Sweden has won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with singer Loreen making history as the first woman to win more than once after first taking the crown back in 2012.
The 39-year-old’s win for dance-pop anthem Tattoo also means Sweden has drawn level with Ireland for the country with the most Eurovision wins – seven apiece.
Finland were the runners up with quirky singer Kaarija’s hyper-pop-rap tune Cha Cha Cha.
The 29-year-old Finn had been a popular act in the build up to the grand final, arriving in his own customised sauna van and posing up a storm on the red carpet in his trademark neon green sleeves-only puffer jacket and bowl haircut.
Israel’s entry, sung by Noa Kirel and which featured the most energetic dance routine of the night, came third.
UK’s act, Mae Muller, who sang I Wrote A Song, came a disappointing second to last in the competition.
It will be a blow to the 25-year-old from north London, who had been widely tipped to make it into the top 10 with her catchy pop track, especially after the UK’s success in the contest last year.
Tweeting after the competition had ended, the singer wrote that it was “not the result we hoped for” but she was “proud of everyone”, adding that she would “never forget this journey”.
While Ukrainian duo Tvorchi sang their entry, Heart Of Steel, their university home town Ternopil came under fire from Russian missiles.
Their entry came sixth on the leaderboard.
The night also had a surprise up its sleeve, with the Princess of Wales giving a pre-recorded piano performance in the opening of the show.
Other guest appearances in the show included last year’s Eurovision runner-up Sam Ryder performing Mountain with Queen legend Roger Taylor accompanying him on the drums, Liverpool songstress Sonia and Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus giving advice to future contest winners.
And of course, Eurovision isn’t just about winning, it’s about something much bigger. This year more than ever, the contest was proof of music’s power to unite.
The first time two countries have jointly hosted Eurovision, Liverpool put on the event on behalf of Ukraine, because the war-torn nation was unable to do so.
Eleven Ukrainian artists performed in the ceremony itself, with Ukrainian motifs and the Ukrainian identity playing a central role throughout the night.
However, there was controversy ahead of the competition, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was banned from making an address at the grand final.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) decision to ban his appearance “disappointing” but said Liverpool had “done the United Kingdom and Ukraine proud,” in a tweet after the competition.
The EBU, a group of national public broadcasters that produce Eurovision, said they feared his message would “politicise” the contest.
Despite the ban, inevitably Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was referenced by other performers during the night.
Nods to the ongoing war included the Ukrainian act Tvorchi whose song Heart Of Steel was inspired by the siege of Mariupol, Croatia’s Let 3 who performed anti-war song Mama SC! in front of giant nuclear warheads and Czechia’s Vesna singing part of their song My Sister’s Crown in Ukrainian.
A powerful opening performance by Kalush Orchestra performing Voices Of A New Generation followed by their winning hit Stefania – a song that has become an unofficial anthem for Ukraine since the start of the war – also bought a sharp focus to the night’s proceedings.
In more light-hearted fare, Eurovision’s love of novelty acts shone through with some real corkers on offer this year.
One of the most talked about acts of the night – Austria’s We Need To Talk About Edgar Allen Poe – opened the competition, with singers Teya and Salena channelling the ghost of the literary great to take a swipe at music streamers.
And while not all of the wackier performances saw their ingenuity rewarded on the leaderboard, acts that particularly got the auditorium buzzing included Germany’s pop-metal act Lord Of The Lost singing Blood And Glitter; Australia’s Voyager belting out Promise while rocking out on the bonnet of a vintage Toyota MR2 and Croatia’s Let 3 stripping off to their pants and vests mid-way through Mama SC!
While it may all be over for another year, fans of the world’s most-watched live non-sporting event will already be getting excited over next year’s performance in Sweden.
Pros in the field of putting on a Eurovision grand final – it will be the country’s third time on hosting duty in the last 12 years.
But many will surely be wondering if the shadow of the war in Ukraine will still hang so heavy over the show this time next year.
This story originally appeared on Skynews