Ukraine ignores political rules to plead ‘help Mariupol’
A scathing conclusion to the Eurovision Song Contest (RTÉ One 8pm) saw Ukrainian orchestra Kalush crowned winners with their track Stefania. Their victory comes at the end of a marathon broadcast from Turin, where they are pushed to the end by the Briton Sam Ryder.
But a huge public vote propels Ukraine to the top of the standings, ahead of a chasing pack that also includes Spain and Sweden.
Ukraine’s victory will warm the hearts of all of Europe. But with Ireland’s Brooke Scullion knocked out in the second semi-final on Thursday, it’s obviously a bittersweet night for Irish viewers. How long ago the 1990s and our famous series of triumphs feel now. Look at us now: the faded giants of Eurovision, yesterday’s champion reduced to clapping backstage.
It obviously doesn’t help that the songs we sent to Eurovision were of very different standards. And yet, it’s worth acknowledging that Scullion’s pleasant bopper That’s Rich would have felt right at home among this year’s 25 finalists – and is objectively better quality than several who made the cut.
Yet even in her absence, the big decision-maker ticks all the boxes, ranging from the rosy-eyed interstellar pop of Sam Ryder and his track Space Man to the barking-crazed Euro-house thrown by the Norwegian Subwoofers (two men in wolf gear, plus a DJ in a space suit – a routine so crazy it almost feels like watching Irish children’s TV from the 1980s).
Wacky and sincere have long been the two poles between which Eurovision has swung – and that juxtaposition continues in Turin. Along with Subwoofers, the bonkers quotient is ticked by Moldovans Zdob si Zdub & Advahov Brothers, whose Trenuletul is only moderately less twisted than 2008’s Dustin the Turkish Ireland Twelve Points (a gobbling parody which economists now agree triggers the banking crisis and the collapse of the Irish economy).
The obvious difference is that Dustin was booed. While the 15,000 PalaOlimpico swallows the Moldovan mix of Cotton Eyed Joe and Edvard Munch’s The Scream. You have to wonder if our record of seven wins made us pop pariahs on some level.
Norway’s Subwoofer – they’re still dressed as yellow lycanthropes and still chanting ‘give that wolf a banana’ – and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who washes his hands while nominating Meghan Markle and wins big in the public vote (having gotten some poor results with the national juries).
Her entry is about Serbian health insurance – and given she made the final, there may be a lesson for Ireland. Next year we have to send a song about the turf cutting controversy (we could call it the peat continues).
On the serious side of the aisle, the winners of the Kalush Orchestra complete a passionate Stefania – it’s the traditional Ukrainian flute solo that does it, with the body leaping – with a call to the world.
“Please help Ukraine…please help Mariupol…now,” they say. Eurovision has rules forbidding to cross the streams of pop and politics. Naturally – and having already eliminated Russia – the organizers make an exception.
Meanwhile, emotional shots are served up with tearful turns from Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs, who delivers a compelling mix of Abba and The Cardigans. And by Polish Ochman with River, a ballad to the hair dryer so gushy you could use it to high-pressure wash your front drive. And there’s a memorable intermission performance from Mika, one of the three presenters, who puts on his pop star hat to browse his greatest hits.
It’s all good, pure euro pleasure. And then there’s the voice of Marty Whelan, who, after the rave-influenced number in France, claims to experience a flashback to his rave days. “I remember my time at Sonar in Barcelona when I was sitting in my tent listening to music like that,” he says (Are there any tents at Sonar?)
From freewheeling Whelan to fireworks and a stage with its own waterfall, it’s a night out with everything (except Brooke Scullion, of course). All capped off by victory for Kalush, who has been a favorite from the start. And, in front of a global audience of 180 million, they are rightly soaking up their moment in the spotlight.