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“1944”: Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest 2016

by | May 15, 2016 | 2016 ESC General, Uncategorized

“1944”: Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest 2016

by | May 15, 2016 | 2016 ESC General, Uncategorized

Ukraine’s entrant Jamala has won the 61st Eurovision Song Contest with the song “1944“, the country’s second victory in the competition after Ruslana’s “Wild Dances” in 2004.

© Andres Putting (EBU)

© Andres Putting (EBU)

The winner scored a total of 534 points, followed by jury favourite Australia in second place (511) and televote favourite Russia (491) on third place.

This year was also a huge success for Bulgaria and France. Poli Genova from Bulgaria came 4th, which is now the country’s best result ever, while big pre-contest favourite Amir from France (6th place) actually achieved the nation’s best position since 2002.

Germany came last for the second year in a row. The last time a country had this “achievement” was Malta in 1971 and 1972.

© EBUFinal results | © EBU

ChatVote winner Latvia ended up in 15th place, while our runner-up Austria came 13th, and 3rd placed Bulgaria came 4th. However, the victorious Ukraine also won our jury voting in the ChatVote, so we weren’t too far away from the real European taste!

The escgo! editors’ review of last night’s show


What a spectacular night, what a historic moment of victory.

Let me begin by giving my verdict on the show: We just saw the best line-up of songs since 2003, very acceptable hosts, the least sterile of the three shows this week, from the magic moment when the artists came into the arena. Sure, most of the interval acts were questionable (including Justin Timberlake), but in the end this was the most “Eurovision” of the three shows.

Downsides for me were the endless focus on Swedish music, drowning in self-adulation until a degree of annoyance. The worst let-down was the production of the scoreboard. It was downright badly done. It was absolutely impossible to follow things and talk about them with your fellow viewers. You could hardly study the scoreboard in the jury voting, and the realisation of the televoting presentation was poorly done, too. On the other hand, I was thankful that no credits rolled over the winner’s reprise.

Now on to the results, and this is what really moved Europe tonight. The biggest surprise to me was the incredible difference for Poland in the jury and the televoting. Way before the first spokesperson appeared, I found that “Poland” was trending on Twitter, at least here in Germany, which already made me wonder. Hm. For now I take it as an ultimate proof that the formula “ballad = jury / jury = ballad” is a bad one.

Finally, let’s talk about the winner. Despite – as predicted – empowering the choirs who keep chanting it’s all politics at Eurovision (how to prove them wrong!?), it’s a very important victory for Eurovision. The least mainstream song, the most expressive and artistic song won, in a year when things seemed to go extremely vanilla. It’s the first winner’s chorus since 2007 that you can’t sing along to easily, because it’s not in English or any other widespread language. In a year where hardly a song was not completely in English, a chorus in the Crimean Tatar language won. This is huge. In a year where Eurovision felt cold, sterile, overly technical and special-FX-loaded, a song that focuses on music, singing and emotions, full of pain and yet warmth, won. It’s a surprise winner. It’s what Eurovision urgently, urgently needed, in order to not make the final completely uninteresting and obsolete. Europe voted for languages, art, music, emotions. Thank you.

© Thomas Hanses (EBU)

© Thomas Hanses (EBU)


Expect the unexpected was always one of my favorite phrases, but it’s been a good long time since it applied to Eurovision. And then the 2016 Eurovision final happened, and it had everything. The hosts were great, the intervals were creative and knew to poke fun at Eurovision without making it into its worse cliché, and the competition was at its absolute best.

Two months ago, at the deadline (has it really been two months) I already declared that this is – for me personally, at least – the best year I remember in terms of songs, and that this could be a competition for the history books. This kind of declaration was most likely to set me up for a disappointment, but thankfully the exact opposite has happened. Not only the songs were great, but most artists – some staging disasters aside – really brought their A-game, making it the most professional sounding final in recent memory.

I really enjoyed the new voting system. Having the jury sequence as the traditional 1-12 vote was a lot of fun. Many of the votes were significantly less predictable. Votes went all over the place. I was a little frustrated about what looked like an impending Australian win, but was enjoying Bulgaria being treated as it should by the juries.

I will admit I thought it was a done deal when we got to the televote. The differences looked a bit too much for anyone to catch up – and while I thought Australia might struggle a bit in the televote, I assumed it would be enough. Shows you how much I know.

Favorites aside – and I am delighted that Ukraine won, on that end – I think yesterday was a testament to what Eurovision can be. It showed that there’s really room for everything – even if it’s artistic and difficult and completely out there, if it’s good enough. It showed that there are many things that can work and that there is really no formula. While I loved the songs a lot this year, I do hope that having a song with a strong ethnic influence and in part not in English will remind people that it’s great having radio hit potential, but it’s also perfectly fine doing other things and representing your country and culture in a more authentic way.

Is it next year yet?

© Andres Putting (EBU)

© Andres Putting (EBU)


The problem with being third is that my colleagues have already said the things I wanted to. But that’s fine. After all, I just woke up, I’m sitting by a sunny swimming pool in Spain, and I’m sipping a coffee as I try to take in exactly what happened last night. A bit of extra time isn’t such a bad thing there.

All in all, you have to be happy, really. The Ukrainian song wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea before the contest and it won’t suddenly become a universal favourite just because it won the competition last night, but it’s an intriguing and artistic song and one that might encourage other countries to be a bit more adventurous next year. It may not have much in the way of hit potential, but much like in 2014, in this era of iTunes and Spotify it’s easy for other entries to become hits even if they were beaten by a “statement” winner.

Then, of course, there was the voting. The EBU can count themselves lucky because the way the votes split meant the climax was so exciting, but even then, it was lovely to hear some random jury 12s being read out (“Royaume-Uni” getting a mention again, a 12 from Germany to Israel, the UK jury giving its top marks to Georgia of all things!). The juries may still be flawed and eminently corruptible, but at least they bring an element of unpredictability to proceedings.

And for all we complain about the “Melodifestivalisation” of ESC, I’m so glad it was SVT who were in charge for this first year of presenting the results in the new way. To deal with the new system generally – never mind in a year where it delivers such excitement – you need experienced hosts with good English who can stay calm, communicating the relevant content and keeping the tension high while no doubt being shouted at in their ears by the production team. Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw handled this part of proceedings impeccably – just imagine how awkward it could have been with the screaming Ukrainian presenters from 2005. Oh wait…

Other highlights: Bulgaria doing so well, a Flemish song finishing in the top ten (!), Ira Losco getting hilariously and justifiably punished in the televote, Sergey Lazarev’s humility in the face of defeat, the brilliant disparity in the Polish result – I could go on, but my coffee is getting cold and I need some more time to process everything anyway. So let’s leave it there for now. What do you think, guys – shall we do it all again next year?

© Thomas Hanses (EBU)

© Thomas Hanses (EBU)

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