Denmark's Emmelie de Forest could hardly contain herself. She won the Eurovision Song Contest with 281 points, leaving her competitors closely behind. In second and third place were Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
Bookies had predicted a neck-and-neck finish, and things did go right down to the wire. Denmark's performer and her song "Only Teardrops" had been the long-standing frontrunner, followed closely by Norwegian ice princess Margret Berger with "I Feed You My Love." Dutch rocker Anouk was considered the dark horse of the evening for her melancholy tune "Birds."
And the book makers were right at least when it comes to Emmelie de Forest. The singer is just 20 years old, but already has quite a music career behind her. She toured at 14 with the Scottish musician Fraser Neill around the country, singing everything from Nirvana to Johnny Cash.
At this year's Eurovision contest, she turned up as a tender, barefoot elf in a white, flowing dress alongside two drummers and a flautist. Ahead of the contest, she told the press that she never sings in heels and feels "more natural without shoes."
Maybe de Forest's fans even include Queen Elizabeth II. After all, the Danish singer recently revealed that she has ties to the British royals, claiming her grandfather was an illegitimate child of Edward VII.
Something to ponder
When Emmelie won the preliminary contest that sent her on to Eurovision, she said it was the best imaginable birthday present. Now the radiant victor has even more reason to celebrate her song, "Only Teardrops." It boasts a strong melody, a good tempo - and a message to boot, giving listeners something to think about in terms of how they relate to one another and the world. The tune has a melancholy feel, but there's a hint of optimism, as well.
Apart from her victory, though, there were a number of surprises. Norway's Margret Berger wound up in fourth. And the performers from Azerbaijan and Ukraine unexpectedly catapulted to the top, dueling for a second place finish. Ultimately, Azerbaijan's Farid Mammadov got the upper hand with "Hold Me." It's a tune likely to get stuck in listeners' ears, and the stage show featuring choreography with an alter ego of the singer was original and interesting to watch.
Ukraine's lovely Zlata Ognevich had to content herself with third place.
Winners and losers
Greece and its sirtaki-dancing, temperamental entry Koza Mostra & Agathon Iakovidis was said to have good chances with the song "Alcohol Is Free." They ended up in a respectable sixth place, joining Gianluca from Malta in the top ten. The pediatrician's shining smile and youthful charm as well as a catchy performance landed him a solid finish - a surprise to some bookies.
Great Britain's Bonnie Tyler - one of the most established acts to take the stage in 2013 - landed near the bottom, a similar disappointment following last year's performance by Engelbert Humperdinck. The various Grammy Awards she's accumulated in her long career did little to affect her standing in the eyes of the jury and audience. And things were even bitterer for Ireland, a top source of Eurovision talent with seven wins for the small country. This year, Ryan Dolan came in last with just three points.
The five big donors (France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Germany) to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which hosts the show, fared poorly in 2013. They automatically qualify for the finale, but were not among the top finishers. Germany's hopes for Cascada were dashed with the dance group headed by Natalie Horler landing a disappointing 21st place.
11,000 people watched the three-hour show in the Malmö Arena, while a further 120 million viewers took in the contest at home on television. Sweden TV broadcast SVT put on a dazzling show, deftly filled with light effects, columns of fire and rolling steam. Down-to-earth film inserts showed the contestants at home with family and friends and featured this year's ubiquitous symbol, a butterfly. Organizers say the insect stands for beauty, freedom and positive change in the world.
The evening was hosted by the beloved Swedish comedienne Petra Mede, who greeted the audience in perfect English and French, welcoming them with trademark irony to what she dubbed the greatest edition of Eurovision in its 58-year history. Love of music is endemic to the Swedes, who aren't afraid of a bit of house music. The annual Eurovision casting rounds are marked by a veritable folk festival, as is the evening of the finale. Many in the audience wore costumes to the finale - both locals and guests from abroad.
Swedish humor and an ecstatic victor
Other film inserts throughout the night put the audience in a chuckling mood. A polar bear was shown making his way through Stockholm, and in another, the royal family was surprised by Agnetha, Björn, Benni and Anni-Frid - better known as Abba - taking up residence in their palace. Also, Inspector Barnaby was featured in a clip in which he arrested Prime Minister Frederik for failing to put his dirty teacup in the dishwasher.
And much credit goes as well to the host, who danced and sang on stage, playfully teased her fellow Swedes and made an appeal to the millions of viewers for more tolerance. Two men kissed each other on stage, and the arena exploded with applause. In general, the laid-back atmosphere at the 2013 event was a welcome change for many in comparison with Azerbaijan's turn as host last time, which was shadowed by discussions about human rights and countless police checks for fans as they came and went.
At the press conference one and a half hours after the decision was released, Emmelie de Forest was visibly overcome.
"It was overwhelming, and I could really feel the fans and the audience and the people in the arena," the Danish singer said, going on to give fans a thank you.