This was such a strong year and it’s proving to be a pivotal one as well – Måneskin’s win feels like an important one. It also means that so many genuinely good songs made it to the final (or were already in there) and also some genuinely good songs got stuck in their respective semis. I’ve had a top ten saved in my Notes app, and have adjusted it a couple of times in the past few months – in the end though, my winners (yes, I have two, it’s my list, sue me) (don’t sue me, I have no money) were pretty much on top and stayed there from the second they were released. Still, some things surprised me while making up this final list… such as…
10: Fyr & Flamme – Øve os på hinanden (Denmark)
Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you – in the end, this really did become a Fyr & Flamme stan account. I really didn’t give this enough credit when this was selected (mainly because 1) I almost NEVER check for Denmark, like, the only time in the past few years I did was Rasmussen in 2018 and 2) the whole debacle with Ben & Tan getting shafted by the broadcaster did NAAAAHT sit right with me) but I found myself gravitating towards this song more and more as the contest came closer, and by the time they actually took to the stage on the Thursday, I was fully on board. I’d kind of been saying “Denmark surprise qualify” as a joke but kinda also not because in the end their slot closing the semi made perfect sense. They were well over with the audience at the Ahoy and after the emotional rollercoaster that was that back half of semi two, Jesper and Laurits were just a lovely breath of retro fresh air with genuine puppyish charm and energy. Watching the qualifiers get announced, one by one, and seeing the light go out in them as it got to that last slot (so many people in the arena were chanting for them as well) and Finland were called in their stead broke me just a little bit. If you want a big, goofy smile on your face, give this a listen. It’s a loving ode to old school Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, the 70s/80s and just a burst of serotonin.
9: Albina – Tick-Tock (Croatia)
Fucking hell, I hate that this got left behind because it’s easily the best song and performer Croatia has sent in years, and Albina just sells the bejesus out of that stage performance. It’s difficult, knowing how close she was to qualifying (literally just a couple of points between her and Tix, who was the tenth qualifier). Visually, it was a complete upgrade from her already iconic Dora performance (the space-y neon visuals for the contest performance were *chef’s kiss* and she looked devastatingly gorgeous – also, I am forever grateful that they picked up on the fan feedback and kept the Croatian part in the song because that hits the spot) and Albina’s vocals were on point. But that’s the nature of this contest, and especially in a year which was as high quality as this one. If you’re into a great summery pop bop, put this on as the soundtrack for your pre-going out preparations (you know, once we’re back to being allowed to go out).
8: Lesley Roy – Maps (Ireland)
My heart fell for Lesley – the morning Maps was released was genuinely a massive moment because it just hit me in the right spots. This would not sound out of place in the trailer for a movie – it sounds epic from the get-go and the my soul is a map/my heart is a compass/I am the road hook feels like the lyrical equivalent of taking a huge, deep breath of fresh air. Lesley should be so proud of everything she achieved in the past two years; that pic of her and Vasil hugging in solidarity after the show finished made my heart hurt for both of them. If you’ve not been able to see your family in the last year during the pandemic (like me) and are feeling particularly homesick, or if you’re going on a run and want some catharsis in the form of a musical accompaniment, this is the song you need to listen to.
7: Anxhela Peristeri – Karma (Albania)
Another one I’d never have expected in here at the start of the season, making it three contests on the trot (discounting 2020 for obv. reasons) that Albania’s entry goes from not really on my radar to one of my ride or die entries on the night. Anxhela didn’t need any dancers – all she needed was that gloriously dramatic voice, a suitable revamp and some impressive smoke effects on the LED. Goosebumps, and utterly shafted by being second in the running order on the night of the final – seriously, stop doing Albania dirty like that! Great song to close your eyes and imagine you’re a 19th century literary heroine running up a windswept hill in a long floaty dress mourning her dead lover to.
It’s a v. specific mood.
6: Benny Christo – Omaga (Czech Republic)
I still have no idea where it all went wrong for Benny (apart from… well, racism among some subsets of televoters). This song has been holding steady in my top 10 ever since it came out because it is exactly the kind of summery dance pop that puts a smile on my face. A song tailor-made for use on Love Island (and as mentioned before, I mean that as the highest compliment) by just the nicest, goofiest, incredibly relatable dude. The video still makes me laugh, his golden jacket was amazing, y’all ain’t got taste, go argue with the wall. Play this loud, all summer, constantly, especially when it inevitably starts pissing it down for some instant sunshine.
5: Senhit feat. Flo Rida – Adrenalina (San Marino)
Fuck that televote score, this was a masterclass in how to do the Eurovision Song Contest in your own special way. From the second she was announced to be among the crop of returnees from 2020, Senhit wasted no time in getting fans on her side with her 12 month #FreakyTriptoRotterdam project. On a day where Eurofans were already riding high off of the eventual winners’ selection at Sanremo, she took what started as an unfortunate song leak that morning and by the evening, she’d singlehandedly turned it into a hype machine of quite incredible proportions. She ALWAYS understood the assignment, whether it was in her cheeky tweets or her pre-party performances (ART, the LOT OF THEM), she even got Strictly’s Graziano Di Prima to bow down to her when she covered Bandido. And then, the cherry on the cake, even better than the day Adrenalina came out: Flo Rida actually being able to make it to Rotterdam and *shock* HAVING AN ABSOLUTE BLAST OF A GOOD TIME???? To the point where he’s now currently planning on working with pretty much every artist from this year?
Listen, I have never been shy about my admiration for Senhit. She’s the queer auntie I wish I had, she’s grown so much as an artist since her first turn on that contest stage, her aesthetic is always *chef’s kiss* and she brought one of the biggest rappers of the late 00’s/early 2010s to the contest AND IT SOMEHOW WORKED? Seriously, you’d never have thought that they’d only met in person for the first time on the Monday of the week of the contest; by the time they got on that stage together they were besties for life and watching them vibe off of each other was a joy. All hail our Most Serene Freaky Queen (and Sir Flo of Rida as well). Listen… anywhere, at any time, basically.
4: Barbara Pravi – Voilà (France)
So good. So French. Such simple staging, but it hit as hard on the Saturday (if not even harder) than it did all the way back in January in the French national final. Barbara deserves the world. She is the next big chanson star. I cried so, so hard from about the first chorus – my French is absolutely abysmal these days but I understood her. I felt every word. I felt seen.
Merci, Barbara. Merci. Best listened to with a wistful but determined look in your eyes – you’ll feel ready to face the world again at that very last triumphant shout of “Voilà!”
3: Go_A – SHUM (Ukraine)
From winning Vidbir 2020 as underdogs to fifth overall and second in the televote (and a HUGE hit on goddamn TikTok) with the first ever Ukrainian entry entirely in Ukrainian, WE LOVE TO SEE IT. I was kind of worried that it wouldn’t translate given that it’s literally a song based on an ancient folk ritual to summon spring but somewhere after the first rehearsals happened and more and more people outside of the Eurofan-bubble discovered SHUM it clicked in my head that Go_A were about to do something spectacular.
And they fucking well did. SHUM WENT OFF in that arena, and with the viewers at home, and it (and Go_A) deserved all of it. For all the people who were complaining about Kateryna being “shrill” (*massive cough* CHERYL BAKER) or saying something about migraines, LOOK WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, BITCH, IT’S THE MILLENIUM WOMAN OF THE YEAR KATERYNA PAVLENKO.
Best enjoyed at the next available Eurovision club night, experienced with a bunch of fans who will literally LOSE THEIR FUCKING MINDS when this comes on (it’s me, I’m bunch of fans)
2: Manizha – Russian Woman (Russia)
Manizha and I – a love story. I basically just fell hard the second I saw that video of her national final performance and the more I discovered about her, the song, the references within it and her general ethos, the more I just desperately wanted her to be my friend. The Rotterdam performance was so fucking powerful I broke the couch cheering her on. She came with fire in her eyes and when she dropped to her knees in reverence of the wall of Russian women (from all walks of life, all sides of the LGBTQ+ spectrum) I cried with joy. This woman risked so much to get her message on stage and I remain in awe. I hope sincerely that 1)she goes on to be a superstar, 2) that people felt seen by her and her message was received. Are you ready for change? Because we are – we are the change!
Listen whenever you need reminding that you’re strong enough.
1: The Roop – Discoteque (Lithuania)/ Måneskin – Zitti e Buoni (Italy)
The Roop has been my number one since Discoteque won PiN and when Zitti e Buoni won Sanremo I just couldn’t find any reasoning to not have a double winner on my list. Both songs resonate hard with me, both bands are special to me in their own ways, both performances made me proud to be a Eurovision fan. That’s that.
Listen to either song when you’re done with rigid societal norms and are ready to step into and own your own power and what makes you unique.
Some awards? Let’s do some awards, shall we…
The SunStroke Project Award for Services to Internet Memes: I mean, this can only go to the one and only Natalia Gordienko. She looked camp in the eye with that glittering smile and gave us “EUROPE, AAWWWWWWWW!” among several other AMAZING moments. She managed to turn UK juror Tom Aspaul into a full blown stan. She stood in front of an audience of millions and happily sang a song about cum, gave us THAT dance routine and managed to be a genuinely lovely presence despite… that man with her. Many thanks to you, Natalia.
Runner-up: Rafał. For his genuine enthusiasm, his dad vibes, and inspiring nuclear levels of god tier shit-posting from Rafał’s Riders.
The Genial Man Award: James Newman. He seemed very loved by his fellow artists, and not many people can take THAT level of knock on such a visible scale and reply with a big smile and a spirited defence of the contest in the UK press. Bless you, James, I hope I get to have a cup of tea with you at some point.
The Champions of the Backstage Inter-Delegation Table Tennis Tournament Award: Måneskin, duh. Apparently they’ve bought a ping pong table for their studio, bless their boots.
The Award for Services to Press Centre-based Livestream Entertainment: It could only go to the woman who was so epic during the Wiwibloggs livestreams she inspired a 200+ tweet thread of her stream highlights: Suzanne Adams. Many thanks to her and Esma for keeping me entertained during several long hours of tedious job seeking. (Special bonus award to @escjohnn, the creator of said thread – your commitment is inspiring).
The Petra Mede Award for Best Host: NIKKI “NIKKITUTORIALS” DE JAGER. Seriously, EBU, you would be missing a trick not having her involved next year, she GETS IT. (special bonus award for the best LookLab episode: the one where Jendrik and Sophia make Nikki cry laughing).
The Award for Most Amazing Person: Shared between Manizha and Vasil Garvanliev. Both overcame so much hate to actually get to the contest and the world and the Eurovision community are both better for having the pair of them in it.
The Award for Biggest Power Move: How about finishing fourth despite not even being in the Ahoy in person (because fuck COVID)? Daði & Gagnamagnið remain better than you.
The Wicked & The Divine Award for Looking Like You’ve Stepped Directly out of The Brain of McKelvie/Gillen: Kateryna Pavlenko,
The Fashion, OOH, AWWW Award For Most Spectacular Outfits: The Roop’s bright yellow outfits, Destiny’s silver dress and pink boots, Manizha’s iconic red boilersuit, Kateryna’s green feathers, Gagnamagnið’s iconic green jumpers, Senhit’s everything, Jeangu’s bright blaze of blue, Damiano’s leather trousers.
And that’s that! Rotterdam 2021 is in the books (thank FUCK). EurovisionAgain will be back at some point, and I will be doing bits of “summer content” (whatever that means) whenever I get time (I’ll probably do a few posts at a time and schedule ahead) to tide us over until a whole new cycle starts on September 1st. God, by the time the next contest wraps (wherever it will be in Italy) my wedding is around the corner…
ANYway. Melfest stuff will probably be back once it comes around, and I’ll see what other national finals I can fit in around wedding planning. I’m going on a wee break, but I’ll be back before you know it.
*lies down in cold dark room with damp cloth on face for several weeks*