Good evening Vienna
Whether you love it with a passion or watch it in open-mouthed horror, there’s no escaping the Eurovision Song Contest. The annual extravaganza of the sublime and the ridiculous has gripped the continent for 60 years now. This year’s contest starts in Vienna tonight (Tuesday), May 19, with the first semi-final. The second semi takes place this Thursday night, and the grand finale will be beamed across Europe and beyond on Saturday night.
Ahead of the show, self-confessed Eurovision superfan Rory Gannon, a TY student at Rice College, Westport, talks about his obsession with the show, memorable moments from Eurovisions past and what to look out for in this year’s contest.
Would you believe that the month of May is already here? And while the majority of people are preparing for summer and the onslaught of tourists that are to flock to our tiny little corner of the world, I am busy preparing for the upcoming edition of the Eurovision Song Contest.
I personally discovered the Eurovision back in 2007 when I was eight years old. My mother told me about the contest as a way to learn more about countries, which, at that time, was really my thing – you literally couldn’t tear me away from an atlas at that age. I fell in love with the show, and now, at 16, nothing really has changed.
I’ll admit that being the only Eurovision fan on the outskirts of Westport is a bit irritating! Nevertheless, to feed my passion, I have been co-running a Eurovision website since June of 2013. It’s a way of getting my opinions out there about the contest, as well as getting the opinions of readers and trying to incorporating them into the articles we write. Hence, we named the website ‘ESC Views – your Eurovision views brought to you’ (escviews.wordpress.com).
Since the creation of the website, we’ve managed to gain views from over 120 countries – reaching places like China, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States; another example of how Eurovision has a worldwide appeal!
The good, the bad and the CRAZY
With the Eurovision Song Contest turning 60 and expecting to reach an audience of over 200 million people, I think it’s fair to say that looking back over the years, we’ve all seen the good, the bad and the downright weird grace the stage as it’s evolved into Europe’s favourite TV show.
Firmly in the good category are appearances by artists like ABBA and Celine Dion, who have participated in this festival of song and have gone on to have successful international careers.
The more odd or cringeworthy acts would have to include controversial Ukrainian artist Verka Serduchka, the Estonian middle-aged trio Kreisiraadio who sang about summer lights, and our own Dustin the Turkey who represented Ireland in 2008 in Belgrade with his incredibly kitsch ‘Irlande Douze Points’. And of course, we all remember those Polish milkmaids last year who churned butter and washing laundry suggestively while singer Cleo sang about how ‘Slavic girls know how to use their charming beauty’.
This year, the diamond jubilee edition of Eurovision will be taking place in Vienna, Austria, after bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst stormed to victory in Copenhagen last year with her James Bond-esque song ‘Rise like a Phoenix’. The slogan of this year’s contest is ‘Building Bridges’, and we’re building a lot of bridges here, as forty countries are taking part in the competition – the largest amount of countries taking part since 2012. The most notable participant would have to be Australia, which is taking part for the first (and only) time. That’s a pretty big bridge that we’re building there!
The reason why the Aussies are taking part is simple: They’re very, VERY keen. Australia has been avidly watching the contest since 1983 – so for thirty-two years, they’ve been celebrating the event, but not allowed to take part. However, to mark the 60th anniversary, the contest is opening its doors as a way of sending the love back to the fans Down Under. A great idea. Another song in the competition is always great, in my opinion!
Normally, the winner of the previous Contest inspires copy-cats. (For example, in 2013 several countries tried to send a song that would repeat the same success that ‘Euphoria’ gained the year before.).
But that’s not the case this year. Rather than trying to emulate a bearded drag queen, many countries have tried to copy last year’s second-placed duo from the Netherlands – the Common Linnets. No less than seven different countries from all over Europe are sending duos this year.
Also this year, more songs are turning away from the stereotype of the ‘eurotrance’ genre in favour of more contemporary and alternative songs. A true transformation!
What to look out for
Countries to look out for this year would have to include Sweden, which is sending the ultramodern upbeat yet country-esque track ‘Heroes’ by Måns Zelmerlöw. In Eurovision fandom, Sweden is regarded as the main favourite, and this is reflected in the betting odds: Sweden is the runaway favourite at 7/4. Close on Sweden’s trail is Italy who is at 7/2 to win the competition.
Some others to keep an eye out for would have to be Estonia, Australia, Norway and Slovenia – all of whom are sending modern, contemporary songs. Australia’s song, called ‘Tonight Again’ by superstar Guy Sebastian, sounds like something Bruno Mars could easily follow ‘Uptown Funk’ with. I’m sure it will a fantastic atmosphere when they perform on May 23.
At the other end of the spectrum is Moldova and Portugal who, at odds of 250/1 and 500/1 respectively, would be a bit of a long shot for any punter!
Unfortunately, Ireland, which is being represented by Molly Sterling – a 17 year old from Puckane in Tipperary – is also at the bottom end of the betting table, with odds of us obtaining victory #8 at a terrible 125/1.
Personally, I’m backing three countries this year: Belgium, Belarus and The Netherlands. Belgium is sending the 19-year-old Loïc Nottet with ‘Rhythm Inside’, which is a very trip-hop, electronic song quite reminiscent of ‘Royals’ by Lorde (but don’t worry, there’s no plagiarism here!). Loïc has a very androgynous, flexible voice. I’m sure that he’s going to be a dark horse.
Meanwhile, Belarus is being represented by one of the aforementioned seven duos – Uzari and Maimuna and their very alternative-pop song, ‘Time’. Now, this is a rather unusual duo as only Uzari is singing. Maimuna is a renowned violinist in her native Belarus, so you will see her playing her violin rather vigorously while Uzari delivers a very striking performance.
Finally, The Netherlands is being represented by Dutch superstar Trijntje Oosterhuis who will sing her pop/indie entry ‘Walk Along’. The song was written by Anouk, a fellow Dutch singer that represented The Netherlands in the contest in 2013, getting The Netherlands into the final after it missed out for nine years straight. Now, with Trijntje taking to the stage with her soulful voice and her contemporary pop number, could she continue the Dutch streak of qualification? That’s up to Europe to decide!
I could continue forever, but I’m afraid you’d get bored by then, so I’ll leave you by wishing all 40 songs the best of luck in Vienna and by saying the magic words: Let the Eurovision Song Contest begin!