LIVERPOOL, England (AP) – Swedish singer Lauren Won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night with her powerful song “Tattoo,” in a colorfully eclectic music competition clouded for the second year in a row by the war in Ukraine.
The Stockholm singer beat out 25 other countries to be crowned the continent’s pop title at the competition’s final in Liverpool. Finnish singer Käärijä came second in a close battle with northern neighbours.
Lauren, 39, previously won Eurovision in 2012 and is only the second artist to win the award twice, after Ireland’s Johnny Logan in the 1980s. It is Sweden’s seventh Eurovision win, matching Ireland’s record.
“I’m so exhausted,” Lauren said. “This is very beautiful.”
She said that returning to the pageant that helped make her a star was “like coming back to family. We had a relationship that lasted 11 years. We know each other now.”
Britain hosted the Eurovision song contest on behalf of Ukraine, which won last year but could not take away the right to stage the contest because of the war. Sirens sounded across Ukraine as the contest got underway, and Ukrainian media reported a hit in Ternopil, the birthplace of Ukraine’s Eurovision entry, Tvorchi.
Under the theme “United by Music,” the Eurovision final combined the spirit of the English seaside town that gave birth to the Beatles with the spirit of war-ravaged Ukraine.
The sights and sounds of Ukraine ran through the show, starting with the opening act that featured the Eurovision 2022 winners Kalush Orchestra. Singing and dancing on the Kiev Underground, with the tune picked up by UK musicians – including Kate, Princess of Wales, who was shown playing the piano.
Then the popular rap group themselves appeared on stage at the Liverpool Arena on a giant pair of outstretched hands, accompanied by throngs of drums.
Contestants from the 26 finalist countries took to the arena in an Olympic-style flag display, accompanied by live performances from Ukrainian acts including Go A and JamalaAnd Tina Karol and Verka Serduchka – all former Eurovision competitors.
Now in its 77th year, Eurovision bills itself as the world’s biggest music competition – the party-friendly Olympics of pop. Each contestant has three minutes to mix catchy beats and eye-catching scenery In shows able to win the hearts of millions of viewers.
Lorraine’s anthem of intense love was a favorite among bookies and won the most professional jurors’ votes in Eurovision’s complex voting system. She faced a strong challenge from Käärijä, a very energetic performer whose party-rap anthem “Cha Cha Cha Cha” won the public vote.
Israeli Noa Kirill came in third place with the pop song “Unicorn”, while Italian Marco Mengoni came in fourth place with his song “Duo Fayt” (Two Lives).
The continent’s diverse tastes were showcased in a competition that included Portuguese nightclub-style singing Mimicat, Britney-esque powerhouses from Poland’s Blanka, Edith Piaf’s La Zarra echoes of France and smoldering poetic ballads from Cyprus’ entry. Andrew Lambrow.
From Australia – a Eurovision contender despite its remote location – guitar band Voyager stirred up ’80s court rock. Croatian Let 3 performed a surreal anti-war rock opera, and Austrian duo Teya & Salena sent the music industry on Poe’s reference song “Who the Hell is Edgar?”
Electronic duo Tvorchi praised Ukraine’s resilience in “Heart of Steel”, finishing in sixth place.
Britain’s Mae Mueller capped off the night’s unenviable final performance with her breakup-inducing anthem “I Wrote a Song.” She came in second-to-last – but at least she avoided the humiliation of having “null points”, or zero points.
During the casting and counting of the votes, last year’s Britannia runner-up Sam Ryder performed his new single “Mountain” accompanied by drummer Roger Taylor. A segment from “Liverpool Songwriters” featured former Eurovision stars performing songs from the city, including John Lennon’s “Imagine”, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive and the unofficial civic anthem” You’ll never walk alone” – as the crowd joins in, as a tribute to both Liverpool and Ukraine.
Around 6,000 fans watched the show inside the arena, tens of thousands in the Liverpool fanzone and at big screen events across the UK, and the global TV audience was estimated at 160 million.
Under the spring sunshine, fans flocked in thousands to the Eurovision Concert area on the city’s pavement precinct before the start of the competition. Many of them were wearing the flags of their favorite countries or wearing their favorite clothes.
“Just to come down and see people of all different nationalities, of all different cultures – it’s fun,” Australian Martin Trudel said, wearing a kangaroo hat. “Honestly, there are some antics, and that’s what I love about them. You never know what to expect.”
Liverpool has embraced Eurovision and Ukraine, with businesses across the city flying Ukrainian flags and a program of cultural events introducing locals to the arts, music and food of the eastern European country.
But the organizers said they rejected a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to create a video title. The European Broadcasting Union said that would breach the “non-political nature of the event”.
Founded in 1956, Eurovision is a European cultural institution that has produced superstars — ABBA and Celine Dion are both past winners — along with performers whose careers have sunk without a trace.
In recent years, it has once again become a platform that can launch stars. Italian rock band Måneskin, who won in 2021, have played major US festivals and opened for the Rolling Stones on tour. Ryder had a No. 1 album and performed at the Glastonbury Festival.
“Now, the music industry, the world, knows that if you appear at Eurovision, you could be a participant in something amazing,” said Steve Holden, the official podcast host of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Follow AP coverage of Eurovision at https://apnews.com/hub/eurovision-song-contest and the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
“Lifelong beer expert. General travel enthusiast. Social media buff. Zombie maven. Communicator.”