Eurovision 2021 review: A glorious cocktail of music, theatrics and abject embarrassment

Poor James Newman was greeted by our European neighbours with all the enthusiasm of a fart in a crowded room

Fiona Sturges
Sunday 23 May 2021 09:43
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James Newman celebrated his Eurovision performance getting no public votes

Is there a more joyful sign of a world getting back to normal than the return of Eurovision? There can be no better emblem of the indomitable human spirit than a grinning German man singing next to a woman dressed as a hand doing the peace sign with one finger semi-collapsed, leaving her looking like a penis on legs. In accordance with tradition, all this must be watched by a global audience of extremely drunk people. Nature, as they say, is healing.

With last year’s event cancelled due to the pandemic, this beloved annual pageant of bonkers staging, veiled political side-swipes and frequently baffling pop music, which took place in Rotterdam, was painfully overdue. The 2019 contest drew an audience of 182 million. I’d wager that tonight’s show exceeded that figure, such is our thirst for kitsch technicolour merriment.

Amazingly, the evening’s theatrics didn’t suffer from the thinned-out, Covid-safe crowd, while this year’s entrants were the strongest in years, perhaps because they had two years to rehearse. The best performances were a mix of big guns and unexpected outliers, among them Sweden (big chorus, even bigger key change); Switzerland (theme tune for the next Scandi-noir splatter-fest); Iceland (po-mo indie kids with a disco heart); Malta (Lizzo lawsuit incoming); and France (simply the Frenchest thing you’ve ever heard).

As for bonkers moments, we were spoiled. Greece provided wacky green-screen choreography, meaning the lead singer was left dancing with a gaggle of sentient pairs of trousers. Ukraine offered gothic throat singing amid mad Tim Burtonesque scenery. Spain’s bequiffed singer performed a power ballad while knee-deep in dry ice under a giant polystyrene moon. All the while, Graham Norton was in his element, his commentary striking a perfect balance between mirth and affection. Somewhere from the great beyond, the late Terry Wogan raised a glass.

The scores heralded the customary geopolitical intrigue via an array of excitable, heavily spray-tanned presenters. Alas, the British entry from the conspicuously down-to-earth James Newman was greeted by our European neighbours with all the enthusiasm of a fart in a crowded room. It was nul points for the United Kingdom, which the singer took sweetly on the chin, earning a massive pity-cheer for his efforts.

The winner was Italy’s Maneskin and their song “Zitti e buoni”,  featuring a Perry Farrell-esque singer in too-short leather flares. On being asked for his reaction, he hollered “rock’n’roll never dies”, sending ripples of mortification across the entire world. A glorious cocktail of music, theatrics and abject embarrassment, Eurovision didn’t let us down.

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