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The Netherlands wins Eurovision, as the UK comes last

By | Published on Monday 20 May 2019

Duncan Laurence

So, despite everything, the Eurovision Song Contest went off pretty much without a hitch on Saturday night. An audience of over 200 million around the world watched the 26 finalists and decided that The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence should win it. They also decided that the UK’s Michael Rice should go home not just last, but embarrassingly last.

For the second year, the public voting scores were added after all the country-by-country jury votes had been announced. This does add an extra level of tension, although you still have to sit there for what seems like about nine years while the jury votes from 41 countries are called in, before you then get to the relatively quick final stage.

Sweden’s John Lundvik came in first place at the end of the jury vote with ‘Too Late For Love’, but when the public points were added he got less than half of what he needed to overtake The Netherlands, ultimately finishing in sixth place.

It was a double lose for Lundvik, who also co-wrote the UK’s entry ‘Bigger Than Us’, performed by Michael Rice. The song came in last, receiving just thirteen points from the jury votes and three from the public vote. To put that in perspective, The Netherlands got 492 in total. We didn’t do the worst in each set of voting – hosts Israel got twelve jury points and Germany received nul points from the public vote – but Rice was still very much bottom at the end of it all.

It didn’t really seem fair for Rice to do quite so badly; it was the most credible song the UK has entered for a long time. Although there isn’t a lot to it beyond a man repeating “it’s bigger than us” over and over again with different levels of intensity. And some have suggested that that message didn’t come across very well at a time when the UK is trying to break away from Europe and look for bigger things on its own.

So, maybe there was a bit of a Brexit backlash involved in the UK entry doing so badly points-wise. Then again, a good number of people on social media pointed out that it would be funny to vote for the UK to win, so that next year (possibly post-Brexit) we’d have to put on a show that pushes the idea of togetherness and unity across Europe. And, in theory, voting shenanigans of that kind could have cancelled out any anti-Brexit sentiment.

Though, probably not. It does seem likely that the UK being a bit cunty to Europe for the last three years (and the rest) hasn’t stood us in particularly good stead. There’s also the fact that we’re part of ‘The Big Five’ – those countries that contribute the most money to the show and therefore qualify for the final automatically. Which is something Eurovision fans in those countries that have to go through the rigmarole of the semi-finals possibly resent.

Three of those ‘big five’ countries – the UK, Germany and Spain – appeared in the bottom five, along with host country Israel, which also went through automatically. France’s Balal Hassani fared better, coming in fourteenth with his song ‘Roi’. Meanwhile Italy bucked the trend with Mahmood’s ‘Soldi’ finishing second – although the song has already been a massive hit around Europe, so that certainly helped.

Of course, while the public does its voting, the host country has to come up with something to fill the time, which Israel did well. A group of six former finalists – Conchita Wurst, Måns Zelmerlöw, Eleni Foureira, Verka Serduchka and Gali Atari – performed each other’s songs. Last year’s winner Netta Barzilai performed her new single ‘Nana Banana’. And Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel performed his song ‘Bo’ee (Come With Me)’ with the 26 finalists of this year’s competition.

The big draw, however, was Madonna, who was – of course – drafted in to headline the whole affair. Her appearance was beset with problems from the off – organisers had issues with the political content of new song ‘Future’, and a dispute over the broadcast rights for ‘Like A Prayer’, which she sang to mark its 30th anniversary, meant her contract was not signed until Thursday. The contract issues meant that at one point she was barred from entering the venue for rehearsals and it seemed possible that she would not actually perform.

Then, of course, there were the widespread protests against her performance. The competition being held in Israel was already controversial and activists who campaign for a cultural boycott of the country quickly turned their attentions to the big star booking. Speaking for this movement on the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ programme, Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie labelled the singer “a total prostitute”.

“Madonna would do anything for money, she’s a total prostitute”, he said. “And I’ve got nothing against prostitutes. The whole thing is set up to normalise the state of Israel, and its disgraceful treatment of the Palestinian people. Madonna would do anything for money”.

Whatever her motivations, and despite the hurdles she had to get over, she did turn up in Tel Aviv and she did sing. So was all the hassle worth it? Hell no.

‘Like A Prayer’ sounded good for about ten seconds, before she went totally off key. She then maintained this complicated relationship with being in tune for the rest of the song. Not a fitting tribute for the song’s big birthday. And on ‘Future’ – for which she was joined by Migos’s Quavo – she did manage to get in her political dig, but then she performed with a layer of effects on her voice that was so heavy that it wasn’t really clear if she was singing at all.

It certainly says something about the quality of the event this year that Madonna’s performance was the worst in it by a considerable distance. After the 26 finalists’ performances, where there were some great voices, some very inventive staging and, hey, even a few good songs, Madonna’s efforts were really shown up. Australia’s entry sang opera while bouncing around on a big bendy pole. So that’s the benchmark now.

Still, Madonna does stand to do the best out of it all financially, so there’s that. Whatever, here is what is now officially the best song in Europe, ‘Arcade’ by Duncan Laurence: