Every year, about 200 million people from around the world tune in to watch the breathtaking grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest — a greater audience than that of any Super Bowl in history. Since 1956, Eurovision has come to be a staple for families across Europe; they gather around a television and applaud their country’s entry. The participating nations grew, from the competition’s original seven founding countries, to a record 43. The contest also helped establish the careers of several global sensations, including ABBA, Celine Dion and Olivia Newton-John, during its 62 years on air.
Last year, Salvador Sobral won the contest with “Amar pelos dois,” carrying the contest to his home country Portugal this year. While Lisbon is getting ready to host the biggest Eurovision to date this week, here are a few songs to watch out for in the mix:
Eleni Foureira will be representing Cyprus this year and she is a serious contender to take the Eurovision trophy home, which would give the Mediterranean island-nation their first win. Her song, “Fuego,” is easily an earworm, with a music video that is, at times, reminiscent of Beyoncé’s “Formation.” While some opt to call it “fast-food music,” the entry certainly aims to make everyone sway their hips along to the song’s Hellenic post-chorus. A fusion of genres, cultures and languages, the song, performed by an Albanian-Greek artist, pushes to bring Europe together and falls in line with the vision behind the contest. Foureira brings an unmatched energy to the stage and a performed choreography that is perfectly in sync with the four backup dancers — all the while, she almost flawlessly hits each note. Cyprus has been geopolitically at a disadvantage in Eurovision, placing as high as fifth on three separate occasions, but “Fuego” seems likely to bring the country its best result yet.
Israel’s Netta Barzilai was the bookmakers’ favorite to win the entire contest this year with her #MeToo movement inspired, uptempo empowerment anthem “Toy” until the Cypriot entry dethroned her earlier this week. The catchy tune checks off all the marks an Eurovision winner should feature: a charming and memorable face, some form of social commentary hidden behind the lyrics, a traditional Middle Eastern beat and a distinctive soundscape in the form of weird chicken clucks that may or may not be a dig at the cowardice of men. While Barzilai does put on a great show using her loop pedals and the assistance of backup dancers on stage, her first rehearsal was found to be underwhelming by the press in attendance. The odds are still in Israel’s favor, but only time will tell if Barzilai’s subpar vocals and onstage energy can give the country their fourth victory.
Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva could hit a home run in Lisbon with her popera track “La Forza,” accompanied by a stellar 65,000-Euro performance. Her very long dress, which covers the entirety of the stage, lights up with projections as she starts belting the ritornello. Nechayeva’s vocal range and expensive stage show will certainly be enough to carry her to the grand final, however, her style might be dangerously close to the winners from 2016 and 2017, sabotaging the chances of an Estonian victory after their first, and so far only, win in 2001.
Returning Eurovision champion Alexander Rybak will take the stage for Norway this year. Previously, Rybak entered the contest in 2009 with “Fairytale” and had the best scoring entry ever until 2016, when new rules were implemented for the voting. This year, he will perform “That’s How You Write a Song,” a quirky pop tune with big violin solos characteristic of Rybak’s music. While it might feel like Rybak does not really know how to write a song after listening to his entry, Norway skyrocketed in predictions after Rybak’s first rehearsal, signaling a positive public reception. Alexander Rybak obviously has the charm and talent of a winner, but the atrociousness of his entry could set him back few spots away from triumph this time around.
Even though aggressive punk rock is not known to be a genre with mass appeal, Hungary’s AWS is the underdog this year to break the stigma surrounding the genre with their entry “Viszlát Nyár.” Ever since Lordi won for Finland in 2006 with “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” participating countries started sending rock acts to represent them every once in a while. These performances are a bit hit-or-miss, but AWS’s melodic chorus and energetic presence will likely land them a place on the upper half of the scoreboard.
French duo Madame Monsieur and Amaia & Alfred from Spain were among the early favorites leading to the contest with their songs “Mercy” and “Tu Canción” respectively, but they struggled to stand out during the rehearsal week in Lisbon. They are contenders for the trophy nonetheless, especially if they managed to gain enough fans prior to the live shows.
You can tune in to Logo TV or stream the competition online on Saturday, May 12 at 12 p.m. PT to catch the grand final of this year’s Eurovision from the comfort of your own couch.
Contact Ugur Dursun at mudursun ‘at’ stanford.edu.