Open Up Opinions – The Highs, The Lows and The Unexpectedness of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

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I remember where I was two years ago when two hosts in Tel Aviv, Israel announced that the Netherlands had won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Myself and my sister were on the edge of our seats, tense, and practically screaming at the television, yelling at the hosts to ‘Just get on with it!’ In my family, there is no such thing as patience! Poor Murphy was scared of us, huddling on a chair! Still, we had nothing but high praise for Duncan Laurence and swooned over his beautiful ‘Arcade’ song. I had high hopes for the contest in 2020.

Or at least I did, until a certain event happened in 2020, called the coronavirus. I was gutted when it was announced that Eurovision was cancelled. The reasons were perfectly understandable but having been looking forward to see if Ireland would get through to the finals (we have had a very poor history of being eliminated in the semis in recent years) I was just so disappointed. 2020 was not a good year, that is for sure!

So when 2021 rolled around and it was announced that the contest would go ahead this year, everyone was thrilled. Personally I felt that Ireland had a decent chance with Lesley Roy and ‘Maps’. I’m not saying that we were going to win, but at least to get through to the finals would be great.

Semi Final 1 came around and Ireland was taking part that night. I watched Lesley Roy perform and… I was very underwhelmed. It was interesting in that she wanted to do something different but she just didn’t captivate the audience. She did the best that she could but it wasn’t strong enough for the final. When the Ukraine performed their amazing performance near the end of that night, I knew it was over for Ireland.

By the time that Semi Final 2 had completed, myself and my friends agreed that it would be a choice between Malta and Iceland. Malta’s Destiny blew us all away with her amazing performance and her beautiful voice – and she’s only 18! Of course, she had one thing that nobody else had – decent experience. Her experience comes from her win in Junior Eurovision in 2015, and being a backing vocalist for Michaela in 2019. Iceland….well, Iceland were favourites to win and had been since they were first introduced to us fans last year. When you Think About Things (pardon the pun), they were unique, captivating and had a solid fanbase.

At last, the final arrived and it was time to see who would be crowned the winner of 2021. The competition opened with a strong performance from Cyprus, marking the beginning of the whole show opening up again.

The slogan for 2021’s contest was ‘Open Up.’ After a year and a half with the entire world closed up and isolated with the pandemic taking over everybody’s lives. To have the Eurovision Song Contest held with a live audience meant a lot to everybody. The world is nowhere near back to normal, but the contest gave us a break from worrying about face masks and sanitizers and allowed us to just focus on the music.

Well mostly anyways. Panic rose when it was announced that two members of Daði og Gagnamagnið (Iceland’s unique entry) tested positive for the virus. There was fear that they would have to pull out of the competition, but it was some relief that they could perform albeit pre-recorded. And I felt really sorry for Duncan Laurence who was due to perform in the final only to be halted due to a positive test. Every winner is supposed to get a chance to relive that moment on stage, and sadly for him, the coronavirus prevented that.

There were highs, and there were lows throughout the entire show (I did not intend for that to rhyme). My friends and I had our agreements and disagreements over which acts were great and which ones were not. I remember there were mixed statements about Bulgaria’s entry where Victoria sung a tribute to her father who had been diagnosed with Motor-Neurone Disease, and nobody could understand why I wasn’t a fan Belgium’s song. There were agreements that France was brilliant and Russia was different but in a very good way, while there were disagreements about Norway’s Tix and his Fallen Angels as well as Moldova’s sexy act (I think everyone had gotten used to Moldova releasing goofy but great acts). We all had our opinions about each and every act and we all had our own predictions.

I will say one highlight that everyone loved was when Iceland were called to give their votes. The representative for Iceland, Hannes Óli Ágústsson (an actor from the controversial Fire Saga movie from last year) greeted the hosts, said it was a great song but then said ‘I personally would like you to play JaJa Ding Dong!’ Literally, I shrieked with laughter, everyone was thrilled to hear that – along with ’12 Points to Jaja Ding Dong!’ Fantastic! He looked so sad when he had to give the 12 points to Finland!

Nobody could have predicted what would happen at the public vote. With the new point system, it was less likely that a country would end up with nothing at the end of the night. Well! Nobody expected for the UK to end up with a big fat ZERO. No points from the jury, none from the public, they got ‘nul point.’ This is not the first time the UK ended up with nothing – some will remember the disaster that was Jemini in 2003. There is a lot in relation to Brexit that no doubt contributed to this result; but I have to give James Newman credit, he took the result with a smile and even opened the bottle of champagne he had!

Unbelievably, the United Kingdom was not the only act to receive no points from the public. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR countries ended up getting zero from the public. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands could only watch as the hosts announced they got nothing publicwise. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, particularly Germany’s Jendrik; he certainly needs praise for keeping positive about his final score of just 3 points – a far cry from 2018, when Michael Schulte’s heartbreaking performance won them 370 and fourth place in the competition. I remember one friend, Kate saying ‘Who is on this jury?’ There was no answer to that unfortunately!

As more countries received their points, we began to tense as they came to our favourites. When it reached Malta, we all braced ourselves…only to be shocked when Malta finished in seventh place. I was gutted for Destiny but she took it like a trooper which was very impressive. France ended up with 499 points finishing in second place, their best result in 30 years! (Not counting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last year, when young Valentina sung ‘J’imagine’ to victory.) Iceland ended up in a very respectable fourth place with 378 points…..

….but it was Italy who ended up at the top of the scoreboard, which a grand total of 524 points! Rock group, Måneskin stole the show, becoming the first rock group to win the contest since Finland’s Lordi in 2006. They put their all into their performance, with their song ‘Zitti e buoni’ described as “undeniable rock stomper with a hint of Franz Ferdinand in its slick guitar riffs” by NME. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when it was announced that they had won. Drummer Ethan Torchio was absolutely gobsmacked – I don’t think it fully sunk in for any of them at the time!

As unexpected as the result was, everyone was really pleased with the winner of this year’s contest. Måneskin certainly deserved their victory and we cannot wait to see where their careers takes off next. This was certainly an enjoyable contest to watch and it was really great to have Eurovision back after everything that happened last year.

So next year, we’ll be taking the contest over to the land of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Carlo Collodi. It hasn’t been determined which city will host yet, but they have plenty of great choices I will say that. And there is one other thing I will say that I know everyone will agree with me on…

Ireland will need to pull out all the big guns if we are to have any chance of getting through to the finals, let alone winning next year!

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