Evelina Tancheva

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When the news of the cancelation of Eurovision was made public, it broke quite a few hearts of all music fans all over the world but mostly in Europe. The global pandemic of COVID-19 ended all the festivities of this year, 2020, even before they started, no European football Championship, no Carnival in Venice, no Fallas in Valencia, no Easter celebrations in Andalusia… the virus took away more than “just” a great number of human lives and while the most important thing is to remain safe in these uncertain times, we should also keep our spirit up and not give into all the negativity we are surrounded with on a daily basis.

“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words, it speaks in emotion[1]

– Keith Reichards

Eurovision is an annual song contest that began on the 24th of May 1956 and has been celebrated each year ever since, except this year 2020 as we already mentioned. For the first time in sixty–four years, one of the most looking forward events of the year cancelled and there is still no official information as to the host of Eurovision 2021. In theory, it’s just a song contest but, in reality, Eurovision is so much more, it’s a pan – European tradition awarded with a Guinness Record[2]. The name itself causes a certain degree of misunderstanding because one would expect that only countries from the European continent could participate in the race, well… that’s not the case. In fact, a lot of countries joined in the following years of its creation like: Israel that joined in 1973, Cyprus in 1981, Russia 1994, Armenia in 2006, Georgia in 2007, Azerbaijan in 2008. In 2015 even Australia joined for the first time and has been sending singers ever since.

Eurovision is one of the most emblematic symbols of international music competitions and it perfectly embodies values of the European Union: Unity – through the universal language of music; Acceptance as well – everyone is welcome; respect for everyone’s culture – each contestant is encouraged to use their native language in their songs. Eurovision’s stage is also a safe place for LGBTQ representations, human rights warriors, new generations of rebels and above all it’s a platform to show the marvels of everyone’s uniqueness.

Our world is submerged in American movies and series, every now and then we see some other independent movie in a language different than English but we live mostly by Hollywood’s entertainment industry. Eurovision recalls the attention back to Europe and each May we could see how a united front of this part of the world concentrates their attention to productions that are being made with their culture in mind. There have been many jokes over the years as to the purposeful exclusion of the USA from everything that has to do with Eurovision and many spectators still prefer it that way, revelling in the confusion it causes for the people on the outside of the contest. To say it simply, Eurovision for the Americans is like Super Bowl for the Europeans, we watch the show but have no idea what is going on. Eurovision is also a way of healing for Europe, after two great wars on the continent, after the recent political tension with Brexit and especially with COVID – 19, music is undoubtedly the most effective remedy for the mind.

The songs that are presented at the contest have previously been selected in their home countries either through a national televised selection, or through an internal selection. For example, the winner of the Festival of San Remo in Italy qualifies to represent the country in that year’s Eurovision contest. One of the best things about Eurovision is that it permits the entries of both household named stars like ABBA (1974), Toto Cotugno (1990), Helena Paparizou (2005) and Eleni Foureira (2018) just like it allows the discovery of new talents without upper age limit.

the Buranovskiye Babushki from Russia took part to the Eurovision 2012 edition in Baku – Azerbaijan

One of the most confusing aspects of Eurovision however, is the voting system. As explained on the official Eurovision page “Voters [the participating countries] award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries — with the favourite being awarded the now famous douze points[3]”. This year the countries competing were 41.

One of the most interesting rules, however, is that no country can vote for their own song. Despite the clear explications, the rules per se remain a mystery to most of the people that enjoy the show, so the official guidelines remind us that there are 3 shows in total, 2 semi–finals and a Final[4]. In the years, there have been quite a few changes in the rules but one of the most significant changes came in the year 2000 when the rule of the “Big Five” was announced, it granted direct position to the Final of the contest to the five biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The “Big Five” are always the same: the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and out of courtesy, the country hosting the event that year. The winner of Eurovision takes home a beautiful glass microphone trophy and the honour of hosting the next Eurovision event in their country.

In 2020, the country that was responsible for hosting the music festival was The Netherlands because they won the contest in 2019 when it was held in Israel because they in turn won it in Portugal in 2018 and so on. The country with most wins under its belt is Ireland, with a total of seven wins, followed by Sweden with six and France, the UK, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – all with 5 wins each.

The Eurovision stage has seen numerous acts during its long history, but there are always some surprises that even though they didn’t win the glass microphone, they stole the public’s hearts, like for example: t.A.T.u with Ne Ver ne boysia (2003), Verka Serduchka with Dancing Lasha Tumbai in 2007, Buranovskiye Babushki – Party For Everybody in 2012, Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix in 2014 (although that song did win the contest), Eleni Foureira – Fuego (2018).

In general, the more flamboyant the performance the better and the more extravagant the artist the more likable it will be even though they might not win first place, they’ll surely win the public’s hearts.

There have been several performances that became “trademarks” of Eurovision because there is at least one such act every year, like the pianos on fire and the vampire inspired looks (Cezar – It’s My Life[5], – Under the ladder[6], The Makemakes – I Am Yours[7]). Followed closely by the category of ballads or two teenagers on a first date that inspire many memes on the Internet (Amaya and Alfred – Tu canción[8], Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi[9], Ben & Tan – Yes[10], Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me [11].

Never the less, there are also two more categories that never fail to snatch the public’s attention, like the artistic rock and metal inspired performances: Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland 2005), Kabat – Mala Dama (Czech Republic 2007), O.Torvald – Time (Ukraine 2017) and of course the most recent, wild, bold and mind-blowing performance of Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra (Iceland 2019).

And the final category is the one where someone sings as if they are chanting spells and summoning a Viking spirit, an Egyptian pharaoh or a furious fairy: KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky (Norway 2019), Efendi – Cleopatra (Azerbaijan 2020), Oto Nemsadze – Keep On Going (Georgia 2019), Jamala – 1944 (Ukraine 2016), Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov – Water (Bulgaria 2007).

Lights, extravagant performances and quality entertainment are at the core of the Eurovision song contest, making each May of the year more interesting and more emotional for the fans and even though this year we won’t live through all the drama of the voting, we can still listen to the entries and keep our spirits up. Because the moment we let COVID-19 affect our minds and not only our bodies, that’s the moment we lose the war, the psychological battle to stay human is just as important as the physical one to persevere, and what could unite us more than the universal language of music?

Evelina Tancheva


[1] Keith Richards

[2] https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2015/5/eurovision-recognised-by-guinness-world-records-as-the-longest-running-annual-tv-379520?fb_comment_id=772846319496857_773219942792828/

[3] https://eurovision.tv/history/in-a-nutshell

[4] https://eurovision.tv/history/in-a-nutshell

[5] Romanian entry 2013

[6] Ukrainian entry 2018

[7] Austrian entry 2015

[8] Spanish entry 2018

[9] Slovenian entry 2019

[10] Denmark entry 2020

[11] Norwegian entry 2015

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