Countdown to Eurovision 2017: 8 Days

A Cheat Sheet to Get American Viewers Up to Speed

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest takes place May 9th, 11th, and 13th from the historic capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv (formerly known in the West as Kiev). This is the 62nd edition of the Contest, which was initiated in the post-World War II era to reunite the badly divided continent through the power of music, glamour, and television. From the seven countries that took part in the 1956 debut, Eurovision has grown to the most widely-watched television non-sporting event in the world, with 43 countries competing in 2017 to present Europe’s song of the year.

The world’s very first reality TV contest, Eurovision is often compared to shows like American Idol and X-Factor, but there are several big differences. First, Europe is voting to crown a newly-composed original song.  The artists performing the various countries’ entries range from 16 year old first timers to returning veteran superstars in their 50s and beyond. Solos, duets and groups are allowed, with a maximum of six onstage (including any backup singers or dancers).

Each nation’s entry is chosen by an official TV network in that country according to their own rules, via internal selection, or various televised contests to choose a song and an artist to perform it. And the song must never have been performed publicly before the national selection season which begins in the autumn before the next year’s May finals. The winning artist gets a lovely crystal microphone trophy, a great deal of publicity and continent-wide fame, and not a penny of prize money.

Since the winning nation of the last year’s contest is given the opportunity to host the next year, ESC 2017 has presented a very thorny path from conception to execution.  Last year Ukraine’s Jamala won with her historic (many say overtly political) ballad mourning the slaughter of Tatars by the Russian armies, 1944.  A bit on the nose, considering that the two countries are once more battling over the Crimea, which was part of Ukraine until Russia moved in to claim it as a rightful part of their own country. There is currently no love lost between the two nations, and Eurovision fans were left wondering how the situation would resolve itself this year.  Messily and bitterly, as it turned out.


Russian Sergey Lazarov sees his popular 2016 entry fall short as Ukraine wins Eurovision.

Russia was already stinging over having presented the most-voted entry of last year and still reaching only a third place finish due to its unpopularity with professional juries (who award an equal number of the final scores). Australia was the big jury vote magnet, but fell to second place in the final scores when the televotes had singer Dami Im as fourth most popular. Ukraine was the consensus choice when their second place scores from both the televoters and juries vaulted them into the highest overall position. Did you get that (scoring can be a bit confusing in this contest)?

This winter, Russian media began a campaign to complain that the West was unfairly marking down their entries for political reasons, and that Russia should pull out completely. Their devious ultimate strategy, revealed at the last possible moment, was to send a pretty handicapped girl singer with a lovely song about unity and togetherness to get sympathy votes from everyone… But WAIT! Their innocent young wheelchaired songbird was also known for entertaining ethnic Russians and army troops occupying Crimea, in flagrant violation of Ukrainian law.  The host broadcaster in Ukraine complained to the contest organizers of the European Broadcast Union that no matter what the broadcasters’ desires for unity might be, they couldn’t disregard their country’s laws and allow the Russian entry to be performed in Kyiv. The EBU really bent over backward to accommodate Russia, and even offered to allow Yulia to compete from a home country studio in Russia via a live satellite hookup, but neither Russia nor Ukraine were happy with that compromise.  Russia pulled out of the contest and blamed Ukraine. See, there are Russian scandals in all kinds of venues this year.

So the major pre-Contest story this year was that major player Russia, which generally places in the top five or ten every year of Eurovision finals, would not be participating, voting in, or broadcasting the show in 2017. This creates a lot of ripples that will affect the voting and performance of many of the 43 entries that ARE performing and competing in this popular music extravaganza.


The European Broadcast Union and contest organizers are still trying to figure out who to punish for this mess, and hinted that both Ukraine and Russia could face penalties of being shut out of the competition for three years.



The Running Order for the Grand Final!

Saturday night Europe will choose its song of the year, and here is the order of finalists:

  1. Belgium
  2. Czech Republic
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Hungary
  6. Italy
  7. Israel
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Sweden
  10. Germany
  11. France
  12. Poland
  13. Australia
  14. Cyprus
  15. Serbia
  16. Lithuania
  17. Croatia
  18. Russia
  19. Spain
  20. Latvia
  21. Ukraine
  22. Malta
  23. Georgia
  24. Austria
  25. United Kingdom
  26. Armenia

Contest organizers took the randomly drawn slots that each artist drew which placed them in the first or second half of the show, and placed them in a running order that makes sense technically and also makes for a good experience for viewers.theme_eurovision_2016_small

Two of the top entries, Belgium and Armenia, have been placed at the beginning and end. The remaining strong contenders have generally been spaced out through the evening.  There used to be a certain superstition about which places in the running order were lucky and unlucky, but recent years has mostly disproved such speculation.

Tonight’s dress rehearsal will tell us more about the running order and its progression when we see and hear it all in action!

Semifinal Allocation Today

Well, we now are one step closer to Eurovision 2014, as the EBU and contest organizers just completed the draw to decide which countries will compete in each half of each semifinal.  And just like last year, it looks like there will be a very strong string of contenders in the first half of the first semifinal, with perennial qualifiers Sweden, Azerbaijan, Russia and (almost certain qualifier) Armenia all in that position. Certain qualifier Ukraine is in the second half. Neighborly voting will also feature in the first semi, with Belgium and the Netherlands both competing, and with Spain able to vote for neighbor Portugal, and Denmark able to vote for fellow Scandi nations Sweden and Iceland.

2014 ESC semifinal draw

2014 ESC semifinal draw

In the second night of semifinals we find Greece and Romania as dependable qualifiers, along with usually strong Ireland, Norway and Georgia. Here is the full draw:

Semi-final 1 (6 May)

Semi-final 2 (8 May)

1st part

2nd part

1st part

2nd part




FYR Macedonia














San Marino












The Netherlands


ESC Entries Play Extreme Makeover

In the last few years, we have had last-minute changes of entries from a few countries like Ukraine and Belarus. This year a whole slew of countries is changing their song just before the deadline or completely renovating the entry they are sticking with. Fortunately the ones announced so far have been met with positive responses!

Belarus was one of the first countries to decide this year, and many observers said at the time “Just wait, they will probably change this.” Guess what? They have, to an utterly cheesy dance-pop number that rocketed them up the betting charts to a firm top ten. “Solayoh” is an older song that has existed online as a demo for several years, but under the new qualification rules it still meets the rules. Alyona sounds quite enthusiastic in her performance–it’s amazing what taking a borderline qualifier and switching it out for a surefire fan favorite will do.

Ukraine kept its “Gravity”, but gave it a streamlining and made it more international-audience friendly. Already a top contender, Ukraine is obviously setting their sights very high for 2013 with an entry like this:

This WAS FYRO Macedonia’s entry, a grand pop number by Vlatko with wailing ethnic interludes by legendary Esma. “Imperija” was quite well-received by fans, but apparently not highly thought of in Macedonia. We are waiting for an announced new song that will feature Esma singing part of the entry in Roma.

Bulgaria is bringing back Elitsa and Stoyan, its 2007 artsts who had such great success with “Voda”. Last week their televised selection show chose “Kismet” as their entry, and yet this week it was withdrawn “due to problems in copyright negotiations”. Meanwhile internet rumors are flying that the new song “Samo Shampioni” was the choice of the artists all along, and when the TV vote that Bulgarian-tv insisted on for its own bottom line profit chose “Kismet”, Elitsa pitched a fit and hated the viewers choice. Here is the updated entry:

Meanwhile Belgium’s entry “Love Kills” has been reviled and consigned to the bottom dustbin of the betting charts since it was first performed in December. Now artist Roberto Bellarosa has returned from working with the song’s creator in Finland, and VOILA! The entry has been punched-up, speeded-up, and improved 1000%! If Roberto’s live vocal skills are better than the original song presentation, he could now have a genuine qualifier.

Semifinal Draw for 2013

This year the running order for the ESC semifinal and final shows is to be determined by show producers (a somewhat controversial decision). But the countries competing in the semifinals have still drawn places in the two semis, as well as a position in the first of second half of that semi.  And the six automatic qualifiers (the Big 5 plus host country Sweden) have drawn which semifinal they will be required to broadcast and have their citizens vote in.  (Until the countries choose their songs for this year, there aren’t too many conclusions to draw about the relative difficulty of the semis.) Here are the results of the draw:

Big 5 and Host Country – Semi-final allocation for broadcasting and voting

  • France – Second Semi-final
  • Germany – Second Semi-final
  • Spain – Second Semi-final
  • United Kingdom – First Semi-final
  • Sweden – First Semi-final
  • Italy – First Semi-final

Semi final 1

First half

Second half

Denmark Lithuania
Croatia Serbia
Ukraine Ireland
The Netherlands Belarus
Austria Cyprus
Slovenia Montenegro
Estonia Belgium
Russia Moldova

Semi final 2

First half

Second half

Latvia Israel
Azerbaijan Norway
Malta Albania
Iceland Hungary
San Marino Switzerland
FYR Macedonia Georgia
Finland Greece
Bulgaria Armenia


Details and Schedule from Lithuania’s National Selection

LRT, the national broadcaster in Lithuania, has announced the structure and dates of its selection process for 2013 (though taking place at the end of 2012).  The contestants will be presented in two “introduction” shows, then compete through 5 weeks of preselection, leading to two semifinals and a grand final.

The Lithuanian national Selection Schedule:

20th October- Introduction Show 1
27fh October- Introduction Show 2
3rd November- Preselection Show 1
10th November- Preselection Show 2
17th November- Preselection Show 3
24th November- Preselection Show 4
1st December-  Preselection Show 5
8th December- Semifinal 1
15th December- Semifinal 2
December- Final ( Date to be determined)

All shows will take place on Saturday evenings on LRT television, and will be streamed live online on . In 2012, Lithuania’s Donny Montell sailed through the semifinals and took 14th place in the grand finals in Baku.

Albania Announces Details of December National Final

RTSH, the Albanian national broadcaster, has announced more details for their 2012 Festivali i Këngës, the National Song Festival whose winner becomes Albania’s official ESC entry. About 40 entries have been submitted so far, and RTSH has accommodated artists’ request to extend the submission deadline to October 22.

Albania is the fourth EBU nation to decide on a December final, joining Lithuania, Switzerland, and Belarus.  As has become RTSH’s tradition, the Festivali final will take place from December 20 to 22, so by New Year’s Day 2013 we should already have almost 10% of the Eurovision entries chosen.