Rotterdam has waited two years to host Eurovision, and when the moment arrived, it was laden with drama it wanted — an exciting and surprising finish, four countries that got zero points from viewers, and one country (the UK) that got no points from anyone — and presumably the kind it didn’t. Amid a spate of positive Covid tests that prevented both Iceland and 2019 winner Duncan Laurence from performing life, eagle-eyed viewers caught a moment on the telecast that led to accusations that the lead singer of eventual winner Måneskin had done coke in their booth. [Click here if you want to skip this discussion and go straight to the other acts.]
Damiano David vigorously denied it and swore to do a drug test when he got home, which was just confirmed as negative (this is hardly a surprise; no matter what he did or didn’t do, nobody wanted this drawn out). David claims his bandmate had broken a glass — Eurovision agrees that there was broken glass on the floor — and that he was picking up the pieces. Judge for yourself. Is it possible? Of course! Anything is possible. And he was cleared. But generally speaking, one does not handle glass in haste, nor with one’s face, nor while making what appears to be a rapid chopping motion with one’s other hand. So I can understand the suspicion.
If I’m being completely honest, my actual first reaction was: WHO CARES. I’m not trying to make light of cocaine. It’s bad, kids! Don’t do it! Do not liquefy your brain, or like Regina Morrow before you, your heart! But it’s freaking Eurovision, a historical hotbed of horny, substance-fueled hedonism. It feels more remarkable if anyone there was not doing cocaine. I assume the entire place is dredged in coke and deep-fried in beer batter. But it’s over now, and during their victory lap at next year’s competition, I hope the band sings Kesha’s “Blow,” followed by “Blowin’ In The Wind,” followed by something from the soundtrack to the movie Blow, followed by an original song called “Climb Every Mountain. Of Blow.”
I’m sure many of you will have a stronger take on the voting politics this year than I was able to glean in my hasty viewing. Rumors that people are punishing the UK for Brexit certainly seem plausible, though this is hardly the year to complain about it, as that song never stood a chance. Also-rans Poland and San Marino gave each other 12 points, the max, but at least both songs were believably worthy. Most interesting was that the top three songs were sung not in English, but in the singers’ native languages, which I think is key to Eurovision’s fun. But I also didn’t think the songs themselves were as delightful as some of the others that WERE sung in English but which brought a lot more personality to the proceedings — and personality is the OTHER key. It’s a conundrum. I’ve decided everyone just voted for the place(s) they most want to gorge themselves in 2022, that being anywhere in France (cheese on bread) or Italy (cheese on pasta) or Switzerland (liquid cheese). Since Italy was one of the early Covid hotspots, maybe they got the bonus boost of people wanting to give them extra recovery tourist dollars. But I am here to tell you that Iceland and Malta should demand justice, and honestly… how did Germany only get 3 points? It’s not a good song, it’s true, but JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THE PERFORMANCE.
1. Italy: Måneskin, “Zitti E Buoni” – 524 points
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself, although clearly we have as a society missed the window for Hugh Grant to fulfill his destiny and play Damiano David in the movie of this controversy.
Anyway, meet Måneskin, or as I like to call them, the Maroon Lukewarm Chili Peppers:
The dude on the right even LOOKS like one of the Chili Peppers, doesn’t he? There are also guitar riffs in the song that evoke Kiedis & Co. We didn’t need another RHCP (in fact, we didn’t technically need the first RHCP either), but here we have one, bringing the contest back to Italy for the first time since the 90s.
Måneskin is very committed to cross-stitch, and nipples, and torsos. The song was sung in Italian, and ironically — given the accusations Damiano has denied — one of the repeated lines is, “Talk, unfortunately people talk, they don’t know what they’re talking about.” The theme is embracing your uniqueness (“We are out of our minds, and different from them”) and the translation into English has left me confused about what this, perhaps, was trying to say: “Me I’ve written pages and pages / I’ve seen salt then tears / These men in the car / Don’t climb the rapids.” I should hope they don’t. It would be very difficult. Always kayak in boats, not in vehicles.
In case you were wondering, yes, they growl-rocked out for a while. They were not the only metalesque band; Finland was, too, and here I think Italy sincerely benefited from going third to last, because that meant their song stuck in people’s heads better than the other one. Also, the nipples. People were crushing hard on the sex, allegedly-not-drugs, and rock-and-roll of it all.
It’s catnip to voters. Or maybe just to me.
His pants were very tight. One of the original lines was allegedly, “You’d better touch your nuts,” which this website claims they sanitized into what was translated as, “You’d better not make any more mistakes.” That is also delicious irony:
I am not sure at what point his pants tore — it seems to have been after they did their victory performance, but clearly before the press conference. I hope it’s because they wanted to fit in quick orgy before going back to answer questions, and his pesky overalls were not easy-access.
Mad respect for anyone who shoots Champagne at the entire room AND into their own mouth. It does not mean he did cocaine on the green room table. It DOES mean this person came ready to party.
“Pardon me, but I shall cling to my civilized flute.”
2. France: Barbara Pravi – Voilà – 499 points2. France: Barbara Pravi – Voilà – 499 points
2. France: Barbara Pravi – Voilà – 499 points
We’re starting here on a downer note, because I did not like this very much, although I will allow that it correctly placed ahead of the No. 3 song because it at least built into something unexpected (the frenzied repetition of the word “Voila”). I go back and forth on this one — my notes said, “The song gets trippy at the end and it’s not AWFUL but I also never want to listen to it again?” I confirmed that for myself when I did try to listen to it again and couldn’t get through it.
She has a nice voice. She does NOT have a nice corset. That thing is as limp and inspiring as her special effects, and yes, you are correct, THERE WERE NONE. At least tempt me with meaningless technology!
Did France run out of MONEY?
Honestly, I’d probably be a lot more bullish on this song if I hadn’t known where it finished when I saw it, and if it had instead placed somewhere in the 1o-15 range. That’s where it belongs, to me.
She reminds me of a cross between Jane Wiedlin and the actress who played French exchange student Monique in Better Off Dead. With a touch of Rumer Willis. Or Natalie Portman. ALL OF THEM. And that cardigan, which she wore after she finished and through the results, is EXTREMELY CUTE. They should sell them, like they do Olympics-wear.
3. Switzerland: Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers – 432 points3. Switzerland: Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers – 432 points
3. Switzerland: Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers – 432 points
Why were people so hot for this song? He can hit a high note that would break glass, and he’s adorable, but I can’t fathom why this finished third — much less why it was WINNING after the national juries finished. He just stood there on a block the whole time, other than a couple weird-ass flailing moves that were less competent than Baby from Dirty Dancing BEFORE she got lessons from Johnny Castle.
I just… pass. I also tried listening to the song alone, without the telecast, to see if it caught me when I wasn’t distracted by the LACK of distractions. Nope. Sorry Switzerland! I appreciate your many fine qualities and your alps and your chocolate and your neutrality. Hopefully that will dry Gjon’s tears.
4. Iceland: Daði Freyr og Gagnamagnið – 10 Years – 378 points4. Iceland: Daði Freyr og Gagnamagnið – 10 Years – 378 points
4. Iceland: Daði Freyr og Gagnamagnið – 10 Years – 378 points
Truly, words will fail the excellence of The Iceland Experience. No, they did not play Jaja Ding Dong. But what they did nearly defies description. It’s just… I want to watch an entire TV series about them. They are not vocally flashy. I have no idea how vocally competent they even were, really, because that definitely wasn’t the point. This one was all about soaking you in quirk. [Side note: A member or two of Iceland tested positive for Covid, so they couldn’t perform live at the Grand Final, and so instead they ran a rehearsal taping. It being done for an empty arena does not seem to have impacted the glory, though anyone who saw their Semi-Final can say for sure.]
They wore sweaters with 8-bit video-game versions of themselves on them, which I believe informed their choreography, as it involved a lot of extremely weird prance-stomping — they walked like unrefined characters from the early NES days, basically. The energy was computer-generated but deeply charming.
Everything they did do in synch, they did with exaggerated slowness, to make it as awkward as possible. For example, at one point, they turned around and wiggled their butts in unison.
Not obnoxious, taunting unison; no, it was more like, “This is the dance move we have chosen for this moment, and it has PURPOSE, and that purpose is HILARITY.”
They availed themselves of the local wind machine, too, to an equally silly effect that may or may not have been foreseen.
But I think they may have the best sense of humor out of anyone at this contest. Take The Curious Case of the Dude on the Left:
Novels will be written about that man, seen here staring intently at the curved shaft of his keytar. If the lead singer’s mandate was “look pleasant” and everyone else’s mandate was “keep a straight face,” then this man’s mandate was, “Do as Josh Gad would do.”
And never forget, every time he twirled his instrument:
I love his face. I love all of their faces. (Fun fact, I believe the lady on the far left is the lead singer’s wife.) But He Who Evidently Goes By The Name Stefán Hannesson had a trick up his sleeve. THEY ALL DID:
They CONNECT THEIR INSTRUMENTS into an adult version of those baby bouncers where you stick the kid in the middle and they jump up and down and bang on a bunch of noise-making toys.
This is exactly how I feel about you, Daði Freyr, and your collective Gagnamagnið. The whole song is, in essence, about finding someone so delightful and fabulous that you never get sick of them. I am currently inhabiting that space.
If we are not rewarding this with laurels, then what are we doing? Stephen Colbert, CALL THEM. Book them on the Late Show. Laurel them the hell UP.
5. Ukraine: Go_A – Shum – 361 points5. Ukraine: Go_A – Shum – 361 points
5. Ukraine: Go_A – Shum – 361 points
She sang a song in her native tongue which is quite obviously about the sacred object that is the Aerobie. I am certain the translation is:
See my bright halo
Burning like the sun
My halo is hol(e)y
In more ways than one
Bow down to the power
It infuses in me
Worship the flight
Of the Mighty Aerobie
You can see through it
But it sees through you
So don’t disrespect it
You won’t like the view
You can hook it on tree spikes
It can slash through the air
You can weaponize its wonder
Or just toss it over there
But the cosmos is watching
Its guardians on blast
If you abuse the Aerobie…
… you will breathe your last.
A+, no notes.
[It’s actually a song about a Ukranian spring ritual to do with new plants, and it is trippy and unique and reminiscent of Norway’s superb fifth-place effort in 2019. A really, really strong contender and I’m not just saying that because I’m afraid of those suckers — and no, I did not look up what the lyrics mean; OBVIOUSLY I got them right.]
6. Finland: Blind Channel – Dark Side – 301 points6. Finland: Blind Channel – Dark Side – 301 points
6. Finland: Blind Channel – Dark Side – 301 points
People were INTO THIS. I couldn’t get there — I played it three or four times for myself and it never burrowed into my head and has not made it onto my Apple Music playlist. Italy’s similar approach may have paid off because they performed closer to the end of the show, but I also thought it had a better beat and something approaching a hook. My notes here just read, “Heavy metal twins with red middle fingers.” A lyric in the song goes, “Put your middle finger up,” and as you’ll see when you get to Germany, having these guys perform right AFTER that song feels like winky programming indeed.
Kevin came in for this one and said, “Wow, a Faith No More cover band? They’re only about 30 years behind.” Then we agreed we are old. More lyrics: “I’m in a cave of man-made misery,” “My body is a weapon so I keep it loaded // Til I’m all over the place like my head exploded.” And there was lots of barking. And fire:
Sure, okay. It’s… a song that happened. Maybe it got a lot of votes because we’ve ALL spent the last year in caves of misery.
7. Malta: Destiny – Je Me Casse – 255 points7. Malta: Destiny – Je Me Casse – 255 points
7. Malta: Destiny – Je Me Casse – 255 points
Destiny was a big favorite to win, and when the scores rolled in, you could tell she was stressed and upset. I see her point. We can debate her merits against Italy, which had its own charms, but to me she easily beats France and Switzerland, and for me Finland. Iceland on talent, but perhaps not on overall vibe; I’m willing to flip a coin on that one. But regardless, her slipping to 7th is bananas to me. Do you ingrates just not want to go to Malta?!? (The winner hosts the next year’s contest.) I WILL GO TO MALTA. I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.
She was the third silver glittery outfit in the first six acts, which is quite a styling mind meld. The anthem, about a persistent Nice Guy at a bar who thinks he’s owed your attention, had a great Lizzo beat to it — like, I can totally hear Lizzo, or Cardi, or Ariana, or ANY of the current divas saying, “I’m too good to be true, but there’s nothing in it for you,” and, “If I show some skin, it doesn’t mean I’m giving in.” In fact, she would sing all of these lyrics:
Boy why you putting that drink in my hand
Think if I’m drunk then I’ll give you a chance
Boy, you keep buying and complying so stop trying
Not gonna give it up ain’t changing my plans (Hell no what you gonna do)
Hell no, I am not your honey
Hell no, I don’t want your money
Got it wrong I ain’t into dummies
DESTINY FOR PRESIDENT. I’m not really sure why she bothered with the pink dancers convulsing around her — are they representative of… female energy? — and I would have loved it if she’d had some Nice Guys there to smack. But at least it rained fire at the end. DESTINY WAS ROBBED. BOOOOOO.
8. Lithuania: The Roop – Discoteque – 220 points8. Lithuania: The Roop – Discoteque – 220 points
8. Lithuania: The Roop – Discoteque – 220 points
These are my people. The audience started clapping along almost the second this thing started, so you know they were all waiting for it. It’s a clear case of the absolute inanity of the performance taking such firm hold that it doesn’t even matter what the song sounds like. Do you know? No. Who cares? LOOK AT THEM. It’s Lithuanian Nigel Barker and someone who looks like a Love Boat camp counselor doing… this:
And then… this?
And Paul Williams came back from the dead to play with them (whoops except I guess he isn’t dead, SORRY PAUL):
In sum, the song is meh — I tried listening to it without the visuals, and it wasn’t worth it — but the performance is delightfully unhinged and I want more. Unparalleled herky-jerky dancing. FIVE STARS. Would do again.
9. Russia: Manizha – Russian Woman – 204 points9. Russia: Manizha – Russian Woman – 204 points
9. Russia: Manizha – Russian Woman – 204 points
Russia did not come to be subtle. Russia came to TALK.
She started out in this giant dress, doing some kind of funky robot dance, and then ROLLED FORWARD AND BACKWARD in it like it’s a freaking Segway before throwing open the door and emerging from it like it’s a limousine:
YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION. Also, I want one. Is it fuel efficient? Does it have parking sensors? Is it XM Radio enabled? Oh yes, and what else would you like to say?
This ended up being a fairly awesome pop-rap about female empowerment in Russia (“Be the change you want to see,” and “break the wall,” and such). Russia historically really WANTS THIS competition, and Manizha is really trying something here — she even uncorked the flame-throwers. This performance truly had everything, including a video wall composed of Russian women:
But of course, there is controversy. From Wikipedia: “Many Russian viewers took offense to a singer of Tajik descent singing about Russian women and to the singer’s activism for LGBT rights and women’s rights, and left hate comments on the video and her Instagram account, demanding that she drop out of Eurovision. Yelena Drapeko, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Culture, suggested banning Manizha from performing in Eurovision under the Russian flag, commenting also that Eurovision offered no cultural value and was too politicized and pro-LGBT.” Well. What a jackwagon. I am pleased Manizha went forward and only sorry she did not come closer to the top spot. Russia always does this. They play to win, but then act like jerks when, for example, Conchita Wurst won, or when Ukraine took it (Russia boycotted the next year rather than go there), and now here they’re saying it lacks cultural value… yet they still cannot seem to stop participating. They cannot quit you, Brokeback Eurovision.
10. Greece: Stefania – Last Dance – 170 points10. Greece: Stefania – Last Dance – 170 points
10. Greece: Stefania – Last Dance – 170 points
Stefania, up there in her sexy superhero costume, had GREAT aesthetics here and a halfway decent song, but spent most of the time with very terrified-looking eyes. I mean, if she looks young to you, it’s because she is; Stefania is only 18, and she’s part Dutch, so this was probably thrilling and nerve-wracking for her on several levels. But seemed super conscious of all the mechanics of the performance, in a way that occasionally detracted from HER portions of said performance. Fortunately she looks incredible in the catsuit. If I looked like that in this garment, I would wear it every day.
And THEN, suddenly, she is dancing with The Invisible Man.
I’m so glad I watched this on the telecast before looking through the professional photos, because of course those are of what happened on-stage and not what we saw. Ergo this…
… was, to those in the building and to the photographer, this:
My notes are like, “SHE’S DANCING NEXT TO A HOODIE. AND NOW HIS BOXERS. This is how I wish my wardrobe worked.”
It wasn’t always seamless:
Although it was COMPLETELY seamless here:
She’s on a staircase and leaning back to let one of the dancers catch her, which I am clarifying because otherwise you might catch yourself craning your neck to make her be upright, thinking it’s just a wonky photo. I did that a few times, too, and I knew the shtick. So while this didn’t feel like a WINNING performance, per se, it was creative and fun, and I far prefer her using her dancers this way than just for boilerplate group dances.
Top 10 feels exactly right.
11. Bulgaria: Victoria – Growing Up is Getting Old – 170 points11. Bulgaria: Victoria – Growing Up is Getting Old – 170 points
11. Bulgaria: Victoria – Growing Up is Getting Old – 170 points
I read the title and thought, “Is she simply defining what growing up means, or is she saying she’s BORED of growing up?” I think the answer is… both? Her performance is absolutely the latter vibe. I have to be honest, I absorbed none of this and got totally distracted and then looked up and suddenly she was on a barge?
Is that the Trash Barge where society puts its women after we hit menopause? Because THAT would be a statement.
12. Portugal: The Black Mamba – Love Is On My Side – 153 points12. Portugal: The Black Mamba – Love Is On My Side – 153 points
12. Portugal: The Black Mamba – Love Is On My Side – 153 points
Okay, for all my complaining about how I want BIG and THRILLING and ELEMENTS OF PHYSICAL DANGER, I quite liked this guy’s performance. I was trying to think of which crooner his voice resembles and I landed at Macy Gray mixed with Gavin DeGraw, though I bet one of you will have a better analog than that. He’s dressed as a hipster wedding gondolier of some ilk (wrong country, I know), complete with spats, and he started his performance in black-and-white before bursting into color.
It really worked for me, although I wish he’d sung in Portuguese — but this song, to me, would absolutely rise to prominence in the U.S. from a TV show using it near the end of an episode, over a scene where a hot fan-favorite future couple hasn’t quite connected and one of the halves believes the other does not like them. Think the vibe of Zoe and Hot Neighbor Wade on Hart of Dixie, but with too much electric guitar (and not enough of a guarantee that it will work out), so when they reboot that PLEASE AND THANK YOU they’ll have to use a banjo.
13. Moldova: Natalia Gordienko – SUGAR – 115 points13. Moldova: Natalia Gordienko – SUGAR – 115 points
13. Moldova: Natalia Gordienko – SUGAR – 115 points
Moldova made headlines for two things: One, dropping her microphone (but scooping it up again lightning-fast), and holding the longest note in Eurovision history (who is keeping track of this?). She also started the show sitting on a THRONE OF MEN, and was our fourth woman to sing in a tiny outfit made of silver bling. I am unclear how she finished this high. Perhaps it was the shirtless matadors dancers?
I had her in my notes as “Moldovan Julianne Hough,” but clearly she’s got shades of “Lea Michele IS Megan Hilty IN American Crime Story: Smash.”
14. Sweden: Tusse – Voices – 109 points14. Sweden: Tusse – Voices – 109 points
14. Sweden: Tusse – Voices – 109 points
I wonder if one reason Italy won is because there was a very clear focus on their actual vocals, rather than this muddy mix where you don’t know entirely whether you’re hearing the polished track or the live song. I couldn’t distinguish Tusse from that, and the whole thing just started to drag, even WITH the bejewelled gloves. Like, those are a STRONG statement, but they needed backup.
This… was not enough backup.
15. Serbia: Hurricane – Loco Loco – 102 points15. Serbia: Hurricane – Loco Loco – 102 points
15. Serbia: Hurricane – Loco Loco – 102 points
This is the first of two girl groups in black spangles. They sang in Serbian — yay! — and I don’t know what they were saying, but it doesn’t matter; they repeat “loco loco” plenty of times, and that is universal. It made its point. Apparently it’s about seeing someone across a bar and enticing them to have a fling, and one of the lines is translated as, “Not being with me is your flaw.” That is savage confidence. I imagine Jennifer Lopez calling up Ben over the years just to catch up, and ending with that before slamming down the phone. AND LOOK WHERE IT GOT HER. He never forgot. (Sidebar: J.Lo is that really where you want to be? Call me. I have notes.)
The woman in the middle reminds me heavily of Nicole Scherzinger (Serbzinger!) and the one on the right up there has a real Lohan vibe to her, up to and including the fact that her leg fringe resembles a GIANT set of false eyelashes that has fallen off and stuck to her. That just… seems like something that would happen to Lindsay Lohan, if by some miracle it hasn’t already. On the left, it’s like if Heidi Klum and one of the Olsen twins merged.
They are using a wind machine, and you know that thing is powerful because the hair extensions look HEAVY and yet they were still whipping around. With some help from cranial momentum, obviously.
Those extensions sincerely gave them their money’s worth.
I would be astonished if someone in the crowd didn’t find a few on the floor they walked offstage. Presumably the stagehands swept some up with a giant broom between acts.
Oh, yeah, the song. It was… you know. Sung by, in part, a woman wearing a catsuit with portholes in it. The song was not the standout. I’m surprised, yet not, that they finished so high. The use of the stage was lacking; Efendi, from Azerbaijan (the other gang of girls in black), did a better job with that for “Mata Hari.” But at least THIS song has more lyrics than just the words “Mata Hari,” so… there’s that? I don’t mean to compare them only to each other, but the aesthetics were similar and so was the vibe, and neither one REALLY stood out for me.
16. Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou – El Diablo – 94 points16. Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou – El Diablo – 94 points
16. Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou – El Diablo – 94 points
Elena opened the show in full “I’m Skating My Long Program To the Score of Showgirls” fashion. The song is all about how she “gave her heart to El Diablo.” It’s definitely the kind of song AND performance that feels like one of the current dance pop queens might take it on, like a Dua Lipa perhaps; she doesn’t really dance for much of it, so much as shimmy, although I have to give her the fullest marks for this:
She dropped into that position AND got back up out of it, all without ripping any of her muscles. Well done.
Apparently I was impressed enough to get two photos. My knees are weeping.
I’ll give her credit for the fact that of the songs, hers is one of the ones I can actually call up in my head. As I’ve noted a few times, I also heard several of the other contenders again and still don’t really remember them, whereas her earworm willingly wriggled in and settled. However, she also felt heavily reliant on the backing track — I’m sure she was singing over it because the rules said she had to, but I felt like her mic was turned down very low and thus I was listening to the recorded version.
And my big concern: WHERE IS THE DEVIL IN ALL THIS? You have missed a golden opportunity to do something INCREDIBLY WEIRD here, Elena! I think Lady Gaga would have known what to do; she probably would have set fire to a giant Beezlebub sculpture. Can Eurovision hire her as a consultant for 2022?
17. Israel: Eden Alene – Set Me Free – 93 points17. Israel: Eden Alene – Set Me Free – 93 points
17. Israel: Eden Alene – Set Me Free – 93 points
This was a SUPER peppy pop song. She sang third, and I think they should have given her the opening slot, because it’s a good high-energy jolt and would’ve been nice coming out of the gate on a long night. Sadly, she did what so many acts did this year, and went with a cadre of dancers as the focus of the performance, which… once the cameras pulled out, you could see there was some effort to incorporate the big screens:
But the dancers tempted them into staying in tight a lot of the time. I don’t know. Eurovision provides a really unique and technologically advanced stage — people have tried ALL KINDS of cool things — and sometimes it’s just treated like your standard regular arena show. Kicky song, boring performance, though I appreciate that she was singing live. She looked cute in her micromini, but the dancers basically waited until the end to demonstrate why they were there:
They RIPPED off her dress. I guess what she really wanted was to be set free from itchy, stiff polyester blends.
18. Norway: TIX – Fallen Angel – 75 points18. Norway: TIX – Fallen Angel – 75 points
18. Norway: TIX – Fallen Angel – 75 points
Friends, Romans, Countrymen… I love him.
The main story here is nice enough. TIX gets his name from the tics he endures as part of his Tourette’s, which is why he performs in sunglasses (which he took off at one point, and I gather that was hard for him). But he also started documenting his crush on Efendi, the Azerbaijan entry, which includes him singing her a) an acoustic version of “the ultimate Eurovision love song,” Jaja Ding Dong; and b) her replying by singing him a song written to the tune of Norway’s 2019 entry, which finished fifth and was one of my favorites (it lives on my phone, along with a couple others from 2019, like the unheralded Greek entry). This is a recap video of the whole TIX thing, which got enough attention because of their various video postings that people were making fan art about them, so he cut together this little vignette with the help of the Swedish entrant. I think this was all in fun and not meant to be stalkery; Efendi did play along at a few points, and in the end, it’s kind of about the Eurovision bond more than anything. (Though he did take off his glasses for her!) So now I am hoping she was charmed by him and that they will find true Eurovision love.
His song, “Fallen Angel,” is about feeling different in a world that isn’t kind to those who are, and when he finished he shouted, “Remember, you are not alone!” I like that, and I also obviously love that TIX dressed as an angel, with full wings, a sparkly jumpsuit, a ginormous Alexis Carrington Colby fur. And the song is pretty good. This had all the elements, did it not? And yet somehow I expected… more than just shackles and a couple demons with hellfire:
I kept thinking, “You have wings. You need to be FLYING in them.” Where are the harnesses? I also think the parts where he was less reliant on the backing track, he sounded a little flat? I would not have put him this low, though. Finishing 18th seems extreme. Perhaps he just wanted to be this close to Efendi one more time (she’s coming soon).
19. Belgium: Hooverphonic – The Wrong Place – 74 points19. Belgium: Hooverphonic – The Wrong Place – 74 points
19. Belgium: Hooverphonic – The Wrong Place – 74 points
When I saw her, I thought, “Oh, it’s Rocker Robin Wright Penn.” I think Robin might even wear this outfit.
This song is about waking up after a one-night stand, and it wasn’t inspiring to me at all. The set was very small and tight — they kept it contained to just the small diamond on the stage where the instruments were — and when you do that, it means you have to REALLY hold them with your song and your singing. She didn’t do that, no matter how much eyeliner she had. It was very… droney. And there was a really weird refrain: “What was I thinking? ‘Cause all we did was fight // Don’t you еver dare to wear my Johnny Cash t-shirt.” I mean. I wouldn’t. But like can we at least get a dude wobbling out on-stage dressed AS the Johnny Cash t-shirt?
Oh, and FYI, Dieter from Sprockets was on the piano. Sadly now was NOT the time on Sprockets when we dance.
20. Azerbaijan: Efendi – Mata Hari – 65 points20. Azerbaijan: Efendi – Mata Hari – 65 points
20. Azerbaijan: Efendi – Mata Hari – 65 points
These ladies look like they’re walking the runway at Mugler for Victoria’s Secret. Dua Lipa would wear every single one of these.
This song, called “Mata Hari,” mostly repeats the words “Mata Hari” over and over again. It’s the second time in my life that I’ve heard a song about Mata Hari, the first being when I was in the thoroughly forgettable and excruciating musical Little Mary Sunshine in high school. That song might have been better. It’s a cool set, though, at least.
However, Mata Hari may have made their choreographer disappear.
The fire cannons notwithstanding, I was not terribly enraptured, and I’d have ranked it fairly low. Perhaps in part because it will haunt my dreams in the worst way:
WHAT IS THAT. Don’t threaten me with the EYE OF SAURON. I CANNOT BE BOUGHT.
21. Albania: Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 57 points21. Albania: Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 57 points
21. Albania: Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 57 points
Anxhela was not fucking around. Anxhela OPENED with a glory note and a huge plume of red smoke. And it’s a good thing, because she performed second, right after Cyprus, who ALSO came out in a teeny spangly costume. If the producers create the order to maximize differentiation between acts, that’s kind of a fail, so at least Anxhela had this much. Perhaps, coming after the “El Diablo” song, this was the devil’s retaliation.
Her silver costume was better than Cyprus’s, too, I think:
And, as they say in Wayne’s World, she can wail. Oh, and she busted out the wind cannon. It was blowing so strong that she almost appeared to be squinting. The song incorporated elements of Albanian musical heritage and she sang it IN Albanian, as opposed to trotting out a ballad that could as easily have been given to a Top 40 singer. That’s the stuff that I would take into heavy consideration as a national jury member or at-home voter. But I don’t really remember it anymore — it didn’t stick — and I did write, “She needs a new trick besides red smoke — oh, THERE IT IS, it’s dry ice.”
She’s like a beautiful apocalypse. Maybe that’s the song for next year.
22. San Marino: Senhit – Adrenalina – 50 points22. San Marino: Senhit – Adrenalina – 50 points
22. San Marino: Senhit – Adrenalina – 50 points
As I may have mentioned in another pod — it feels like I started this post three days ago — the acts are randomly sorted into the first or second half of the show, and then producers decide the running order from there. San Marino went into the second half, and thus it came to pass that Flo Rida closed Eurovision.
Okay, not ONLY Flo Rida. He was considered a featured performer in Senhit’s act; they approached him about rapping a verse, though I don’t know precisely why. He’d never heard of Eurovision at the time, but agreed to contribute the lines and then come perform it with her. (The best detail: He missed the first rehearsal because he was busy judging a bikini contest in Miami.) I’m sure San Marino thought this was its secret weapon — I am sure, had they landed in the first half grouping, this would have opened Eurovision — but it didn’t work. I suspect the Eurovision voter countries felt like it was bad faith to bring anyone with actual substantial global fame.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. Senhit started off strong without him:
We started VERY close on her face, and my notes read, “Wow, she is MODELING WITH HER EYES. Tyra would be proud.” But in short order, the dancers — who also had funky screens over their faces that flashed various words on them — removed the headpiece and most of her cape. I refer to them as The French Revolution Dancers.
It was a fine dance song, but I can see why, possibly, the voting nations felt it was unfair. Because as soon as Flo Rida came out, the energy did change — probably in part because the crowd loved it — and that’s when things did really pick up.
Although, speaking of picking up:
Bonus points for the guy lifting her over what appears to be a pile of bodies, while SURROUNDED BY FIRE. Listen, you can’t baptize Flo Rida into the cult of Eurovision without ample sparks and flames. It’s just not the way.
He seemed to have fun. How could he not? It’s raining stars! I hope he left before the voting, though (I forgot to pay attention). That would have been a downer for him. Let’s pray that he had another bikini contest to judge. Two-piece suits wait for no one.
[Photos: Shutterstock, Getty]
23. The Netherlands: Jeangu Macrooy – Birth of a New Age – 11 points23. The Netherlands: Jeangu Macrooy – Birth of a New Age – 11 points
23. The Netherlands: Jeangu Macrooy – Birth of a New Age – 11 points
It’s not unheard of to win this thing a few years in a row — Ireland being a key example — but it certainly isn’t common. So Jeangu got to go up there in his suit, which looked like he’d spilled oil all over his pants, and perform with all the joy of singing for the home crowd, and none of the pressure to win. Because poor scores are easily chalked up to, “Well, they didn’t want to give it to us again.” And he used that to give us something completely different than the reigning champion’s tune. Jeangu, who was born in Suriname, mixed that native tongue with English here and performed a sung version of a poem he wrote during the latter part of 2020, inspired by Black Lives Matter and with the refrain, “You can’t break me.”
I thought it was a great message and really cool to see evidence of how that movement exists beyond our own borders. It also had moments of real visual brightness:
The dancer on the left did a bunch of bonkers interpretive stuff throughout, also, which was sadly hard to capture in a still photo. The song was catchy, and his whole aesthetic has a real ’90s soul vibe to it; I wish they’d done more stage work beyond the dancing, but it was lively, and I didn’t think it should have placed 23rd. It was NOTABLY more than three places better than the UK, for example, and you cannot convince me that freaking Belgium was better than this.
I also have to tip my hat to his cropped blazer, and the fact that he reminds me of Verdine White from Earth, Wind, and Fire. And are those… armpit belts? ARE THEY? The voters need to KNOW THESE THINGS, Jeangu! It can make a difference!
[Photos: Shutterstock, Getty]
24. Spain: Blas Cantó – Voy A Querdarme – 6 points24. Spain: Blas Cantó – Voy A Querdarme – 6 points
24. Spain: Blas Cantó – Voy A Querdarme – 6 points
My notes for this are very… spare. I wrote, “Spain gave up and just sent someone hot and soulful. He has PERFECT heartthrob hair and he can hit high notes. And he has dry ice. Dry ice means your soul is deep.” I stand by that. Honestly, his song wasn’t bad. It was another one that’s perfectly competent and had a soaring chorus and a big finish, kind of like it was written by a Eurovision generator. It didn’t feel like it should have scored this low, but I don’t know what I would have put below it. Complicating matters is that such a boring song and performance won in 2019, so I watch this and think, “How is this not in that EXACT vein?” People probably wanted oomph for our big return, and Spain certainly could have done more there.
He also reminded me of someone, and in the moment I wrote, “Maybe… Lucas from DAYS, except hot and Spanish?” But then I think I got it:
It’s TK from 911: Lone Star. He’s the equally attractive Spanish-singing version of that actor. However, this strategy did not WORK, so when the U.S. trots out its national version of this contest, do not look for the TK actor to be part of anyone’s plans.
Then I wrote, “Oh, look, the moon. Huh.” I guess his yearning is going to explode it? Yearn less, Not-TK.
[Photos: Getty, Shutterstock]
25. Germany: Jendrik – I Don’t Feel Hate – 3 points25. Germany: Jendrik – I Don’t Feel Hate – 3 points
25. Germany: Jendrik – I Don’t Feel Hate – 3 points
This was… epic. I made Kevin come in and watch this with me, because every time he wandered in of his own accord it was during something dreary, and I wanted him to see Essence of Eurovision in its most distilled form. Look at these peppy, technicolor kids and the sparkly ukulele; correctly imagine the perky pluck of the strings, and how they dive RIGHT into singing a bizarre bop about being immune to haterz and refusing to hate them back. “I really don’t care that you want to bash me. Do it with flair and I’ll let you be,” he sings, and then later, “I don’t feel hate. That’s the whole point of this song.” You may think, “This doesn’t seem THAT weird.”
Yes, he’s dancing with a human peace sign wearing soccer socks. Who is herself attempting to play a keytar, I think? And at times, it was a crazy-ass floppy mess that looked like he was jiving with some kind of strange double-phallus…
… and then at times, it was BRILLIANT. Because one of her arms is the pointer finger. So when that arm needed to do pretty much anything other than wave in the air…
… IT BECAME THIS. (Yes, that’s a post-song hug, but it happened during the performance a lot, too.) Tell me that is not intentional, and clever, and a hilarious subversion of the “nope I won’t engage with my haterzz” concept.
I mean, the whole time they were sitting in the green room, this is what anyone behind her saw. And then they got no points from the public and only three from all 39 juries. MIDDLE FINGER INDEED. It was the perfect gesture to end the day. I love it and I want more and I DEMAND A REVOTE.
26. United Kingdom: James Newman – Embers – zero points26. United Kingdom: James Newman – Embers – zero points
26. United Kingdom: James Newman – Embers – zero points
This poor dude. He sang ninth, and he didn’t stand a chance — that’s too early in the run-of-show to be dull, or you’ll be entirely forgotten. He mostly just stood there while his dancers hopped around — having four or five generic dancers was really popular this year, which is weird because you’d think in a pandemic you’d want MORE technology and FEWER humans up in your business.
Even his outfit was a snore. He seemed like a nice guy, and he handled the zero-point ignominy with great spirits and a toast. That made me like him. Brexit is not his fault. (OR IS IT. At the very least it was not his IDEA.) Unfortunately, though, his performance was his fault, and he didn’t sound great. The tune was marginally capable Britpop that warmed up to its hook, but he just kinda stood there, and the rough beginning means I could easily see viewers of this marathon saying, “Oh, great, a bathroom break.” You need to start strong. Two pretend trumpets aren’t that.
Too little, too late, friend. Your song is called “Embers.” We should’ve had theatrical glows throughout and then he should have BLOWN ON THEM to ignite them into proper flames. DO I NEED TO DO EVERYTHING.
The HostsThe Hosts
We had four emcees for this night: Edsilia Rombley and Chantal Janzen (both singers/actresses/TV hosts), Jan Smit (singer and… football director?!?), and Nikkie de Jager (YouTuber), in order. Jan and Chantal seemed like primary hosts — they got a costume change and to announce the point totals, and boy, did they draw that out — whereas Edsilia and Nikkie seemed to be roaming, either in the green room (that’s actually the area in the front with the couches, where the acts hang out when they’re done) or in the rafters, like when they sent Edsilia up to the press boxes to chat to the commentators from a couple different countries. Which, by the way, was so awkward. She made the Danish and the Russians tell her what marvelous boxes they were, with pristine views, but you could see for yourself that they were way too high up to glean any actual nuance.
ANYWAY. Jan is like wallpaper compared to the other three. Of them, Nikkie looks like she’s at Prom, Edsilia looks like she’s wearing a bad fix for a car-door accident, and Chantal looks GLORIOUS, like a glittering present.
I truly love this on her, and I want Angela Bassett to find it and wear it to the Emmys. Get to work, Team Bassett.
Chantal favored her other shoulder at the end of the show:
That’s frankly ALSO really good and ought to be on Reese Witherspoon’s Pinterest board.