If you don’t know already, I love watching the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s a global music event where entire countries compete against each other with original music for 3 minutes each, and I love it for three reasons: One, the international aspect of it; two, the outfits they wear sometimes; three, I needed to diversify my music library.
Granted I live in the United States and therefore don’t have the same experiences as those who actually grew up watching the show in Europe, I had to quickly learn what it was about and join in on the contest right around the corner in 2009. This was during exam week at the end of my sophomore year at college
Now, 13 years later, I have a bit of knowledge about the contest as a whole, but not getting too technical like who gave 12 points to who, or which countries exchange points with each other every year (I’ll get to voting blocs in a sec). Besides the glitz and glamour, this contest, which has been around since 1956, has a rich history, so if you’re wanting to know more about it, I will point you to the official Eurovision website as well as the Wikipedia page for it.
For this post, I will tell you what I have learned in general about the contest, some of the countries involved, the show itself, and the months before the actual contest
1. Hosted by the EBU and the host country’s TV station
Typically, when a country wins Eurovision, its TV station and the European Broadcasting Union make plans to host the next edition the following year. Of course, this is not always the case, as the 2023 contest will be hosted by the United Kingdom despite Ukraine winning the 2022 edition. Back in 1980, the Netherlands stepped in to host after Israel pulled out following winning the previous two contests (1978-79). The hosting blueprint tends to start following the grand final, so keep that in mind when you watch future editions.
2. Some countries can actually compete despite not being in Europe
This was a big gripe in the fandom, and I was naive to think that this wasn’t an issue. One of the official rules of the Eurovision Song Contest is that the TV station (or national broadcasters as they call them) must be a full member of the EBU. In my experience chatting with fellow Eurovision fans, some want to ignore this rule because some of the countries that do compete — Israel, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Cyprus — aren’t really in Europe or they are half/half Europe/Asia. They have the most disdain for Israel because of Palestine. That’s for another time. As for Australia, the EBU invited them to the contest in 2015 as, at the time, a one-off event, but they have been invited every year since, including the canceled 2020 contest. 2023 will be the final year of this current deal
3. Politics as usual?
The EBU has told us time and time again that this contest is meant to be apolitical, but with my experience in the fandom, politics will always seep in. For example, earlier this year, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the EBU banned the country’s two TV stations from competing. Anything involving Israel is met with calls to free Palestine, especially after they last won the contest in 2018 and hosted the contest in 2019. Armenia and Azerbaijan don’t want to acknowledge each other. Ukraine’s 2016 winning entry was accused of having political tones. Belarus still has a dictatorship (and their TV station was also banned from competing at Eurovision) Eurovision and politics are intertwined despite the EBU’s best efforts to keep it out.
One of the reasons why I don’t stay in fandoms for long is because of the gatekeeping exhibited by some of the fans. Also, I learned quickly, especially after 2012, that a lot of people from certain countries (like Spain) will mass downvote you if you remotely hate their entries. I don’t post my full tops anymore because of that (and the copyright claims others have experienced). Another thing I noticed is that while they love to tout love for all and other mumbo jumbos, they don’t want to share their format with other regions. This was especially true when the American Song Contest rolled around and they went on a mass anger spree to shut it down (and they failed, because Voxovation is negotiating a second season with NBC). Eurovision Canada and Latin American Song Contest are also coming next year. I will discuss that later in this post.
5. National Final or Internal Selection?
I want you to know this. The Eurovision Song Contest itself is a week-long event with two semi-final shows and a grand final, but the preparation takes months. As early as the day after the grand final, many countries will confirm their participation and then make plans to either hold a nationwide search or put out calls for an audition. An example of a national final format is Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, where 28 acts compete for over 6 shows for a chance to represent the country at Eurovision. An example of an internal selection is Armenia where Rosa Linn was chosen internally in early March. Her song Snap was released a couple weeks later. There is no one way of picking an entry for Eurovision, and some countries switch formats every year. Others use a combination of picking an artist internally and then having the public pick a song through a special show
6. Nothing can stop them, except COVID
When I say Eurovision has been through them all, they really have been through them all. Through dictatorships, tragedy, political uprisings, and general controversies, the contest has been able to host contest without fail. Except 2020. Like everything else in 2020, they had to hold it off after hosting it uninterrupted for 64 years to keep people safe during the early days of the COVID pandemic. For the record, the shutdowns started in March, and the two months between the shutdowns and when the contest was supposed to happen, which was in May, was supposed to be enough time to quarantine to get back to normal without destroying the economy… that is if the virus wasn’t as contagious as COVID. The venue, Rotterdam Ahoy, had to be used as a makeshift hospital when the Netherlands was dealing with its COVID cases. They made that official announcement on March 18, 2020… the darkest day in Eurovision history
7. Song release dates
When you watch Eurovision, you might notice that the competing songs are less than a year old. That’s because every song that was released on or AFTER September 1 of the previous year can be used for the contest. They also had to be 3 minutes long, although some of them have been remastered to fit the time limit. As of this blog, the songs released now and within the last two days are eligible to compete in the upcoming contest.
8. Live show crimes
I’ll leave a link here to see what I’m talking about, because every year, we have results that we don’t like, and Eurovision fans are vocal about it.
9. Betting odds and OGAE clubs
Every year, several sites put out betting odds for the upcoming contest, such as who’s most likely to win, or who’s most likely to qualify for the semi-finals. Although it isn’t an accurate picture of who will eventually win, I would say that they have been spot on over the past several years. This year, Ukraine was the hot favorite despite being invaded by Russia. Meanwhile, OGAE clubs are just fan clubs with national chapters that vote on their favorite entries. The voting takes place in April.
10. Online contests based on Eurovision
With Eurovision’s popularity comes fan-made versions. I am currently a member of an online song contest on a sports forum, where I represent the United States along with one other member. They run two contests per year… the annual and the open. The open contest will be starting soon, so I’ll be splitting my time between here and there until November’s grand final. I also read (but did not participate) in another online song contest which holds 12 monthly contests every year plus a few spinoffs. The rules are quite the same as Eurovision itself, the only thing is that juries who fail to vote to get disqualified.
11. The contest itself is based on San Remo
We know fan-made contests are using Eurovision’s format, but where did they get their format? The San Remo Festival. The annual Italian music festival started in Italy in 1951. Currently, Italy is using the festival to select an entry to Eurovision, and it worked out so well for them since their return in 2011… they won the 2021 contest.
12. Fan sites to legit sources
When you follow Eurovision, it’s not just the official site you can keep track of. Soon, you’ll find yourself following Eurovoix, ESCToday, Wiwibloggs, ESCXtra, ESCDaily, and ESCBubble, Aussievision, among others. Just steer clear of a site called Oikotimes. In short, they’re all fan sites that have now become legit sources for the latest news on Eurovision and beyond
13. The progressiveness of it all
Like any event that involves competition, one thing that they all have in common is progression. Eurovision has come a long way since its first contest in 1956 and it now attracts all walks of life… from LGBTQIA+ to the disabled to the casual fans to superfans. It’s the one night where we all come together to enjoy the contest before we
kill debate each other over trivial shit again the next day
14. The expansion to the Western Hemisphere
The 2021 expansion to the Western Hemisphere has caused a riff among superfans. Most hated it, while some wanted to check it out. Me, as an American, I was thrilled. I could not believe that my country is getting its own song contest. That was May 2021. Then came March where, and I’m going to criticize it for a moment, the process felt rushed. 18 days before the first American Song Contest broadcast, they announced all 56 acts that would compete on the show. The songs came out in batches Sunday night before each Monday broadcast, which really didn’t give us a lot of time to talk about who will qualify or even win the contest. The juries were terrible (just like their Eurovision counterparts) and voted for the songs no one really wanted (I am still hung up over the chatterbox juror from the Northern Mariana Islands lol), never mind that 22 of the 56 jurors are all from iHeart Radio stations. The commercials went on for too long and they appear between each act. There was also an online voting component (you could vote through the NBC website, the app, and through TikTok. 10 votes per artist per app, so 30 votes), and even with the area code in place, we could still vote for our own state lol. At least they picked the right winner. All in all, negotiations are ongoing for a second season, but that’s not where they stop. Canada and Latin America are also getting their own versions. As a side note, they tried many times to expand to Asia but failed.
Of course, I will be watching the 2023 edition next May and blog about it here. I will also watch the American Song Contest as well as Eurovision Canada and Latin America, so I’m gonna be one busy woman.