Eurovision Explained: Why Should You Watch the Contest

In our previous article, we talked about what is Eurovision and its role in the musical universe. What we didn’t mention, however, is why you should get into the whole phenomenon—even if it’s only for the grand final on Saturday.

Eurovision started as a peace project between several countries, as well as to test out broadcast technologies and innovate on them. While both goals have continued into the modern day, most people watch the contest out of a yearly tradition with their families or to make a joke out of it with their friends.

But without any connections to Europe itself, why should you take the time to watch one of the three shows come May, even for a moment?

1: Because it’s a fun way to find new artists and listen to their discography.

Every year, Eurovision has a new slate of artists to represent their countries. While for most, the semi-finals and/or the grand final is the only time they get to see them in action, some of these artists have made a name in their countries—and others exploded because of a good result.

The most recent winners, Maneskin, are the most notable band which has participated in the contest over the past few years. They’ve broken through the English-language market through “I Wanna Be Your Slave” and their cover of “Beggin’”, but that’s on top of their Italian-language content which has anchored them in their native country. Hits like “Torna a Casa” and “Coraline” connect back to their Eurovision entry in their storytelling and the power in Damiano’s voice.

“Torna a Casa”, one of Maneskin’s biggest hits before Eurovision.

Even if said artist doesn’t get that big international breakthrough, it doesn’t mean they don’t have good content to fall back on. Katerine Duska came in 21st in 2019 with the song “Better Love”, but since then she has released some thoughtful singles and is going to perform at SXSW later in the year.

2: Because it’s a good excuse to throw a party.

Come May, Eurovision is a good way to join others and bond over the songs—or at least make fun of the banter during the show. Some of the fun is in the drinking games whenever something goes awry, but it’s also an opportunity to talk about what goes right in each performance and ranking them in the process.

There’s a lot of activities which can add to enjoying the contest. Cooking dishes based off the different countries? While Italy, this year’s host, is well known for their culinary prowess; Eurovision is also a good opportunity to learn to make different dishes, from Icelandic fish to Ukranian varenyky and everything else in between.

And of course, there’s room for games. Try betting on which song will place the highest, or even for the win! But still, be careful and don’t go overzealous on the odds beforehand–anything can happen on stage.

3: Because it’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures.

Have you ever seen those maps where several Americans tried to pick out which European country is which, and constantly know only where France, Spain, and Italy are in? It’s a flaw in the American educational system in that it doesn’t delve deep into other cultures—although a Pew Research study suggests that American citizens are interested in following the news in other countries.

Travel restrictions are loosening up a little bit these days, but going to other countries can still be difficult. Eurovision cuts through and brings little bits of Europe back to you. Of course, there’s familiar images we associate from previous experiences, though they can be interpreted in a new way.

For example, Riverdance. It was originally an interval act for Eurovision 1994, but has since then exploded into a global phenomenon, touring all over the world. Basing itself on Irish folk tradition, it tells about the Irish people while adding bits of contemporary dance along the way.

Riverdance’s first performance as the interval act of Eurovision 1994.

4: Because the Eurovision fandom is very welcoming.

Sure, as the prospect of the American Song Contest gets closer and closer, more European fans hesitate about allowing American fans get involved in the competition. As most countries follow American news because of the United States’ overarching influence on world politics, to allow the United States in the contest is tantamount to getting absorbed in the American bubble.

This doesn’t mean Eurovision fans are quite open-minded on whomever joins in, though it has its cracks in terms of racist imagery and comments.

Notably, Eurovision is stereotyped as the “gay Olympics”, but it’s for good reason, as it has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ population since the turn of the millennium. In 1998, Dana International won the contest for Israel with the song “Diva”, a song celebrating womanhood–pertinent because Dana was the first transgender winner of the contest.

Beforehand, Orthodox Jews condemned her presence on the stage, because she didn’t respresent the country properly. While Dana cited herself that her life is hard, and that people admired her because of her courage, it’s still significant. Written in the Guardian, “Dana’s legacy is greater than the song: she led the way for 2014 Austrian winner Conchita Wurst – a Shirley Bassey-type drag queen with a perfectly trimmed beard – and, more broadly, signalled the importance of the fun, free, gregarious culture of Eurovision as an annual LGBTQ-friendly celebration.”

Dana International’s performance from 1998. After she won, Dana switched into a Jean-Paul Gaultier dress with feathers, which made her take a bit longer to receive her trophy.

5: Because you can always expect the unexpected.

Saxophone player out of tune? The hosts not getting connection to the spokesperson? A marriage proposal? All of these happened at Eurovision, and they add to the fun involved.

Published by Elda Mengisto

Frequent writer, aspiring scholar, occasional fencer. I'm a lover of all things beautiful and light.

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