ESC 2021: The Wait Is Over

Welcome to part one of my Eurovision 2021 review! Saturday the 23rd of May was a joy, wasn’t it? Two years of waiting raced by on three nights of high class entertainment TV. In a time of going through an emotional rollercoaster ride I was somewhat glad to succumb to my slightly autistic obsession with the Eurovision Song Contest. I won’t be keeping more than a couple of songs from 2021 as there aren’t many that appeal to my personal taste, but the shows were fabulous, especially the interval acts: we got the magnificent Eefje de Visser, the incredibly talented dancer Ahmad Joudeh and we witnessed Glennis Grace finally making it to a Eurovision final, but suffering the disadvantage of having to sing “Titanium”. There have been some questionable choices as well. All I’m saying is: Give Lenny Kuhr more screen time and Måns less! I’ve had enough of him!

Iconic performances en masse: We saw the rise of a band to international stardom, an inflatable skydancer turned Swiss falsetto and Kirkorov’s prisoner whose cry for help was misinterpreted as an attempt to set a world record.

For all the nilpointers out there: Feel no hate because of dying embers. You have not been broken and you’re going to stay, because you have made history. For the first time in the new voting system four countries scored the infamous nul points, only one of them left with a double zero. Visions of Tim Moore preparing the second edition of his Nul Points book.

Unfortunately the hosts were not memorable at all and continued the string of faceless characters who duly do their job. As has often been the case the best content is digital only: Nikkie de Jager’s LookLab interviews, especially the one with Serbia (Nikkie: “If there are any words you wanna learn in Dutch…” – Sanja: “Curse words!”), are hilarious and I am in awe at how naturally she hosted the show.

Given the circumstances I did like the postcards and how the Dutch broadcaster thought outside the box house. Having fond memories of my visit to Delft I like the Portuguese postcard the best closely followed by San Marino filmed at the Evoluon in Eindhoven.

What is left to say: Wat was het mooi! Dank je wel allemaal voor een fantastische show!

Inspired by San Marino’s Panini funded freaky trip to Rotterdam I have taken the liberty of creating little stickers for every entrant. Some turned out good, some bad, so you could say I remained faithful to the original. Anyways, let’s get going:

39 POLAND: Rafał – “The Ride”

The rotten apple didn’t fall very far from its sick tree. The whole thing looked and sounded pedestrian – just like TVP’s entertainment program. Totally void of charisma, cold and clueless – just like TVP’s presenters. The ultimate low point in Poland’s Eurovision history and we’ve been through The Jet Set which says a lot. My hands covered my face in shame.
Interesting “fact”: The Greek televoters had Poland last and I guess Rafał had literally asked for it to happen. Not because of his atrocious vocals, but because of a certain gesture. A mountza here, a mountza there. Mountzas everywhere. The Polish delegation had no idea of course, but I find it rather amusing.

38 GERMANY: Jendrik – “I Don’t Feel Hate”

I’m sorry, zero points – the sequel. This is why TikToks are not 3 minutes. It’s ironic how a song about not feeling hate has inspired such overwhelming feelings of hate – myself included. One of my friends described it as the musical equivalent of a kindergarten birthday party situated in hell. In the great tradition of Joy Fleming who conceptualised the performance gimmick of dropping a pill half an hour before going on stage everyone bounds around like a ballerina on crack. Also Jendrik’s pronounciation sounds very camp, but not in a good way. The people responsible for this song to be selected need proper slapping.

37 NORTH MACEDONIA: Vasil – “Here I Stand”

“Hi, my name is Vasil and you’re watching Disney Channel North Macedonia.” What a journey. From facing threats of being withdrawn by his delegation after ludicrous accusations that his video showed support for Bulgaria (even if, what’s the problem?) to shockingly coming out as gay to stealing Dotter’s disco ball breastplate. All these publicity stunts and no one paid attention to his syrupy ballad. Understandably. This Andrew Lloyd Webber fever dream commits the cardinal Eurovision sin of going nowhere while at the same time feeling like it goes on forever.

36 AUSTRIA: Vincent Bueno – “Amen”

With very few exceptions Austria has mastered the art of sending boring songs to Eurovision. So forgettable the whole arena collectively forgot he was there the moment he walked off the stage. Before writing this little passage I couldn’t even remember his name and wrote Victor Buono. I shouldn’t watch Hollywood classics before doing this.

35 CZECH REPUBLIC: Benny Cristo – “Omaga”

Huge disappointment. From a compositional standpoint the song was too monotonous to move any mountains, but I expected at least the performance to be A LOT more elaborate given his popularity in the Czech Republic. What we got was a messy stage approach.

34 SLOVENIA: Ana Soklič – “Amen”

I love the soul snatching, sinfully sizzling sounds of El Diablo, but if church is a way of finding community and do good things to people I’m totally fine with it. Ana’s gospel power ballad can go straight to hell though. A song that only exists to show a good pair of lungs, but nothing else. Sadly the semifinal performance lost the camp oddity of her looking like Sissy Spacek during the prom massacre in Carrie (she even thought about the wet hair) ergo the only thing I liked about the song.

33 ESTONIA: Uku Suviste – “The Lucky One”

Second in the draw and you call yourself the lucky one? This cheesefest was always going to be well forgotten by the time Uku left the stage. I’m also still furious this prevented Jüri’s midtempo mumbling masterpiece “Magus Melanhoolia”.

32 GEORGIA: Tornike Kipiani – “You”

Georgia’s house speciality is the WTF Eurovision entry and only in rare occasions (2016) it does turn out to be a good song. “You” is just a low-key effort, but manages to be both goosebump inducing and embarassingly bland at the same time. The trouble is it takes too long to unfold and just when the song reached its climax after two and a half minutes it’s over…sounds familiar, doesn’t it? To be frank Mr. Fuck You In The Ear was off key a couple of times and too static to standout, therefore I am fine with it being a NQ.

31 SPAIN: Blas Cantó – “Voy a quedarme”

The country’s most recent ESC history reads like the chronology of complete failure and “Voy a quedarme” unfortunately marks its latest chapter. It builds nicely and Blas’ voice shines in the acapella verses in both intro and outro, but it had no business being a Eurovision entry if Spain truly wanted to make an effort.

30 THE NETHERLANDS: Jeangu Macrooy – “Birth Of A New Age”

A huge drop from their 2020 entry which ended up in my top 5. The only redeeming quality I can find here are Jeangu’s pitch perfect vocals and his twin brother who had the best box cut I’ve seen since the glory days of Adeva and Grace Jones. Not enough though to salvage this overcooked mess. I blame the Dutch broadcaster for not allowing any constructive critique during the underwhelming presentation.

29 UNITED KINGDOM: James Newman – “Embers”

Yes, the gold chain and jacket combo was hideous, the performance was shakey and the song is the usual “That’ll do I guess” stuff they send, but damn I hoped that the UK would do better than it did in the end. What were they thinking making James look like a council estate pimp? What were they thinking giving him a 90’s handbag house rehash (Bring back Gina G!) ? Why do I feel the BBC will never learn…

28 ROMANIA: Roxen – “Amnesia”

Roxen’s appearance reminded me of Piedmon, a wine slurping villainous pierrot from one of my favourite kids’ show back in the day. Not the best style reference. Her vocal has an individual timbre, but is evidently pitchy and breathy. Eden’s whistle note followed by Roxen struggling with mid octave mumbling is one of the cruelest running order decisions I can think of. She shouldn’t have accepted to enter Eurovision this early in her career. Give her a few years and who knows she might get her resurrection arc à la Poli Genova.

27 SWEDEN: Tusse – “Voices”

Tusse and I were already after a bad start after preventing Dotterdam (who am I even kidding, she wasn’t even close to winning) to happen. “Voices” is the archetype of Swedish songwriting handcraft; not groundbreaking, but melodious and catchy. Not catchy enough to score a top 10 result at the close of the voting. Thus I am waiting for Clara Klingenström and Klara Hammarström to become the new Eva & Ewa.

26 ISRAEL: Eden Alene – “Set Me Free”

The lovechild of Ariana Grande and Coolio. Eden successfully graduated from the Mariah Carey Academy of Spine-tingling Noise Art with a degree in Bat Communications and Glass Shattering. She skipped the songwriting lessons thus had to rely on a four-person team that gave her a second hand Frankenstein-esque pop song. Another huge disappointment as I thought that “Feker Libi” was a decent entry. On the plus side we’ve got the vivacious performer that Eden is. Dynamite comes in small packages and Eden is lit like New Year’s Eve.

25 MALTA: Destiny – “Je me casse”

Destiny was looking really pressed the entire time as if she was obliged to win this (#destinedforgreatness, hello?). I can understand determination and ambition, but in this case it looked more like a box-ticking exercise putting extreme pressure on Destiny which was uncomfortable to watch considering she’s still so young.

Songwise it is pretty much a middle of the road Bojana trademark empowerment anthem that sounds good on first listen, but does not stand the test of time. The song’s best before date already expired at the opening of the voting window. Destiny learned this the hard way: If you’re going to put yourself forward to compete in this contest you should be prepared for whatever the outcome may be and if you get a low televote you should be ready to smile at the camera, shrug your shoulders and get on with your life (#destinedfor14thintelevote)! Bless Hooverphonic, they would make perfect life coaches.

24 IRELAND: Lesley Roy – “Maps”

My heart is bleeding. RTÉ had given some thought to their staging and created a lovely, little paper world to stage their decent entry. What they didn’t get right was the choice of performer. Completely overwhelmed with the routine Lesley had the grace of Godzilla stomping through Tokyo. You could literally see her thinking about the next camera angle she needed to hit. A legendary performance for all the wrong reasons. She should not be upset by all of this though and I hope she had a great time in Rotterdam anyway. However, my heart is a compass has been given to “El Diablo”. Sorry, Les!

23 FINLAND: Blind Channel – “Dark Side”

Linkin Perkele Park from Oulu. Big chorus, classic Finland. For its genre it did what it needed to. But as Christina Crawford said to her mother Joan in “Mommie Dearest”: I am not one of your FAAAAANNNSSS!

22 NORWAY: Tix – “Fallen Angel”

Initially I liked how this was a throwback to my formative years of pop music consumption. But on TV this felt really flat and almost sounded it too. There was little connection to the camera – not just down to the sunglasses.

21 SWITZERLAND: Gjon’s Tears – “Tout l’univers”

The song lacks musical flow and concentrates far too much on showing that he can hit the highest notes. I am still not sure what to make of the choreo or the staging concept, but it was spellbinding. The semifinal performance gave me goosebumps. Gjon’s styling needed a little refurbishing though. Category is cauchemar couture. Barbara Dex would have been proud.

And that was the first part of my review of ESC 2021. Part two coming soon and as always thank you for reading!

8 thoughts on “ESC 2021: The Wait Is Over

  1. Nicely written, Dom, thanks! My favorite bits were “This is why Tik-Toks are not 3 minutes”, the Lucky one in 2nd and the Coolio reference. Shame on you for outing very butch Vasil and not mentioning Blas’s hair tho!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not true! He also loves to talk about how his grandmother who died of coronavirus inspired his song.

        Liked by 1 person

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