Swedish star Loreen having taken the top spot last year (and for the second time), Sweden tapped its handsome,  third-biggest city to again host the world’s largest, longest, and perhaps most anticipated/beloved music competition – this year´s 68th edition pulling in a worldwide television audience of some 200 million. And of course like its predecessors, this one got thousands of fans from some 90 countries to flock to Malmö and enjoy its myriad offerings. (I´m just not sure why they keep coming back to this particular burg – for the third time now – instead of giving Stockholm and the country´s second city Gothenburg a chance. But hey – last week the Times of London came out with a great look at the reasons why – and what to see/do here.)

On a personal note, although I haven't yet attended the Eurovision song contest in person, ever since I started traveling more extensively 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´ve gotten to watch it a number of times surrounded by Europeans, 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 2023 piece about its most outrageous performances) can be kind of endearing;

It's this sense of kitsch and camp – plus its welcoming ethos of inclusion – which has also earned it a huge following among much of the LGBTQ community in Europe and beyond (then of course there was those times that queer artists nabbed the top prize, such as in 2014, when a bearded drag queen from Austria, Conchita Wurst, won for her operatic pop Rise Like a Phoenix”), and in 1998, when it went to Diva,” sung in Hebrew by Israel’s transgender Dana International – who these days would no doubt be stoned by the loony Orthodox back home. (On the other hand, for a more cynical - and no doubt realistic - take on Eurovision and “the gays,” check out this video).

At the same time, since the competition started in 1956, some memorable songs (and sometimes careers) have come out of Eurovision – perhaps my older favorites being the Spanish Basque group Mocedades with its luminous "Eres Tú" (1973)ABBA’s insanely catchy, career-launching "Waterloo" (1974); "La La La" by Spain’s Massiel (1968); "Un Banc, un Abre, une Rue" from Monaco’s Séverine (1971); and an Israeli pair, "Hallelujah" (1979) and "A-Ba-Ni-Bi" (1978). (Yes, Israel isn't Europe, but they’re here by virtue of being a member of the European Broadasting Union (EBU) and the Aussies have been invited since 2015 because they’re such Eurovision superfans.)

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, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia/Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Plus there’s Australia (yet not New Zealand) and Israel. A few of these have won, as well, including Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine (three times), although Russia got itself kicked out in 2021 because of its brutal invasion of Ukraine; Belarus also got the boot because of its support of Russia and because its own dictatorship was exploiting the contest as a propaganda tool; and Turkey pulled out in 2013 and hasn’t yet returned (supposedly due to disagreement over a couple of rules, sheesh). 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 a musical United Nations Security Council, I guess, but without the veto?). This year there were 37 contestants, with Bulgaria, Montenegro, and North Macedonia still out since 2022, joined this year by Romania: Hungary out since 2019 because its homophobic government considers Eurovision “too gay,” and Luxembourg back after a 31-year absence (thanks to prime minister Xavier Bettel – who probably by no coincidence happens to be gay; and this is a country I shall always remember for its sublimely silly 1980 entry “Papa Pingouin”).



OK, background over, and on to 2024. Memorable semifinals moments included outré fashion highlights from the “turquoise carpet”; Australia´s entry “One Milkali (One Blood)” which for the first time incorporated an Aboriginal language, Yankunytjatjara; a raucous mess from Spanish alt-rockers Megara singing (in Spanish) for – wait for it – San Marino; the so-called “world´s largest sing-along” to the tunes of a trio of past Eurovision divas; an insufferably smug production number about Sweden´s dominance in Eurovision; and two-time Irish winner Johnny Logan crooning a more subdued version of Loreen´s 2012 winner “Euphoria.”

Last night´s final opened with a welcome from Crown Princess Victoria in her fancy schmancy palace followed by opening act Björn Skifs, frontman of the group Blue Swede, which in 1974 scored Sweden´s first world chart-topping hit, “Hooked on a Feeling.” Then came the introductory parade, notable for its  inclusion of Switzerland´s Nemo parading the transgender flag in front of the Swiss one.  

Ably and lightly hosted by Swedish TV presenter and comic actress Petra Mede and Stockholm born Hollywood actress Malin Akerman (Watchmen, The Heartbreak Kid, Rock of Ages), the broadcast brought us such highlights, during the interval while the voting was underway as the reuniting of another iconic Swedish group of the 1970s, Alcazar, belted out their biggest hit, “Crying at the Disco.” Loreen came back with her killer nails, slowly and weirdly writhing on a futuristic chair, with a new number, “Forever” (less distinctive than her two Eurovision winners, IMHO). And of course there was the obligatory tribute to ABBA´s “Waterloo” on the 50th anniversary of its win, including a cameo from the avatars of the hit London show ABBA Voyage and in-person performances from another trio of past Eurovision luminaries – including the inimitable Conchita Wurst!

In the end it added up to a massive, truly staggering feat of musical and theatrical production. And now on to the a (highly) opinionated look at the finals lineup, starting with the winner:

Switzerland: “The Code” – Nemo

“Gender-queer” Nemo Mettler, 24, hails from the bilingual German/French city of Biel/Bienne near the country´s capital Bern. And clad in a skirt and fluffy red top, they put in a bravura solo performance solo impressively balanced on a huge, gleaming revolving/seesawing turntable type of thingie. Their quirky, genre-straddling tune – pop, rap, even a bit of opera, with plenty of falsetto – about breaking the zeros-and-ones “code” of traditional male/female society to come out as non-binary (though they clearly present as an androgyous dude). Check it out: “I went to hell and back/To find myself on track./I broke the code, wo-oh-oh-oh./Like ammonites, I just gave it some time./Now I found paradise./I broke the code, wo-oh-oh-oh.” A very pointed message song like last year´s anti-war “Watergun” from Remo Forrer (though the message here is obviously pretty different, and it’s a quirkier and I´d say a far better song). And not only did “The Code” came in as the bookmakers top pick for number one, making Nemo Eurovision´s very first non-binary winner, winning 591 points, just 44 more than second-place Croatia. (And I do wonder, about this non-binary business, in their native language German does Nemo use sie instead of er? Inqiuring minds want to know...)

And Now for the Rest of the Field:


Armenia: “Jako” – Ladaniva

I confess, I didn´t expect this year´s most overtly “ethnic” entry to make it to the grand finale, but lo and behold, here came pretty, braids-flaunting Armenian vocalist Jaklin Baghdasaryan, 26 (Jako is her nickname) and handsome 36-year-old French instrumentalist Louis Thomas, who met in Lille in the north of France while attending a music conservatory (their group is named after a hardy Soviet-era Russian offroad vehicle – still being churned out – called the Lada Niva). About the "right to think freely and to be whoever she wants to be" and knocking society for imposing artificial norms and limitations – especially on girls and women – this is kind of a poster child for “world music,” sung in Armenian with an lively, upbeat folk-pop feel and influences drawn not just from that country but also Russia, the Balkans, Latin America, Africa, and even Réunion Island, with myriad genres including jazz and reggae – and performed onstage with a swirling kaleidoscope of images (including roosters, for some reason): “They tell me, “Jako, behave well./Don’t talk too much./Don’t sit too quietly./Wear this, open that, hide this./Act like a girl.´” But “I am a free girl/And you will watch.” Pretty pushy, but you´re right about that, honey – in order to write this review I literally had no choice in the matter. But anyway, multi-culti gurl power nabbed 19th this time, a comedown from 14th last year for Brunette´s “Future Lover” (which in my opinion was less interesting, go figure).


Austria: “We Will Rave” – Kaleen

With one of the more memorable hooks of the various electronica dance tracks being offered up this year (“When the darkness hits and we can't be saved/We ram-dee-dum-dum-da, we will rave./When our hearts are burning, we feel no pain/We ram-dee-dum-dum-da, we will rave)” comes from statuesque  Marie-Sophie Kreissl, 29, from Upper Austria near Linz, and who’s got more of a dance background (not that we saw all that much of it from her in this staging). Is this dated, like a throwback to the 1990´s? Well, it seems raves (and 90´s nostalgia) are back with a vengeance post-COVID, so clearly not. This is for sure a major turnaround from 2023´s quirky (and certainly more cerebral) “Who the Hell Is Edgar?” from Teya & Salena. And the jury/voters certainly didn´t rave about this, beinging it in second to last, in 24th place (compared to 15th for Eddie baby).


Croatia: “Rim Tim Tagi Dim” – Baby Lasagna

First off, hvala, Hrvatsko for this year´s dandiest double dose of classic Eurovision silly names, for both song and artist (though Ireland´s Bambi Thug is stiff competition on the artist front). With a bleached-blond coif, folkloric embroidered jacket, puffy, ruffled sleeves, and lot of flashing lights and  whooshing smoke, 28-year-old Marko Purišić, from the Adriatic coastal region of Istria treats us to growling vocals and a hard-driving, techno/metal-tinged rocker in English about a country boy leaving the farm behind for a better future abroad: “I hope I find peace in the noise./Wanna become one of them city boys./They're all so pretty and so advanced./Maybe they also know our dance.” This was one of the bookmaker favorites going into the contest, addresses an important social phenomenon, and is more “conventional” than Croatia´s last outing, “Mama ŠČ!” which was probably the most batshit bizarre of of 2023´s finalists and ended up in 13th place. "Rim Tim Tagi Dimi" was a strong bookmaker and popular contender for top spot, and instead finished second (incidentally, with the evening´s highest tally of televotes from the public).

Cyprus: “Liar” – Silia Kapsis

This time the Greek Cypriots instead of last year's hot guy crooning a solo ballad came bearing a gift of a hot girl belting out a dance pop piece flanked by four cute boys (and what they both have in common is that they´re Australians with Greek Cypriot parents – because, you know, top-drawer homegrown talent can be a little tricky to find in a country with a population of well under a million. An amazingly mature and confident 17 (the youngest contestant this year), Aussie Nickelodeon star Silia from Sydney´s swell singing and dancing chops pulled this dynamic girl bop into the finals despite it feeling unoriginal and a bit generic. What´s it about? Supposedly the titular liar isn´t so much a person as forces and phenomena like social media which lead some people to live in a fake world: “Should've known that you are a liar/But I looked the other way./Should've known you're a troublemaker/But you act too nice to hate./I know we couldn't get much higher/But you promised the world to me./Do you see that you light my fire?/Now I know what to do.” But no lie – its 15th-place couldn´t outdo Andrew Lambrou´s “Break a Broken Heart” at number 12 last year).

Estonia: “(Nendest) Narkootikumidest ei Tea me (Küll) Midagi” – 5miinust & Puuluup

Another one I especially didn´t expect to make it into the finals, this aggressive, generally unpleasant mishmash with an impenetrable mouthful of a title (which translates as “We (Sure) Know Nothing About (These) Drugs”). It was written (in about an hour) and performed by a bunch of middle aged dudes consisting of the four member of the nine-year-old hip-hop group 5miinust plus the “psychedelic folk” duo Puuluup (wielding weird, blocky little traditional string instruments known as talharpas). They hammered us with the likes of “We're not drug addicts, we haven't done anything./The dresses that we're wearing were found in a dumpster./Police Chronicle and a raid in the summer cottage./Men in uniforms are paying a visit,/I'm doing very okay.” Alrighty then. Last year I expressed the hope that this time around the Estonians would send something in their own language instead of English, and to their credit they sure did – but dayum, this sure wasn´t what I had in mind. The 2023 ballad Bridges” by Aika was kind of lame and insipid, but at least it was easier to listen to than this;  and it also came in eighth, whereas this drugged-out mess ended up taking 20th place instead of dead last like it should´ve. Truly inexplicable from a music-obsessed country famous for its own longstanding song festival.


Finland: “No Rules” – 

What sticks with most of us about this one is the kooky visuals of the staging – 38-year-old Teemu Keisteri with his dorky glasses and long frizzy hair (reminiscent of Weird Al Yankovitch) hatching from a denim egg; running around with the cheeks of his keister hanging out; and madly waving sparkler-type fireworks. A camp novelty number with a dance pop vibe – self-described as inspired by this performance artist and DJ´s life philosophy of not taking everything too seriously – it was co-written and mostly sung by nationally popular Henri Piispanen (who has the vocal range to pull off what Teemu can´t), with lyrics like “Silence, I say./This is my time, my stage./Call me what you may, see if I care, see me slay./Is there something wrong with the way I look?/Is there something wrong with who I am?/If I’m not all right, tell me, why do I feel so beautiful tonight?” One reviewer called it “a parody of a Eurovision song” – very perspicacious. But I found "No Rules" more akin to a clumsy, obvious, and juvenile "look-at-me" piece of jackassery (not to mention a bit hypocritical - you have to follow a boatload of rules to participate in this contest, and Suomi isn´t exactly notorious for its anarchy, either). And in the end all the gimmickry didn´t make much of an impression on the juries nor the televoters, relegating it to number 19 (and frankly, nobody expected him to equal – much less top – Käärjä´s second place last year with "Cha Cha Cha").


France: “Mon Amour” – Simane 

Simane Nechbi, the 34-year-old winner of the France´s version of The Voice in 2016; subsequently has had an illustrious pop career, with four chart-topping albums; hails from a town near Paris; and his folks emigrated from Algeria. Here, decked out in a white outfit and braided cornrows, and with luminous but very simple staging, Simane comes at us with a passionate, soulful ballad, “My Love,” in which he begs his partner in a troubled relationship to remember the good times and “Please come back to Paris/Do it for us, I´m begging you/I promisе I learned my lesson.” Well, while without a doubt powerful, melodic, and beautifully sung, it also risked feeling a bit cliché and formulaic, and though I liked it well enough, I didn´t peg it as finishing very high (I was much more impressed by last year´s “Évidemment” from La Zarra, which nonetheless came in 16th; this time, “Mon Amour” in the end garnered enough amour to come in a strong fourth, so I guess that shows how much I know.


Georgia: “Firefighter” – Nutsa Buzaladze

“I see it in the air,” all right: yet another hi-NRG dance-club track, this time from a hot, talented 27-year-old brunette in slinky gold lamé – from Tbilisi but living in Turkey (seems so many of these artists no longer actually live in the countries they´re representing). Putting back in the finals for the first time in eight years, “Firefighter” has cool choreography, strong vocals, plenty of fire imagery in the staging, and lyrics (in English) meant to spread love and positive vibes during hard times – and who can argue with that, right? But while Nutsa may claim she´s “rising from thesе ashes like a phoenix, yеah./You know I'll be there, you know that I'll be there./I'm running through these ashes like a firefighter,” the final tally put out the flames with TKth place (though for sure a big improvement on Georgia’s last effort, the fairly forgettable, nondescript alt-rock “Midnight Gold,” which finished in 20th place in 2016). So yeah, fairly unoriginal and run-of-the-mill, but still indicative of an upward trajectory for Georgia, on the heels of last year´s powerful, dramatic “Echo,” which – unfairly in my opinion – didn´t make it past the semifinals.


Germany: “Always on the Run” – Isaak

Surrounded by flashing lights and plenty of spitting flames, schlubby onetime street musician and X-Factor contestant Isaak Guiderian, 29, runs at us with a catchy electro-pop number with dramatizing scenes of a conflicted couple interspersed. It´s got a very self-doubting underdog vibe from a guy who feels himself to be privileged but average. Sample lyrics (all in English): “Run from the silence, screaming for guidance. Who am I fighting for?” I´m not sure either, frankly – and though I really like the dramatic, catchy hook (“Run, run,  na-ayy, run, run- -na-ayy”) and Isaak´s got a great set of pipes, this still feels a bit derivative and repetitive. But hey, in my book still definitely an improvement on last year´s heavy metal banger “Blood and Glitter.” Not surprisingly, “Always on the Run” was another also-ran, running in 12th place, but at least that was loads better than last year´s last place. So once again – better luck nächste Jahr! (Fun fact: the original lyrics included the line “no one gives a shit about what´s soon to come,” but after the EBU’s prissy “standards” committee piped up, they got Isaak to sorta "bleep"  himself in the final version. Cue eye roll. 🙄)

Greece: “Zari”– Marina Satti

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta! There´s something very hypnotic about the thumping, traditional-meets-electronica performance of this diminutive brunetteAthens-born and Crete-raised – who definitely looks much younger than her 37 years (and by the way, is it just me, or does she bear a remarkable resemblance to Jaklin Baghdasaryan of Armenia´s Ladaniva?). And also very Greek, both in terms of musical tonality and handkerchief-twirling, raised-hands, Zorba-type dance moves (though it must also be noted that Satti is also half-Sudanese Arab). Tring to combine old and new, to overcome stereotypes about her country's culture, the song throws in a couple of rap-type interludes, and sample lyrics go (and keeping in mind that the song´s title means “dice”: “Where will the wind take us?/I fall and roll like dice./I pretend to forget your scent./And everything is changing around me.” The wind took her to 11th place, not as good as the last Greek finalist, Amanda Tenfjord´s melodic but more generic “Die Together,” which came in eighth in 2022.  


Ireland: “Doomsday Blue” – Bambie Thug

As a proudly progressive, widely traveled, and probably a bit overeducated gay guy, I like to think I´m more openminded than average, and even a bit iconoclastic to boot. But let me be a contrarian here: I was totally turned off by the screeching “hyperpunk avant electro-pop” of freaky-deaky-gothy “neopagan witch” (and by the way, yet another non-binary “they”) Bambie Ray Robinson, 31, from County Cork. I was also frankly amazed that A. the dear Oud Sod voted to send them to Malmō and B. enough international voters chose to usher them on to the finals (the first time, by the way, that this once frequent Eurovision winner has made the cut in six years). At age 62, I´m also no spring chicken, so I dunno, maybe that has something to do with it?  Interestingly, the only criticism I came across was from retrograde Catholic priests and the nasties in Éire´s far-right party – but none based on the music itself, as mine is. In any case, decked out in horns, wicked slasher nails, and a deathly-white complexion, like a waify mental patient, Bambie appears on stage accompanied only by a similarly scary half-horned demon dude she´s conjured up, and indulges in a barrage of ritualistic mumbo jumbo evoking black magic and Satanism, with cliché props including a full moon and a pentagram. Supposedly the message involves being true to yourself even if others think you´re a weirdo, but whatever, I just couldn´t get past the unpleasantness of the music, regardless of the dramatic staging. It made a devil of a decent showing, though at number six. But whatever - call me an old fuddy duddy, but this chick can go to hell for all I care (oh wait, that´s they presumably want, innit? Never mind!). 

Israel: “Hurricane” – Eden Golan

It always went without saying that this by 20-year-old, Russian-Israeli Golan would become a flashpoint due to Israel´s bloodthirsty, over-the-top blitzkrieg of revenge against Gaza, which as to date has brutally murdered some 35,000 and provoked mass starvation, displacement, destruction and mayhem – mostly affecting innocent civilians and mostly women and children. The original version, “October Rain” - which of course was about the heinous Hamas attack last fall, was rejected by the EBU as too political, so it was rewritten with the more overt lyrics changed as “Hurricane,” a melodic if a bit predictable power ballad said to be about a young woman coming out of a personal crisis (Golan alluded to a recent divorce). Sample lyrics: “Every day I’m losin’ my mind/Holdin’ on in this mysterious ride./Dancin’ in the storm, I got nothin’ to hide.” One new line, though, both evokes the song’s name and most likely October 7th: “I’m still broken from this hurricane.” During the contest the singer was under heavy security, isolated in her hotel room, and given the cold shoulder by other contestants, many of whom signed a statement in support of Palestinians and a ceasefire. Then following her finals performance, plenty of boos could also be heard amid the applause and cheers. And honestly, after booting Russia and Belarus over the Ukraine invasion – which among other things has so far has resulted in fewer civilian casualties than in Gaza – it was a hypocritical double standard that EBU wouldn´t do the same for Israel (the organization´s head said the situations are “completely different,” but can’t seem to explain why). In any case, this fairly average bit of business was favored by bookmakers for second place and ended up taking fifth (and by the way, with one of the evening´s highest televote totals from the world public). And maybe as Israel´s genocidal crimes become even more clear by next spring, EBU will finally be forced to do the right thing and eject it in 2025 – we can only hope.


Italy: “La Noia”  – Angelina Mango

After a recent spate of male entrants, this striking 23-year-old ragazza hailing from the Basilicata region of Italy´s south busts onto the Malmō Arena stage with lacy body suit and a driving, energetic number called “Boredom,” about the search for fulfillment, meaning and a little bit of excitement amid the monotonous noia of the day to day. Mango´s catchy, energetic, and definitely not boring bit of pop was influenced by the rhythms of the Afro-Colombian music genre cumbia, and so it´s a bit of a departure from Italy´s usual Eurovision entries – lush love songs or Måneskin´s hard-rocking winner three years ago. Sample lyrics: “I die without dying/In these used up days. I live without suffering/There’s no bigger cross. All we can do is laugh/On these burnt up nights. A crown of thorns/Will be the dress-code for my party.” All in all a pretty good go, one of the favorites, and in the Angie staved off enough boredom to pull off a seventh-place finish (not much worse than last year´s lush "Due Vite" from Marco Mengoni, at a super-strong number four).

Latvia: “Hollow” – Dons

Another of the older folks taking the stage this year, Artūrs Šingirejs, 40, has long been one of the most popular mainstays of this country´s pop music scene. Here I´m afraid I don´t see it though. His kind of lugubrious, whiny ballad (in English) is about how, he says, “our insecurities can hold us hostage", with others trying to dictate on how we should live: “It's killin' me slow./Try to make me just another believer/Everybody just pretending they're preachers, preachers./It's killin' me slow./Yeah, I'd rather let them dig my grave shallow/Instead of sellin' out to something so hollow, hollow.” The staging is also boring – just bald Artie in a tight, shiny-blue-latexy-looking muscle shirt (he is fit, I´ll give him that!) in front of a circle that looks like it was recycled from Israel´s act. Hey, as a song it´s perfectly fine, but to be honest it also feels a bit like a B side and I don´t get how voters saw fit to propel it into the finals – for the first time since 2016, when the considerably more animated “Heartbeat” placed 15th. Even last year´s less than compelling indie-rock "Aijā." So I wasn´t shocked to see “Hollow” end up with a relatively hollow finish at number 16. Next year, please up your game, Latvija!



Lithuania: "Luktelk" – Silvester Belt

Yay, all the Baltics made it into the finals this year! Rockin´ a puffy red jacket, curly-haired, 26-year-old Silvestras Beltė from Lithuania´s second city Kaunas is his country´s first gay Eurovision contestant. And he delivered a competently hypnotic and slightly melancholic dance number – a bit reminiscent of the electro pop of the 1990s, actually – with pulsing bass and lyrics in Lithuanian (the title means “wait a little bit”). Critics have discerned themes of longing, procrastination, the passage of time, and the search for connection. Personally, though I preferred last year´s entry, Monika Linkytė´s “Stay,” with its gorgeously melodic Lithuanian-language refrain “čiūto tūto,” I did find a lot to like here, too, and wasn´t surprised to see it advance to the finals. But against plenty of stiff competition, and mainly because of its genericness, I didn´t feel it “Luktelk” would land all that high on the leaderboard. Sure enough, the magic number turned out to be - wait a little bit for it - 14.

Luxembourg: “Fighter” - Tali

Oh look, another dance number! A five-time Eurovision winner, the diminutive grand duchy launched its grand return to the contest after more than three decades with a very different animal from 1993´s old-school, big-hair pop Donne-moi une Chance” (“Give Me a Chance”), which pretty much bombed at 20th out of 25. Israeli-born, hailing from the northwestern Lux town of Limpetsberg and now living in New York City, 23-year-old Tali Golergant with her pair of long, thick braids delivered an impressively choreographed performance – which included among other things a pair of fierce animated tigers along with the requisite whooshing flames – of a slick, upbeat pop banger. The lyrics (in French with a chorus in English) speak to the young adult´s need to get serious about life beyond just having fun, and just go get ´em: “Fight on battles./Believe in yourself./The world is there./Set out to conquer it.” While not particularly a standout in a strong field of competition here, “Fighter” is still a solid return for a plucky little country, and coming in at 13th means it´s likely we´ll be seeing more of it in upcoming years.

Netherlands: “Europapa” – Joost Klein

This 26-year-old hip hopper from Friesland way up north, sporting short blond locks and Euro-blue suit suit with cartoonishly padded shoulders, gave us a goofy but catchy (and viral) dance hit – as well as a bookmaker favorite plus IMHO the most whimsical bit of business to hit Eurovision this year. In a tribute (mostly in Dutch) both to Europe as well as to the deceased papa he lost as a child and who was – perhaps a bit prematurely – big on the idea that the world has “no borders,” Joost delivers lyrics like “Visit my friends in France/Or take my legs to Vienna./I want to leave the Netherlands but my passport got lost./Luckily I don’t need a visa to be with you./I take the bus to Poland or the train to Berlin.” This monument to daddy issues, wanderlust, and Euro vibes was another bookmaker favorite – until Klein went and got himself booted out of the finals due to a still unclear backstage incident involving a female member of the production crew - the first time I´ve ever heard of a disqualification from the contest for any reason. Sad to say, clearly the guy still has other major issues besides dear old dad.



Norway: “Ulveham” – Gåte

Gåte is a five-member “progressive folk rock” band with metal and electronica elements with 38’year-old lead singer Gunnhild Sundli. And opening with a traditional Norwegian livestock-herding call, Ulveham is a gorgeous, layered, and all around very worthy successor to last year´s galloping, inspiring “Queen of Kings,” one of my favorites and a very strong finisher at number five. “Ulveham” is a compelling – almost epic – melding of modern and traditional with a real mysterious, mystical energy. Sung in a dialect of Norwegian (not in English for the first time in 18 years!) and in a particular style called kvede, it´s retells a thousand-year-old folk tale about a young woman transformed by black magic into a gray wolf (the title means “wolf pelt”) and her eventual freeing from the curse, its larger meaning can be construed as a plea for liberation from the shackles of oppression. Of particular note is the use of a elaborate, medieval, fiddle-like string instrument called the nyckelharpa. And of course I realize a lot of the competition was strong, but I found its dead/last finish exceedingly unfair (I mean, five places worse than Estonia??). But given Norge´s track record of quality in the last several years, I´m excited to see what they´ll be sending to Switzerland in ´25.


Portugal: “Grito” – Iolanda

Classily clad along with her backup dancers all in white, this 29-year-old from near Coimbra up north treated us to a truly soulful rendition in Portuguese of an intense, plaintive ballad entitled “Scream,” evoking her country´s signature fado and meant to signify, as Iolanda put it in an interview, “a scream of self-defense and trusting in yourself”: “I’ve transformed every verse within me/And given in to the courage/That still burns/still burns.” The staging meanwhile, is stark, luminous, elegant, and overall just gorgeous. And quite a change of pace from last year´s zippy, cabaret-style “Ai Curação,” but like that song, it stands out from the pack in its authenticity, even though it´s not always rewarded in the scoring. Speaking of which, Portugual came out much better this time around, too, rounding out the top ten.

Serbia: “Ramonda” – Teya Dora

Another marked change of pace from this country´s past pair of more experimental Eurovision entries, this powerful, heartfelt ballad from Belgrader Teodora Pavlovska, 32, is definitely more conventional but still gorgeous for all that. The Ramonda of the title isn´t a person but rather a flower which in Serbian culture is a symbol of resilience, survival, and promise of rebirth amid dark and desolate times.  It certainly represented something of a rebirth of Serbia’s standing in the contest rankings placing 17th - a considerable improvement over ´23, when Luke Black´s hypnotic but somnolent and a bit too bizarre “Samo mi se Spava" snoozed in second to last.

Slovenia: “Veronika” – Raiven

From capital Ljubljana, 28-year-old Sara Briški Cirman, clad in a sheer black body suit, gives us a dark, powerful bit of “alternative pop,” sung in Slovene. “Veronika” was inspired by Veronika of Desenice, an early-15th-century girl who married the son of a powerful nobleman against his father´s wishes and because of it was first tried as a witch and eventually murdered on her father-in-law´s orders. So the message here is how women have always been and in many places around the world still are targets of persecution: “I am/You are/Veronika./Your truth only she knows.” The very cool staging is dynamic and sensual, with a lot of water imagery, and Raiven´s wordless, high-pitched vocalization at the end is a blast of sound that´s both beautiful and thrilling. And it all landed her in third from last place, even worse than 21st for last year´s act, “Carpe Diem” from the very likeable Joker Out (and fun fact, one of that group´s members co-wrote this one. Er, maybe the dude should sit the next one out?).


Spain: “Zorra” – Nebulossa

After placing way down the scoreboard with last year´s flamenco-flavored “Eaea” (which I personally liked a lot, as if that matters), España went in a very different direction this year – and bitch, did it ever.  A zorra is literally a female fox, but it´s also a popular slang term for ¨bitch¨ as well as “slut” (though you´ll notice the English-language subtitles in the official video above prissily translate it as “vixen” 🙄). And so the Alicante husband-wife duo Nebulossa puts platinum blonde María “Mery” Bas (admittedly pretty long in the tooth for Eurovision at age 58!) out there – flanked by a couple of half-naked dudes in ass-baring thongs, no less – confidently and brazenly belting out what she presents as an 80s-style synth anthem of empowerment (especially for women of a certain age, apparently). Check out these lines: “If I go out alone, I'm the bitch./If I'm having fun, I'm the sluttiest./If I go long and it's daylight,/I'm even sluttier.” You go, honey! Predictably, the song has provoked some indignation among a certain sector of Spain´s humorless, overly earnest feminists, but calm down, chicas, because clearly this is a classic case of appropriating a word that´s been used as a slur and turning it on its head – another reason why “Zorra” has had a particularly great reception from us faggots. On the downside, Mery´s vocals aren´t the strongest, the staging was a bit lame, and Nebulossa wasn´t able to outfox the juries and public vote enough to garner  more than fourth-to-last place (bombing even worse than “Eaea” at 17th). In any case, it will sure be interesting to see what new direction the españoles will surprise us with in ´25.

 Sweden: “Unforgettable” – Marcus & Martinus

Svenska made it to the finals automatically by being last year´s winner and this year´s host country, and the petite, doughy-faced, 22-year-old identical Gunnarsen twins (who are actually Norwegian, with the country´s most streamed song of all time, called “Elektrisk”) won Sweden´s Melodifestivalen with an electro-disco number in English about a femme fatale who´s “gon´ chew you up and leave you empty, hollow./Then she'll spit you out, anyway, I follow./She gon' hurt you bad, but it feels so good./I don't care, no, I don't care.” Dayum, she sounds like a real keeper! Anyway, the staging here involves the boys prancing in shiny black-and-blue outfits, sometimes flanked by a quartet of male-and-female dancers, first inside a strobing, video-game-feeling grid of light than on the larger stage against a backdrop of hostile-looking Matrix-style numbers. And while the tune is fairly catchy, this slick, techno-candy confection from M&M also struck me as a bit generic, repetitive, and without the emotional heft of last year´s winning “Tattoo” by Loreen – in other words, ultimately fairly forgettable. And it came in TK.

Ukraine: "Teresa & Maria"– by Alyona Alyona & Jerry Heil

Alyona Alyona
(Aliona Olehivna Savranenko), a 32-year-old kindergarten-teacher-turned-rapper and Jerry Heil (Yana Oleksandrivna Shemaieva), a 28-year-old pop/electronica singer, songwriter, and YouTuber, come at us with a strong, Slavic-inflected pop song in Ukrainian with a smattering of English, with a haunting male chorus and a rap interlude. It uses Mother Theresa and the Virgin Mary as examples of “saintly” women who despite being born human and facing earthly adversity represent compassion, hope – and yes, gurl power. (Frankly, though, I understand that despite her fantastic PR, “Mama Teresa”  – who here even gets top billing above the so-called “Mother of God,” go figure – was a bit of a nasty, un-Christlike piece of work behind the scenes.)  But be that as it may, it´s a catchy,  upfting number - for me one of the contest´s most memorable, as well as a source of inspiration in war-torn country direly in need of it, and I can definitely see why Terry and Mare made it into the finals – ultimately coming in a very strong third.

United Kingdom: “Dizzy” – Olly Alexander

Scrawny and petite, the gay, also avowedly non-binary Olly Alexander Thornton, 33 (one queer reviewer fondly dubbed him “my favorite pocket-sized fairy”) hails from North Yorkshire and was already well known in the UK as the lead singer for the pop group Years & Years (from 2010 to last year). And here Olly's clad in a white tank top and red leather pants (complete with codpiece) and flanked by four hot, homoerotically writhing twinks in what looks like a grungy shower room in outer space (doesn´t look so "non-binary" to me, but more like a testosterone-fueld sausage party). Anyhoo, "Dizzy" is a banging 90s-style electro-pop anthem reminiscent of Bronski Beat and the Pet Shop Boys (in fact, Olly has performed with the Pets´ Neil Tennant). Sample lyrics: “So won't you make me dizzy from your kisses?/Will you take my hand and spin me/'Round and 'round until the moment never ends?” I found it catchy, upbeat, and very likeable for sure, but also I have to  say a bit repetitive and one-note. Well, the moment did end, and in 18th place (inexplicably including zero points in the televote, which I found perplexing, from a public that sent to the finals the likes of entries from Estonia, Finland, Ireland, and Latvia. But this still greatly exceeded expectations, and it certainly beat Mae Mueller´s “I Wrote a Song” in ´23, which truly bombed at second to last despite also being a pretty catchy effort. 

Well, that´s a wrap, folks - see you next May in Switzerland (and I´m guessing in Geneva)!

To watch (or rewatch) the entire broadcast, click here. And if you care to have a look at my previous Eurovision reviews on Tripatini:

Liverpool 2023
Turin 2022
Malmo 2013
Baku 2012


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  • It´s a great show every year - although the announcements from each national jury are drawn out and can get bit tiresome.

  • Wow, pretty exhaustive! And great to see that Eurovision is even gayer than ever. Though it´s also true that a lot of people hate that. But screw ´em! 

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