2021’s Eurovision Song Contest was confusing – instead of the sparkle and sense of the ridiculous that we’ve come to expect from the competition, we got good music. And while I appreciate the wealth of songs and artists to add to my Spotify playlists, it wasn’t quite the dose of camp I’ve been looking for after a whole two years without my favourite event of the year.
But there were still some highlights. Here’s what to catch in case you weren’t able to see it this weekend.
1 point to … Greece
Last Dance by Stefania
A strategic entry from the Eurovision powerhouse, Last Dance sounds like it could be on Dua Lipa’s latest album. The set pushed the boundaries of the contest in its use of green-screen technology, reminiscent of Russia’s entry in 2016. (Sergey Lazarev walked up those stairs so Stefania could run.)
More impressive to me was Stefania’s outfit, easily the best in the final. Had her back-up dancers been better dressed, she might have been higher up my top 10.
2 points to … Malta
Je Me Casse by Destiny
Destiny is no stranger to fame, or the Eurovision Song Contest – she won the junior competition in 2015, she was a semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent, and she won Malta’s X-Factor last year. One of the favourites this year, Je Me Casse translates to “I’m outta here”, and is about rejecting the unwanted advances of a man.
It was a joy to watch Destiny belt out every single note like it was the last opportunity she’d get to sing in her life, only to stop during the chorus and wave her hands in the air. Out of all four women with the exact same silver one-piece, she wore it best.
3 points to … San Marino
Adrenalina by Senhit (featuring Flo Rida)
San Marino is famous in Eurovision because of one woman only: Valentina Monetta, who has represented the country in four out of the 11 times it has ever taken part. 2021 gave us Senhit, another repeat entrant, and – in easily the weirdest moment of the competition – Flo Rida.
Adrenalina is fun, catchy, and would’ve been just another one of those songs you forget about until the next Eurovision comes around and you think, “Oh yes, I love this song.” But Senhit and Flo Rida were charming on stage, and their energy was infectious.
4 points to … Switzerland
Tout l’univers by Gjon’s Tears
The runaway winner of the jury vote, and on paper, it’s easy to see why. The song shares a composer with previous winner Duncan Laurence’s Arcade, and the initial staging was even Gjon and a piano. Things were different by the time they made it to Rotterdam, with a glowing set and some interpretive dancing.
Gjon didn’t need any of it. It’s easy to feel his emotion through the screen as he sings his heart out, and it makes you wish I was in the stadium to witness it. I’m glad that many had the opportunity to do so this year.
5 points to… Italy
Zitti e buoni by Måneskin
Everyone really misses live music, and I’m sure that’s the reason why this concert-esque set won both the popular vote and the entire contest. Måneskin feel like genuine rockstars in a way previous Eurovision rock entrants did not. There’s something perverse about watching them get very sweaty while rocking out and touching each other on stage, knowing that we cannot do the same lest we become a superspreader.
6 points to … Iceland
10 years by Daði og Gagnamagnið
The perfect successor to Jaja Ding Dong, Iceland’s was one of the few entries that embodied what’s unique about Eurovision. Two of the band members testing positive for COVID meant the rest of the band was stuck in the hotel room for the finals, with their rehearsals broadcast instead, and it might have garnered them some extra sympathy with the audience. But they really didn’t need it – funky song, funkier dance and colourful stage design meant this one will be remembered for years to come.
You can also buy customised versions of their sweaters.
7 points to … Russia
Russian Woman by Manizha
Female power-vocal feminist anthems were aplenty this competition, but Russian Woman was the only one that empowered me. Manizha sang mostly in Russian, but I didn’t need the English lyrics or the words on the back of the screen to understand her gist. Bonus points for the community effort behind her set – her traditional dress was made out of a patchwork of fabric sent in from women all over Russia, and her set was covered in videos of them singing her song.
8 points to … Bulgaria
Growing Up Is Getting Old by Victoria
My favourite song of the night didn’t make it higher in my list because it was simply not a Eurovision song. Victoria is a wonder; her voice on stage sounds exactly like the studio version, and she’s captivating enough on her own that she doesn’t need much else on stage with her. But on a night full of quality music over spectacle, I was hoping for a little more.
Very sweet that she brought a picture of her father with her.
10 points to… Ukraine
Shum by Go_A
Every year I watch Eurovision expecting to witness some form of witchcraft. This year, I was victim to it. All lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko had to do was sing and stare me down through my RV screen. I could not look away. The flute and the CGI running men on the screen behind her definitely helped. The song was meant to a summoning spell for springtime, but I’m pretty sure it awakened my third eye.
I wish it was 10 hours instead of three minutes.
12 points to … Lithuania
Discoteque by The Roop
Everything about this entry was perfect. The Roop were the favourite to win last year’s cancelled competition, and they came back even stronger this year, with the perfect mix of weird and “good, actually”. The song, the dance, the heels, the second-best outfits of the competition, the slight hint of awkward but not so much that it gave you second-hand embarrassment. That it didn’t receive one of the top five spots of the competition is a crime.
Flo Rida’s jorts.