. Peerless, effortless vocals. Obviously Elina Nechayeva from Estonia is up there, even if she simply did her “opera thing” with La Forza, then probably Franka from Croatia in third.
The Igranka Award for Biggest Surprise
The song that went from “yawn” to “superb”, it must be Ireland and Ryan O’Shaughnessy with Together. I hated this song before ESC, then I was transfixed. The day after seeing the jury show, I told some of the ever skeptical Irish fans it’s a certain qualifier; absolutely no doubt. I’d have to say Austria’s Cesar Sampson with Nobody But You is next best, because that was really a nothing song before ESC and then won the jury vote. Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira with Fuego is next. This was always a cheap nothing song before ESC and somehow it got transformed to almost winning.
The Lost And Found Award for Biggest Disappointment
A new title holder obviously means Eye Clueless won this award. Eye Cue really were clueless as this wasn’t even a close competition. Lost And Found was simply the biggest trainwreck of a performance and biggest destruction of a great song ever. Shocking outfits, dreadful choreography, poor vocals (notably the backers were too loud), all combined to make it one big glorious mess. If there’s a runner-up, it’s Sennek from Belgium with A Matter Of Time and her dreadful dress and arm waving. In fact, she’d win most other years. Romania and The Humans really disappointed with their nonsense presentation of Goodbye. Honourable mention to Russia for Julia Samoylova perched on that ridiculous mountain thing with I Won’t Break.
The Piret Järvis Award for Hottest Girl
A tough one, as there were no ultra “miodzios”. Despite the dreadful stage outfit, Marija from Eye Cue for FYR Macedonia is the winner. She was always a bit of a mega babe, and if there was one redeeming quality to her stage outfit, it did show off her figure. Elina Nechayeva was always a cutie, and a sweetheart, so she’s next. Then there’s Coco from Zibbz and Laura Rizzotto from Latvia. Special mentions Jessika from San Marino. Whether it’s the curves, the red lips, the dress, the robots – the general trashy vibe – she was a honey.
The Michal Szpak Award for Hunkiest Guy
Bite me. Let’s go for Mr Teeth, Alekseev from Belarus. They were ridiculous. Next is Alexander Rybak from Norway then Cesar Sampson from Austria.
The Nina Sublatti Award for Best Outfit
A tough one, as nothing stood out and said “wow”. For keeping it simple and appropriate for their song and vibe, I’d go for Switzerland’s Zibbz. Similarly it’s Netta from Israel in second with Laura Rizzotto from Latvia in third. Thanks for the wave, Coco!
The Marija from Eye Cue Award for Worst Outfit
Another win for FYR Macedonia, and they are the new title holders for the category too! Thankfully I took enough photos. It just shows you how much they got right, and how much they got wrong. Next was Belgium’s Sennek with her dreadful partially transparent, hooped monstrosity, and then Vanja Radovanovic from Montenegro with his powder-blue sequined suit. They were ranked first, second and fourth in the Barbara Dex award, so there was universal condemnation. Australia came third and Israel was fifth.
The Sennek Award for Best Personality
While this category initially start out based on interviews, it’s now morphed to social media, and Sennek was so much the clear winner that she’s now the category title holder too. She had the most interesting social media presence with her funny and imaginative images and videos, and probably the biggest star of all, Molly her cat. She’s not only the most affectionate cat ever, she’s so cute, and Sennek always catches her in great moments – like a recent video of Molly with hiccups. So cute! Unfortunately these posts mostly instagram stories, so no longer exist. One I fondly remember is a photo of a ginger cat lying on its back shaped like a croissant, next to a croissant, with Sennek saying her life is complete now. Next is Zibbz from Switzerland, who were really interesting, detailed and interactive, as was Elina Nechayeva from Estonia. She had her “La Forza Challenge” on youtube, and really enhancing her charm was the use of “wow”, “beautiful” and “amazing” almost universally to describe her videos and stuff!
The Stacked Shipping Container Award for Best Postcard
Cesar Sampson from Austria meets a group of cyclists then leads them on a ride while not wearing a helmet. You daredevil! In Australia’s now infamous oppressive nanny state, such activity is illegal and met with huge fines, and Cesar would be shamed and humiliated as the most irresponsible person ever!
Similarly San Marino engaged in some downhill karting without helmets. Oh no! More irresponsible behaviour. It makes you wonder if Australia ever hosted Eurovision, a postcard on Bondi Beach would no doubt see floaties worn and stern warnings issued by a life guard, while a bike ride along the Yarra would be helmets, hi-viz clothes and an ambulance following. You never know! Elina Nechayeva rock climbing (thankfully wearing a helmet), Sennek from Belgium sailing on the Tagus River, Bulgaria on the iconic trams, and Latvia paddle boarding were other memorable ones. Upon reviewing the postcards, Switzerland on a helicopter ride and walking through Porto brought back great memories. While it wasn’t in the postcard, the footage during the show of Julia Samoylova overlooking the ocean was memorable for it being the first time she ever saw the ocean. It’s good she got at least one great memory from her Eurovision experience.
The Most Invisible Song of the Year
Often I add a one-off special category each year to award something that simply must be awarded for the unique quality it brought, and this year it goes to Georgia. What were they again? Some Ethno Jazz Band with For You, For Me, For Why Did They Even Bother? I don’t even have a photo of them. They stayed at the same hotel as the Australian delegation, and were lounging on the rooftop during the SBS welcome party and went almost totally unnoticed. One or two people observed they were probably Georgia, that was it. If only they were someone like Switzerland, the party would have been much more interesting.
Detailed award references on the About page
Other Favourite Photos
There’ll be no Tel Aviv 2019 for me as I don’t want to be blown up. OK, not really. While security is a concern, I simply need a year off. There really is a case of too much Eurovision, and SBS also need every damn viewer they can get. Merry Christmas!