Lisbon (AFP) – Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon early Sunday after singer Netta Barzilai beat 25 other contestants with her uptempo song “Toy” whose lyrics have been embraced by the #MeToo movement.
The winning track, which contained refrains such as “I am not your toy, you stupid boy”, summed up the concerns of many women who have adopted the growing global movement against sexual harassment.
“I am so happy. Thank you so much. Thank you for supporting diversity,” Barzilai said as she took the stage after her win was announced.
The 25-year-old former singer in the Israeli Navy band accompanied her winning performance with trills, clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves in an eye-catching and bizarre performance that is often typical of the Eurovision contest.
Portugal hosted the event for the first because it won the contest last year in Ukraine with a jazzy solo ballad by Salvador Sobral. Barzilai’s victory is the fourth time Israel has won the contest.
The annual musical extravaganza has long been known for its ludicrous costumes, glitz and high-tech stage effects.
But cash-strapped Portuguese state broadcaster vowed to stage a more “theatrical” contest that made less use of new technologies, following in the footsteps of Sobral’s bare-bones performance.
It stripped the Eurovision stage of the walls of LED screens that have formed a backdrop to performances in recent years.
Nonetheless many of the 26 acts that took part in the final at Lisbon’s Altice Arena found other gimmicks to get the audience’s attention — and their votes.
Norway’s Alexander Rybak played an imaginary guitar, violin, piano and drum as graphics of those instruments were overlaid onto the feed of his performance on viewers’ TV screens at home.
Italy used the same trick but with brightly designed subtitles spelling out the lyrics to their song, which deals with recent terrorist attacks in Europe.
– Stage intruder –
Estonian soprano Elina Nechayeva wore a giant, interactive dress which flowed down from her waist, beyond her feet and out across the sprawling stage.
The dress, which weighs around eight kilos (18 pounds), came to life with colourful animations while she stood in place and sang her pop opera entry “La Forza” in Italian.
Ukraine’s Melovin went a step further, ending his vampire-themed performance by playing a piano while the stairs leading up to it were set on fire.
This year’s contest cost around 20 million euros ($24 million) to stage, the lowest amount since 2008 when it started to have two semi-finals.
British singer SuRie’s performance was interrupted by a man who jumped on stage and snatched her microphone as she performed her entry “Storm”.
She calmly turned to one side and clapped while the man was escorted away before quickly resuming singing after being handed another microphone.
The man is in police custody, the European Broadcast Union, which stages Eurovision, said in a statement.
SuRie and her team were offered the chance to sing again but opted not to because they were “extremely proud” of her performance, it added.
– ‘Harmless fun’ –
Eurovision was first held in 1956 with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II.
Today it has an estimated global audience of around 200 million people — more than the Super Bowl in the United States — and has served as a global launching pad for the likes of ABBA and Celine Dion.
“It’s just harmless fun, it is just a really good atmosphere,” said Lee Torrance, a 43-year-old from Worcestershire in the United Kingdom who wore a vest and bowtie with the Union Jack pattern to the final.
Although the contest is supposed to be nonpolitical, this year’s Eurovision, like many others before it, was no stranger to controversy.
The European Broadcast Union barred China’s Mango TV from airing Saturday’s final after it edited out a romantic dance sequence by two men from Ireland’s entry during the contest’s first semi-final.
Mango TV also blurred out rainbow flags in the audience.
After two semi-finals held this week, 20 countries moved to Saturday’s final while Britain, Italy, Spain, France and Germany got free passes as they are the biggest contributors to the European Broadcasting Union. Portugal automatically qualified because it was the host.