Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv after performing a jazz-style ballad written by sister Luisa, beating second-place Bulgaria.
“Music is not fireworks, music is feeling,” Sobral said after his win for Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Both) was announced.
Italy and Portugal had been the bookmakers’ favourites going into the 62nd edition of the Eurovision contest hosted in the capital of Ukraine.
It’s Portugal’s first win since entering the contest in 1964. After his win was announced, Sobral performed the song again in duet with his sister.
The commentator on the Portuguese state broadcaster RTP shouted “we have, we have won, this is amazing, it is absolutely incredible.”
Runner-up Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria wasn’t short on feeling. His power-ballad Beautiful Mess was awash in melodrama, the singer appearing almost wrung out by romantic turmoil.
Moldova’s Sunstroke Project finished a surprising third, with a bouncy, jazzy song called Hey Mama that featured a clever stage routine in which the female backup singers hid their microphones in bridal bouquets.
Francesco Gabbani of Italy had led bookmakers’ tallies for most of the days leading up to the final, but he ended up placing sixth even though his act seemed the epitome of Eurovision’s cheerfully tacky esthetics — singing a driving number about spirituality while accompanied by someone in a gorilla suit.
Eurovision, in its 62nd year, is aimed at apolitical entertainment. But the sweet intentions were soured this year when Russia’s participation was scuttled by host Ukraine over the two nations’ diplomatic and military conflict.
Russia is one of Eurovision’s heavy hitters, tied with Sweden for the most top-five finishes this century. But this year’s Russian entrant, Yuliya Samoylova, was blocked from competing by Ukraine because she had toured in Crimea after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula.
In response, Russia’s state-owned Channel 1 television is refusing to broadcast the contest, replacing Saturday’s final with a screening of the film Alien.
The Moscow-Kyiv split is a headache for Eurovision’s producer, the European Broadcasting Union, which strives mightily to keep pop and politics separate. Overtly political flags and banners are banned, and lyrics are monitored for provocative content.
In 2009, the EBU nixed the Georgian entry We Don’t Wanna Put In, a dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin. The union, however, has been criticized for not barring 1944 last year, allowing Russia-Ukraine tensions to fester.
The acrimony is ironic, since Eurovision was founded in 1956 to bring the recently warring countries of Europe together. It launched a year before the foundation of the European Economic Community, forerunner of the European Union.
From its launch with seven countries, Eurovision has grown to include more than 40, including non-European nations such as Israel and, somewhat controversially, far-off Australia.
The contest helped launch the careers of Sweden’s Abba — victors in 1974 with Waterloo, Quebec singer Céline Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988, and Irish high-steppers Riverdance, the halftime entertainment in 1994.