Eurovision wasn’t something I ever invested much time or energy into in the past. In fact, I would avoid it at all costs. The gimmick laden, clichéd pop fest was weighed down by its own absurdity and it was just too much for me to get my head around and far too much effort to spike interest. However, in 2012 something changed. A semi performance art piece appeared on stage, 17th in the running order and it started with a synth roar akin to the alien machines in War of the Worlds. I was like a dog listening to human psychobabble, tilting my head to the left in intrigue, no panting of course. Swedish pop star Loreen (had no idea who she was) appeared faintly in the darkness, black unkempt hair hanging down to her chest, block fringe obscuring view of her eyes and wearing nothing but a simple black jump suit and ethnic print kimono. I thought, “at last, no fake lesbians, dancing grannies or heavy metal”. The performance was literally Loreen, a spot light, martial arts/tai chi style dancing and then raining confetti which I presumed to be cherry blossoms to fit in with the sort of Asian theme that was on display. Oh, and the song? Incredible. So good that it’s still on my workout playlist 4 years on and I’d say without a doubt that it’s the best and potentially will forever be the best Eurovision entry. Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a promo piece for Loreen. She turned it around for me though and since then I’ve indulged in the extravaganza each year and seen it blossom into something a lot less ridiculous than it once was. It does now include Australia which is kind of bizarre, but if the colour of your money suits…
2016 was a joke act free entertainment spectacle and it featured some of the more memorable runners up songs in years. Pyrotechnics, dayglo costumes, dodgy yet entrancing dancing, club beats, balladry, bilingual political statements, One Direction in 15 years featuring Liam Gallagher and one performance that would have you questioning everything you ever knew as reality if you had consumed narcotics beforehand. Here’s my top five performances / songs of the night from five to one. I say ‘a top five’ because there will be hundreds of post alike this flying up all over the place today. The winning song by the Ukraine isn’t in this top five. I like it but it’s a little too heavy and I couldn’t sing you one lyric from it. Politically, a brilliant winner but not a memorable one musically:
Samra – Miracle (Azerbaijan)
This might not be the most original pop song to ever leave a recording studio but it was the first memorable hook of Eurovision 2016 (“Mira-Mira-Mira-cle). The vocals were decent, Samra is a babe and she wore a gold catsuit surrounded by Roman warrior American Football player-dancers. You can’t really argue with that. Can you?!
Dami Im – Sound of Silence (Australia)
Although I’m still coming to terms with a non EU nation being part of the Eurovision Song Contest (highlighting the name there) this song, peformed by AU XFactor champion Dami Im, is pretty awesome. It’s a little paint by numbers, the performance was a bit bland and motionless, but her voice is undeniably powerful and the song itself hooks into your brain and won’t leave, ever.
Barei – Say Yay! (Spain)
The most feel good song of 2016’s contest and an instant pop love affair. Barei ticked the aesthetic boxes that Loreen did back in 2012, not opposite the conventional beauty of other Eurovision stars, but she’s a little rough around the edges and that footwork is hypnotic. I won’t attempt it myself because two broken ankles wouldn’t be a great way to go into the Summer.
Sergey – You Are The Only One (Russia)
Russia got a hard time last year before their entrant, Polina Gagarina, even took to the stage. Boos were flung and no one expected them to go beyond nil points. They ended up coming second because the performance was brilliant, Polina’s voice was enormous and maybe it was the EU’s way of extending an olive branch to the nation that hates gays and believes they should be beaten to death – I’m sure that not all Russians feel this way of course. This year there were no boos and the song was so perfectly Eurovision I bet it brought a tear of pride to the eyes of die hard Eurovision fans all over. Wait for the moment where he’s standing on invisible steps and them lying on his back in ‘mid air’. Tripping out. I’m a little sad this didn’t win (although the Ukraine’s win was well deserved both musically and politically) as I would have loved to witness the reaction to the notion that Moscow would be full of gays…
Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime (Bulgaria)
At first I wasn’t sold on this, particularly the bizarre Thunderdome aesthetic, but once the first chorus kicked in that was it. S-O-L-D. Poli’s rickets dance moves are questionable but wonderful at the same time and the song itself is actually a brilliant pop number, spliced with dance beats, that are begging for an Ibiza remix. There are rumours flying around that Poli is gay, in which case the song has even more meaning than you’d initially think as she sings, “If love was a crime then we would be criminals/ locked up for life but I’ll do the time…” Regardless of her sexual orientation, this is epic.