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Spotter’s Guide: Eurovision 2021 Semifinal One Written by on May 18, 2021

We’ve been waiting two years for this moment: the return of Eurovision. Sixteen songs will vie for ten spots in Saturday’s Grand Final, but there’s so much more than just our competing songs. Samantha Ross takes a look at what to expect for Tuesday’s show.

The Show Must Go On

May 18th marks two years since the last competitive Eurovision show, and so the feeling of joy to be returning to the Contest that we all know and love is practically palpable.

At the same time, there doesn’t appear to be much of a feeling of mourning for the 2020 Contest That Never Was; there’s simply a vibe of “we’ve waited a long time, so on with the show”! There’s mention of Duncan Laurence waiting two years to crown his successor, and the slogan “Open Up” meaning more now than ever before. The feeling also carries over into some of the situations we find ourselves in this year. As Montaigne’s performance of “Technicolur” is shown, there’s no reference to it being pre-recorded in Australia, there’s simply a view of it on a screen at the end of the song where an artist would be taking their bows if they were on site. It’s referred to a bit more directly during artist interviews, as host Nikke has a brief long-distance chat with Montaigne. It’s all very “keep calm and carry on” this year, which I believe audiences will appreciate.

Tiny Houses, Big Concept

We’ve heard a fair amount about this year’s postcard concept, where a series of colourful “tiny houses” are placed in locations all around The Netherlands, from urban centres to windswept beaches. The houses are then filled with items that represent the performers that are about to take the stage, and eventually an image of the artists themselves. It’s a lovely way to highlight the host country, see a little bit of personality from our singers, and still remind ourselves that this is a contest that had to adapt to unique times.

The Stagings We All Know and Love

Those looking for eye-catching, innovative staging will find something to fall in love with during tonight’s sixteen performances (plus the appearances from the three automatic qualifiers voting in this Semifinal: Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands). From Croatia’s augmented-reality cloning to Belgium’s dark intimacy to Ireland’s forced-perspective pop-up book to Germany’s tap-dancing, bugle-playing peace-sign-turned-middle-finger, there’s something for everyone!

A Million Voices…

Unlike previous years, where all vocals, lead or backing, had to be performed live, Eurovision 2021 is allowing for backing voices to be pre-recorded. This is something that has been tried and tested at Junior Eurovision for years now. From Slovenia’s invisible gospel choir to Croatia’s creative usage of Albina as her own backing singer, you can see (and hear) the creative freedom this has allowed for certain delegations.

The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat

Of course, it’s customary for the previous winner of Eurovision to play a prominent role in the next Contest, and 2021 is no exception. We open the show with Duncan Laurence performing his song “Get Ready”, striking the perfect chord as the ESC gets underway. He’ll pop up sporadically throughout the proceedings (as I’m sure he will be for later shows), including a retrospective on the immense success of “Arcade” and his album, “Small Town Boy”.

Duncan’s not the only alum we’ll see, however. Eurovision 2021 is the 65th running of the show, so a number of other former winners will make appearances, from Måns to Conchita. A rather touching moment comes after the close of voting, when a prerecorded piece entitled “A Winner’s Journey” honors the songs and careers of many beloved champions, including Johnny Logan, Anne-Marie David, Eimar Quinn, Marie Myriam, and Lenny Kuhr.

Of course, not everyone can be a winner, and NikkieTutorials shows us all how to lose gracefully in a segment that comes on the heels of “A Winner’s Journey”. Those of us feeling sick of the warm-and-fuzzy feelgood moments and longing for a bit of ESChadenfreude will enjoy this compilation of bum notes and disappointed faces. John Lundvik fans, you might consider making a cup of tea instead.

Drip Drop…

Outside of the sphere of Eurovision alumni, we’ll have an interval entitled “The Power of Water”, highlighting the Netherlands’ vital, yet tenuous relationship with the sea. A country with significant swathes of territory below sea level, and other regions made up of land reclaimed from the ocean, it’s as much a part of Dutch identity as saudade is to the Portuguese or fire to Azerbaijani culture. Leading the interval is Rotterdam-born songstress Davina Michelle and a fleet of dancers. Could this be Europe’s introduction to a future Dutch representative?

Taking it Away…

Eurovision 2021 marks the beginning of a new era. Martin Österdahl has assumed the position of Executive Supervisor following the departure of Jon-Ola Sand. After years of ringing in the results with a hearty “take it away”, what will Martin’s trademark catchphrase be? “Onwards and upwards”? “To infinity and beyond”? “Dammit, Edsilia, I’m a producer, not a magician”? Tune in and find out!


About The Author: Samantha Ross

Vaguely aware of the Contest since childhood, a fanatic since 2008, and an ESC blogger since 2009, Samantha Ross made her first sojourn to Eurovision in 2011, and was quickly welcomed into the fold at ESC Insight. Over the years, she's been interviewed by BBC World News, SVT, LBC Radio, and many others. She was a semi-regular contributor to Oystermouth Radio's weekly dedicated Eurovision program, "Wales 12 Points". Furthermore, Samantha contributed to BBC Radio 2's coverage of the Copenhagen contest, and was a member of the official web team in 2014 and 2015. She also worked as a member of the Bulgarian Delegation, serving as Assistant Head of Press in Kyiv and Lisbon. She is also the creator of the podcast "12 Points from America", an irreverent look at Eurovision from a US point of view. When not at Eurovision, Samantha is a regular on the Twin Cities pub quiz circuit, and has volunteered as a moderator for the local high school quiz bowl for over ten years. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but is wistfully looking for opportunities to get geographically closer to the heart of the Eurovision action. You can follow Samantha on Twitter (@escinsider).

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