Travel and music festivals go hand in hand, of course! And though I haven't yet attended the annual Eurovision song contest in person, ever since I started traveling to Europe in 1977 – well before American Idol, The Voice, or The X Factor – it's always been a big deal for more than a few of my Old World friends and acquaintances (not to mention the local media). I got to watch it several times surrounded by Europeans (most recently last night), and I must say, the enthusiasm generated by this reliably cheesy collection of crazy outfits, over-the-top antics, and sometimes downright goofy tunes (here's a 2020 piece I found on its most outrageous antics) can be kind of endearing; it's this sense of kitsch and camp that has also earned it a huge following among much of Europe's LGBT community (then of course there was that time, in 2014, that a bearded gay drag queen from Austria, Conchita Wurst, won for her operatic pop number Rise Like a Phoenix).
At the same time, since it started in 1956, some memorable songs (and sometimes careers) have come out of Eurovision – perhaps my favorites being the Spanish Basque group Mocedades with its luminous "Eres Tú" (1973); ABBA’s insanely catchy "Waterloo" (1974); "La La La" by Spain’s Massiel (1968); "Un Banc, un Abre, une Rue" from Monaco’s Séverine (1971); and a pair from Israel, "Hallelujah" (1979) and "A-Ba-Ni-Bi" (1978). (Yes, I'm well aware that Israel is not Europe, but they’re obviously considered honorary Europeans, as are the Australians, even though they're way on the other side of the world.)
And since the arrival of the 21st century - apart from the trend since 1999 of too many songs in English even from non-English-speaking countries - of course other countries from the east have been included (even a couple which are marginally, if at all, "European"), including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan (hmmm), Belarus, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Some of those have won, as well, including Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine (twice). This year Russia got itself kicked out because of its brutal invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus was dropped last year because its own dictatorship was using the contest as a propaganda tool. Then there are the "Big Five," which are always included because they foot much of the Eurovision bill every year: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom (sort of like the United Nations Security Council, I guess, but without the veto?).
So last night in Turin (held here because last year's winner was a hard rocker from Italian group Måneskin called Zitti e buoni even though it was hardly the best of the 2021 bunch, in my humble opinion) the vibe was the usual over-the-top Eurovision mania, punctuated by quiet moments both from the contestants and from one of my sentimental favorites of the evening: while the votes were being tallied, bringing back Italy’s very first Eurovision winner, Gigliola Cinquetti (16 in 1964, now 74), to sing “Non Ho L’Età (per Amarti)” – “I’m Not Old Enough (to Love You).”
But on to the lineup! And of course the winner was:
Ukraine: “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra
This six-man, three-year-old group, fronted by Oleh Psiuk (in his trademark fuzzy pink hat) and named after the western Ukrainian city where it was formed, specializes in the fusion of folk music and hip hop. Sounds weird but it works, and because of the horrific ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, this ode to a caring mother - extrapolated to love of country as mother. was a sentimental crowd favorite. Energetically performed before a backdrop of flashing traditional-style flowers and other Slavic motifs. Sample lyric: "She rocked me, gave me rhythm and probably the power of will/ did not take, but she gave." And another has been especially reinterpreted and taken to heart by countless of Ukrainians and others “I will always walk to you by broken roads.” Though it wasn’t my own even top-five choice, it’s inspiring indeed, and was pretty much a shoo-in all along, adding to Ukraine’s two other wins since joining Eurovision in 2003. And I'll add that I'm aiming to do my very best to attend next year in Ukraine, if the (hopefully) postwar situation there permits.
And beyond that, here's a rundown of the two dozen finalists – plus an extra one I just threw in there – winnowed from the total field of 40 countries and for the most part having won votes in national finals in their respective countries (with some exceptions, such as the UK entry, chosen by the BBC and the record label):
Armenia: “Snap” by Rosa Linn
This melodic minor-key tune in English is about getting over a breakup (“Don’t need you here anymore/ Get out of my heart/ ‘Cause I might snap”), but 21-year-old Rosa Linn (the stage name used by Roza Kostandyan) from a small city in northern Armenia, commented in an interview, “I think we’ve all been at a snapping point, where it felt like there’s no way out and that the entire world is just crumbling down around you…Writing “Snap” was a form of therapy for me and I hope that it can be that for others who are going through hard times.” The video is a fairly simple affair involving her and a cottage in a snowy landscape but which takes wings and flies over a city – I found it kind of endearing, actually. In the end, though, the song came in 20th. Oh, snap!
Australia: “Not the Same” by Sheldon Riley
Apart from its Anglophone culture (shared, after all, with various other non-European countries), Oz has been part of Eurovision since 2015 apparently due to Australian broadcaster SBS being a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for some reason. So this year here we are, with 23-year-old, gay half Filipino Sheldon Riley (real name Hernandez), a veteran of this country’s version of The X Factor and The Voice. This track is composed of deep, rich, and powerful vocals accompanied by moody piano, and is all about discrimination and exclusion,” rooted in Sheldon’s struggles with not just autism (specifically, Asperger Syndrome) but also growing up as a queer kid in a deeply religious family and conservative community. In an interview he commented, “regardless of gender, sexuality, race, financial position, trauma, color, age, shape or size. You're not the same but you're not alone.” The powerful lyrics include “Then you run and hide, hide the break inside/ ’Til you realize that the light shines bright/ Through those, oh, who've broken inside.” I felt bad he didn't do better last night, but on the other hand, 15th place ain't too bad out of 40. (Fun fact: that epic white costume and mask weighs more than 112 pounds because of 200,000 Swarovski crystals and 90,000 pearls sewn into them.)
Azerbaijan: “Fade to Black” by Nadir Rüstamli
In Eurovision since 2008, this Central Asian country is of course closer than Australia though still with tenuous creds to be considered “Europe,”– but it’s because the main Azeri TV network is also a member of the EBU, so whatever. And this bearded 22-year-old winner of The Voice Azerbaijan is here with a contemporary ballad about the end of a relationship. Nice but nothing special – and the words, honestly, are a bit unimaginative and clichéd: “It hurts so fast/ When love goes bad/ Until at last/ We fade to black.” It came in 16th this time around, which in a field of 40 I suppose is nothing to sneeze at. An interesting note about this official music video, though – the ending suggests that this lost love is a guy, and this is pretty much borne out in the Eurovision stage version, in which Nadir sings on a bleacher shared with another dude. Not bad for a mostly Muslim country (albeit the Muslim world’s most secular, these days even more than Turkey) where homosexuality is legal but still socially widely frowned upon.
Belgium: “Miss You” by Jérémie Makiese
Here’s more fallout from a failed relationship, this time from a handsome, bleached-blond 21-year-old with an impressive set of pipes (and by the way, the only black person to have reached the finals). Born in Antwerp to Congolese parents was last year’s winner of The Voice Belgique, and is also a pro soccer player, the goalkeeper of Belgium’s second-tier Royal Excelsior Virton in the country’s south near the French border (the team isn’t highly rated at the moment, actually). Dressed in jeans and a silvery jacket and backed by four tough-looking dancer dudes, Jérémie belted out a solid English-language R&B number with lines like, “Am I gonna miss you? No/ Promise I won't miss you, no/ I'm gonna break through now/ I'll never hate you, never chase you.” Definitely scored a soulful goal with this one, but nonetheless came in the bottom tier of the final rankings.
Czech Republic: “Lights Off” by We Are Domi
This electro-pop trio - formed in England four years ago by friends at the University of Leeds, and now based in Prague - is fronted by and named for 27-year-old, U.S.-born Czech singer Dominika Hašková, backed by Norwegians Casper Hatlestad (on highly customized guitar) and Benjamin Rekstad (on keyboards). This also English-language tune, which opened the show last night, comes with a pretty cool, somewhat sci-fi-dystopian-feeling video, and here's a taste of the lyrics: "Tried changing jobs, tried changing lovers/ Changing my furniture, change my bed covers/ I'd change my heart, but there's not a chance/ So I turn the lights off." The CR's never won Eurovision since it joined in 2007, but though it’s has been faring better in recent years; this one also came in low, at 22 out of 25.
Estonia: “Hope” by Stefan
This 24-year-old has the very un-Estonian name Stefan Airapetjan because his folks are immigrants from Armenia. And his tune (also in English) – which closed out the lineup last night – is very likeable though also a bit unlikely, a country-pop bit of business which starts out with “We let them tell us what to do, why, why, why” and ends with “I hope, I hope, I hope/ The future still remains our own.” The accompanying music video has Stefan (recently voted, by the way, the sexiest man in Estonia) improbably but smolderingly striding and riding around the Tabernas Desert of Almería, Spain., Europe’s only “official” desert and over the years the backdrop of hundreds of films, including Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Conan the Barbarian, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The singer says “Hope” was inspired by this last film, and taking a leaf from that and other “spaghetti Westerns,” here he exudes a cowboy vibe. (Parenthetically, song festivals and competitions have long been a feature of Estonian culture; I had the privilege of attending one such festival in Tallinn some years ago.)
Finland: “Jezebel” by The Rasmus
The Rasmus has been a successful staple of Finnish rock for 28 years now, and this tongue-in-cheek English-language number named for a “biblical troublemaker” throws out images like “a killer shark in heels” and “a predator on wheels.” Lead singer Lauri Ylönen told an interviewer it’s "about a girl who takes what she wants, without asking. A free spirit", as well as "an homage, a tribute, to the strong women of today, who own their bodies, who are in charge of their sensuality, their sexuality, and who are determined to be an equal.” Most def an edgy hard-rockin’ standout in last night’s lineup, but not an public nor national jury fave, coming in 21st out of 25.
France: “Fulenn” by Alvan & Ahez
As a lifelong language nerd, I love that this bangin' bit of electronica (which won a national contest to be the national entry) is sung in Breton, the Celtic language spoken in Brittany prior to French (and not for the first time, another Breton-language song repped France in 1996). Drivingly belted out in a minor key by 29-year-old Alvan from Rennes and a three-woman vocal group called Ahez, it features witchy, sometimes provocative lyrics like "The forest vibrates with the dancing spark/ its enchanting magic rises up to the tall trees," "Ignoring the wild beasts I dance/ I steal the fire from their gaze full of lust." Oh, and "I dance with the devil, so what?" Certainly a far cry from one of France's earliest Eurovision winners, “Un Premier Amour” (1962), a ballad - though also dramatic in its own way, true - about first love. I thought this deserved much, much better than its second-to-last placing, especially compared to some of the forgettable stuff that ended up ranking higher.
Germany: “Rockstars” by Malik Harris
The biracial son of a TV presenter and actor originally from Detroit puts in a melodic, fairly laid-back performance (in English, of course) packed with nostalgia and regret: "Look where we are/ We used to be the rockstars/ Who never thought of no harm/ Till this thing we call life stopped gleaming/ I wish there was a way to go back dreaming/ remembering gets so hard/ When time is moving so fast/ Wish there was a way to known that we're in/ The good old days before we all just leave 'em." It all comes across a little bit profound and a little bit angsty - the voice of somebody who's washed up, beyond his prime, and moping about it. But c'mon, "the good old days"? Bro, at 24 you're still a little wet behind the ears to pretend to be so jaded, LOL - then wohin the heck do you go from here? Still, I did feel bad for Malik last night, because despite a little spurt of support from the public tele-voting in, he came in dead last with just six points (hey, at least it wasn't zero, right?).
Greece: “Die Together” by Amanda Tenfjord
Born to a Greek father in Norway (hence her Scando last name), this 25-year-old has been recording since 2014. This synth pop number also in English is poetic, melancholic, and maybe a bit fatalistic, covering a number of emotions and themes including love, loss, and (of course death). The music video that comes with it is picturesquely set on Symi in Greece's Dodecanese Islands, and the chorus goes: "But if we die together now/ We will always have each other/ I won't lose you for another/ And if we die together now/ I will hold you till forever/ If we die together, die together now." Yep, a real laff riot – but it did end up at a respectable number eight in the final rankings. Efcharistó/takk, Amanda!
Iceland: "Með Hækkandi Sól" by Systur
"Sisters" is a folk group composed of Sigríður (Sigga), Elisabet (Beta), and Elín Eyþórsdóttir, sisters in their 30s and 40s who’ve been active musically for 11 years under various names, both together and individually. Strumming guitars and accompanied on drums by their baby brother Eyþór, this upbeat, melodic tune – translatable as “with the rising sun” of “with the sun getting higher every day” – deploys a hippy-chick vibe and gentle acoustic sound with lyrics (in Icelandic!) that speak of hope as winter gives way to spring (which is understandably a big deal in Iceland). Genuinely sweet – albeit a tad monotonous, without a catchy “hook” – and it didn’t click much last night, coming in third to last. (Oh, and fun fact: apart from their music, the women are trans rights activists, especially when it comes to transgender kids. Right at the front lines of the “culture war,” eh?)
Ireland: “That's Rich” by Brooke Scullion
Maybe because my heritage is half Irish, who knows, I decided to throw this in even though it didn’t even make the finals. Although she's repping the Republic down south, Brooke was born 23 years ago in Northern Ireland's County Londonderry. Her day job is as a realtor, but she came to the world's attention in 2020 on The Voice UK. I hope she's more upbeat selling houses than in this caustic number, in which she dumps on an ex with stuff like "hey stupid," "loser lose your attitude," and "bye bye fool." Granted, at one point only she does say he was "always putting me down," but still, it's all negative energy here – belying the “friendly” reputation of the Irish. Plus on an ironic note, one of her lines is "I don't need a lazy lover," but IMHO both videos of this song are pretty lazy themselves - one static at Belfast's Commercial Court, the other literally in front of a white screen. Finally, all this NI stuff for an Ireland entry? Kinda weird - maybe they're softening us up for post-Brexit Irish reunification? ;)
Italy: “Brividi” by Mahmood & BLANCO
Of Sardinian and Egyptian heritage, Mahmood (Alessandro Mahmoud) is a 29-year-old R&B, pop, and hip hop artist from Milan (and with some sick left-ear piercings, yo), while twinkish BLANCO (Riccardo Fabbriconi), raised in the Lake Garda area, is all of 19 and started releasing his music on the Swedish platform/sharing site SoundCloud in 2020 (shades of Justin Bieber?). This pair of pretty boys posed nude for Vanity Fair Italia and in interviews have been coy about their sexuality - but their onstage body language and of course this video say it all (by the way, guess where it was shot? Around Amsterdam). This melodic, romantic love song "Chills" ("I want to steal you a sky of pearls") sung in Italian (grazie!) won the reknowned Sanremo Music Festival this past February and it was frankly my fave - evoking for me the best of Italian pop of years past. And it was also a welcome relief from the downers of the other love-related songs last night, when it finished in sixth place. Evidently, Spotify subscribers agree with me: the song whose title translates as “Chills” has been the most downloaded of all 2022 Eurovision songs.
Lithuania: “Sentimentai” by Monika Liu
Liu is short for Liubinaitė, and at age 34, this lady with the signature black pageboy is an old hand in the music biz since her appearance on talent show in 2004. Thia retro-sounding song - sung in Lithuanian, a first for this country since 1999 – reminds me of the French pop/cabaret chanteuse Patricia Kaas, and I’m definitely a Patricia fan. Singing in the same shimmery, slinky multicolor frock she wore in this rather simple “official” video, Belting out lyrics like, “Moments are spinning in a circle in my head/ They're running where you are/ A million roses like sentiments/ are drowning in the sea of clouds,” Monika ended up slinking and shimmying around the middle of the pack.
Moldova: “Trenulețul” by Zdob și Zdub and the Advahov Brothers
No Eurovision would be complete without a zany novelty act or three, and in the finals last night, this was one of a trio of doozies. "Punk-folk" “ZSZ making music since 1994 and twice-previous Eurovision reps since Moldova joined in 2005, teamed up with folk-singers Vasile and Vitalie Advahov, both 43, to create “The Little Train,” a super-peppy, somewhat goofy number featuring the evening’s only accordion and marking the reopening of a train route between Moldovan capital Chișinău and Bucharest, capital of Romania (whose culture Moldova shares; this song is in their mutual language Romanian). And its words reflect that shared heritage: Going quickly, going good/ Train of our nationhood/ But it cannot comprehend/What’s the country? Where’s the end?/ Is it old or is it new?/ Seems like one, but also two/ Both together and apart/ Are there two, or just one?” And amazingly, it placed very strongly indeed, coming in seventh. This video is suitably rocking and rollicking (too bad about that carpet, though).
Netherlands: “De Diepte” by S10
With her long blond tresses, 22-year-old S10 (Stien den Hollander) has been in the music since 2016, especially notable on the Nederhop (Dutch rap) scene. This dark, melancholy song (the first Netherlands Eurovision entry to be sung in Dutch in a dozen years) can be translated as “The Deep” or “The Abyss,” about the sadness and memories she carries with her. The rhetorical imagery is matched by the video, a reflection of her longtime struggle with mental health issues including depression and bipolar disorder. Sample lyrics: I'm hiding under the table/ And I hope you find me/ I've been waiting all evening/ Oh, I seem like a child.” An important topic, for sure, but wow, kind of a downer, you know? Nonetheless, it did end up placing in the top half of the rankings.
Norway: “Give That Wolf a Banana” by Subwoolfer
And now for a bit of wackiness that's possibly even weirder than Moldova's because it seems pretty unrooted in Norwegian culture – plus maybe a bit of a surprise to those of us might’ve thought of these particular Nordics as a bit dour, aloof, and introverted. The duo of “Keith and Jim” sported stylized yellow wolf masks to hide their identities (though the BBC has reported than one might be Ben Adams from the Anglo-Norwegian singing quartet A1, originally started as a boyband in 1998). Backed by a DJ dressed as an astronaut and dancers in yellow morphsuits, they ham it up on an upbeat dance track: I like the scent of every meal on your breath/ That hunger in you, I'm in danger now, I guess/ Let's go to grandma’s, you say grandma tastes the best/ And before that wolf eats my grandma/ Give that wolf a banana.” Check out the similarly hammy video, complete with cheesy effects. But it was well received enough to come in tenth out of 25. So…yum, yum, yum?
Poland: “River” by Ochman
Another sweet, beautiful, and melodic tune from a pretty boy, 22-year-old dual U.S.-Polish citizen Krystian Ochman. Born to Polish parents in a suburb of Boston, has since high school living in Warsaw and Katowice., and he’s said that “River” (sung in English) is “basically about getting to this point of inner peace, and calmness.” Gonna lay my head right down/ Right now, now, now and forever/ Gonna lay my head right down/ Let the water carry me away/ Just float away.” Sound pretty good to me, Kris, both musically and conceptually. And you did place in the top half of the pack, so there’s that (and by the way, thanks for not giving into the pressure to explode with idiotically over-the-top reactions of joy every time a vote went your way - that's one bit of EV silliness I could do without).
Portugal: “Saudade, Saudade” by Maro
Saudade is such a key concept in Portuguese culture (such as its song tradition the fado, comparable to Spain's flamenco), meaning a sense of melancholic, nostalgic longing. And here 27-year-old Maro is singing luminously - in both Portuguese and English, and backed by four other vocally gifted women - not about losing a significant other but rather her beloved grandfather. I for one am glad that this this onetime veterinary medicine student - born in Lisbon, now based in Los Angeles, and whose actual name is Mariana Brito da Cruz Forjaz Secca - turned to music full time four years ago, and after she placed ninth last night, I do think we'll be hearing more lovely melodies and harmonies from her in the future.
Romania: “Llámame” by WRS
Here’s this is another gay-boy paen to coming out – in catchy, danceable, high-energy pop form – from 29-year-old onetime backup dancer and boyband member Andrei Ionuț Ursu (WRS is sort of an abbreviation of that last name), as he put it, “an anthem to call my inner self to stay true to myself despite what society says.” Andrei hails from the small provincial city of Buzău in central Romania and early in the mostly English-language song recalls the bad old days: “What if they gonna find out?/ Nobody is gonna like if / We get away.” And then comes defiance: “My love cannot be stopped by anybody/ Cuz it‘s so true/ Let‘s show it to the world cause I won‘t hide it/ Are you down to believe in sins too?” But despite his childhood challenges, and despite the fact that his country continues to be fairly conservative, it’s loosened up enough to send Andrei and his queer-pride song to fly the tricolor national flag on international stage in front of a TV audience of hundreds of millions. Not bad at all – even though he ended up placing just 18th out of 40 (definitely deserved much better, IMHO).
Serbia: “In Corpore Sano” by Konstrakta
A a strong contender to the yellow wolves for the evening’s kookiest performance comes courtesy of one of its oldest contestants. Ana Đurić, 43, was trained as an architect but has been a musical artist since 1997, and she says her stage name “rationally emotional.” That may already give you a hint at the profound weirdness of this “avant-pop” number, sung in Serbian with a phrase in Latin (in corpore sano, in a healthy body) and another in “reverse Latin”: “Onas eroproc ni amrifni snem” (Mens infirma in corpore sano – “A weak mind in a healthy body” – rendered backwards). It gets even weirder, if that’s possible. Sitting at a water basin dressed in a nurselike silk outfit surrounded by shadowy attendants, Ana then comes right out with “What could be the secret of Meghan Markle's healthy hair?/ What could be the secret?/ I think/ It’s all about deep hydration.” After this dig at celebrity culture, Ana proceeds to praise the automatic nervous system and offer critiques of social norms, politics, and her country’s health system. I was bemused to see the public gave her a boffo bill of health in the form of fifth place. (Fun fact: in the 1990s, Ana’s dad served as Minister of Propaganda, er, Information in the despotic régime of convicted war criminal Slobodan Milošević – but you know what they say about the sins of the father…)
Spain: “SloMo” by Chanel
Born in Havana, named after Coco Chanel, and moved by her folks to Barcelona province at the age of three, 31-year-old Chanel Terrero has been a veteran of the Madrid musical stage scene as well as some TV/film acting for practically half her life. Despite its title, this Latin-influenced urban dance track, mostly in Spanish and sprinkled with English, is fast paced indeed, backed by a gaggle of cute little Latino boy and girl dancers, and evokes Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez in lots of ways (indeed, the song was originally written for JLo). And just like them, as Chanel commented in a press conference a while back, is about "empowerment, to feel comfortable, strong, and sure footed." As the lyric goes, "Booty hypnotic/ Make you want more, more, more, more..." I watched the show in Madrid with a roomful of gay mostly Spaniards, so naturally they along with the RTE TV network were cheering her on; in the end, “SloMo” ended up in third place – its best result in 27 years, and after not having won since 1969. In any case, going forward we’ll be seeing mucho más from Chanel, I’m certain. Ay, ay, ay - you go, mamita! (Fun fact: her dizzyingly kinetic performance, she reportedly trained by singing while running on a treadmill – in heels!)
Sweden: “Hold Me Closer” by Cornelia Jakobs
Ready for yet another lament for a breakup, svenska-style (albeit sung in English)? Standing in front of a big pulsing light thingie, this blonde 30-year-old with a dozen years in the music business under her belt belts out a ballad featuring the likes of “Hold me closer/ Although you’ll leave before the sunrise/ I’ll be bleeding, but don’t you, mind I’ll be fine/ Oh, it kills me/ I found the right one at the wrong time.” Sooo…the bottom line is that although I did appreciate the fact that it was the only song of last night’s lineup in a major key, overall I found “Hold Me Closer” derivative, clichéd (“guess all the good things come to an end”), and just generally uninspiring (I think the gold standard for Swedish breakup pop ditties is still ABBA after all these years). Nonetheless, I was flummoxed to see that Cornelia made a super strong finish: in fourth place. OOO-kay then…
Switzerland: “Boys Do Cry” by Marius Bear
This 28-year-old from Appenzell (real last name Hügli) discovered his vocal talent during his country’s compulsory military service, then was discovered by a producer whilst touring Switzerland as well as Germany as a street musician. With a teddy-bear vibe and honey-smooth voice that bring to mind some of the retro U.S. crooners of yore like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, Marius was possibly the most mellow and laid back of the finalists. In this song he looks to reinforce the message that expressing pain and sadness can be a strength, not a weakness, singing, “Hearts, they get broken/ God only knows why/ And somеtimes aeroplanes fall down from thе sky/ And mountains they crumble/ And rivers, they run dry/ And oh-oh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh/ Boys do cry/And how they cry.” Nice, and well meaning, and all – but this didn’t strike me as having enough punch or even personality to make the finals, let alone the top tier last night. And I was right, although at 17th place it did better than I expected. Most of its points came from national juries though, and I felt bad for Marius (especially after his disappointed reaction shot) when we learned that tele-voters gave him just six points; well, as the song goes, "boys do cry." 😥
United Kingdom: “Space Man” by Sam Ryder
Bearded, longhaired, and charismatic, this 32-year-old from Essex in southeast England – a former construction worker and wedding singer - is very much a product of the current moment, garnering 12 million followers on TikTok with pop music covers during the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020. This solid pop tune he banged out in summer 2021 is generally upbeat and sports kind of an Elton John-ish vibe (no doubt intentional, and I'll bet perhaps even inspired by Rocket Man). Key lyrics: “I'm up in space, man/ Up in space, man/ I've searched around the universe/ Been down some black holes/ There's nothing but space, man/ And I want to go home.” The Brits have won Eurovision five times, but the last was in 1997 and in recent years they’ve performed pretty abysmally, last year garnering a big fat zero points. This year, though, saw a truly remarkable turnaround, with “Space Man” entering as another top audience (and bookmaker) favorite and reaching orbit with second place – which in my book means that on the merits it really won the night, discounting the huge sympathy vote for Ukraine.