I’ve only been attending The Eurovision Song Contest since 2011, but by the time I make my sixth pilgrimage this upcoming May it will mark my third trip to Scandinavia for the show and my second to Sweden. It appears that our hosts are rapidly approaching Ireland’s high-water mark of seven victories with no signs of slowing down (and, let’s be honest here, no real signs of Ireland stepping up their game).
I’m looking forward to seeing what SVT does with its hosting duties, especially considering that we were in Malmö so recently. Some host countries use their moment in the spotlight to share their identity with an audience of millions, whether it’s Baku’s endless shots of the Qız Qalası or Austria’s sweet postcards. How will the powers that be give the show a sense of cultural identity, without imitating the ‘Swedish Smogåsbord‘ that Petra Mede served up in 2013? And if we come back to the country a few years from now (which is more than likely), how will SVT continue to innovate, and keep on getting us excited to return to a pricey destination like Sweden?
But on that note, I really can’t wait to see how Stockholm takes charge of its duties as host city. In the world’s largest scale model of our Solar System, which stretches all the way across Sweden, the sun is represented by Globen. For so many Eurovision fans, it feels like center of the universe. The Globe is such an emblematic part of recent Eurovision and Melodifestivalen history; I personally still have trouble saying that a qualifying MF song is going “direkt til Friends…” “Direkt til Globen” just seems to roll off the tongue so much more easily. While Malmö was a decently pleasant place to spend a fortnight, it seemed to lack the energy and buzz that anybody who’s attended a Melodifestivalen Final knows that Stockholm can provide.
After all, can anybody really imagine Magnus Carlsson singing “Möt mig i Lilla torg”?
I fully anticipate Stockholm going big. I’ve been lucky enough to be (just a little bit) involved in the bidding process for the capital, and while I know no juicy details, the effort made from Stockholm as a city befits the reputation Eurovision has in this country. After all, let’s remember the capital city started the bid process even before Måns was selected as the Swedish entrant. Hopefully this effort will translate into a fan experience that will meet those incredibly high expectations.
In terms of SVT and its production, there is an excitement once again for what they come up with. But whereas for the Malmö-edition SVT tinkered with everything it was able to, there is a far more relaxed and ‘we have done this before’ attitude from the core team. What stands out for me is the push to make this edition of the Eurovision Song Contest even cheaper than the ambitious budget achieved in 2013, a staggering feat if possible in a significantly more expensive city.
With this comes a great opportunity. The Song Contest has been missing some of the big players in recent years, and I dare say the quality of songs reaching the Grand Final has sucked because of it. If costs can be low it should mean Stockholm’s expensive hotels are not supplemented by sky-high broadcaster fees, making it a doable stretch for broadcasters. Ukraine wants to return (if it can find a politically-neutral method to do so), Turkey is muttering similar positive vibes, the Balkan bloc may return to its former glory. Stockholm, as a hub of international music, may be able to make bring together a continent that has been fragmented recently. If we can get ourselves back up to over 40 countries it would be a huge success story for all involved, and I believe this year is our best chance in a while to achieve it.
To be fair Ben, we did manage to hit the magic 40 in 2015 – albeit only by playing even more fast and loose than usual with the ‘Euro’ element of The Eurovision Song Contest and bringing Australia into the fold. With the musical starting line now passed, the first thing I’m looking forward to is seeing how the 2016 participant list shapes up. I imagine the Aussies are probably here to stay, and Ukraine and Turkey have already made positive, if noncommittal noises, but as a sucker for an underdog, I’m much more interested in whether any of the less illustrious dropouts of recent years will get back on board.
Bulgaria are always good for a memorable effort, so I’m hoping their budget for hosting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest leaves enough over for their first main Song Contest appearance since 2013. Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina have been sadly missed lately too, and I’d love to see Slovakia back in the fold and gunning for their first qualifier. Perhaps we’ll even see a change of heart from some of the more stubborn holdouts – Luxembourg, Andorra, Monaco, I refuse to give up on you!
(I was nervously awaiting decisions from the Czech Republic. Marta & Václav were a total delight this year, and although they missed the finals, I rightly clung to the hope that the high ratings they delivered and the the career-best score they earned for their home country)
I worry that Macedonia may be on the fence after a disastrous few years – another country that aren’t always necessarily good, but are very seldom forgettable! Another Balkan country worth worrying about is Montenegro – on such a roll these past two years, but sadly their success has been overshadowed by a dispute with the EBU over the disqualification of their jury votes last year. We also have to question whether Greece will be able to justify the expense given the terrible time they’re going through at the moment.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all – will Ralph Siegel’s pockets be deep enough for San Marino to stay in the game?
I’m sort of in the same boat as John in regards to wondering which countries are going to participate. So many returning countries are on the fence for political, economic, or pride-related reasons. There were a number of strong entries for the 2015 Contest, any of which could have rightfully taken the prize, but for some reason I can’t get the two biggest heavy-hitters out of my head, ‘Heroes‘ from Sweden and ‘A Million Voices‘ from Russia.
Somewhere after the return of 50/50 jury voting, Sweden figured out the formula for a winning entry, while Russia has been clawing its way back to the top since their win in 2008 (courtesy of Dima Bilan). They both enjoy a lot of support from their neighbors, and even recent political actions didn’t stop people from locking in votes for Polina despite boos from the crowd. There’s no question in my mind that in the next five years, Sweden will hit a seventh and possibly eighth victory and steal the top position from Ireland, and there will be another trip to Mother Russia in there, too.
That’s not to say I necessarily want either of them to win, nor is it any kind of guarantee. 2015 showed that more avant garde entries (Loic Nottet’s ‘Rythym Inside‘ and Aminata’s ‘Love Injected‘ in particular) proved popular with the voters and juries alike, and Australian broadcaster SBS (now that it seems they are a regular player) proved it could hold their own as the new kid on the block. And yet, that some people will still vote for an entry simply because they share a country of origin or thousand-year-old recipes for potatoes is something I just can’t get my head around, and it’s fascinating. It doesn’t hurt that they have talent and resources to spare.
When the votes were coming in, there was a tense silence in the room that wasn’t broken until Nigella Lawson delivered the scores for the United Kingdom, shifting the lead from Russia to Sweden. Such a close race makes me ponder SVT’s resolve for next year. There’s been a trend among winning countries to tone down (or go more experimental) on their home field to either be a good sport or to not break the bank with back-to-back hosting duties.
Will Sweden step aside and let someone else have a go at the trophy? Or will they come out swinging for a double? With Russia getting so close in 2015, you can bet they aren’t going to hold back in 2016, but who’s going to stand in their way?
Yegads, are we already focused on the minutiae of what happens on the ground in May? No. Just no. We’ve got something far more exciting to look forward to before the media remembers what a good idea fika is.
It’s the heart of The Eurovision Song Contest itself. The music.
Having tracked the number of submissions to broadcasters over the last few years, I’m pretty confident in calling the big number. With the September 1st date now passed, there’s going to be close to ten thousand songs submitted for consideration across Europe (and beyond!) The fact that every one of them is going to lose is neither here nor there (and even the winning song will arguably lose in the long run). The truth is that as a music fan I’m about to be exposed to a whirlwind of creative talents who are going to present their best work to the world.
Will I like every single song? No. Can I appreciate every song? Yes. Will there be songs that I fall in love with that will remain a personal favourite for years to come? More than likely, because that has happened before on countless occasions, and will surely happen again.
It’s time to pick up the stories of favourite artists across the continent. What has Deborah C lined up for us this year? Will this be the Contest that Donita Gherman finally escapes the Moldovan borders and reaches the mainstream? Will we still love Latvian Beaver in the morning?
And what of Männerchor Steili Kressä? Sasha Bognibov? Erna Hrön Olafsdottir? Daniel Levi? Samanta Tina? Stories that have started in the Eurovision community that will no doubt continue this year and meet with success and failure in equal measure.
The Eurovision Song Contest is about music, it’s about discovering new cultures, and it’s about using new technology. Well, the ten thousand tracks of the 2015/16 season cover all those bases, and more.
I’m here for the music, I’ll stay for the competition. But I won’t say no to fika.
Ewan touched on what is most certainly a key concept for me when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest – discovering new cultures.
I live and love The Song Contest because it gives me the chance to travel and embrace new cultures and new people. Without it I doubt that I would be writing from where I am now, in Riga, Latvia, having literally just stepped off a plane from Australia 20 hours ago to embark on a new life adventure for hopefully the long-term in Europe.
Whilst ‘Destination 2016: Sweden’ is somewhere that many would feel is a bit too familiar having already visited as recently as 2013 for Malmö; Stockholm is something entirely new for the more recent Eurovision fan (post-2000), or those who do not follow the gargantuan selection that is Melodifestivalen – a wealth of excitement, a city that will entirely embrace the competition, its fans, the concept, the music. There will be no escaping it, despite the size of the location.
Previous visits to Stockholm have already taught me that unlike other places (*cough* the United Kingdom *cough*) there is no shame in liking The Song Contest there. One can stroll the streets proudly displaying their Eurovision wearable merchandise without judgement. You can wander through the shops to the centres provided soundtrack of Elina & Stigs’ ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’, and you can drink your Kopperberg in any pub (not just the gay bars) whilst bopping along to Loïcs’ ‘Rhythm Inside’. Going further exploring, I can pop into the ABBA Museum to brush up on my knowledge by day, and in the evening, I can show off my karaoke skills on ‘Waterloo’ at the Mamma Mia- The Party. This is a destination where the song contest isn’t just embraced 1 or 2 weeks in a year: it resonates year-round and truly permeates its modern history.
Having taken a personal two-year hiatus from The Contest, I can safely state that the thing I most look forward to for 2016 is to be swallowed whole back into the belly of the beast that is Eurovision, in what has to be the spiritual home of the event.
There are countless scribbles on the continental song contest calendar that have me excited about the 2015/2016 season. A (Junior) Eurovision event coming to us from Bulgaria for the first time? Bring it on. News on who’ll be showing up in Stockholm? Carn, Straya! Upcoming selections that may spawn off-the-wall rather than by-the-book entries, á la this year’s Belgian and Latvian efforts? Not even six straight hours of ‘Wars For Nothing‘ could calm me down.
But all of the above isn’t all I’m looking forward to.
Next May, as ‘Te Deum‘ signifies the start of Stockholm’s first semi final, I’ll be celebrating my tenth year of being a fully paid-up member of ‘The Society of Those Who Live and Breathe Eurovision.’ Ten years is a lengthy amount of time, but it’s not been long enough to see me make the big trip from Down Under to attend the Contest. Until now…
Sweden, as Sharleen said, is the home of Eurovision in a sense (as well as the home of reasonably-priced flat-pack furniture). It’s in the prime position on my travel list, and I involve myself in anything and everything remotely related to the country’s participations.
I follow Melodifestivalen from Svensktoppen Nästa to the Saturday final at Friends like a bloodhound (in my case, a bloodhound on the scent of G:Son’s cologne of choice) and I have no problem setting a 3 am alarm for an Andra Chansen round. I always improve the muscle mass of my flag-waving arm when a Melfest winner takes to the Eurovision stage, and I actually cried during Sanna Nielsen’s semi performance in Copenhagen last year (one tear for each of her attempts to represent Sweden).
Having missed Malmö’s ESC extravaganza, I was not going to let another Swedish-helmed contest pass me by. I promised myself that, should Måns Zelmerlöw and his leather pants (lest we forget) prove the bookies correct and win the 60th show, I’d do whatever it took to be there for the 61st. And I like to keep my promises.
I’ve been told there’s nothing quite as epic as the on-ground Eurovision experience: meeting other people who know the lyrics to ‘Džuli‘ by heart despite barely speaking a word of Serbian, and being close enough to the action to cough when each copious cloud of hairspray floats out of the backstage area. I’m beyond ready to confirm this for myself, and I can’t imagine a better country in which to conduct my research and draw my conclusions, while draped in flags and carrying a Måns-sized butterfly net in case I encounter our reigning champ along the way, than Sweden.
Möt mig i Globen?
It’s a simple question, and everyone has their own answer, so it’s over to you now. What are you looking forward to over the next Eurovision year? The comments are open, as always, so while we wait to hear the first genuine National Final song, what are you looking forward to?