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What To Know About This Year’s Song Contest

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The world’s largest live music contest is back. The Eurovision Song Contest, a springboard to fame for some of the biggest acts in the world – legendary Swedish band ABBA, or more recently, Italian glam rock band Måneskin, for example – will return to screens on Saturday, May 11, to do what it does best: providing the most eccentric performances Europe has to offer.

From perfectly garish outfits and heartfelt ballads to synchronized dance numbers and heavy metal guitar solos, the event is set to feature the wackiest of the continent’s music scene as thousands of fans flock to the Malmö Arena.

Sweden became host after its homegrown star Loreen triumphed last year in Liverpool, England.

But this year’s Contest – like in 2023, where Ukraine was forced to pass hosting privileges onto the U.K. – is one backdropped by war. However, the threat of mass boycott has not, to the outrage of some, convinced organizers to deviate from regular programming.

Here’s what you need to know about Eurovision 2024 ahead of its second semi-final and the Grand Final on the weekend.

1. Viewers Promise Political Boycott

Israel’s participation this year has caused widespread controversy, and even some of Eurovision’s most loyal fans have vowed to boycott the event. The war in Gaza, which has killed over 30,000 men, women, and children in the territory, has prompted outrage. The conflict escalated in October when Hamas militants launched an attack and murdered 1,200 people at an Israeli music festival. The retaliation from Israel has involved a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Gaza since the Hamas incursion.

But Eurovision organizers are standing firm on Israel’s inclusion in the event. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has also warned viewers not to direct abuse at the Israeli entrant this year, 20-year-old Eden Golan. “We would like to stress that any decisions regarding participation are the responsibility of the EBU’s governing bodies, not the individual artists,” the EBU said. “We are firmly against any form of abuse or harassment directed at participants, online or offline, and are committed to fostering a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.”

It added that there should be a “constructive dialogue and support” for those competing, underlining the Contest’s mission to be “United By Music.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog ordered “necessary adjustments” to Golan’s initial entry to ensure his country could compete. The lyrics to “October Rain” seemingly referenced the Hamas attack. Golan will now perform a romantic ballad called “Hurricane.”

But other performers are already making a political stance. The EBU was forced to release a statement saying that they “regret” the opening act from former Swedish Eurovision contestant Eric Saade on Tuesday night. Saade, who is not competing in the Contest, had the keffiyeh symbol, commonly used by those in support of Palestine, on his arm as he performed his 2011 entry “Popular.”

A spokeswoman for the EBU said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a live TV show. All performers are made aware of the rules of the contest, and we regret that Eric Saade chose to compromise the non-political nature of the event.”

Saade took to Instagram to question if freedom is “controversial” and why people keep asking if it is “political.”

Ahead of the shows, fans have been warned not to bring Palestinian flags, symbols, or bags as “vigorous security checks” will take place.

2. Pressure Mounts on the U.K.’s Olly Alexander

Eagle-eyed TV fans may recognize Olly Alexander from Channel 4’s award-winning drama It’s A Sin. But he was also the frontman of British pop band Years & Years before he began performing under his own name. He is an interesting choice as Britain’s entrant this year — a far bigger name than previous contestants were before their big Eurovision break, like Sam Ryder or Mae Muller, who are good examples of the not-quite-yet-established musicians the U.K. normally opts for.

The singer will be performing his dance track “Dizzy,” but has had to wade through myriad criticism to retain his spot in the final.

More than 450 queer artists, individuals and organizations called on him to not perform amid the conflict in Gaza.

Alexander soon shared a statement on Twitter, formerly X, to say: “I wholeheartedly support action being taken to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the return of all hostages, and the safety and security of all civilians in Palestine and Israel.”

He added: “It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal. Instead, I’ve been speaking with some of the other EV contestants and we’ve decided that by taking part we can use our platform to come together and call for peace.”

The British star has separately added, in a glimpse of the BBC documentary Olly Alexander’s Road to Eurovision ’24, that the criticism has been “extreme.”

“I understand where that sentiment is coming from but I think it’s not correct,” he said. “It’s an incredibly complicated political situation, one that I’m not qualified to speak on. The backdrop to this is actual immense suffering. It’s a humanitarian crisis, a war. It just so happens there’s a song contest going on at the same time that I’m a part of.”

3. No Clear Frontrunners — Yet

By now, there is normally a clear star that the bookies are tipping to be the country to beat. But while there is some buzz around a few contestants, no one performance is standing out quite yet.

Croatia’s entrant, an act called Baby Lasagna, has garnered some attention in the run-up thanks to the song title “Rim Tim Tagi Dim.” The bleach-blond frontman has said the title does not translate as anything but is just a catchy riff, yet a serious theme about the economic migration of young Croatians lies beneath the performance.

Switzerland’s act is also attracting some bets. “The Code,” by non-binary performer Nemo, tells the story of their gender identity. Italy’s TikTok-famous contestant Angelina Mango could follow in the footsteps of Måneskin with her song “La Noia.”

4. How the Voting Works

Eurovision features an intricate voting system. The final leaderboard is determined by a combination of votes cast by viewers and a jury of music professionals in each participating country. Audiences at home can phone in to cast their vote and, notably, they cannot vote for their own country.

In a recent change, those watching in the rest of the world can now cast their vote via app or website in the days before the semi-finals and final. But, crucially, their collective vote holds the weight of only one additional country. Last year, Sweden’s winner earned 583 points, ahead of Finland with 526 points. Israel placed third with 362 points.

5. Who’s Watching and When?

The Eurovision audience is growing, and it’s becoming a staple in the music calendar all over the globe.

Last year, more than 160 million people watched the contest, according to the organizers. Iceland, Finland, Norway, and victor Sweden all had more than 80 percent of their TV-viewing populations tuned in. Media coverage of the event has grown 20 percent year-on-year, the EBU also said, with over 150,000 articles written about the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2023 alone.

Even though only 37 countries took part last year, people from 144 different countries had their say and voted for the winner.

In the U.S., the Eurovision Song Contest will only be streaming on Peacock. Participating countries will be airing the event on their public broadcasting networks, such as the U.K.’s BBC.

In Sweden, the Eurovision Grand Final kicks off at 9 p.m. local time, which is 8 p.m. in London. L.A. viewers can watch at 12 p.m. on Saturday, and those in New York from 3 p.m.





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