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Eurovision: musical contest around the world

Are you a fan of the Olympics? Do you wish the Olympics would happen every year? Do you enjoy the global appeal of patriotism and representation, but maybe not all of the sports? Then do I have the show for you!

Keeping on trend with “Things About Music You Probably Haven’t Heard Of,” let me introduce you to the mystical and musical world of the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is exactly what its name implies: it’s a song competition. 

But “What’s so great about that?” I hear you ask. “Why watch this when there’s shows like ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Voice?’” 

Well, what’s most incredible about Eurovision is that it’s not only a competition between 40+ different musical acts, but it’s also country vs. country.

In a way, the show is just like the Olympics: countries from around the world (though mostly Europe, hence the name) send an original artist or band with a brand new, entirely original song to the country where the contest is being hosted that year. The artists perform and compete to put on a stunning, beautiful, outrageous or weird performance to win the hearts of the public and panel of official judges.

There are three stages of the competition: Semi-Final 1, Semi-Final 2 and the Grand Finale. Since there are so many participating countries, they are all separated into competing in either Final 1 or 2. On the night the artists perform, the ten best acts of the Semi-Finals will get to go on to the Grand Final, leaving those who couldn’t break the top ten to watch from the audience. 

The only countries exempt from this rule are Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK and France – these countries donate the most money to the competition and don’t have to compete until the night of the Grand Final. The host country also gets to pass to the Final automatically. The country that wins the competition traditionally hosts the competition the  next year. 

Once in the Grand Final, each country‘s contestant performs their song once more and a jury of judges from each participating country (including the non-qualifying countries since they still competed) give out sets of points ranging from 1-8, 10 and twelve, to their top ten favorite acts – not including their own country. 

After those points are given, the audiences watching in the arena and at home cast their televotes, which are tallied and given to their respective countries from lowest to highest. Whichever country has the most combined points is announced the winner.

Now that you know how the whole contest works, you might still be wondering how a contest that spans across all of Europe (and Australia!) goes so unnoticed in the United States. Well, I’m confused about that too, but that doesn’t change the fact that Eurovision has a very long and exciting history. 

The contest began all the way back in 1956, and has been held each year since. Many famous artists got their start from winning (or competing) in Eurovision. Celine Dion rose to fame when she won the contest in 1988 for Switzerland, Katrina and the Waves won for the UK in 1997, and even the legendary ABBA got their start at Eurovision in 1974 when they won for Sweden with their smash hit song “Waterloo.” So, while the contest may be relatively unknown in the United States, it certainly has a large cultural influence in other countries. Though the show might be called “Eurovision,” that doesn’t stop the contest from expanding globally. 

When Eurovision began, only several European countries competed. Over the years, however, the competition grew to include more of Europe, moving first to Eastern European countries, then further east to include Israel, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and eventually to Australia in 2015. 

Last year, a record 43 countries participated. Listing them all would take too much space, but the only countries that didn’t participate were Turkey, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Morocco, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Monaco and Slovakia. 

I hope this has interested you enough to get pumped for Eurovision! The next contest will be in Tel Aviv, Israel (after Israel’s victory in 2018) in late May. While that may seem like a long time from now, countries are already getting ready to find their acts for the upcoming 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. You won’t want to miss a single day of it!