A late wave of voting, a biting finish and a victory for Italy


Ireland may have missed the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, but there is still a lot to enjoy as the competition returns after the break imposed by Covid last year. As is always the case, the real fun is in the judging and there is a biting finish as a late rally in the public vote sees Italy’s Måneskin overtake Switzerland and France to win the competition with their heavy metal song, Zitti E Buoni.

The Dublin jury is doing their part to help the drama, Ryan O’Shaughnessy giving these “twelve” crucial points to France. As with the rest of the juries, Ireland refuses to give the UK any vote. Neither did the public voters, leaving James Newman rooted in the back of the evening.

Eurovision is never a soft affair. However, the hype around the 2021 edition is particularly intense. After 12 months of lockdowns, public health briefings and Tiger King frenzy, many people clearly crave the escape that only Eurovision can provide. And the 26 finalists deliver silliness by the shovel, thrills by loading the truck and laughter by the gallon.

As always with Eurovision, there is a wedge between these vaguely joking competitors and those who take the business very seriously. In the old camp are the Icelandic troupe Daði og Gagnamagnið, accessorized in the naff sweater – unable to perform live due to a positive Covid test – and the Finnish rap-metallers Blind Side, whose apocalyptic racket carries a puff of Hammer Horror cheese.

The horror is too real for the British Newman, who fails to collect a single vote in the jury round and finishes last.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are acts like opening performer Elena Tsagrino, representing Cyprus, and Efendi from Azerbaijan, who sing as if their future in pop depends on it. What he potentially does.

And then there are the artists alone in deep space. Go_A’s Ukrainian Shue entry, for example, resembles the Legend of Zelda theme as covered by The Knife. Only much crazier.

The 2021 competition brings with it the enormous novelty of a live audience. Yes, do you remember that? Some 3,500 Eurovision fans are at the Ahoy Arena, although they roar so loudly it looks more like 30,000.

With so many competitors and a race time of almost four hours, the competition is a marathon, if not hard work. It helps that the four Dutch presenters are so visibly happy to be here – they shine with excitement and always look to the spotlight.

With so many public votes to count, the gap seems to drag on. It does, however, include a segment in which former Eurovision Song Contest winners, including Klingon pop Lordi, sing from the rooftops of skyscrapers. It is also good that it is not organized in Dublin as they would run out of roofs.

For Irish viewers, there is of course the feeling of missing the party after Lesley Roy was eliminated in Tuesday’s first semi-final. One of the perks is that without someone to cheer on, it’s easier to judge songs on their merits. And many will feel like Måneskin-worthy champions, or at least extremely exciting.

But it’s a comforting cold as we’re reduced to spectators again in a competition that we used to win at a gallop. In twelve months, let’s hope that Ireland has regained its rightful place at the heart of Eurovision.

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