Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Switzerland wins Eurovision with song 'The Code'


Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend in Malmo, Sweden. Swiss singer Nemo and their song, "The Code," came out on top in a Grand Final of 25 countries.


NEMO: (Singing) That's where I found my kingdom come. My heart beats like a - somewhere between the O's and ones. That's where I found my kingdom come. My heart beats like a drum.

SUMMERS: Glen Weldon, co-host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, was watching, as he does every year, and he joins us now to talk all about it. Hi, Glen.


SUMMERS: So Glen, I mean, what's your take? Was Nemo's song the standout?

WELDON: I mean, you heard it. Nemo was one of several favorites going into the Grand Final, but it was always going to come down to that live performance because, I mean, again, the song itself has a high degree of difficulty. It is vocally demanding. You heard that multiple-octave range. It combines opera and rap and pop and EDM. And the staging had Nemo hopping on and off of a disc that rotated and tilted at various speeds.


WELDON: It was hugely impressive. Now, to win Eurovision, you have to do well in the public vote. And the public loves shiny, glittery, visually impressive things like that rotating disc. But you also have to impress juries of music industry professionals who grade on much less flashy things like vocal technique and musical composition. Nemo came in fifth in the public vote, but they absolutely crushed the jury vote. And watching how effortlessly and skillfully they performed, it is easy to see why they won the night. And they made history as the first nonbinary winner of Eurovision.

SUMMERS: All right, so that was the winner. Tell us who else did well on Saturday.

WELDON: Well, Croatia was another favorite. They came in second. It was very, very close. Lots of people, including me, were pulling for Croatia 'cause it would have been their first win ever. Ukraine always does well. They were the third-place act - then France, and then Israel, who came in second in the public vote but fifth overall. And it is worth noting, Israel's inclusion in the competition led to some major controversy in Malmo.

SUMMERS: Controversy? Go on.

WELDON: Well, listeners might have seen photos of the streets in Malmo, where pro-Palestinian protesters were marching. They were frustrated that Israel was allowed to participate in the competition at all. And there were boos in the arena when Israel's performer went onstage.

To add to all of that, the contender from the Netherlands - his name is Joost Klein. He was disqualified on Saturday at the very last minute. Eurovision always has a problem with transparency. It's still unclear exactly what happened, but Eurovision organizers eventually sent out a statement saying that Swedish police were investigating an incident involving this singer and a member of the production crew. Then the Dutch broadcaster who sent Klein to Eurovision said that he was filmed backstage when he did not want to be, and he motioned toward the camera, but they did not think he should have been disqualified for that. Neither did many members of the audience who booed the head of Eurovision, Martin Osterdahl, whenever he appeared during the broadcast.

SUMMERS: I mean, Eurovision's theme is united by music - not sounding like a lot of unity this year.

WELDON: Yeah. I mean, in their defense, it's a lofty goal. They desperately want to be seen as nonpolitical and noncontroversial. That proved impossible. I mean, the real world intruded. And that matters. That's significant because we've got another international competition, the Olympics, just a couple months away. And if the ugliness we just saw behind the scenes at Eurovision is any indication, it is going to be a long summer in Paris this year.

SUMMERS: That's Glen Weldon from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Glen, thank you.

WELDON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.