Believe it or not, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the biggest and most watched annual TV events in the world.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched last year’s competition in Rotterdam – where Italian Maneskin topped the leaderboard with Zitti E Buoni and Britain’s James Newman scored the dreaded pointless draw with Embers.
This year, once again, promises to be an exciting contest – the arena will be packed with screaming fans, and the stars will grace the stage unhindered by COVID worries.
But who is in the running, who to watch out for, and could world events influence the outcome (I think you might already know the answer to that question…)?
The beautiful city of Turin in northern Italy is hosting this year’s contest, after various locations across the country attempted to hold the contest.
As has been the case for decades, the winner of the annual competition wins the right to host it the following year.
The show itself will come from the PalaOlympico, an arena built for the 2006 Winter Olympics, where it hosted the ice hockey events.
However, more recently it has been used as a concert hall, hosting artists like U2, Ariana Grande and Madonna.
Curiously, the Brits are interested in this answer – pop icon Mika is part of this year’s trio of Eurovision hosts.
Singer Grace Kelly will be joined on stage by Alessandro Cattelan and Laura Pausini in Turin.
Mika had chart success in the late 2000s with his album Life In Cartoon Motion, which featured massive hits such as Love Today and Lollipop, and later served as a judge on the Italian version of the X-Factor – if that answers your question.
For the UK, Graham Norton will commentate the event as usual, with Scott Mills and Rylan on hand for the semi-finals. AJ Odudu will utter the words ‘it’s Salford’s call’ for the first time ever, as the UK’s vote spokesman on the night.
Who participates ?
Eurovision doesn’t strictly mean Europe only – it’s for member states of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Any country in the world can join, confusingly, and not all European nations are members (e.g. Australia participates but not Andorra).
Either way, 40 countries will take part – five of which (the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany) gain automatic entry into the final – they’re known as the Big Five .
The others take part in two semi-finals on Tuesday and Thursday before the main competition for the last 20 places.
Russia was kicked out of this year’s competition after pressure from other member states.
How it works?
After the semi-finals this week, 25 countries will face off in the grand final.
The order is drawn and all acts have one last chance to perform live.
Voting is done in two ways – the first is by national juries from each country, who award 1 to 12 points using their musical expertise. These are the votes used by Eurovision when the talking heads come to award each country’s points.
Second, there’s public voting – you can vote for anyone but yourself. These marks are totaled and added up after the jury’s points have been awarded.
Earn the most points and you’ll host Eurovision next year.
Who is the favorite to win?
No surprises here – this is Ukraine.
Kalush Orchestra (a spin-off of their main band, Kalush) will perform Stefania in Turin – dedicated to the lead singer’s mother.
It’s a folk-rap song (it’s very Eurovision) sung entirely in Ukrainian – I’ll let you decide what you think.
These odds may be a little skewed, given that the country is under attack from Russia, resulting in global support for Ukraine.
We met Kalush last week in Turinwhere the lead singer said that one of the band members is still defending the streets of Kyiv.
What about the UK?
Well. We are the second favorite to win.
Yeah, you read that right – SECOND. PREFER.
Sam Ryder, a TikTok sensation with more than 12 million followers, is among the frontrunners in the contest for the UK for the first time in years.
He will play Space Man – a song he wrote during confinement – a playful contemporary pop number.
Ryder is friendly, fun, and incredibly talented. It was picked up by the BBC (which runs Eurovision on behalf of the UK) and label TaP Records, in a bid to show that the UK takes the contest seriously.
Listen to his rehearsal clip from last week below.
What acts should I pay attention to?
Citi Zeni from Latvia has perhaps the funniest track this year, Eat Your Salad – which is an ode to veganism and recycling through a jazzy pop number. Listen to the opening lines “Instead of meat, I eat vegetables and…” accompanied by a cat emoji behind them.
Next we have Norway with Subwoofer’s Give That Wolf A Banana. It has everything you want in a Eurovision number – references to eating bananas, pyrotechnics, the name Keith and two singing men in bright yellow wolf masks.
For fans of 2000s gothic rock, the Finnish act is a blast from the past with band The Rasmus – who were known for their 2003 hit In The Shadows. They will play Jezebel – which they say is about a “girl who takes what she wants, without asking”.
You’ll also want to keep an ear out for Eurovision pundits in Sweden, Chanel in Spain with SloMo and Maro in Portugal with Saudede, Saudede.
Eurovision begins on Tuesday with the first semi-final at 8 p.m. on BBC Three, then again on Thursday.
The main show is on Saturdays at 8 p.m., on BBC One.
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