My ESC250 Votes for 2021

So, my plan was to stop my contest reviews for a while because I imagined that Eesti Laul would be releasing the songs which will compete at next Saturday’s first quarter final, but it turns out we’ll be hearing them for the first time on the night itself. This means that I’ll continue on with the 1961 contest tomorrow and successive contests until Albania or the Czech Republic release their national final entries. As a reminder, I won’t be covering Junior Eurovision.

In any case, today I’m going to share and explain my first ESC250 votes. While I’ve been meaning to participate in this for a few years now, I always felt like I hadn’t listened to enough contests to really be able to say I knew enough songs in order to be able to vote. Fortunately I have now overcomes this ridiculous line of thinking: here are my votes, in reverse order:

1 point – “Run Away” by Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira (Moldova 2010)

This is just pure fun — I appreciate that “Hey Mamma” from 2017 was far more successful and arguably a more polish and coherent song, but the youthful exuberance is a joy to watch. And then there’s the Epic Sax Guy meme, but that’s just a bonus.

2 points – “Alcohol Is Free” by Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis (Greece 2013)

Perhaps my favourite combination of traditional and modern music styles. I love the soft-loud-soft-loud structure of the song and the way Iakovidis is a rock of calm among the chaos of Koza Mostra.

3 points – “Shum” by Go_A (Ukraine 2021)

Arguably the best staging of this year’s contest, Go_A merged folklore and EDM to create a song both hypnotising and exhilarating. They deserve all the fame their entry will hopefully bring them.

4 points – “Think About Things” by Daði & Gagnamagnið (Iceland 2020)

I remember seeing Daði Freyr and his band of friends and family and Songvakkepnin 2017 and having mixed feelings about them losing to “Paper” by Svala (which I also really liked). His retro synth sounds somehow sound refreshing, and I’m glad we got another two Eurovision songs out of him. I’m not as convinced as others that this would have won the cancelled 2020 contest, but I like to think so.

5 points – “Hold Me Now” by Johnny Logan (Ireland 1987)

One of the few Eurovision songs I heard on its own well before I connected it to the contest. It’s still an undeniable classic which has stood the test of time, unlike many other past winners.

6 points – “Sound of Silence” by Dami Im (Australia 2016)

Perhaps a bit of home nation pride here, but this song brings back fond memories of watching the 2016 final with a group of friends after a sleepover and freaking out at the thought that Australia might just win the contest in only our second year. Not to be, of course, but what a ride.

7 points – “Love Shine a Light” by Katrina & The Waves (United Kingdom 1997)

This song is my origin story: 1997 was the first contest I watched, and this was my favourite song. No doubt the fact that it won endeared the contest to me, although it would be almost 20 years before I become more than just a casual fan.

8 points – “Occidentali’s Karma” by Francesco Gabbani (Italy 2017)

Probably the first song that I really, really wanted to win the contest, and I was sufficiently gutted when it all fell apart to rant about it in a way I wouldn’t dream of repeating these days. I’ll be the first to admit that Gabbani’s heart was clearly not in it by the time he stepped on to the Kyiv stage, but he won me over to the extent that I bought a copy of his album (a first for a Eurovision contestant — no, I don’t have any ABBA in my collection).

10 points – “Spirit in the Sky” by KEiiNO (Norway 2019)

Francesco Gabbani may have been the first Eurovision artist to earn a place in my music collection, but I became a bona fide KEiiNO fan, buying a band t-shirt, their album and eventually seeing them live when they came to Australia in late 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing them perform over here again if the tour they have planned for next year goes ahead.

12 points – “Euphoria” by Loreen (Sweden 2012)

This song restored my faith in Eurovision as something worth investing time in. I was busy with other things in life and skipped the 2008 and 2009 contests, returning only to be relatively disappointed with the songs in 2010 and 2011. I was horrified at the thought that all the jibes people made about the contest being a joke would come true if Russia won in 2012. Fortunately, Loreen coasted to victory with a song which has had an impact beyond the contest. It is undeniably an excellent pop song and I feel that the overall quality of entries has improved greatly since its victory. I always like to tell the story of how I was on a train (here in Melbourne, Australia) to work one day a few years ago when I heard a group of primary school students sing the chorus of “Euphoria” together. They were probably 9 or 10 years old, which meant that they were 3 or 4 when the 2012 contest was held. It is moments like these that give me hope that Eurovision will continue to find new fans well into the future.