After winning the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time, the Italians have the honour of hosting the contest once again, the last time being in 1990 when Toto Cotugno won with Insieme (Together), with the lyrics “Tonight Unite Europe”. Sadly, last year’s winning song, Måneskin’s “Zitti e buoni” (Shut up and behave) is probably a much more appropriate theme these days.
Due to the conflict in Ukraine, there’s more than a tinge of sadness at this year’s contest. It’s hard to see anyone but Ukraine winning, especially with Russia and Belarus having been booted out of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), rendering them ineligible to compete at Eurovision. It’s fair to say Russia has had a rather chequered history at the contest, which even led the EBU installing anti-booing technology in 2015 to counteract the audience’s reaction to Russian homophobia and military intervention in Crimea.
Another “nul points” for the UK?
Far from it. According to the pundits, the UK could well have its best result at Eurovision for years. Sam Ryder has certainly been putting in the time and doing publicity abroad, which is where it matters. It’s also helpful that he has over 12 million (yes, 12 million!) followers on TikTok, which is where he originally found fame.
One of the main delights of the contest has always been that you can’t vote for your own country and fan polls around Europe rate the song highly, consistently appearing in the top five of most polls. Another good sign is that the song, Spaceman, is already getting played in quite a few European countries. Not a year to have a bet on the UK getting “nul points”.
From wolves and bananas to eating your salad
With the exception of the “Big Five” countries (Spain, France, Italy, Germany and the UK), it’s always hard to predict which countries will qualify from the semi-finals held on 10 and 12 May, which this year return to BBC3.
Thanks to the Norwegians giving a wolf a banana and the Latvians eating their salad, a little foodie theme has emerged amongst the year’s novelty songs. Yes, the Latvian song is called “Eat Your Salad” and the Norwegian entry “Give That Wolf A Banana”. The costumes worn by the Norwegians along with its title ensure it will certainly be one of this year’s more memorable songs whether or not it does well in scooping up points. The Norwegian song might do very well with the TV audience, but perhaps less so with the jury vote. Even if Norway and Latvia fail to make the final, a foodie theme is guaranteed when Spain’s SloMo “sweetens your face in mango juice”. This done “on your yummy” no less. Suddenly the lyrics in the Norwegian and Latvian songs start to sound slightly less odd. Only slightly less.
If that’s not odd enough, there’s Serbia
Latin (the language rather than the musical style) makes an appearance in the title of the Serbian entry “In Corpore Sano”. The first line is sung in backwards Latin then goes on to ponder why Megan Markle’s hair is so healthy. This will be the sixty-sixth contest and now over 1600 songs have graced the Eurovision stage, it is undoubtedly difficult for song writers to come up with original lyrics.
Even though the French entry doesn’t belong in the novelty category, their song this year is in Breton, a language last heard in the contest in 1996, with French lyrics nowhere to be seen in any song this year. Indeed, with the exception of the Serbian song, English features in every song in the second semi-final, although a few are in two languages.
Although the majority of songs are once again in English, there are plenty of songs to keep those of us who miss the old “sing in your own language” rule happy. Along with Breton, other languages include Ukranian, Spanish, Albanian, Romanian (courtesy of Moldova), Slovene, Serbian, Icelandic, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and Lithuanian.
Photo 3 – Israel – Michael Ben David (Photo EBU/Nathan Reinds)
I. M. shrieks Israel. Oh yes, you definitely are. No doubt at all.
For those of an age to remember Alan Freeman’s catch phrase “not arf”, it sums up Michael Ben David’s I.M. Oh yes he is. Not arf. No doubt about it. Some might think it odd that the televoters of the Israeli X Factor (the show which chose the entry) would choose such an outrageously out gay song to represent the nation, but diversity has often been at the heart of Israeli entries. Surely no-one can forget Dana International’s win in Birmingham in 1998. However, Michael Ben David nearly didn’t make it to the contest due to a strike of security officers until high level government intervention ensured his trip to Turin went ahead.
If the Israeli entry makes no excuses, neither does the Australian song. Ben David’s sexual orientation is in no doubt from the moment he emerges onto the stage. Sheldon Riley leaves it until half-way through for those who haven’t cottoned on already.
Neither Israel or Australia are guaranteed to grace the stage for the final, as one of the big five, Italy will definitely be there, with the rather lovely love song “Brividi”. In one sense it’s a shame Russia aren’t in the contest as the song is homoerotic enough to make Putin spontaneously combust.
Even though there aren’t many entries in the same musical glam rock style as last year’s winner Måneskin, there’s plenty of mascara for men going on. From Finland (yes, it is THAT Rasmus) to San Marino, companies flogging make up for men might well see a boom in sales after Eurovision.
None of the life affirming songs quite match the one from the Swedish “Melodifestival”, the most famous of all the selection shows. Tone Sekelius’ is by far and away my personal favourite of all of the songs which competed for the chance to go to Turin. Her song My Way is as unapologetic as it gets and in my opinion, it’s such a shame she didn’t win her ticket to Eurovision. There again, as I’ve said before in a previous article, my favourites from the national finals never seem to do that well.
Can anyone else win?
The Ukrainian selection took place on 12 February, less than two weeks before Russia invaded. The winning song was disqualified as the singer had been to Crimea, so the runners up were given the ticket to Turin. Kalush Orchestra with their ethno-rap entry Stefania ended up representing their country. The band members have already been given permission to take a break from the war effort to promote their song in the Netherlands with nearly thirty other contestants at “Eurovision in Concert” where they were greeted with enormous warmth.
Ukraine has already won the contest twice, in 2004 then in 2016 when Jamala sang 1944, a song about a genocide caused by the Russians. Indeed, most national finals held after the Russian invasion gave more than a passing mention to Ukraine. Jamala gave a very touching performance of her song at the German National Final this year along with an incredibly moving speech at the French National Final, after which all the contestants came together and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
With jury votes counting for half of the total votes cast, and the fans thinking there is a chance that Sweden or Italy (or dare I say the UK) might carry off the crown. It’s still a fairly safe bet that Ukraine will celebrate their third Eurovision win. One thing is pretty certain, though, it’s highly unlikely that Russia and Belarus will grace the Eurovision stage for quite a while. Here’s hoping that time will come where we can once again sing Insieme – “Tonight Unite Europe”.
The Eurovision Semi finals can be seen on BBC3 on 10 and 12 May at 8pm. UK viewers can vote in the second semi-final as well as the grand final on 14 May on BBC1 at 8pm. All of the songs can be listened to at the official Eurovision website.
All of the photos come from the official EBU Media Centre – https://eurovision.tv/mediacentre/galleries/turin-2022