It’s that time of year again as pop fans worldwide are gearing up for the Eurovision Song Contest, which begins its 2022 edition on Tuesday, May 10th. Now into its seventh decade, Eurovision is one of the most beloved events in the pop calendar, winning an estimated audience of over 200 million people across dozens of countries every May.
The contest is best known for its campy aesthetic, the frequently outlandish costumes and songs of the participants, the near-obligatory key change in each song, and the shameless favoritism shown by some of the national juries that decide the vote at the end of the evening. The Song Contest has also been responsible for propelling many contestants to European and even global stardom.
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Back in the early 1970s, the Swedish pop quartet, ABBA, entered the contest, winning in 1974 with their song “Waterloo.” Worldwide superstardom followed for the band. And Celine Dion’s career received a massive boost after her win in 1988 while representing Switzerland. Many other artists have had huge success in pop music, including Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias, and Cliff Richard.
So what can we expect from this year’s contest? Here are a few pointers.
Who’s Entering This Year?
The European Broadcasting Union’s chief contributors gain automatic entry, so we can expect songs from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The UK remains eligible as their departure from the European Union due to Brexit does not affect the non-EU-affiliated contest. Another three dozen or so countries will enter the two semi-finals, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, to win a slot in Saturday’s final at the PalaOlimpico in Turin, Italy. However, one country that will not be among the entrants is Russia, which the EBU excluded in February on account of their invasion of Ukraine in just one of a slew of media-related snubs.
Iceland has an entry in the mix, but spare a thought for Daði Freyr, the red-hot favorite to win the 2020 edition with his band Gagnamagnið — complete with matching green and blue jumpers — with the bubblegum pop song “Think About Things” before Covid intervened. They eventually got the chance to compete last year, finishing in fourth place.
And, as has become traditional, the contest will also welcome an entry from a decidedly non-European country — Australia. Ever since it came to the EBU’s attention that music fans Down Under had fostered an unusually strong affection for Eurovision, it was decided to extend an invitation to participate. This makes Australia one of the very few countries outside Europe to have a place in the contest.
The Front Runners
Italy’s home advantage seems to be weighing heavily in the minds of the bookmakers, who make rap-pop duo Mahmood and Blanco’s song “Brividi” the second favorite to win. And the United Kingdom is also in the mix. After five wins between Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet On A String” in 1967 and Katrina and the Waves’ “Love Shine a Light” in 1997, the UK has flattered to deceive, going on a twenty-five-year run of underwhelming pop and dance songs that failed to trouble the judges. This includes the ultimate embarrassment of a nul points ranking on two occasions, in 2003 and last year.
However, this time, the UK’s entry has a considerably higher chance of success. TikTok star Sam Ryder, who boasts an impressive 12 million followers, rose to prominence during the early months of the Covid pandemic with a string of well-received cover versions on the platform and is set to wow crowds with his song “Space Man.” Bookmakers have the track as the third favorite to win. The entries from Sweden and Spain round out the top five at the time of writing.
What About Ukraine’s Entry?
But the runaway favorite for this year’s contest is Ukraine. The stories of suffering and tragedy broadcast on a daily basis from the war-torn country have generated massive amounts of sympathy for the Ukrainians’ plight across Europe and beyond. Their entry, Kalush Orchestra — an offshoot of the popular Ukrainian rap act Kalush that blends hip-hop with traditional Ukrainian folk elements — were already garnering attention in the country with their song “Stefania.” However, they were due to be overlooked for Eurovision before the winner of the country’s song contest was barred from entering on a technicality in February.
Now, Kalush’s unexpected entry has added resonance. Earlier in the spring, when Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv was under siege, there was considerable doubt that the group would be able to compete. However, the Ukrainian government has since given the members special permission to travel to Italy to compete. One thing is certain — with such a storied past and present, Eurovision never disappoints.
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