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Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest, often abbreviated to Eurovision, is truly a contest like no other. At its very core, it’s a song competition. But that doesn’t begin to explain its complexity, appeal, and extravagance. To many European nations, it’s the most important cultural event on the calendar.
To others, it can be seen as a bit of a joke and is an opportunity to laugh at many of the bizarre outfits, choreographies, and musical performances put on by many of the continents’ more colorful and creative countries.
However Eurovision is viewed, it’s impossible to overlook the popularity of the contest. Millions tune in via television or online all across the world to watch the Grand Final. (161 million viewership is nothing to sneeze about.)
What is Eurovision?
Eurovision has come a long way since its inception, and the format has regularly been adapted and changed. In the present day, here’s how Eurovision works in a nutshell:
- Every participating broadcaster that represents their country selects their song and artist through a nationally televised selection process. Most countries must qualify for the Grand Final by first competing in the semi-finals.
- The ‘Big Five’ – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, automatically qualify for the Grand Final.
- When the Grand Final comes around, each country’s representative sings in front of a live audience. Voting then commences, and each country gives two sets of 1 to 8, 10, and 12 points (one set is given by viewers, the other by a jury of music industry professionals).
- Naturally, the winning performer is the one with the most votes and is presented with the iconic glass microphone trophy.
- Once the winning country is announced, they’re invited to host the Eurovision Song Contest the following year.
Where and when is Eurovision held?
The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest is held in May each year and is broadcast widely across Europe from the host nation. Due to safety concerns, Ukraine will unfortunately not be able to host in 2023. It will be held in Liverpool, UK, the home country of the 2022 runner-up Sam Ryder. For more information about Eurovision, please visit their main website at: https://eurovision.tv/.
In the USA, you can watch Eurovision on the Peacock channel – https://www.peacocktv.com/stream-event/eurovision
8 Eurovision Facts
Before we dive into the fascinating history of Eurovision, here are eight quick-fire facts that will bolster your working knowledge of this European cultural extravaganza:
- Only seven countries participated in the inaugural Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. Forty countries took part in 2022. In 2023, thirty-seven countries will be participating.
- Australia, far from being a European nation, was invited to join the Eurovision song contest in 2015.
- You don’t need to be from the country that you’re representing at Eurovision. For instance, French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion won the contest in 1988, representing Switzerland. (Singers are chosen by the broadcaster and a possible country competition to represent in Eurovision.)
- More than 1,500 songs have been sung at the Eurovision song contest.
- Eurovision was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running Annual TV Music Competition in 2015.
- Ireland has won the contest a record seven times, with Luxembourg, France, and the UK having five crowns each.
- The most covered song in the history of Eurovision is Domenico Mudungo’s Volare.
- In 2014, Austria’s Conchita Wurst angered Russia with her flamboyant, feathery drag display. The Russians threatened to boycott the competition if she wasn’t removed. She finished in first place.
History of Eurovision
Eurovision was conceived as an idea by Marcel Bezencon of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The first Eurovision Song Contest was based on Italy’s popular Sanremo Music Festival and was designed as a test of the capabilities of television broadcast technology at the time. The inaugural contest was held on 24th May 1956 at Teatro Kursaal in Lugano, Switzerland.
Solo artists from seven nations were invited to perform, and the winning song was Refrain, sung by Swiss contestant Lys Assia. The voting procedure of the first-ever contest was heavily criticized, but the foundation of the tournament was laid. It wasn’t long until the Eurovision Song Contest grew into a truly Pan-European cultural festival and became a hugely popular event for nations all over the continent and even further afield.
I would almost call this one of the first reality tv shows!
So, what is it that makes Eurovision such a unique and extravagant contest?
Most Famous Acts from Eurovision
For Europeans, it’s impossible to talk of Eurovision without mentioning Swedish superstars ABBA, who famously won the competition in 1974 with their rendition of Waterloo. Although ABBA split up in 1983, they went on to become one of the most famous bands in the world, with classic hits like Fernando and Dancing Queen smashing box office records all over the world.
Other notable celebrity names, at least in the English-speaking world, to have appeared at Eurovision over the years include Lulu, Sir Cliff Richard, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias, Englebert Humperdinck, Bonnie Tyler, Katrina & The Waves, and Olivia Newton-John. It just goes to show how important Eurovision is to European culture, that such superstar names have taken to the stage in front of live audiences to sing their hearts out and be judged by the viewers.
3 things that excite me about Eurovision
- I love what Eurovision represents. Countries come together, sharing their different cultures through talent and fun. United By Music is such a great theme for the 2023 competition, because with Ukraine winning last year’s competition, and having to now be hosted in the United Kingdom because of the war, they really are United By Music.
- Understand that there has been such impressive talent that has arisen from Eurovision (See above Most Famous Acts from Eurovision.)
- I’m completely engrossed in the narrative behind the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest win of Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra and their song Stefania. Personally, I believe that this song is so good that it could have triumphed even if Ukraine wasn’t possibly receiving a sympathy vote. The song is a bit of folk, and rap, and utilizes the Ukrainian flute – fabulous combination!
The band’s leader, Oleh Psiuk, wrote this song in tribute to his mother. Since the Eurovision win, the song has taken a bit of an anthem for Ukraine because of the war, a whole different meaning.
After the win, the band auctioned off the Eurovision trophy that they won in order to raise funds to help support Ukraine in the war. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2022/may/30/eurovision-kalush-orchestra-auction-trophy-ukrainian-army
Is there a Eurovision movie?
In 2020, director David Dobkin brought Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga to our screens via Netflix. Starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, the film is a parody as such, but it perfectly encompasses much of the pomp that surrounds this festival of music every year.
The film is replete with some fun actors from the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey), Demi Lovato and pays tribute in its own way to ABBA and other popular acts throughout the contest’s history. Much like the real-life Eurovision Song Contest, the movie is full of color and flair and is an entertaining watch.
Eurovision is a true cultural gem
Although it might be a little difficult to understand, and is totally unpredictable, the Eurovision Song Contest has long been one of the most important events on the European cultural calendar.
Talented artists from Albania to the United Kingdom come together to compete for the glass microphone amidst a live scene of ebullience, drama, and color.
After all these successful years of Eurovision, it’s wonderful to see this celebration of cultural differences continue into 2023.