The long wait is over. Fans of flashy outfits, outdated songs and wind machines reunite; Eurovison is back for it 64th run. Tonight at 8 pm on BBC1, Europe will gather around television sets once more, enjoying entries from 26 different countries. Here is everything you need to know about this iconic music competition.
In a nutshell, Eurovision was created in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union to reunite a continent divided by war trauma. By now the contest has turned into of the most watched events in the world where Europe gets to show of her diverse talent, culture and extravagance.
The competition is divided into two semi-finals and tonight’s main event; the final. Traditionally, six countries automatically qualify for the final. The ‘Big five’ – Italy, Germany, Spain, France, the UK – and the host country. Their financial contributions save them the hassle of singing their way through the semi-finals, Leaving the ‘lazy six’ to enjoy the semi-finals from the green room sipping champagne.
The remaining countries are randomly split into two groups who battle for that much desired spot in the finale. This year, 17 countries performed in the first semi-finals on Tuesday, with only 10 qualifying to perform on Saturday. On Thursday 18 countries sang for survival, with yet another 10 getting the green light to make it through to the next round.
The 20 successful entries will go head to head against the six pre-qualified countries tonight, for the ultimate glory and honour to host next year’s Eurovision contest.
But how does one become the ultimate European songbird? For one, there’s no need to be European, with the likes of Australia joining the competition. What is needed is an extremely catchy tune and a slight shock factor. Iceland took this to heart, with this year’s entry consisting of BDSM costumes and a torturous hamster wheel, leaving spectators terrified yet browsing for kinky leather sets on lovehoney.com
Another crowd favourite is the earlier mentioned quintessential European country of Australia. Hinting at their rather unorthodox geographical position, the Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke is seen bouncing on a black pole above earth, emulating her best Lady Liberty impression with seemingly intoxicated back up dancers bopping next to her from left to right.
Don’t be fooled, while wind machines and thigh-high boots are in full swing this season, some countries have sent in stripped down performances with Duncan Laurance’s Arcade being the fan favourite. The Dutch singer is number one with the bookmakers, with the emotional ballad predicted to take home the competition by a whopping 46%. In between fake rain, fire blasts and aggressive visuals the Dutch entry is extremely simplistic with the singer glued behind a piano, only to be accompanied by a bamboo disco ball in the middle of the performance.
Thankfully, fans will still receive some classic Eurovision performances, with San Marino sending in an absolute bop with Say Na Na Na and Norway introducing traditional Norwegian chanting with Spirit in the sky. For any fans of the band ‘The 1975’, the Czech Republic’s Friend of a Friend will surely tickle your fancy. The same goes for Zara Larsson’s fans, with Belarus’s budget version of the blond singer called Zana.
Other performances to watch are Italy’s Mahmood, with his song Soldi having been in the international charts for weeks. Also, Sweden has been conquering the hearts of many, not only with singer John Lundvik’s stirking looks but also with the uplifting love ballad Too late for love. Finally, Azerbaijan’s Truth performed by Chingiz was met with huge enthusiasm during the semi-finals, making tonight’s competition a spectacle filled with serious competitors.
With Madonna set to perform during the night, all there is left to do is to whip out your favourite country’s flag, a score sheet and a bowl of popcorn for this night to score douze points.