23 May 2021
Forza Italia! Italy’s Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam with their rock classic Zitti E Buoni to complete only what can be described as a most amazing Eurovision. We were starved of Eurovision for a year after COVID-19 cancelled 2020, and 2021 made up for it in every way possible. Twenty six quality acts, a dramatic and often brutal voting sequence, and a compelling winner, all contributed to an event we will never forget. It had everything. Italy with a combined 524 points won thanks to an overwhelming public response to overwhelm France in second (499 points) and Switzerland in third (432 points). It was Italy’s first win since returning to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011, and their third victory overall. It was a win long due after finishing second twice and fifth once since 2011.
Featuring a member to be the first Eurovision winner born in the 21st century, the Italian youngsters that met at school and established their band in 2015 and wrote Zitti E Boni in 2016, left an indelible imprint in the minds of the voters with a classic rock riff, surging performance and a ripping finale. Måneskin is the Danish word for moonlight, and was suggested by bassist Victoria, who’s half Danish. When they leapt to the lead with three countries still to receive votes, and then survived Malta and France to confirm second place, band members were already in tears before the jury winner, Switzerland, awaited their public votes. It seems Måneskin already had validation at that point, and those tears would turn into cries of ecstasy upon Switzerland faltering with just 165 points from the public and dropping to third.
The low points for Malta and Switzerland capped the brutality of this system of revealing votes where artists are cued up to receive points, only to be embarrassed, if not humiliated, with low scores. It started at the bottom of the table where United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Netherlands all got zero points from the public. The humiliation for the UK soon turned into an impromptu club zero. Curiously, it was four of the automatic grand finalists while the other two were near the top waiting to hopefully be the winner.
Then the takedowns only intensified. San Marino in 18th place with 37 points from the jury were whacked with just 13 points from the public. Senhit and Flo Rida were stunned. Then it was Belgium in 13th with 71 jury points hit with just 3 from the public, Portugal in 7th with 126 points whacked with 13, Bulgaria in 6th with 140 points smacked with 14, and then came Malta to receive the ultimate takedown. In third place with 208 jury points and one of the fan favourites, they were knocked senseless with just 47 points. I couldn’t stop laughing at the brutality on display. Of course, some songs got massive boosts, notably Finland with 218 points, Ukraine with 267, Iceland with 180 (and those points were nicely read out like a darts commentator calling a 180) and, finally, Italy with 318. A rough calculation suggested it was all over once France failed to overtake Italy, as typically there’s only three sets of big points of 250+ awarded, and we saw that already for Italy, France and Ukraine. Not to forget the 218 for Finland.
The top 5 for the jury were Switzerland 267, France 248, Malta 208, Italy 206 and Iceland 198.
The top 5 for the public were Italy 318, Ukraine 267, France 251, Finland 218 and Iceland 180. Switzerland were sixth with 165.
Combined it was Italy 524, France 499, Switzerland 432, Iceland 378 and Ukraine 364. Then came Finland 301 and Malta 255. Note that four of the top 5 songs, and the entire top 3, were not in English.
As much as this system provides so much drama, it might be time to revert the old style with modifications. Since I don’t see why the jury vote gets so much individual prominence, and since we like to see the jury and public vote read separately, I’d have each spokesperson read the 12 points for both. It wouldn’t add any extra time overall because you gain 16 minutes by dumping the entire public vote section to add to the 35 minutes the jury takes. It’s also time to seriously consider expanding the sets of votes to 15 from 10. We have 26 songs these days, not the 10 to 20 in the old days, when 10 sets of points were enough. As it stands, zero points only reflects not reaching the top 10 of any individual jury vote or public vote, not that zero points were actually gathered. The UK might have got several 11th or 12th places, for example. I’d keep the illustrious 12 points as a maximum and just add an extra set of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 points.
01 Cyprus – Elena Tsagrinou – El Diablo – 7
I always felt this song needed a better structure, and that feeling increased during the grand final as it did seem to ramble in sections. Finishing 16th reflects that.
02 Albania – Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 8
This one keeps improving for me, and I really noticed the background smoke effects that were well choreographed into the song. I love Anxhela’s voice too. I might have expected a bit higher than 21st. A good effort anyway.
03 Israel – Eden Alene – Set Me Free – 7
This lost some impact for me from the semi final, otherwise a good performance and appreciated the vocals again.
04 Belgium – Hooverphonic – The Wrong Place – 6
I gave it some extra attention to see the attraction of it making the grand final. OK, there’s something there.
05 Russia – Manizha – Russian Woman – 7
This is mostly talking until the song and melody kicks in late, and that’s when it really it erupts. The screen of women adds to it. Overall, needed more to it for a better result.
06 Malta – Destiny – Je Me Casse – 7
I never felt this was destined to win as it’s rather generic and probably got so much attention due to Destiny herself (as a former winner of Junior Eurovision). It really only kicks in for me during the bridge and the big finale. Destiny was relieved upon completing the song, and probably hoping it was good enough.
07 Portugal – The Black Mamba – Love Is On My Side – 8
Got some big cheers, which belied the public’s final vote. Most points came from the jury, albeit it was quite even in the semi final. I love the journey the song takes, notably the vocal expression and visual drama, especially with that giant drop-down screen at the end. Portugal will be happy their 100% English song experiment (the first time ever) achieved a good result.
08 Serbia – Hurricane – Loco Loco – 8
I’m cute and nice – those are part of the lyrics, and who’s to argue? Although, Ksenija, the redhead, is by far the cutest. Seemed to raise the intensity from the semi final to a category 5 hurricane, and I’m surprised at only 15th place, especially since the youtube views of their semi final were the highest by far. Did best with the public by getting five sets of 12 points – equal top with Italy, Lithuania and Ukraine.
09 United Kingdom – James Newman – Embers 4
Brought some fun, and a decent voice. The song always lacked, and not a big surprise he got zero points from both the jury and public well. It’s double donut to be proud of, and he looks like he’s well acquainted with donuts.
10 Greece – Stefania – Last Dance – 10
Stefania took my advice (or someone else’s, more likely) to be less robotic on stage. She was a bit more playful with the camera, and winked an extra time. Her vocals were good for a difficult song, and you could really feel the several lovely tones in her voice. We can’t ignore that impressive and innovate stage performance either to make Last Dance one of the most most memorable and distinctive songs of the year. She can be proud of her performance and her top 10 spot. Last Dance was my favourite song this year and I’m proud of her too. It was a night of 10s for Stefania: 10th overall, 10th with the jury, 10th with the public, performed in 10th position on the night and got a perfect 10 from me.
11 Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers – 7
The strengths are Gjon’s voice and the song’s finale; the weakness is just about everything else. I don’t understand the meaning of standing in front of giant styrofoam pieces. The outfit was dreadful, the dancing and arm movements were weird, and the vocals occasionally flaky. The public got it right – especially only awarding one set of 12 points (from Albania). Gjon said he was already validated after winning the jury vote, and then it looked like he was about to choke on his validation as Finland and Ukraine took the lead, and especially when Italy did. It looked like he said “that’s a lot” when Italy received their big public vote to take them to the lead.
12 Iceland – Dadi og Gagnamagnid – 10 Years – 8
Obviously the same performance from the rehearsal after the band was forced into isolation due to a COVID-19 positive test, and it still resonated. I thought for an instant they would be the ones to get massive public votes and leap into the lead, especially with so many low scores to other songs leaving plenty of votes left. Thank you Iceland for the best vote presentation ever with the Ja Ja Ding Song actor from the Eurovision Song Contest: The Store Of Fire Saga. Classic.
13 Spain – Blas Canto – Voy A Quedarme – 7
A bit of a disappointment. My sixth song favourite this year and Blas flopped. Too nervous it seems, especially at the start, as he was breathy. The arrangement seemed different and I didn’t understand the staging at all. He lost his grandma to COVID-19, so this performance was a special moment for him. Perhaps it was trying too hard instead of letting it flow. I still love the song and my score is based mostly on that. It’s just a shame he couldn’t bring the audience with him. His only points of 6 from the jury say it all.
14 Moldova – Natalia Gordienko – Sugar – 9
While I didn’t notice it live, Natalia dropped her microphone at 1:30 into the song. It’s a distant shot and she must have struck it against one of the dancers. The sound of it hitting the floor is clearly audible, and that gives it away as she bends down to retrieve it with the help of one of the dancers. A great recovery. After hearing Sugar so many times, I sort of soured on it a bit and had in mind the semi final performance when scoring it. It probably needed a bit of a wow moment to attract the really big votes for a better result. I timed her note at the end at just over 15 seconds, so it’s not the 17 seconds it’s supposed to be to apparently be the record longest note in Eurovision history.
15 Germany – Jendrik – I Don’t Feel Hate – 6
They had to ditch the middle finger costume for a peace sign due to rules against profanity. This was a fun performance of a fun song. It deserved a few more points than just 3 from the jury.
16 Blind Channel – Dark Side – 9
Interesting that the two middle finger acts were placed in succession. Finland were banned from giving the middle finger due to profanity rules. It is a family show. Instead, they painted their middle finger red, which sort of made you question where it had been. Anyway, they somehow raised the intensity yet again. They’ll be rapt at 6th place and especially that 218 points from the public. That’s sticking it to the jury.
17 Bulgaria – Victoria – Growing Up Is Getting Old – 10
Oh Victoria, still such a beautiful song and beautifully performed, and presented. Personally, it was flawless. That was a photo of her father she had on stage and in the green room. Eleventh place would be way lower than hoped, and the public probably bypassed her as they had France and Switzerland for their sentimental votes. She was third in her semi with solid points from both jury and public.
18 Lithuania – The Roop – Discoteque – 9
My prediction to win, and they didn’t disappoint. Despite seeing them perform so often, both at Eurovision at their national final, I enjoyed this performance the most. No doubt lost most of the “zany, wacky” category of votes to Iceland. Eighth is still a good result, and I loved one of the “We are the winners of Eurovision” guys from 2006 reading the votes.
19 Ukraine – Go_A – Shum – 7
I felt again the staging was incongruous to the song. It has such an industrial and apocalyptic feel yet they are standing in a plastic white forest. It’s probably one where a translation of the lyrics helps. What they did do so well was stand out, and that reflects my increasing my score from 6 in the semi and their fifth place overall.
20 France – Barbara Pravi – Voila – 5
Voila, voila, voila. OK, I get it. Voila! I sort of get what people see in it, and what they see I just don’t like. I appreciate the artistry and I didn’t need to smack my head in this time to get through the song. Mostly, I thank France for being here for making Italy’s win that much more exciting.
21 Azerbaijan – Efendi – Mata Hari – 8
Efendi’s vocals are so striking at the start, and the staging is excellent. The main negative is the song overall isn’t that strong, and once you’ve seen that climactic finale already, the impact is lost. Still excellent, and kudos to the dancers, their professionalism and choice of attire.
22 Norway – Tix – Fallen Angel – 7
A bit of a fallen entity after seeing it so often now. The song was always a bit superficial, and the staging perfunctory. Did much better with the public for his 18th placed finish.
23 Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy – Birth Of A New Age – 6
Nice voice and graphical effects; the song was never anything much beyond its rather infectious African beat.
24 Italy – Måneskin – Zitti E Buoni – 8
Nothing much more to be said that’s already been said, except to say rock and roll never dies! If I was to pick, I’m always more partial to a song sung than a song screamed. Otherwise, no real complaints and a thoroughly worthy winner.
25 Sweden – Tusse – Voices – 4
The most nondescript entry of the night. Tusse was always an engaging character trying to wrangle a lame and insipid song into something interesting. He couldn’t do it and, personally, 14th is a major over achievement.
26 San Marino – Senhit feat. Flo Rida – Adrenalina – 8
This presented as a super finale to the show, and I anticipated a much better result. On retrospect, it was more the weak Swedish entry prior than inflated that feeling. The song’s weakness all along was the lack of a major hook (sorry, Flo Rida wasn’t it) beyond its generally infectious nature, and that held it back. Given the investment in the song and the talented team of songwriters involved, 22nd is a major disappointment.
My Grand Final Top 10
01 Greece 10
02 Bulgaria 10
03 Lithuania 9
04 Moldova 9
05 Finland 9
06 Serbia 8
07 Albania 8
08 Italy 8
09 Iceland 8
10 San Marino 8
That top 10 represents all songs that scored at least 8, and two songs scoring 10 and three scoring 9 must be some sort of record. My last 10 was probably A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina for Russia in 2015. Only three songs scored 5 (France, UK and Sweden) or less, with the lowest score a 4 (UK and Sweden). No doubt another record.
The average score of 7.3 blows every other Eurovision show out of the water. The 2019 grand final scored 6.5, 2018 scored 6.3, and the two grand finals before that scored 6. 2014 scored 7, which seems high, and probably reflects a time I was less harsh with scores. The strong Eurovision of Malmo 2013 scored 6.7 for its grand final. The next highest scores of any show are the 6.9 for the second semi final in Rotterdam and the first semi final in Malmo.
This was always an open Eurovision, so not a great surprise my predictions didn’t do well, especially with personal bias involved. I was never going to select France, while I hadn’t seen Italy perform so ignored them. I was never convinced about Malta or Switzerland.
Junior Eurovision Battle
It was closer than expected with Destiny (JESC winner from 2015) from Malta finishing 7th compared to Stefania (8th for Netherlands in 2016) finishing 10th.
Two songs called Amen and Austria just wins! Vincent Bueno finished 12th in the second semi final compared to Slovenia’s Ana Soklic 13th in the first semi final.
My Top 10 Overall
01 Greece (-)
02 Bulgaria (-)
03 Croatia (+1)
04 Moldova (+1)
05 Poland (-2)
06 Lithuania (+4)
07 Finland (+6)
08 Serbia (+19)
09 Albania (+8)
10 Italy (+9)
The +/- represents the change from my pre-Eurovision ranking, so Serbia made the biggest impression. Other than that, my pre-Eurovision favourites mostly remained the same. Only Croatia and Poland failed to make the grand final, while those exiting from my top 10 are Spain (6th), Denmark (7th), Austria (8th) and Norway (9th). Denmark is the unlucky one as I scored it 8 in the semi final and it’s only that Albania and Italy were fresh and the likes of Finland improved, that Denmark just misses out.
Semi Final 1 Results
The biggest semi final injustice of Rotterdam 2021 has just been confirmed with Croatia falling just 5 points off qualifying, and despite finishing 9th for the public and 10th for the jury. Belgium and Norway were the lucky ones, as both benefitted from boosted jury and public votes, respectively, to knock out Croatia. Really, Croatia should have qualified top 5. Albina was that good, so it remains a bit of a puzzle.
Semi Final 2 Results
The biggest interest here is Denmark finishing 7th (80 points) with the public and only 15th (9 points) with the jury. I still like my idea to take the top 5 from the jury and then the rest from the public in order to give the public more leverage. In this case Denmark would qualify in place of Albania. In the first semi final, it would have been Croatia in, Belgium out.
Songs from semi final 2 performed much better in the grand final. Switzerland and Iceland finished top of all songs from the semi finals, with Finland fourth. SF1 take the next 3 spots then SF2 the next 4 spots. So that officially ends the nonsense about the first semi final being a “bloodbath”. SF1 also had less competition in simple mathematical terms with just 16 songs compared to 17.
Most of all that will be remembered about this Eurovision Song Contest is that we got this Eurovision Song Contest. COVID-19 made it problematic, if not difficult, so credit to the organisers for persevering and ignoring all the fear-mongers hysterically predicting major outbreaks, even after several delegations, not to forget Duncan Laurance himself, tested positive. We can’t be locked up and live afraid forever. We need to follow the music. So thank you Europe, thank you EBU, thank you Rotterdam and thank you Netherlands for this amazing Eurovision.
Open up and good night.