London (CNN) -- Emmelie de Forest carried Denmark to triumph early Sunday in the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual musical spectacle known for its combination of over-the-top costumes, kitsch pop songs and international rivalries.
Flanked by marching drummers in military-style uniforms and performing in bare feet, de Forest took top spot with a breathy performance of "Only Teardrops."
Millions of people across Europe and beyond tuned in to watch pop acts from 26 countries take to the stage in the Swedish city of Malmo. Dressed like a new-age Tinker Bell, 20-year-old de Forest bested a field that included the UK contender and 1980s hit-maker Bonnie Tyler.
Azerbaijan's Farid Mammadov finished second with the song "Hold Me," and the Ukraine's Zlata Ognevich took third with "Gravity."
Tyler, known for her hits "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Holding Out for a Hero," finished in 19th place.
Organizers expected more than 100 million people to tune in for the contest, hosted by Sweden -- the 2012 winner of the song contest.
Demark was considered one of the favorites among bookmakers going into the final on Saturday night.
Five nations -- France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom -- get an automatic entry to the final because they are the biggest financial contributors. The previous year's winner also automatically qualifies, as the host nation.
The 39 countries involved in the contest awarded a set of points from one to eight, then 10 and finally 12 for their favorite songs. Under the rules, they can't vote for themselves and they must announce the score in both English and French.
Television viewers also cast votes in their respective countries through telephone hotlines, which count for half the final tally. The remainder of the vote is cast by national expert juries, who based their scores on a dress rehearsal performance Friday night.
Many perceive the voting to be tactical, with neighbors or members of regional blocs, such as the former Soviet nations, appearing to base their scoring on geopolitical alliances rather than artistic merit.
Contestants can come from any member country of the European Broadcasting Union, which includes several non-European nations, including Israel, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Victory may not be welcomed by everyone back home since that nation bears the expense of hosting the following year's event -- a commitment that's more of a burden at a time of wide austerity in Europe.