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Portugal's Sobral wins Eurovision contest with tender ballad

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/14/2017 By IULIIA SUBBOTOVSKA and JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press
Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest with his song "Amar pelos dois", in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest with his song "Amar pelos dois", in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Portugal's Salvador Sobral won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with a gentle romantic ballad that challenged the event's decades-long reputation for cheesy, glittery excess.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, embraces his sister Luisa after performing the song "Amar pelos dois" following his win in the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, embraces his sister Luisa after performing the song "Amar pelos dois" following his win in the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Sobral sang his Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Both) in a high, clear tenor accompanied by quiet strings and a piano. Unlike the 25 other competitors who performed on a wide stage backed by flashing lights, bursts of flames and other effects, Sobral sang from a small elevated circle in the middle of the crowd, an intimate contrast to others' bombast.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal performs the song "Amar pelos dois" after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal performs the song "Amar pelos dois" after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

"Music is not fireworks, music is feeling," he said while accepting the award.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest with his song "Amar pelos dois", in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest with his song "Amar pelos dois", in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Runner-up Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria wasn't short on feeling — his power-ballad "Beautiful Mess" was awash in melodrama, the singer appearing almost wrung out by romantic turmoil.

Alma from France performs the song "Requiem" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Alma from France performs the song "Requiem" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Moldova's Sunstroke Project finished a surprising third, with a bouncy, jazzy song called "Hey Mama" that featured a clever stage routine in which the female backup singers hid their microphones in bridal bouquets.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Francesco Gabbani of Italy had led bookmakers' tallies for most of the days leading up to the final, but he ended up placing sixth even though his act seemed the epitome of Eurovision's cheerfully tacky aesthetics — singing a driving number about spirituality while accompanied by someone in a gorilla suit.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Eurovision, in its 62nd year, is aimed at apolitical entertainment. But the sweet intentions were soured this year when Russia's participation was scuttled by host Ukraine over the two nations' diplomatic and military conflict.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Russia is one of Eurovision's heavy hitters, tied with Sweden for the most top-five finishes this century. But this year's Russian entrant, Yuliya Samoylova, was blocked from competing by Ukraine because she had toured in Crimea after Russia's 2014 annexation of the peninsula.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, right, performs the song "Amar pelos dois" with his sister Luisa after winning the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In response, Russia's state-owned Channel 1 television is refusing to broadcast the contest, replacing Saturday's final with a screening of the film "Alien."

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, centre, reacts during the voting stage during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, centre, reacts during the voting stage during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The Moscow-Kiev split is a headache for Eurovision's producer, the European Broadcasting Union, which strives mightily to keep pop and politics separate. Overtly political flags and banners are banned, and lyrics are monitored for provocative content.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal, top center, and Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria, bottom right, react during the voting stage of the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Salvador Sobral from Portugal, top center, and Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria, bottom right, react during the voting stage of the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In 2009, the EBU nixed the Georgian entry "We Don't Wanna Put In," a dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin. The union, however, has been criticized for not barring "1944" last year, allowing Russia-Ukraine tensions to fester.

Lucie Jones, centre, reacts during the voting stage during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Lucie Jones, centre, reacts during the voting stage during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The acrimony is ironic, since Eurovision was founded in 1956 to bring the recently warring countries of Europe together. It launched a year before the foundation of the European Economic Community, forerunner of the European Union.

Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria, center, reacts during the voting stage of the the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria, center, reacts during the voting stage of the the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

From its launch with seven countries, Eurovision has grown to include more than 40, including non-European nations such as Israel and — somewhat controversially — far-off Australia.

Lucie Jones from United Kingdom performs the song "Never Give Up on You" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Lucie Jones from United Kingdom performs the song "Never Give Up on You" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The contest helped launch the careers of Sweden's ABBA — victors in 1974 with "Waterloo" — Canada's Celine Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988, and Irish high-steppers Riverdance, the halftime entertainment in 1994.

Francesco Gabbani from Italy, right, performs the song ""Occidentali's Karma" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Francesco Gabbani from Italy, right, performs the song ""Occidentali's Karma" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

___

Dihaj from Azerbaijan performs the song "Skeletons" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © The Associated Press Dihaj from Azerbaijan performs the song "Skeletons" during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Heintz reported from Moscow.

Robin Bengtsson from Sweden, center, performs the song "I Can't Go On"during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Robin Bengtsson from Sweden, center, performs the song "I Can't Go On"during the Final for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
© The Associated Press
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