by Graham Pierrepoint
The Eurovision Song Contest is usually home to some dramatic moments when it comes to the final few minutes of voting between countries – and while many of those regularly taking part may have clinched the hallowed top spot in the decades that have come before, it had taken Portugal over half a century to win over their fellow Europeans. On Saturday night, however, that all changed in Kiev, Ukraine – as the Salvador Sobral’s ballad won over both the voting public and the judging panels in a barnstorming sweep to victory. It will be the first time that Portugal will be home to the contest in its long history, meaning that next year will promise to be a very interesting affair for all involved.
Sobral’s tender love song, written by his sister, stuck out among a sea of pop ballads and 90s-esque Europop tunes to blow much of the competition out of the water – with presumed favorite Italy failing to reach the top five after all votes were collated. Moldova claimed a surprise third place, with Bulgaria clinching second as one of the contest’s major favorites. Sobral’s journey to Eurovision victory has not been so smooth, however, as he was diagnosed with a heart condition ahead of his performance and could not fly to attend a rehearsal – his sister, who penned the song – ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ – attended in his stead. Luckily, Sobral was well enough to attend further rehearsals and, of course, claim outright victory in Europe on Saturday night.
Recent changes to voting and points dispersal have largely helped to remove much of the political aspect which allegedly dogged much of the contest’s rankings in the past twenty years – Spain, Portugal’s closest neighbor, finished in last place – indicating that such changes may finally have removed much of the political aspect from the final voting.
Sobral’s victory is being hailed as something of an antidote to much similarity between songs which have been brought to the competition – but big ballads and poppy tunes also fared well on the evening. The losers, sadly, were Spain and Germany – who, despite being two of Eurovision’s ‘big five’ – filled in the bottom two slots of the roster. However, it was a fairly successful year for the UK and for France, who have struggled in recent years towards the bottom of the table – this year finishing up in the middle of the pack. Hosts Ukraine, however, couldn’t replicate last year’s success – with a final placing of 24th out of 26.