The 66th Annual Eurovision Song Contest starts this week, but here is everything first-timers will need to know from your self-proclaimed ESC expert.
With the exception of 2020, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has been hosted live every year since 1956; this year the competition will take place in Turin, Italy after Måneskin took home the trophy in Rotterdam. You may recognise the band after they shot to fame on TikTok, with their cover of ‘Beggin’ and original song ‘I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE.’ The winner of each year’s ESC gets to host the following year and showcase their skills in stage design as well as guest performances and hosting, with ‘Grace Kelly’ singer Mika being one of the hosts for this week’s contest. As a massive Eurovision fan, I have spent years trying to convince almost anyone who will listen that the contest is the best national holiday of the year, despite it being right in the middle of exam season, I would gladly sacrifice a few A’s for hours of ESC.
How it works
What many casual viewers don’t know, is that the Eurovision songs are selected by most countries through an X Factor-style competition, while other countries opt to internally select their artist and song, leaving it to producers and record companies to select an act, which is the approach the UK has taken in recent years. These songs are normally released starting in January and are all released by March, giving hardcore fans a chance to learn all the lyrics and music video choreography. All forty countries then compete in a semi-final, held on Tuesday 10th and Thursday 12th May this year, with only ten acts from each semi-final going through to the Grand Final on Saturday 14th May. There is, however, an exception. The five countries that contribute the most to the competition financially, known as ‘The Big Five’, automatically qualify for the final, as well as the host country if they are not already in The Big Five, these countries are France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Due to the conflict this year, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced on 25th February that Russia will not be allowed to compete to protect the competition’s moral values:
Though Australia, Israel, Cyprus and Armenia are technically out of European borders, they compete due to being situated in an area which is either covered by the European Broadcasting Area or are a member state of the Council of Europe. There is no doubt many hold their opinions about the politicisation of Eurovision, but it was founded as an event intended to create community and a whole week of fun for supporters and artists alike. Though the competition has the power to transform the lives of those who find success on the stage, it has always been about the experience, as well as the music.
Another aspect of the contest that newbies find confusing is the voting system. In the two semi-finals, the twenty acts that go through to the final are based purely on audience votes through the official voting phone lines or the Eurovision app. But note that you cannot vote for your own country. However, in the Grand Final, the voting is split into two categories: The televote and the jury vote: The televote is where public votes are tallied and assigned a point value. The Jury vote is left to each country’s assigned national jury who ranks all twenty-five final acts 1st-25th. Twelve points are assigned to their favourite, ten points for their second favourite, eight points for their third favourite, and so on in decreasing point value until we reach 1 point. The country at the end of both votes with the most total points is the winner, and this process makes for some tense moments, knowing how many points your favourite needs to win, and then being hit with a ‘nil points’ is heart-breaking.
Also, don’t be surprised when Greece and Cyprus give each other ‘douze points,’ it’s practically a tradition at this point.
Though I have my personal winner and top ten that I will be singing along to all week with my flag draped around my shoulders, it wouldn’t be Eurovision without some crazy acts to blow up your newsfeed. This year some of the most ‘typical’ Eurovision acts are given to us courtesy of Norway, Latvia and Serbia.
Norway’s act Subwoolfer are bringing their song ‘Give That Wolf A Banana’ to the stage in Turin, with Jim and Keith, two yellow wolves in black suits, singing about deterring a wolf from eating Grandma, with their three backup dancers/wolves.
Latvia’s representative Citi Zēni has amassed some fame online with their song ‘Eat Your Salad’ about turning to veganism and sustainability. However, it’s the explicit opening line of the track that has brought it to the public eye, making eating your vegetables and recycling fun and cheeky.
Serbia’s Konstrakta seems to have quite a standard ESC song at first glance, but with the music video for ‘In Corpore Sano’ exposing us to the worst and most unwelcome mukbang ASMR ever, the lyrics actually discuss Meghan Markle’s ‘healthy hair.’ When people complain about the political air of Eurovision, I am sure no one predicted Meghan Markle to be involved at the hands of Serbia.
Some more interesting points about this year’s competition: The UK has the best chance we have had in years, with Sam Ryder’s ‘Space Man’ earning a lot of support continent-wide with his feel-good tune and flowing blonde locks, placing the UK in the top five of most bookies’ odds. This year’s contest also doesn’t have any acts singing in French, with the slogan for 2022’s competition being ‘The Sound of Beauty,’ clearly, competitors thought it was time to move away from the language of love. The current favourite to win is Eurovision giant Ukraine, sending the Kalush Orchestra with rap-folk banger ‘Stefania’, a song about a motherly figure singing a traditional Slavic lullaby, which in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine, provides an empowering and comforting entry. Ukraine has made it to every Grand Final since they joined the contest in 2003, and though they were forced to drop out of 2019’s competition due to contract disputes, they have never been kicked out at the semi-finals, earning them a strong reputation amongst the ESC community, (they also happen to be my favourite competing country every year, so you best believe I have the blue and yellow glitter on hand.)
Although many students love Eurovision as an excuse for another themed party (don’t we all), maybe you will understand what is happening a bit more by just hearing Graham Norton get more and more drunk as the show progresses. Feel free to send any pictures of your Eurovision parties to @scanlancaster on Instagram for a chance to be featured in a future article reflecting on the events of the contest. We want to see all the flags, glittery dresses and themed cocktails you can possibly think of (and that Amazon can deliver in time.)
You can watch the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final on BBC One at 8 p.m., or on the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube. In the words of former ESC executive supervisor and legend, Jon Ola Sand: Take it Away!