Of course it wasn’t going to be Russia.
Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw won the 60th Eurovision Song Contest with his dance hit “Heroes.” Zelmerlöw was heavily favored, along with Italy and Russia, to win this year.
As I stated before in this space, Zelmerlöw was the total package: hunky, with an infectious, danceable song that set Zelmerlöw apart from the typical Eurovision ballad singer. The opening of “Heroes” casts Zelmerlöw as outlaw of the wild west, but rather simply following that path, the song, and the set design that accompanied his performance, take a modern turn. In cheesier times, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Zelmerlöw leaning in to an homage to Western culture with cowboy boots, spurs, chaps, and a Stetson hat. But he found a balance that worked.
After Austria’s epic infrastructual trolling, it seemed impossible that Russia would be able to overcome its reputation entering the contest. Eurovision fans were constantly reminded, in ways big and small, of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, and Polina Gagarina, the songstress representing the country, probably never had a chance because of it. Critics of Russia were quick to note the irony of Gagarina representing Russia with a warm, multicultural song about unity and peace given its aggression toward Ukraine.
Polina's got range. Lovely tone. If she loses, she should defect to like, literally any other country and then enter again. #Eurovision
— Soraya N. McDonald (@SorayaTWP) May 23, 2015
Eurovision is all about political voting, even as it tried its best to emphasize its “Building Bridges” theme and encourage meritocratic voting. “Music should stand over politics,” one of the hosts scolded after the crowd at Eurovision met Russia with boos.
Each of the 40 participating countries awards points to the countries in the final, from one to 12. Russia, Italy, and Sweden emerged as early leaders, and halfway through the voting, it appeared that Gagarina would win.
“You deserve to be in the lead,” Conchita Wurst, Eurovision’s 2014 winner, said to Gagarina during the break.
After a back-and-forth duel with Russia for the lead, Zelmerlöw pulled away as the runaway victor, and was named the unofficial winner before the voting had even ended because he’d built an insurmountable lead.
“We are all heroes, no matter who we love,” Zelmerlöw said, in what seemed like a shot at Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. “We are all heroes.”
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