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The Netherlands Wins 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv; Madonna’s Performance Attracts Controversy

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The Netherlands won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, with Duncan Laurence’s doleful piano ballad “Arcade” crowned champion of Europe’s annual music extravaganza, according to an AP report.

Edited by: JV Staff

The 25-year-old was tapped as an early front-runner before the Grand Final but was only ranked third after the vote of professional juries from the 41 participating countries, trailing Sweden and North Macedonia, according to the AP report.  He surged ahead thanks to the fan vote, securing The Netherlands its fifth win ever in the competition. Italy finished second, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Norway.

“This is to dreaming big. This is to music first, always,” Laurence said, as he was handed the trophy from last year’s winner, Israel’s Netta Barzilai.

About 200 million people around the world were believed to have watched the annual campy contest with 26 nations battling in the Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest, according to the AP.

Madonna was the star attraction, performing her 1989 hit “Like a Prayer”, accompanied by a 35-strong choir, and she officially introduced to the world  the song “Future” from her forthcoming album called Madame X. At one point during her performance, a pair of her dancers – one wearing a costume emblazoned with the Palestinian flag, another with the Israeli flag – embraced as they ascended a set of stairs.

The European Broadcasting Union rebuked the pop superstar for injecting politics in  this “non-political” event.

“This part of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been approved by the EBU and the host broadcaster, Kan,” the broadcasting union said in a statement. “The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna has been made aware of it.”

But as per usual, the outspoken and no-holes barred “Material Girl” had her say in the geopolitical arena, despite the warning not to raise political issues.

Madonna’s very participation has brought protests from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has for years been pushing for investors and artists to shun Israel over its decades-long military presence in the Palestinian territories, and led calls for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision.

In a statement carried by the media earlier this week, Madonna said: “I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.”

According to a Jerusalem Post report, Madonna told Eurovision co-host Assi Azar in the early hours of Sunday morning that she was thrilled to be in Israel.  Azar introduced the superstar at the Eurovision grand finale, saying it was a “very emotional night” to talk to “the biggest pop star in the world.”

“Everyone here is from all over the world,” Madonna said, according to a JPost report. “So many countries that I have been privileged enough to visit, and experience, and the one thing that brings me to those countries, and the thing that brings all of us here tonight, is music, and the power of music to bring people together.”  

Turning to the 26 gathered delegations seated behind her in the green room, Madonna said that everyone competing were “all winners no matter what happens.” The singer said she knows that in order “to get here, where you are right now, was not easy.”

Israeli-Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams who claims to be a self appointed ambassador for Israel at large paid Madonna $1 million to perform at Eurovision.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post,  Adams made his fortune in real estate in his native Quebec as president and CEO of Iberville Developments, one of Canada’s largest real-estate development companies, founded by his father, Marcel, one of Canada’s most successful real estate developers.

The report indicated that  Adams and his wife Margaret made aliyah to Israel in 2015. He asserts that that his “big” approach to putting the spotlight on his adopted country is the most effective way to win it new friends.

Madonna took the elaborate stage after participants wrapped up their performances shortly after midnight when the elaborate voting process got underway across Europe, according to the AP report.

Later, Icelandic entrants Hatari displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags as their points scores were read out, incurring boos from the Tel Aviv audience.

Israel’s entry into the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest said Saturday night that he was happy with his performance and proud to represent Israel, despite his disappointing finish, according to a Times of Israel report. Kobi Marimi ended up in 23rd place with the slow, operatic ballad “Home.” He broke down in tears at the conclusion of his emotional performance.

 “I’m very happy and grateful to the audience for the applause, and for the flags they brought to the venue. This is a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Marimi said.

Marimi  cried as he ended the song, barely managing to thank the crowd in Hebrew, according to a TOI report.

“Wow” is all the local announcer could manage. “It was a lot of fun for me. There were rehearsals with an audience, but it was never like that before. The number of Israeli flags that were there. It was crazy,” an upbeat Marimi told the Kan public broadcaster.

“I kept crying after I came down from the stage. The whole delegation, we were all crying,” he said, calling the performance an emotional “roller coaster.”

According to a JPost report, the Shalva Band, comprised mostly of young adults with various disabilities, performed at the semi-finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv Thursday. They quickly conquered viewers’ hearts. The eight-piece band, which includes Israelis with blindness, Down syndrome and other physical and developmental disabilities, called on spectators to never stop dreaming. The band performed a rendition of A Million Dreams from the film The Greatest Showman.

Israel earned the right to host the show after Barzilai won last year’s competition with her catchy pop anthem “Toy.”

For Israel, the mega event offered a much-anticipated opportunity to put its good face forward. Israel-themed promotional clips featuring each of the participants dancing in various scenic locations across the country streamed before each performance to a TV audience expected to be larger than that of the Super Bowl.

According to the AP report, the Eurovision contest itself was being hosted by a quartet of Israeli celebrities, including top model Bar Refaeli. Israel’s own Wonder Woman Gal Gadot also made a cameo video appearance. The Tel Aviv hall was packed with thousands of screaming fans, while tens of thousands gathered to watch the final at the city-sponsored Eurovision village in Tel Aviv and at public screenings elsewhere.

Sweden’s soulful “Too Late for Love,” sung by John Lundvik, topped the professional jury vote and seemed to be on its way to carrying forward Sweden’s successful Eurovision track record 45 years after Swedish icons ABBA won with “Waterloo.”

Israel has won the Eurovision four previous times and it has provided the country with some of its cultural touchstones. “Hallelujah” became the country’s unofficial national song after Milk and Honey won the contest for Israel when it hosted the event in the late 1970s, and Dana International became a national hero and global transgender icon when she won with “Diva” in 1998. Barzilai became a role model for plus-size women after her win last year. She has been unapologetic about her weight, the loud colors she wears, and the funky chicken moves and sounds that have become her trademark, according to the AP report.

 

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