Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2018

Congratulations to Netta Barzilai and Israel!

Remember when Israel’s victory seemed inevitable before rehearsals began and then it didn’t because Cyprus showed up with fire and memes and stuff? Then it looked like Austria was going to romp to victory and somehow Sweden was in contention too, and then Sweden got crap points from the televote and Austria got okay votes from the televote and all of a sudden Israel’s victory looked inevitable again because Netta got more points than Eleni in the jury vote?

It’s like the past two weeks didn’t even happen!

Our overwhelming reaction to the outcome was…relief. We love that Netta challenges and helps us move our conceptions of femininity forward, not unlike the way Conchita did for gender identity. So we have to admit that it would not have sat well with us if Cyprus had won. In any other year, we probably would have been fine with it. But this year, our top two contenders shaped up to be a unique artist who defied female stereotypes and a sex kitten. This, against the backdrop of #MeToo. What a message that would have sent. Thank you, Europe, for getting it right.

Don’t get us wrong: Eleni Foureira was great and a deserved the top five finish. Also, in a year where our predictions for the Final went so awry, we can take solace in the fact that we nailed our write ups of both “Toy” and “Fuego” earlier this year.

Chris said that he had a dream on Friday night that Austria somehow won Eurovision this year. So you can imagine our amazement during the jury voting when “Nobody But You” kept racking up points. If you had told us one of Symphonix International’s songs was going to be the jury favorite, we would have thought it would have been “Bones” (which won the Marcel Bezençon Composers Award). A huge round of applause for Cesár Sampson.

The bookies ultimately had the correct odds for Germany going into the Final. Michael Schulte’s performance of “You Let Me Walk Alone” was touching and effective. Even though we thought Germany’s LED screen was a bit of a cop out, we have to admit it made the song even more memorable.

If any country should feel really hard done by this year, it should be Italy. (Although let’s be real, Spain did get screwed with the draw.) The juries ranked “Non mi avete fatto niente” 17th and the televote rated it 3rd. Would they have won if the jurors were a bit more generous? That huge disparity between the juries and the public–particularly since this isn’t the first time an Italian song has had this type of discrepancy–are driving discussions that the jury system needs to be overhauled. (Again.)

The other driver of those discussions is Sweden’s result. Sweden was second in the jury vote, but absolutely bombed with the public. They finished 23rd in the televote. 23rd! The juries ate up “Dance You Off,” but it would seem our concerns that it was struggling to connect with viewers were confirmed. This result suggests that not only is our relationship with Benjamin Ingrosso complicated, but apparently the music industry’s will be as well. He’s talented, but that’s one heck of an Achilles’ heel. For some reason, this makes me want to comfort poor Benji even more.

I am a little disturbed by my feelings towards him at this point.

Anyway, while we understand everyone’s points about how the jury system seems unjust, to us it just feels a lot like sour grapes. Fairly or unfairly, the juries are doing what they were meant to do when the EBU moved away from the 100% televote. Besides, what else would we talk about after Eurovision is over if we didn’t have the jury results to debate? Of course, we may be biased because we rather liked the outcome of the jury vote.

We were surprised that France ultimately finished 13th, well out of contention. “Mercy” finished second in the OGAE voting behind “Toy” and consistently had short betting odds. We didn’t think of it as a fanbait song, but apparently it was.

And we were shocked Australia absolutely bombed, finishing 12th with the juries and dead last with the public. There is already some grumbling that Australia should pull out next year and focus on Eurovision Asia (if that’s still going to be a thing). We would hate to see them leave over this result, but we can understand if Australia has the impression they are not welcome at the Contest. Wait until Canada replaces them!

Lastly, we salute SuRie for her poise and professionalism after being attacked by a stage invader. She has been a delight to follow before the Contest and during the rehearsals, and she has been an absolute wonder since. We expected her to perform again, but to be honest, we can see why she didn’t feel like she needed to. She was able to make her song’s lyrics all the more powerful by drawing strength from her perseverance.

We have two takeaways from this: 1) The United Kingdom was very lucky to have had her as their representative this year, and 2) There is a clear need for the EBU to adopt more sensible and consistent security measures. This is the second year in a row that Eurovision has had a stage invader, and this time the invader went for the artist. That’s completely unacceptable. Perhaps Israel will give them some pointers about how to do security right.

5 thoughts on “Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2018”

  1. Excellent review!
    I think the juries have provided two important things to the Contest in recent years:
    1. removed the FOTF (Fear of Total Failure) for established artists to give the Eurovision a go. Since some sort of combined system has been in place, there’s been diversity in terms of which delegations qualify.
    2. It’s flattened out the marginal bit of the bloc/diaspora/friend curves in some instances. We no longer see 5 ex-Soviet and 4 ex-Yugo entries regardless of quality. Of course the Nordic bloc still does a very good job sorting their own.
    When the system tried to integrate the rankings into a larger ranking, it was like a sledgehammer. Adding both components is a bit more refined and also gives the scores two different ways. We’ve had more OMG/WTF/No Way results moments in the last 3 Contests than in the previous 10.

  2. Hey. I’ve been following Eurovision a bit more seriously this year, and somewhere through all it, found you blog. Nice!

    What I generally disagree is you painting Eurovision through US eyes. Several things are severely off the mark, me thinks. First one is MeToo + Netta thing. MeToo is mostly an US phenomenon because your level of misogyny is through the roof – yeah, shit happens everywhere, but not in the same way and at the same magnitude. To me it seemed that Netta VS Eleni was more of a Mediterranean dilema between different types of female representations and yes those areas are more “traditional” (patriarchal) about it. But then again, what’s wrong with French representation of a female singer that focuses on being an artist with a message and a story to tell? There’s stuff beyond representation – like, songs and stories. Or what’s wrong with Portugese duet’s representation of women? (lgbt chic anyone?)

    Of course, I’m biased, everybody in Europe is biased in their own way. My country gave the least points to Izrael (2 from televote) – I guess what didn’t connect was the saturated in your face reality show vibe of it all. For instance I really loved Netta’s acoustic version from the press conference, but Izrael threw everything but the kitchen sink into that song (loud chorus, some middle eastern/izrael-ly melodies in the chorus section). It’s fun the first time you hear it and already tiring the second time. Staging was full of less than ideal decisions, too. Still, I do agree, much better that Netta won, than copy pasted Shakira. Now, we just hope Izrael won’t make some sort of nationalistic manifestation out of hosting the show next year.

    Similarly – the security thing . That’s again a very US interpretation. I saw the SuRie situation akin a dude getting naked and running into a football match. It is what it is (not nice for sure), but terrorism it really isn’t. (We don’t have millions of guns lying around the place, remember?) If Russian hooligans show up though, yeah that would be a problem, let’s see how Russia does FIFA this year, but I digress.

    Back to the show. 🙂 It was a relief that like in 2017 Russia (and anti-Russian sentiment) didn’t matter. Phew. Similarly by-the-numbers songs from Soviet block didn’t make any impact. In a similar was UK and Australia bombed – it felt like they’re trying to appeal to the taste Eurovision had 15 years ago. With Jessica Mauboy in particular – me thinks her usual music style would fare much better, instead of “adapting to eurovision”. Enough of the bad and the mediocre, onto the good stuff!
    Songs that really connected with me (and my partner) this year were France and Italy. Being from former Yugoslavia – the 1990 contest winner “Insieme: 1992” made an impact on an 11 y.o. boy caught up in history and imminent break-up of Yugoslavia. So French and Italian songs evoked in me this era when pop songs could be political, not only in their message, but also in the way both songs had an atmosphere and a story, they were not a visual spectacle. (Italian subtitles somehow worked. Also: red sneakers are cool.).

    With juries and Italy – yeah, Juries are basically a fail safe to prevent music-less spectacles to run away with it. But in countries with weak music industry (i.e. most of Europe?) they’re comprised of former and would be Eurovision entrants, the kind of people that think UK and Australian song were a good idea. It’s middle of the road taste. For a unique song to get through I think it needs to develop hype before the show (and this being even more true for juries than televoting). Not participating in the semis I think hurts the big 5 and host nation – they can’t build up the excitement around their song. (Maybe they’d just perform in semis outside competition?).
    With Italy and also France is that their pop music is so Italian or French respectively – which seems isn’t a problem for the audience, but for “professionals” (this is not your daddy’s ABBA song).

    I liked Swedish song. It’s catchy, you have to listen to it and move your hips. Not watch the performance. Heck, I’d make Benjamin even more distant and cool on stage (put on some shades!), but probably that would have bombed with the audience even more. Oh, well. The jacket was nice! (wants!) What else? Hungary, yeah, very adolescent, but surprisingly catchy melody. Loved Portuguese song. Would like to live in a parallel world where Italian song would win.
    And that’s a wrap.

    I enjoyed your predictions and rundown of both semis. (Made me do my own predictions, got 7/10 both times.) It’s a fun blog, hope you continue. Would be fun watching how Kieran’s taste develops as well. Good luck in the future!

    1. The Surie invasion was inexcusable. Completely. It’s the third one in a decade. Perhaps in Kyiv that’s part of the package. But not in Lisbon.

      This guy had on a backpack—they were supposed to be banned from the venue. He climbed onto the camera track—where there were supposed to security guards. He leapt onto the stage and attacked the artist—she’s bruised from his ministrations. Those of us working at the venues were subjected to multiple daily pat-downs. Invasive ones. The day of the Grand Final we were told to walk only a straight line. There were sharpshooters on the rooftops and men with assault rifles every 100m or so within the secure perimeter. And yet this guy still got in and still attacked an artist. People who understood what had happened were terrified: who else got through, who else tried?

      1. Okay. Didn’t know how security worked at the event. Thanks for the insight, it’s good to know. 🙂

        But proper reaction to such an event is to inspect what happened and what went wrong. My impression is that Anglophones are overreacting in way that’s not helpful (not that it ever is). For instance, it’s clear this guy had an agenda to grab the mic and scream into it, don’t fabricate the story into something it’s not. There was no weapon, there was no intent to hurt. The question of security is always linked to a question of freedom and there’s a balance of both. A balance Izrael won’t care about in Jerusalem – there will be a better security and a price for it and we all know what it will be.

        All I wanted to voice is: I find your (plural) reaction way out of proportion. Am not willing to be dragged into this issue further. I’m also not enjoying the rage I felt directed at me through the internet. Chill! I would prefer to talk about songs and staging and kitsch, if that’s fine with you.

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