Aussie star’s Eurovision success after ‘f***-up’

His microphone stand failed to pop up at his position at the top of the staircase just at the performance’s dramatic big reveal when he was removing his chain-mail mask.“It was quite the f***-up,” he said, laughing with the Australian media contingent in Turin, Italy after the show.“My staging is very complex … I don’t care, I got through and it won’t happen again.”The 23-year-old singer made the top 10 in the second semi-final to realise his childhood dream of representing Australia in the final of the world’s biggest singing competition.“I have had to prove myself to the world my entire life, every competition show, every family member, every friend I’ve had and lost, I’ve had to prove I am worth being in the room,” he said.“I had to prove myself to millions of people tonight.” The other countries to advance were Belgium, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Romania and Serbia.This is the sixth time Australia has made the final since we joined the contest in 2015, with Montaigne’s campaign last year hamstrung when she was forced to submit a taped performance because of Covid restrictions. As an independent artist whose Eurovision “training” has included scene-stealing performances on reality shows including The Voice and The X Factor, Riley and his partner Zac Tomlinson have personally invested “a lot, a lot, a lot” to get to the final. Eurovision broadcaster SBS have partnered with Riley to fund his campaign and the singer said he has enjoyed the support of designers and sponsors willing to “back a passion project.” All of Australia’s previous representatives have had backing from their record labels.“We have literally spent the equivalent of a very good deposit on a house with how much we have invested in this experience,” Riley said. “Me and my partner, we’re independent, we don’t have the backing of a record label, so how well we do off the back of Eurovision is extremely important in seeing how much we make back.” Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra remain the overwhelming favourite to win the title as Eurovision’s global fanbase – more than 180 million viewers watched the 2021 final – are expected to lodge a powerful protest against the Russian invasion. Their stirring hip hop meets traditional folk song Stefania, originally written as a tribute to the mother of rapper Oleh Psiuk, has been adopted in Ukraine as a defiant anthem as the country battles Putin’s brutal incursion. It is one of the strongest songs in the line-up and while Ukraine will undoubtedly win the hearts of the fans, the jury votes from each of the 25 countries in the final count for 50 per cent of the result. Courting those votes is a diplomatic mission backstage in Turin and there is a lot of love for Riley among the official delegations.His powerful, vulnerable performance of the song inspired by the struggle to navigate life as a neurodivergent child and coming out as a teenager, has also struck a resounding chord with the influential Eurovision media squad. Other favourites among the 25 finalists include host country Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco with Brividi, Sweden’s Cordelia Jakobs with Hold Me Closer and UK’s Sam Ryder with Spaceman. SBS broadcasts the 2022 Eurovision Song contest final from 5am on Sunday with a prime time repeat at 7.30pm.

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