Top 10: Stagings of the 2016 Contest

Hello everyone! It seems like an eternity since we last did a Top 10 for anything, so why not do it now in the off-season, where we can analyse everything?Without further ado, we’re going to look at the 10 best stagings of the 2016 Contest. The stage in the Globen was quite possibly one of the most multifaceted stages in the history of the Contest, and it was fairly obvious that we were in for a fantastic year of performances. Of course, a key component to a performance is the staging of the song – how well/bad it looks on screen, and that’s what we’re ranking today. So, what are we waiting for? Scroll down and find out our rankings!

10 – Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz: “Midnight Gold” (Georgia)

Kicking off our top 10 is Nika Kocharov and the Young Georgian Lolitaz with the uber-seizure-inducing “Midnight Gold”. In the run up to the Contest, the music video for “Midnight Gold” was very psychedelic and gave the visualisation of the song’s message; waking up after a wild night out and having the memories gradually flooding back. This was magnified to a new scale in the performance in Stockholm. Using split screens, dodgy camerawork and a barrage of strobe effects that would send any epileptic into an uncontrollable seizure, the song’s essence is captured brilliantly and just watching it, you’re left feeling dazed and confused – as one would after a long night out. The split screen adds to the dizziness and confusion and actually makes you feel like you’ve taken some drugs and they’re taking effect immediately. Essentially, the staging compliments the song’s message well and thus, it’s a great package and also the perfect #10 for this countdown.

9 – Iveta Mukuchyan: “LoveWave” (Armenia)

As with previous years, many countries jump on the prop/effect bandwagon that the host won with the previous year. This year is no exception, with several countries opting to use holograms and camera tricks to help enhance their performance. Armenia’s Iveta Mukuchyan definitely used this to her advantage with the experimental effort “LoveWave”, which – going into the Contest – was one of the hardest to predict a staging for. Being a model, Iveta works perfectly with the cameras and the camera angles flatter her at every turn. The use of pyrotechnics throughout the performance (emphasised in the dramatic 16-second buildup) adds tension and drama to the song. The quick change of cameras also make the performance more aesthetically pleasing. However, the jewel in the crown in this performance is the hologram, where as many as five Ivetas can be seen onscreen, merging into and splitting from each other, each showing off Iveta’s internal feelings. This gives the performance that extra ‘wow’ factor and shows how experimental songs can be given that mainstream look – to be made more….artistic.

8 – Joe & Jake: “You’re Not Alone” (United Kingdom)

This is probably an unexpected addition to the list, but Joe and Jake fly in at number 8 on our top 10. The general stage directions are rather insignificant here, but it’s the background that makes it so distinctive. The song itself talks with the joy of not feeling alone – someone has your back and this general message practically embodied the slogan of this year’s Contest – “Come Together”. This was portrayed best in the background, which was made up of selfies sent in by Eurovision fans with their friends and family, which encapsulated the spirit of the song. Included in the selfies were Eurovision fans and even big celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. In the last chorus, the background changes to live pictures in the adjacent Tele2 Arena while Eurovision: The Party was taking place. If that’s not a direct symbol of being together and enjoying the music for what it is, I don’t know what is!

7 – IVAN: “Help You Fly” (Belarus)

…….Well, I guess he was naked in some way……

Returning to the holograms, Belarus quite possibly had the best use of such of all the countries involved. IVAN did spend a great deal of his time on stage behind the hologram screen, but it was well worth it. Throughout the song, he interacts with wolves (sometimes with clothes, sometimes without) and even himself, as he jams out with himself playing the drums and the electric guitar – looking hipster as ever. Wolves did play an integral part of the staging, and it did really seem as an organic performance without the ‘koombaya’, barefoot feature as seen of other, more successful artists……..regardless, it still doesn’t really clarify why there’s so many wolves being shown, while he sings:

I will help you learn how to fly, how to fly….

Still, we’ll just accept it. It happened. Alright!?

6 – Frans: “If I Were Sorry” (Sweden)

It’s time to take things down a notch and time to look at the simple things…Sweden has a tendency to not change anything from Melodifestivalen to the Eurovision stage and this year was no different. Frans’ performance was very simple; there were no gimmicks to be seen here. It was purely Frans standing at a microphone in front of a screen that every once in a while spells words out. It was a very stark and intimate performance and the results reflect that, with the host country finishing in a very respectable 5th place. What might have got it so high? Well, for starters, the song itself is very simple – it’s purely Frans, a guitar and some beats, but it had a charm; something appealing to it. Secondly, there was Frans himself, whose unique Brixton-esque singing voice and general “cool as a cucumber” look made him stand out in a field of high-octane song with big and brash staging; simplicity worked to his favour. Of course, it could have been a ploy by SVT to boost Frans’ chances, but let’s not get too skeptical. Purely, Sweden has made the top 10 because of its effort (or lack thereof) to be simple; it’s a breath of fresh air in a Contest filled with in-your-face staging.

5 – Poli Genova: “If Love Was A Crime” (Bulgaria)

Bulgaria annihilated the competition in Stockholm and triumphantly returned to the final with a top 5 finish – the second time in its time in the Contest. The song was upbeat and easy to dance to, and Poli’s charisma was infectious to the very end, as it looked like she was genuinely enjoying herself onstage. This was complimented with an illuminated performance. With flashing static on both the top and bottom of the stage, it feels like the background is integral, but doesn’t distract you from the song and Poli herself. In the chorus, gradually more and more dancers join Poli in a professional choreography and in the end, Poli makes good the “When it’s dark, we illuminate” line by illuminating herself and being joined by her chorus of backing singers/dancers to really get the crowd together! This really did contain the full package and that is probably why they Poli and Bulgaria improved their best ever position…it’s definitely why they’ve made #5 on this poll! Go on Poli!

4 – Laura Tesoro: “What’s the Pressure” (Belgium)

Laura Tesoro makes our #4 for a couple of reasons. First of all, the perfectly choreographed dance routine throughout “What’s the Pressure” immediately gives the song that “oomph” that we both lacked in the NF back in January and gloriously gained in the music video. The performance is glitter, sparkles and quite frankly – one of the best choreographed dance routines in the entire Contest. From the sassy strutt beginning to the vivacious catwalk end, it’s clear that this song is one meant for dancing and enjoying yourself, which Laura demonstrates perfectly with her posse and her sassy looks, which complements the aesthetic throwback to the 1970s. The added adlib in the instrumental to get the fans joining in the fun also puts the finishing touch onto what was one of the most precise stagings of the Contest. It did what it said on the tin – to get the atmosphere more upbeat and to end/start the night on a high note! SEQUINS EVERYWHERE!

3 – Gabriela Gunčíková: “I Stand” (Czech Republic/Czechia)

Who knew the Czech Republic could have made the final?! We’re so proud of Gabriela for finally taking her country for the first time with such a beautiful song, as well as one of the best uses of the stage in the Contest’s history. The whole setup of the performance is just as intimate as the song itself. In the first chorus, the entire stage just lights up with the lush pink, purple and blue geometric triangles we’ve come to associate with “I Stand”. Even though she’s standing along on stage, Gabriela isn’t shriveled up by the long shots and the extravagant background onstage; instead, she thrives. In the final chorus, she finally lets the full extent of her voice be heard as flowers fall from behind. The staging was very much inspired by the music video for “I Stand”, but this gives the song some added depth and helps visualise the message of the song better than her actually lying down as she’s singing about “standing”. The staging was simple, but visually crystalline and you’re gradually hypnotised by the background as you listen to the song. A simple, yet staging for an extravagant song; that is how Czechia made it to both the final and #3 on this list.

2 – Sergey Lazarev: “You Are The Only One” (Russia)

Narrowly missing out on the #1 spot on this top 10 is the winner of the televoting; Sergey Lazarev. There is absolutely no questioning that the staging of the song was visually astounding and it’s clear that Russia pretty much threw everything including the kitchen sink to ensure a win…he did win something, just not the whole Contest! Like Belgium, Russia’s visual look had to be precise to properly wow both the crowd in the arena and the millions of viewers at home – which is exactly what he did. Through that magic wall of his, he was able to portray that he was a majestic eagle to show love to the poor woman who stuck her head out at the last minute (to get the paycheck for actually showing up 😉 ). As seen by so many, he even climbed the wall and stayed on the wall when it turned on its axis! Suffice to say, it’s pretty obvious why Russia had got 361 points in the public vote. Of course, the song itself may have been a little dated and schalger (bleugh!), but there’s no denying that the staging was amazingly brilliant and although he didn’t win the whole competition outright, at least he had the pleasure of winning both the public vote in Stockholm and the honour of being #2 in our top 10!

So……our #1 best staging is………. *TENSION*

1 – Jamala: “1944” (Ukraine)

I think it would be foolish of us not to have included Jamala in our top 10 at all, but yes it indeed Ukraine who scoops the title for the Best Staging at this year’s Contest. Referring back to Sweden and Czechia, Ukraine had simple, but very clever staging. Jamala worked perfectly with the cameras and the graphics were able to tell the tragic story perfectly without distracting you away from the song itself. It keeps you hypnotised and draws you in, as Jamala walks through the smoking tunnel and later goes on to control the positive auras protruding from her on the stage floor. She guides you with her sass as the positivity begins to be broken up by the horror of the situation and as her world falls you apart. Finally she draws you in with the intimacy of the mugham and as she explodes into the final chorus that tree of energy bursts up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. As Jamala has already stated, it stems as a result of her philosophy: creating the future remember about your roots; where you came from and if you respect and venerate you language, history and culture, you’ll learn to respect other cultures. The song itself is very heavy emotionally and the staging magnifies that to a whole new power, which is probably why she made such a strong connection with both the juries AND the televoters (our friends over at ESCInsight have done a fantastic article on the hypothesis of Stalin, be sure to check it out!). The cracks and squeals in her voice in her encore show the magnitude of her plight and it’s obvious that it meant a lot to her, and that is why she ended up winning – the emotional was real and not just something she was just a mouthpiece of. Regardless, the whole package Jamala had contributed to her victory, but her staging is 100% the #1 Best Staging in the 2016 Contest, here at ESC Views!

Congratulations to Jamala and Ukraine for their triumph, but do you agree with our list?

Your views:

What stagings this year did you most enjoy?

Jessica Amy from the United Kingdom: Russia definetly! Belarus too, Belgium I loved too – the dancers were fab, as was Laura. Really loved Bosnia too – the whole barbed wire fence thingy, found it quite strong. Loved the cages from Cyprus. Loved the light show from Georgia, loved the backdrop visuals for Iceland, love the Italian ‘garden’ the Moldovan staging with the astronaut was just weird, Serbia was a bit OTT for a ballad in my opinion, Spain could have benefited from backing dancers I think – it was a bit boring and blah when the song is so uptempo. Loved the selfie concept for us.

Ajdin Mehi from Bosnia & Herzegovina: Armenia by far. Everything about that performance was outstanding. The whole act looked stunning visually and vocally, and it was brilliantly screened on TV. Iveta was so fierce, she gave everything. The beginning with fog and wind, followed by red lights on Iveta’s face resulting in total chaos and heat on the stage was spectacular. I was so proud of Eurovision at that moment.

Miguel Trujillo from the United States: Austria. The staging fit the song perfectly. I couldn’t help but smile while watching it.

Alan Corrigan from Ireland:  For me Australia. Good song, amazing singer and great staging. The staging needs to be innovative each year as we’ve seen in the past. Loreen, Mans, etc. This year Australia tried the on-screen computer animation which worked well. Anyone who try’s to copy an act from a previous contestant normally never does well.

So it’s seems that we’re all in cahoots about which song’s staging  was best, although one must admit, there was a strong support for Iveta’s staging – Armenia know how to work a stage! However, the varying opinions is very much expected, because every country gave their best!! But we’d love to know what you think! Do you agree with our top? Who would your #1 be? What would you change in the top if it was made by you? Be sure to let us know what you think by commenting below!

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