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Eurovision 2021: Italy's Maneskin wins after massive public vote, as rock music shows its mettle

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By Jez Fielder  & AP
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Maneskin from Italy celebrate with the trophy after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, May 22, 2021.
Maneskin from Italy celebrate with the trophy after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, May 22, 2021.   -   Copyright  Peter Dejong/AP
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The Italian glam rock band that won the Eurovision Song Contest returned home Sunday to the adulation of fans, congratulations from the government and so much speculation that the lead singer had snorted cocaine during the show that he vowed to take a drug test.

“We want to shut down the rumors," Maneskin lead singer Damiano David told reporters at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport as the band arrived home after their victory in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Rumors spread on social media after David was seen bending over a table during the Saturday night live television broadcast. Asked at a post-victory news conference whether he’d snorted cocaine, David said he doesn’t use drugs and that he’d bent over because another band member had broken a glass at their feet.

Eurovision confirmed that broken glass was found under the table in question, but announced David had offered to take the test, which is scheduled for Monday.

Peter Dejong/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Members of the band Maneskin from Italy; Thomas Raggi, from left, Ethan Torchio, Victoria De Angelis and Damiano David after winning the Eurovision Song ContestPeter Dejong/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Italy won the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 after a late surge.

"Rock n roll never dies," shouted the winning vocalist. And no one can argue with that sentiment on the night.

The vote was a feeding frenzy, with hundreds of points up for grabs after UK, Germany and Spain got a proper kicking from the public with zero points.

France, Iceland, Ukraine, the Swiss and the Fins were ruling the roost after the jury votes, with Moldova and Lithuania in the hunt. But Italy were always in touch with the leaders and hurdled the top nations after a huge vote of confidence from the public.

But get this: the UK gave 12 points to France. Who says Brexit made a difference?

Not so odd: Greece gave 12 points to Cyprus. And, you know, Vice Versa. Better the Devil you know, right? (That's a joke. Cypriot entry was called El Diablo - but it's also the name of Sonia's UK entry that came 2nd in 1993. Me and my mate Benny G were inconsolable.)

France were my prediction. I was wrong. Forgive me.

San Marino got some early traction. Maybe Flo Rida had more sway than I thought! But eventually, there was no permanent mark.

It's back!

Eurovision 2021 was a welcome return for the continent-wide song contest.

Held in Rotterdam after a year's postponement, the reduced but typically crazed audience were delighted to witness a true smorgasbord of talent.

Obviously, it was a mixed bag. But there's no doubt that it was good to have it back.

Rotterdam hosted the event after Duncan Laurence, who couldn't perform live this year due to testing positive for COVID, won the 2019 gala.

Yeasty favourite

For viewers watching the UK stream, the redoubtable Graham Norton was on hand to provide an always necessary slice of realism.

"This is marmite...if you hate marmite," he said of the German entry, which was less a yeast feast and more of a children's cartoon.

Of the Lithuanian entry, Norton suggested it resembled "people from IT who had dressed up as (UK pop act) Steps. And not without due cause. However, I can see the dance moves catching on across the continent. Raise your arms to your face, kids!

Ukraine came to the party in the guise of the 90s 'judderman' METZ advert. A nightmarish folk-ridden dance threat. "If you ever wondered what happened to Orville... the lead singer appears to be wearing him," Norton quipped, referring to the lead singer's green plumage.

Serbia advanced their case for EU membership with the girl power threesome, Hurricane, and Finland once more expounded their Heavy Metal credentials, following in the footsteps of 2006 winner Lordi.

Peter Dejong/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Stefania from Greece performs at the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, May 20, 2021.Peter Dejong/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

'Just like Cleopatra' sang the Azeri entry, who revisited the story of Mata Hari for some reason.

Norway's TIX brought a pop-rock sensibility to the proceedings, and the Tourettes sufferer sported a huge pair of angels' wings. His song mentioned angels, so that's ok. And the key change was beamed in from 1988, which was refreshing.

UK entries, once much vaunted in the early days of Eurovision, have been lamentable in recent decades save for a 1997 win by Katrina and the Waves. This year's impoverished entry did nothing to settle the stomach. Zero points was not unfair.

France had one of the most committed vocal performances of recent years, and will bring comparisons to the Celine Dion victory for Switzerland in 1988. That's 33 years ago for those of us who enjoy the masochism of feeling old.

The Swiss entry was interesting. Great voice, thoughtful modal changes in the songwriting, and a fine performance. But too cerebral for a victory? Perhaps. Courageous young vocalist, with a passing resemblance to Glenn Medeiros. Up to you how you feel about that.

Peter Dejong/AP
Maneskin from Italy perform during rehearsals at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Friday, May 21, 2021.Peter Dejong/AP

The winners from Italy came at the evening with a rock act that was by turns Freddie Mercury and Rage Against the Machine. "Rotterdam: make some noise" they screamed. And the limited crowd made that noise. I hope the trousers catch on, they were superb. Rock is a big deal in Italy so it's good to see them bring that to Eurovision.

Peter Dejong/AP
Senhit, left, from San Marino performs with rapper Flo Rida at the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 20, 2021Peter Dejong/AP

Million record-selling rap artist Flo-Rida was on hand, inexplicably, to accompany the San Marino entry. Cavorting on a revolving rhombus, the Cleo-Lane-esque performer was dizzying. And though her famous co-star did little to contribute to the spectacle, there was an undoubted spritz to this, the final song before voting.

"Music brings us together," said the hosts. And it's hard to argue. The songs were largely decent this year, and although there was no great love for the UK entry, it was more due to it being uninspiring than to any kind of political agenda.

Rotterdam treated us all to a past winners' concert while the voting took place. It was a joy to see 1975 winners Teach-In perform. Their winning song Ding-a-Dong, was a clear influence for the Eurovision-inspired flick 'The story of Fire Saga' starring Will Ferrell. Hilariously, the Icelandic jury asked for Ja Ja Ding Dong during the voting process. This is precisely why we love the contest. It has a sense of humour. We all need that right now.

And thankfully Lordi were on hand to show the world why Hard Rock Hallelujah was unquestionably the best entry 15 years ago.

Keep rockin'.