Do you love cheesy song competition programs? Over the top costumes and stage shows? What about pyrotechnics? International rivalries? Maybe opera is your thing. Or Norwegian death metal. Or good old fashioned pop music. You’re going to get all of this and more during Eurovision. A quick look on Google shows that Eurovision drinking games have popped up to celebrate some of the more common themes that pop up during the performances. YouTube is chock full of videos from finals past, like this totally underrated entry from Moldova last year.
Those hats are awesome, and there is nothing I love more than an entry that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
So how does this whole contest work, you ask? Well, it’s a little complicated. Forty two different countries (this year) have a representative compete for them in the semi- finals. The semis take place over three days, after all the contestants for that evening have performed, voting opens. Viewers can call or text vote for their favorites up to 20 times, but you cannot vote for your own country. After voting ends, each country’s points go to the countries they voted for most, with first place getting 12 points, second place getting 10, and then 8,7,6,5,4,3,2 and 1 points respectively. At the same time each country has a professional jury that votes the same way, awarding the same amount of points to their first, second, third (and so on), picks. The amounts are then merged, and only 10 countries from each semi-final will qualify for the grand final*. The “Big Five” (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain and Italy) qualify automatically, plus the host country, who won the previous year. Voting for the grand final works exactly the same way as it did in the semi-finals, with the country with the highest combined score winning the contest and the right to host the next year’s addition
Some pretty famous acts first achieved fame competing in (and winning) Eurovision. ABBA won in 1974 with Waterloo for Sweden. In 1988 Celine Dion won for Switzerland with “Ne partez pas sans moi”. Other famous acts have performed in the contest well into their careers. Katrina and the Waves have won it for the UK with “Love Shine A Light”, and this year their entry is being performed by Engelbert Humperdinck. But famous (and/or talented) performers don’t guarantee a win, or even a good showing in Eurovision. Because voters cannot vote for their own countries, they tend to vote for countries who speak the same language, share a music industry, or that they share a long and friendly relationship with. Expatriates will tend to vote for their countries of origin, regardless of the quality of the entry. Each country has the same amount of total points to award, making larger populations less able to affect the outcome.
The rules have changed many times over the years, but Eurovision has taken place every year since 1956. It’s a bit of (crazy) European history taking place right now, before our eyes. If you’re interested in watching it, you can stream it live from the official website. The grand final takes place Saturday, May 26 at 8:00pm GMT (that’s 3pm EST). Grab some friends and some refreshments and see if Ireland makes it to the grand final again this year and if Jedward manage to top their earworm of an entry from 2011! (See below.)
* Eurovision calls the finale the “grand final.”