The Netherlands won the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Israel on Sunday in a songfest that passed off without serious incident, despite calls by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott the event. Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence beat 25 other contestants in the grand final in Tel Aviv to win the glass microphone trophy - Madonna, who headlined the show, did not win many accolades however.
The 25-year-old favourite won 492 points with his piano ballad "Arcade" about a failing relationship. His victory gives the Netherlands the right to host the 2020 finals. Italy came second, with 465 points, and Russia third, with 369.
Pop superstar Madonna sprang a surprise during her guest performance of two songs - her iconic 1989 hit “Like A Prayer” and a new number, “Future,” sung alongside the American rapper Quavo. At the close of the second number, two backing dancers briefly appeared on stage wearing the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their costumes. See the full performance here.
The European Broadcasting Union, which co-produced the contest alongside Israel's national broadcaster, issued a statement immediately after her performance. "This element of the performance was not cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this," it said.
The 60-year-old singer, who is a follower of the mystical form of Judaism called Kabbalah, had faced criticism from pro-Palestinian activists for performing at the event. However, it was the quality of her performance that spawned Twitter memes and stirred controversy.
Even before the show had ended criticism of Madonna’s performance was broadcast live on-air when the representative for the Netherlands satirically thanked “Madonna’s autotune” before awarding the country’s twelve points.
Twitter users ripped Madonna’s performance, one joked:
- Madonna surprises Eurovision with Palestinian flag on dancer's back
- Missiles? BDS? Iran? Forget about them. Israel put its best face forward in a Eurovision that succeeded in all ways but one
- The agony and the ecstasy of Israel’s Eurovision extravaganza
“UK: According to votes we had the worst performance and song at #Eurovision
Madonna: Hold my Champagne.”
Another user gave Madonna a score in Eurovision fashion, writing, “United States zero points.”
Other’s riffed off other competitors to lapoon the reigning queen of pop. “Maybe North Madonna would have been better than Madonna #Eurovision,” joked one user making light of North Macedonia’s strong performance in the competition, while another tweeted, “The moment when a middle-aged Turkish dentist singing for San Marino hits more correct notes than Madonna.”
Reuters contributed to this report