The Voice, American Idol, or X-Factor are more likely the first things that come to an American’s mind when hearing “song contest”. However, that is not necessarily the case for Europeans, since the majority of them are loyal fans of “Eurovision”: the biggest annual song contest since 1956. Each May, the media overflows with commentaries, videos, and news from the show, people buy costly tickets to attend the event, and the number one discussion topic among everyone is… Want to take a guess? That’s right, EUROVISION!
But what is this fascination all about, and why should any American care?
As mentioned above, the Eurovision Song Contest (or short Eurovision) is an annual event, where European countries (and surprisingly Australia that recently joined as well) compete against each other. Each country is represented by an elected singer who performs at one of the two Semi-Finals. The best ten performances from each Semi-Final, those that gain the most votes from the jury and the viewers, will then take part at the Grand Final, which is where the big winner is determined. Although some people claim that there is a monetary prize, at the official Eurovision website the only thing stated is that the winner will “take home the iconic glass microphone trophy and the winning country will traditionally be given the honor of hosting next year's Eurovision Song Contest”.
There is no doubt that Eurovision is by far the most fun, creative, and colorful song contest that has ever taken place. It is a great show for everyone, and especially for those who love music and culture. All performances, regardless of whether the songs are in English or in a participating country’s official language, reveal unique cultural characteristics. The choreography, the lyrics, the stage set up, the costumes, etc. are all part of a general theme, one that represents the customs and traditions of the country. It is a way for the viewers to enhance their knowledge of other cultures in a fun way.
In addition, since the first ever Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, the show has changed significantly. Many argue that it has become far more political. It is no secret that neighboring countries vote for each other, or for other countries with political and economic interests. In other words, one could safely make the argument that the contest is a mechanism to help diplomacy. However, that is certainly not the only case where we see politics being involved. Many countries have used Eurovision and the songs as a way to bring attention to current events in order to help pass certain legislations.
So basically, Eurovision is more than just a show. It has all the fun elements of a song contest (only triple the fun), plus a lot of cultural and political characteristics. Currently, the best way to watch the show in the US is online, or if you have a cable provider that allows you to watch European (or even Australian) TV, simply tune in to the channel, grab some pop-corn, and enjoy!