Eurovision 2017: The Day After The Final

The right song won. That’s my overriding thought on last night’s Eurovision.

That’s also the most telling reason why I don’t feel wretched, bereft, or annoyed the day after the final.

Usually I feel battered and bruised. Regretful that I’ve poured all of my energies into something which didn’t pay dividends for me, my country, or conclude with the result I’d hoped for. Too many post-Contest experiences have been clouded by embarrassment or disappointment. Not so today. I’m pleased about that.

Portugal’s song taps into the Eurovision I wish it could aspire to more. It helps, obviously, that the music has an air of nostalgia to it. But I don’t hark back to a musical age when things were supposedly better. Rather, there was something about Salvador the artist which seemed rather appealing.

Sobral combines a magnetic self-assurance with a strategy which goes beyond the Eurovision itself. He hasn’t played game of being a Eurovision artist, rather he’s been an artist visiting Eurovision. There’s a distinct difference. In that way he’s closely aligned to Benny and Bjorn from ABBA in Eurovision terms, using Eurovision as a platform for future hard-earned greatness.

Of course, I don’t know that about Sobral yet. That’s an assumption. But the way he positioned himself shortly after taking possession of the Eurovision trophy demonstrated that he had vision and a plan. He consistently resisted playing the Eurovision game on-screen, preferring to be himself than fit the Eurovision artist stereotype, and in doing so secured a life beyond the competition.

By doing that Sobral helped redefine the Contest for what I’d like it to be seen as: a valuable platform for song-writing talent.

moldova

The other aspect of the competition I’ve come to really appreciate is how the introduction of the separated contribution of jury and televote to the voting process means that more songs get recognition. Last night’s voting reminded viewers that Bulgaria’s Beautiful Mess was also a winner, so too Moldova’s Hey Mamma! and Belgium’s City Lights.

I remain unconvinced about Sweden’s 5th place. But hey, it’s all over now.

The point is that those Top Five places satisfied a range of different audience demographics likes and dislikes, meaning that in some respects whilst the top slot is the best for a country’s sense of pride, being in the top five could from now on, because of that split voting process, secure a future life for artists and their songs in a way that the previous voting process didn’t.

scoreboard

I’m sorry the UK didn’t get more points. Sorry that more international juries didn’t recognise the song’s emotional content and Lucie Jones’ considerable performing talent.

The fact the tele-vote didn’t garner much is, from my perspective, more to do with the fact that viewers probably only really commit to one or two songs at the most. When you’re presented with something as transformative as Italy’s or Portugal’s you’re bound to (rightly) focus on those.

I recognise how much the BBC and their music consultant have put into efforts for Eurovision this year. I was delighted to hear the cheer for Lucie Jones when she stepped onto the stage during the Jury Final on Friday night, and the anecdotal accounts I was party to in the press centre during the tail end of the week. The BBC worked hard. Nice work Guy Freeman, Helen Riddell, and Ellen Hughes. Your efforts are much appreciated.

What surprised me most this week was the way in which digital, and in particular social, has changed in relation to the Eurovision.

I remember a time (only 6 years ago) when it was relatively straightforward to make an impact on digital platforms. Eurovision has become re-energised in part down to the rise of social media – people are now able to participate in the ultimate social conversation during a live event. The only difference now is that so many more people are doing it.

eurovisiontv

The EBU has cottoned on to that this year, reinventing their digital proposition at Eurovision.tv to great effect, and developing a digital strategy around exactly the kind of content it knows fans of its greatest piece of IP demand: inclusion in the television process.

This year more than any other year they’ve succeeded in meeting my needs, so much so that I’ve come to realise that the only reason I wanted to go out to Kiev was to get to the Jury Final the night before the big night.

tshirt

But something else has happened to Eurovision fortunes, demonstrated by the plug EurovisionFanHouse.com got during the live show last night. One product on sale on the site – a T-shirt with ‘est. 1956’ emblazoned across the front – demonstrates how the EBU is repositioning Eurovision.

The Contest no longer needs its champions to defend it. The Contest is now capitalising on its fans devotion and consolidating its position in the hearts of the mainstream audience.

Finding a place to fit in with that redefined strategy is going to be a challenge for every Eurovision commentator like me who have, for the past fifteen years had it good.

Roll on 2018.

[United Kingdom] Lucie Jones / Never Give Up On You

Lucie Jones’ song Never Give Up On You written by former Eurovision winner Emilie de Forrest, is the UK’s best entry for years.

It’s been carefully crafted by a team of people whose work proves to me as a hardened fan that there’s a commitment to transforming the UK’s standing at the contest.

Jones is invested in the number and that’s illustrated in her committed and self-assured performance on stage. She creates a dramatic performance and possesses a voice that delivers every time.

The song is a slow-burn. A heartfelt plea, and a bit of a tear-jerker. Quite whether the song will cut-through sufficiently in the Eurovision running order remains to be seen. But, the production has impact in the arena, the vocals are solid, and the reaction warm.

Many here have commented on how impressed they are with Lucie Jones’s performance. Others will expect to see these positives to be reflected in the scoring. In theory that is absolutely the case. I’d hope it appears on the left-hand side of the leaderboard, and, if we’re really lucky, in the Top Ten.

I’ve seen press centre polls listing the UK in 4th place, but I’m not counting my chickens. What’s important is that its a well-produced affair – Hugh Goldsmith, Helen Riddell, Guy Freeman, and Lucie Jones will rightly be proud about the finished product.

Eurovision 2017: [Italy] Francesco Gabbana / Occidentali’s Karma

Italy has consistently delivered high quality entries ever since its return to the Eurovision fold in 2011.* This year doesn’t disappoint.

Occidentali’s Karma has a number of secret weapons. Its chorus is memorable, the song has a distinctive sound that sets it apart from everything else this year, and its overall sound carries whips its audience into a frenzy of happy-go-lucky inclusion.

And then there’s Francesco, whose sparkly eyes, ridiculously warm smile, and gravelly Italian accent helps secure him as this year’s star performer. And then there’s the gorilla – a gimmick that shouldn’t work, but strangely does.

More of an everyman than the last one of his kind, Mans from Sweden, Francesco is a more accessible kind of performer. Him winning Eurovision for Italy would be popular, well-deserved, and almost certain to drive the crowd wild.

It’s also a dead cert to secure the trophy – everyone’s saying so. That said, Francesco’s live vocal’s are a little rough. The seedy Italian sound which works in the studio production sounds like its a voice on the verge of disintegrating in the live vocal.

* Probably best to overlook 2014.

Eurovision 2017: [France] Alma / Requiem

France will be hoping to build on their impressive 6th place in last year’s contest. They may have a tougher job in 2017.

Requiem is an upbeat melancholic affair with an infectious syncopated riff underpinning a melody with hint of the souk. The song’s toe-tapping chorus brings the track to life. But beware, come the beginning of the second verse, the song has revealed its hand and quickly becomes tired.

Like many songs in this year’s contest, Requiem has a march-like militaristic feel to it. Harmonically there’s a bittersweet mix of hope-fuelled defiance – God knows what the songwriters of Europe are trying to say to the rest of the continent – but there’s little pizzaz in this number to make it truly memorable.

What Requiem lacks over France’s 2016 song is J’ai Cherche’s unbridled ebullience. That makes a similar position in the voting slightly more difficult to predict with certainty. It appearing last on the running order will not do it any favours whatsoever.