Madonna’s controversial performance may have grabbed the headlines, but Duncan Laurence won the nearly four-hour-long 2019 Eurovision Song Contest for the Netherlands with the song “Arcade,” which he cowrote with Joel Sjöö and Wouter Hardy.
Laurence won a total of 492 points from the expert juries and televoters in a contest that was touch and go from the beginning, with North Macedonia a surprise frontrunner until the collective votes were tallied. Italy finished in second place with 465 votes and Russia came in third with 369. It was the fifth win for the Netherlands in Eurovision history, although the country’s first in 44 years.
“In the past few years many well-known artists represented the Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m not well-known, but that’s also a good thing; The Netherlands has a lot of young and talented musicians,” the 24-year-old singer-songwriter said when he was first selected to represent his country in Eurovision. “My participation proves that nothing is impossible. You can suddenly get the opportunity to represent your country on an international stage. I’m very proud to represent my country.”
Following his win, Laurence told the crowd gathered at Tel Aviv Expo, “Here’s to dreaming big, here’s to music first, always — thank you!”
The mood during the nearly the show was festive throughout, with attendees including S-Curve Records chief Steve Greenberg and Doron Medalie, co-writer of “Toy,” the song recorded by 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Narzilai. While the Expo started emptying out around the three-hour mark at around 1 a.m. Tel Aviv time, those remaining continued to wave flags of the respective delegations.
With Madonna’s guest performance meting out “a message of peace,” others in the music industry echoed the Queen of Pop’s commitment to playing in Israel. Ari Ingel, director of Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an entertainment industry non-profit organization dedicated to promoting music and the arts as a bridge to peace and artistic freedom, spoke of how “a shared love of music and the arts has the ability to bring us together when so many people are trying to sow division.”
Jeremy Hulsh, founder and managing director of Oleh! Records, Israel’s music export and development office, was “rooting for Israel” but saw a lot of “great talent” in all the Eurovision contestants. He also spoke of the boost the Israeli music industry is getting from the conference, as the government does little to promote acts within the pop music arena.
“In Israel, there’s an astonishing amount of talent in the pop music realm,” said Hulsh. “Having Eurovision in Tel Aviv provides a plum opportunity to showcase this talent — not only in the actual Eurovision show but also in the Eurovision village and in clubs and bars all around the city this week. Israel is home to a vibrant, robust, creative community of artists, and it’s time the world knows this.”