Yes it’s that time of the year again where people all over Australia tune in to watch Europe’s trashiest/most talented performers in the 3-day media-run extravaganza known as the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s iconic, it’s epic… it’s my entire life!
Having been watching the E.S.C. since 2005, where Helena Paparizou won with My Number One (my proudest Greek moment to date) I have been Eurovision-obsessed for quite some time now.
Greece was a favourite to win that year and this was exciting. Everyone at Greek school was talking about it and I remember all the hype around the possibility that the song would come out on top. I remember sitting watching the final with my pappou, singing along to the words of My Number One — “you are the one, you’re my number one” — and the elation when Greece kept getting 12 points after 12 points.
There was something so incredible to me about seeing a Greek person win something on such a grand scale, someone who spoke the same language that we did at home. Helena Paparizou became Greece’s pride. She also became my pop idol, and her song was all over the radio in Greece when I visited there only a few months later. Man, those were the days.
Why Eurovision is important
Originally starting off as a large-scale media event in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union, the E.S.C. has become significantly bigger and crazier over the years, expanding across most of (and even outside of) Europe to bring greater diversity to the show. The original premise of the contest, to bring the nations of war-torn Europe together with a friendly singing competition, is still relevant today with political upheaval across some of Europe’s — and indeed the world’s — biggest players.
Many people don’t realise the impact that the ESC can have, and view it as a Euro-trash singing contest. It is a singing contest. But it’s not just a singing contest. While the U.K. and France couldn’t care less about their entries most years, for some countries Eurovision is the one chance they get to tell their story to the world, and they only get 3 minutes a year. Despite a blanket no politics rule, the contest is notorious for being Europe’s favourite non-political, political platform.
Not to mention it’s also a social change platform, pushing for more representation and more tolerance. Eurovision is no laughing matter. Some notable song topics in the past few years have included the Armenian genocide, the deportation of the Crimean Tartars, parents leaving their children to work abroad and the orphaning effect that has on the children, abuse victims, and marriage equality. The impact of a show like the E.S.C. is easily masked behind the extravagance, but it’s impossible to deny the effects that the contest can have on the individual people watching and nations as a whole.
Why is Australia in Eurovision?
In 2015 Australia was offered a place in the contest in recognition of the avid fan-base we have for the contest, and for the first time ever, Australians were able to take part in the televote (possibly the greatest moment of my life — and yes, I did spend 15 dollars on voting #noregrets). 2016 (a.k.a. the year we were robbed) officially confirmed our place in the E.S.C. We were here to stay! And it’s been full-steam ahead ever since with no signs of the EBU wanting to kick us out (we love you EBU <3).
How does the voting work?
Each country awards two sets of votes, one from their professional jury and one from the televotes. These votes range from the scores 1-8, 10 and 12, the latter being the highest allocation of points a country can award.
Televotes are votes from the viewing public. Important to note is that viewers cannot vote for their own country. Furthermore, in the Semi Finals, viewers can only vote for the countries within the same Semi Final as their country. In the final however, everyone can vote.
The juries, are made up of musical professionals. Each country has 5 jurors who judge the dress rehearsals of the nights before the actual shows (Semi Final 1, Semi Final 2 and the Grand Final).
After the voting window closes, representatives from each of the 43 countries involved present their jury points live. Following that, the televotes from all 43 countries are added up together and revealed from lowest to highest, resulting in the exciting reveal of the winner at the end of it all.
10 iconic Eurovision moments
To get you up to speed, here are some (for better or for worst) standout performances in Eurovision history.
1. Wild Dances – Ruslana, Ukraine (2004)
Think Amazon warriors dancing to Ukrainian music. Lots of hair-shaking. It’s wild.
2. Never Let You Go – Dima Bilan, Russia (2006)
Unintelligible English lyrics, mullet, ballerina inside a piano… this is what Eurovision is all about!
3. Hard Rock Hallelujah – Lordi, Finland (2006)
Singing Orcs rocking out with lots of pyrotechnics.
4. Dancing Lasha Tumbai – Verka Serduchka, Ukraine (2007)
Quite possibly the most iconic entry at Eurovision ever. Verka Serduchka is a legend in her own right. The aesthetic is “disco ball”, so you’ll never want to see another reflective surface in your life. Famous for its controversial lyrics “Lasha tumbai” which sound a lot like “Russia goodbye”.
5. Flying The Flag (For You) – Scooch, United Kingdom (2007)
The U.K. really doesn’t do itself any favours in the E.S.C. Featuring flight attendants telling people to “blow into the mouthpiece”, and offering “something to suck on for landing” along with some risqué hand gestures… the U.K. at its finest.
6. Irelande Douze Pointe – Dustin the Turkey, Ireland (2008)
It’s a turkey, that’s a puppet, performing in the world’s biggest singing competition. Yes, WTF is the appropriate response here.
7. Run Away – SunStroke Project and Olia Tira, Moldova (2010)
Remember Epic Sax Guy? He’s from Eurovision! This was the song that introduced him to the world!
8. Party For Everybody – Buranovskiye Babushki, Russia (2012)
Who doesn’t love Russian grandmas? Highlight of the performance is the working oven that’s part of the set, where they proceed to bake sweets while singing.
9. It’s My Life – Cezar, Romania (2013)
If you like falsetto, this is your guy. Think Count Dracula mixed with an operatic dance track. Bonus points for excellent costume.
10. Rise Like A Phoenix – Conchita Wurst, Austria (2014)
Could be a Bond theme song. Inspired faux-beard merchandise which was pretty fun too. And Conchita Wurst needs no introduction. What a Queen.
Anna’s Eurovision drinking game
Drink every time there’s:
A wind machine
A key change
A song in a language other than English
English lyrics that don’t make sense
An all-white costume
Cliché Eurovision rhymes (fire and desire are superrr popular)
A costume change
Someone says “thank you for an amazing/wonderful show” during the reading out of the votes
Eurovision is amazing. There’s music, costumes and partying. It’s 3 days of fun with people from all over the world, coming together to celebrate. Australia joining the E.S.C. has only given us more reason to watch it; we can watch it live, vote, and see our country perform in the singing World Cup (excuse the soccer reference)!
We’re only a couple of days away from Lisbon 2018! Representing Australia this year will be Jessica Mauboy with her song We Got Love. SBS will be showing the live broadcast at 5 a.m. for Semi Final 1 (Wednesday May 9), Semi Final 2 (Friday May 11) and the Grand Final (Sunday May 13), as well as same day primetime broadcasts at 7:30 p.m.
So #allaboard, Eurovision 2018 is finally here!
In memoriam: Lys Assia (March 1924-March 2018)
Lys Assia was the first winner of the song contest in 1956, representing Switzerland with the song Refrain.