What To Look Forward To At Eurovision 2021

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Are you ready Europe? This May, the infamous Eurovision Song Contest will return after being cancelled for the first time since its debut in 1956. Delegations from 31 European countries and Australia will convene at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam for the return of the largest non-sporting event in the world.

For those unaware, Eurovision is an annual song competition where countries will send a musical act to represent them and the winner is decided by a combination of music professionals and the general public. It has a reputation for being camp, and many people, especially in the UK, treat it as a joke. There are two semi-finals, where ten acts will advance to the Grand Final to compete alongside six automatic qualifiers (UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands). The Grand Final this year will take place on May 22.

But this year, the competition will be different. Although the event’s slogan is ‘Open Up’, many measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of propagating COVID-19. There will be no live audience and contestants have the option of submitting a live recording instead of coming to Rotterdam, which Australia has opted to do.

If you’re still on the fence about watching Eurovision, here’s what you can look forward to:

Flo Rida

Large international artists participating in Eurovision can often be a source of controversy among fans, but many people were excited when it was announced that American rapper Flo Rida could possibly be competing. The rapper would be representing San Marino alongside Italian-Eritrean singer Senhit with the song ‘Adrenalina’. While he is eager to appear in Rotterdam, he hasn’t confirmed anything. He was absent at the rehearsals, but it is likely that he will come for the real performance.

A historic occasion?

At this point, Malta is currently one of the favourites to win. If they manage to do so, it would be their first win since debuting in 1971. This year, they are represented by Destiny Chukunyere with her song ‘Je me casse’. Although this is her first appearance at adult Eurovision, Destiny actually won Junior Eurovision in 2015 with the song ‘Not My Soul’. If she manages to win this year, she will become the first person in Eurovision history to win both contests.

Hope for the UK 

The UK is known for many things, but their prowess at Eurovision isn’t one of them. Although they’ve won the competition five times, they haven’t had a lot of success in recent years. The lack of morale from the British public also hasn’t helped matters. However, things are looking better this year.

The UK will be represented by James Newman with his song ‘Embers’, an upbeat dance number that has been incredibly well-received by Eurofans. Many consider it Britain’s best entry in a while. The staging is very eye-catching as well, with James singing between two large trumpets while surrounded by dancers playing various brass instruments.

Nikkie Tutorials

Flo Rida won’t be the only person appearing at Eurovision with a large career outside of the contest. Nikkie de Jager, better known as Nikkie Tutorials, will also appear. The makeup YouTube star is one of the hosts alongside Chantel Jazen, Edsilia Rombley, and Jan Smit.

A new language

Over its many years, Eurovision has showcased the linguistic and cultural diversity both inside and outside Europe. Many languages have been sung at the contest and this year, the list will continue to expand. Jeangu Macrooy, the Surinamese singer representing the Netherlands, has included lyrics in Sranan Tongo, a language spoken in Suriname, in his song ‘Birth of a New Age’. This will be the first time this language appears at the Eurovision Song Contest. The song itself celebrates Black resilience in the face of colonization and is inspired by a Surinamese saying “Mi Na Afu Sensi, No Wan Man E Broko Mi”, which translates to “I’m half a cent, you can’t break me.”

Interval acts

Aside from the competitors, there will also be interval acts performing at Eurovision. Several big names in both the Eurovision community and the broader international sphere will be seen. Eurovision 2019 winner Duncan Laurence will be performing his winning song ‘Arcade’ in the first semi-final on May 18.

In semi-final two on May 20, we will see:

  • Handicapped Dutch breakdancer Redo and hypnotic synth-pop singer Eefje de Visser perform a combination of song and dance to tell Redo’s life story.
  • “Close Encounters of a Special Kind”: a performance by Dutch BMX rider Dez Maarsen and Syrian-Dutch ballet dancer Ahmad Joudeh about why they feel at home in the Netherlands.

And in the Grand Final on May 22, we can look forward to:

  • Flag Parade: The contestants will be introduced with a song remixed by 16-year-old Peter Gabriel, one of the Netherlands’ biggest DJ talents.
  • Rock the Roof: Six iconic Eurovision winners (Helena Paparizou, Mans Zelmerlöw, Sandra Kim, Lenny Kuhr, and Teach-In) will perform their winning song on the roofs of famous buildings in Rotterdam. 
  • Music Binds Us: International DJ Afrojack, and Dutch singers Wulf and Glennis Grace will collaborate with a classical orchestra to perform a blend of classical and dance music.

Eurovision may not be back in full force, but the competition is shaping up to be fun and interesting nonetheless. For UK residents, the Grand Final will be broadcast Saturday 22 May at 8pm on BBC One. The semi-finals will take place on Tuesday 18 May and Thursday 20 May at 8pm on BBC Four.

Words by Emma Bainbridge

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