Eurovision Song Contest 2016: Grand Final Review

Saturday night saw Europe’s biggest music competition come to a thrilling conclusion with a spectacular final that is up there with the best of all time. This year the contest took place in Stockholm, Sweden and changes to the voting system, which we have come to  loathe and love in equal measures, made the result segment one of the most nerve-wracking and tension-filled ever. Twenty-six countries performed for the votes of the national juries and the televoters but only one could succeed. Here’s what happened:

First up was the flag ceremony, which has became a regular item in recent years, except there were no physical flags but the colours of countries was shown on couture outfits. This sounds great in theory but a lot of the flags tended to look like the same and it became a bit of a drag after ten countries as contemporary dancing that no one really wanted to see kept breaking up the acts.

Then it was on to the hosts for the night, Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw who, as I have mentioned in previous posts for the contest, were absolutely brilliant. They were full of humour, chemistry and showed a genuine love for the contest, and put previous hosts to shame.

Finally it was on to the songs and in order not to bore you readers, I will only be reviewing the automatic qualifiers that did not compete in the semi-finals. So if you want to read what I thought of the entries of semi-final one click here and if you want to know my thoughts on the semi-final two entries, then click here. So here’s what happened:

01) Belgium – Laura Tesoro – “What’s the Pressure” – 10th place (181 pts)
02) Czech Republic – Gabriela Gunčíková – “I Stand” – 25th place (41 pts)
03) Netherlands – Douwe Bob – “Slow Down” – 11th place (153 pts)
04) Azerbaijan – Samra – “Miracle” – 17th place (117 pts)
05) Hungary – Freddie – “Pioneer” – 19th place (108 pts)

06) Italy – Francesca Michielin – “No Degree of Separation” – 16th place (124 pts)
The song begins with the camera on Francesca and zooms out, at which point you see the staging. And it is a horror show. I have no problem with the flowers as the song is about the natural order but balloons? The song itself is a very pretty one but doesn’t really build and the English part is unnecessary. Very pretty overall, if a bit unremarkable.

07) Israel – Hovi Star – “Made of Stars” – 14th place (135 pts)
08) Bulgaria – Poli Genova – “If Love Was a Crime” – 4th place (307 pts)

09) Sweden – Frans – “If I Were Sorry” – 5th place (261 pts)
The home town hero and this has remained a bit of an enigma for me, it’s something you would hear in the charts but this doesn’t interest me at all. Kudos for keeping the same show simple, to an almost ridiculous level, so that the focus is on the song. Frans shows tormented young lover well but Sweden won’t win twice in a row.

10) Germany – Jamie-Lee – “Ghost” – 26th place (11 pts)
Germany famously came joint-last in 2015 with the dreaded score of nil point and their awful run looks set to continue. Jamie-Lee is obviously a good singer but it doesn’t suit this terribly monotonous song with weird pitch changes. Oh, and she’s dressed as an innocent Japanese girl in a dark forest surrounded by lasers. Sorry, but next.

11) France – Amir – J’ai cherché – 6th place (257 pts)
One of the bookies favourites coming into this competition and finally France look to have sent a mainstream but memorable song that will appeal to many. It still sticks to its French roots with the verses but it doesn’t become jarring whilst Amir has so much charisma he virtually smiles the whole way through this bubbly entry. Well done France.

12) Poland – Michal Szpak – “Color of Your Life” – 8th place (229 pts)
13) Australia – Dami Im – “Sound of Silence” – 2nd place (511 pts)
14) Cyprus – Minus One – “Alter Ego” – 21st place (96 pts)
15) Serbia – Sanja Vučić ZAA – “Goodbye (Shelter)” – 18th place (115 pts)
16) Lithuania – Donny Montell – “I’ve Been Waiting for This Night” – 9th place (200 pts)
17) Croatia – Nina Kraljić – “Lighthouse” – 23rd place (73 pts)
18) Russia – Sergey Lazarev – “You Are the Only One” – 3rd place (491 pts)

19) Spain – Barei – “Say Yay!” – 22nd place (77 pts)
One of the fan favourites coming into this competition, Barei was in danger of getting overshadowed following Russia. However her energy is immense and she quickly sends the Eurovision crowd into a frenzy. The fun song translates well onto the stage, however the staging is a bit meh and the fall, whilst fitting into the theme, seems a bit too much. Still a brilliant performance though and should get Spain back in the top 10.

20) Latvia – Justs – “Heartbeat” – 15th place (132 pts)
21) Ukraine – Jamala – “1944” – 1st place (534 pts)
22) Malta – Ira Losco – “Walk on Water” – 12th place (153 pts)
23) Georgia – Nika Kocharov & The Young Georgian Lolitaz – “Midnight Gold” – 20th place (104 pts)
24) Austria – Zoë – “Loin d’ici” – 13th place (151 pts)

25) United Kingdom – Joe and Jake – “You’re Not Alone” – 24th place (62 pts)
The last of the automatic qualifiers and it isn’t a bad attempt at all. There were feelings of anger when they won the national final ahead of Bianca and Darline but this is a good fun pop song. I’m not sure whether they have fully utilised the selfies on the background and floor. This is sung well and they have great energy, which translates into the audience’s reaction. Well done Joe and Jake, you have done the UK proud.

26) Armenia – Iveta Mukuchyan – “LoveWave” – 7th place (249 pts)

With all twenty six entries having performed, the phone lines opened, which was for an extended period since the televoting results would take place after the jury voting. This meant there was a bumper interval period. First up there was world-famous US singer Justin Timberlake promoting his new single “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” and his hit single “Rock Your Body.” Although this stage show was good, it actually felt a bit flat and he was upstaged by some of the acts and by the interval act organised by the hosts.

In 2013 Sweden gave us the Petra Mede smorgasbord comedy show and in this year’s second semi-final, the hosts performed an extravagant musical theatre number called “The Story of ESC” that I thought could not be topped. Step forward “Love Love Peace Peace”, which used comedy to show past Eurovision winners. Featuring drum playing grannies, the 2009 winner Alexander Rybak and a vivid costume from Petra Mede, this was memorable, funny and well-sung. The best part is that I could actually see the chorus being in Eurovision in 2004. This was the pinnacle of the brilliant presenting from Petra and Mans. The return of comedy character Lynda Woodruff was also really good, to the point where it’s sad that Eurovision will most likely leave Sweden next year, as the shows have been absolutely fantastic.

After all of this it is time for the voting, though this year there was a change in that there would be separate points given for juries and televotes. The spokespersons from each country would announce the jury votes, though for some strange reason only the 12 points, with the rest shown on the screen. It quickly became clear that the jury results would be random and wouldn’t be affected much by geography. The results were completely random (UK jury’s 12 points to Georgia?) and it was nice to see that the Maltese jury gave the UK 12 points. However it became clear half way through that Australia was dominating the jury points and eventually built up a lead of over a hundred points at the close.

However that was only half of the story and now it was time for the public voting, which would be announced in reverse order and then slowed down to build up the tension, similar to the Swedish national selection for Eurovision. At the start it was brutal, with Czech Republic getting nil points from the public and the UK dropping to third bottom overall with just 8 public votes. They deserved better. As it got closer to the top of the results the countries that did well with the juries dropped down the order. As it got to the top 4 the last countries to receive their points were Australia, Ukraine, Russia and, for some strange reason, Poland (most likely the diaspora). Shockingly it was then Australia who was called out, leading to a massive waiting game as to whether anyone could overhaul Dami Im. Poland finished third and when Ukraine’s score was announced in second place, they had overturned a 100+ point deficit and won, since Russia’s winning televote score was only enough to give them third place.

So Jamala with “1944” was declared the winner and I must say that I was very happy with the winner. It was incredibly emotional and was sung straight from the heart. Even though I wanted Dami Im and Australia to win, I can’t deny that this was anything short of amazing. It was a brilliant contest and I’m already counting down the days until the 2017 contest.

So what do you think? Did your favourite win or did they crumble in the jury or televote? And what do you think of the new voting system? Comment your opinions on these topics or anything related to Eurovision 2016 in the box below.

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