Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson sang while walking on a treadmill. Italy’s Francesco Gabbani danced in step with a gorilla. And Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov sang about a world in crisis against a monochrome dreamscape. But in the end Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won the day with his emotional ballad “Amar pelos dois”.
Dreamy from the very first note, his song took nostalgia and longing and turned it into something that’s painful but beautiful. Vocally Salvador was assertive yet soft, competent but never flashy. His quirky delivery added to the tenderness and charm. He closed his eyes, touched his face and went into a world of his own — yet one the audience could still access. He proved, perhaps better than anyone this year, that you don’t have to sing loudly to be heard, nor do you have to shriek to stir drama. It’s a sheer joy and one that avoids all Eurovision clichés.
He won in convincing fashion, taking 12 points from eighteen national juries: Sweden, San Marino, Latvia, Israel, Spain, France, Lithuania, Armenia, Iceland, Serbia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Georgia, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, the United Kingdom and Czech Republic.
He also won the televote, making him the first contestant since Conchita Wurst in 2014 to win both the televote and jury vote.
Owing to a serious heart condition, Salvador arrived to Eurovision a week after most of the other contestants and had to dispatch his sister (and songwriter) to rehearsals. Given how much he’s been through in recent months — including a hernia operation — his victory is all the sweeter.
During his winner’s press conference afterwards, a journalist asked whether he was concerned that his song doesn’t sound like a radio hit. Salvador was completely non-plussed by the comment.
“I never wrote a song to play on the radio stations, man,” he said. “My album came out in 2016 and nobody gave a shit. It’s jazz. That’s the way jazz is. And after this beautiful festival people got to know me and I’m thankful for that.”
Eurovision 2017: Grand final results
Eurovision 2017: jury results
The grand final saw a series of underdogs achieving new highs.
Bulgaria, which consistently failed to reach the Eurovision final until 2016, achieved its best-ever result by coming second.
Moldova, which hadn’t made the Eurovision final since 2013, also achieved its best-ever result, finishing third.
Germany didn’t exactly soar — it finished next-to-last. But it did avoid a three-peat at the bottom of the table.