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Looking Back On Eurovision 2022’s National Final Songs Written by on May 26, 2022 | 1 Comment

After a long journey, 40 songs took to the Palo Olympico stage for the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, with many working their way through National Finals to win the ticket to Turin. Ewan Spence takes a moment to think about those songs, and the selection shows that made the right calls.

Now there’s a bit of distance both from the National Selections and the results from Turin that show just how well the National Selection winners performed, it’s worth taking a look back at this year’s selection shows to talk about their picks.

And the simple answer is that no National Final made any significant mistakes. Yes there were strong options that didn’t make it through, but after a  look through what was sent and how they performed, you can easily conclude that each broadcaster’s National Finals delivered competitive entries to the Song Contest.

The Obvious Calls

Let’s start with the National Finals that made the obvious call, and that means looking at the two elephants in the room; Sanremo and Melodifestivalen.

It’s hard to argue with the Italian choice. Sanremo was packed this year with the legends of yesteryear, many of the Sanremo reliables, a raft of new talent, and a few superstars. Yes, it would have been delightful to see Gianni Morandi’s infectious pop energy 52 years after representing Italy at Eurovision; Dargen D’Amico’s ‘Dove Si Balla’ would have lit up the Papa Olympico; and it can’t be long until Elisa final gets a Song Contest ticket.

But with a four times platinum release, a dominance of the Global Spotify charts, and an absolute smash hit on home soil, Mahmood and Blanco earned their place. Sixth place for the hosting country is one of the better “we won last year” results.

Melodifestivalen took its usual route of giving the Swedish public some great musical stories and artistic arcs during the heats and Semi Finals, but when the Grand Final came around, the focus turned as it always does to finding not a Song for Sweden, but a Song For Sweden At Eurovision. There was a strong chance that the public would get behind the enchanting story of Anders Bagge taking to the stage for the first time.

The international juries acted as the steady hand on the Eurovision tiller and the ‘finally getting her chance’ storyline of Cornelia Jakobs carried on to Turin, delivering Sweden’s best result since 2015.

Let’s put Moldova and Finland in here as well. The latter may have finished well down the able, but Finland’s UMK has proven that it can act as a platform for performers at both ends of the professional spectrum – the newcomers Blind Channel last year and the experience of The Rasmus this year. That’s going to make UMK even more attractive in the Finnish music scene next year.

As for Moldova, once Zdob și Zdub showed up on the entry list it felt like there was only one choice in the National Final and everyone else was in it for pride. Because Moldova – even if we were expecting a little train to appear on stage – delivered second place in the televote when we got to Turin. You can’t ask for more than that from the public in 2022.

The Smart Calls

Then we had the National Finals that were confident in their choices, although they might have seemed a little bit left-field.

Portugal has never been a country to chase Eurovision success by reaching for something accessible and comfortable on the shelves of the international pop store. Instead Festival da Canção continues to choose unashamedly Portuguese songs for the Contest. If the rest of the continent likes it, that’s just a bonus.

It’s fair to say that with only the second Top Ten finish this century, the continent fell in love with Maro.

How about Slovenia? THere’s a delightful narrative going on here, with one of the newcomers artists from the very first week of EMA Fres going all the way through the newcomers show, making it to the main EMA event, then onto the Grand Final to get to Turin. LPS has showcased the power of a National Final for a young act.

You could argue that last place in the Semi Final at Eurovision means this was not a good decision by the EMA show, but I’m going to disagree. It’s not just the final result at the Song Contest you have to consider, Public Service Broadcasting can have many different ways of winning. Through LPS, Slovenian broadcaster RTVSLO has showcased the power of a National Final to bring young performers to the fore, and to support their development.

I’d put Ireland in the same space as Slovenia. Broadcaster RTE does not have the resources that some of the Eurovision powerhouses can muster, and has to play the room as it finds it. Returning to a National Final this year meant reaching out to more performers and songwriters and giving them their moments on one of  RTE’s biggest programs, The Late Late Show.

Do not discount how important that is in Ireland.

As for Brooke and ‘That’s Rich’ at every stage running up to the performance in the second Semi Final, Brooke and the team found something bigger for the next three minutes. The staging in Turin was larger, more expansive, and even more exciting than any previous show. Her growth as an artist has been accelerated first by getting to the National stage, and then to the International stage.

Finally, how about the Czech Republic. While the Song Contest may not be bringing in the same market share as the likes of the United Kingdom. Like many performers in smaller nations, breaking out of the geographic borders to be seen on a worldwide stage is not at all easy. The internet has helped, but you still need to find the first push to get momentum, build up a fan base, and create the sort of following that buys enough records, concert tickets, and merchandise, to allow 100 percent focus on music.

Fourth in the Semi Final gave We Are Domi the ticket to Saturday night and a platform of over 160 million TV viewers. I think they will have picked up enough followers in May to have a shot at a long-lasting musical career.

Out There Calls

How about the calls that, at first glance, felt a little bit too much, but turned out to deliver?

Norway’s Subwoolfer took what could have been a lightweight parody number that was left behind in the first heat of MGP all the way through to creating an infectious and memorable moment on the Turin stage. There was something joyous about ‘Give That Wolf A Banana’ on first listen, and while it might have started to wear a bit thin on the community at the fiftieth listen, the vast majority of the Eurovision audience experienced it for the first time, in May.

Was it ever going to win? Not unless something weird happened on the way to the Song Contest forum. But the Norwegian delegation ran with the concept, and our non-binary guests from the Moon entertained us throughout the season, making good use of social media, and having a lot of fun in the process.

I don’t care who they really were, I just loved the fact that Keith and Jim let us share in a lot of A1-rated fun.

Just as the wider music scene has embraced Americana and Country & Western, so has the Eurovision Song Contest. While the Netherlands is the modern standard bearer for this genre, Estonia picked up the lucky horseshoe for 2022 with ‘Hope’ from Stefan. It’s hard to see anything that says “Estonia” in the presentation, with some wide shots of America that would not look out of place in a John Ford western. The staging was toned back a touch for Turin, although the old filmstock sepia effect set the visual tone nicely.

Not only did Stefan get Estonia back to the Grand Final for the first time since 2019, but with a thirteenth place he can just about claim a “left hand side of the table” finish (yes, it was a 25-song Grand Final so maybe we can debate where the split is, but any other year 13th is enough… so 13th is enough for me in 2022).

Konstrakta’s win at Pesma za Evroviziju was comprehensive, winning both the televote and the jury vote. This was a song that was both artistic and powerful, as it talked about the lack of mental health support in the Serbian healthcare system, the pressures of mass media and beauty standards, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

How would, how could, this translate to an international stage? Would the choice to sing in Serbian and Latin make it even less approachable? Or could the story be told through the mix of  powerful visuals and emotive language?

Serbia finished in 5th place, and “In Corpore Sano” now holds Serbian record for most points scored at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Over-Ruled Calls

Finally I want to pick out those countries where the public vote was visibly over-ruled by the juries, handing the victory to an artist who was not the public’s choice.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Spain. While a small minority piled on to Chanel, she headed to the gym to be ready for the most energetic song-and-dance routine of the year. The reward was third place, rocketing up from the foot of the table last year, just behind the slightly more powerful rocket that was the UK’s Sam Ryder.

To be clear, every performer going in to both a National Final and Eurovision itself should know that a split result is not only possible, but probable. So should the Eurovision community. If we can accept the UK winning the jury vote but coming 5th, then we should be able to accept that sometimes the jury and the televote will not be in agreement. It’s a pretty simple explanation… you have to score as many points as you can.

Conclusions

Maybe Olivera’s ‘Thank God I’m An Atheist’ would have placed higher up the score table on Saturday night. Perhaps ‘Superman’ would have gained one more place in the Semi Final to see North Macedonia through to the Saturday night. And I’m waiting to see what Fan Fiction can do with a mythical appearance of Eskimo Callboy’s ‘Pump It‘ in the German National Final.

One of the delights of the National Final season months of the Eurovision Song Contest is the ability to connect with music and performers across the continent and beyond. It’s only natural to create strong emotional bonds with these songs. And with those bonds it’s easy to think that your standard bearer could have done a better job at the Song Contest than the song that was picked by the wider audience.

There are no asterisks in the Eurovision Song Contest history books for songs that didn’t quite make it. That’s the nature of competitive singing. But as fans we must never forget that we still have those songs. Songs that we can treasure, enjoy, and revisit whenever we like.

And we get to start all over again in September.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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One response to “Looking Back On Eurovision 2022’s National Final Songs”

  1. I do disagree with the choices of Slovenia and even the Czech Republic. Slovenia failed massively by finishing last in the semi while they had much better songs/performers in EMA. The Czechs-or to be more precise- the international juries made a better choice but again i feel that Giudi with “Jezinky” would have offered them an iconic esc moment.

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