Swedish singer Loreen has won the Eurovision Song Contest with her power ballad “Tattoo” at a colourful, eclectic music competition clouded for a second year running by the war in Ukraine.
The diva from Stockholm beat acts from 25 other countries on Saturday night to take the continent’s pop crown at the competition in the United Kingdom’s Liverpool.
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Finnish singer Käärijä was second in a close-fought battle of the Nordic neighbours.
Loreen scored 583 points after the public and jury votes were combined, narrowly beating Käärijä who scored 526.
Loreen previously won Eurovision in 2012 and is only the second performer to take the prize twice, after Ireland’s Johnny Logan in the 1980s. The win also ties Sweden with Ireland as the nation with the most wins, with seven apiece.
The UK hosted the Eurovision this year on behalf of Ukraine, which won last year but could not take up its right to hold the contest because of Russia’s invasion and ongoing war.
As the Eurovision was under way, Russian missiles hit the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, which is home to the electro-pop duo Tvorchi, this year’s contestants at the song contest from Ukraine. Local authorities, writing on Telegram, said the attack had hit warehouses owned by commercial enterprises and a religious organisation, injuring two people.
Tvorchi said this week they hoped to shine a spotlight on their country’s fight for freedom with the performance of their song “Heart of Steel”, which was inspired by the Ukrainian forces who had defended the destroyed city of Mariupol in the face of a overwhelming Russian onslaught.
The Ukrainian entry placed sixth in the competition.
TVORCHI performed the song “Heart of Steel,” inspired by the Ukrainian defenders of the now-ruined city of Mariupol.https://t.co/uWTvDKTuaB
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 13, 2023
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra rode a huge wave of support from across Europe to win the contest last year.
Under the slogan “united by music”, the song contest this year fused the soul of Liverpool — the English port city that birthed The Beatles – with the spirit of war-battered Ukraine.
The sights and sounds of Ukraine ran through the show, starting with an opening film that showed the 2022 winners Kalush Orchestra singing and dancing in the Kyiv subway, with the tune picked up by musicians in the UK – including Kate, Princess of Wales, shown playing the piano.
The folk-rap band itself then emerged onstage in the Liverpool Arena on a giant pair of outstretched hands, accompanied by massed drummers.
Liverpool had embraced Eurovision, and Ukraine, with businesses across the city flying Ukrainian flags and a programme of cultural events introducing locals to the art, music and food of the Eastern European country.
But organisers said they turned down a request by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make a video address to the song contest citing the show’s non-political nature.
Founded in 1956, Eurovision is a European cultural institution that has produced breakout stars — ABBA and Celine Dion are both past winners — alongside performers whose careers sank without a trace.
Contestants from the 26 finalist nations entered the arena on Saturday in an Olympics-style flag parade, accompanied by live performances from Ukrainian acts, including Go A, Jamala, Tina Karol and Verka Serduchka, all past Eurovision competitors.
Now in its 67th year, Eurovision bills itself as the world’s biggest music contest, an Olympiad of party-friendly pop. Competitors each have three minutes to meld catchy tunes and eye-popping spectacles into performances capable of winning the hearts of millions of viewers.
Loreen had been the bookies’ favourite and won by far the most votes from professional juries in Eurovision’s complex voting system.
About 6,000 fans watched the show inside the arena, and tens of thousands more at a Liverpool fan zone and at big-screen events across the UK.
The global television audience has been estimated at 160 million.