Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam: A pleasant surprise

After a two-year break, the song contest is back. How it went?

a year ago   •   6 min read

By Vladimír Záhradník

The 65th Eurovision Song Contest has just ended. This competition took place after a two-year break in Rotterdam. Last year, the organizers were affected by the pandemic and they did not have time to react in time. Eurovision Song Contest is definitely a phenomenon worldwide and we can count the number of viewers in the hundreds of millions around the world.

When I last watched Eurovision in 2019, I felt that the quality of the competition had fallen sharply. All the songs were on one hoof and bored me. For the first time, I didn’t even watch the semi-final round and I completely ignored the grand final. I was a little skeptical about this year, but I decided to give Eurovision a chance, and look at it. My hunch was correct this time.

By the way, I recently made a video about why I’m watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision Song Contest: What I think about the show

Eurovision 2013 in Sweeden

Before we get to the current year, allow me a little detour. The Eurovision in Malmö took place in 2013 and I still consider it one of the best Eurovisions I have ever seen. Many great artists gathered there at the time, but I was much more interested in the technical aspect. I even remember the presenter, her name was Petra Mede, and she hosted the show with her wit, and it was funny.

The evening was unforgettable from start to finish. The grand final began with a traditional flag procession, which gradually introduces the performers. At that time in Malmö, the organizers took this introduction to an even higher level. They approached famous musicians and the song We Write The Story was made as a result. The music and lyrics were written by those two Bs from ABBA — Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. It was further fine-tuned by Avicii, who I hadn’t heard about until and hadn’t stopped listening since.

The artists came across the raised bridge and you listened to the majestic music all the time. I dare say that it was the best introductory procession in the entire history of the competition.

Avicii, ABBA's Benny & Björn - We Write The Story (Eurovision 2013)

Rotterdam 2021: Open Up

Overcoming the bar set by Sweden has not been easy and I do not think that the Netherlands has succeeded. But I feel that they have matched them, and I highly commend them for that. I understand that you may have different opinions about the quality of the competition songs and the choice of performers, but you can’t deny one thing to this competition — it is technically at a very high level. In the following video, you can see how much work it took to build a stage with LED screens.

Timelapse: the construction of the Eurovision stage in Rotterdam Ahoy | Eurovision 2021

At the same time, the organizers worked in restrictive conditions. I did not know for a long time whether the competition would be without viewers. Finally, the Ahoy hall was filled to about 20 percent of its capacity, which represents 3,500 seats. But if those viewers weren’t there, it would kill the whole atmosphere. For the first time in history, it also happened that Australia did not perform live due to technical problems, so we saw a pre-recording of their performance instead. Similarly, the contestants from Iceland didn’t perform live, because one of the group members was covid-positive, so they had to stay in quarantine. Well, you need to be able to adapt.

At the Eurovision Song Contest, I’ve always admired the shoots presenting the performers. It has always been a visual feast. Usually the organizers try to present their country to the rest of us in some way. This year we saw footage of many Dutch cities and the visual unifying element was a ray of light reflected across the Netherlands. If you use computer effects in a subtle way, you can greatly improve the final impression. See, for example, the beginning from the Grand Final.

Eurovision Song Contest 2021 - Grand Final

Interesting songs and artists

Every year I discovered a few interesting artists at the Eurovision Song Contest that I would not have heard of without Eurovision. That’s one of the reasons I watch Eurovision. This year, however, there were many more songs that I liked. I will introduce a few of them here now, maybe some of them will also interest you.


This year, Ukraine was represented by the group Go_A with the song Shum (noise). I was hooked to them before the contest, since I watched recap of all contesting songs. I fell in love with them immediately, and have been listening to them regularly ever since. They do techno folk. I haven’t heard of such a genre yet, but I love folk and folk rock, so I’m not surprised that I like yet another folk derivative. There are two versions of this song. The authors probably thought they can improve the song even further, so they tried. And I think they did it. I like the official music video more, but the live performance was also very pleasant to watch.

Go_A - Shum


France was represented this year by chansonnier Barbara Pravi. I immediately fell in love with her song Voilà. If I have another popular genre besides folk, it’s chansons. In addition to Edit Piaf and ZAZ, I have another singer that I will listen to regularly. This song finished second overall.

Barbara Pravi - Voilà


Finland was represented by the band Blind Channel with the song Dark Side. The Finns did not disappoint again; you can see that they live rock. The song immediately caught me and I will definitely watch them closely.

Blind Channel - Dark Side


Portugal was represented by The Black Mamba with the song Love Is On My Side. In terms of genre, it was a more artistic performance; I wondered for a while how someone like them got into the Eurovision Song Contest. On the other hand, Salvador Sobral won Eurovision with similar artistic performance. The song reminds me a bit of the production of Postmodern Jukebox, so if you like such a genre, you will love this.

The Black Mamba - Love Is On My Side


Azerbaijan was represented by the young singer Efendi with the song Mata Hari. A simple song, but it’s catchy, and I also like the visual performance. See it for yourself.

Efendi - Mata Hari


Sweden was represented by a young Nigerian who found a new home in this country. His name is Tusse and I heard he still goes to high school. The song is also quite catchy.

Tusse - Voices


Germany was represented by a young guy with a ukulele, Jendrik. I also liked the song, but in the overall results it fell to the last places.

Jendrik - I Don't Feel Hate


Italy was represented by the group called Måneskin, which eventually won the entire contest. So the next Eurovision will take place there. Although the song didn’t catch my eye on first hearing, I can feel the energy from it and I like that the Italians were not afraid to sing in their native language. Over time, I got hooked to this song.

Måneskin - Zitti E Buoni

While we wait for the winner

The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest is usually long; yesterday it was broadcast for four hours. However, you hardly noticed that. While the viewers vote for the overall winner, the organizers have a rich program ready for us. I was most fascinated by the Rock The Roof show. They built several stages on the roofs of the buildings, and on each of them played one of the past winners of the Eurovision. It was beautiful!

Break - Rock The Roof

This performance was followed by televoting of all contesting countries. We gradually connected with people in each country and they told us who received the most points from them.

By the rules, the overall winner needs to get the most points combined from the jury and the viewers. In the past, people used to announce the summary results, but it turned out that the winner was often known much sooner, maybe after, say, half the votes were counted. Now, in order to increase the drama, we will only see the votes of the jury. And finally, the votes from the viewers can shuffle the overall results; as it happened yesterday.

The biggest drawback of such a vote is that many countries help each other. Cyprus gives the most points to Greece, Greece to Cyprus. Personally, I don’t understand why do we need a jury when it’s clearly biased, but that’s always been the case at Eurovision and it will always be. There is very little you can do about it. But even so, I think that the winner will win fairly… Those millions of votes from the audience will show up.

The Jury votes of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021

The biggest surprise was the United Kingdom. In total, they received zero points from the viewers and the jury. That hasn’t happened in a long time (maybe never). When they heard this devastating result, there was a moment of silence in the hall. But even such surprises belong to Eurovision.


Congratulations to the winner from Italy and I’m already looking forward to the next year. Current competiton songs and artists I just discovered will ease me with the waiting. So let’s drink to the next successful Eurovision in 2022.

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