A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Saturday, May 22, 2021

ESC 2021: The final changes everything


The same story every year: we speculate and speculate until we go blue in the face and yet - the running order in the final will change everything. Whatever seemed likely and plausible and sometimes even inescapable only a few days ago: the landscape has changed. Everything looks different now.

For the last three contests in a row, Christer Björkman has been responsible for the running order and you can tell. He has a very good eye for this and makes excellent sequencing but it is also refreshing to have someone else do it. Tonight's running order is less predictable and that is a good thing.

The running order also clearly puts a few former favourites clearly out of the running. Their new position sometimes underlines what they were lacking to begin with, in other cases it just accidentally puts some in the shade. 

These are my new, quick reviews of tonight's 26 finalists and my new grades, based on what I have heard and seen this week.

A brilliant opener - clean, understandable and energetic. It will do its Lady Gaga impression with poise and easy and people will like it. And then they will forget it as stronger entries come into view. Clearly a fallen favourite.
Grade: 2/5

Will vocally blow Cyprus off the stage. Simple and tasteful and easier to grasp than many other Albanian entries. Being number two isn't necessarily the kiss of death and this could do at least as well as Albania usually does - anything higher than 16th place is better than usual.
Grade: 4/5

A smooth number and the whistle notes are a joy, but the song in itself is a tiny bit too slick and anonymous to stand out. Would need a lot more energy than it had in the semi to stand out.
Grade: 2/5

On Tuesday, this was a pleasant break from all the pop songs and all the dance routines and stage theatrics. Tonight, the break comes a bit too early. People are still in the mood to be thrilled, not calmed down, and this won't stand out like it could have later in the running. 
Grade: 3/5

Wonky and wacky and that first gigantic dress will leave an impression. Vocally flawless but the song is pretty demanding for a first listen. It will also get upstaged by more outstanding visuals later on. Could get bonus points for message but is nowhere near a victory.
Grade: 2/5

If Malta felt like the obvious winner for many during the run-up to the contest, I feel their hopes have crumbled now. They should have crumbled already in the semi final, honestly. Destiny is fabulous and the song is a fun little number, but ultimately it feels more like the Melodifestivalen reject it really is than a potential winner. Top ten probably but that's as far as it goes.
Grade: 3/5

I love Portugal and could never not be happy about them being successful. But. I don't get this at all. Competent but dull, and when I found out what the lyrics are about I like it even less, honestly. Being the first male vocalist of the evening could help, but they will clearly fight it out with Belgium over the "real music"-vote tonight.
Grade: 1/5

Belgrade's own Destiny's Child storm the stage and shake everything their mothers, designers and hair artists gave them. Three fun minutes but the performance is a tad too much out of sync to hit home big time. A bigger hit in future Euroclubs than in the voting.
Grade: 3/5

The left-hand-finish some British fans dreamed of when this song was first released would always have been a difficult goal to obtain. With these staging and styling choices, all hope is lost. What is the matter with the country that used to be the obvious centre of pop culture in Europe? A strong contender for last place.
Grade: 1/5

I have to give credit where credit is due: Stefania is a lot better on stage than I expected her to be and she fills the potholes in this song with ease. However, the green screen trickery is distracting and looks nowhere near as good as the people in charge thinks it does. This would have been so much better, had it had a focused performance and no pointless hocus pocus.
Grade: 3/5

Bam! After three upbeat songs, Switzerland comes in with temper, depth and gravity. Felt like a winner in the semi final and if Gjon's Tears delivers like he did then, this must be a top three contender. On a level of its own compared to all songs coming before it.
Grade: 5/5

In the semi final I finally saw what everyone else have seen, I suppose. This is likeable and really well performed but won't get anywhere near a victory. Having a winner that can't collect the trophy would be a real anticlimax anyway.
Grade: 3/5

The song nobody believes in and I don't see why. Blas is a good singer with a pleasant presence and the song is an old-fashioned ESC ballad in a good way. If that jury is to be of any use this year, they should acknowledge talent and craftmanship and help this one along a bit.
Grade: 4/5

A fun and lightweight pop number in a glamourous package is always a welcome sight, but in the semi final this was anything but easy on the ears. Could and should find itself in the lower regions of the result tonight.
Grade: 2/5

Happy and colourful and positive but also preachy and a bit grating. Like a school lecture on how not to be a bully set to VERY cheerful music. It will put you in a good mood but also outstays its welcome by being basically one single idea repeated and repeated and repeated ad nauseam.
Grade: 2/5

For a moody rock band, it is the perfect place to come in after two lightweight happy songs and change the mood completely. All I hear is still a poor man's Linkin' Park but if the pop entries split the other votes between them, there could possibly be room for two rock entries in the top ten this year.
Grade: 2/5

The mood whiplash is complete when Bulgaria takes the whole thing down with their intimate and emotional little number. One of few entries this year that brought a prop that actually works and doesn't detract from the song. 
Grade: 4/5

One of the songs that seem to have lost all its buzz during the week. I think its obvious TikTok-appeal could work in its favour and that we could see a small surprise tonight. I would love for Lithuania to at least better their personal best, but this could be the one everyone is underestimating so far.
Grade: 4/5

The complete power outburst of the first semi but also Ukraine by the numbers: every single detail is fine-tuned and works wonders on television. I doubt it is what the EBU hopes for but this is one very possible winner in this final.
Grade: 5/5

This is the one moment where the producers weren't thinking. There are two songs that build up to an explosive climax and that go full accelerando in the end and they are placed neck to neck in the running? Maybe France will feel like an oasis after Ukraine but it could also be the viewers are nowhere near ready to take this in at this point. Did the producers just wrestle a potential victory out of the hands of France?
Grade: 4/5

They made it to the final - as they almost always do - but coming after five contenders in a row, this bleak little pop ditty should have pretty little working in its favour. Would have made more sense to put this between Ukraine and France to give the audience a moment to breathe.
Grade: 1/5

Azerbaijan and Norway neck to neck? I hope that doesn't mean the producers are buying into the silly - and truth be told slightly creepy and unpleasant - media stunt of the "romance" between the two singers? The song is pleasant and the visuals stay in the memory of the viewers, but this is where I think the whole package is beginning to wear thin. 
Grade: 2/5

The best entry of a host country since Frans (or if that wasn't your cup of tea, since Lena in Düsseldorf) and hopefully one the jury will recognise and vote for extensively. A bold statement that would deserve top ten but that will probably have to settle for a bit less.
Grade: 4/5

The sheer energy of that guitar intro shows exactly where this is leading: energetic verses and a noisy chorus leading into one heck of a bridge. Attitude and looks and basically taking what The Ark did wrong and doing it right instead. Is it finally time for Italy to win or is it ultimately a tiny bit too much?
Grade: 4/5

"A dream position in the running order" according to the Swedish press as well as the Swedish delegation. I'd say this is the point where the audience is running out of attention span and where you have to be extremely gripping in order to get anyone to vote for you. This is the year when Sweden is clearly lacking momentum. Lately, Swedish entries have been attracting jury votes but struggled to convince the viewers. Prepare for the first right-hand finish since 2013.
Grade: 2/5

A good entry to close the whole line-up: a bit of a circus number where the main performer gets a bit too caught up in the whole act, gets swept away and comes across as a bit frantic - only to be saved by a bit of Rent-A-Rap Star in the end. Amusing and fascinating. Not a contender for anything else than San Marino's best showing to date, which is frankly more than good enough.
Grade: 2/5

Whatever you make of the songs, you will surely not find yourself bored in front of your screens tonight. Give me a little more time and you'll have my final prediction about who the winner is. It's not an easy pick to make, is it?

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