Lisbon 2018

  63º Eurovision Song Contest
Toy (Netta Barzilai) - Israel


The 63rd Eurovision Song Contest took place at the Altice Arena, in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, on May 8th, 10th and 12th 2018. It was the first time for Portugal to host the contest thanks to Salvador Sobral's outstanding victory in 2017 with the song Amar Pelos Dois. The Altice Arena (formerly MEO Arena, and also referred to as Pavilhão Atlântico) is a multi-purpose indoor. It was built for Expo 98 and is among the largest indoor arenas in the European Union and the largest in Portugal. 12.000 people could attend each of the nine live shows during the Eurovision week.

Novelty and first-time-ever acts have usually proved to do pretty well in the Eurovision Song Contest and twenty years exactly after sculptural Israeli singer Dana International, the first transsexual ever to sing in Eurovision, won Eurovision in Birmingham with the song "Diva", 25-year-old Netta Barzalai, did the same in 2018 wearing a traditional kimono dress with her hair up in two buns, standing in front of two walls of Japanese maneki-neko lucky cat figurines and performing an antibullying song all whilst clucking like a chicken using -for the first time at Eurovision- a vocal looper arrangement. "Toy" and its irresistibly catchy chorus gave Israel their 4th victory in 45 years after A-Ba-Ni-Bi in 1978, Hallelujah in 1979 and Diva in 1998

Netta and her "Toy" had clearly been favourite to win in Lisbon ever since the song was released in March and it always seemed the contest would be a one horse race just until Eleni Foureira, representing Cyprus, almost literally set the stage on fire with her "latino" song "Fuego" during the first semi-final. There was a great overturn only 4 days before the grand-final and betting houses showed Cyprus in the lead. Eleni Foureira got to the final as favourite to win and she almost did. Audiences needed to wait until the last votes were announced to see Israel winning for the fourth time and Cyprus being only second in the end. That was Cyprus best score and position ever.

Unlike the previous year, the juries and the tele vote did not agree much this time. Israel was only 3rd with the juries but they won the tele vote and the overall result gave them the victory. Cyprus was placed only 5th with the juries but 2nd with televoters and ended in 2nd place. If it had been for the juries, Austria's powerful soul ballad would have won the contest this year. They ranked it on top, but televoters only placed it 13th and as a result Austria ended 3rd which still came as a surprise. Germany was 6th with televoters and 4th with the juries ending in a 4th place. And Italy was placed 3rd with televoters but 17th with the juries and as consequence ended 5th. Czech Republic, a fan favourite, was 4th with the televoters but only 15th with the juries and ended 6th while Sweden which was 2nd with the juries came only 23rd with televoters! As consequence Sweden ended 7th.

Eurovision's idol Alexander Ribak, came back for another attempt after his record-breaking victory in 2009 with Fairytale. His song was a fan favourite too and it actually won the second semi-final but, amazingly, in a surprising turn of events, it came only 16th with the juries in the grand final and 11th with televoters, resulting in a 15th place.

The United Kingdom SuRie's performance was interrupted and ruined by a stage invader who grabbed her microphone and yelled insults about the UK Media and shouted about "Nazis" and "freedom". She remained on stage, clapping aimlessly while her backing track continued to play and vocal accompaniment continued to sing. SuRie's was unable to sing for around 15 seconds, after which a microphone was handed back to her and she, quite incredibly, was able to then continue singing the rest of her song. This was the third time a member of the audience burst on the stage at the Eurovision Song Contest. It first happened in Copenhagen back in 1964 just after the Swiss entry. And more recently in Norway in 2010 when a man wearing a black T-shirt and red stocking hat jumped on stage into the Spanish entry "Algo Pequeñito". He knelt before singer Daniel Diges and appeared to try to join in with the song, waving his arms energetically before he was chased from the stage by security guards. Diges was given then the opportunity to perform again after the last entry which he did. The EBU confirmed SuRie was offered likewise this year but she declined, as she said her and her team were "extremely proud of her performance and had together decided there was absolutely no reason to perform the song again.” She ended 24th right after Spain and before Finland.

Portugal, being the host of this year's contest, was awarded an unfortunate last place, the same fate as Austria in 2015 when the event was hosted in Vienna after Conchita's victory and the Netherlands in 1958.

The opening act of the Grand Final in Lisbon showcased Portugal's traditional fado music. Accompanied by a Portuguese 12-string guitar and drums, fado singers Ana Moura and Mariza -two of the genre's biggest stars- opened the performance on Saturday night. Beatbombers, a Portuguese DJ duo, then mixed a classic fado song with a techno beat while the contestants representing the 26 countries paraded across the stage with their national flags. For the interval act, last year's Eurovision winner, Salvador Sobral, appeared on stage to perform one song from his new album accompanied by a piano and then he was joined by two-time Grammy winner Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso to render a delicate duet cover of last year's winning entry "Amar Pelos Dois" in what probably was one of the most touching moments of the evening.

As for me, well, 2018 was the year. The year for me to attend the contest live, for the first time ever. Yes! I went to Lisbon! And I have to say that, being there, inside the Altice Arena, while Europe and the world were watching how the competition was unfolding was an experience of a lifetime. One I had longed for since I was a child and that finally came true. A memory that I will forever treasure. Thank you Lisbon, thank you Portugal, for letting us all aboard.

See you in Tel Aviv in 2019