ROTTERDAM — The Italian band Maneskin celebrated its 2021 Eurovision win by the rock ’n’ roll playbook, with naked chests coated in tattoos, champagne spraying and the thuds of fireworks exploding.
The win was a detailed and deeply emotional one, with the band’s music, “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Be Quiet,” edging into first place in an exhilarating vote that was in the end determined by the general 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 mentioned the victory was a recent begin for Italy. “It was a very difficult year for us,” the reporter, Simone Zani, mentioned, speaking in regards to the devastating influence of the coronavirus. Explaining by his tears, he mentioned, “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 most important music contest on this planet, is a campy trifle to some, however it celebrates Europe’s cultural variety and is a mirrored image of the instances we reside in. For many exterior Europe, the attraction of Eurovision could be exhausting to understand. But a key cause the 200-million plus viewers is watching is that there isn’t any cultural mould for the occasion. Anything goes, and variety is very inspired. The world leisure enterprise could also be dominated by U.S. popular culture, however at Eurovision, 39 different countries can showcase their concepts of music and popular culture with no trade guidelines aside from a three-minute music restrict.
And, a shocker maybe for a U.S. viewers, the three-hour present is totally commercial-free.
So Germany, the political chief of the continent, despatched in a music towards hate, with the artist Jendrik playing a diamond studded ukulele whereas being accompanied by a dancing finger. Tix, the singer for Norway, has Tourette’s syndrome. He was dressed in a gigantic fur coat and sporting angel wings, whereas being chained to 4 horned demons. “Remember guys, you are not alone,” he mentioned to everybody “suffering” on this planet.
The three singers of Serbia’s entry, Hurricane, might have sported the large hair look of American teams of many years previous, however regardless of seeming as if they’d purchased up many of the hair extensions on the continent, they sang their music, “Loco Loco,” in Serbian.
In reality, 4 of the highest 5 successful songs of this yr had been sung in languages aside from English. “There is clearly a thirst for more originality and real meaning,” Cornald Maas, a competition commentator for Dutch Public Television for over 15 years, mentioned of the victories for songs introduced of their nationwide languages.
Europe, he mentioned, had been searching for a music celebrating newfound life. “The winning song isn’t a restrained ballad as you might expect after corona,” Mr. Maas mentioned, “but instead it’s an exuberant plea for authenticity, a call to ignore meaningless chatter.”
The present on Saturday within the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam confirmed a glimpse of life as we knew it earlier than the pandemic, and a future through which the virus may be underneath some type of management.
Many within the viewers had been sporting orange outfits, the nationwide colour of the Netherlands, singing alongside, dancing and hugging — and consuming. Alcohol was on the market and it was clear that a few of the flag-toting celebrants had indulged. The whole viewers of three,500 was obliged to indicate a unfavorable coronavirus check, taken underneath an elaborate testing plan paid for by the federal government. Members of the completely different delegations sat in a particular zone in the midst of the world on couches, the place they needed to preserve socially distanced however nonetheless received up and danced round.
The shining star among the many presenters was Nikkie de Jager, from the Netherlands who has a widely known YouTube make-up channel, Nikkie Tutorials. The crowd went wild each time she got here onstage and even walked previous the corridors.
In regular instances the Eurovision circus attracts tens of 1000’s of followers who flip the organizing cities the other way up, taking on bars and golf equipment. This yr the occasion was divided into a number of bodily bubbles to forestall the unfold of the coronavirus.
During the 2 weeks of rehearsals, artists would meet solely in a single widespread room, the place a number of international locations had organized a desk tennis contest, through which Italy additionally carried out fairly nicely, Samya Hafsaoui, a Dutch official, mentioned.
Two members of the Icelandic act, Dadi og Gagnamagnid, ended up quarantining after contracting the virus, which means that their music, “10 Years,” a couple of profitable marriage, couldn’t be carried out reside. The singer Dadi Freyr, and different group members, watched from a lodge room because the outcomes got here in. Standing in for the missing performers had been dolls sporting the band’s outfit, topped with iPads displaying their faces. Despite the recorded efficiency, Iceland landed fourth place.
Duncan Laurence, who had received for the Netherlands in 2019, additionally contracted the virus and wasn’t in a position to carry out throughout this yr’s finals as is the custom. The occasion was canceled in 2020.
Artists solely got here out for transient socially distanced information conferences. Ms. Pravi, the French singer-songwriter, held energetic conversations within the days earlier than the ultimate, waving palms and arms and mixing French and English. Ms. Pravi mentioned she by no means makes any concessions, and the identical was true of her music, “Voilà.” She mentioned, “My ‘parcours’ shows this,” referring to the French time period for profession path.
Ms. Pravi comes from a global household of singers and painters. Her maternal grandfather is the well-known Iranian painter Hossein Zenderoudi. Her music dusts off the French chanson, recalling singers like Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.
Some had criticized her, calling her type of singing out of vogue, however Ms. Pravi strongly disagreed. “You don’t need to make concessions in music,” she mentioned. “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 within the dimly lit press middle talking to French reporters who couldn’t imagine that their nation had come so near victory, after having achieved nearly no Eurovision honors since their victory in 1977.
As the Italian rockers of Maneskin took off their shirts to have a good time their victory, the singer James Newman, the United Kingdom’s entrant, was nowhere to be discovered. His music “Embers” had acquired zero factors from each the nationwide juries and the worldwide viewers. “It’s Brexit,” mentioned Meg Perry-Duxbury, a Briton residing in Rotterdam, sitting subsequent to me within the area. “Europe doesn’t want us to win.” She herself was supporting Cyprus (one other music that includes devils) anyway, Ms. Perry-Duxbury mentioned. “So whatever.”