Etta Titus, Reporter

“…The most modern live TV entertainment spectacle in the world” (official Eurovision website). Almost every country in Europe participates in this annual contest called the Eurovision Song Contest. The first Eurovision contest was held on May 24, 1956, with only seven countries participating. The contest was based on Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival and has grown into a “true pan-European tradition”. Marcel Bezençon is the founder of the Eurovision Song Contest. In more recent years, the competition has been opened to countries in Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas.

Originally, the contest made it obvious that they wanted contestants to write and sing a song in their country’s native language. However, as the Swedish entry in 1965, “Absent Friend”, was sung in English, the EBU set very strict rules on the language in which the songs could be performed. In 1973 the rules became more lenient and allowed songs to be sung in other languages; the artists didn’t have to write or sing the songs in their country’s native language. This eventually led to the Swedish group, ABBA’s win in 1974, with the song “Waterloo”. However, in 1977, the rules were switched back to native languages, only for it to be changed back to any language permanently in 1999.

Throughout the years, the voting system for the contest has changed. The most modern voting system has been in place since 1975. According to the official Eurovision website, “Voters award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries- with the favorite being awarded the now-famous douze points”. In 1997, five countries tried televoting to give members of the public a chance to vote for who they wanted to win. Originally a jury would vote, but now more and more countries are joining the bandwagon of using televoting to determine who they give their points to. From 1998 and on, all countries are encouraged to use televoting whenever possible. Nowadays many members of the public use SMS (short message service) to vote. However, countries may not vote for their own song.

In the early 1990s, there was a sudden increase in the number of contestants due to the end of the Cold War since the tension between countries was lessened after the Cold War. More and more countries were joining every year, so in 2004, Semi-finals were added, which turned into two semi-finals for the contest in 2008. Now all countries except the “Big Five” -France, the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain- along with the host country, must finish in the semi-final top 10 to qualify for the final.

Over the years, there have been 1,500 songs that have been in the Eurovision contests. Not only are the songs that are entered spectacular, but the performances are quite entertaining. Some of the most memorable performances over the years (according to heat radio) are “Flying the Flag” by Scooch (2007), “Waterloo” by Abba (1974), “Euphoria” by Loreen (2012), “Kisses for Me” by Brotherhood of Man (1976), “Hard Rock Hallelujah” by Lordi (2006), “Ne Partez Pan Sans Moi” by Celene Dion (1988), “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” by Verka Serduchka (2007), “Lipstick” by Jedward (2011), “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz (1981), and “Rise Like a Phoenix” by Conchita Wurst (2014).

Not only are the winners of the contest talented. The second-place performers are also winners in the audience’s hearts. They get to go home knowing that they were the second-best performance. Some of the second-place performances of the few past years are “Soldi” by Mahmood (2019), “Fuego” by Eleni Foureira (2018), “Beautiful Mess” by Kristian Kostov (2017), “Sound of Silence” by Dami Im (2016), “A Million Voices” by Polina Gagarina (2015), “Calm After the Storm” by The Common Linnets (2014), and more.

The Eurovision Song Contest passed its 60th anniversary in 2015 and is coming up on its 70th. Some contestants stand out more than others. They might have participated in Eurovision a significant amount of times, or even won Eurovision multiple times, too. Ralph Siegel was a true Eurovision addict. He was a German songwriter and composer who participated in Eurovision over 20 times. He won only once, in 1982. Johnny Logan won Eurovision 3 times. Twice from his own performances and once from writing Linda Martin’s “Why Me” (1992).

The Eurovision Song Contest is so influential that Netflix (a streaming service) made a movie about a pair competing in the Eurovision Contest. Starring Will Ferrel and Rachel McAdams, featuring the voice of My Marianne, the movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” follows the group Fire Saga and their journey in the Eurovision song contest. They’re a band who represent Iceland in the Eurovision song contest. “Two small-town singers chase their pop star dreams at a global music competition, where scheming rivals, high stakes and on stage mishaps test their bond.” (Film Synopsis). The film was originally intended to coincide with the 2020 Eurovision song contest. Unfortunately, the Eurovision 2020 song contest was canceled due to covid-19. Eurovision 2020 was the first time in 64 years that the Eurovision song contest had to be canceled.

Although Eurovision 2020 was canceled, fans are still looking forward to 2021’s contest, being held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Another contest, Junior Eurovision (2020), still went on remotely, being hosted in Warsaw, Poland. Junior Eurovision is for minors (anyone under 18) all around Europe to participate in. 2020’s winner was Valentina from France, with her song, J’imagine. The show was aired on television throughout Europe but streamed on YouTube for those outside of Europe, or other countries participating. 

To see any current schedules or events about Eurovision, such as contestants, their songs, and the location at which the contest should be held that year, you can check the contest’s official website. The website is constantly updated with new information about both the Eurovision and Junior Eurovision song contests. The Eurovision contest is and will continue to be one of the most influential and longest-running television programs in the world.