While diligently watching television to improve my German skills - I saw it. A flash of international glitz and glamour, the biggest singing competition in the world is back. It's time for
What is a "Eurovision", you ask? That was exactly what I wondered when I first arrived in Europe and saw my first singing competition on steroids. The question is best answered by video clip...
Bewildered? Confused? Caught in a fit of hysterical laughter? That is how I felt after watching the show for the first time. The video clip above is billed as the "Funniest 10 Songs in Eurovision", but I often have trouble telling the best from the worst. Moldova's performance at about the 3 minute mark is still my go-to happy place whenever I am feeling down. A princess on the unicycle? Cone hats? The monocle!? I think the last time crazy looked this good was Devo's "Whip It" video.
Obviously, Eurovision is where good taste goes to die and is highly addictive TV. Let me try to put the wonder that is Eurovision into words.
The Eurovision Song Contest was brainstormed in the 1950s during a difficult time as Europe sought to repair itself after WWII. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) began the competition as a way to bring together the countries of Europe and establish a positive sense of national pride.
Director General of Swiss television and committee chairman, Marcel Bezençon, is responsible for the idea of an international song contest where singers would compete on behalf of their country. Based upon the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy, the project was incredibly ambitious in it's attempt to join the countries together in an international network. The name "Eurovision" was chosen after a British journalist, George Campey, used it in the London Evening Standard in 1951. It was decided that the first contest would take place in spring 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland.
On May 24, 1956 the first competition in this grand event was held. Just seven countries participated with each submitting two songs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first competition was won by the host nation, Switzerland.
Each country gets its chance to perform a song on live television and receive votes from member nations. Songs cannot be longer than three minutes, a maximum of six people are allowed on stage, and live animals are banned.
This year's performances will mark the 58th year of competition with more than 1,000 songs performed. It is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world and one of the most watched non-sporting events with an audience of around 125 million internationally. Since 2000, the contest has also been broadcast over the Internet with an additional 74,000 people in 140 countries watched online. People may laugh about the competition, but they will also be watching.
Watch the progression of the competition in this highlight reel of winners from 1956 to 2012.
Noticeable changes include the improvement in technology, showmanship, and the increasing number of countries that submit English language songs. Most winning songs have been performed in English with 24 winners. French is also popular (14 victories) with Dutch and Hebrew songs winning 3 times each.
And for all the silliness, Eurovision is serious business. Several artists have launched an international career after performing at Eurovision including ABBA, Céline Dion, and Julio Iglesias.
When: The grand final is on Saturday May 10th at 20:00 (UK Time).
(The first semi-finals take place on Tuesday May 6th; second semi-final will take place on Thursday May 8th.)
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark.
Who: Twenty six countries will compete in the Eurovision 2014 final.
When: Saturday, May 18th 2013 at 20:00 (UK time).
Where: Malmo, Sweden. Last year's winner, Loreen, won with "Euphoria" last year which earns her home country the right to host this year's Eurovision. Most people will be watching from the comfort of their own home as the show is broadcast worldwide.
Who: 39 countries are competing this year. UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy are automatically in the finals, with other countries competing in semi-finals to perform live on Saturday.
The number of contestants is down from last year as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Portugal, Turkey and Slovakia have all decided not to take part (although Armenia re-joined). Turkey cited changes to the rules as the reason for its withdrawal, while Bosnia & Herzegovina, Portugal and Slovakia are not participating because of the difficult economic climate. Hosting the competition is quite expensive with Sweden spending around $20 million to put on the show.
What: The songs to be performed and semi-finals placing can be found on the pre-chart of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. You can listen to the songs on the ECS playlist for 2013. Betting sites are currently placing the favorites at:
How to vote: After all the songs have been performed on Saturday, viewers in all 42 participating countries can vote for their favorite song(s) by phone call and/or sending an SMS (depending on their country. For example, the UK does not allow votes by text.) The numbers to call will be announced on TV, as well as the times in which to call. Up to 20 votes can be placed by each person, but you cannot vote for your own country. Each countries scores are tallied up to give 12 points to the most popular entry, 10 points to the second most popular, then 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points.
Professional juries in all 42 countries make up 50% of the votes. Just like the televoters, each jury in each country then gave 12 points to the most popular entry, 10 points to the second most popular, then 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points.
Spokespersons in all 42 countries read out the merged results at the end of voting. (Tip for first time watchers: this seemingly monotonous step can be quite entertaining.)
The country with the highest number of combined points, wins.
I can't wait for Saturday.
Denmark won the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 with Emmelie de Forrest's song "Tear Drops". Watch her erformance here:
Poor Ireland came in last with just five points. Ah well, someone needs to come in at the bottom. Overall, the performances and show ran seamlessly with a hosting duties performed by Petra Mede. Mede has been voted Sweden's best female comedian, is fluent in Swedish, English, Spanish and French, and doesn't mind poking a little fun at the host country.
Top 10 rankings:
If you missed the show, you can watch it here. What did you think of the performances? Agree with the results? What do you expect for next year's comeptition in Denmark?