What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.
Each country is permitted to submit one three-minute song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which their selected entrant performs in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.
Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:
- The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
- The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
- Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five. *
* this year it’s the Big Five with Italy also the host thanks to last year’s win in Rotterdam.
The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.
Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”. Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.
FRANCE: “Fulenn” by Alvan and Ahez
Mixing together the musical old and the new has long been a Eurovision staple and the collaborative entry for France this year, multi-instrumentalist electro artist Alvan and traditional vocal group Ahez continue that tradition with a song that combines the music and language of Brittany with some seriously danceable melodies.
Alvan hails from Rennes, a city in the northeast of Brittany and he’s adept at mixing a whole host of different genres in his music which while “mostly being rooted in electronica … also uses a lot of traditional chants and organic elements in [the] hybrid compositions.”
That makes his work with Ahez a match made in Eurovision heaven.
Consisting of Marine Lavigne, Sterenn Diridollou and Sterenn Le Guillou, Ahez practise the traditional singing style known as kan ha diskan (a type of call-and-response singing), their name bearing some mythological etymology, making them the perfect partners for Alvan whom they met in a bar in his hometown in 2021.
The rest is history …
Reported by Wikipedia to be the first song performed in Breton since 1996 when “Diwanit bugale” by L’Héritage des Celtes was the French entry, “Fulenn” is a gloriously atmospheric piece of folk music meeting cutting-edge electronica, the kind of mix that has traditionally felt very much as home at Eurovision.
Far from being a tokenistic cultural artifact, the song is a soaring piece of edgy, highly danceable pop that gives you goosebump in the first bar, a sense of being lifted somewhere otherworldly only increased when the vocals of Ahez find their seeming natural home in the music of Alvan.
Ethereal power-packed vocals and driving melody combine to heady effect in a song that races ahead at full speed, a marriage of the old and the new that should see France place quite nicely, especially with a captivating stage performance which the group seems more than capable of delivering.
GERMANY: “Rockstars” by Malik Harris
A guitar who has been penning songs of his own for over a decade, Malik Harris is a German-American singer who initially made his way into music performing covers.
Hailing from a musical family – according to his official Eurovision bio, “his grandfather was an opera singer, his grandmother a pianist, and his father plays several instruments and teaches cello” – Harris released his first singles in 2018 and 2019 respectively (“Say the Name” and “Welcome to the Rumble” respectively).
The success of these first forays into the German public’s musical consciousness led a tour in May 2019 BCP (Before COVID Period) and supporting artists like James Blunt, Alex Clare and Jeremy Loops on their tours of Germany.
So, he clearly knows his way around a stage – always handy when you’re a singer aspiring to a career in the biz – but is that enough to make his mark at Eurovision?
As a performer he clearly has what it takes, investing “Rockstars” with a regretful poignancy that tears your heart open as he sings “We used to be the rockstars / Who never thought of no harm / ‘Til this thing we call life stopped gleaming I wish there was a way to go back dreaming”.
The song is a richly insightful meditation on how easy it is to have life cruelled by twists and turns we never see coming, and as a piece of acoustically ruminative music, it is just beautiful.
As a song capable of winning Eurovision, well that’s another thing entirely.
While this is the sort of song you’d happily play over and over at 3am or on reflective rainy days, and it could make for an electrically stripped Eurovision moment, it’s likely not going to punish to great glory; honestly, it feels like great song, possibly wrong placing which will cover Germany, and Harris of course, in artistic glory, but not necessarily a Eurovision win.
Now here’s a collaboration!
Mahmood, who you may recall did rather nicely at Eurovision in 2019 when his arrestingly beautiful and buoyantly catchy song “Soldi” came a more than healthy second overall, and newcomer singer-rapper BLANCO who hails from Brescia whose 2021 song “Mi Fai Impazzire” (with Sfera Ebbasta) sat happily atop the Italian charts for an impressive eight weeks (he followed this up immediately with two weeks with his song “Blu Celeste”).
Mahmoud and BLANCO, who seem to have entirely different relationship to upper case lettering when it comes to stage mononyms, are one of those perfect combinations, with the Italian public clearly agreeing when the pair won the 72nd Sanremo Festival this year, giving them first right of refusal to present Italy at Eurovision on home turf.
With BLANCO the youngest winner ever of Sanremo, and a Mahmood aka Alessandro Mahmoud a past winner, the odds are good that the pair will storm the stage at Eurovision this year.
With a song like “Brividi” (Chills”), there’s every chance.
In fact, this gorgeously intense song, that soars on angelic harmonies and all the emotion in the world summoned up by vocals that live the song rather than just hitting the notes, is one of those pieces of music that feels like an emotional event.
If this doesn’t stop the house in Turino as the pair plead for what feels like another chance from soon-to-depart lover – “And you run away from here, you leave me like this / Naked with chills / Sometimes I don‘t know how to express myself / And I‘d like to love you, but I‘m always wrong” – then something is seriously the beating hearts of the people of Europe.
“Brividi” is a heartfelt sung performed with passion and poignancy by two artists who are the perfect pairing, their voices every bit as strikingly beautiful as the soul-searing song they sing …
SPAIN: “SloMo” by Chanel
Born in Havana, Cuba, Chanel Terrero aka Chanel is a multi-talented performer, as adept as singing as she is dancing and acting.
She kicked off a stunningly successful career in musical theatre at the age of 16, going on to appear in a slew of musicals such as The Lion King, Flashdance, The Bodyguard and Mamma Mia, pairing her stage achievements with Spanish national (Águila Roja, El Continental and El Secreto de Puente Viejo) and international roles.
Dancing-wise she was part of the crew on Tu cara me suena and even got to dance onstage with Shakira at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2010.
That’s a pretty full CV whichever you slice it and could it look even shinier and complete after she represents Spain at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest?
Absolutely and definitely.
“SloMO” oozes a sexy sense of fun and occasion, all of which is burnished by stellar vocals and expertly-delivered choreography which she has used to full effect at rehearsals with Oliver from Wiwibloggs being led to declare:
“Nothing negative to say. She nailed it every time. Chanel is an athlete, and a superstar in the making.”
The song is a classic piece of Spanish pop delivered with passion, sexiness and a consummate sense of artistry, a beguiling combination which will find a perfect home at Eurovision which knows its way around a diva at the top of her game performing an immensely catchy song.
Look for Spain to do very, VERY nicely with this gem of a song and performance, an infectious combination of the old and the new that works superlatively well.
UK: “SPACE MAN” by Sam Ryder
Honestly Sam Ryder looks like the kind of guy you’d want to hang out, all fun, smile and personality with a warm exuberance that has, in the words of his official Eurovision bio, “seen his popularity go stratospheric, largely thanks to social media.”
A massive presence on TikTok, where he is currently the most followed UK music artist with over 12 million followers and 100 million likes, Ryder is one of those canny artists who used the COVID pandemic to great effect, uploading a series of covers to TikTok, including his rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys which so impressed the American artist that she posted a video reacting to the song.
Way to get noticed Sam!
That kind of social media success breeds attention from all the right places and the good folks at Parlophone Records (also home to Coldplay) were sitting up and taking notice, signing him up and releasing his debut EP The Sun’s Gonna Rise which quickly made him the darling of British radio.
So, major profile, sunny personality and amazing talent? Tick, tick and tick! Will that be enough to get the UK out of the nil points doldrums this year?
This could be the UK’s year, for sure.
Channeling an early ’70s Elton John/David Bowie vibe that feels as refreshingly original as it is gloriously derivative in the best of all ways, “SPACE MAN” races into the heavens thanks to killer vocals that embody all the emotion a song like this should have.
The good news is that reports of his rehearsals point to all the recorded wonder coming through loud and clear live on stage with Oliver from Wiwibloggs stating that Ryder is in such good performative (and sartorial) form – hello “a top is bedazzled with crystals in shapes of planets and stars [with] crystal lining on the trousers mirror[ing] the Union flag” – that “Things look really promising for Sam and the UK.”
Hard agree here – Ryder has presence, voice, and a song that delivers on all counts, and it will be a shock if the UK doesn’t score far higher on the Eurovision voting charts this year.
EUROVISION 2022 EXTRA EXTRA!
It won’t surprise that people love to watch Eurovision performances and so every month the Eurovision Song Contest brings together the twenty most watched videos which include “official music videos, national final/live/preview performances and, of course, Eurovision Song Contest performances, taking a slightly longer look at the new entries and climbers.”
If you’re time poor, it’s a great way to catch up and lots of fun!
Following second rehearsals at Eurovision 2022 venue, the PalaOlimpico, on Saturday 7 May, the Big Five countries have draw their running order halves for the grand final – remember they don’t have to compete in the semi finals – with the results being:
🇫🇷 France – First Half
🇪🇸 Spain – First Half
🇩🇪 Germany – First Half
🇬🇧 United Kingdom – Second Half
🇮🇹 Italy – 9th (this was previously allocated back in March at the Head of Delegation meeting)
And finally, want a metric ton of cool Eurovision stats? You’ve got them!