Well, this is a curious year to do our traditional ‘Nine Things…’ post. For a start I can’t draft it on the flight home! We’re not going to cut and paste last year’s ‘Nine Things…‘, (even though most of them are still valid) because Eurovision 2021 is not Eurovision 2020 – a phrase that is going to be needed a lot over the next twelve months.
One of the benefits of ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light‘ was the closure it offered. The Eurovision Song Contest in 2020 is a landmark year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. How would the narrative end?
‘Shine A Light‘ brought that ending, drawing a metaphorical production line under the cancellation of the Song Contest. While there will rightly be an acknowledgment of the pandemic at Eurovision 2021, the hosts should then bridge into the Contest and the greatest light entertainment musical show the world has ever seen.
No ‘No Show’ Allowed
Don’t expect the Song Contest to be cancelled next year. While the loss of Eurovision 2020 can be acknowledged this year with the aforementioned ‘Shine A Light‘ and tribute shows from individual broadcasters, to not have a competitive show next year would mean three years between Tel Aviv and wherever a 2022 Contest would take place. That gap would make it harder for the Contest to come back, so there will be a competitive show… in some form.
In this ever-changing and challenging environment, the EBU will, therefore, work with its Dutch Members and the City of Rotterdam to ensure the continuity of the event in a number of different scenarios.
The format of next year’s Song Contest is going to be dependent on science as much as song.
It might be spectacular, it might have won awards, but the data-drive ‘bullseye’ logo for Rotterdam 2020 is… the logo for Rotterdam 2020. The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 is a new show, and must stand on its own. That means, much as we love it, the 2020 branding would be a bigger marketing hindrance compared to the cost saving in recycling the logo. I’d expect it to change, and a new slogan to replace #OpenUp, arriving in due course.
Given the spreadsheet that generated the slices is still around, maybe next year will be lots of coloured squares representing the historical results?
We know a lot more about 2021 than we would normally know in the week before the Contest. We know it’s Rotterdam. We know it’s the Ahoy Theatre, after all the 2020 tickets are going to be valid in 2021. What we don’t know are the dates.
The obvious choice is same again, which means Saturday May 15th for the Grand Final, but there’s a strong argument to go as late as possible to push back the go-no go decision dates. That would mean Saturday May 22nd or even Saturday May 29th.
The Ahoy Theatre
Remember the CGI views of the staging elements for Eurovision 2020? We’re going to see them next year.
First of all, although the fans have seen the representations, they’ve not been seen on television by the public. The reveal of the stage next year will be a new television moment. Given every single publicly sold ticket can be carried forwards to next year’s shows, that means the capacity issues in each area, including the floor zones, has not changed. The design is staying.
A Smaller Circus
Outside the venue events, there’s likely to be a scaling back of the ambitions of the Eurovision Village and the use of public spaces. Coronavirus will still be part of the world, even if a vaccine is developed, deployed and proves to be highly effective. The key product of the Eurovision Song Contest is the television show. The external activities are a big bonus for the host city and country, but they are not a critical part of the televised show. While they will not disappear, they are likely to be scaled back for public health reasons.
A Chance For Change
This year saw Jon Ola Sand step down rom his role as Executive Producer for the Eurovision Song Contest, with Sweden’s Martin Österdahl now in the role.
Much like a new political leader can make wholesale changes in the first few months of their new role, Österdahl would have his own ideas to keep the Song Contest relevant in the second decade of the 21st century. With the break in continuity and multiple formats being actively considered to cover all circumstances, Österdahl has the biggest blank sheet of paper to reinvent the Eurovision Song Contest since Marcel Bezençon.
Junior Eurovision Goes Remote
We may see the first radical change at this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Announced during ‘Shine A Light‘, Poland will be doing back-to-back hosting duties.
With the best will in the world, heading into winter with the spectre of coronavirus still hanging over us, the duty of care to the performers will need to be considered. Should they be gathering together in Warsaw?
Or will this be a good time to test the idea of a ‘remote’ Eurovision with the Junior performers staying at home and travelling the much shorter distance to the broadcaster’s own studio for a satellite link-up?
The experience might come in useful for May 2021…
Measuring The Songs
And so to the songs of 2021. I suspect the stronger voices in the community may fracture into two camps. The first camp will be the ‘we must compare this artist’s song to the song they had last year and decide which is better‘. The second will be the camp that makes a specific point to ‘ignore the 2020 songs and try to judge the new entries in isolation.’
The returning artists are going to be under more pressure by virtue of having been carried forwards, the mental highs will be higher and the lows will be lower. To have three months of build up to a non-qualification is hard; now imagine that after more than a year.
Even countries that send a different artist, either through an internal selection or National Final, would have a tough time being compared to 2020’s entry. Imagine being the Icelandic act that has to follow ‘Think About Things‘?
What are you looking forward to for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021? What needs changed, what should stay the same, and what would be your wildest expectation? Let us know in the comments.