The final of the Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in Kiev’s International Exhibition Center this evening, Saturday, May 13th. Twenty-six of the original forty-three countries have made it to the finale of this spectacular, diverse and camp annual musical extravaganza.
Thousands of Fans Attending from All Over Europe and the World
Thousands of delegates, press and fans have swarmed the capital of Ukraine and the city has opened its arms, in a warm, engaged welcome to all. Ukraine is making a defiant statement to its warring neighbor Russia, by adopting the motto “Celebrating Diversity” for this two-week long celebration of music from as far west as Iceland and as far east as Azerbaijan.
Kiev has also painted much of its iconic Freedom Arch the colors of the rainbow, although deliberately leaving it incomplete to signify that a lot more work needs to be done for LGBT rights in particular. This, in addition to a massive hording in Maidan Square stating “Freedom Is Our Religion”, as Russia takes a different direction, descending into a compact of tyranny between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Eurovision trophy is a highly sought-after award – winning confers the right to host the following year. Russia in 2009 and Azerbaijan in 2012 both overspent massively on charm offensives to the rest of the world. Denmark should have known better, but they too got into financial difficulty after blowing the budget on converting an unused ship yard into a Eurovision venue. Many countries in Europe have yet to achieve a win at the competition, which is not surprising given that Ireland, the UK and Sweden, have been them won it 18 times during the last 62 years. Hence, fans are waiting for Portugal, Hungary, Romania, Iceland Albania, Moldova, Georgia, Poland and numerous other countries to win.
This year, Italy, which has taken a rather dismissive attitude towards Eurovision over the last couple of decades, has perked up its interest and commitment to Eurovision, given that they are the major front runner in the betting with their song “Occidentali’s Karma”, accompanied by a dancing gorilla. If they win, next year’s contest will be hosted by the Mayor of Milan, who rumor has it is not just committed to the EU, but is also a Eurovision fan. However, Portugal is stating “not so fast!” They are second in the betting odds and their singer Salvador Sobral, is suffering with a major life threatening heart condition and is apparently awaiting a heart transplant. Assuming he gets a substantial sympathy vote for his crooner-styled simple, no gimmick song, Lisbon could hold the contest for the first time ever in 2018.
Other strong competition could come from a Sweden, with their rather plastic looking Robin Bengtsson; Bulgaria with their just turned 17-year old singer Kristian Kostov, with a preternaturally adult voice and his “Beautiful Mess” – a song which could easily make the US charts and grab the interest of the teenage girl market.
Additionally, the Brexit pariah of Europe right now – the United Kingdom, has a very strong performance from the consummate professional Lucie Jones, singing “Never Give Up On You”. The UK has had a strong history in Eurovision, but a terrible record since last winning exactly twenty years ago with Katrina and the Waves. Lucie has the strength of voice, a compelling stage presence and a powerful song, which bodes well for a strong result, but fans here would be surprised if they could win for a sixth time.
Two dark horse countries could be Romania with a mix of rap and yodel – a bizarrely good result, and Croatia, represented by a hugely overweight guy who sings in both bass and soprano alternately during the song. This doesn’t work half as well as the Romanian song but might get the vote of those who look to Eurovision for audio-visual comedy.
For the second time, this OTT extravaganza of camp, main-stream pop songs, peppered with ethnic stylistic references (and sometimes political ax-grinding) is being beamed live to the US. Check your local listings to find it – it’s a treasure you can share with you friends. Pick which country you are going to root for!