Italy rules Eurovision as live contest returns from COVID-19 pandemic hiatus

Maneskin from Italy
Maneskin from Italy perform Zitti E Buoni after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, May 22, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Rotterdam, Netherlands: The Eurovision Song Contest, the first major global cultural event to be held in person since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, ended in a triumph for Italy’s Maneskin, who won with a hard-rocking song called “Zitti E Buoni.”

The song, which is filled with off-color lines and lyrics about smoking, received 524 points in voting from national juries and the public, beating France’s entrant, Barbara Pravi, by 25 points, and was cheered to victory by more than 3,500 Dutch fans at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam.

“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world, rock ‘n’ roll never dies!” said Damiano David, the band’s lead singer, accepting the prize.

Maneskin, a rare rock winner in a contest whose previous winners include ABBA and Celine Dion, beat 25 other acts, some unusual even for Eurovision standards – including a folk-techno act from Ukraine, a feminist Russian pop star and an Icelandic disco band.

The show, featuring competitors from dozens of countries, will be seen by many around the world as a sign that major cultural events can be held successfully if sufficient measures are put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus. Last year’s Eurovision was canceled because of the pandemic.

This was Italy’s third win since the contest’s creation in 1956; it last triumphed in 1990 with Toto Cutugno. Maneskin members said they were happy to be able to take Eurovision back to Italy after 31 years, “especially after this hard year.”

Testifying to the strength of the field, the lead kept changing as the votes from the various national juries came in, with Switzerland in the top spot at one point, followed by France and Malta. But the popular vote upended the results, and Italy passed its competitors.