LONDON — The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 as a friendly music competition between public television broadcasters and has since grown into the world’s largest — and arguably most eccentric — live music event.
This year the competition takes place while there is war in Europe; in February, the event organizers announced that: Russia would be excluded from competitionciting “the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine.”
This week, 35 other countries, including Ukraine, competed in the semi-finals for Saturday’s final, which draws more than 180 million viewers around the world. Held in Italy this year, the event rewards live viewers, with clips of performances and reactions quickly spreading across social media.
Below is a rundown of hotly-tipped acts, advice on how to watch from within the United States, and views on how the war in Ukraine is likely to affect competition.
How does the Eurovision Song Contest work?
Each country chooses an act with an original song to be performed live on stage. The number is chosen by the national broadcaster or through some kind of competition. (Sweden, for example, has the “Melodifestivalen” to choose its entry.) There are a number of rules that entrants must adhere to, including a three-minute limit on song length and a ban on lyrics or gestures used by the organizers as be considered political.
Despite the name, countries outside Europe’s traditional geographical borders also participate in Eurovision. For example, Israel debuted in 1973 and Australia has been participating since 2015. This year, Armenia and Montenegro will return to the competition after not participating in 2021. Smaller countries are also represented, such as San Marino, a landlocked enclave in Italy with a population of just over 30,000. Last year’s San Marino entry, performed by singer Senhit, featured a performance by American rapper Flo Rida.
The Eurovision winner is chosen by a combination of votes from home viewers and national juries in each country. The national juries’ scores are first tallied, then the fans’ votes are announced, act by act, starting with the countries that received the lowest jury points. This part of the show can be tense and even uncomfortable to watch, with cameras last year showing contestants from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain each receiving the dreaded “zero points” from the audience.
After the entrants have dwindled through the two semi-finals, the qualifiers join the entries from the “big five” countries – Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – who automatically advance to the finals as they are the most contribute financially to the course of the competition. the match. This year, 25 countries will face each other in the final.
Traditionally, the competition is held in the country that won last year. Turin, in Italy, hosts this year after rock band Maneskin triumphed in 2021.
How can Americans watch the game?
The streaming service Peacock will broadcast the final on Saturday from 3 p.m. Eastern time. The service also streamed the competition’s semifinals. Figure skater Johnny Weir will comment on the broadcast.
The commentary can often add some humor to the many hours of television competition. In Britain, comedy presenter Graham Norton has become known for his reactions and jokes.
“We have a real music offer tonight,” Norton said during the introduction of the 2021 competition from the Dutch city of Rotterdam. “Brilliant staging, great lighting, some great vocalists and others – well, some as flat as Holland.”
How did the Russian invasion of Ukraine affect competition?
Initially, the European Broadcasting Union, which hosts Eurovision, said Russia was allowed to continue participating because the contest was a “non-political cultural event”.
However, the day after the invasion, when Ukraine and other countries threatened to withdraw, the broadcasting association withdrew. Russia could not participate, the union said in a statement:because the inclusion of the country would “discredit the competition”.
Sentimentality, friendly prejudice and politics can influence the mood. This year, Ukraine is favorite to win, with the rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra representing the country. The song ‘Stefania’ is an ode to the mother of one of the band members. The act received special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel for the competition and has performed across Europe to raise funds for the war effort.
Ukraine won the match in 2016 with ‘1944’ by Jamala. The song was a memorial to the Crimean Tatars during World War II, but it was also interpreted as a commentary on the Russian invasion of Crimea two years earlier.
What happens if Ukraine wins this year?
If Ukraine takes the title, the war and humanitarian crisis in the country will most likely pose a challenge to the organization of the competition in 2023.
In the past, when one country was unable to host, another intervened. The last time that happened was in 1980, when Israel declined to host after winning for the second year in a row. The competition was instead held in the Netherlands.
If Australia ever wins the competition, the logistical difficulties of hosting a mainly European competition on another continent means that a European country and a broadcaster would co-host the competition with Australia the following year, according to the European Broadcasting Union.
What other acts should I be aware of?
Sweden has won the Eurovision Song Contest six times (second only to Ireland), with ABBA one of the acts to claim victory for the country. The Swedish participant this year is Cornelia Jakobs, who sings ‘Hold Me Closer’, a warm and emotional pop song that builds up with each following verse.
The Spanish entry, performed by Chanel, is also expected to do well in the final, featuring a catchy song, “SloMo,” accompanied by an energetic dance routine.
The outlook for Great Britain looks better after last year’s zeros in general. The country’s entry, “Space Man,” is performed by TikTok star Sam Ryder and is gaining momentum.
There is also praise for the Australian entry “Not the Same”, performed by Sheldon Riley. The song reflects his childhood experiences, including a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome he received at age 6.
Maneskin has become world famous since winning the competition in 2021, performing this year on “Saturday Night Live” and at the Coachella festival.
Are there any surreal acts this year?
Eurovision participants have a tradition of using surreal staging, lyrics and costumes to stand out.
This year, the Norwegian entry, by pop duo Subwoolfer, is attracting attention. Their song, “Give That Wolf a Banana,” has the pair donning wolf masks, with backing dancers in yellow morph suits.
The Moldovan entry, “Trenuletul”, by Zdob si Zdub and the Advahov Brothers, has built a following by combining traditional instruments such as the accordion with the electric guitar. Their song’s upbeat lyrics are matched by the band’s enthusiastic choreography.
What about North American versions of Eurovision?
The NBC show “American Song Contest” commemorates Eurovision for the United States, with 56 entries from 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. Instead of being broadcast over the course of a week, like Eurovision, the match has been broadcast weekly on the network since March.
The final took place on Monday, when AleXa, who represents Oklahoma, won with “Wonderland”. The song received a total of 710 points from the jury and public vote, 207 for the second place entry, from Colorado.
But disappointing ratings suggest that ‘American Song Contest’ failed to capture the excitement of the Eurovision Song Contest. In an interview with The New York Times, Audrey Morrissey, a show executive, suggested that American audiences may need time to get used to the format. “It’s a very different kind of mechanism — there’s no other show where the performance takes place and there’s no criticism right after,” she said.
Next year there will be a Eurovision Canada, where entries from the country’s three territories and 10 provinces will compete in an offshoot of the original. International expansion was an ambition for Eurovision. Martin Österdahl, the competition’s executive supervisor, recently said in a podcast: “We are slightly shifting our focus in our strategy from managing a competition to managing a brand, and that brand will become a global entertainment super brand.”