Sun, 14 May 2023 at 2:26 am BST
The bookies were right: Sweden won Eurovision. And it wasn’t very close. But though Britain finished second from the bottom (thank you Germany for sucking a little bit more), the world did get to see us put on another great show – just one week after the Coronation.
Westminster Abbey to the Liverpool Arena was a journey from the sublime to the fabulous, culminating in torn-off skirts, mangled English, Hitlers in drag and France singing atop an inflated bin bag – though nothing prepared us for the terrifying folk horror of Moldova’s “Soarele și luna”.
Singer Pasha Parfeni danced with girls whose hair had been gelled up into giant scorpion tails, while a demon ran around their feet playing the recorder. Vote for this one or your family will be cursed for generations.
Surprisingly, only a handful of the 26 competitors were expressly antiwar. Croatia’s Let 3 – who the judges hated but the public liked – wore skirts and fascist moustaches, making a statement that was lost in their refusal to translate it.
Switzerland’s Remo Forrer sang, in English, “I don’t want to be a soldier”, which is very Swiss. The poor boy’s outfit appeared to have been savaged by moths.
There was a cynical deployment of male pulchritude. Cyprus hired a Greek-Australian, Andrew Lambrou, to represent it – a guaranteed housewife’s favourite who came dressed, just about, for judo. He looked like one of those men you read about in the tabloids who married a 74-year-old British holiday-maker, and now the relatives are desperately contesting the will.
Albania’s Albina Kelmendi brought her entire family to the UK for the grand final, which is so sweet. Let’s just hope Suella Braverman doesn’t find out.
Europe seemed to be breakdancing its way through a small breakdown. Serbia’s Luke Black awoke from a coma in a giant soapdish, attached by cables to four ghostbusters. The accompanying notes say that during lockdown Mr Black became addicted to video games, indicating a concern for the coming techno-dystopia that was echoed in Ukraine’s Tvorchi – a man with a “heart of steel” and cyborg-like arms to prove it.
Another prisoner of insane set design, Blanca Paloma of Spain, was trapped within red strings, tickled by bodiless hands. And Germany entered a heavy metal act – someone tries it every year – whose lead singer wore a red lycra suit that had exploded outwards at the back, making him look like a tomato sliding down a wall. He was about the same age and attitude as Australia’s Voyager, who drove onto the stage in a car with a keyboard on the passenger seat. Neither wore a belt.
Voyager sang “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”. Norway, “La-di-da-di-da-da” (the chorus to a Wagnerian ode to “the warrior of the north and southern seas” that could almost be called pro-war). But no one touched Austria’s Teya and Salena’s “Who the Hell is Edgar?”, its repetition of “Poe-Poe-Poe-Poe-Poe-Poe” so infectious that it was like the tell tale heart, throbbing away beneath the floorboards throughout the contest. And, of course, the UK’s Mae Miller sang, “Da-da-da-da-da-die” in a tune, “I wrote this song”, that the home crowd went absolutely wild for. Alas, the tide was against us.
After a halfway concert that showcased the best of Liverpool music (minus The Beatles: did a certain someone refuse to share the copyright?), we turned to the voting – jury first, then popular, which this year was drawn from across the entire world (a huge mistake: by the end of the decade every act will be singing in Mandarin).
As each country’s representative delivered their results with predictable loquaciousness – “and, without further ado” always follows about 30 minutes of further a-doing – it became obvious that the real fight was between Italy, Israel, Finland and Sweden.
Italy’s only obvious selling point was that Marco Mengoni looked good in a tank top, though even this divided the critics (Graham Norton, funny throughout, said it was something the wife of a mayor would wear at a dinner dance). Israel could at least jive, and as she crept up the scoreboard, her supporters broke out into a jig in the press room. Finland defied explanation: a short, tubby man broke his way out of a crate and yelled “Cha-cha-cha”. I suspect the verse was deeply offensive, but it was in Finnish, so we’ll never know.
In a last-minute nail-biter, Kaarija was handed over 300 votes by the public, putting him within spitting distance of Sweden (and he did look like the kind of person who might spit).
At whose heels did he nibble? Loreen of Sweden, never to be confused with Soreen, who has already won the contest once before (greedy) and whose act, in the opinion of this humble viewer, was totally overrated.
The poor woman writhed about in a box looking, to quote Graham again, like a slab of bacon – moaning about being in pain. Was this imprisonment? Or a lifestyle choice? Famously liberal, the video introducing her act gave the impression that she lives, quite cheerfully, on the beach. Critics have observed that while most acts are first-timers trying to make it big, Loreen is already enormous in the pop world, and evinced a zen-like calm that either comes from professionalism or an entirely kale diet.
How do you feel, she was asked as her victory became obvious? “I am in a meditative state,” she replied. 583 points floated her over the finishing line – and thus Sweden will play host on the 50th anniversary of Abba’s famous win for Waterloo.
Britain was robbed. I suggest that next year we send the MP Andrea Jenkyns, and make Europe listen to all three verses of God Save the King.