Eurovision 2021 Grand Final: Italy rocks (and wins) – CNET

eurovision-2021

Eurovision Song Contest

Italy won the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 on Saturday, a competition two years in the making, since it was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. The highest-scoring entries from the two semifinals, along with previous winner the Netherlands and the big five — Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain (which bankroll the competition) — competed to take home the ultimate singing prize in Europe. We watched all 26 finalists battle it out for the trophy, and we served up commentary, updates and our own personal ratings as each performance happened live. Read all about the scene, the songs and the crazy costumes below…

Eurovision 2021 winner: Italy

[3:48 p.m. PT]

Italy scoops up a massive 318 points from the public vote, putting its rock song above national jury winners Switzerland, France and Malta. “Rock and roll never dies,” the winning band, Måneskin, proclaimed when taking the stage to encore its winning tune, Zitti E Buoni.

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Italy rocks.


Eurovision Song Contest


Eurovision public voting

[3:40 p.m. PT]

After the jury vote comes in, we hear from who won the public vote from all 39 nations. This is how we declare the winner of Eurovision, with the public vote able to change the scoreboard up in an instant. Brutally, the Netherlands, UK, Germany and Spain all received zero points from the public.


Switzerland wins the jury vote

[3:30 p.m. PT]

One Afrojack set later and a rooftop full of former winners performing, and the complex Eurovision voting process has begun. It usually takes more than an hour to get through, so bear with us. An international version of singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice, Eurovision lets viewers vote on the winner of the 65th annual competition (though you can’t vote for your own country), and a national jury selected by each country accounts for half the vote.

Switzerland led with 267 points, after all 39 participating countries submitted their jury votes. France followed very closely in second place on 248 points, with Malta in third on 208 points. In fourth was Italy, and in fifth Iceland.


Best costume

[2:45 p.m. PT]

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Silver dresses are in.


Eurovision Song Contest/CNET

While we wait for the votes to come through, let’s take a look at the secondary competition of best costume. It’s battle of the sparkly silver dresses this year — at last count, five singers were decked out in shiny disco ball minidresses: those of Moldova, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Albania, not to mention the sparkly silver pantsuit worn by Norway’s angel.

Russia did have an impressively enormous tear-off costume dress, but only one entry performed in an actual golden headdress, and that was San Marino. Honorable mention for Germany’s hand costume.

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Russia’s enormous tear-off dress.


Eurovision Song Contest


San Marino performs: Adrenalina

[2:03 p.m. PT]

Rounding out the Eurovision Grand Final is San Marino, a tiny nation located in the middle of Italy. They’ve brought some serious star power to their performance, with guest star Flo Rida appearing toward the end of the song to throw in his two cents. And are the backup dancers wearing VR headsets? What are they looking at on those? Besides that, the song is fun, and the lead singer brilliant.

Our rating: 4/5 

Best moment: seriously though, why is Flo Rida at Eurovision?

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San Marino brought the golden headdress to Eurovision.


Eurovision Song Contest


Sweden performs: Voices

[1:59 p.m. PT]

This catchy song has us all singing along, with Tusse giving off a Weeknd feel in his performance of Voices. His backup dancers double, thanks to some video work on the screen behind him, helping with the message of solidarity. 

Sweden has won the contest twice in the last decade, first in 2012 with dance hit Euphoria and then again in 2015 with Heroes.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the sparkly black gloves and red velvet suit


Italy performs: Zitti E Buoni

[1:54 p.m. PT]

Italy is tipped No. 1 in the betting odds to take home the Eurovision trophy. It hasn’t won since 1990. This is the first time we’ve seen this song performed, with Italy being a member of the big five and gaining instant access to the Grand Final without needing to qualify. Måneskin delivers ’80s rock band theming, from the platform shoes to the flared sleeves to the studded black leather. 

Our rating: 3.5/5

Best moment: the fireworks shower at the end


The Netherlands: Birth of a New Age

[1:51 p.m. PT]

We finally get to see reigning champs The Netherlands — which won in 2019 with Arcade — perform on stage. Jeangu Macrooy’s Birth of a New Age is very different from Arcade, with a soul feel and a timely message about rebellion, race and not being broken down.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the powerful message


Norway performs: Fallen Angel

[1:46 p.m. PT]

Cyprus may’ve been singing about the devil, but Norway’s TIX has backing vocalists dressed as demons. The lead singer clearly took his costume cues from the Lars character in last year’s Netflix movie about Eurovision — he’s wearing gigantic angel wings, a sparkly silver pantsuit and a floor-length white fur coat.

Norway last won Eurovision in 2009 with Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: the sparkly handcuffs and chains

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Norway brought demons to Eurovision.


Eurovision Song Contest


Azerbaijan performs: Mata Hari

[1:42 p.m. PT]

Azerbaijan’s entries are always an explosion of energy and pop vocals, with its most recent win being in 2011 with Running Scared. This year, Azerbaijani singer Efendi is inexplicably singing about Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer who was convicted of being a German spy during the first world war (but is long rumored to have been innocent). Despite the dubious source material, it’s a catchy song tapping into female empowerment, and the background is one of the prettiest this year.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the cobra inside the disco ball

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Azerbaijan had the prettiest background. 


Eurovision Song Contest


France performs: Voilà

[1:38 p.m. PT]

France is the second choice in betting odds to win Eurovision this year. It would be a long time coming — the last time France won was back in 1977 — and it would certainly be a coup for a performance featuring no fancy graphics on screen, a simple black costume and no dancing to take home the prize. Barbara Pravi has a beautiful voice, with the entire song delivered in French.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: the beat building toward the end of the song


Ukraine performs: Shum

[1:34 p.m. PT]

Ukraine is tipped as being among the Top 5 to win the competition. We can see why — this dance song is performed in Ukrainian but has a great beat and is strangely hypnotic. But the performance is truly bizarre and like something out of your nightmares. The stage is surrounded by creepy-looking bare, white trees, the singer’s two accompanying dancers are playing with ring lights and then sacks of grain, a flute is playing and the singer never seems to blink.

Ukraine’s most recent win was in 2016 with Jamala’s song 1744.

Our rating: 3.5/5

Best moment: the dancers salt bae-ing the sacks of grain


Lithuania performs: Discotheque

[1:30 p.m. PT]

I’m surprised I actually like this one. It’s one of those Eurovision entries that at first makes you think you’ll laugh, but then gets you dancing to the beat. The canary yellow costumes are odd, and the dancing isn’t great, but it’s such a good song that the audience started clapping along within seconds.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the interpretive dancing

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The Roop performs Discoteque.


Eurovision Song Contest


Bulgaria performs: Growing Up Is Getting Old

[1:26 p.m. PT]

Bulgaria’s entry is a slow song, with Victoria dressed in gray pajamas and seated on a raft with a framed photo beside her. Her voice is lovely as she delivers this sentimental song, but the energy never really picks up.

Our rating: 2/5

Best moment: cows frolicking in the postcard prior to the song


Finland performs: Dark Side

[1:19 p.m. PT]

This is the only heavy metal entry in this year’s final, and Finland brings the energy to the stage. Nonstop pyrotechnics, drums and electric guitar are used throughout Blind Channel’s performance as they scream the lyrics. The last time a heavy metal band won Eurovision was when Finland’s Lordi triumphed back in 2006, so it is possible!

Our rating: 3.5/5

Best moment: the lead singers hanging upside down on the screen

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Finland was Eurovision’s only heavy metal contender.


Eurovision Song Contest


Germany performs: I Don’t Feel Hate

[1:14 p.m. PT]

The quirky song from Germany is all about an anti-hate narrative. Jendrik performs with a sparkly silver ukulele in hand — though he never plays it. There’s also trumpets and saxophones on stage, which likewise are never played. The last time Germany won Eurovision was in 2010, with Satellite… and we don’t think it’s likely this year.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: the giant hand costume gets our thumbs-up, obviously

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Germany’s performance featured a giant hand costume.


Eurovision Song Contest


Moldova performs: Sugar

[1:10 p.m. PT]

Natalia Gordienko delivers a standard Eurovision pop song in Sugar, with pulsating neon cubes appearing on the screen as shirtless backup dancers writhe around her. The song builds but never quite gets there.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: her Lego hair


Spain performs: Voy A Querdarme

[1:06 p.m. PT]

This is the first time we’ve seen Spain’s performance, with the big five nation earning automatic entry to the Eurovision Grand Final every year. Blas Cantó sings, and while the beat kicks in after the first verse, the tune somehow becomes a ballad again after that.

Our rating: 2.5/5

Best moment: the giant moon prop


Iceland performs: 10 Years

[1:02 p.m. PT]

With one of the stranger entries in the contest this year, the team from Iceland is performing in sweaters with pixellated versions of their own faces emblazoned on them. Half are holding curved keyboards, and the lead singer of Da∂i Freyr og Gagnamagni∂ looks like he’s from Hanson — but what really sets Iceland apart in this Grand Final is that they’re performing via video link due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: forming a circle with their three curved keyboards

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Iceland’s quirky entry was performed social distancing style.


Eurovision Song Contest


Switzerland performs: Tout l’Univers

[12:58 p.m. PT]

Switzerland is tipped to be in the Top 5 most likely to win this year, with Gjon’s Tears performing the beautiful Tout l’Univers song in French. The performance relied on his amazing voice (and a sparkly shirt) to get it through to the finals.

Our rating: 4.5/5

Best moment: the cool modern-age Stone Henge-esque props


Greece performs: Last Dance

[12:54 p.m. PT]

Stefania’s Last Dance is a fun bop, but nothing stellar. The 18-year-old singer actually hails from the Netherlands (you don’t have to be from the country you represent in Eurovision — Canadian Céline Dion once represented Switzerland!), but she has Greek parents. As part of a girl group, Stefania won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 at the age of 13. More interesting than the song this time are the cool visual tricks the Greek team uses with the background.

Our rating: 3/5 

Best moment: the invisible trick with the backup dancers

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Greece’s singer is just 18 years old.


Eurovision Song Contest


United Kingdom performs: Embers

[12:49 p.m. PT]

“A board of experts” selected the United Kingdom’s entry this year. As usual, I’m not sure whether the UK would’ve made it through the semifinals had it been forced to compete for its spot in the Grand Final — the UK notoriously finishes among the bottom entries in the final most years. Its biggest success in the last decade was when boy band Blue performed I Can, back in 2011 and finished in 11th place. The earnestness of this year’s singer, James Newman, can’t redeem what’s kind of a boring song with a good beat. It feels more like a radio hit than a Eurovision winner.

Our rating: 2.5/5 

Best moment: the giant trumpets


Serbia performs: Loco Loco

[12:43 p.m. PT]

Girl band Hurricane delivers Loco Loco energetically, and they have a wind machine and pyrotechnics to help. The hair extensions, thigh-high boots and little black spider-web dresses make this an instant Eurovision classic pop hit.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: the Destiny’s Child matching costumes offer up early aughts girl-band vibes

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Girl band Hurricane performs Loco Loco.


Eurovision Song Contest


Portugal performs: Love Is On My Side

[12:38 p.m. PT]

The Black Mamba performs this slow song about love dressed in tuxedos, with the jazz band relying on their solid song rather than flashy backgrounds or costumes. Portugal last won in 2017 with another slow jazz waltz song: Amar Pelos Dois.

Our rating: 3/5

Best moment: the black-and-white intro


Malta performs: Je Me Casse

[12:34 p.m. PT]

Malta, another tiny European island in the Mediterranean, is ranked as one of the Top 3 with the best odds to win the contest, and it’s easy to see why. Destiny is a powerful vocalist and stage presence, the song is fun, the beat is catchy, the instrumentals put a different spin on the hit, the stage show is bright and colorful, the costumes are fun, and the female empowerment message is confidently delivered. This one’s my personal favorite. 

Our rating: 5/5

Best moment: absolutely everything about this performance

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Destiny performs Je Me Casse for Malta.


Eurovision Song Contest


Russia performs: Russian Woman

[12:30 p.m. PT]

We’ve got another tear-off costume in Manizha’s performance of Russian Woman! The dress is so huge it can stand on its own while she dances in front of it in a more comfortable red suit. Does it count as the sixth person on the stage? The song is performed in Russian, with more backup singers appearing via Zoom behind her on the stage. The powerful, fun song gets a huge cheer from the audience.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: singing in Russian


Belgium performs: The Wrong Place

[12:26 p.m. PT]

Slowing the pace down is Belgium, with Hooverphonic performing The Wrong Place. There’s still sparkly costumes, and extreme close-ups of the singer showing on the enormous screen in the background, but this time we’ve got actual instruments on stage (and they’re even being played — we think). 

Our rating: 3/5 for its lower energy mood

Best moment: I couldn’t think of one

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Belgium performs The Wrong Place.


Eurovision Song Contest


Israel performs: Set Me Free

[12:22 p.m. PT]

Set Me Free is a great song, with Eden Alene’s voice able to reach the whistle register (the highest pitch possible — think Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande). It’s a real possibility to win, especially with the tear-off costume and pyrotechnics. Israel is one of the most recent Eurovision winners, with Netta’s Toy bringing home the grand prize in 2018.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the Medusa hairstyle


Albania performs: Karma

[12:19 p.m. PT]

Appearing alone on the Eurovision stage, singing a powerful ballad, Anxhela Peristeri gets bonus points from us for singing in Albanian and forgoing backup dancers.

Our rating: 4/5

Best moment: the sparkly costume


Cyprus performs: El Diablo

[12:14 p.m. PT]

First up, we have Cyprus. Representing the tiny island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea is Greek singer Elena Tsagrinou with El Diablo. It’s a solid banger, featuring most of the Eurovision staples: a wind machine, backup dancers in skintight red leather catsuits and the lead singer dressed in strategically placed crystals. Catchy and a contender, but nothing out of this world.

Our rating: 4/5 

Best moment: the Fuego vibes

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Cyprus is up first in the 2021 Eurovision Grand Final.


Eurovision Song Contest


Favorites to win Eurovision

Despite Italy and France having yet to perform on stage, they’re tipped as being the top two nations with the best odds to win the contest, followed by Malta. Rounding out the Top 10 most likely to win according to betting odds are Switzerland, Ukraine, Iceland, Finland, Bulgaria, Portugal and San Marino.

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