Eurovision 2021: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

Eurovision is back! After last year’s Song Contest was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rotterdam was given another chance to host the show this year. It’s already been a dramatic week so it’s hard to contain my excitement about Saturday’s big show!

If you’re an American who is just picking up the Eurovision habit, you may have some questions. And I’m here to answer them!

Who Are the Contenders?

Before rehearsals started on May 9, the betting odds were dominated by France, Malta, and Switzerland. France’s Barbara Pravi is singing “Voilà,” a classic chanson performance highlighted by her natural charisma and intensity.

Malta is represented by Destiny, who won Junior Eurovision in 2015 with the song “Not My Soul.” Her 2021 song “Je Ma Casse” shows her maturation as an artist and her flawless vocal chops.

Switzerland’s Gjon’s Tears brings a soaring, gorgeous voice and so much existentialism to “Tout l’univers” that Albert Camus would be jealous. Add some impressionist dance moves, and you get a striking and unique performance.

Since rehearsals began, however, Italy overtook everyone to become the odds leader. Måneskin are a 1970s glam-style rock band with killer chops and an exquisite fashion sense. How well a straightforward rock song will do at a pop competition remains to be seen, but this year might be Italy’s best chance to finally capture that elusive third Eurovision trophy.

Any Dark Horses?

So many dark horses!

  • Iceland’s Daði and Gagnamagnið bring DIY charm, slick harmonies, and 8-bit graphics to their geeky pop love song “10 Years.”
  • Ukraine’s Go_A is an electronica band heavily influenced by traditional folk songs. “Shum” sounds like nothing else at this year’s Song Contest, and lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko will peer into your soul with more intensity than Tilda Swinton in a one-woman play called Tilda Swinton Peers Into Your Soul.
  • The Roop from Lithuania have a fab dance single called “Discoteque” that’s accentuated by the greatest use of the Vulcan salute since Leonard Nimoy invented it.
  • Elena Tsagrinou is a Greek pop diva representing Cyprus, and she gives a fiery performance of her song “El Diablo.” Even though Cyprus’ Orthodox Church wishes she wouldn’t.
  • Victoria from Bulgaria tackles anxiety, depression, and the pandemic head on with “Growing Up Is Getting Old.” It’s a gorgeous ballad out to pluck on your heartstrings.
  • Senhit has finally figured out something that San Marino has been missing throughout its history of Eurovision participation: send a good song and you’ll get more attention than you would by just reinventing disco yet again. But add a cameo from a famous American rapper just in case.

How Has COVID-19 Affected This Year’s Song Contest?

Because of Australia’s pandemic-related travel restrictions, their representative Montaigne was unable to fly to The Netherlands for the show. She recorded a live-on-tape performance that was shown during Semifinal One, but she unfortunately did not qualify for the Final.

In an even more heartbreaking story, Jóhann Sigurður from Daði Freyr’s band Gagnamagnið tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, prompting the group to withdraw from performing the rest of the week. Their rehearsal footage was used in Thursday’s Semifinal and will be used in the Final as well.

The reigning champion Duncan Laurence, whose “Arcade” became a worldwide hit this year thanks to TikTok, was meant to open the Grand Final. However, he contracted COVID-19 as well. If Iceland wins, I’m looking forward to Duncan handing over the title to Daði and Gagnamagnið via Zoom.

How Twee Is Germany’s Entry?

So sehr twee.

Will I, an American Who Is New to Eurovision, Recognize Anyone?

American pop hip hop star Flo Rida has teamed up with Senhit on “Adrenalina.” Before this year, famous American performers at Eurovision were interval acts, but Flo Rida is actually competing. Now’s a good time for mainstream America to jump on the San Marino bandwagon!

Meanwhile, Belgium is represented by legendary trip-hop band Hooverphonic, best known for their songs “2wicky” and “Mad About You.”

If you’re an avid YouTube fan, you’re sure to recognize cohost Nikkie “NikkieTutorials” De Jager. She’s the one who famously described her experience of appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as being on “Teletubbies after dark.”

Is Eurovision Finally Getting Diverse?

It’s making progress, although the Song Contest still has a long way to go since the first, and to date, only Black singer won Eurovision twenty years ago. Six countries have been represented by Black performers this year, and five of them will participate on Saturday. Destiny from Malta, Eden Alene from Israel, Tusse from Sweden, and Senhit and Flo Rida from San Marino all qualified out of the Semifinals. Only poor Benny Cristo from Czech Republic did not make it to the Final.

Jeangu Macrooy was given the honor of representing The Netherlands as host nation. Originally from Suriname, Jeangu uses his song “Birth of a New Age” to tackle Dutch colonialism head on. It could easily be about the United Kingdom, Spain, or Portugal, and it could even be about the United States as well. But as depressing and infuriating as the weight of history can be, Jeangu’s song radiates with hope and strength.

There were also two performers of Filipino heritage at this year’s Song Contest. Sadly, neither Montaigne from Australia or Vincent Bueno from Austria made it out of the Semifinals.

Could France’s Entry Be More French?

Mais non.

Has Russia Come to Smash the Patriarchy?

Surprisingly enough, yes! Manizha is a Tajikistan-born pop singer who  campaigns for equal rights for women, refugees, and the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community in Russia. How on earth she was selected to participate in her country’s national final while Vladimir Putin is still in charge is anyone’s guess. Her performance is more about reforming Russia’s attitudes than it is about Eurovision glory, but she could have her cake and eat it too.

Could It Be… SATAN?

Norway’s song is called “Fallen Angel” and singer Tix performs it while wearing angel wings and surrounded by backing dancers dressed as demons.

Not to be outdone, Cyprus offers up “El Diablo.” While Elena Tsagrinou largely avoids evoking the devil, she does have some underworldly dancers flexing around her. This almost makes you forget that the song lyrics describe sex as putting a tamale into a taco and slathering it in sriracha.

Who Has Brought the Brass?

Malta’s “Je Ma Casse” is arranged as an electro-swing song, which means it is chock full of horn samples. However, the United Kingdom one ups their favorite island vacation destination by not only filling the orchestration for “Embers” with lots of brass instruments, but by having giant trumpets hanging above singer James Newman in the staging.

How Many Times Have You Listened to Måneskin’s “Zitti e buoni”

My conservative estimate is over 100 times. At least once a day since it won Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival, plus I play it in the car a lot while running errands. I really like it.

How Can I Watch Eurovision In the United States?

NBC has picked up the rights to show Eurovision on its Peacock network, which makes sense since they have also picked up the rights for the upcoming American Song Contest. The ultimate battle between American states will debut in 2022, and I suspect the nation will dissolve after Texas wins and the North secedes. While we wait for the end of the American era, enjoy this year’s Eurovision Song Contest at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific on Saturday, May 21, 2021.

Eurovision 2019: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

It’s time once again for the Eurovision Song Contest! For some reason, Madonna is going perform her new song during the show. But more importantly than that, Verka Serduchka and Conchita Wurst are back as part of an interval act!

But enough about drag icons, let’s answer your questions about this year’s competitors.

Who Are the Contenders?

Duncan Laurence of The Netherlands has led the odds ever since he released his song “Arcade.” It has a striking video that also features a lovely view of his bare tush. But the song is good too!

After the Dutch entry, the betting has been all over the place. Nine other countries have been second-favorite with the bookies over the past couple of months. The spot is currently occupied by Australia. Kate Miller-Heidke has brought a opera-inflected pop song and a spectacular staging that could overshadow The Netherlands’ more straightforward presentation.

Other countries who are in with a shot include France, who have gotten a lot of attention for their androgynous teen star Bilal Hassani. He tackles bullying and acceptance head-on in his song “Roi.”

Mahmood from Italy tells a personal story about his relationship with his father in the hip hop-infused “Soldi.” It’s our personal favorite at this year’s Song Contest.

Sweden’s John Lundvik offers up a ton of charisma with the gospel-tinged “Too Late for Love.” Fun fact: John also co-wrote this year’s United Kingdom entry “Bigger Than Us.”

Sergey Lazarev has returned to represent Russia with another high concept staging involving glass cases of emotion. He also has a song, too, but really it’s about the glass cases of emotion.

Switzerland, of all countries, has gotten a lot of attention so far for Luca Hänni’s “She Got Me,” which is essentially the bro version of last year’s sensation “Fuego.”

Then there is Iceland. There has never been an act like Hatari at Eurovision before. Even Lordi would look at the Icelandic BDSM theatrical anti-capitalist techno-punk band and say, ‘Whoa, that’s out there.” Their song “Hatrið Mun Sigra” (“Hatred Will Prevail”) is gritty, grimy, and catchy as hell. They’ve also been very critical of Israel’s handling of Gaza and the West Bank and keep talking about having a crush on Teresa May, so the possibility of them winning must be giving the European Broadcasting Union fits.

Did Spain Bring a Giant Puppet?

Yes.

Who Are the Teenaged Girls with Pop Bangers?

18-year-old Michela Pace opens the show on Saturday. She won Malta‘s version of The X Factor to book her ticket to Tel Aviv. The slinky, bouncy “Chameleon” is a fresh and fun song, and the staging plays off the title at every opportunity.

The youngest competitor is 16-year-old ZENA. She co-hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest when it was held in her native Belarus last year. Her song “Like It” is, well, likable!

Did Denmark Send a Figure Skater to Sing a Song About Peace and Love?

Of course they did.

WE WANT DIVAS!

That’s not a question, but we will answer you anyway. There is a lot of vocal firepower on offer this Saturday. North Macedonia shows off its new name with their first Final since 2012. The song “Proud” may be a bit old-fashioned, but Tamara Todevska brings a lot of drama and grace to it.

Greece chose Katerine Duska as their artist, and she has a gorgeous, rich vocal tone that elevates her song “Better Love.” She would probably be a dark horse contender for the title if Greece’s staging wasn’t so cluttered.

Jonida Maliqi represents Albania with a song about Albanians displaced by the war in Kosovo. It’s a dark song with a dark staging, but Jonida gives it plenty of life.

Returning artist Nevena Božović represents Serbia with the only Balkan-style ballad on offer this year. She single-handedly makes “Kruna” compelling.

Did Norway Bring the Joik-Pop?

Norway most definitely brought the joik-pop. And spirit animals.

Can You Express Your Love for Czech Republic?

You bet we can! Lake Malawi are performing “Friend of a Friend,” a spritely little slice of 80s-era sophisti-pop gussied up with modern tech tropes. They bring charm, rock-concert star power, and a fake British accent to the proceedings and we are thankful for it! How can you not adore a band who has a LinkedIn page? They may not be contenders, but they have won our hearts.

How In the Hell Did San Marino Make It to the Final?

Because there is something inherently wonderful about a former dentist who longs to be a disco crooner and made just enough money hosting the Turkish version of Jeopardy! to make his dreams come true.

Eurovision 2018: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

The Eurovision Song Contest is being held this Saturday in Lisbon’s Altice Arena. It is the first time Portugal has hosted Eurovision and their theme is “All Aboard,” a nod to their maritime history. Expect a lot of seafaring-based puns from the four hosts and cute guys in sailor outfits.

Here is what else to look for at this year’s Song Contest.

Who Are the Contenders?

The hot favorite coming into Lisbon has been Israel. Netta Barzilai created a splash with her song “Toy,” an empowering anthem that is both defiant and playful. Netta is a unique artist hampered only by the fact that the EBU wouldn’t let her use her trademark looper in her staging.

Since the rehearsal period began almost two weeks ago, the attention has shifted to Cyprus. Eleni Foureira is a Greek pop star who has gone for a seductive staging of her song “Fuego.” A viral video of her reply to a question about what her song means has added to her buzz.

Norway have brought back 2009 Song Contest winner Alexander Rybak. “That’s How You Write a Song” is aided by cute CGI graphics and his overall sense of professionalism. The man is still quite the entertainer.

Then there is France. They are represented by the duo Madame Monsieur, whose song “Mercy” tells the story of a baby of born to a refugee on a boat to Sicily. Expect the crowd in the hall to help Madame Monsieur lift their staging further.

Some dark horses to look out for: Sweden, with their usual flair for radio-friendly pop and innovative staging; Moldova, with a brilliant set piece; and Czech Republic, with an American-style pop banger.

Other countries generating excitement are Italy, who have an intense song about staying defiant in the face of terrorism; Germany, whose Michael Schulte brings an emotional Ed Sheeran-style song about the loss of his father; Australia, with an effervescent slice of pop positivity by Aussie megastar Jessica Mauboy; Austria, who have a bad draw but have been racking up iTunes downloads after their Semifinal performance; and Lithuania, whose love song would be syrupy if singer Ieva Zasimauskaitė didn’t sing it so darned well.

There has even been talk about Ireland, who have a lovely staging for Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s gentle pop ballad. Their prospects have skyrocketed in the last 24 hours due to their late draw in the running order.

In other words: no one has any idea whatsoever who is going to win.

No LED Screens? No Problem!

RTP, Portugal’s national broadcaster, did not install a giant LED screen this year. That has left the participants looking for different ways to add oomph to their staging.

On the prop front, Ukraine has the best use of a piano since Dima Bilan hid a ballerina in one back in 2006. United KingdomAustralia, and Sweden have gone the Dan Flavin route with various florescent light sculptures. Estonia has a giant projection dress. Moldova has something that needs to be seen to be appreciated, but no spoilers here. Finland seemingly has every stage prop they could get their hands on.

Some acts, including Norway, Italy, and Cyprus, are using onscreen CGI graphics to enhance their performances. Then there’s Germany, who just brought their own LED screen. Cheeky.

Who Ended Up In the Hospital?

Mikolas Joseph from Czech Republic did! The poor guy hurt himself in the very first rehearsal and ended up visiting three different hospitals to deal with his injury. He held back his choreography a bit in Semifinal One, but he hopes to go all out in the Final.

Wait, Someone Is Missing…

Azerbaijan, Romania, and Russia all missed out on the Final this year. It’s the first time any of them have missed the Final in years they’ve competed in a Semifinal. Ukraine and Australia are the only two countries left with a perfect qualification record. (According to us. Apparently, your Eurovision record-keeping may vary!)

Who’s Back In the Final?

Ireland qualified for the Final for the first time in five years, while Finland is back after a three-year absence. Estonia, Albania and Slovenia return after two years, and Lithuania and Czech Republic return after missing out last year.

Who Will Rock?

Albania have a classic rock singer with a big, big voice. Netherlands have a country rock song that wouldn’t sound out of place on American country radio. Hungary have a proper metal band who make full use of the pyro system. They are not every diehard Eurovision fans’ cup of tea.

Does Denmark Have Vikings?

Yes.

How Do I Watch In the United States?
The U.S., Canada, and some other Western hemisphere countries are still geoblocked from watching the show on the official Eurovision YouTube channel. Some national broadcasters, including Germany and Sweden, make their feeds available without restriction.

For those of us who pay a lot for our cable packages, Logo will be broadcasting the Song Contest with commentary from Ross Matthews and Shangela. Can Logo break the 100,000 viewer mark this year? Let’s find out. Halleloo!

UPDATED 05/11/2018: This post was updated to add Estonia to the list of countries back in the Final after two years and to get the facts straight about Austria. See comments below.

Eurovision 2017: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

The Eurovision Song Contest is being held this Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Their theme is “Celebrate Diversity,” which is somewhat ironic considering the geoblocking in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil, and the three white male hosts.

No matter. Here’s our guide of the big Eurovision story lines this year, and who to watch for in the contest.

Russia’s Withdrawal
The lead up to the contest has had plenty of political controversy. Ukrainian officials alleged that Russia’s selected entrant, Yulia Samoylova, had illegally traveled to Crimea in 2015 after Russia’s annexation. In response, Ukraine issued a 3-year travel ban against Samoylova. It was widely speculated that Russia was fully aware of the conflict that would result from her selection, and Russia’s choice of Samoylova (who uses a wheelchair due to a childhood medical condition that robbed her of her ability to walk) was a cynical, deliberate attempt to provoke Ukraine. The EBU ultimately weighed in, saying that while it encouraged the participation of all countries, it respected the local laws of the host country. Russia subsequently announced it was withdrawing from the contest this year. Yulia Samoylova, incidentally, performed again in Crimea on May 9, the day of the first Eurovision Semifinal.

Russia’s absence from the contest this year has opened up a potential power vacuum. Russia can generally be relied upon to get votes from many former Soviet bloc countries because of the large number of ethnic Russians there and shared pop culture. One thing we will be watching for on Saturday is how those points are distributed. Do other Eastern European counties (e.g., Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus) benefit? Or, will the those votes simply be distributed to the songs each country likes the best?

Who’s in the Mix to Win?
All eyes are on Italy. Almost immediately after winning Italy’s prestigious Sanremo festival, Francesco Gabbani’s “Occidentalis Karma” became the odds leader, and he has stayed there ever since. As of the time of writing, the official video has amassed over 110 million views on Youtube (10 times more than anyone else in the competition). The question wasn’t whether Italy would win, but by how much.

And then, Tuesday’s Semifinal included a preview clip of Italy, part of a standard effort to showcase 3 of the Big 6 who have automatic entries into the Final. The full live Eurovision performance is available to watch on YouTube. Gabbani’s performance was unfocused and sloppy, leaving some to wonder if the frontrunner is going to choke. Though the horserace has gotten more interesting this week, he remains the favorite.

If not Italy, then who?
Portugal, that’s who. Yeah, that’s right, Portugal. The country with the longest Eurovision drought in history, who in 48 previous appearances has never won, is in with a shot this year. “Amar pelos dois” is a gentle cabaret ballad that sounds like a recent discovery from the Great American Songbook. But Salvatore Sobral’s unique stage presence completely draws you in. Look for a lot of jury love here, as well as a potential groundswell of public support for the underdog.

Bulgaria is also in the conversation. “Beautiful Mess” is a modern pop ballad with an attractive staging that features on-screen animation. Though only 17 years old, singer Kristian Kostov is a mature, poised performer, and he delivered a very strong performance in Semifinal 2. Unlike the other two contenders, which are going 9th and 11th, respectively, Bulgaria drew the second half of the final and is slated to go 25th out of 26 songs.

Other countries in the mix to place very well on the night are Sweden, which has a prime second half draw and a clever staging involving treadmills; Armenia, with a fab song, a fab staging, and a fab diva; Hungary, with a Roma-inspired pop song; and Belgium, who struggled in rehearsals but has a song with undeniable commercial appeal.

What about the cheese?
Oh, there’s cheese. 2017 is a vintage year for cheese. Sunstroke Project from Moldova is back this year. They initially rose to fame at Eurovision 2010, when Epic Sax Guy became a global meme. The members of Sunstroke Project are eager to recapture their moment in the sun, and yet, they’re also relaxed and clearly enjoying their experience this time around. “Hey Mamma” is wildly fun and, yes, gives us more epic sax.

Romania’s song is called “Yodel It!” As you might expect, there is yodeling. As you might not expect, there are glitter cannons.

The Master of Rennet, however, is Jacques Houdek from Croatia. “My Friend” is 2017’s answer to Cezar’s “It’s My Life.” Only more so. Prepare yourself.

And in case you think it is all going to be camera tricks, fire curtains, and giant images of the artist on video projection, rest assured we still get some stage props. Keep an eye out for Austria’s moon, Ukraine’s big head, and U.K.’s mirrored fan. As if you could miss them.

How to Watch in the United States
For those of us with access to extensive cable packages, Logo will be broadcasting the Contest with commentary from Michele Visage and Ross Matthews. Though the announcement came late, Logo has been publicizing it over the last two weeks. Let’s see if more than 52,000 Americans tune in this year!

Those of us in North America without access to Logo have been stymied by geoblocking thanks to the deal the EBU signed with Viacom. At least the good people of Sweden and Germany are there to help us out. If you run into problems at Eurovision.tv, try catching the broadcast at svt.se or eurovision.de.

Updated 5/12/2017: Since we posted this primer, Portugal has overtaken Italy as the odds leader. Looks like a lot of people are putting money down on Salvador. It looks like game on!

Eurovision 2015: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

We are hosting our annual Eurovision party this weekend! For our guests and for anyone else engaging with the Contest in time for the Grand Final, here are our notes to get up to speed on this year’s competition.

Vienna is hosting Eurovision on the heels of Conchita Wurst’s victory last year. Conchita is our green room host this year and frankly, we’re wondering why she isn’t hosting the whole damned thing. Expect some delightful bon mots from the world’s reigning drag superstar.

The big story coming into this year’s Eurovision is that in honor of the Song Contest’s 60th anniversary, Australia has been given a one-time chance to participate. Australia took their opportunity seriously and picked one of their biggest pop stars, Guy Sebastian, as their representative. His song for Europe, “Tonight Again,” is cheeky fun and has kept Australia one of the odds leaders even after the novelty of their participation wore off.

The bookies’ (and our) top tip to win the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest is Måns Zelmerlöw of Sweden. His song “Heroes” is a David Guetta/Avicii-influenced pop song. It goes into the Song Contest with momentum thanks to a groundbreaking animated staging that wowed fans and juries alike during the Swedish national final. Seriously, it’s really cool.

Sweden’s closest rival appears to be Italy. They are represented by Il Volo, a youthful pop-opera trio who are more known internationally than in their home country. Their song “Grande Amore” is strongly aligned with their brand and seems custom fit for their next PBS pledge drive special.

Rounding out the other favorites, Russia has sent “A Million Voices,” a well-executed example of their standard plea for peace, love and understanding. Singer Polina Gagarina has been so good thus far that she was hardly booed after she sang in the Semis.

Meanwhile, Estonia has sent an atmospheric retro number evocative of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s duets. We’re not big fans of the song, but we have to say it is helped greatly by a gorgeous, heartbreaking staging.

We’ve always said that as more countries enter Eurovision, the harder it is for anyone to get the dreaded nul point at the end of the evening. The United Kingdom has decided to challenge that theory this year. Their song is in the genre of electro swing, which the UK delegation heard was popular with the kids.

Other story lines:

  • Romania’s entry Voltaj is performing the song “De la capăt” (“All Over Again”), which highlights the plight of Eastern European children who are left behind when their parents go to Western Europe for work.
  • Monika Kuszyńska of Poland was the singer for the band Varius Manx when she was paralyzed in a car accident. Her song “In the Name of Love” tries to tow the line between being autobiographical and universal.
  • Armenia caused a bit of a ruckus with their song “Face the Shadow.” It was originally called “Don’t Deny” and is a not-too-veiled statement about the Armenian Genocide. They changed the title before the Song Contest to avoid political backlash.
  • Latvia and Belgium are vying for the title “Song That’s Too Cool for Eurovision.”
  • The most interesting pre-selection story this year came out of Germany. Ann Sophie finished second in the German national selection show, but the winner Andreas Kümmert declined to represent Germany on live television immediately after he won.
  • Be prepared for a lot of ballads, particularly in the second half. Also, be on the lookout for trees and warrior princesses.

Eurovision 2014: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

Every year we host a Eurovision viewing party with a dedicated group of friends, and we got a request for a Cliff Notes summary about this year’s Contest to get everyone prepared to watch the Grand Final.

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest is shaping up to be a wide-open competition. Going into tomorrow’s Final, there really isn’t a clear front runner. Armenia spent most of the weeks leading into the Contest as the bookies’ odds leader, and Aram Mp3’s “You’re Not Alone” is still a strong contender. There are two knocks on his chances: One, the song has an unconventional structure that is entirely dependent on how well Aram sells it, and he didn’t quite land it in the first Semifinal. Two, he will be performing 7th on the night, and it is a hard ask to win a 26-song Grand Prix from early in the running order.

The other odds leader coming into this week is Sweden. They are being represented by Sanna Nielsen and the ballad “Undo.” This outing was Sanna’s 7th attempt to represent her country at the Eurovision Song Contest. The song has been a fan favorite in polls leading up to this year’s shows, and her strong performance in the Semis indicates that Sweden is heading toward another good finish. However, Sanna also received an earlier draw, and it’s unclear whether her calculated ballad will resonate with a broader audience.

Both The Netherlands and Hungary are coming off of strong performances in the Semifinals. The Netherlands are represented by the Common Linnets, a country duo performing the Nashville-ready ballad “Calm After the Storm.” It rose up iTunes charts after their performance on Tuesday, and thus far it’s the only entry to have made a dent on the international pop charts. The Netherlands comes into Saturday with an ideal draw and a lot of momentum.

Hungary, meanwhile, offer Hungarian-American singer András Kállay-Saunders, whose “Running” deals with child abuse. It has darker subject matter than your usual Eurovision entry, but the staging is harrowing without being overwhelming. Hungary have done an excellent job of getting the point across.

The wildcard contenders this year are Austria and The United Kingdom. The UK entered this year with a newfound commitment to the contest, and Molly’s “Children of the Universe” is easily the best entry they’ve had for years. Molly is closing the show, and while performing last may not necessarily be an advantage, she may be able to land the UK in the top 10 for the first time since 2009.

Then there is Austria’s Conchita Wurst, who is singing a Shirley Bassey-influenced faux Bond theme called “Rise Like a Phoenix.” Conchita is a drag artist whose gimmick is that she sports a meticulously manicured beard while in drag. She was clearly the fan favorite in the hall during the second Semifinal: when the hosts were revealing the 10 finalists, a loud chat of “AUS-TRI-A! AUS-TRI-A!” broke out.

Other story lines:

  • We didn’t even mention Basim from Denmark or Ruth Lorenzo from Spain as contenders. It really feels like a tight contest this year!
  • Poland returned to Eurovision this year after an extended absence. Donatan and Cleo’s saucy “My Slowianie” is a massive hit in Poland and it delivered Poland its first appearance in the Final since 2008.
  • It’s been a good year for the underdog. Montenegro qualified for the first time with a big Balkan ballad, Sergej Ćetković’s “Moj Svijet.” Meanwhile, San Marino finally made it to the Grand Prix round on its fifth try, represented for the third year in a row by Valentina Monetta.
  • There has been a lot of interest in how Russia was going to do in this year’s Contest, given its role in the current situation in Ukraine. They are being represented by past Junior Eurovision winners the Tolmachevy Twins, and while the crowd gave them a good reception when they performed, Russia was roundly booed when they were announced as finalists. We’ll see how much of the real world bleeds into the voting on Saturday.