Thirty-six countries are competing this year. Twenty-six of them will meet in the final on Saturday May 13, after the semi-finals scheduled for May 9 and 11. Who to follow? There are probably as many answers as there are artists. But let’s insist on the Swedish Loreen, winner in 2012, who could be the second artist in history to win the competition twice with her song Tattoo. “That would be huge,” said William Lee Adams, founder of Eurovision Wiwibloggs and author of Wild Dances: My Queer and Curious Journey to Eurovision, out May 9. Also to follow: Finland, with an electro song on social anxiety (Cha Cha cha, by Käärijä), as well as Poland (Blanka, Solo, of which we already say the greatest evil). “It’s very kitsch and she doesn’t seem like a very good singer,” said Paul Jordan, author of the Dr Eurovision blog and former communications officer for the company.

ABBA’s story is well known. It was after performing Waterloo at Eurovision in 1974 that the Swedish group was launched into orbit. But his case is not unique. Other artists, such as Celine Dion (1988), France Gall (1965), Julio Iglesias (1970), Italian Gigliola Cinquetti (1964) and Italian Måneskin (2021) have all launched their international careers through the competition. Ditto for the song Volare, which became a superhit in the United States after being “inaugurated” at Eurovision 1958. In most cases, however, the adventure remains unfinished, with many artists falling back into oblivion or content to make a career in their country of origin.

Officially, Eurovision wants to be apolitical. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Since its creation, the competition has not ceased to be used as an engaged platform. In 1969, Austria refused to participate in the competition organized in Madrid because of the Franco dictatorship. In 1976, Greece withdrew from the contest in protest against Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. In 2009, Georgia was disqualified for singing We Don’t Wanna Put In, a thinly disguised charge against the Russian president who had just invaded Ossetia. In 2019, Icelandic competitors displayed themselves with Palestinian flags, while the competition was held in Tel Aviv – a wicked provocation. Last year, Ukraine won, for the reasons we know. Not to mention the many queer performances, intended to advance the LGBTQ cause.

Experts expect fewer blowouts this year. “The fact that Russia is not there will undoubtedly limit the positions taken,” said Paul Jordan. That the competition was moved to Liverpool instead of Kyiv (the event is normally held in the country that won the previous year) is in itself political, he qualifies. We will still follow Croatia with Mama SC!, from the group Let 3, a song about tractors performed by junk dictators, a “very explicit” nod to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, according to William Lee Adams. In a more social register, the Czech group Vesna will offer a song on gender equality (My Sister’s Crown), with a pronounced Eastern European flavor.

Eurovision is a bit like the European Soccer Cup, variety song version. Each participating country delegates a candidate who will represent it. The artist pushes the note, preferably with many visuals, because let’s remember: Eurovision is a show designed by and for TV! The singers’ performance is then scored by a handful of judges from each country (usually industry pros) as well as the general public, who can vote by phone, text or app. High scores are usually around 300 points. Some performers may also earn “nul points” (zero), which is considered the ultimate shame…or great pride, depending on their sense of humor. The competition is organized by the European Broadcasters Union (EBU) and the artists are chosen by the public broadcaster of each country, after a national preliminary round or selections behind closed doors.

For the very first time this year, the popular vote is no longer limited to Europe. The international public will also have a say, with their vote representing the equivalent of a 37th participating country. Not insignificant for Quebecers, who might want to vote for Montrealer La Zarra, representative of France. William Lee Adams, however, suggests that this opening will mainly benefit the Spanish candidate “because all of Latin America will get behind her”.

For Paul Jordan, it is obvious that these new rules are motivated by the globalist ambitions of the competition. “Officially, their slogan is that we all stand together. But the element of cynicism in me makes me say that they are mainly trying to promote the show internationally,” he says. Attempts to expand have also taken place, although with little success. In 2022, the NBC network presented the American Song Contest, but the experience was not repeated. Canada was supposed to hold its own version in 2023, but the project seems to have been put on hold. Ditto for the South American version, which has still not been officially announced. “Maybe by multiplying franchises, we will have international competitions in the future”, concludes William Lee Adams. A Songwriting World Cup? And why not !