Sprinkle in sequins and turn up the volume: The annual Eurovision Song Contest reaches its climax on Saturday with the grand final broadcast live from Liverpool, UK.
There will be engaging choirs, a kaleidoscope of costumes and tributes to the spirit of Ukraine in a competition that since 1956 has captured the continent’s changing zeitgeist.
Last year, 161 million people watched the competition, according to the organizer, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), making it one of the most watched events in the world.
Here’s what to expect from acts from across Europe – and beyond – vying for the continent’s pop crown.
Who is competing?
This year, 37 countries sent acts to Eurovision, chosen through national competitions or internal selections by broadcasters. The winner of the previous year’s event would normally host the competition, but with Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine still under way, this year the UK is doing the honors on behalf of the winner of the 2022 tournament, Ukraine.
Six countries automatically qualify for the final: last year’s winner and the five countries that contributed the most funding to the competition – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The others must perform in the semi-finals with the 20 acts chosen by public vote on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The qualifiers are: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.
The final will be played on Saturday at the Liverpool Arena.
Eurovision is not just about geography. Eurovision is very popular in Australia and the country was allowed to join the competition in 2015. Other participants from outside Europe include Israel and Azerbaijan.
Who is your favourite?
It’s hard to predict the winners of a competition whose past winners have ranged from ABBA to Finnish metal band Lordi, but bookmakers say Swedish singer Lorraine, who won in 2012, is the favorite with her powerful song Tattoo.
Finland’s Käärijä was a crowd favorite in the semifinals with his pop-metal tune Cha Cha Cha and Canadian singer La Zarra, competing for France, was also ranked highly for her Edith Piaf-styled song Évidemment.
And never underestimate left field entries like the Croatian Let 3, whose song is Mama ŠČ! It’s pure Eurovision camp: an anti-war rock opera that plays like Monty Python and meets Dr. Strangelove.
What happens in the final?
Around 6,000 people will attend the final, hosted by BBC Eurovision presenters Graham Norton and Ted Lasso, West End star Hannah Waddingham, British singer Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian rock star Julia Sanina.
Each competing act must sing live and adhere to a three-minute limit, but otherwise are free to create their own staging—the brighter the pyrotechnics and more elaborate choreography, the better.
Russia’s war in Ukraine will bring a solemn note to a contest that has become famous for celebrating vulgar pop music.
The show will open with a performance by last year’s winner, the Kalush Folk Orchestra, and singer Jamala, who won the competition in 2016, will perform as a tribute to her Crimean Tatar culture. Ukraine has won the competition three times since it began participating in 2003.
Among the people who will not appear is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He requested that the final be videotaped, but the European Union said such talk would breach the “non-political nature of the event”.
How is the winner determined?
After all acts have been performed, viewers in participating countries can vote via phone, text or app but are not allowed to vote for their country.
This year for the first time, viewers watching from non-participating countries could vote online, with the “rest of the world” votes collectively given the weight of one country.
National juries assign music industry professionals between one and 12 points for their favorite songs, with a broadcaster from each country appearing to announce that they have been awarded the coveted “dose points” (12 points).
The audience’s votes are combined with the jury’s votes to award each country one score. Having “null points” (zero points) is considered a national embarrassment. The UK has suffered this fate several times – most recently in 2021. It rebounded last year, however, when Sam Ryder came in second, and is hoping this year’s contestant, Mae Mueller, also puts in a strong performance.
Where can i watch?
Eurovision is shown by national broadcasters belonging to the EBU, including the BBC in the United Kingdom, and on the Eurovision YouTube channel. In the United States, it is shown on NBC’s Peacock Streaming Service.
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