With the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 tantalisingly close, it was time for the court to resume session and for the (un)official Aotearoa/New Zealand jury to give its Douze Points.
Once again, our jury brings a distinctly-Kiwi voice and opinion to the biggest music competition in the world. The Eurovision community in New Zealand continues to grow in size and vigour every year with every edition of the contest. This vote from New Zealand-based Eurofans not only represents the next step in the evolution of this expanding community but also, we hope, a welcome addition to a vibrant, increasingly international fanbase that the Eurovision Song Contest attracts.
This year, the New Zealand jury follows the process of the real Eurovision juries quite closely. The lower a juror ranks a song, the smaller the impact of that ranking on the overall result, while the higher a juror ranks a song, the more impact that ranking will have. The value of the group of jurors gets priority over the opinion of a single individual juror. You can read more about this below, after the results.
Meet the jury
We’re excited to have four incomparable Eurofans on the jury this year, sharing their immense expertise and Eurovision knowledge:
Robyn from Wiwibloggs.com
Robyn is a famous face to many a Eurovision fan as she writes and contribute to Wiwibloggs all the way from the beautiful Waikato of Aotearoa New Zealand. Robyn is not just a Eurovision superfan, she is one of New Zealand’s most preeminent music writers and historians. Robyn is a formidable force and Eurovision authority.
John is the creator of 58points.com – a simultaneously “data-driven” and “nerdtastic” view of Eurovision – while also writing for ESC Insight. John is a long-time Eurovision obsessive and is interested in viewing the Contest from an analytical perspective: a perfect match to our jury! Though, originally hailing from Canada, he laments the call time for the NZ-based Eurovision viewer: 7AM here instead of an easy noon start!
Logan, from the outskirts of Auckland, writes here for Eurovision NZ. Logan’s hopes of fame were crushed by his choir teacher who kicked him out for his inability to harmonise. Nevertheless, he has channelled his passion for music and singing into the Eurovision Song Contest. Logan is currently pursuing a PhD in psychology, “since no one will employ me for my Eurovision passion (yet)”.
Rounding off the jury is Josh, the editor here at Eurovision.nz. Josh secretly has very particular tastes when it comes to Eurovision, and will try his hardest not to exclusively give out 1’s and 10’s.
Enough with the introductions! It’s time to see who we’ve picked as our winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021! Starting in reverse order…
GO_A from Ukraine blasts onto the Eurovision stage with a performance and song quite unlike any other. It masterfully meshes Ukrainian folk with modern synths, bringing to the fore an aura that is obviously historical but never out of place. The whole performance is an exercise in contrast. Kateryna stands out in neon green and black, among trees and dancers lathered in white. Like the folk against the pop, the trees are spiky and omnipresent while Kateryna is lush, fluffy, and vibrant. The dancers fuss and jive in excitement around their flowy vocalist who is belting a chant-like melody that is, itself, a contrast to its competitors. GO_A is immediately compelling, leaving an impression that lingers well after that final, piercing note. Once again, Ukraine teaches the rest of Europe how to Eurovision.
Ballads tend to succeed most when its author is able to stand up and meet the song that they are singing. Few achieve this, which is why we are often beset with boring ballads that leave little inspiration. Blas Cantó is one of the few. The song bleeds emotion, and we know that it is Blas that’s bleeding. Staring down the lens of the camera, you can tell that he cares about the words he is sharing with us, and that his talent is in tension with his passion. Fog machine smoke floods the stage and an effect that often overflows into excess is perfectly aligned with the universe in which we join Blas. A massive moon reveals that Voy a quedarme is a reflection on his darkest day and his darkest night. It is a magical performance and one that Spain should be proud of. And Blas, especially proud.
Sometimes, the host country will send a sure-fire flop, just to be extremely sure they’re not pinned with hosting another event the following year. Usually, they’ll send something that is good enough to leave folks with a positive impression, but not so good, so as to minimise the subsection of those folks that liked it enough to pick up the phone and vote for them. The Netherlands is neither. Jeangu Macrooy has arrived with a song that should surprise no-one if it secured his home country with its second Eurovision win in a row. It feels like the future of Eurovision: an increasingly global affair that extends beyond its pan-Europe reaches. The performance elevates a great song to new levels. It’s an anthem, not for thumping pop beats or mesmerising hooks, but for its message of power and inspiration. We would be overjoyed if Jeangu were to raise the microphone at the end of the Grand Final, and we think The Netherlands is ready to be a Eurovision double host.
John: “Jeangu Macrooy has created a postcolonial anthem that manages to be gorgeous, historical and inspiring–all in three minutes. Respect.”
Bulgaria is reminding us with this performance that they are acutely on-trend and in-tune with pop music, perhaps even leading the genre in many respects. VICTORIA evokes a familiarity of artistry that has been well-explored by others, but arrives with a song and story that is clearly her own. A powerful pop composition is made into a Eurovision contender with cutting-edge staging. It uses the facilities of the stage in a way that others don’t: it is technical and plentiful but has the effect of melting the stage away into invisibility. It demands that you suspend belief: at times, you find yourself checking back in and remembering that you are, indeed, watching a television show and that sand does not usually fall from the sky. But, perhaps most compelling, is Victoria’s effortless vocal ability. Consistently accurate from the studio, to rehearsal after rehearsal, she has been the standout in Bulgaria’s efforting this year. The performance ends with everything having fallen away: Victoria and her voice stands alone without music and without extraneous visual. It’s a lofty peak in a practically perfect performance.
Manizha storms onto the stage with power and command, and one hopes that her performance matches. Indeed, your desire is satisfied and then some. In many ways, this is something Russia never does—it is one of our favourite Russian entries of the last decade for the way in which in stands out among a crowd of synth-y pop tracks. And yet, in other ways, it is quintessentially a Russian Eurovision entry: full of … everything and its own form of complexity. It’s fun, quirky and irreverent but it’s not just that. It has a far deeper existence, covering a gamut of social issues (“be creative”, “be honest”, “break the wall) culminating in Manizha literally kneeling to a mosaic of the Russian women she seeks and sings to inspire. Opening with a seemingly-floating dress is a form of comic opera, and yet is itself a reference to the women of the Beryozka dance troupe. The more that Manizha and her performance—and her charisma—sits with you, the more you believe that Eurovision ought to return to Russian soil.
John: “Manizha’s Russian Woman is entertaining, but has so many layers in terms of the song, the visuals and the staging. Would be the most sophisticated winner since Every Way That I Can.”
Cyprus has been on an upward trajectory when it comes to their style of choice, and Elena Tsagrinou is (so far) the ultimate expression of their pop prowess. El Diablo is a massively slick track: its chorus is instantly memorable while its ‘edges’ offer relief and moments of unpredictable contrast. There’s an ever-so-slight undertone of darkness and dread beneath the record’s main line and it’s this nuance where we find El Diablo just edges out Fuego as our preferred Cypriot track in a theoretical Eleni/Elena matchup. Where the record shines, Elena, likewise, is on fire on stage. Tight choreography and staging matches the perfection of the track, as hellish red bleeds into every inch of the frame. Elena stands alone as a silvery angel on-stage, nearing herself to her own red transformation as she succumbs to El Diablo. The comparisons that many have drawn between Elena and the pop megastars of the world have been numerous, and are justified. This is how to do pop music perfection at Eurovision.
In fewer than three minutes, Barbara Pravi transports us to a cinematic world of French intrigue. She carries us on a journey clearly marked by struggle and overcoming. Knowing the exact words that are sung is not essential: their meaning is expressly visible and clear. The parallels between Barbara and Édith Piaf are immediate and obvious. Voilà pays homage in Padam Padam without being reductive, and Pravi’s voice is almost as expressive as Piaf’s. We should never be too quick to draw comparisons between legends and our contemporaries, but we think this one is justified. With a voice as penetrating as Barbara’s, anything else is superfluous. France knew this, and so she stands alone for the performance: her shadow is the only semblance of companionship. In a lineup where her competitors have thrown everything into the ring and left nothing behind, Barbara relies on her ability as a performer alone to transcend. And she does so: to atmospheric heights. The whole act has the emotional tension of a feature-length film: the final minute of Barbara’s act is the most visually arresting moment of the entire Contest. Indeed, this is a showstopper with few peers.
San Marino is no longer the “secret, guilty pleasure” country. With the massive production of Adrenalina, they have decisively become a tour de force, with their aim locked squarely at the win. At times, Senhit has seemed to be able to elevate herself and her act above the competition. She had teased, provoked, and charmed her way through the rehearsals and press conferences. Her constant luring into a “will he or won’t he” furore with the press and fans over Flo Rida‘s potential (later, confirmed) participation was a masterclass in marketing. It almost made Senhit seem like she wasn’t a contestant: rather, she was in charge and we were her subjects. Yet, San Marino’s slick and assured marketing is barely the most important part of the package that they have brought to Rotterdam. The performance is pure energy and pure fun: the three minutes pass by leaving us gasping for more. Flo Rida blasts onto the stage for his section and through to the end of the song, giving the entire act a sense of gravitas and legitimacy. Such a big-name supporting star might have the potential to outshine the actual competing artist, but not Senhit. She meets Flo Rida at his level and both command the stage as equals, again reifying the notion that this is, in fact, Senhit’s contest to own. While we have endless appreciation for the deep and meaningful messages that many have brought, sometimes—at the world’s biggest party—you just wanna party. And San Marino have granted us that wish.
Måneskin is taking the Eurovision Song Contest in a direction that we are so happy to see it go to. They bleed a rockstar cool that is deeply authentic and never forced, and they never fall into a trap of ‘superiority’ that many artists of their class and calibre seem to fall into. Starting from backstage, Måneskin invites the viewer into the heart of their performance, making you feel like you’re their closest groupie—and what a privilege that is. The song and performance is gritty, it is hard, and it is messy while simultaneously being approachable and inviting. They’re not just singing for us; we are singing with them. Damiano’s vocals have an air of incantation. It feels as though he casting alluring spells on us when he so precisely gives breath to the song’s lyrics. Italy has skyrocketed through the rankings of many Eurofans, and rightly so. Their presence at these lofty heights has been long-lasting through the rehearsals and Jury Shows; again, a sign that they are taking us and the Contest to new and exciting levels of artistry and diversity, and, that we are ready for that journey. This is, perhaps, the most exciting and energising performance of the year, in so many more ways than one. If Måneskin were to raise the trophy at the end of the Grand Final, it will be rightly and richly deserved.
This is the song that captured our hearts from the first listen, and the performance that commanded our attention from the first rehearsal.
Gjon’s Tears gives us a masterclass in masterpieces with this record. It’s a song that’s not easily categorised: it floats between styles, paces, and atmosphere with our only North Star being Gjon’s piercing vocals. Strings and chorals combine with electronic pulses to create something that is modern and retrospective. It seems to fill the room, then the world, with chaotic discontent but ends with a solemn loneliness.
Just like the song, the live act is at once harmonious and discontent. Gjon’s dances begin flowing and graceful, before amping into erratic aggression. The staging is stable and bright: clear lines and still air frame Gjon for a time, until lights start flickering and a backdrop of water-like patterns begin to flow rapidly. Then, just as the song rises to its crescendo, so too does the once still world literally fall apart, as our only visual referents move and re-orient around Gjon. We find ourselves in the eye of the storm—purple light floods across Gjon’s face: it is calm but unnerving. Indeed, the song, vocals and staging work together to lure us into a false lull before ejecting us into its preferred state of chaos. Gjon’s voice is loud and high, but controlled. It’s our North Star amid the pandemonium and it flows around and over us, effortlessly, as if begging us to stay grounded despite the forces that assail us. Ultimately, Gjon wins out and restores us to the harmony of the song’s beginning: we are left bewildered and hoping for it to last.
Switzerland have come to claim the Eurovision Grand Prix with an effort that achieves all of its goals. It has power, it has technique, it has vocal prowess, it has modern production, it is deeply original and it is the ultimate expression of artistry. It’s a song the deserves to win a song contest, and we really hope that it does.
There we have it! Now, we will wait and see how our jury lines up with the results at the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. Let us know what you think about our picks over on Twitter.
The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 will take place at the Rotterdam Ahoy in The Netherlands on 23 May 2021. Eurofans in New Zealand can watch the show live on the official Eurovision YouTube channel, without commentary.
How we found the jury results
Our jurors were asked to rank the Grand Finalists from favourite to least favourite, focusing on the performer’s vocal capacity, the onstage performance, the composition and originality of the song, and their overall impression of the act.
The jury members ranked first their favourite song, second, their second favourite song, third, their third favourite song, and so on until their least favourite song, which was ranked last. Every juror ranked every song.
From there, we applied an exponential weight model to each juror’s rankings. This is the same process that the EBU follows with the real juries.
Rather than giving each rank given by a juror the same weight, the EBU allocates predefined ‘score values’ to each ranking position, intentionally increasing the value of the top-10 ranks: the top-3 in particular. These score values start with the value of 12 for the first rank and will decrease exponentially further down the ranking list. The sum of the scores for all 26 songs from the five jurors creates the national jury result where the resulting top 10 ranked countries will be awarded that jury’s 12, 10, 8 points and so on.
Nobody knows what the EBU’s ‘score values’ are, but others have guessed and have come very close, so we’re using our best guess, too.
We’ll publish the full ranking and scores of the New Zealand jury after the Grand Final.