Eurovision, Celebrating the Sounds of a Postpandemic Continent

ROTTERDAM — The Italian band Maneskin celebrated its 2021 Eurovision win by the rock ’n’ roll playbook, with naked chests lined in tattoos, champagne spraying and the thuds of fireworks exploding.

The win was a shut and deeply emotional one, with the band’s tune, “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Be Quiet,” edging into first place in an exhilarating vote that was finally determined by the public. Maneskin barely beat France’s Barbara Pravi, and her chanson “Voilà.” After the victory, an Italian reporter was sobbing as tears streamed down his face.

Capturing what many felt, he stated the victory was a contemporary begin for Italy. “It was a very difficult year for us,” the reporter, Simone Zani, stated, speaking about the devastating impression of the coronavirus. Explaining by means of his tears, he stated, “We are from the north of Italy, from Bergamo,” an Italian metropolis with document numbers of Covid-19 deaths. “To be No. 1 now, this is a new start for us, a new beginning.”

In fact, four of the top five winning songs of this year were sung in languages other than English. “There is clearly a thirst for more originality and real meaning,” Cornald Maas, a festival commentator for Dutch Public Television for over 15 years, said of the victories for songs presented in their national languages.

Europe, he said, had been looking for a song celebrating newfound life. “The winning song isn’t a restrained ballad as you might expect after corona,” Mr. Maas said, “but instead it’s an exuberant plea for authenticity, a call to ignore meaningless chatter.”

The show on Saturday in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam showed a glimpse of life as we knew it before the pandemic, and a future in which the virus might be under some form of control.

Many in the audience were wearing orange outfits, the national color of the Netherlands, singing along, dancing and hugging — and drinking. Alcohol was for sale and it was clear that some of the flag-toting celebrants had indulged. The entire audience of 3,500 was obliged to show a negative coronavirus test, taken under an elaborate testing plan paid for by the government. Members of the different delegations sat in a special zone in the middle of the arena on couches, where they had to keep socially distanced but still got up and danced around.

Artists only came out for brief socially distanced news conferences. Ms. Pravi, the French singer-songwriter, held lively conversations in the days before the final, waving hands and arms and mixing French and English. Ms. Pravi said she never makes any concessions, and the same was true of her song, “Voilà.” She said, “My ‘parcours’ shows this,” referring to the French term for career path.

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