Eurovision 2016: Not bad, actually

A new voting system injected some much-needed adrenaline into the competition.

Like most twenty-somethings, I found myself watching Eurovision again, which means I’m either reaching an early mid-life crisis, in a very bad place, or too lazy to get off the sofa and find the remote. Or all three.  

Nevertheless, the Swedes put on a pretty impressive show – the humour actually landed well and made the evening a little less excruciating than normal. They must have succeeded to some extent, because this was the first year in memory I haven’t glanced at a pencil, wondering if it might be worth just stabbing myself in the hand for fun instead.

There was, however, a distinct lack of crazies this year, which kind of defeats the point of Eurovision. Where were the women with beards? Where were the porny milkmaids? Sweden tried to make up for it by acting out a mock entry with the presenters, which was very funny. But I hardly even questioned any contestant’s sanity this year – a sure sign Eurovision is getting too posh.

Sweden had clearly decided it didn’t want to put in this effort again next year, and sent out 17-year-old Frans. He looked like an intern who had just been shoved out on stage and told to talk-sing his way through it with as little effort as possible. Other highlights included Germany’s Jamie-Lee, who looked like a Japanese Avril Lavigne but even more embarrassing than you’re imagining, and Hungary’s contestant, who really should have had a Strepsil before taking to the stage. I also enjoyed Latvia’s emo entry Justs, who should’ve won based on pure angst and emotional effort – he looked like he could cry any minute.

America, seemingly having spotted Australia, decided that we let anyone join in now and sent Justin Timberlake. We weren’t allowed to vote for him, but I think he may have just won anyway. Nevertheless, the US made a bold political statement which went something like this: ‘Still better than you  and too good for your stupid competition. HAH. HAH. HAH.’

There was a bizarre voting system this year. It started with a bunch of ‘panel’ marks given out from each country at the usual, glacial pace. For about two or three days we watched various people that looked like they should be celebrities – no-one actually knows if they are – shout ‘Hello Sweden! And greetings from [insert obscure city name]’. This was inevitably followed by a disjointed, poor-Skype-connection conversation in which the presenters just smile psychotically and pretend to know what’s being said before filling the silence with: “And your twelve points?”

After this finished and everyone felt exhausted, the show hit us with the public votes. Countries across the board were being rewarded hundreds of points randomly. You couldn’t help but wonder if they’d just handed the keyboard over to Vladimir Putin and he was typing in ‘500 points for Russia! 300 for Ukraine! None for the smelly UK!’ This was actually a highly-surprising and therefore highly-exciting element of Eurovision, and anyone still awake undoubtedly sat up a bit in their seats – but not too much.

Countries like Russia, Australia and Ukraine had been given stupid amounts of points, but the biggest surprise was Poland, who had been near-bottom for the whole night and suddenly shot up to eighth. Cue the Polish entry, a sort of evil cross between Freddie Mercury and King Charles II, celebrating with the scary facial expression of someone who hasn’t been off drugs for a very, very long time.

Meanwhile, the UK got the second lowest number of public votes, leaving us fourth from bottom. This means we’re the country-equivalent of the swotty kid in school that got half decent grades but everyone absolutely hated. The only country having as bad a night was Germany, who finished last. I think we all kind of wished we had Germany’s number, so we could text them: ‘No-one understands your pain better than us right now. Love, the UK.’

Ukraine won in the end, with a screechy, banshee number. The experience of hearing Jamala’s ‘song’ was a bit like being told you’ve got a terminal disease, in that it was necessary to hear it once, but no-one wanted to hear it again. This was followed by the world’s worst winner’s interview, as Jamala’s poor English led her to declare: ‘I know that you sing songs about peace and love but actually, I really want peace and love to everyone.’ Jamala, WTF is the difference?

But no-one cared, because for one frightening moment it looked like Australia were going to win. Because as much as we pretend that we don’t give a shit about Eurovision, and we honestly don’t, we still can’t bear the thought that a nation so far removed from Europe it’s a wonder anyone funded the air fare might prove it has better music than us.

So congrats Jamala. But despite the vast improvements this year, I will definitely not be wasting my life watching it next year. On 20 May 2017, according to my diary.

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