Eurovision 2019

Eurovision : A look back at Tel Aviv 2019

So , Christmas has passed us by and we’re approaching another year and in deed , another National final season in preparation for us to #openup the 2020 Eurovision song contest to be held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with Albania ,having chosen their entry already and some countries having selected their artists , with the songs due for reveal at a later date .

It really doesn’t seem like just over 7 months ago in sunny Tel Aviv , we were hearing Duncan Laurence reprise the winning song Arcade for the Netherlands, ending their 44 year wait for another win and Netta was handing over the trophy , telling us all that ” You’re going to Amsterdam”! ( Errrm , no Netta, we’re actually going to Rotterdam😁 , but then again , she told us all the year before that we were going to Jerusalem but we ended up going to Tel Aviv instead ! )

So what for you were your personal memories of Tel Aviv 2019? One thing for sure is that it was an interesting contest in many respects , some of it not all for the right reasons but no one can doubt that despite the initial misgivings reflected in some media reports about the contest being held in Israel at all, due to the conflict between Israel and Palestine and concern for the safety of all coming to attend the contest ,they did put on a memorable show . We at Eurovision Ireland decided to pick out a few of our memories from Tel Aviv 2019 , so here they are, in no particular order :

San Marino qualifying for the final !

San Marino had not exactly had the greatest of records when it came to qualifying for the Grand Final in Eurovision , with their only qualification prior to Tel Aviv 2019 being in Copenhagen 2014 when Valentina Monetta ( who had already tried twice in 2012 and 2013 ) finally made it with the song ‘Maybe’. So Serhat, having previously entered the contest and failed to qualify in 2016 with his song ” I didn’t know “, had all the hopes of San Marino again resting on him in Tel Aviv with his catchy little number with a title that was very reminiscent of the simple titles of Eurovision songs in days gone by . Think of songs like ‘La, la, la” ( Spain 1968) and ‘Ding , Ding a dong ‘( Netherlands 1975)… we got “Say Na Na Na ” from Serhat in 2019. Few may have expected Serhat to make it to the final , but he manged to build quite a bit of a fan base leading up to Tel Aviv 2019 and managed to qualify San Marino to the Grand Final and finish in 19th place .Will he do a Valentina and come back for a third go at Eurovision ?

Hatari representing Iceland and their stunt during the voting in the Grand Final

Eurovision has often thrown up controversy and Tel Aviv 2019 was no exception. The selection of Hatari to represent Iceland certainly brought a lot of media interest , with the group either being a firm fan favourite or for the more conservative viewers , perhaps feeling that they had landed in some kind of hell, with the band being described as an ‘anti capitalist , BDSM inspired techno music group’ , performing in front of cages and flames in full leather and fetish wear! It was one of those performances that you either loved or hated and had the ability to go either to the top or bottom of the leader board. However, it wasn’t just their performance that gave them a place in Eurovision history but what happened during the public voting in the Grand Final ; when they calmly displayed Palestinian flags when in full focus of the camera for all TV viewers to see , this in protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, causing shock waves with the audience in Tel Aviv and TV viewers alike. Hatari later said that it had been their intention to stage a protest and was their reason for entering Eurovision but hadn’t been sure until that point how they would do it . The Icelandic broadCaster RUV was fined 5,000 Euros by the EBU for the breaking of the no-politics rule

Past Eurovision stars performing a “Song Switch” .

So….we’ve had hosts in past contests singing and former contestants returning to reprise their Eurovision entries in interval acts over the years .The contest organizers this year, decided to invite back four previous contestants from past years to perform in the Grand Final in Tel Aviv, but with a slight difference…..they would not be singing their own songs but each others. So we had Måns Zelmerlow singing Eleni Foureira’s ‘Fuego’, Eleni singing “Dancing ( Lash tumbai) ” by Verka Serduchka Conchita Wurst singing Måns’s song ” Heroes” and Verka singing the previous year’s winning song ” Toy” by Netta . It was certainly a different approach to bringing back former winners and one we hope that future host broadcasters will be brave enough to repeat in the future.

Shalva performing in the interval of Semi Final two

For us at Eurovision Ireland, one of the most inspiring interval acts at the Eurovision song contest over the years has to be that from the group Shalva, who performed in Semi Final 2 in Tel Aviv . Shalva are a music band , with all members living with a disability . The group was formed in 2005 at the SHALVA organization , that supports and empowers individuals with disabilities and their families in Israel. It was fitting that with the slogan of this year’s contest being ‘Dare to Dream’ it must have been a dream come true for those band members to not just perform their heart -warming rendition of ” A million Dreams” to the audience in Tel Aviv , but to spread the message of acceptance, inclusion and the human spirit . One of the most moving interval acts in the history of the Eurovision Song contest, we think .

The Controversial choice of Madonna as an Interval Act in The Grand Final

To invite a big star or not invite a big star to perform in the Grand Final at Eurovision ? …..that is the question . It had already been done in 2014 , when Jessica Mauboy ( one of Australia’s big stars , who later went on to represent them in the 2018 contest in Lisbon) was invited to perform and in 2016 when Justin Timberlake performed in Stockholm, with some success. So you could probably understand why the organizers of Tel Aviv would do the same…except that the star they chose was one who is better remembered for her hits in the 1980’s and late ’90’s! It was probably hoped that this would appeal to the older Eurovision generation who would more likely remember Madonna and were still fans of her music . However , Madonna had also gained a reputation over the years for being quite controversial in some of her actions , those of us old enough to remember 1989 will probably remember the video for her song ” Like a prayer” causing controversy by featuring images such as dancing in front of burning crosses while singing alongside a gospel choir. Unfortunately the controversy came to Tel Aviv where Madonna put on what many considered to be a poor performance . She performed that same hit”Like a Prayer ” but instead of burning crosses and gospel choirs she had her backing dancers wearing Palestinian and Israeli flags and flashing the words “WAKE UP ” over the stage at the end of the performance . Her own outfit seemed also designed to get the shock factor , which consisted of a cloak, leather armour, fishnet tights and an eye-patch . She was also heavily criticized for her poor vocals on the night . The EBU later made a statement that Madonna had been warned of the no-politics rule when performing at the Eurovision Song contest . Let’s see what Rotterdam have lined up for us in 2020!

Australia’s staging

When Kate Miller Heidke was selected as Australia’s act for Tel Aviv in their first ever National Final ” Australia Decides, ahead of the hugely popular Electric Fields , there were initially some strong critics of the song ‘Zero Gravity ‘ both in and outside Australia ,with many saying it would not make it out of the semi final due to it being a pop-opera type of song, which historically don’t fare well at Eurovision. However , nothing could have prepared us for the staging in Tel Aviv , where Kate and her backing singers were propped up on poles with a spectacular stage effect of stars and space , looking if they were flying through the universe. And….. who could forget THAT crown ? The staging was a classic example of how the stage performance can make such a difference and the song’s popularity increased considerably in the rehearsal weeks , leading up to the contest.Will we see something as extraordinary in future contests?

The Voting Fiasco

The voting in Eurovision usually throws up some kind of controversy and Tel Aviv 2019 was no exception….except that this particular blunder meant that one particular act was denied their moment of glory ! It all kick started with the Belarussian jury being dismissed from voting in the Grand Final a when members of the jury were found to have revealed publicly the songs they preferred during the first semi-final. This is against rules which state that they should not do this until after the Grand Final. The Belarussian jury vote therefore had to be calculated by an “aggregated result approved by the auditors”.Unfortunately an error arose where it was discovered that Israel had been awarded 12 points by the Belarus and in fact was their only score on the jury vote , it was soon discovered that the calculated average was ranked from highest to lowest rather than lowest to highest ( Malta should have had the Belarussian 12 and not Israel) .The correct ranking for the jury vote was produced and brought some quite significant changes This meant that Sweden were knocked off the top spot of the Jury vote , although they then leapfrogged over the Televote winner, Norway into 5th place . Cyprus and Malta improved by two places to 13th and 14th, pushing down Slovenia and France. However , the most significant was that North Macedonia became the winners of the Jury Vote, denying Tamara Todevska her moment of glory of leading the contest at the half way stage ! Let’s hope that lessons have been learned and we do not see a repeat of this in Rotterdam !

AND FINALLY…….The Netherlands wins again after 44 years!

Whether you love or hate the song, noone could deny The Netherlands deserved their long awaited win after 44 years since their last win with Teach-in in 1975.

We at Eurovision Ireland would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and we look forward to bringing you more news, views and excitement as we #openup for the build up to Rotterdam 2020 !

Author : Sarah Rudman

Sources : ESC Insight ,YouTube ,Shalva.org

Image sources: YouTube

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