Sunday, October 30, 2016

Eurovision 2016: The Grand Final, Saturday 14th May 2016

The Grand Final of the 61st Eurovision Song Contest.  If the slick and highly entertaining semi-finals are anything to go by, the final should be a good one.  Over recent years, the host cities have all tried to come up with new ways to give the show a spectacular introduction. Stockholm 2016 put their own stamp on the proceedings with a "fashionable" start - a catwalk parade, to a soundtrack of Swedish dance music's superstars like Avicii and the Swedish House Mafia.  From the TV pictures, Globen looks stunning and is the perfect venue for such a massive event.  

Mans and Petra make their entrance, Mans in a midnight blue tuxedo and Petra in an off-the-shoulder glittery dress.  

Petra: "When we reach the end of the show in 3 to 8 hours..."
Mans: "...I can eat carbs again!"

Mans highlights that Europe is going through dark times at the moment - and this is pre-Brexit referendum, folks! - and he also salutes the fans.  Petra also throws in a reference to : "I was at a party and none of the guys came on to me".

BELGIUM: "What's The Pressure" - Laura Tesoro.

A lively opening to yet another producer-drawn running order.  Laura is in a glittery jacket and shorts. There's a background of discs and the whole presentation of the song has certainly come on so much since the Belgian national final.  

One song in and the crowd are already very excited.  The vocals are a little bit off in places, but Laura's youthful enthusiasm carries her through.  The backing singers/dancers join her on the satellite stage at the end.  

CZECH REPUBLIC: "I Stand" - Gabriela Gunčiková.

Gabriela does indeed "stand": on Prague's Charles Bridge in the postcard, and there's no movement from her on stage either.  Graham Norton says that there are a lot of solo women belting out Euro ballads tonight.  My main criticism of the presentation is that we see a bit too much of the pink/blue/purple geometrics, nice though they are, but not enough close-ups to build a better connection with Gabriela.  She is a good singer though, probably better than the song if I'm honest. She takes her hair down in a wind machine finale, and that's it really. 

NETHERLANDS: "Slow Down" - Douwe Bob.

The postcards this year could be subtitled "ESC stars and their pets".  And in a tribute to Father Ted, Douwe presents his lovely horse in the postcard.  Firstly I want to declare a personal interest here.  Because I have placed a number of small bets for the final and this was one of them, so I really want it to do well.  This is a good old fashioned ‘real song’ which you only need to hear once to remember.  Mum would have liked this to start with, I think, but she'd then probably have turned up her nose after two minutes and said it was too repetitive.  Lyrically though, this song probably sums up my life over the last few months.  

It starts with the ticking clock on the floor.  The gold and blue staging is easy on the eye, as is Mr Bob himself, although I have an issue with him closing his eyes when he sings.  The 10 second silence is only slightly less embarrassing than it was in the semi-final.  This time he whispers "I love you".  He greets the fans and the song ends on the satellite stage.  A wink to the camera and it's over.  

AZERBAIJAN: "Miracle" - Samra.

Miracle is a very apt title here, as the miracle is that the best of the singing is being done off-screen by the backing singers.  Samra's vocals on the other hand have been anything but miraculous, and her vocals are atrocious on the second verse.  She looks better than she sounds, I like the catsuit (and I think faithful travelling companion might like her). And as the words 'Azerbaijan' and 'understated' are never usually uttered in the same sentence at ESC, there are pyros, pyros, pyros.

HUNGARY: "Pioneer" - Freddie.

Freddie is reasonably easy on the eye and visually reminds me of an older (rougher!) version of 1D-era Zayn Malik. 
So he's getting some appreciation in the looks department, but this is the first of the Chandelier-a-likes this year and it just does nothing for me.  This song has never really appealed to me at all; I know what he’s trying to do, but it's man-Sia by numbers and his voice is just too croaky. I can't make out most of the lyrics either.

Hungary, along with Iceland, is one of those countries which I eventually want to win Eurovision, but this is not the song to do it with.  Oh, and here's another song with a drum.  Have I woke up in 2005 or 2006 or what?  He also has foot-stamping backing singers, and extra points from me for having visible backing singers.  The end result is far too shouty for me and I can't understand why it made the final.

ITALY: "No Degree of Separation" - Francesca Michielin.

Big cheers from the fans at the beginning of the song.  Let's go down the garden centre! The garden-themed staging isn't to everyone's taste but I rather like it.  Although it took me a long time for this song to click with me, I'd have to say that her subtle yet passionate delivery of the song is rather spellbinding and the whole thing is filled with quiet wonderment.  One thing completely ruining it is the on-screen 'splashes' - totally offputting and unnecessary.

ISRAEL: "Made of Stars" - Hovi Star.

Aah, the understated Hovi - only joking of course!  Graham Norton describes this song as one of the better ballads.  It's yet another faultless vocal performance from Hovi who completely makes a connection with the viewers.  Personality-wise, if Hovi was a website he would probably be Wiwibloggs (!) but we get a deadly serious performance here and he delivers a terrific vocal.

Since I first heard this song I always thought it was reminiscent of "Molitva" Hovi also gives us the back-to-the audience shot.  There’s drama.  There’s a pyro curtain.  And…there are two acrobats in a hula hoop which is completely unnecessary and another example of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach which is characterising so many entries this year.  Hovi is emotional by the end of the song: "The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true".  Indeed they should.

BULGARIA: "If Love Was A Crime" - Poli Genova.

In a time where ESC entries are moving away from mainstream pop, this is one of the few pure pop entries this year and succeeds thanks to the charisma and likeability factor which the lovely Poli brings to the song.  In the early stages of getting to know this song I struggled with the chorus.  Oh tie me looser?  Oh tiny loofah?  Oh I'm a loser?  None of these actually and of course we know it's really "O, day mi lyubovta" - extra points from me to Bulgaria for throwing in a little bit of native language. For me, this is Bulgaria's best ever ESC entry to date.

She’s been one of the biggest stars of the 2016 pre-contest tour circuit.  She certainly has an appealing personality and likeable stage presence which, combined with a catchy, uptempo pop song, has brought her lots of approval from the fan community.   There are lots of glittery lights and holograms, and just when you wondered why she was wearing that futuristic outfit (which doesn’t really go her any favours) – then her outfit lights up and it all makes sense. 

The backing vocalists join Poli on stage for the final chorus.  (I’m fed up with the backing vocalists being hidden away on so many of the songs). 

Just before song 9, a emotional tribute from Graham Norton to Sir Terry Wogan who passed away in January 2016 - one of many, many famous people whom we have said goodbye to in this dark year.  Norton said that Wogan had given him this advice - "don't drink before song 9"..."Raise your glass to Terry, the voice of Eurovision".

But back to the contest, and there are huge cheers in the arena for the home team.

SWEDEN: "If I Were Sorry" - Frans.

If you needed evidence of "the haters" infiltrating our Eurovision community, look no further than Melodifestivalen 2016.  After this song was selected as this year's Swedish entry, I was quite appalled to read many of the hateful remarks about the song and the singer.  So it's not to everyone's taste, and it is a blatant copy of "Catch and Release", but it was probably the only song prior to this year's contest which made any impact across the continent.  Flippin' eck, it was even played on BBC Radio 1.

This song keeps the minimal staging from Melfest with the golden lights, whilst the audience are all waving lights too.  Frans looks a little bit tense but finally appears more relaxed by the 2nd chorus. The whole thing is maybe too minimal to give Sweden a 2nd consecutive win, but it is certainly worth a top 10 place.

Break time, followed by another of the Big 5.

GERMANY: "Ghost" - Jamie-Lee.

Before this, Graham Norton makes some rather stupid, ill-informed comments.  He clearly doesn't like this song.  Maybe I've just watched too many clips of her and have become desensitised to Jamie-Lee's very individual style, her Carmen Miranda-inspired headgear and knee high socks combo.   Jamie-Lee is lovely and distinctive and expresses herself through her individuality.

But as I said at the time of the German national final, the styling may just be too much for the one-off casual viewer watching the final and I thought many of them would just spend the song talking about her 'look' rather than the song itself.  Which isn't that bad actually, although it doesn't break new ground.

FRANCE: "J'ai Cherche" - Amir.

Now, Graham Norton likes this one.  Amir himself is a major selling point for this song - he brings bucketloads of charm and energy and this is one of the most accessible French entries ever, smoothly mixing French and English with positive results.  Amir looks good and appears likeable.  He is also a dentist.  Oh well, nobody's perfect (only kidding, apologies to all dentists reading this!)

The staging isn't particularly spectacular but the song is extremely catchy and it sails along on Amir's charisma and that all-important likeability factor.

POLAND: “Color of Your Life” – Michal Szpak.

Firstly, he has fantastic hair.  Secondly, this song is not “Cool Me Down” by Margaret, arguably 2016 national final season's most overrated fan-favourite.  (I never really understood the obsessive love for “Cool Me Down” by the way, and I’m happy to discuss that whenever I’ve got a few hours to spare). Michal gives a faultless performance and there is a key change. It's an old-school ESC ballad and I think my mum would have liked this. 

The red lighting in the audience is also used to good effect.   My main gripe with this song is the color-without-the-u. I don’t know what “color” his life is, but his nail polish is black. 

Another break. Måns has sneaked off to the Tele2 arena next to Globen, and has an ever so slightly cringeworthy interview with Carola and Loreen.  Carola milks her embarrassing moment with a quick rendition of Hallelujah, only for that to be thankfully brought to a close. Loreen meanwhile is slowly but surely morphing into the bride of Frankenstein. (!)

AUSTRALIA: "Sound of Silence" - Dami Im. 

Graham Norton had made some negative comments in the days leading up to ESC about Australia's participation.  But Dami's performance should have had him eating his words. Although I wasn't really a fan of this song in the lead-up to the contest, I was eating my words too as like many others I was bowled over by Dami in the semi-final. Of all the Sia-wannabe songs in this year's contest this certainly is the most authentic, and certainly in it to win it.

After just 2 years in the competition, Australia are showing everyone else up with the high standard of artist and performance, and they have set the bar extremely high indeed. 

CYPRUS: "Alter Ego" - Minus One.

The band give a confident performance of this Killers-esque song written by the one and only G:son. It's a very welcome departure from the norm for Cyprus this year and I hope they go on to send more rock-influenced songs to ESC - why, they could be the new Turkey!

Graham Norton is starting to annoy me tonight,  Can we please have a more knowledgeable commentator?

SERBIA: "Goodbye (Shelter)" - Sanja Vucic ZAA. 

Sanja is bringing Bond-theme attitude here, and she fights off the male dancer to illustrate the domestic violence theme of the song.  In the national song presentation and in pre-contest parties season, Sanja certainly impressed with her vocal versatility and likeable personality.

This is one of my favourite songs this year.  As evidenced by the national song presentation and her numerous appearances on the pre-contest tours this year, Ms Vucic can certainly sing a bit.  And at least she is not styled like an old woman, as in the song presentation show – but for some reason they’ve got her and her singers done up like kick-ass warrior princesses ready to repel the bad guys, including fighting off her dancer.

Unfortunately the staging of the song commits this blogger's Ultimate Eurovision Crime: the dreaded modern/interpretive dance. But I still have a very high opinion of this song and Sanja's performance of it, it is one of my favourite songs of this ESC season and will figure in my end of year chart. Serbia always give “good backing singer”! Powerful, moving and amazing.The backing singers join her towards the end of the song in a kind of Molitva-gone-Mad-Max way.

LITHUANIA: "I've Been Waiting For This Night" - Donny Montell.

If you're playing Lithuanian stereotype bingo, then the postcard delivers. Donny Montell still sounds as if he should be a Vegas cabaret singer.  “Ladies and gentlemen….Mr Donny Montell!” Donny's left his blindfold at home but he's brought a perm!  He also brings lots of energy with this anthemic pop tune which taps into the EDM-style pop which continues to dominate the charts.

He somersaults.  There are a lot of lights.  And Donny throws in that ‘back-to-the-audience’ shot which is becoming quite common this year. And regardless of the theories for the country's frequent qualification to the final, it must be said that Donny certainly sells the song and owns the stage in his performance of this uptempo Swedish-composed song.  He's a little like a permed Danny Saucedo (!) in his white leather jacket, and he leaps off a small platform for the song's finale.

CROATIA: "Lighthouse" - Nina Kraljić.

The minute Nina took to the stage in the semi-final she instantly became the very obvious frontrunner in the Barbara Dex awards this year.  More than any other 2016 entry, the ridiculous styling has crippled a song's chances in a way not seen since Moje 3 in 2013.  After the first chorus, the tree-cloak is pulled away to reveal another dress which quite frankly isn't much better.  She's surrounded by backing singers dressed like hooded monks, to give it all an air of mystery.  

Before the contest I couldn't really understand this song's popularity, but after watching her in the semi-final I "got" this and it turned out to be a lot more appealing than expected....although the song's appeal for me was short-lived as it just leaves me cold in the final.  

RUSSIA: "You Are The Only One" - Sergey Lazarev.

In his introduction to the song in the semi-final, BBC4's Scott Mills mentioned that there is “desperation in the air” – whether you like, love or hate this song, I thought that was a little bit unprofessional for a commentator. Although it has to be said that Russia are definitely pulling out all the stops to win with the most ambitious staging of the of year, a technically accomplished piece which has Sergey literally climbing the wall onto a sonic iceberg before going off into the stratosphere.

I do have a soft spot for Sergey though, as I first discovered his music on Rachel and Keira's much-missed "Sounds of Europe" in the early years of this blog.  And you've just got to love someone who runs a dog bakery called "Poodle Strudel".

There has been much talk before this year's contest about why Russia is likely to win/why Russia must not win etc.  I'm not going into those debates here and only judging the songs.  Many have called "You Are The Only One" 'old-fashioned': it's an uptempo song with an easily-remembered chorus.  If that's old-fashioned then I'm quite happy to be old-fashioned too.  

SPAIN: "Say Yay!" - Barei.

One of the pre-contest fan favourites, even if it didn't find so much favour with native language purists, Like I said, call me old-fashioned but I like my Spanish entries in the native language and to have a distinctive and catchy Latin feel; but I also understand the argument though for a more modern English-language entry to boost Spain's standing in the contest,   "Say Yay!" was a mediocre winner of an extremely disappointing national final with a generally poor selection of songs.

In the Grand Final, it doesn't do anything to change my mind.

The backing vocals are weak on the verses.  And then Barei goes into the Barei Shuffle.  And then...she falls.  But in Blue style she "gets back up again" - it's all metaphorical I guess? - to perform the rest of her party anthem.  She does her best with what she is given, but I feel that the overall picture is of a song and staging with nothing to make the random voter take notice and vote for it.

Oh, and can we have Alvaro Soler or Pablo Lopez representing Spain one of these years??

Now ladies and gentlemen... it's Justs time.

LATVIA: "Heartbeat" - Justs.

In his introduction, Graham Norton mocks this and I am very angry.  Anyway I'm too busy tunelessly singing along with this to provide any critical analysis at this time.  As in the semi-final, Justs gives it his all.  The ground "crumbles" around him and Justs throws himself around and then some! The minimal industrial-staging goes very well with the cold, stark beats of the song.

"Heartbeat" is of course written by last year's Latvian representative Aminata Savadogo and I much prefer this to "Love Injected"; both songs do however have something in common in that they have a stark minimal modernity which seems to go down very well in the modern ESC (see also "Rhythm Inside") and at one point during national finals season I even began to see this as a possible winner. But in the end I was very happy to see it even just qualify to the final,   Justs is very appealing, but it all gets a bit too shouty towards the end.

UKRAINE: "1944" - Jamala. 

The turmoil experienced by Ukraine over the past couple of years, most notably the annexation of Crimea by Russia, meant that they understandably did not take part in ESC last year.  I was surprised to see the country return so soon.

Rewind to earlier in 2016, and I'm sure that many of you will have watched that national final which felt as if it went on for days. Those 20-minute commercial breaks! :) Politics and national identity also characterised the final, whether it was some of the jury members' comments about some entries, and most importantly the subject matter of the song which was to go on to win that national final.

"1944" seems to be on a different playing field from this year's other entries due to the theme of the song, which is derived from the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in that year, including the singer's great-grandmother.  However it is easy to draw a parallel between those historical events and what is happening in Ukraine today.  The lyrics are very telling: "When strangers are coming/they come to your house/they kill you all/and say we're not guilty".  Certainly a long way from the boom bang a bangs and diggiloo diggileys which haters of this contest still continue to think that's what it's all about.

Anyway, Jamala ramps up the intensity from the beginning.  Wearing a midnight blue dress and trousers, she puts everything into her performance. Emotion, anger, sadness and loss.  Prior to the final chorus, the golden roots which sprouted across the floor of the stage blossom into a tree of life and the stage changes to blood-red.  Jamala completely loses herself and lets out that scream of pain and anguish and leaves the viewer in no doubt about the meaning of this song.

As actual 'songs' go, it isn't really much to write home about, and has virtually no commercial potential, but for sheer emotion and power it has no competition.

MALTA: "Walk On Water" - Ira Losco. 

This Swedish-written (Molly Pettersson Hammar co-write), and rather generic, pop song - and possible Melfest reject I guess - was a fan favourite for a while but like most of the other fan faves this year, it does nothing for me.  There has been some criticism of Ira's outfit as in "she's pregnant so she shouldn't be wearing this kind of thing" however I think she looks great and should be able to wear what she wants.

There is a dancer on stage doing that whole interpretive-dance nonsense and do you know something? Laura is now off to the kitchen and the potato wedges are going into the oven...

GEORGIA: "Midnight Gold" - Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz. 

Winner of my Best Band Name at Eurovision 2016 - or possibly of any other year! Graham Norton is less than favourable about this song, but I feel it deserves its place in the final.  Georgia is one of my favourite ESC countries because of the diversity of entries it sends - and to hell with the consequences. I get the feeling that NK and YGL really don't give a flying *bleep* about appearing in ESC, but allow them, they deserve this moment.  Stop bitching Mr Norton, it's not nice.

Apart from winning my prize for best band name of ESC 2016.  Secondly, one of them looks like a hybrid of Liam and Noel Gallagher.  And thirdly – all hail G:son!  The staging is just perfect for this type of song.  There are lots of flashing lights and the kind of visual effects which might have turned up on a 70s TV rock show, with multiplied band members on stage.  There is very clever camera work to showcase the band, and the song builds up with a frenzy of flashing lights. 

As for the song, I never really listened to it too much before the contest but think I might listen to it a bit more now.  I’m glad we still have entries like this in ESC.  It’s particularly interesting that the two entries which G:son is involved in this year are both ‘rock’-type songs rather than the schlager-pop he is best known for. 

AUSTRIA: "Loin d'ici" - Zoe. 

After the sensory onslaught from Georgia, we move on to the the very excited Zoe, a cross between a Disney princess and a modern-day Vanessa Paradis,  There is a very pretty stage set to match the sweetness of the song.  I was glad this made the final as (a) it's in French - a real risk choosing a song which isn't the main language of the country, and (b) it's got a whiff of 'old Eurovision' about it.

Zoe has lots of charisma and the crowd love her - listen to those cheers.  A popular finalist, and once upon a time (to continue the fairytale theme) this would have been a winner.

UNITED KINGDOM: "You're Not Alone" - Joe and Jake. 

Drum roll.... here come this year's lambs to the slaughter, I mean the United Kingdom entry.  The postcard has J and J hanging out in the Cavern Club, at the football, and playing rugby.  One of the co-writers of this song is Siva from The Wanted under the pen-name of 'S Kanes'.

I like the United Kingdom logo typeface too, reminiscent of mod lettering from the 60s.  Joe and Jake are like a mini boyband, however the song is staged concert-style with two drummers behind them, blue and white lighting, which turns into a backdrop of selfies.

They sing well and there are no embarrassing moments.  I am really proud of them, and for a moment I wonder if Europe will finally fall in love with a UK entry and we can get a place on the left hand side of the scoreboard.  But then I wake up and it's back to reality.

ARMENIA: "LoveWave" - Iveta Mukuchyan.

OK, firstly this is not really a 'song', and upon hearing it I never really thought much of it.  It is the kind of screech-fest which i usually like to avoid. and I didn't think she'd be able to cut it live.  She wouldn't, would she?  But then the semi-final happened and it was  Iveta turned out to be a vocal powerhouse with incredible stage presence.  She also looked fabulous in that Beyonce-style leotard.

Unfortunately her performance and vocals in the final aren't quite up there with that epic semi-final showing, but she still owns the stage and the camera work and presentation of the song is first class. Armenia is one of those "winner in waiting" countries for me, and I think they will get their first win sooner or later.  This is certainly going to do very well this year.

And that's it for the songs!  There's only a couple more hours to go (ok then, maybe less than that). Petra's changed into an elegant emerald green dress.

And then something very unexpected - a quick sketch by the stars of "Vicious", Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.  I love "Vicious" by the way!  "There was no Eurovision when you were a young man..."

Voting recap follows.  I'm off to vote. Then it is time for Måns to welcome a certain young man whom you may have heard of....none other than Justin Timberlake.  The announcement of his guest appearance raised a few eyebrows; I was as sceptical as everyone else and would have preferred a Swedish artist rather than an American artist.  But then I thought again....for a world-class and world-famous event, then why shouldn't they include a world-class guest?

Before he takes to the stage we have a fabulous interval segment.  42 years of Swedish music in 4 minutes: a 4 minute film montage of all the famous singers and bands to come out of Sweden since 1974. *EDIT: even all these months later I still play this and try to guess as many of the artists as possible.  It's a great quiz!

Back to Justin Timberlake.  After a blast of "Rock Your Body" (my fave JT song) he's premiering his new single "Can't Stop The Feeling!".  I've always been a JT fan so you won't hear any negativity from me on this one.  It's a catchy pop song which appeals to me right from this first hearing.  *EDIT: the song would go on to become an overplayed staple of radio playlists over this past summer, but I still like "Can't Stop The Feeling!" and of course it always reminds me of Eurovision when I hear it.

Another voting recap and then the customary interview with the reigning Junior ESC winner. This year it's Destiny from Malta who was a deserved winner of last year's JESC with "Not My Soul".

Just when you think this fabulous Swedish presentation couldn't get any better, along comes "the ultimate Eurovision winner", which Petra and Mans promise contains all the components of previous successes.  What follows is, possibly, the best Eurovision interval act of recent years - dare I say the best since Riverdance! - a song called "Love Love Peace Peace" - the perfect parody.  I'm not even going to describe how good it is - all you fans out there will know anyway!  Just watch the clip.  SVT have given us yet another unforgettable interval act. It's outstanding.

Then it's time for Lynda Woodruff!  Yes we have the long awaited return of the iconic EBU spokesperson created by the brilliant Sarah Dawn Finer.  Lots of funny moments here too, from "Lady Gagarina" and "A Million Horses" to, of course "Mans Sell-me-love".

The humour continues with a spoof documentary sketch "The Nerd Nation" about Sweden's obsession with Eurovision.  By the way, where can I buy those "Only Teardrops Eardrops"?

Back to the music and it's time for a certain Mr Zelmerlow to take to the stage, firstly rolling around on a hoverboard to his latest single "Fire In The Rain" and then of course reprising his 2015 winner "Heroes".

Another costume change for Petra, into a glittery pink gown.  A quickly word from the persistently puzzled Jon Ola Sand - but at least we get a chuckle from him so is this a major personality shift?? It's on to the voting which begins at approximately 10.50pm UK time. This is so going to over-run, isn't it?  But at least this year we've had some good value interval acts, whereas all I remember about Austria last year was, well, a lot of time-wasting.

There is a major change to the voting this year to make it all less predictable and provide a more exciting conclusion - thus avoiding the announcement of the winner before all jury votes are announced.  So the Melodifestivalen model will be used this year, with the jury scores announced first and then the big finale where the televote totals are translated into points.  

As it's been so many months since the contest took place, I won't go into much detail about the voting - suffice to say that in football speak it was certainly a "game of two halves".  By the end of the jury vote, Australia is running away with it and the top 5 is as follows:


The televoting is very different indeed.  Australia is only 4th in the televoting, whilst Poland's 3rd place in televoting sees them leapfrog all the way from last to a very respectable 8th.  

The final moments are more tense than we've had in a long time in an ESC final.  You can't deny that this change has made the voting much more exciting and less of a foregone conclusion.

With just two countries' votes to be announced, Australia still sit top of the table.  Ukraine comes 2nd in the televote and leapfrog Australia.  The tension is unbearable.  Russia wins the televote, but the 361 points are not enough and they have to settle for 3rd place behind Australia and sworn enemies rivals Ukraine.  Jamala wins ESC 2016 with "1944" - despite not winning either the jury vote or the televote.  Will this now set a precedent at ESC where diverse voting patterns and tastes between juries and televoters will leave the door open for a surprise winner?  Exciting times ahead, that's for sure.  Congratulations to Jamala, for delivering a winning performance packed with pain and emotion, but you have to feel sorry for Dami Im and Sergey Lazarev, as winning the jury vote or televote just wasn't enough at the end of the day.

What happened next:  "1944" did not go on to become a commercial success.  The Russian media was none too happy, calling it a political victory.  Ukraine meanwhile had a song contest to arrange, and the host city bidding process began.  Eventually this was shortlisted to 3 cities - Kyiv, Odessa and Dnipro.  After some false-alarms over the announcement dates, the announcement was finally made at the beginning of September, that next year's contest will return to Kyiv, host city in 2005.  

And it all starts again: countries confirming (many), withdrawing (Bosnia and Herzegovina), returning (Romania and Portugal), and a change in the rules which may allow the possible participation of associate members - there's a lot of talk about Kazakhstan, whilst Australia's participation for a 3rd year has not yet been confirmed.  

I'm still not convinced by the never-ending expansion of ESC - where will it end?  It's a big enough contest already, but what happens when it becomes too big?  I think that could end up doing ESC more harm than good.  One (or two maximum) 'special guests' every year would be ok but that would be enough for me.  

We already have a couple of countries confirming their performers: Cyprus will send Hovig whilst the Netherlands have selected O'G3NE, a trio of three sisters, who won The Voice of Holland.  Their band name is pronounced "O-Gene" but myself and many others have been calling them Oh-Gee-Three-Knee for a long time.  It's going to be a commentator's nightmare!

The Armenian selection process is underway.  The UK will stage another national final, as will Spain and Germany.  Week by week, snippets of information are being released about national final dates and/or rumoured contestants.  And there was even the surprise/shock news that Albania's Festivali i Këngës has changed its rules to allow a public jury to select some of the songs!  

Yes, welcome to Eurovision 2017 season.  It's on :))