It’s happening. After its 2020 COVID enforced postponement, the Grand Final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest is finally upon us.
With a COVID secure audience of 3500 people, Eurovision will be airing this Saturday on BBC1 from 8pm in the UK, live from Rotterdam. The contest has a rich history of phenomenal performances that dance proudly upon the fine line between glamorous and gaudy, and this year is absolutely no exception. Read on to find out why this year’s Eurovision Grand Finale is an essential watch.
Previously crowned as the ‘Gay World Cup’, or a mixture of the ‘Olympics meets American Idol’, Eurovision has become far more than simply an international song contest. Initially created in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union (or the EBU) as an attempt to unite European countries after World War II, Eurovision has become an iconic event in which (mostly) European states can act out their national identities upon an arena stage, as well as perform their cultural allegiances through the voting system. As of recent years, the vote has been split 50/50, with one set of points to be determined by televoting, and the other set being decided by each country’s jury’s decision, ranking all of the acts and awarding points from highest to lowest.
Its cultural significance to many nations, as well as to the global LGBTQ+ community, makes it far more than a song contest, but in fact a celebration of cultures and an acknowledgement of the rich and complex history that Europe holds.
It is this part of the contest in which the bonds and beefs between nations are televised. With the UK’s last win over twenty years ago, (1997, Katrina and the Waves), questions as to whether the UK should ‘Boycott Eurovision’ were asked this week on Good Morning Britain.
We consulted podcaster and political writer Jess Smith as to whether Brexit was the source of our poor scoring results in recent years. She told me that although many of us believe this to be the case, it is more likely that ‘the strong, positive allegiances and national friendship ties in Europe overpower any perceived negative bias towards the UK’. We can see these friendship ties most strongly in the Nordic bloc, Soviet States and the Balkans, as neighbouring countries frequently support each other in the contest.
Although Good Morning Britain would have you believing that the UK is one of the least successful contestants, we are in fact up there with some of the most frequent winners, taking home the title, and the contest, 5 times! As one of the ‘Big 5’, or one of the biggest financial contributors to the EBU, the UK are automatically put into the final, where other countries must compete in heats to get there. Some of our winning acts have gone on to have successful careers as pop stars following the contest, with the likes of Bucks Fizz, LuLu and Katrina and the Waves joining the roster of big winners, including Switzerland’s Celine Dion (yes, you’re right in thinking that Celine is Canadian – only the songwriter has to be from the country competing!) and of course Sweden’s 1974 winners ABBA, with their smash hit, ‘Waterloo’.
Some of the acts hoping to join this list of success stories include the UK’s act, James Newman, with song ‘Embers’, and Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið whose infectiously funky song ‘Think About Things’ went viral on Tiktok last year and reached charts globally. Due to a COVID-19 case in the band, they won’t be able to perform their song, ‘10 Years’ live, but rehearsal footage will be used as their entry in the final on Saturday.
Others hot on the ‘Ones To Watch’ list are Destiny, representing Malta with the song ‘Je Me Casse’, with some bookies predicting Italy’s act, Måneskin with their song ‘Zitti E Buoni’ to take home the win for their country.
So, although plenty of us Brits like to turn our nose up at the whole affair, don’t be fooled by the Eurosceptic doom and gloom surrounding the contest. Its cultural significance to many nations, as well as to the global LGBTQ+ community, makes it far more than a song contest, but in fact a celebration of cultures and an acknowledgement of the rich and complex history that Europe holds.
So get your European snacks out, feather boas on, and tune in on Saturday for Graham Norton’s scathing commentary, the inevitable political voting, and a damn good time. Eurovision is back baby! Douze points!