Most people outside the Eurozone know Eurovision from Will Ferrell’s 2020 hit comedy Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga. However, only some know it is an annual, spectacular mashup of Miss Universe and the Got Talent franchise. The Eurovision Song Contest is a cultural force in the region and has led to some pretty big legacies—it’s these names that will make the contest a lot more familiar to you.
It was the launchpad of Celine Dion’s international singing career (1988) and Abba’s song Waterloo (1974).
And remember those headlines about Conchita Wurst, the bearded singer with Dyson-ad curls? Yup, that was Eurovision.
So, if the topic of this blog post seemed unfamiliar to you at first glance, you might be surprised at the significance of this contest. Whoever you are and wherever you’re from, there’s much more to Eurovision to discover and appreciate. (Seriously, the Aussies love it!)
History of the Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest was a pioneering production in the mid-1950s—one of the first broadcasts made for multiple countries, beating the Olympics by eight years! But why did it start? Some say that a divided Europe needed something to rally around after WW2. Most European countries began establishing television services then, and the Eurovision Network needed affordable production and exchange of television programs. They found their muse in Italian broadcasts of the ‘Sanremo Italian Song Festival’ and the ‘Venice International Song Festival’ and officially established the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956.
Initially, participating artists happily complied with the contest rules: to sing in their home tongue. But, as the booming rock revolution began rollin’ in from the other side of the Atlantic, contestants imagined a more universal (English) song would resonate with juries. Thus, the fine art of the gibberish English hook was born! It is to this cultural moment that we owe a debt of gratitude for masterpieces like “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, ”Boom Bang A Bang” and “La La La”.
Last year, however, things came full circle in triumphant patriotic display. Kalush Orchestra triumphed with the Ukrainian song ‘Stefania’ featuring traditional woodwind instruments, giving the country a popular wartime social media soundtrack. Although Ukraine won the right to host the following contest, Liverpool will host it in 2023 due to continued war.
How It Works
First, each country votes for which song will represent them at Eurovision. How this happens differs from country to country. Then things get a bit more complicated. Some countries automatically qualify for the final. These include the host country and the “Big Five” financial backers, which include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.
The remaining participants battle out in one of two semifinals. The ten countries with the most votes in each semifinal move on to the finals. Here, all 26 countries perform for three minutes, and the entire continent votes alongside professional juries for each country. National “ambassadors” then read out who each country gave their votes to, and their top 10 receive points in amounts descending from 12 points to 1. Jury points differ in that they award 10 points to their top performer.
Winners earn their country hosting privileges the following year, and of course, a shiny trophy.
Fun Fact – Europe has 44 countries, but the EBU has broadcast stations from 56 countries, including Australia, Azerbaijan, and Israel. These nations join in the fun.
Oh, the Performances!
Expect things to get a bit nuts, from dancing Russian grandmas with skin that is real to Finnish monster bands with skin that is not. Anything goes, as long as it’s highly entertaining and not political. Bonus points go to soulful camera stares and unknown heritage instruments spelled with a series of umlauts. Take a look at some of the most incredible talents below.
Eurovision Soundalike Music
The Eurovision Song Contest heavily features rock and Europop. But what is Europop? It is a form of popular music for general European listening. The genre’s big hits are built around distinct regional roots, and these tracks usually find new audiences by crossing dance floors from nation to nation. They lack the jazz and blues foundation heard in the U.S., giving the genre a distinctive quality. Curious to hear more? Listen to our collection packed with royalty-free Eurovision soundalike music here.
Are you ready for more? Check out our Editorial partners, including AssociatedNews and Reuters, for editorial and archival content from previous years! It’s just another reminder that Pond5 offers the world’s most extensive editorial and archival footage selection. You can also visit Pond5 Playlist for an even deeper dive into the spectacle.