I was around 12 or 13 when I actually became aware of the magical world of Eurovision. Beating Narnia, Wonderland, and definitely old DisneyWorld, the Eurovision song contest constituted a brand new dimension of glitter, glamour, and mostly horrible music.
You will usually get two types of reactions to Eurovision: a truly painful groan of despair from a moody sod who wants to feel no joy or a gleeful yelp of excitement from someone like you or me.
You might have guessed how devastated I was last year when, among the sad news of millions of deaths and an ever-threatening new virus, came the story that Eurovision 2020 would not happen.
In fact, it did sort of happen, right under our noses. Perhaps like me, you were too busy worrying about the state of the world to realise, but Eurovision did not give up that easily. Instead, they transformed their worldwide platform into an opportunity to celebrate music from around the world.
Instead of taking place in Rotterdam, following the well-earned victory of Duncan Lawrence’s song ‘Arcade’, Eurovision 2020 became Eurovision Song Celebration 2020.
The participating countries got to record and present the songs that were originally submitted for the competition. No voting took place, just the pure enjoyment of songs (some better than others), and a chance to celebrate union and support for those most gravely affected by Covid-19.
Naturally, Italy’s performance was especially shiver-inducing, with the singer Diodato’s presentation of ‘Fai Rumore’, in the deserted Arena di Verona, as Italy faced its worst point during the first wave of the pandemic.
As I was unaware of this transformed Eurovision at the time, I relished in Netflix’s parody of the European song contest, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
The film, which was released on the 26th of June, despite clearly taking the piss, represents the best of Eurovision: a strange but genuine love for music, comradeship, international co-operation and a healthy dose of glitz, glam, and ferocious competition.
Watching Will Ferrell and Rachael McAdams belt out ‘My Home Town’ had me in a whirlwind of nostalgia and longing for the next annual dose of Eurovision. Well, the wait is over and the kitsch is officially upon us!
The national competitions are already well underway, selecting their finalists for the semi-finals on the 18th and 20th of May, with the grand finale taking place on the 22nd.
Naturally, organising a competition as large as Eurovision in the times of Covid-19 presents numerous challenges. According to their press release, the Eurovision committee has prepared three different scenarios in which the contest might take place, depending on safety restrictions.
Some of the safety measures include social-distancing, COVID testing, and even live streaming for artists who cannot physically make it to Rotterdam. Whether or not there will be an audience remains uncertain, and if there is, it has been limited to 2020 ticket holders who did not get the chance to attend. Although this is a best case scenario, we have been promised Eurovision one way or another, and the UK already has their contestant geared to go!
After winning the national selection in 2020, James Newman has been re-selected to represent the UK in 2021. Thankfully, Brexit has not meant a painful separation between the UK and the long-standing song contest.
Eurovision is not really about the extravagant dance routines, the suspicious voting system (based more on political and economic alliances than on quality), or the overall bad taste of half the performances. Eurovision has always been a celebration of fun, music, and what it is to be European.
Despite the recent additions of Australia and Israel that confused some die-hard fans a few years back, Eurovision has remained a symbol of European tradition, co-operation and, let’s face it, a good dose of banter.
While watching the show every year, my absolute favourite thing is to scroll through Twitter and read the myriad of funny comments, mixed with the complete and utter bewilderment of Americans, who somehow seem to fail, every year, to understand what the hell Eurovision actually is?!
We need some more of this guilt-free fun. More secretly saving your favourite songs on to your iPhone; more creating elaborate pointing systems based on how cringe-worthy the performances are; more drinking games with Graham Norton’s hilarious commentary; more palpitating heartbeats as your sweaty palms clasp together, waiting to hear the name of the winner.
While we don’t know quite what it will look like this year, on our screens or in our homes, we are one step closer to jumping up and down in an internationally-packed arena or scribbling down our scores over trays of multicultural foods and multicoloured drinks at our local Eurovision party.