61º Eurovision Song Contest
1944 (Jamala) - Ukraine
The 61st Eurovision Song Contest took place at the Ericsson Globe on May 10th, 12th and 14th 2016 after Mans Zelmerlöw winning the 60th edition with his song "Heroes". This was the sixth time for Sweden to host the contest, the third in Stockholm and the second at the Ericsson Globe (Previously known as the Globen Arena and venue of the 2000 contest).
Sweden made it again and this year's Eurovision Song Contest was the most spectacular and best produced to date. The event was brilliantly hosted by Petra Mede (who also hosted in 2013) and Måns Zelmerlöw himself. Both delighted the audience in a way no host had ever done before and were and still are considered the best hosts ever. The three shows were bright and entertaining with lots of gags and musical acts making fun of the ESC itself, reminding us at times of things we have seen many a time in the Oscars or the MTV awards ceremonies and, for the first time in the 61-year-history of the Eurovision Song Contest, a non-contestant Global Superstar, Justin Timberlake, entered the Eurovision stage.
Ukraine won the contest with the song "1944" sung by Jamala. This is Ukraine's second victory. The first one was in 2004 with the song Wild Dances sung by Ruslana. Although very different in rhythm and style, both songs share an ethnic tribal touch. The lyrics of this year's winning song were somehow controversial as they are about Tartar people deported by Stalin during Second World War and got accusations of politicization from Russia. Part of the song was sung in English and part in Tartar.
Forty-three countries were meant to participate, equalling the record number of participants set in 2008 and 2011. However, three weeks before the contest the EBU withdrew member services from Romanian broadcaster following the non-payment of debts totalling € 16 million and therefore the country was forced to withdrew from the contest too. So in the end the total number of participants was 42.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine returned after their absences from recent contests. On the other hand, Portugal withdrew this year.
Greece failed qualification after twelve years of continuous presence in the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest. This is the first time since 2004, when the semi-final was introduced to Eurovision Song Contest, that Greece fails to reach the Grand Final of the competition. Greece started its Eurovision adventure in 1974 and they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, with the song "My Number One" performed by Helena Paparizou. Since their victory they have been very successful in Eurovision. Greece, along with Russia and Romania had qualified for the Grand Final every single year since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004 and they ended in top-10 nine out of twelve times. They never finished last in the contest. Seven time record winner Ireland also failed to qualify and so did Denmark for second time in a row. No Scandinavian country qualified in the semi-finals and so Sweden, the host country, was the only Scandinavian country in the final, something that had not happened since 1970.
Australia returned after their wild card to début as a special guest in 2015. This time, however, they had to compete in the semi-finals to gain the right to be in the grand final on May 14th which they did winning the second semi-final with a powerful ballad wonderfully performed by Dami Im which was among the favourites to win the contest and finally ended in 2nd place only 23 points behind the winner. After previous year's 5th place It seems the Aussies have taken the contest really seriously and have come to stay. Everybody's favourite to win, Russia, ended 3rd, 20 points behind Australia.
2016 saw the major change in the voting system in four decades. The EBU announced on 18 February 2016 that a new voting system would be implemented at the contest for the first time since 1975 in an attempt to "inject new excitement" and avoid the infamous "we'd done the math" presenters used in 2014 and 2015 to announce the winner well before the last countries presented their votes.
The new system, inspired by the voting system of the Swedish Melodifestivalen, involves each country now awarding two sets of points: one from their professional jury and the other from tele-voting. After viewers have cast their votes, the results of each professional jury is presented. After the results of the professional juries have been presented, the tele-voting points from all participating countries are combined, providing one score from each song. The results are given in ascending order from the one with the least points to the tele-voting winner. The ultimate goal of this big change is to add drama so that we won’t know who the winner is until the very last minute. And that was exactly what happened in this 61st edition.
Russia got the most points from the public, an amazing boost of 361 points which, however, was not enough to raise them to the first place because the juries had previously left them in 5th place with only 131 points. Just the opposite happened to Australia. They were left in 1st place by the juries with 320 points. The public, however, gave Australia only 191 points leaving them behind Russia, Ukraine and Poland! Yes, the Polish song which only got 7 points from the juries and was second to last before the tele-voting raised to the 8th place thanks to the astonishing 222 points from the public. Really amazing to witness tastes and opinions so different. The outcome of all this was somehow ironical: The winner was a song which was nobody's favourite. The juries wanted Australia to win and the public wanted Russia, but in the end it was all about math again after all, and once the maths were done Ukraine was on top ¡Congratulations!
The moral victor of this edition, however, has to be Australia. Let's face it, Australia has no friends in Europe other than the UK. While Eastern Europe, the ex-USSR republics and the Balkan, Scandinavian and Baltic countries support each other year after year spreading points around them, as if they had a voting spray, be it in the name of history, culture or just because, mind you, they actually like each-other's song, Australia can't rely on anything but the quality of their tune if they want to win. A bad song sent by Georgia would always get more points than a poor song from the UK, Portugal or Spain. And if you have a good song, then the more friends you've got the higher your chances of winning are. But to win the ESC without neighbouring countries to boost your total score you don't need just a good song, what you need is a masterpiece. Dami Im's Sound of Silence had everything a song needs to win, everything but for some neighbouring countries to give it a few points, not too many actually, she was almost there! No need to be greed, we don't like to abuse our friends. Say 23. Just 23. Yes! 23 points can make a difference. Can't it Dami?
But moral victors do not organize the ESC the following year so...