A Guide to Eurovision 2024

A Croatian techno-rocker named Baby Lasagna strutting onto TV screens worldwide? It must be time for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Since 1956, Eurovision has been pitting countries against each other in a fierce battle of over-the-top pop music, outlandish costumes and go-for-broke stagings. Fans of minimalism should abstain, because at Eurovision, even a modest ballad can be performed with wind machines, fur-lined capes or musicians playing upside down in a gigantic hamster wheel.

The format is fairly simple: Each country chooses an act to represent it, and those acts perform live in two semifinals and one “grand final.” After the performances, the audience at home gets to vote and someone is crowned. The combined broadcasts are wildly popular: Last year, they reached 162 million people around the world.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s hotly tipped acts, advice on how to watch from the United States and why the event is being hosted in Sweden this year.

Baby Lasagna is one of 37 acts competing in this year’s edition, which is organized, as usual, by the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, or E.B.U. As the number of participating countries expanded over the decades, the E.B.U. set up two semifinals to winnow the field; the first took place on Tuesday, and the second happens Thursday.

The top 10 acts from each move on to the grand final, where they join the countries that automatically make the last round: the host country (this year, Sweden) and the so-called Big Five (Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), which are the largest contributors to the E.B.U.’s coffers.

For decades, it was difficult to watch the contest in the United States, and fans had to rely on ad hoc solutions. Fortunately, things have gotten much easier: After stints on Logo then Netflix, Peacock has been streaming Eurovision since 2021.

The winning country gets to host the event the following year, and so here we are in Malmo, on the coast of Sweden — which won for a record-tying seventh time last year, with “Tattoo” by the singer Loreen. (This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Sweden’s first victory, with ABBA’s “Waterloo.”)

Making pop music is pretty much Sweden’s national sport, and the country takes Eurovision very seriously. Every year, about a quarter of the population watches the TV competition that chooses Sweden’s act.

Yet despite its status as a pop mecca, this year Sweden chose twin brothers from Norway, Marcus and Martinus, to represent it. Worse, their song’s title, “Unforgettable,” is ripe for sarcastic jokes.

Israel has been participating in Eurovision since 1973 and is scheduled to do so again this year. (You don’t have to be a European country to enter, just be a dues-paying member of the E.B.U.)

In recent months, as the civilian death toll in Gaza has mounted, there have been growing calls for Israel to be banned from this year’s event. Countries have been banned from competing in the past: Russia was disqualified from the 2022 edition after its invasion of Ukraine. The E.B.U. then suspended Russia.

In January, more than a thousand Swedish artists, including Robyn and Fever Ray, signed a letter asking for Israel to be barred. A month later, another open letter, signed by 400 people from the entertainment industry including Helen Mirren, Liev Schreiber and Julianna Margulies, supported Israel’s participation.

Activists have also called on fans to boycott Eurovision this year over Israel’s participation; in response to those calls, last month a group of the artists competing — including Britain’s act, Olly Alexander — released a statement saying they “firmly believe in the unifying power of music.”

Every year the E.B.U. vets each competing song to ensure it complies with the contest’s rules banning songs that make political statements. This year, Israel’s entry, sung by Eden Golan, had to be edited and retitled: Once titled “October Rain,” it is now called “Hurricane.”

With protests expected at the competition, security at the event will be “rigorous,” the head of the Malmo police told local news media.

While the semifinals are decided by public voting, the grand final is decided by a combination of national juries and audience votes.

It used to be that only people living in a participating country could vote, but starting last year, viewers in a slew of nonparticipating countries, including the United States, have been able to take part as well, via the Eurovision app.

While all the votes are being tallied, the organizers fill the time as best they can, often with performances by memorable past Eurovision contestants. This is all followed by a protracted process in which every participating capital city calls in its votes. For hardcore Eurovision fans, even hours into the broadcast, this is must-see TV.

Unless you are from one of the participating countries, it’s unlikely you will.

In recent years, reality competitions have become a major pipeline to Eurovision. France’s entry, Slimane, for example, won that country’s version of “The Voice” in 2016; he’ll be bringing a Frenchy McFrench falsetto-laden ballad, “Mon Amour.”

This year, a big international draw is Olly Alexander, the former frontman of the band Years and Years, who’s making his solo debut on behalf of Britain with the dance floor stomper “Dizzy.” You might also know Alexander from his leading role in the Russell T Davies show “It’s a Sin.”

Last year, Finland was a runner-up with Kaarija’s brilliant “Cha Cha Cha,” and, unsurprisingly, a few 2024 entries feel somewhat similar: electro bangers, often with extravagant stagings. One is the aforementioned Baby Lasagna, who is among this year’s favorites with the infectious “Rim Tim Tagi Dim.

Other entries take a different route, including Angelina Mango and her Latin stomper “La Noia.” Another hotly touted entry is Switzerland’s Nemo, with a go-for-broke number, “The Code,” that mixes rap, jungle and opera. It doesn’t get more Eurovision than that.

Or maybe it does: Ukraine, a perennial Eurovision powerhouse, is keeping standards high with the duo Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil, whose “Teresa and Maria” might be the only earworm inspired by Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary.

Eurovision fans want great pop songs we can sing in the shower, but we also want the bananas stuff. One of the finest such entries this year is the fantastic electro-goth, so-called “Ouija pop” of Bambie Thug’s “Doomsday Blue,” from Ireland.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top