Editorials & Opinion

Did anyone really care about Eurovision 2017?

In a year of Eurodrama, low budgets, low ratings, and decreased moral... Something was missing from Eurovision 2017— and it wasn't just Russia.

The lead up to Eurovision 2017 was a progressive and collective ‘deep sigh,’ that never seemed to translate into a cheer.” —Me.

Something was missing from Eurovision 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine. No, I am not just talking about Russia… We’ll get to that later. Let me start from the beginning.

I sat at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, May 2016 right next door to Globen where Jamala was crowned the Eurovision 2016 champion. It was “The Party” an event that was part watch party, part concert. The idea of sitting one more minute in Globen was nauseating even for a Eurovision fanatic like myself. I had spent countless days in the press room watching the rehearsals over and over, running back and forth between the arena and the metro. I was tired. I was happy to have a night to celebrate Eurovision and be a FAN.

My girlfriend, at the time, arrived earlier that day to hang out with me in Stockholm. She isn’t a Eurovision fan and I was excited to get her take on the show and introduce her to my Eurovision family. We started the evening off at Euroclub and then hopped the train with my friend James to head to Tele2 Arena. The entire Eurovision 2017 season was leading up to this moment…

I expected Russia to win. I did. I was hoping for a Dami Im “upset.” I loved 1944, but I figured the controversy would be too much for jurors and televoters alike. In theory, it was. Jamala didn’t win the jury or the televote. At any rate, Jamala was flawless Every. Single. Time. She. Sang. There wasn’t a bum note in sight. Jamala is and was the rightful winner of Eurovision 2017— sort of.

Eurovision 2016 had HITS. Russia wow’d on stage and Sergey performed flawlessly the night of the jury and in the final. The man was climbing all over the place and still sounded exactly like the track. Australia brought Dami Im who did the damn thing and is by far one of the most skilled vocalists I’ve had the privilege of experiencing live. Poli Genova’s staging looked like an interval act in the best way. The studio version of J’ai Cherché actually made me cry… The show was strong. There was a host of rightful winners.

When it was revealed that Sergey failed to get enough votes from the televote I turned to my friend James and let out a deep sigh. I was sighing because I had just gotten into an argument with my girlfriend who was drunk in the arena. I was sighing because I knew the Eurovision season was about to end. I sighed because even though I loved the song… I didn’t think it would actually win. It felt predictable. Hell!? I predicted it would win months prior. I didn’t think I would be right. I didn’t want to be right. I wanted to be surprised.

Ukraine always delivers. Ukraine has amazing vocalists. Jamala wasn’t different in that respect. Jamala said everything right in her interviews. She was genuine. Her story was heartfelt and authentic. The package was professional, palatable and ultimately predictable.

As I looked at James we both began to tear up. “See you guys at Eurovision 2017,” he texted to our group with a mixture of a chuckle and cry.

And there it was… It was the moment my excitement for Eurovision 2017 began to widdle away, but this was only the beginning…

We were going back to Ukraine for Eurovision 2017…

The contest was already in Kiev, Ukraine. Not that that really means anything but in a year where Croatia, Bulgaria, and Australia (countries who have never hosted) were so strong it felt like a missed opportunity to return to a former winning country.

The over hyped and drawn out host city search was a nuisance. I was personally hoping for Odessa. A beach town with touristy amenities AND history seemed like a cool fit in my opinion. Lviv was also a favorite of mine, a small city blending Central and Eastern European styles would have been a nice change. Instead, after months of unnecessary speculation perpetuated by the EBU and UA:PBC, we ended up going back to Kiev. Kiev— the predictable and repeat host city…

At least if Sweden wins Eurovision again we know we are going to Gothenburg. aka something different from Malmö and Stockholm.

To drag fans along for an inordinate amount of time was a waste. That type of attitude should have been noted more closely.

Kiev, Kyiv… However you prefer to spell it.

Let’s be honest, when people talk about European travel Ukraine is not the top of their list. Sure! It is affordable but in the middle of May and post-Winter, I am personally craving more than 60 degree weather and a hostel. Look, I am traveling from the States. This isn’t a train ride away and I am not made of money.

Eurovision is a song contest but it is also a tourist event and speaking personally… I couldn’t see myself shelling out $800+ for a flight— no matter how cheap the beer was.

“2016 was like going to 5-star resort with a water park and 1st class amenities all the way. 2017 was like going to a drug infested roach motel down the street with a small pool filled with raw sewage. It’s obvious Ukraine is so dirt poor they didn’t want to host it and went the cheap route. OTOH Sweden was excited about hosting and went all out including paying Justin Timberlake [a] shit load of money to perform. 2016 also had much better songs…”

Jam Slam, YouTube User

The hosts were… hosts.

Although I didn’t think the hosts were that bad, they weren’t Petra. Stockholm set the bar very high and anyone following it up was going to struggle but the humor was cheesy. The chemistry was not there and when you lead a 3-hour long show you need to be on point. The hosts were good looking and okay, but they needed to wow. They were safe picks by the broadcaster and in a year about diversity, three White men was just a poor choice. Able-bodied, cis White men will never represent diversity. Do not argue with me on this point.

Look, The hosts in Vienna still take the title of least favorite hosts of the modern Eurovision era, but the boys in Ukraine were nothing more than eye candy. Exception: Timur Miroshnychenko, I thought he was a good host who had bad writers…

Shoulda hired Petra, wait! They couldn’t afford it.

Where was the money?

Ok. We get it. Ukraine had some serious budgetary restrictions in the beginning. Imagine this— You don’t have the money to do Eurovision “right,” so you withdraw from the competition that year. They eventually got the money, but was it too late?

This isn’t a novel concept.

Perhaps 2016 was the year that Ukraine decided to take a little break? There is no shame in that. I applaud that level of discernment and maturity. But, Ukraine was quite frankly too petty to let that stand because in Ukraine the political battle against Russia extends to a song competition about unity. And Ukraine can’t possibly let Russia see them sweat.

  • Sidebar: I actually applaud and envy Ukraine’s petty and ability to give ZERO F#cks. We should all be so lucky.

Why couldn’t we let the woman in the wheelchair sing?

This has been dissected and debated ad nauseam, so I won’t spend too much time here. I don’t care what Ukraine’s laws say. They took the bait. They didn’t allow Julia Samoylova to sing, “Flame is Burning,” and in the process, they look like bullies. PERIOD. A year about diversity became a little more generic and a little more sterilized because of political foolishness. Could the EBU have done more? Maybe…

From where I am sitting as an American— not-involved/third-party— I sympathize with Ukraine politically. I also think they looked really bad by not letting Julia Samoylova perform. PERIOD.

The shoe-in…

The over-hyping of Italy as the “shoe-in” to win had folks lazy. The Italy hype had an unfortunate effect on the other competitors. No one was checking for them. People (as a whole) didn’t allow themselves to get to know the other artists and their tracks. Guess what? Beautiful Mess is a well-sung and thoughtfully staged song from Bulgaria… It finished 2nd place and the fact that that shocked some people is drumroll shocking! Had people (aka average ESC consumers) taken the time to dive in they may have begun to connect to the other acts.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I thought Italy was top 5 at best. Maybe top 3 but I never had them winning. NEVER.

At the end of the day, the Italy hype just simply took over the ESC coverage next to the Russia vs. Ukraine Eurodrama and ESC is a CONTEST. We don’t want shoe-ins. Would you watch a competition show if you already knew who won? Well there was a 21 million decrease in viewership so there’s your #FACT.

Where was the competition?

Ask anyone… This year was weak. I don’t think this point is truly up for debate. I did a quick tally comparing the entries from last year to this year and found a mere 14 entries that upgraded from 2016 (my opinion). 14!?! Every year countries should be competing with themselves first and foremost. The bar should be raised from year to year and Eurovision 2017, for most countries, was a bit of a step-down.

In closing

I love Eurovision. I love the Song Contest. I love how the show brings people together to celebrate music and diversity. It’s fun and I take it seriously. By the time April rolled around I was all in for Eurovision 2017… But something was still off. The expression, “It’s not what you say it is how you say it.” This expression is how I describe Eurovision 2017.

The show was fine. The vibe was off.

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