On 14 May 2022, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the 66th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest with their song ‘Stefania’. They amassed a massive 631 votes, making it the second-highest scoring Eurovision entry behind Salvador Sobral’s ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ — Portugal’s 2017 entry. With 439 of Ukraine’s votes coming from the televoters, there is no denying that Kalush Orchestra were the runaway winners of the contest. This is further evidenced by their chart success, with the song dominating Spotify charts and even entering the UK top 40. It’s clear that Europe is enchanted by ‘Stefania’, making it as a worthy winner of the contest.
If Ukraine’s win was impacted by the conflict, it highlights everything Eurovision stands for — it shows unity and indicates that the whole of Europe stands with Ukraine
There has been dialogue surrounding the win, with arguments that Ukraine only won thanks to the sympathy vote as a result of the recent conflict with Russia. Many predicted Ukraine’s win months before the contest, and there is a fear that this result only emphasises the ongoing narrative that Eurovision is political. However, this perspective is damaging and takes away from the momentous win. Although it can be said that Ukraine got an unprecedented number of televotes, receiving 12 points from 28 countries, we cannot know what the result of the contest would have been without the current circumstances. This hypothetical result should hold no importance at all, and in fact, the win is a great example of solidarity and support. If Ukraine’s win was impacted by the conflict, it highlights everything Eurovision stands for — it shows unity, and indicates that the whole of Europe stands with Ukraine. Yet that is a big if, and the truth is that ‘Stefania’ is a hugely credible track and a worthy winner of any Eurovision, regardless of surrounding circumstances.
Plaudits must also be sent to the UK’s Sam Ryder who finished in second place with his song ‘Space Man’. The song won the jury vote, meaning it was seen by chosen music professionals as the most worthy winner; a huge achievement for a UK entrant. However, it is the 183 points that Sam Ryder picked up from the public that I believe deserves the most praise. There has been a constant attitude present in the UK that Europe will simply never vote for us due to a negative relationship. This has only been heightened by a series of bad results in the past couple of years. The shift in the approach taken by the UK delegation this year, which featured impressive staging and a highly charismatic entrant, is the first step in stamping out the negativity. Sam Ryder’s positivity towards the contest, partnered with the genuine enjoyment he seemed to experience, contributed to this fantastic result for the UK and a great night for the whole nation.
Looking forward to the 2023 contest there is an air of uncertainty
Eurovision is never without controversy, and it is heartbreaking as a fan that a year of such unity has become tainted. A statement from the EBU highlighted “irregular jury patterns in the votes of six countries taking part in the second semi-final”. These irregularities caused the EBU to use aggregated votes to replace the jury votes of these countries. The integrity of the contest is called into question with these issues seemingly prominent in every edition of the contest, and it takes away from the beauty of Eurovision. It is difficult to figure out a method that will stamp out these issues, and what actions should be taken in the future, but one thing is for certain; change has to happen. I hope these issues don’t overshadow Ukraine’s win, and I’m glad they didn’t have an impact on the main result of the evening.
Looking forward to the 2023 contest there is an air of uncertainty. With Ukraine’s ability to host being called into question, many countries have volunteered to host the contest. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears confident that the contest will take place in his country and I am keeping faith that this is true. I feel the perfect conclusion to the story of Kalush Orchestra’s success would be to bring the contest back to their home country. As the band expressed when they were handed the trophy, “this victory is for all Ukrainians,” a statement that highlights everything that Eurovision is about.