The Eurovision Song Contest burst back onto our screens, reminding us of what we had missed in the lockdown: Euro Drama and Histrionics.
Italy’s thrash metal opera Zitti e Buoni won with the triumphant aphorism Rock and Roll never dies (but it does repeat itself.) The Italian entry seemed more suited to the soundtrack of a Paolo Sorrentino TV series, and its high octane theatrics went down well with jury and public alike. The victory was only spoilt for the group Måneskin when the lead singer was snapped seemingly head down snorting cocaine, to which he replied indignant: please cocaine no, we do not take drugs, as if narcotics and rock and roll were chalk and cheese.
Everyone else seemed to be high, back to semi-live music (playback of course) after a year of abstinence. You could feel the endorphins.
France was thought to be a potential winner with its chanson style Voila but its throwback to a gentler boulevardier style underwhelmed the public, despite the intensity of the performance by Barbara Pravi. Still, it was one of the few songs in which substance prevailed over style.
Germany’s song I Don’t Feel Hate was utterly charming, disarming, childlike even, and got nul points from the jury. Israel in the meantime entered a song with the title Set Me Free – in the middle of a Palestinian uprising. The irony was lost on the Euro crowd.
There were black faces this year, as Eurovision continues to diversify. The Dutch entry fared particularly badly – possibly over confrontational with its theme of racial oppression, The Birth of a New Nation. The Swedish entry, Voices from Tusse, was a masterpiece but got short thrift from the jury.
Finland went in for some dark Viking Goth metal and somehow got a bunch of points from Sweden and Serbia. Russia went nationalist. Azerbaijan revealed a lot of flesh – some serious buttock reveal there. Portugal’s The Black Mamba went jazz sophisto, a little understated for the drama hungry Euro audience.
Iceland proved definitively that White People can’t dance – their dance moves more Will Ferrell from his Eurovision spoof the Story of Fire Saga. Iceland boasts strong viewing figures for the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2016, the country delivered the largest viewing share of all 42 participating countries with 95.3% of those watching TV in the country watching the Grand Final. The Queen of Iceland Bjork was surely one of them.
Switzerland almost beat the Italians in the home straight, but their contestant Tout L’univers, a hybrid Elton John, Bowie and Freddie Mercury, with a touch of Charles Azenenvour, was a little too weird even for the Eurovision home front.
The UK went instead for groove and cool and got a thumping nul point, which singer and composer James Newman celebrated as a badge of honour. If a nation is going to come last, you might as well consider it as an achievement of some kind.
Eurovision is not about the songs – the last decent proper memorable entry was Waterloo by Abba. The evening is a camp pyro-technic celebration of visual and sonic hysteria. The Italians in their Spinal Tap leather gear were, in that respect worthy winners.
Was it cool? Of course not. It would not be Eurovision if it were cool.