To those of us not on the European Continent, the Eurovision Song Contest might just seem like another music competition, but not only is it older than The Voice or The X Factor, there’s more to it than you’d expect.
Eurovision is regularly the world’s largest non-sporting live TV event, attracting almost 200 million viewers. Each year since 1956, musicians from dozens of countries submit songs to compete for the winning title. It began in an effort to unite several war-torn European countries but has exploded into an Olympic-sized event with over 40 participating European countries plus Australia, Morocco, and Israel.
If that’s not enough to at least pique your interest, consider these reasons why you should tune in.
The Weird Factor
As each country tries to outdo each other, the acts get more and more, let’s just say, unique. It’s not uncommon to see crazy outfits, pianos on fire, drummers parachuting onto stage, Grandmas in traditional dress, a bearded lady, or twins connected by their ponytails on a giant seesaw.
In 2012, Buranovskiye Babushki represented Russia with a song called “Party For Everybody.” These grannies were adorably charming, off key, and couldn’t dance. Their other recorded songs include covers like “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple and “Hotel California” by the Eagles. They even pulled a tray of cookies out of an oven in the middle of one of their performances.
And if you were curious about twins connected by their ponytails on a giant seesaw, check out the Tolmachevy Twins, Russia’s 2014 entry with “Shine.” The preciseness of their performance shows that these two were bred for Eurovision. In 2006, at the age of nine, they won Junior Eurovision.
Culture and politics are absolutely a force at play when it comes to voting. Soviet, Scandinavian and Balkan countries usually vote for each other. Turkey received grief in the media when they won in 2013.
In 2014, representing Austria, drag queen Conchita Wurst performed the Bond-esque tune “Rise Like a Phoenix” and won the entire competition. The song and performance were solid, and Wurst embraced the win for the European LGBT community. In the lead up to her win, there was a large amount of backlash from conservative protesters in Russia, Armenia, and Belarus who battled for Wurst’s performance to be banned. Because of this, their strict anti-gay propaganda laws, and the crisis in the Ukraine, the Russian act received boos from the audience.
Discover a New Star
Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias, T.A.T.u., Bonnie Tyler and ABBA all appeared on Eurovision, some even got their start there. So you never know who might come out of this year’s competition. Also, because the hosting country provides the interval act (additional performances between songs and announcements), you never know who you might see. In 1994, The Irish dance troupe Riverdance found its international debut on Eurovision only to go on to international fame.
The Wonderfully Terrible Catchy Music
If you’re looking for quality music, you’ll probably be disappointed. Although if you like a good catchy hook, energetic performance, and charming performers, you’re in luck. Here is an ever so memorable Jedward from Ireland performing “Lipstick” in 2011.
It’s Coming to America
Eurovision‘s semi-finals are on Tuesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 12, and the grand finale is on Saturday, May 14. For the first time ever, Eurovision will be broadcast on US television, with the finale airing on Logo TV. Get ready, America.