Photo: Flickr / Österreichisches Außenministerium

Recap: The Eurovision Song Contest 2015

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was all party in Austria this weekend, as the Eurovision Song Contest celebrated its sixtieth birthday in the country’s capital city, Vienna. This was only the second time that Austria has hosted the contest, an honour which they won with Conchita Wurst’s 2014 entry, ‘Rise like a Phoenix’.

As Graham Norton and the three Austrian presenters constantly reminded us, the theme of this year’s contest was “building bridges”, presumably in reference to the contest’s history of uniting countries. The visuals to accompany this included arcs of red light, and ‘bridges’ of text connecting place names on the map, which were a nice touch.

Conchita Wurst performs during the opening ceremony. Photo: Flickr / Fotospielwiese

Conchita Wurst performs during the opening ceremony. Photo: Flickr / Fotospielwiese

Also significant was the inclusion of Australia in this year’s line-up, who were invited along for the birthday celebrations.

After a brief piece from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the ceremony launched with a new song from Conchita herself, who soared over the crowds on a harness as she performed.

Sadly, this was probably the most exciting act of an evening that was otherwise dominated by slow power-ballads.

Graham Norton warned us from the outset: “I must say – and you won’t believe me – but the standard of songs is quite high tonight.”

And he wasn’t wrong: we were treated to power-ballad after power-ballad, which is patently not the point of Eurovision.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned dancing grannies?

Was the seriousness out of respect for the contest’s birthday? Was it to make Australia believe we’re cool?

Electro Velvet, the UK's 2015 entry. Photo: BBC and Sarah Dunn

Electro Velvet, the UK’s 2015 entry. Photo: BBC and Sarah Dunn

Whatever the explanation, the UK didn’t seem to get the memo: we entered the usual cheese, which for once felt entirely out of place in the line-up.

Our entry, ‘Still in Love with You’ by Electro Velvet, was no less embarrassing than usual. Particularly remarkable was the lighting design, which attempted to blend the aesthetic of The Great Gatsby with that of Tron. It didn’t really work.

We ended up finishing in 24th place, with 5 points, meaning that it was a relative victory, considering past form. We also beat France, which is what counts.

While it might not have been quite so wild this year, the show did still feature some very “Only on Eurovision” moments, including a flaming piano and a lot of kissing.

The first place winner was Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw with ‘Heroes’, with a performance that involved some pretty exciting cartoon light projections. It was definitely a crowd favourite, and it’s not a surprise that it won.

Russia's second-place entry. Photo: Flickr / Fotospielwiese

Russia’s second-place entry. Photo: Flickr / Fotospielwiese

Perhaps more surprising was Russia’s performance, which came in second place with 303 points. After leading Russian political and religious figures condemned Conchita’s victory last year, there were expectations that Russia’s 2015 entry would receive a negative backlash – in fact, the contest allegedly went as far as installing “anti-booing technology” to prevent this from happening.

However, Polina Gagarina’s ‘A Million Voices’ proved a hit for Russia. With its pretty visuals and positive message, it was evidently charming enough to distract everyone from their political objections.

While the 2015 show was enjoyable, I don’t think that it quite lived up to previous years. Here’s to hoping that when the contest returns next year in Sweden, it will involve a considerably larger amount of glitter.

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