Eurovision Song Contest 2022: Ukraine wins the public's hearts

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Eurovision Song Contest 2022: Ukraine wins the public's hearts

Colorful, campy, confounding: to the uninitiated, the Eurovision Song Contest (or ESC for short) can be all this and more. Think New York Met Gala meets Bollywood dream song sequence, enriched by — sometimes — mindboggling lyrics, bizarre choreography, pyrotechnics and rib-tickling commentary by national broadcasters. As one of the world's biggest song and dance extravaganzas, the ESC attracts around 200 million viewers worldwide. The brainchild of Marcel Bezencon of the European Broadcasting Union, the ESC was originally conceived through a desire to unite European countries through cross-border television broadcasts following World War II. Thus, Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra winning this year's trophy with their song "Stefania" proved particularly poignant, given that the country is in the midst of a war with Russia. Sam Ryder had originally topped the jury votes Ukraine had been the odds-on favorite to win this year's ESC, the 66th edition of the contest, held on Saturday in Turin, Italy. Yet, the ESC's voting system that is decided both by national juries of the 40 participating countries as well as televoting by the public kept viewers guessing until the end. The national jury votes had overwhelmingly favored the United Kingdom's Sam Ryder and his impressive falsetto rendering of "Space Man." But a whopping 439 public votes catapulted the previously fourth-placed Kalush Orchestra to top spot. After Kalush Orchestra performed their song, they addressed the millions of viewers who watched them saying, "SaveMariupol, Save Ukraine and Help Azovstal." "Stefania," which was originally written in honor of frontman Oleh Psiuk's mother, mixes rap with elements of Ukrainian folk music. The group later rededicated it to all matriarchs in Ukraine, with the line, "I'll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed" taking on a new meaning after the war. "We came here with a sad song and just the message that, on the contrary, we need to draw attention to ourselves. They are trying to destroy our culture right now, and we are here now to show everyone that our culture is alive," Psiuk had told DW in an interview on May 13, explaining why the band chose to participate in the contest despite the war. "Our music is alive and very interesting, it has something unique, its own identity and a very beautiful signature," he added. Twenty-five countries had made it to the finals, which started off dramatically with footage of Rockin' 1000 — a rock band comprising 1,000 musicians — playing an instrumental version of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." However, in true Eurovision style, some acts proved singular for their choice of lyrics, outfits or choreography. Norwegian band Subwolfer added an aura of mystery with their masks "Give That Wolf A Banana" is an ear worm by Norway's Subwoolfer, an anonymous duo known only by their pseudonyms Jim and Keith. Dressed in suits with their faces covered by yellow wolf masks, their toe-tapping chorus goes, "Before that wolf eats my grandma / give that wolf a banana." The listener is left with much room for interpretation: do the lyrics reference the story of Red Riding Hood or the fact that wolves are back in European forests or that veganism is the way to go? The Serbian artist Konstrakta's song also referred to Meghan Markle' hair Serbian artist Konstrakta, who was dressed as a nurse and whose routine saw her seated with a bowl of soapy water in which she kept washing her hands, sings: "What could be the secret of Meghan Markle's healthy hair? What could it be? I think it's all about the deep hydration." She had previously explained that her song "In Corpore San" was about underscoring the importance of health, especially in present times. The affable German contestant, Malik Harris, however, went home literally empty handed. Despite being enthusiastically applauded by the audience for his song "Rockstars," he received zero points from the jury and a total of six points from the televoters. This despite his song being in the German Top 10. The last time Germany won the ESC was in 2010 when Lena won it for the upbeat "Satellite." Traditionally the winner of the finals will host the folllowing year's competition. However, given the current situation in Ukraine, the EBU might reconsider staging the event in Kyiv. The Guardian reported that runner-up United Kingdom might stand a chance of playing host instead, adding that the 2023 host will most likely be chosen from one of the "big five" countries — namely France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK — who make significant financial contributions to the EBU and who are guaranteed direct entry into the final. Russia's ban from the 2022 Eurovision was a consequence of its invasion of Ukraine. But even before that, politics also marred Ukraine's national selection this year. Alina Pash, who had first won the selection contest, was found to have traveled to Crimea from Russia in 2015 — breaking Ukraine's rules set in 2019. She pulled out, allowing runner-up Kalush Orchestra to represent the country. This 2017 contest, held in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, marked the first time that a host state banned another country's entrant. Ukrainian security services denied entry to 27-year-old, wheelchair-bound Yulia Samoylova of Russia after reports surfaced that she had toured Crimea after Russia annexed it in 2014. In response, Russia's state-owned broadcaster Channel One will not air the contest. Russia and Ukraine had their share of Eurovision drama in 2016 when Ukrainian entrant Jamala beat Russia's Sergey Lazarev. The song "1944" about Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars during the World War Two was initially deemed controversial due to the contest's ban on explicit political messages. Jamala was victorious, however, with 534 points. Russia finished third, with Australia second. Even though the song contest is known as a celebration of diversity, at the 2014 event in Copenhagen, the victory of Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst (the stage persona of Tom Neuwirth) saw a backlash from numerous countries. Radical groups in Russia, Azerbaijan and Belarus all campaigned — without success — to keep the then 25-year-old from entering. Citing "dissatisfaction with the rules," Turkey refused to participate in the 2013 contest. Following Conchita Wurst's victory, a Turkish MP from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP reported the country would no longer take part in the Eurovision Song Contest. Turkey had participated in the contest 34 times since its first appearance in 1975 and even won in 2004. Georgia was disqualified from the Moscow 2009 contest over their disco-funk entry, "We Don't Wanna Put In" after the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU) deemed the lyrics too political. As well as an apparent play on Russian President Vladimir Putin's name, Georgian female trio 3G, along with male vocalist Stephane sang of a "negative move" that was "killing the groove." In 2001, Estonia became the first former-Soviet republic to win Eurovision. "We freed ourselves from the Soviet empire through song," Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar said, following the victory in Copenhagen. "Now we will sing our way into Europe," he added, referring to the talks that led the country to join the European Union in 2004. Estonia's independence was restored in 1991. A long-running debate in Eurovision is the apparent bloc voting by neighboring countries. Late UK presenter Terry Wogan famously stepped down from commentating Eurovision in 2008, saying it was "no longer a music contest." Some of the main perpetrators are Cyprus and Greece, Scandinavia, the Balkan states and the former Soviet bloc. The change in voting in 2016 aimed to minimize geographical bias. Language has long been a fundamental flaw at the heart of Belgium's ongoing existential Eurovision crisis. For years, in a bid to keep the peace at home, Belgium has alternated between sending an entry to sing either in Flemish or French. Back in 2003, however, the Belgians avoided any linguistic woes with their entry "Sanomi," which was sung by the band Urban Trad in a fictional language. In 1969, Austria took a political stance against Spain and withdrew from Eurovision. The country refused to take part in Madrid to show its opposition to the Franco regime. Spanish General Francisco Franco ruled over Spain as a military dictator for 39 years from 1936 until his death in 1975. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people died as a result of his human rights abuses. Author: Kate Brady, Elizabeth Grenier Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru

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