And in the end it wasn’t even close.
So, my run of predicting the winner right every year has come to a crashing halt (and quite spectacularly so too – but there’s reasons for that, as I’ll get to). But it’s good to be able to say that I don’t even care, because a truly deserving song won with an even more deserving artist. I watched the show at a party and it was clear who everyone wanted to win, such was the way that Conchita Wurst managed to unite people. The fact she did so across Europe, scoring points from nearly every country, including ones you would never have dreamed of proves the power of her statement.
But I’ll save more for Conchita when we get to her. The following is a run-down of my thoughts on each and every song in the final based on their finishing order. I’ll try not to get in to too much detail when it comes to voting and the semi-finals, as I’ll probably have posts covering those in the next few days too, but this is at least my theories on why certain countries finished where they did. Starting with…
26th: France, 2pts (Twin-Twin, “Moustache”)
Completely and utterly deserved. Twin-Twin were TERRIBLE, finishing last on both the televote and with the juries. It’s the first time that France have ever finished last in the entire competition too. Everything about the performance was wrong – out of time, tune and touch. It became an indecipherable mess and nearly unwatchable, such was the colourful assault on the eyes. They looked downright amateur after Sanna too. Ultimately, everyone should have had this one pegged for last place.
25th: Slovenia, 9pts (Tinkara Kovac, “Round and Round”)
Bless Tinkara – she gave this everything she could and probably deserved slightly better than 25th. But Slovenia never do that well and she probably needed more support from the juries than she got to offset the inevitably low televote score. This one probably lost something in ditching its original staging too, because as it ended up, Tinkara looked far too distant from her backing singers and instead the entire thing relied on the changing backdrop/floor. It just wasn’t enough for her.
24th: San Marino, 14pts (Valentina Monetta, “Maybe”)
She didn’t come last! Admittedly, Valentina made it in to the final by the skin of her teeth (and a hefty eight points from old allies Albania), but this was the ultimate victory for her and for San Marino. She didn’t disgrace herself one bit and if this is, as it seems, her final foray in to Eurovision, then she can leave with her head held high after this performance, particularly considering the fact she made it so high with the help of the public and not simply the jury, as many had assumed. Good job, girl.
23rd: Malta, 32pts (Firelight, “Coming Home”)
This…I cannot explain. Not one bit. Well, I can give it a go – that the voters thought that Malta was far too much like a Mumford and Sons tribute act – but Firelight deserved much, much better than this. The juries got it spot on by ranking it so high and with its running order position, this should have been challenging for the top five. The fact that they suffered a similar result in the semi final makes it all the more baffling. No issues with the performance whatsoever…this is one of those baffling Eurovision results you just can’t get your head around.
22nd: Azerbaijan, 33pts (Dilara Kazimova, “Start a Fire”)
Only the winner gave me a better feeling than this. That’s not Dilara’s fault, of course, but after last year’s voting calamity with Azerbaijan, to see them tumble so hard down the order is a very welcome sight. Dilara is a wonderful vocalist, but the song was too dull and low-key, was lost in its position and the trapeze artist stole the show. Perhaps more telling is that this only qualified in 9th place in its semi final too, when it had a considerably better draw to boot. Absolutely nothing went right for Azerbaijan. I mean, even Malta’s customary 12 points disappeared. I wonder wh–*looks at new EBU anti-rigging rules* ohhhhh.
21st: Italy, 33pts (Emma, “La mia citta”)
Oh, Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. La mia citta is by far her best work and this was also far from her best vocal work either. The entire thing just seemed very confused too; so, it’s a song all about loving your city, and yet she’d dressed up as a Roman, thrusting around the stage like the Italian Miley Cyrus. Fair play to Emma, she owned the hell out of those walkways, but nothing made sense here. Italy’s good run comes to an end with arguably their most deserving artist. That’s what she gets for not entering with “Non E L’Inferno“…
20th: Greece, 35pts (Freaky Fortune ft. RiskyKidd, “Rise Up”)
And in a completely deserved – and welcome to see – 20th place, Greece! Many people expected that, simply thanks to the traditionally strong Greek vote, this one would do well despite its shortcomings. But we saw in 2012 that Greece doesn’t necessarily just do well these days when they don’t deserve it; RiskyKidd was frankly embarassing throughout the performance, looking a bizarre mix of smug and disinterested. Furthermore, the trampoline trick completely backfired on them and left the end of the song feeling rather dull. The fact it didn’t even make the top half of the televote was very telling.
19th: Montenegro, 37pts (Sergej Cetkovic, “Moi svijet”)
A deserved finish for Sergej; a wonderful singer, but another person stuck with baffling staging and a distracting act going on in the background. This was a song that cried for a Zeljko-esque approach to the performance, but instead Sergej and his backing singers were left feeling closer to a support act to the show behind them. Bizarrely, he actually finished better on the televote than with the juries, though perhaps this was more a case of being the only real Balkan left in the running (and if you include Greece, he still was the top Balkan!) meaning that he got some added support from friendly nations. Hopefully it’s enough to keep Montenegro in it for another year.
18th: Germany, 39pts (Elaiza, “Is It Right”)
For a song that everybody assumed was going to finish dead last, Elaiza managed to pull this one out of the bag somewhat. They toned down considerably on the ever-tricky streamers to their benefit, but the vocal tricks still felt a little offputting throughout the song. It is, however, true to say that “Is It Right” has always been better live rather than in studio/music video form, which probably explains why nobody really gave them much of a chance. Interestingly, this one did very well with the juries after everyone said that they gave one of the worst performances too. They also survived being the so-called “cannon fodder” between Austria and Sweden rather well – a good job by the girls.
17th: United Kingdom, 40pts (Molly, “Children of the Universe”)
There was a moment – probably just after the first chorus – that I realised that the UK had completely and utterly blown it. Somewhere, somehow, they had thrown away what had seemed like a sure thing; maybe not a victory, but surely a top 5? But in the translation from smaller stage to Copenhagen, “Children of the Universe” lost the anthemic feeling it so desperately needed. Molly looked alone; too static and dressed in something that was completely incorrect for the performance. It all just felt so flat.
Yes, the draw probably didn’t help us, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Yes, we probably deserved higher – just – but this was meant to be ours for the taking. And, realistically, we threw it away. Molly is a great singer and I hope she has continued success, but more than anything, I hope the UK does not revert to its previous ways of sending the wrong type of acts. If anything, I’d say that we should try it all over again and send Molly to Austria with a song with slightly more edge.
And if nothing else, we’ll always have Curly Wurly Cake.
16th: Belarus, 43pts (Teo, “Cheesecake”)
Belarus finished 16th for the second year in a row and with the Russian twelve points to boot. I was never a fan of this performance, nor the song, but regional influence (big points from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were enough to support Teo through to the final and then a respectable, if slightly undeserved, 16th place. Fair credit to him for selling the song well though.
15th: Iceland, 58pts (Pollaponk, “No Prejudice”)
From a song that overperformed to a song that, dare I say, actually underperformed. Didn’t think I’d be saying that, but Pollaponk were absolutely fantastic on Saturday night. A cheeky, fun-filled performance that got the crowd going after the slight lull caused by Belarus & Azerbaijan; again, a victim of being a bit too early on in the running order. This was the “in your face” version of what Conchita was subtly trying to tell, perhaps indicating why the juries didn’t fall for it as much as the televote, a 15th-12th disparity between the two. Still, the group produced Iceland’s best result since 2009 and deservedly so.
14th: Poland, 62pts (Cleo & Donatan, “My Slowianie – We Are Slavic”)
The televote put this song in 5th – and you know what, I would have been very happy to see it that high up. Trashy, completely classless and pure unadulterated fun. Cleo was absolutely incredible in this performance, keeping the attention on her even with the camera, saving it from becoming a shouty mess. You do feel that this one could have done even better had they focused on some more English rather than the sparse showing at the end too – but the juries were the real tripping point, which was a shame but completely expected. Again, let’s hope it’s enough to keep the Poles interested in Eurovision, it being their best result since 2003.
13th: Switzerland, 64pts (Sebalter, “Hunter of Stars”)
Inexplicably, Sebalter was wiped out by the juries. No idea what they found so objectable; Sebalter’s charm and charisma clearly came through to the voting public. Perhaps the whistling hook, which no doubt worked as an earworm when it came to being memorable for voting, proved to be more of an annoyance to the juries. That, or the fact the song realistically makes absolutely no sense was a bit offputting to the “music professionals”? Perhaps his position next to the more “polished” Hungary also harmed him, but Sebalter was probably one of the most hard-done by acts of the night.
12th: Romania, 72pts (Paula & Ovi, “Miracle”)
After an all-too serious and smug performance in the semi final, Paula and Ovi did indeed embrace just how ridiculous their staging was. Ovi made no attempt to hide the fact he wasn’t playing the circular piano, whilst Paula oversold all of her dance moves. “The note” went as well as it could, and it was another welcome breath of up-beat air at the start of the show. In fact, I’d almost have been tempted to move this in to the top ten myself, so improved was it on the night. Well done to the duo, who didn’t disgrace themselves on their return like many thought they might.
11th: Finland, 72pts (Softengine, “Something Better”)
Well, now this was a surprise. Softengine easily came through the semi final in 3rd place, it turned out, and then turned it around in to an 11th placed finish, the country’s best since Lordi and second best result in the past 25 years. Like Malta, this one suffered because of the televote and not the juries, having been 7th with the juries and only 17th on the televote. That’s possibly one of the hardest to explain, because they really gave it their all on Saturday night – the only thing might be that their light show was too distracting to the viewers watching at home en masse? It’s a difficult one to work out, but the band deserved this one.
10th: Spain, 74pts (Ruth Lorenzo, “Dancing in the Rain”)
Ruth managed to just about match Pastora Soler’s performance, which is a very worthy marker to match herself up against, plus she was the victory of the Big Five battle. A very engaing performer with a song that probably was a little overhyped and a bit too simplistic to do all that well – much like Pastora, it was the televote that held her back; big power ballads don’t work if they just focus solely on the voice. Fair play to Ruth, she tried something different with the rain effect staging, but it wasn’t a killer enough hook to pick up more votes. Here’s hoping that she continues to have a good career though.
9th: Denmark, 74pts (Basim, “Cliché Love Song”)
Denmark’s job of making sure they didn’t disgrace themselves but keeping themselves as far away from the victory worked perfectly here. No issues with Basim or the backing group, but the entire thing fell in to the realm of self parody the second that the “Love” banner descended from the sky. True fact: everyone at the party I was at was really enjoying this right until the banner fell, at which point it was clear to everyone that it had just descended in to a cheese-fest. Could Basim have won? Maybe – but even taking the banner in to account, you’d have expected him a couple of places higher. Personally, I’d have had him a couple of places lower…
8th: Norway, 88pts (Carl Espen, “Silent Storm”)
It’s hard to say what happened with Carl; 8th place was well deserved in the end, but you do wonder if it could have been more. The bookmakers did him no favours by placing him as the favourite so early, then they completely undersold him by the time the final came around, which probably contributed to why he was so buried in the running order when DR published it. His low placing on the televote is easily explained that way, along with the sacrifical staging that the Norwegians lumped him with. The juries rightfully rewarded a massively heartfelt performance though and the big man finally won me around on a song that I fought so hard against.
7th: Russia, 89pts (Tolmachevy Sisters, “Shine”)
Well. I will give Russia credit for some things here. By giving Ukraine 7 points, they effectively broke down some of the political borders that had worked so harshly against them. Did the girls deserve to be booed? No – they didn’t – and it’s also fair to say that the audience wasn’t booing them, but it was a message being sent back to those in Russia who had decried the contest and its winner as a “hotbed of sodomy”. The boos throughout the Russian voting made it clear that this was not an attack on the Tolmachevy girls.
Furthermore, to give the sisters credit, this was a great performance of a rather average song. They really lifted it up (when they could have crumbled under the pressure from Tuesday night) and I’m unashamed to say that this probably deserved its place after all. And that is a sentence I never, ever thought I’d be typing this year.
6th: Ukraine, 113pts (Mariya Yaremchuk, “Tick-Tock”)
Mariya absolutely killed it on the night, being one of the absolute best openers to a contest in many years. Every part of this performance was what it needed to be; typical Ukrainian over-the-top staging sold to perfection. The “hamster wheel” was a memorable moment and it has to be said that Ukraine didn’t even really need the “sympathy” vote to help sustain them in the voting. It wasn’t loved particularly by the juries, but you’d have imagined a later slot might have seen Mariya in the top five, perhaps just outside the top three. It wasn’t a winning song, but as far as the Ukraine’s form goes, this was another feather in their cap.
5th: Hungary, 143pts (András Kállay-Saunders, “Running”)
I never saw Hungary as a potential winner, but I knew that many saw it as the dark horse, which is why when it seemed to be picking up traction early on in the voting, I started to think that maybe there was something I had missed. András is a good but unspectacular performer and the song + subject matter clash is still far too jarring for me to really see how it could marry up well. But, to give Hungary credit, they went all out on the staging and were probably the only country who got the “something going on in the background” thing right, especially by having it link in all at the end with András protecting the girl and looking the hero. Hungary have started to get good at this Eurovision lark though and Budapest isn’t looking out of the question too soon.4th: Armenia, 174pts (Aram MP3, “Not Alone”)
Much like Carl before him, Aram wasn’t helped by the bookmakers making him the favourite so early on; when he did stumble on the semi final night, he was effectively thrown under a bus and written out of the running. There was a brief moment during the voting where that started to make everyone look foolish, but in the end 4th was all Aram could achieve. He wasn’t perfect in his performance on the night either, but he is a showman at the end of the day and was able to sell it as best he could. A typical strong Armenian performance, even if I never really liked the song. And, of course, they ranked Azerbaijan last of all. Wonderful.
3rd: Sweden, 218pts (Sanna Nielsen, “Undo”)
In a year without Conchita, Sanna Nielsen would have won. I have very little doubt in saying that – she simply had the ballad votes stolen from her. She was flawless and could not have done any more, let’s face it. Perhaps “Undo” was not the strongest of her attempts at getting to Eurovision, but quite rightly, Sanna was rewarded with a fantastic position that she has long deserved. Graham Norton said it correctly too – there would be no complaints if she had won. Fair play to SVT for allowing her to go out there and try to pick up the victory too, unlike some of their other more self-sabotaging neighbours. Sweden are once again rightfully at their place at the top of the “constant contenders” pile – three years out of the past four, they have finished in the top three – and you’d imagine that they’ll be chasing the crown again in 2015.
2nd: The Netherlands, 238pts (The Common Linnets, “Calm After the Storm”)
Perhaps the best pure song – and certainly the most commercial, as is being proved by its continued success on iTunes throughout Europe (it’s currently in the UK top 5 on iTunes, beating both Molly and Conchita). Simplistic, iconic staging. Really, there was nothing more that Ilse and Waylon could have done; they ticked all the boxes. Sadly, it was a night where it simply wasn’t to be for them for reasons outside of their control, but undoubtedly this is a song that will fall in to Eurovision legacy for years to come. The Netherlands have completely turned it around and right until the votes started to come in, I had convinced myself that we were heading to Amsterdam in 2015. Bravo to the Common Linnets.
1st: Austria, 290pts (Conchita Wurst, “Rise Like a Phoenix”)
Deep down, I wanted Conchita to win it. I just never thought she would. She would be too much of a divisive figure. The East would never vote for a drag queen performing a ballad surely meant to be sung by a “woman”. The juries would find her a mockery. It would all conspire against her.
And then she won it with almost relative ease.
There were moments in the voting where it almost seemed too good to be true. It seemed that they were building her up too much and that the Common Linnets would catch her. But then she kept on pulling away. More countries gave her 8s, 10s, 12s. Georgia, Lithuania – even five points from Russia. Then came the Ukraine’s points. And in my head, I realised what had just happened.
“Rise Like a Phoenix” is a wonderful song. Conchita – Tom – is a wonderful perfomer. The message that has been sent out across Europe by her victory and in her speech is an incredible feat. In a time where the rights of LGBT people throughout Europe are under scrutiny, where hate crime is still a major issue, the fact that such a gender-breaking act could win so convincingly is a true marvel.
This is the winner that Europe – perhaps not Eurovision – needed.