Eurovision week is finally here! Whether you look at it as the World Cup for pop music, the gay Oscars or just an incredibly high budget holiday camp show, there is no doubt that it is one of the biggest spectacles on television and brings a real sense of occasion with it.
After Netta’s victory last year, the 2019 contest takes place in Tel-Aviv, which hosts two semi-finals tonight and Thursday to trim the fat ahead of Saturday’s big final. We have been at rehearsals for tonight’s show, and it is going to be a good one. Here are a few things to look out for…
Plenty of craziness
Full disclosure time: most of the big favourites to win the whole contest are in the second semi-final coming up on Thursday, but just because tonight’s show is less competitive does not mean it’s less worth watching. This show will perhaps go down in Eurovision history as one of the most bonkers ever and there are some really huge performances to enjoy.
BDSM-clad Hatari from Iceland will undoubtedly be the most talked about act of the year with their anti-capitalist screamo-techno, Kate Miller-Heidke from Australia is quickly shooting up the odds with one of the most visually impressive performances accompanying her popera effort, and Conan Osíris from Portugal brings something completely different to the table with the wonderfully left-field Telemóveis.
If that weren’t enough, we have 54 year-old Turkish gameshow host Serhat representing tiny San Marino with Say Na Na Na. Something for everybody would be an understatement tonight!
However if all of the above sounds a bit much for you and Portuguese arthouse and Icelandic screaming aren’t your thing, fear not. There is still plenty of the pure pop that Eurovision is known and loved for, and in amongst all the weird and wonderful it might stand out even more. Tamta from Cyprus is opening the show with an ethnopop banger in the vein of last year’s smash Fuego, and the performance will delight Eurovision fans – especially those who can’t resist a convertible clothing moment.
Greece will be looking to make a return to the final with the Jess Glynne-esque midtempo Better Love by Katherine Duska which is currently favourite to win the semi-final. Meanwhile, Estonia has a very accessible dance song tinged with country of the sort that Avicii made popular and it could appeal to a wide audience. At the time of writing, singer Victor Crone was struggling with some technical elements of his performance, but if they come together on the night it will be very impressive visually.
Then we have Serhat from San Marino who is closing the show with the uptempo pop banger Say Na Na Na which you will have stuck in your head for days.
An appealing aspect of Eurovision is that there will always be a few returning artists, providing a sense of continuity and the opportunity for viewers at home to play “wasn’t he the one who…?”
It might be a game that only the most hardcore fans will win tonight, but there are some Eurovision veterans in the line-up. Joci Pápai returns for Hungary after a top ten finish in 2017 with Origo, and Nevena Bozovic for Serbia represented the country before in 2013 as a member of girl group Moje 3. She is back this time around with a somewhat more grown-up entry.
Anybody who set foot in a nightclub at the turn of the millennium (or a students’ union in the last decade) will be familiar with ‘Sandstorm’ by Darude, and the man himself is representing Finland this year along with singer Sebastian Rejman with ‘Look Away’.
Also, if you think you recognise Serhat from San Marino, you’d be right as he previously represented the country in 2016 with I Didn’t Know, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. He’ll be hoping to make the cut this year with Say Na Na Na.
Another familiar face, but one who deserves a category of her own is Israel’s 1998 Eurovision winner, and arguably their most iconic, Dana International. She is all over the event this week, both as part of the shows and beyond.
She will be performing at just about every Eurovsion adjacent-venue there is (look out for some clips on our Insta-story), and has recorded a brilliant video for EL AL teaching Eurovision tourists some handy Hebrew phrases.
On Saturday, Dana will form part of the spectacular opening for the final, but semi-final viewers won’t have to wait that long for their fix of Israel’s premier diva, as tonight she will be performing too…
The pre-song postcards at Eurovision originated as a functional device to give the TV viewers something to look at while the stage is being set up, and while they have got more and more glossy in recent years, they can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes they are glorified tourist information videos, sometimes X Factor style VTs introducing the artists.
This year we’re pretty impressed… they have gone all out to make Israel look appealing and to make the artists’ personalities shine through in videos whose brief is “dance for your life.” Here’s a preview of what to expect…
The first semi-final of Eurovision 2019 is live on BBC4 at 8pm tonight.