ESC 2022: The Grand Final Results – A Night of Winners

Sometimes the favourite just wins, right? There had long been a sense that Ukraine were going to be unstoppable this year given the amount of goodwill towards them from across Europe combined with a song strong enough to win votes in its own right, but in the end, it was a record-breaking 431 points from the public, receiving points from every single one of their 39 competitors: 28 of whom gave them the full 12 points. This meant the juries could have tanked Ukraine and they likely still would have won.

Was it a political win? Of course there were political elements to it, but Eurovision has had elements of politics since the very first contest in 1956. Admittedly, few moments have been as overt and explicit as this one, but just because the competition claims to be non-political, that doesn’t mean the public vote has to adhere to this. It means that hosts can’t use it for political purposes (which is why we don’t see politicians on the broadcast). Undoubtedly the public vote for Ukraine was boosted by solidarity, but is this a bad thing? When was the last time Europe was so united? Let’s celebrate this moment, give the Ukrainians their moment in the limelight, and worry about things like next year’s contest later. And I say this as someone who didn’t vote for the Ukrainian song because it simply wasn’t one of my favourites — not that Kalush Orchestra needed my votes to get the douze points from Australia!

But Ukraine wasn’t the only winner Saturday night. This Eurovision upended a lot of recent trends, and as result there were many winners in their own right, because winning isn’t always about finishing on top of the scoreboard.

Not only did the United Kingdom make a long overdue return to form, they did it in style, winning the jury vote and coming fifth in the public vote to place second overall, their best result since 1998. Surely this will end the chorus of “Europe hates us” from the British media once and for all. Okay, maybe not, but we can always hope. Sam Ryder was the ideal participant: his relentless optimism and sheer joy at being at the competition was infectious and won over many fans.

After years of disappointing results, Spain‘s Chanel justified her contentious selection at Benidorm Fest by finishing third in both the jury and public vote for a third place overall. With choreography to match, if not outdo, Cyprus’ “Fuego” from 2018 (I’ll let others debate which was better), all Spain need to do is keep Benidorm Fest going. It was one of the best national selections of 2022, and surely with a music industry made up of so much talent, it won’t be too long until they find someone who can bring the contest back to Spain.

Even though Sweden seemed to fade away a bit among the enthusiasm for the UK and Spain in particular, they can celebrate a return to form with the public. Jury votes have never been a problem for Sweden, but placing 6th in the public vote is the best they’ve had since hosting in 2016. And sure, it’s Sweden: an average result for them is something many countries would dream of, but I think the signs are there for a record-equalling seventh win in the near future.

One of the growers of the contest was Serbia. I think I speak for many people when I say that my first reaction to the live performance of “In Corpore Sano” was ‘this is weird.’ However, before too long we were muttering “bit bit bit biti zdrava”. The staging was tightened up for Eurovision, and having the crowd clap along somehow took the song to another level. 4th place in the public vote may have been a shock, but it was well-deserved.

Italy were favourites to win for a few weeks in February and still were tipped to be on or near the podium, but I think they’d be happy with 6th place, the best result by a host nation since Sweden in 2016. The roar for Mahmood and Blanco when “Brividi” reached its first chorus felt like “mission accomplished” for a country which has deserved a win for several years now.

Never underestimate Moldova when they bring something a little different, a little zany perhaps. Zdob și Zdub are one of the most successful artists of the contest, finishing second in the public vote and 7th overall to add to their collection of 6th place in 2005 and 12th in 2011. Maybe we’ll see them again at some point, and no doubt they’ll qualify for the final again and get Europeans out of their seats and dancing.

There were some shrugs in relation to Greece‘s entry: good vocals, works well on commercial radio, but it wasn’t until the staging came together everyone realised that this was going to go far. 8th place in the grand final and 3rd in their semi suggests that they’re returning to form as one of the reliably strong countries in the competition.

Surely the quiet achievers this year were Portugal, who not only comfortably qualified out of the chaotic first semi final, but finished 9th (5th with juries) from third place in the running order with an understated, gentle song with subtle staging. It’s wonderful to see how they’ve found their place in the contest by delivering songs which strike the balance between authenticity and accessibility.

Norway finished 10th thanks almost entirely to their 7th place in the public vote, and owe Subwoolfer as many bananas as they request. Need I say more?

How good was it to hear Dutch being sung in the grand final again? The Netherlands are cementing their reputation as a strong performer in the contest, with S10’s 11th place the sixth time in the last nine shows that they’ve finished on the left-hand side of the scoreboard — and oddly, the third time in the last six shows that they’ve placed 11th in the final. I’m excited at the idea that we’ll hear more Dutch in future contests, perhaps from some of S10’s colleagues in the Dutch indie pop scene.

After the disappointment of non-qualification in 2021, Estonia‘s expanded format for Eesti Laul paid dividends with a left-hand placing on the scoreboard and a show closer which was joyful and inspired, well, hope.

Monika Liu kept defying the odds for Lithuania, after being constantly written off by the bookmakers and many fans. When she won the national selection, not many people thought she’d qualify for the grand final, especially when it was revealed that her performance was affected by the broken sun. When she qualified for the grand final, not many thought she would finish as high as 14th. And all of this while bring back the Lithuanian language to the Eurovision stage for the first time since the 1990s. Even at the end there was one last surprise, as what was considered to be a jury-friendly song ended up gathering significantly more points from the public in both the final and semi. Clearly, Monika was the most underrated artist this year.

Australia sets itself a high standard, and I think it’s fair to say the country would have been devastated to miss out on the grand final again. Sheldon Riley’s performance was always going to be a strong contender for jury votes, and that showed with a 2nd place in the second semi and 9th in the final. The decent public vote in the semi (8th) disappeared in the final, where there were many televote magnets (Norway, Moldova, and of course Ukraine). It might not be a win to only receive two public votes in the final, but for Australia, it’s definitely a win to be back there in again.

I’m bundling up Poland, Romania and Armenia because both all three are winners for qualifying to the final for the first time since 2017, when the world seemed a very different place. Although WRS and Rosa Lynn ultimately didn’t make many waves in the grand final, and Ochman probably hoped to crack the top 10, these countries now have a success to build upon in their climb back towards even stronger results.

Czech Republic might have had a disappointing grand final, but they overcame a lot of moments earlier in the process when people doubted them and maybe they doubted themselves. Perhaps this was more a winning moment for We Are Domi rather than their country, but I hope the Czechs can see that they’re starting to find their feet in the contest.

Iceland was one of the countries which beat the bookies’ odds to make it to the final, so that was a win in it itself. They way they constantly showed their love for trans people and their support for trans rights was laudable and surely a win as well, shining a light on an issue which unfortunately remains incredibly divisive, even in countries with otherwise good records in LGBTIQ+ matters.

Which leaves me with six countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, Azerbaijan, Finland and Belgium. While I wouldn’t say any of them are necessarily “losers”, I think some of them might have hoped for a better result in this final. Germany was already not the strongest song, and then ended up following Ukraine in the running order, which did it no favours. France suffered from being a smaller fish in the big pond that was the first half of the show, which is probably what happened to Finland was well, although The Rasmus didn’t seem too bothered by this: their main goal was the reach the final and give us a good show, which they did.

So there’s my round-up: the overall result deservedly is getting all the attention, but there was a lot more going on in the background as well.