As a life-long Eurovision fan, and someone who lived in Italy for seven years, I obviously have a lot of feelings about this year’s edition.
There was so much hype surrounding Italy’s entry. And for good reason too! It’s difficult not to be biased, but Occidentali’s Karma was genuinely my favourite entry this year. I’d liked it ever since Gabbani took part in Sanremo back in February. So yes, the song’s been around for a fair while by now, and people all over Europe have got to know it. Even though, being completely in Italian this year, it wasn’t necessarily initally understood in the UK. For UK viewers, the gorilla was still very much a novelty right up until the end of the show last night. Gabbani and his gorilla ended up a very respectable sixth, Italy’s third-best result since they re-joined the competition in 2011. But from what I’ve seen, Italian fans are generally very disappointed. And I don’t blame them! Italy been touted as one of the favourites for this year’s edition, there was so much faith in this year’s entry. But that’s just the nature of the Eurovision beast. Songs that should done better don’t because of political voting, people’s bad tastes, or simply for reasons that are unexplained… Yes, Italy should’ve done much better, at least top 3, but justice is rarely served on this Saturday in May. And from what I’ve seen, that’s something Italian viewers have yet to get their heads around.
It’s very much in the Italian psyche to believe that they’re better than everyone else, at everything. I’m sorry Italy, but that’s just what I saw when I lived out there. And that sense of pride can get carried away. I briefly popped my head into Italian Twitter after the end of the show, and saw threats and insults towards the rest of Europe, people not wanting to take part anymore, tweeting at RAI to withdraw their funding. I didn’t hang about for too long, because there was just so much anger. Present-day Italy is still relatively new to Eurovision – before it re-joined in 2011 it hadn’t competed for 14 years. So had I been born Italian in 1986, I wouldn’t have grown up with Eurovision – It was 1997 when they last took part before withdrawing. And it’s taken a few years for it to gain any proper momentum there. I remember the Italian coverage in 2011
, which for someone used to the BBC’s broadcast, was terrible. They were coming from a studio in Rome! Since then the commentators have mostly been Italian radio presenters, with mixed results. This year was a game changer though. The chance Italy had to win created a new enthusiasm for the event, with the first semi final gaining a 45% increase in viewers compared to last year. The ratings for the grand final don’t seem to be out yet, but I’m very interested in seeing how it did, especially against a massively popular talent show.
There’s one thing I should mention though, which was something horrifying I heard when listening to an Italian radio show yesterday afternoon. There was a phone conversation with a music journalist, Chiara di Giambattista, who was one of the members of the Italian jury. With Eurovision being much less popular and generally less understood in Italy, she started off her spiel briefly explaining how the countries who had got to the final had qualified. When she got to naming the Big Five, that dreaded word came out of her mouth – Inghilterra
. England. She said that one of the countries in the Big Five was England. Now, as we know, as a Welsh person who lived in Italy for many years, this is a very sensitive subject
for me. I was furious, and spent far too much time during the show pointing out her ignorance. (Me, petty? Never.) The public in Italy will probably get it wrong until the day I die, because unfortunately that’s just how it is; but someone who was on the country’s professional jury in Eurovision? It’s just shocking to not have a basic grasp of European geography, and well, just to not understand who exactly the countries taking part and you’re supposed to be voting for are. It’s also insulting, especially seeing as the UK was represented by a Welsh woman this year. Unsurprisingly, the UK didn’t get any votes from Italy, probably because they all didn’t have a clue who that strange country was on the voting sheet…
And as for the UK’s performance? Lucie did us proud. As with every year, the general British public went into Eurovision knowing that we didn’t stand a chance (something that Italy very likely will never do…), even more so this year with Brexit. But we did surprisingly well! I was honestly expecting a nul points disaster, but we were on the left hand side of the scoreboard for so long!
And congratulations Portugal! From the very first jury vote result I knew from that moment that they were going to win, their 12 points and Italy’s six set the tone for the rest of votes. It was my second favourite song after Italy’s, even though I never usually go for such soppy romantic ballads. But it’s just beautiful. It may not be my beloved Italian entry, but in my opinion it’s still very much a worthy winner.