ROTTERDAM — The Italian band Maneskin celebrated its 2021 Eurovision win by the rock ’n’ roll playbook, with bare chests covered in tattoos, champagne spraying and the thuds of fireworks exploding.
The win was a close and deeply emotional one, with the band’s song, “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Be Quiet,” edging into first place in an exhilarating vote that was ultimately decided by the public. Maneskin barely beat France’s Barbara Pravi, and her chanson “Voilà.” After the victory, an Italian reporter was sobbing as tears streamed down his face.
Capturing what many felt, he said the victory was a fresh start for Italy. “It was a very difficult year for us,” the reporter, Simone Zani, said, talking about the devastating impact of the coronavirus. Explaining through his tears, he said, “We are from the north of Italy, from Bergamo,” an Italian city with record numbers of Covid-19 deaths. “To be No. 1 now, this is a new start for us, a new beginning.”
Eurovision, the largest music contest in the world, is a campy trifle to some, but it celebrates Europe’s cultural diversity and is a reflection of the times we live in. For many outside Europe, the attraction of Eurovision can be hard to comprehend. But a key reason the 200-million plus audience is watching is that there is no cultural mold for the event. Anything goes, and diversity is highly encouraged. The global entertainment business may be dominated by U.S. pop culture, but at Eurovision, 39 different countries can showcase their ideas of music and pop culture with no industry rules other than a three-minute song limit.
Jendrik playing a diamond studded ukulele while being accompanied by a dancing finger. Tix, the singer for Norway, has Tourette’s syndrome. He was dressed in a gigantic fur coat and wearing angel wings, while being chained to four horned demons. “Remember guys, you are not alone,” he said to everyone “suffering” in the world.
The three singers of Serbia’s entry, Hurricane, may have sported the big hair look of American groups of decades past, but despite seeming as if they had bought up most of the hair extensions on the continent, they sang their song, “Loco Loco,” in Serbian.
Nikkie Tutorials. The crowd went wild every time she came onstage or even walked past the corridors.
Dadi Freyr, and other group members, watched from a hotel room as the results came in. Standing in for the missing performers were dolls wearing the band’s outfit, topped with iPads showing their faces. Despite the recorded performance, Iceland landed fourth place.
Duncan Laurence, who had won for the Netherlands in 2019, also contracted the virus and wasn’t able to perform during this year’s finals as is the tradition. The event was canceled in 2020.
Hossein Zenderoudi. Her song dusts off the French chanson, recalling singers like Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.
Some had criticized her, calling her style of singing out of fashion, but Ms. Pravi strongly disagreed. “You don’t need to make concessions in music,” she said. “You can be absolutely yourself, doing the music you like, say the words you want and being the woman you want to be. And now I am here at Eurovision, the biggest contest in the world.”
Early Sunday morning Ms. Pravi was seen in the dimly lit press center speaking to French reporters who couldn’t believe that their country had come so close to victory, after having achieved almost no Eurovision honors since their victory in 1977.
James Newman, the United Kingdom’s entrant, was nowhere to be found. His song “Embers” had received zero points from both the national juries and the international audience. “It’s Brexit,” said Meg Perry-Duxbury, a Briton living in Rotterdam, sitting next to me in the arena. “Europe doesn’t want us to win.” She herself was supporting Cyprus (another song featuring devils) anyway, Ms. Perry-Duxbury said. “So whatever.”
The Eurovision Song Contest, the first major global cultural event to be held in person since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, ended in a triumph for Italy’s Maneskin, who won with a hard-rocking song called “Zitti E Buoni.”
The song received 524 points in voting from national juries and the public, beating France’s entrant, Barbara Pravi, by 25 points, and was cheered to victory by over 3,500 Dutch fans at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world, rock ‘n’ roll never dies!” said Damiano David, the band’s lead singer, accepting the prize.
Maneskin, a rare rock winner in a contest whose previous winners include Abba and Celine Dion, beat 25 other acts, some unusual even for Eurovision standards, including a folk-techno act from Ukraine, a feminist Russian pop star and an Icelandic disco band.
The show will be seen by many around the world as a sign that major cultural events, featuring competitors from dozens of countries, can be held successfully if sufficient measures are put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In the run up to Saturday’s event, contestants had to undergo regular coronavirus testing, adhere to social distancing rules and stay in their hotels if not attending rehearsals.
The measures were not enough to stop the pandemic from intruding entirely on the event. Last Saturday, a member of the Polish delegation tested positive for Covid-19. The following day so did a member of Iceland’s entry, the hotly tipped disco act Dadi Freyr and Gagnamagnid, who were staying at the same hotel.
This was Italy’s third win since the contest’s creation in 1956; its previous triumph was in 1990, with Toto Cutugno.
Testifying to the strength of the field, the lead kept changing as the votes from the various national juries came in, with Switzerland in the top spot by then, followed by France and Malta. But the popular vote upended the ranking, and Italy passed its competitors.
Trying to get a seat in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where the Eurovision finals are taking place, isn’t that simple.
Last year’s Eurovision was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Dutch organizers have come up with an elaborate admission and testing scheme to keep the virus out while holding the largest music contest on the planet. All visitors have to undergo a test for the virus, people over 70 are not allowed and reporters are banned from the main auditorium during the final round.
More than 3,500 mainly Dutch fans were in to see the show, while journalists, some 400 of them, have been tucked away in a dark, rather depressing conference hall, where they can follow the event on four large screens.
Inside, people were filled with exuberance, partly because the show was going on after a year’s hiatus, and partly because it just felt so good to be out of lockdown. The costumes were colorful: Near me, two men were wearing orange tuxedos and another man wore a British flag as a cape.
Wiwibloggs. “I’ll gladly wear a military grade face mask, if I can be among the singers and the public.”
I decided not to miss out on the live event. So I found myself at 10 a.m. this morning standing in the rain on a drab field outside of the city of Lisse for my Covid test. In hand, I had my ticket, which cost a mere €650, or about $790.
LONDON — When the Eurovision Song Contest was canceled last March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Vasil Garvanliev, North Macedonia’s entry, was distraught.
“My whole life, I’d been working my butt off to get there and my journey didn’t even take off,” Garvanliev, 36, said in a telephone interview. “I was devastated.”
For Garvanliev — and the event’s hundreds of millions of fans — Eurovision is far more than a glitzy, high-camp song contest. “It’s the Olympics of singing,” Garvanliev said.
Last March he sat on his bed feeling depressed, he remembered, before picking up a keyboard to try to console himself. He started picking out a gentle melody on the instrument, then lyrics popped into his head. “Wait, it won’t be long,” he sung, “trust your heart and just stay strong.”
Abba and Lordi, a Finnish heavy metal act whose members dress as monsters.
The arena will be at 20 percent capacity, with just 3,500 people in the audience cheering the contestants on, while remaining seated to lessen the risk of coronavirus spreading. The event is officially part of a series of Dutch government trials to see how to run large events in a safe way. The contestants will all have made prerecorded versions of their songs in case they catch Covid-19 and are unable to perform.
But perhaps the most unusual aspect is that all the returning contestants will be performing a different song than the one they had planned for the 2020 event. In a competition known for one-hit wonders, who disappear from view almost as soon as the contest ends, this year’s contestants have to prove they don’t fit that pattern.
Here I Stand” wouldn’t fall into that trap.
Think About Things,” a catchy disco number about his newborn child.
By the time Eurovision was canceled, the song’s video had been watched millions of times on YouTube. Soon, it was going viral on Twitter and TikTok too, after families started performing variations of the video’s dance routine while stuck at home in lockdown.
“It changed my life, that song,” Freyr said in a video interview. Before the pandemic, Freyr generally only got booked for shows in Iceland, he said. Suddenly he was selling out tours across Europe.
10 Years,” this time about his marriage (“How does it keep getting better?” he sings in the chorus). He felt he had to keep the track similar in style to “Think About Things,” since Icelanders had voted for a fun disco tune to represent them at the competition, he said. It still took 12 attempts to come up with a new song he liked, he added.
The track’s so far not gone viral, but Freyr said that didn’t bother him. “I didn’t go to try and recreate the success, because I know it’s impossible to predict something like that,” he said. “Luck has to be part of it.”
Four other Eurovision returnees said in interviews that they found the pandemic to be the biggest hurdle to writing a new hit. “For the first three or four months of the pandemic, I just didn’t do any writing at all,” said Jessica Alyssa Cerro, Australia’s entry, who performs as Montaigne.
“I sort of got to November and was like, ‘Hmm, I should probably start working on that Eurovision song, huh?’” she added.
Jeangu Macrooy, the Netherlands’ entry, said in a telephone interview that he similarly struggled. “I was getting no inspiration — I was just sitting inside,” he said.
Then, in December when he was trying to write entries for the contest, a host of thoughts and feelings around George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement started bubbling up inside him.
Birth of a New Age,” an uplifting track about being “the rage that melts the chains.” Macrooy said he hoped it would speak to everyone standing up for their rights now, whether people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people or the otherwise marginalized. The chorus of “You can’t break me” is sung in Sranan Tongo, the lingua franca of his native Suriname in South America.
Technicolour,” which she recorded in March.
with thousands of new cases of coronavirus currently being reported every day. “It would have been so bad if I was the person who brought coronavirus back to Australia, where we’re sitting in stadiums, having a good time dancing and touching each other,” she said.
Even without attending, she still has a story to “tell my grandkids about,” she said. She’s the only Eurovision contestant ever to have missed the event twice because of a pandemic.