Sweden have won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with singer Loreen making history by becoming the first woman to win more than once after taking the crown in 2012.
The 39-year-old’s win for dance-pop anthem Tattoo also means Sweden have tied Ireland for the country with the most Eurovision wins – seven each.
Finland was a finalist with eccentric singer Kaarija’s hyper-pop-rap track Cha Cha Cha.
The 29-year-old Finn had been a popular act in the build-up to the grand finale, arriving in his own personalized sauna van and posing up a storm on the red carpet in his quilted jacket with neon green sleeves and bowl haircut. .
Israel’s entry, sung by Noa Kirel and which featured the most energetic dance routine of the night, came in third.
UK act, Mae Muller, who sang I Wrote A Song, came in a disappointing penultimate in the competition.
It will be a blow for the 25-year-old from north London, who had been widely tipped to break into the top 10 with her catchy pop track, especially after the UK’s success in the contest last year.
Tweeting after the competition ended, the singer wrote that it was “not the result we were hoping for” but that she was “proud of everyone”, adding that she would “never forget this trip”.
As Ukrainian duo Tvorchi sang their entry, Heart Of Steel, their university hometown of Ternopil came under Russian missile fire.
Their entry came sixth in the standings.
The night also had a surprise up its sleeve, with the Princess of Wales giving a pre-recorded piano performance at the opening of the show.
Other guest appearances on the show include last year’s Eurovision finalist Sam Ryder performing Mountain with Queen legend Roger Taylor accompanying on drums, Liverpool singer Sonia and Bjorn Ulvaeus d’Abba 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 competition was proof of the unifying power of music.
Zelenskyy only wanted to thank UK, says Kalush Orchestra
Ukrainian Tvorchi talks about Eurovision, the war and his message for Russia
The first time two countries have jointly hosted Eurovision, Liverpool staged the event on behalf of Ukraine as the war-torn nation was unable to do so.
Eleven Ukrainian artists performed at the ceremony itself, with Ukrainian motifs and Ukrainian identity playing a central role throughout the night.
However, there was controversy before the competition, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was banned from giving a speech to the grand finale.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the decision by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to ban his appearance “disappointingbut said Liverpool had “made the UK and Ukraine proud”, in a post-competition tweet.
The EBU, a group of national public broadcasters who produce Eurovision, said they feared its message would “politicize” the contest.
Despite the ban, inevitably, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was brought up by other artists overnight.
Nods to the ongoing war included the Ukrainian Tvorchi Act whose song Heart Of Steel was inspired by the siege of Mariupol, Let 3 from Croatia who performed the anti-war song Mama SC! in front of giant nuclear warheads and Vesna from Czechia 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 drew attention to the debates of the night.
In lighter fare, Eurovision’s love of novelty shone through with real corks 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 contest, with singers Teya and Salena channeling the ghost of the literary great to peek streamers of music.
And while not all of the wackiest performances saw their ingenuity rewarded in the rankings, acts that particularly rocked the auditorium included German pop-metal band Lord Of The Lost singing Blood And Glitter; Aussie Voyager sings Promise while rocking on the bonnet of a vintage Toyota MR2 and Croatian Let 3 strips down to his Mama SC mid-run pants and waistcoat!
Click to subscribe to Backstage wherever you get your podcasts
While it may all be over for another year, fans of the world’s most-watched live non-sporting event will already be excited for next year’s performance in Sweden.
Pros at hosting a Eurovision grand final – this will be the third time the country has hosted in the last 12 years.
But many will surely wonder if the shadow of war in Ukraine will still hang so heavily over the show this time next year.