Well! That was quite the evening! I’ve got a lot of broader thoughts about the show which are to come. My brain is still too fizzy!
But one thing that I did note from last night is that there were a lot of questions from locals about various aspects of the show. And one of them is: “Finland and Italy both sent rock. I thought Finland’s was better, so why did Italy win?”
Believe it or not, there are actual reasons to explain this – listed below in no particular order!
Finland has won the contest only once, with Lordi in 2006. Since that point, they’ve sent rock songs four times (and yes, I’m counting Softengine as rock even though they are very much on the poppier side of the spectrum.) So while they can send other genres, they do tend to send rock more frequently.
But every time there’s a Eurovision, we get images of Lordi – and not just on the show, but often on the news, as they’re one of the more memorable Eurovision winners. And Mr. Lordi himself shows up during actual Eurovision shows.
In addition, death metal/Viking metal is a genre associated with Finland (and other Nordic countries). The musical act most Finns have seen is a rock band (Popeda). Finland is even home to the World Air Guitar Championships.
Italy was on hiatus from Eurovision the year Lordi won. But since it rejoined in 2011, the closest it’s gotten to sending a rock song was 2014’s La Mia Citta by Emma (coming in 21st). And in the entire history of Italy’s Eurovision participation, the only time they’ve send a band band (that is, a group of vocalists and instrumentalists) was in 1979, when Matia Bazar sent “Raggio di Luna” (which placed 15th). When Italy appears on the Eurovision stage, it’s rare to see anything but a vocalist or group of vocalists.
Every song at Eurovision is judged on its own. But some viewers (or juries) may have been less surprised by Finland sending a genre with which it is associated vs. Italy sending something which was completely unexpected for them.
Blind Channel are a great band. They’ve been together since 2013 and have released 3 albums, plus, as Episode 5 of Krista Calling showed us, they are tour veterans. But their time as a band has been spent in a typical band trajectory – formation, recording, touring – wholly in the music scene.
Måneskin are a newer band, having formed in 2016. And like Blind Channel, they’ve done extensive touring and have released two albums.
But the difference is that Måneskin have more experience with television. In 2017, they appeared as one of the acts on the Italian version of X Factor, making it all the way to the final (where they lost to a popera singer.) And this year, in order to make it to Eurovision, they needed to compete in San Remo, doing televised performances for five nights straight.
I would argue that because of this experience, Måneskin has more of a sense of how to work with the cameras. Finland’s performance was excellent, but all the band members except for the singers were largely separate during the song, with the camera focusing on them in turn. With Måneskin, aside from the opening bit where Damiano “invites us in” to start the performance, the whole band is on stage and in multiple shots as a cohesive, headbanging unit.
In Italy’s performance, the cameras are always there working around Måneskin in an organic fashion, whereas in Blind Channel, there was a sense that the staging was designed to hit certain marks at certain times. Both were staged, but one felt like a live performance and less like a “Eurovision moment.”
Blind Channel has more immediate appeal to viewers – especially first time viewers – because it’s in English. And their messages were simple. “Put your middle fingers up” is easily understood. Match that with classic “oh oh” chorus and it’s a fantastic pop hook.
But there was also a lot of controversy over lines like “Like the 27 club/Headshot/We don’t want to grow up” which seemed to imply that Blind Channel was somehow in favour of the early deaths of musicians and/or suicide. (I should note here that if the lyrics had been truly controversial the EBU would have stepped in, so I imagine that there’s a more innocent explanation for them.)
Måneskin’s song (“Zitti e Buoni/Shut Up and Be Quiet”) was performed in Italian, so its lyrics may have been inaccesible to non-Italian speakers, but the attitude present in the song was evident in the performance – we can get that it’s a song full of both rage and sass, but don’t necessarily have to focus on any lines that are jarring.
And as a side note, Måneskin won the Best Lyrics awards from Eurostory, a site that polls songwriters, poets, and Eurovision participants as to what the best lyrics may be.
The Je Ne Sais Quoi
Look, both bands were incredibly popular with the public, making a strong case for rock at Eurovision. But the two bands aren’t the same kind of rock.
Blind Channel describes what they play as “violent pop.” It’s clearly influenced by nu metal and goth. While watching the band, I got a sense that I was not so much at Eurovision as I was at the Warped Tour. That’s not a dig, but a description that the band very much fits into a certain type of genre and a certain type of look.
This familiarity undoubtedly influenced the televote – whether that’s among teens who are embracing late 90s/early 00s nostalgia, or us olds who remember the nu metal genre the first time it came around.
But one thing about the nu metal genre is that it’s also very male-dominated. It’s a sound that doesn’t include many women (except as vocalists). And in the United States, it’s associated with a certain type of masculinity – a swaggering, angry facade for boys with emotions.
Måneskin, on the other hand, are a modern-day interpretation of glam rock. The artists wear 70s-inspired flares and heels, layer on the eyeliner, and are not afraid to strip down on stage.
But instead of hiding behind the coyness of glam rock, Måneskin have just overtly embraced its queer undertones. For them, sexuality of all types is something to be celebrated, and they parade their bodies on stage for the admiration of everyone in Europe, no matter what gender. Photos circulated after their win last night showed Damiano (the singer) kissing Thomas (the guitarist) and Ethan (the drummer) in celebration. And Victoria (the bassist) has talked about being bisexual.
In a fandom that is so very much linked with the LGBT+ community, the queerness celebrated and represented by Måneskin transcends the rock genre. Music matters, but it matters less when being presented by a band where queerness is the norm, not the exception. Måneskin are a band that everyone either wants to be in or wants to fuck (or both, I know). And when you see that representation on stage. it creates a connection to the performance.
In conclusion, how have I written so many words about this> Look, both bands are good, but there are factors which help explain why Måneskin was more successful in the context of this contest and OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO ITALY!.