Throughout this week between Christmas and New Year’s, we’re re-publishing some of our favorite posts from 2016 — including this one, which Heather wrote while she was technically on vacation with her husband in New York. The quest to cover Eurovision waits for no anniversary celebration! And the fiery glories of Eurovision are, we think, timeless.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. I hope.
So, I’ve learned my lesson about buying Hamilton tickets without checking to see when Eurovision is. Ergo, I was in the other room where it happens roundabout when THIS room was happening. I couldn’t be at my computer to stream it, I forgot to set my DVR for the Logo airing, and then all the clips on YouTube and Eurovision’s site got blocked for the U.S. (which I think is because it was actually on TV here). I finally watched it through Logo’s site, but… y’all, it was a process. But I’m doing it now, and if you want to come on this ride with me, I welcome you. It will include: words (and WORDS), capes, jumpsuits, a trampoline, a massive clock, some twigs, a sapling, and Germany coming in last. Again.
Missing in action: some of the performers I didn’t have anything to say about, for whatever reason, and also fire. WHERE IS THE FIRE? It’s just not Eurovision if you’re not mildly concerned all the pyrotechnics will accidentally light all the boozers aflame.
There was ALSO scoring drama — namely, Russia is REAL PISSED that Ukraine won.
It’s challenging to be mad at this. But Russia always has its reasons. Let’s dive into them, shall we?
1. Ukraine: Jamala, “1944,” 534 points
The first thing you need to know is that Eurovision has tried to ban songs that could be perceived as political. (Further, apparently Jamala performed this somewhere three years prior, albeit at a small gathering, which was not revealed until after the contest.) And so Russia — albeit no longer the USSR, obviously — is not wrong to be a little peeved that Ukraine got away with this one, because “1944” is inspired by, ahem, “the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, in the 1940s, by the Soviet Union.”
It begins thusly:
Jamala comes in a blue jumpsuit with sleeve drapes, and the first words out of her mouth are, “When strangers are coming, they come to your house, AND KILL YOU ALL.” I’m serious. She then chases that with things like, “Humanity cries,” and, “You think you are gods but everyone dies,” and then a refrain of, “I couldn’t spend my youth there because you took away my peace.” Now, I’m not saying that’s pointed, but if you had to choose between that and a freshly sharpened chef’s knife to cut your meat, I’d choose those lyrics.
Then she dances in front of a representation of a family tree that appears to be on fire. And Jamala has noted that her influences were a) a true story about her ancestors, and b) feelings about her family who lives in the Crimea now, after the 2014 Russian annexation. Evidently Eurovision decided that because the annexation isn’t mentioned and the lyrics are therefore historical in nature (and about the USSR rather than present-day Russia), the song doesn’t contain political speech. Russia, conversely, feels it was intended as a very public poke in the spleen. And Russia and Ukraine are not real into each other, so honestly, it probably was. Now Russia is threatening to boycott the contest next year when it’s held in Ukraine, and I think it’s hoping everyone will be like, “Nooo, Russia, don’t do that, don’t go,” and instead basically everyone’s yawning and perfectly content to let that play out however it may. As every teenager can tell you, there is nothing worse than a flounce no one cares about, so we’ll see what happens in 2017. Russia came in second last year and third this year and DESPERATELY wants to win this, so my theory is it’ll enter and hope to win it on Ukrainian soil, as a way of thumbing their noses.
The Logo commentators — Carson Kressly and Michelle Collins — were not great, but occasionally they would uncork a gem. They’d watched either the semis or rehearsals, and so they knew what was coming, and during each singer’s intro video they would just prattle on about what they were seeing and what they thought of the song that was coming. Of Jamala, they said:
CARSON: She majored in opera, so she should be a good singer.
MICHELLE: Yes. She should.
ZING. And the thing is, it wasn’t a great performance and it wasn’t a killer song, so… I don’t know if everyone voted for her to piss off Russia, or what. If so, it worked.
2. Australia: Dami Im, “Sound of Silence,” 511 points
Australia is in again this year, granted a dispensation basically just because they’re real big fans. Kind of like if Lin-Manuel Miranda picked someone out of the cancellation line one day and offered them a part in Hamilton. Last year, in its debut, Oz came in fifth; this year, it nearly clinched the trophy.
The song is about, it seems, trying real hard to FaceTime with someone she loves and being lonely and sad when it doesn’t work. It’s… okay? A real power ballad, which usually does pretty well, and she sat on a glittering box with her train fluffed out behind her like a duvet. This means nobody realized how short it was until she heaved herself OFF the box to hit her final glory notes.
And that right there is a staple of Eurovision. It’s Groin of Triumph — a Pelvic Crescendo — and it almost won her the whole damn thing.
3. Russia: Sergei Lazarev, “You Are The Only One,” 491 points
Okay, if you think I’m kidding about how much Russia wants this, refresh your memory of poor Polina Gagarina from last year and how BADLY she wanted to stitch the world back together with her words or else be thrown in a gulag. And then feast on the theatrics of Sergei, who basically CLEARLY was told to watch how Sweden’s winner last year made use of the high-tech screens and then copy that, but fiercer. Which is exactly what he did. Sweden used a magical twinkling butterfly…
… and Russia turned its man into a VULTURE OF LOVE. Because, yes this is a love song. It’s all about how hot he is for this person — “Thunder and lightning, it’s getting exciting… MY LOVE IS RISING,” he shouts at one point — but because of his wackadoo intensity, it comes off less like, “Wow, you are a precious precious person and I treasure you as my soulmate,” and more like, “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE, AND JUST TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THAT, I WILL EAT YOUR PANCREAS SO THAT NOBODY ELSE CAN HAVE YOU AND THEN YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER IN MY BLOODSTREAM AND MORE TEMPORARILY IN MY DIGESTIVE TRACT.”
Sweden’s Mans last year danced with some adorable cartoon doodles, so Sergei struck a pose and then walked away and left behind the imprint of himself in that position.
And then danced with some ACTUAL dudes.
Because you shouldn’t forget that YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE AND THESE EIGHT HIRED GOONS ALSO KNOW THAT AND WILL BE MORE THAN HAPPY TO PROVE IT TO YOU THAT YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON FOR ME OKAY GOOD.
Then one of the walls turned into a staircase that he could walk up, while he shoved away some of the blocks. “Thinking of making a showdown when love is found,” he wails, which sounds an awful lot like, “IF YOU LOOK AT ANYONE ELSE I AM GOING TO MAKE A VERY BAD SCENE AND THEN TURN IT INTO A SCARY AMERICAN HORROR MOVIE.”
Then he rode an iceberg through hyperspace, as you do.
4. Bulgaria: Poli Genova, “If Love Was A Crime,” 307 points
I barely even remember this song. I was too fixated the whole time on trying to understand her outfit.
The back view appears to showcase only half a shirt. And from the front, it’s clearly… well, nothing about it is clear, actually.
She mostly just looks like a magician who has just been told — with no prior experience at this — that she needs to do her entire act on roller skates.
Except that those aren’t crash pads, as much as they are extremely flashy leg braces. WHICH LIGHT UP.
If we can’t have fire, then turning yourself into a C3PO/Darth Vader hybrid is a pretty good alternative. What would that even be? D3VO?
5. Sweden: Frans, “If I Were Sorry,” 261 points
Sweden placed very well with a song I again cannot remember for the life of me. Perhaps it’s because it was performed by a child.
Frans is 17. And they smartly let him sing a song that’s really whimsical. See, I know this may be jerky of me, but I kind of don’t want a 17-year old telling me how to feel about my own relationships or acting like he has lived through and lost the most profound of life’s romances. And I really don’t want him to sing a song about death. So letting him do something with a twist is cute — and the twist here is, he tells you all the dramatic things he’d do if he were sorry… but aha, he’s NOT sorry, so screw you. And in case you missed the plot twist, he is helping you out with some subtle visual cues.
Unless that’s Swedish for “sensible nightstand with two drawers, only one of which opens smoothly,” then I’m pretty sure someone has lied to him.
Have you recently been involved with Frans? Have you struggled to have an honest conversation about it? Let Eurovision help.
I mean, I don’t know if I would have gone with name-calling, but sure.
7. Armenia: Ivena Mukuchyan, “LoveWave,” 249 points
“It’s taking over me. It’s taking over me,” is the lyric, so I assume this song is about orgasms.
And yet my notes on this read, “Horcruxes.” WHY? Why was I not more constructive with my feedback? I guess it’s possible the experience of making or finding a horcrux was, for Voldemort, rather like climaxing.
8. Poland: Michał Szpak, “Color of Your Life,” 229 points
This is a fairly standard, dull ballad about how you have to live richly, with the least imaginative use of the Euroscreens you could imagine.
WHAT COLOR INDEED. I’m going out on a limb and saying it will be the color of TEDIUM.
And it had such early visual promise, too. The man says his style icon is Marilyn Manson, and he sounded like Marc Anthony…
… but he looks like Weird Al and he dresses all fake Hamilton-y.
This all makes me think Weird Al should BE in Hamilton. Lin-Manuel will have to add a song for him, and obviously Weird Al would insist on writing it himself and make it a parody of something beloved. Perhaps something called “Die Die Die,” set to the cherished old *NSYNC song, as a rousing pre-war drinking song.
9. Lithuania: Donny Montell, “I’ve Been Waiting For This Night,” 200 points
The only noteworthy thing about this performance was that, yes, Donny really had been waiting.
He had ONE interesting trick in the show: A trampoline move. And he waited and waited, presumably, for his one acrobatic chance. And what happened?
THE CAMERA WAS NOT ON IT. (At least not the feed Logo showed.) They cut to an aerial shot and cut back once he landed on the ground. And this is after the semi-final AND a dress-rehearsal. They knew it was coming. It was his one trick! YOU HAD ONE JOB, EUROVISION.
10. Belgium: Laura Tesoro, “What’s The Pressure,” 181 points
This song is about how you need to chill out and stop being so hard on yourself, because pshaw, child, life is not that bad.
It’s a nice thought, but I’m not feeling especially calm while I’m being charged by a band of scarf-waving singers who are stomping on row after row of ova.
11. Netherlands: Douwe Bob, “Slow Down,” 153 points
For this chipper cautionary song about the perils of technology, and a plea to slow down, Douwe Bob used as his stage a massive clock.
I hope it was running slow, or else it’s just not quite on-the-nose enough. And the song itself, while fine, was some kind of emo-country pop straight out of Nashville.
Right down to the dude who sang it, who is like Gunnar Scott mixed with Nico Tortorella from Younger, and then left gently as a baby at the doorstep of a windmill. Good sir, Nashville is cancelled. You may need to apply for work elsewhere.
Douwe Bob liked sneaking into the crowd for high-fives, and so his guitarist seized the day.
He’s like, “Forget that coiffed hipster fool. Come to Cue Ball Country.”
13. Austria: ZOE, “Loin d’Ici,” 151 points
This is the first song Austria has ever entered that’s sung entirely in French. It’s about how the journey is the destination, when it comes to the search for paradise.
And also for Paradise, a South Florida Prom dress store.
But at one point the lyrics veer from “Oh, just try every dead end, it’s all good,” straight into an honest assessment of Eurovision itself: “They sing and they dance and they laugh, they go for it, all together, tipsy, into carelessness.”
And I think this is what the crowd sees behind its collective eyelids after 26 acts and probably a few bottles of absinthe.
14. Israel: Hovi Star, “Made of Stars,” 135 points
I am not entirely sure this guy knew what to do with his song. It seriously just bangs on for ages about how we are all, yes, made of stars, but there’s a weird digression where he describes “a million faces tied in chains” and then says that you hypnotize him when you ride in on your black horse. I have some suggestions — beginning with an actual horse — but he went a different direction.
First, a robot face, which I guess is… meant to look like it’s made of stars, or something. He’s already grasping.
Then, two humans stand in a metal ring and roll themselves around, splayed out like… flesh stars? It’s a reach, Hovi Star. It’s a reach. And not a very adept one.
His hairstyle is also as if one half of his head is EXTREMELY TERRIFIED of something it just saw, and is leaning the hell OUT.
15. Latvia: Justs, “Heartbeat,” 132 points
I assume they call him the Latvian Chris Evans. I also assume the “they” in that sentence are his parents.
16. Italy: Francesca Michielin, “No Degree of Separation,” 124 points
This song is about falling in love…
… with Dr. Seuss. Also, I need to complain that when you have a whole bunch of actual balloons on your set, AND YOU ARE AT EUROVISION, and you do not release those balloons at any point in your performance, you should be shot out of a cannon IMMEDIATELY.
She ended it by clutching a sapling. Which I guess is a metaphor for blossoming love, but might also be her way of saying she could really use a window planter for Christmas.
17. Azerbaijan: Samra, “Miracle,” 117 points
This actually fairly fiery-looking. How did I block this out?
And how did it score so low? Maybe the Eurovision voters recognized a sure sign of jury-baiting: When in doubt, GLITTER FIRE. Oh, and a catsuit.
This is ostensibly a breakup song, but the guy on the right up there DEFINITELY thinks it’s about the Heisman Trophy.
18. Serbia: Sanja Vučić ZAA, “Goodbye (Shelter),” 115 points
This song is about domestic violence, and she finished with a bunch of photos of women who are survivors.
Which… I don’t even know what to say about that. It’s a really nice thought, and I’m glad somebody put a spotlight on those women in the world stage, so that domestic violence remains an issue (and not just something the NFL can pat itself on the back for “handling” after making one lackluster set of commercials that were all about the athletes and NOT AT ALL about the victims)(seriously, have I ever vented about those? They all featured athletes either a) glaring into the camera, b) looking sadly at the camera, c) starting to cry at the camera, or d) struggling to get out words. It was supposed to make people sit up and take notice because a bunch of men were directed to conjure up a tear, but it meant nothing, because none of the spots were about why domestic violence was personal to any of them. So, yes, the NFL’s take on domestic violence was, “But look how sad these men are about it!” Not exactly mansplaining, but for sure… manslating, and I thought it was a badly executed idea and I bet we’ll never hear from them about it again, either).
Ahem. I was maybe going to say that Eurovision is not necessarily the place for a song about something so weighty, but I guess the winner this year did a whole tune about people murdering her grandparents — and I just went on a rant — so clearly I don’t have my finger on this pulse.
I do wonder if she did her hair with pinking shears.
19. Hungary: Freddie, “Pioneer,” 108 points
Hungary really seems to have taken the easy road.
First, it had a dude in a toga beating a giant drum, and second…
… it sent out a dude who couldn’t really sing but is chiefly noteworthy for being hot like the sun. Seriously, my notes read, “Lickability. Yes, lickability.” They don’t care if you remember their song. They just want you to remember your loins.
21. Cyprus: Minus One, “Alter Ego,” 96 points
These hard-rockers decided to go with a prison set.
“Waking up alone, like a man that failed … Trapped into the mist of our fairy tale. And you know, you know, you know, I’m still inside,” he sang. So I guess he has a lot of deep feelings about incarceration.
He’s also wearing a mesh tank top, and told producers that if this band did not make music, they’d be honey producers. I hope that’s a not a euphemism. I really want to buy honey with this man’s face on it.
I bet it tastes like a cocktail.
23. Croatia: Nina Kraljić, “Lighthouse,” 73 points
FINALLY some dramatic clothing!
This was for the shipwreck portion of her song — no, really, her metaphorical love boat is capsizing — and it honestly looks like something I want SWINTON to wear to Cannes. But then in the moment she sang about finding her lighthouse, she threw off her cloak — which really missed a synchronized wig-ripping, if I’m being honest — and we got this:
Also known as, something I hope SWINTON will wear to the grocery store. This poor singer was not as facile as Our Lady of the Nuttery would have been in this, so she couldn’t really move. Ergo, not much else happened on-stage besides the sartorial theatrics. Still, it’s pretty committed. It’s like she’s wearing six-foot washboards attached to her wrists.
24. United Kingdom: Joe and Jake, “You’re Not Alone,” 62 points
The UK apparently decided to try the same tactic as Hungary, and selected a jolly pair of cheeky chaps to sing for the trophy.
One, I like to call, If Patton Oswalt Were In One Direction…
… and the other is The Third Franco Brother, whose hair I truly believe lifts off his head like a hat.
26. Germany, Jamie Lee, “Ghost,” 11 points
This is the second year in a row Germany finished last, and I honestly don’t recall anything about this performance because I was too concerned we were in the middle of Lord of the Rings.
You try absorbing the music when you’re afraid you’re about to be savaged by a half-tree person, half-were-stag.
But, as with so many experiences in college, once the lights turned on things looked so different.
She went from Wicked Minion of the Dark Lord Sauron to looking like Harajuku’s BIGGEST fan of that time Miley Cyrus designed accessories for Jeremy Scott out of crafting supplies and psychedelic garbage. You can’t vote for your own country in Eurovision, and you know Germany’s jurors have NEVER BEEN MORE RELIEVED.