The last contest we had in Italy is rumoured to still be taking place, but here we are again, sleeping bags and Kendal mint cake at the ready. Which is more than can be said for Russia: they'd been thrown out for invading Ukraine. Last time Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukraine won, and Ukraine were the bookies' favourites this time too. But did they have the best song of the night?
There was a bit of a cowboy theme this year: Estonia being the most unabashed cowboy in the house (if only because San Marino fell at the semis), and if it wasn't cows it was bulls. Raiding the Strictly Paso wardrobe, France gave us a feisty bunch of Breton kids doing their impression of 1990s Turkey while surrounded by fire. The whole thing came off a bit undercooked (which can happen with barbecues): the punch of their national final performance being lost somewhat in the echo-y acoustics of the big hall. But if you're going to do '90s Eurovision retro (and a lot of countries are these days), better this than a boring ballad. In keeping with that notion, it came second last in Europe's voting.
Continuing the matador theme was Spain's Chanel as a kind of Paso Doble Pearly Queen belting out a song about video playback. And every Pearly Queen demands a Pearly King: here in the form of the UK's Sam Ryder, who achieved the seemingly impossible and won the jury vote with his punning plea for a bit of space. Just goes to show what you can do with a half-decent song, half-decent staging, and some half-decent promotion. Of course, it didn't win the public vote. Europe's winners were, perhaps inevitably, Ukraine. Kalush Orchestra's "Stefania" is a haunting folk chant and flute riff interspersed with some machine-gun rapping from a guy hidden under a pink felt bucket-hat. All the while, a bloke camouflaged as a carpet breakdances, and one of Go-A does his stuff from beneath a big hairy rug. It's enjoyable stuff but it's no "Shum" (though frankly little is). We put it third but we're not going to quibble with the win (and shockingly it's the first time that rap has featured in a Eurovision winner, sixteen years after we voted for Daz Sampson's music).
Also aboard the hiphop-tinged folk train were old favourites Moldova, with a "Hey ho let's go" and more than a hint of "Cotton Eye Joe", while going straight for the neck of the novelty vote were Norway's banana-flavoured wolves: they had the masks and the silly lyrics though their tune was a bit lacking. But our favourites of the night were Serbia, washing their hands and namedropping Meghan Markle in the interests of socialised healthcare. It's an effortless groove and one of the most distinctive performances of the evening. Clap along now.
For each year's songs we apply our points in the 12-10-8 style of the modern contest, irrespective of how the voting functioned at the time. In brackets is the position the song came on the night:
ARE THE VOTINGS
OF THE AVIEW JURY:
"In corpore sano"
|Alvan and Ahez
|Zdob și Zdub and Advahov Brothers
"Með hækkandi sól"
| Cornelia Jakobs
"Hold Me Closer"
|Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord
Europe had the UK second, Italy sixth, Portugal ninth, Norway tenth, the Netherlands eleventh, Poland twelfth, Estonia 13th, Australia 15th, Azerbaijan 16th, Switzerland 17th, Belgium 19th, Armenia 20th, Finland 21st, the Czech Republic 22nd, and Germany last.
|Kalush Orchestra weren't always the Ukrainian entry. The Ukrainian national final on 12th February was won by Alina Pash and her haunting bird noises, but she fell foul of the local rule about not playing occupied Crimea so was replaced on 22nd February by second place Kalush Orchestra. Two days later, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the day after that Russia were expelled from the contest. Russian hacker groups carried out cyber-attacks on the contest but there were no disruptions reported. The "technical difficulties" observerd during the returning of the Azerbaijan, Romania and Georgia votes were aparrently the consequence of a dispute over seemingly irregular jury votes.