TEL AVIV, Israel – The Netherlands won on Saturday the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest with “Arcade” by Duncan Laurence at the Expo Tel Aviv in Israel.
The 64th edition of the festival will go down in history as the one in which Madonna performed in front of 200 million viewers worldwide.
The Queen of Pop’s appearance at the contest was the most highly-anticipated performance of the night and featured her new single “Future” featuring US rapper Quavo, as well her 1989 hit “Like a prayer.”
“Let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together,” the singer said shortly before her performance, words that some have seen as a defense against criticism for performing at the event held in Israel despite the country’s treatment of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank.
The gala, one of the longest-running TV shows in the world, opened with a flag parade to introduce the 26 competing entrants and a performance by last year’s winner, the Israeli Netta Barzilai.
The battle began with the song “Chameleon” by Malta’s Michela Pace and concluded two hours later with Spain’s entry, an energetic performance by Miki.
Saturday night’s iteration of the popular international festival was filled with songs with a social message such as Italy’s – its singer, the Egyptian-born Mahmood, has been lambasted by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini – or Sweden’s John Lundvik, who sang a hopeful gospel song, as well as the winner’s piano ballad.
A big variety of languages (Slovenian, Albanian, Spanish, French, Italian, Icelandic Serbian and, of course, the ubiquitous English) and styles – including indie pop, minimal electro, Catalan charanga and industrial metal – were featured at the event.
Iceland’s heavy metal act Hatari was a welcome blast of Eurovision eccentricity, while San Marino’s performer Serhat had a distinct Italo disco sound.
Also memorable were performances by some of the most charismatic participants of the contest in recent years, including Eleni Foureira and Verja Serduchka and the tribute to 1979 winner “Hallelujah.”
The voting system, which underwent a shake-up a few years ago and now splits the vote between jurors from each country and televotes, once again caused some excitement and havoc in a final that was decided at the last second between Sweden and the Netherlands.
In the end, the Netherlands won with 492 points, which gives the country its fifth victory in the European song festival and the first since 1975, and only 27 points ahead of Italy, who finished second with Mahmood’s “Soldi.”
Rounding off the top ten were Russia (369 points), Switzerland (360), Norway (338), Sweden (332), Azerbaijan (297), North Macedonia (295), Australia (285) and Iceland (234).
This year’s edition of the contest had 26 finalists and 41 semifinalists.