Marcel Bezençon Awards: Portugal and Italy honoured by press, commentators and composers

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An international jury and the European (plus Australian) public choose the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. But behind closed doors, three other awards honour Eurovision artists and their composers — and the public doesn’t have a say at all.

For the last sixteen years the Marcel Bezençon Awards have been presented to the best artists and composers competing in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Founded by Christer Björkman and The Herrey‘s Richard Herrey, the awards were first handed out at Eurovision 2002 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Christer, who was also one of the producers of this year’s Eurovision, runs the awards “to further enhance the Eurovision experience and to reward the excellence of the participants.”

The three categories are the Press Award, which is decided by the accredited press in Kyiv; the Artistic Award, which is voted on by all of the commentators from the participating countries; and finally the Composer Award, which is voted on by the composers participating in the Grand Final.” We should point out that these awards were revealed before the grand final, so were not influenced by the results of the actual show.

In some ways these awards act as a more exclusive jury — composers are perhaps best at judging compositions, for instance.

So, who are this year’s winners?

Marcel Bezençon Awards 2017 ceremony

Composer Award

Luísa Sobral, who wrote both the music and the lyrics to Portugal’s entry “Amar pelos Dois“, walked away with the Composer Award. Having written the song for her brother Salvador Sobral, she was able to work with his quirks and timbre in mind. The result was magical, and led to a landslide victory at Eurovision.

“It’s beautiful,” Luísa said. “I think it’s the best prize because to be seen by the other composers as a good composer or as having a good song, it’s one of the best things, so I’m really happy.”

She was also humbled by Christer Björkman’s compliments on her singing skills.

“Thank you. I am a composer and I am a songwriter. I sing my songs as well. But it’s great to be also just a composer. I like to be both.”

Press Award

The Press Award, which is voted on by the accredited media and press during the event, was presented to Francesco Gabanni, who represented Italy with the song “Occidentali’s Karma“.

“Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure and an honour for me,” Francesco said.

Asked if the award may predict the final results — as the awards were handed out before the Grand Final — Francesco said, “Maybe it’s karma”.

Artistic Award

Finally, the Artistic Award is voted on by the commentators from each of the individual broadcasters — so that’s the likes of Graham Norton from the UK and Joel Creasey from Australia. After the votes were done and dusted Salvador Sobral emerged victorious. It was an omen, as he was the eventual winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017.

“I feel that this prize is more important than winning the competition because this is given by the commentators, people from all over Europe, that know music and listen to music,” Salvador said in his thank you speech.

“To be recognised by musicians and by people that understand music, for me it’s I think even more rewarding than by – I don’t wanna say ‘normal’ people, but I’ll say it anyway.”

The singer spoke briefly of the songwriting process of “Amar pelos Dois”, which was written by his sister Luísa.

“RTP, the public channel, called her to compose a song for the festival and they told her she could pick any interpreter she wanted, and she already knew she was gonna call me before the song even existed. So that’s how it happened.”

Salvador revealed that his sister had tried to sound and move like him as much as she could while standing in for him during the first week of rehearsals.

“I feel like she was trying to, even to the cameras and to the sound technicians, to be as more like me so that they could do their job.”

“She is now the best composer in Portugal and I feel like she could be one of the best composers in the world.”

Do you agree with the results? Who would you give these awards to if you could?

Read our Portugal Eurovision news here