Eurovision 2018: Finals

I’m so unprepared this year! Due to a lot going on in life, I didn’t have time to watch either of the semi-finals or even pregame with the official music videos! So that means I’m going into the finals 100% cold. I feel both unprepared and excited. I haven’t gone into finals without research and preconceived judgement before. I have no idea what each country’s songs will be like or what style their stage shows may take.

So here’s to art, entertainment, and surprises! 🥂


Opening performance by TK. Last year’s winner, Salvador Sobral, championed authenticity (sometimes to the ire of other contestants and fans) and it feels like

I’m watching the US broadcast this year, which is presented by Logo and hosted by Ross Mathews and Shangela. Since Eurovision is still relatively new to the USA, and very new to Shangela, this broadcast is a perfect entry for American viewers. Ross explains the basics along with the idea of the Big 51. It’s also available as a live stream on Logo’s Youtube channel regardless of your TV package, so it’s accessible to literally anyone to watch.


01. Ukraine – Mélovin “Under the Ladder”
A vampire rises. The song isn’t great, and the performance suddenly loses some of its exoticism when it becomes apparent that he’s singing in muddled English and not Ukrainian. It gains some back when his entire set catches on fire (on purpose).

02. Spain – Amaia & Alfred “Tu canción”

Super cute! Simple staging and great chemistry between these two makes this performance so damn endearing! But they’re really early and not much of a spectacle, so I worry they’ll get buried by later performances.

03. Slovenia – Lea Sirk “Hvala, ne!”
She’s trying to throw down tough and maybe come off like Pink, but that’s hard when she’s got a huge, goofy grin on the whole time.

04. Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė “When We’re Old”
A slow, sweet ballad with holograms. Holograms can be a real risk in a show. It can be a neat effect, like when Australia used it for a Minority Report computer interface, and it can be the show-stealer, like when it’s a nude clone with wolves. This came of as middling, especially because she seemed to reign in her own vocals. It felt more like a verse of a song rather than a full performance.

05. Austria – Cesár Sampson “Nobody but You”
Great job utilizing the stage and lighting as a single performer, but this song is not up for the job.

06. Estonia – Elina Nechayeva “La forza”
Estonia has a history of visually impressive performances, and this is not a disappointment. With this, the world comes one step closer to the Diva from The Fifth Element. Her voice is great and her dress is all projection mapping! This is how you make a strong impression while pushing the vocals to the forefront.

07. Norway – Alexander Rybak “That’s How You Write a Song”
Shoobidoo dap dap, shoobay doop hay, that’s how you write a song.

No it’s not. This an adorable performance with incredibly inaccurate instructions on song writing. Major props on playing the violin, and the whole thing is really endearing, but I think it’s too breezy to stick in this competition.

08. Portugal – Cláudia Pascoal[h] “O jardim”
This is the home team, the current champions, so they have a lot to live up to. I don’t know if it’s authentic enough for Sobral but I’m loving it.

Anyone else get a total Lola vibe (from Degrassi) from her? These are not the same person.


09. United Kingdom – SuRie “Storm”
I’m getting Annie Lennox redux. Her song is not the Tim Minchin song, disappointingly, but this is one of the best UK contestants in years. Many of the Big 5 countries, which can go straight to the finals, seem to phone it in or at least submit very generic pop. This is the first time I can remember actually enjoying the UK contestant.

10. Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika “Nova deca” (Нова деца)
Amazons and the grim specter of death! And discotheque! Unfortunately the visuals are the best part of this group. Their song is meh and I don’t think I’ll even be able to remember what they sounded like the next morning.

11. Germany – Michael Schulte “You Let Me Walk Alone”
Really touching, personal ballad. The stylized screen show behind him came off as far more effective than the holograms. I was really surprised at how honestly the whole thing came off touching. The song and accompanying performance are all about Schulte losing his father, and that personal connection does a lot to elevate this from just another pop ballad to a standout act. Also Schulte looks like Philippe and I had a son together, so I am very proud of my boy.

12. Albania – Eugent Bushpepa “Mall”
This is clearly a grunge or metal band performing their first ballad before they go soft. Okay song, but could have been more specific to Albania or the band performing it or, well, more memorable in any way. And the disconnect between the look and the sound is jarring, disappointing, and lackluster.

13. France – Madame Monsieur “Mercy”
Velcome to Sprokets. Just a reminder that this isn’t Germany’s submission. Okay, enough about their look. There’s a fundamental problem with this song here, though the song itself is good. It’s a really good song about real life baby born on a ship of refugees fleeing to Europe. This song would have been great on an album, but in a music and performance competition the nuances get smoothed out and the striking visuals take, no pun intended, center stage. I’ll probably come back to them as a band, but think that they’ll be lost when the voting starts.

14. Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef “Lie to Me”
The year is 1994. The soundtrack is The Mask. The costume is Minkus from Boy Meets World. The inspiration is Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The performer was having fun, so I guess that’s nice. And that’s really all I can say about it.

15. Denmark – Rasmussen “Higher Ground”
Do you like vikings? Do you like Silent Bob? Do you like when people take a theme (in this case, All Aboard) 100% literally? Well, have I got the group for you!

16. Australia – Jessica Mauboy “We Got Love”
And the Bland Award goes to… The only words I can think of to describe this is “Europop” and “gyrations”. There’s nothing more to say.


17. Finland – Saara Aalto “Monsters”
The remix of this song could be a club hit, but not this version. As it is now, there’s not enough bass or and energy for a club and not enough complexity for a pop hit.

18. Bulgaria – Equinox “Bones”
I can’t be the only one that sees this guy and thinks black Jack Black.

The song itself was not all that great, but as a group their voices sounded great together. Similar to France, I’m not a fan of this one but I am intrigued enough to keep an ear out for the rest of their singles.

19. Moldova – DoReDoS “My Lucky Day”
They’re introduced as a folk-pop group but… well, that must mean something else in Moldova. They have the presentation of a Laugh-In skit and the emotional range of a Bar Mitzvah DJ team. Hard pass.

20. Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso “Dance You Off”

SCENE I. A desert place

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches

First witch

Performance of Bieber

Second witch

Face of Ephron

Third witch

Song of Timberlake

I’m assuming that’s how this performer was summoned. An amalgam of safe bets, it’s no surprise that the song is generic yet appealing. Coupled with a great use of stage lighting, I don’t really like this one but I’m betting it’ll be a contender.

21. Hungary – AWS “Viszlát nyár”
Yet another country who’s music submission seems to be off by a decade or so. The look screams Fall Out Boy but the music is more of a mid to late 90s pop metal. Whatever their inspiration, I spent way too much time trying to remember what forgettable bands they reminded me of and had no time to actually pay attention to them.

22. Israel – Netta “Toy”
Yasss! Netta! And then… Okay, so I am very much not crazy about the Asian appropriation, but I’m here for everything else. The whole kimono and maneki-neko motif is just not sitting right. Please, you can do but. But her amazing sneer, the bizarre incorporation of the chicken dance, and the dance-able Tel Aviv music is killing it! Also, it’s great to see my homeland with something that’s not some punchable dude-bros on a beach.

23. Netherlands – Waylon “Outlaw in ‘Em”
When you think of the Netherlands, what comes to mind? High taxes? State supplied health care and other services? How about Ted Nugent tributes and awkward krumping? Well, it will from now on.

24. Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy “Together”
This is the reason that China lost the finale broadcast rights. The musicians are recreating the Broadway show Once while a So You Think You Can Dance routine plays out with two dancers. Honestly, I kind of loved this. It was intimate and sincere and lovingly executed. One of my favorites of the night.

25. Cyprus – Eleni Foureira “Fuego”
Oh no! Cyprus has read from the Necronomicon and opened up a rift in time! Ash Williams, come save us! This is Cyprus expect a danceable track. Because that’s what you’ll get. Also, every year there seems to be a Beyonce impersonator. Just saying.

26. Italy – Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro “Non mi avete fatto niente”
I immediately see this one as a real contender. Not because I love the song (I don’t) but because it’s engineered with brutal efficiency. It perfectly balances poignant lyrics, earnest performance, and a solid song. The lyrics come up on the video screen with stylized fonts, rolling through various languages in a brutal and brilliant method of bringing in the world audience. You could maybe find a performance that is better in each category, but none so perfectly balanced across the board as Italy’s.


And now we wait for the votes to come in and be tallied. There’s always a lot of confusion about how they work so I’ll break it down to the best of my knowledge for y’all.

  1. The jury votes. Each competing country has their own jury of voters that rank a top ten list. Then points are portioned out to their picks, with a top 11th award getting 12 points.
  2. Public votes. These are given out based on the call-in voting from across Europe. This are announced second as they completely reorder the competitors.

If that sounds convoluted, it is. And purposefully so. The system was designed to draw out the suspense of the announcement as long as possible. So really the jury votes set up a baseline that can be completely overturned.

And impressions of this year? Well, I’m happy that the “white dress and a ballad” phase seems to be over. No clear style came out as a successor so maybe next year we’ll see a clear group-think strategy emerge.

My top picks, in no particular order, are:

  • Estonia
  • Portugal
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Ireland

And I want to draw attention to a few more musical performers from Portugal, that weren’t in the competition but performed in the opening and closing segments. Mariza, Sara Tavares, and Mayra Andrade all caught my attention. So if you’re actually looking for new music in the midst of this spectacle, those are a few people I’d like to draw your attention to.


After an insane amount of re-ordering, and a long stretch when it looked like bland-as-bland-can-be Austria might win, Israel won! I am so happy, as that was personal pick. I figured Italy would take a high place in the public vote, and they did with 3rd place.

However, I think I would have preferred that Germany (my precious boy) would have won, as I do worry about Israel hosting Eurovision and all of the possible repercussions. Between the security issues of the people to go, and the political statements of the people who won’t, it’s going to be interesting. So now we can all revel in the greatness of Toy (if not the Orientalism of the performance) for a year. In the meantime, I’ll start a betting pool for how many countries will pull out of Eurovision between now and then.

NEXT TIME IN JERUSALEM! !השלב הבא בירושלים

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Big 5 are the countries that have contributed the most amount of money to Eurovision which guarantees them a spot in the finals without competing in either night of semi-finals. They are
Adam

About Adam

Adam is a Jewish American who's sick of the white Christian male being America's "default" setting. For money he works in a public library because free books and information access are wonderful things. For love he writes here for his pet project, The Chaotic Neutral, which is always looking for more writers. You can follow him on Instagram, Goodreads, and at his oft neglected Twitter where he will try to post more, and probably live-tweet the Eurovision Song Contest.

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