A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

ESC 2017: Portugal at last

Before everything else: what a wonderful thing that Portugal got to win at long last. And that they got to win in style with a beautiful song and a fantastic artist and with a huge margin. It feels so good after years of struggling. Happiness for Portugal is the dominant feeling today, remember that as you read on.

The other huge favourite - the one I still insisted would win yesterday - did not fare very well at all. Italy ended up in 6th place and never has such a high placing felt more like a colossal fiasco. The Italian song looked messy on television, nowhere near the smooth elegance it had at Sanremo. What went wrong? Why was it so difficult to translate the winning performance onto another stage?

I am also surprised at the indifference most juries showed towards "Occidentali's Karma". It is contemporary and smart and sounds like a hit single. I can't shake the feeling that many jurors kept Italy down on purpose to enhance the chances of their own entry.

On the whole, the juries made a laughing stock of themselves. Loads of embarrassing neighbour bias and some cases that look very much like tactical voting. All that garbage the juries were re-introduced to counterbalance.

I still want juries but we need a discussion about how they are chosen and what their guidelines are. The jury of  2017 seemed to have no integrity. That was the biggest single disappointment for me. 

Instead the televoters seemed to be the voice of reason, rewarding the more quality entries. Even diaspora voting was surprisingly low in the televote - both Armenia and Poland scored poorly. Juries kept voting for family and friends while the viewers voted for the songs they liked.

As for the top three, Moldova was the big surprise I didn't see coming. I'm glad for them but again surprised how a jury of professionals could have a song as simple as repetitive as that so high up in their rankings.

Bulgaria - like Portugal - deserved every inch of its success. Kristian Kostov was wonderful on stage and performed with gravitas and conviction. Maybe it was even better for him not to win, now he can take his time and plan world domination without following up a victory.

Germany avoided their dreaded hat-trick of last places by one arbitrary point, right in front of Spain. Both German and Spanish television should sit down and have a long hard think how to improve their national selections and start sending entries more representative of their own pop scenes.

Our young hosts rose to the occasion during the voting and handled it all pretty well, minus the odd comment about how beautiful some of the female spokespersons were. Particularly Vova handled hosting well and could - with some better scripts - be of real use in other international shows too.

After his very clear win, Salvador Sobral's comments about our world being full of disposable music didn't go down well with eurovision fans. There are a lot of sensitive toes out there and he managed to run them all over with this single sentence but I dare say it didn't mean what you thought it meant.

It wasn't a dig at the Eurovision Song Contest in itself, but at pop culture at large. At pop factories hammering out songs that anyone can sing and that the songs written because somebody felt the inspiration to write a song are way too few. 

That actually sums up one of the biggest problems with the 2017 lineup pretty well. There were too many songs written by international teams of songwriters, songs bought from publishers in order to do reasonably well in a contest. I personally think we would all enjoy the ESC more if it went back more to being a showcase for what actually goes on in the participating countries musically.

I don't long for a sea of nostalgic ballads in Lisbon next year, but I would enjoy more artists willing to take risks and defend a vision of their own rather than just sing a song written by a bunch of Swedish songwriters. If Salvador Sobral leaves a legacy for the future, I hope it is just that. More courage and more countries doing their own thing. Celebrate diversity, in other words.


  1. Tobson, thanks for your reviews, enjoyed reading them as always. In the world of Eurovision fandom you are a voice of reason, and I know that I can trust your unbiased opinions. I think you should be on the Finnish jury, you are probably more qualified than most of these so called experts. I'll visit again next year. Take care :)

    1. Thank you so much, it really warms my heart to read this! See you again next year!

  2. Perhaps a rule that a songwriter can only compete for their own country? Then that Anna Book fiasco from last year would have been avoided as well...

  3. My problem with his comment was that it came off really pretentious and with a 'I know better' kind of tone. Music is music. Whether we think it's deep or meaningful or repetitive and catchy, if it makes you feel something then it's a good song. I don't think it really matters if the lyrics are three pages of words or just three phrases

  4. Very good review! Especially the last two paragraphs, I really agree with you there ... can I quote a bit from them? I'm writing the final analysis for my own blog right now. :)