Feature: The Successes of Eurovision 2017

It’s been a week since Eurovision 2017 concluded, and like many other Eurovision fans, we’re down in the dumps with PED: Post Eurovision Depression. We’re pushing through the PED with an in-depth analysis of the contest, starting today with our thoughts on what worked this year.

The Opening and Interval Acts

Over the years, we’ve seen some interesting and crazy interval acts, which makes you think, surely we’ve seen it all before? Straight up, the first semi-final interval act of Monatik performing the song Spinning spun our expectations out of the water. The song and performance was contemporary – think the Ukrainian Justin Timberlake. It was an energetic beginning to a semi-final which was full of ballad style songs.

Through the first semi-final, we also saw Jamala hit the stage with a revamped version of her song 1944, which of course won Eurovision in 2016, and we also saw her perform the song Zamanyly. The latter was a performance we won’t forget anytime soon, as it was so distinctly cultural and meaningful, and possessed the Jamala charm.

It wouldn’t be Eurovision without a Eurovision medley performed, and Ukraine managed to put their own cultural flair to it, and it was nice to see the hosts get involved with the show. Ukraine had the perfect balance of serious and self-deprecating, which has been displayed primarily by Sweden and Denmark in their previous Eurovision hosting gigs.

In the Grand Final, we saw Jamala perform again, who was slightly overshadowed by Ukraine’s serial pest showing his backside (a memorable moment in itself) however for me the most unique performance was that of ONUKA & NAONI. Having heard some of ONUKA’s previous work, I was interested to see how she approached Eurovision, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was so strange but in the best possible way. All these intervals acts proved that Ukraine was proud of celebrating their own diversity and talent, featuring strong cultural elements but yet incredibly contemporary, and I didn’t expect that at all.

National Languages

At the start of the National Final season, we were hopeful that more nations were choosing to perform in their national language, however as time went on, more and more songs were getting picked in English. Despite that, the national language songs that were picked, for the most part, were amongst our favourites. Clearly, Portugal’s Amar Pelos Dois captured the juries and televoters, hence the Eurovision win, but we can’t discount the fact that all national language songs qualified to the final (excluding Malta, although we’d love to hear a song in Maltese sometime soon!). Not only did they qualify, but they did extremely well in the final. As we know, Portugal topped the table, but we’ve got Italy in 6th with a song in Italian, Hungary in 8th with a song in Hungarian, France in 12th with a mix of French and English and even Croatia who decided to use Italian as part of their song, finishing in 13th place. Belarus and Spain didn’t fare as well, but despite that, this is a huge win for national language.

Eurovision often follows the trends of the previous year. Take Lordi’s win, for example, for a number of years after, we saw the emergence of rock influenced acts, so the fact that the winner of Eurovision 2017 is in national language gives me some hope that we’ll see this grow as a trend. Sure, the contest is now finally starting to mirror the chart trends, and I’m loving the fact we are being presented with songs that are incredibly radio friendly, but music in national language has a huge history at Eurovision, and it’s something I don’t want the contest to grow out of, even if the music itself is beginning to reflect more of what is charting worldwide.

Overall Quality of Music

When the general person thinks of Eurovision, they don’t think of music quality as much as they think of outrageous performances. Carrying on from the previous point, I do think the quality of the music this year was for the most part remarkable, as has been for the last few years. Amongst the songs are a number of songs matching the artistic quality of ‘non-Eurovision’ music, with some managing to balance cultural integrity and quality music, Bulgaria coming to my mind specifically.

Often, it’s easier to see if a song is specifically written for Eurovision – it would be grander, more non-sensical and keeps to a more simple song structure, however this year many of the songs sounded like songs that match the artists and their previous work – if they were already established performers. Latvia’s Triana Park for example, their song Line is reflective of their previous edgy, dance-pop music, while Czech representative Martina Barta presented a jazzy style song, which although wasn’t written by Martina herself, it still reflected her roots.  Even from the UK, who yes, we’re ripped off this year with their result, still managed to pull together a really classy entry despite the disappointment around national final time, and it began to suit her musical theatre qualities.

Staging Ideas and Execution

Eurovision 2017 ended up being a party of friends who didn’t talk to each other beforehand, and all ended up in the same outfits with the same stage backgrounds. Despite the fact that we saw a hell of a lot of white outfits, and a lot of faces as the stage background, I do think there were some really stand out stage performances this year.

Naturally, Sweden slayed their staging, and kudos has to be given for consistently thinking of new and unique ideas for staging. There was a bit of criticism about Isaiah’s staging, however the background itself, and the concept behind the staging was well thought through, and I personally found it to be quite aesthetically appealing in terms of visuals and colour. I could list so many other acts, from the interesting graphics behind Albania’s Lindita, to the simplicity of Portugal’s staging, from Belarus’ who sailed their way into my favourites list, and of course Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov who served up one of my favourite performances of the night.

I think this year, staging had the potential to make or break an act. Let’s take Switzerland as one example, where the official music video was incredibly grown up and classy, as was the song, however seeing it on stage with a somewhat childish design really made me rethink their performance. Yes, the song should have been in the final, but I do think their choices in staging lessened their chances of being taken seriously. On the flip side though, we have Croatia, who turned a car crash of a song into something even more memorable with their utopian staging.

Despite that, not all the songs that missed out had questionable staging. Take Latvia as an example, who had one of the best, if not the best staging of the first semi-final, yet still finished in last place in the semi. Iceland as well, I really enjoyed the simplicity and modern nature of the staging, but yet missed out. I enjoyed Ireland and FYR Macedonia in terms of staging, however not everyone can qualify, unfortunately.

The act that really pulled it out of the bag though would have to be the UK. What was so great about it, was that no one expected it, well at least, I didn’t! It was so incredibly beautiful to watch on television, and it created this atmosphere that suited the tension of the song. Although their results weren’t what was expected, their performance was a win in itself.