It’s been a long, tough road, but we’re finally at the end of the tunnel. Very soon, we’ll see a new Eurovision champion raise the crystal microphone, our first victor in two years. But between the Te Deum and the rolling of the credits, we’ve got an incredible show to look forward to. Here are just a few of the highlights to keep an eye out for:
Sapphire Anniversary Celebrations
As this is the 65th running of the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s only appropriate that the show takes many opportunities to look back on the years behind us. From lighthearted retrospectives like host Nikkie de Jaeger’s “Eurovision Tutorials” to a bit of Carpool Karaoke with Edsilia Rombley (filmed pre-COVID, of course), there are plenty of opportunities to play “spot the song”. Even this year’s primary interval act, “Rock the Rooftops”, honors past winners! Sure, we get Måns and Lordi, but we also get to hear from champions like Teach-In, Lenny Kuhr, and Sandra Kim.
We might still be waiting to hear who’s on each country’s respective juries, but we at least know who’ll be announcing their points during the Final. We’ll see nine former Eurovision singers, from Latvia’s Aminata Savadogo to Moldova’s Sergey “Epic Sax Guy” Stepanov. We’ll also see a few familiar faces from Junior Eurovision, like France’s Carla, who sang the Barbara Pravi-written “Bim Bam Toi” in 2019, and Poland’s Ida Nowakowska, who hosted in 2019 and 2020. And, of course, there are the spokespeople that we see year after year, returning to our screens like old friends (we see you, Albania’s Andri Xhahu and Germany’s Barbara Schöneberger!). And there are also a few National Finalists in the mix, like Estonia’s Sissi and Ukraine’s Tayanna…who knows, maybe the next time we see them at Eurovision, they’ll be receiving points, rather than giving them out.
Showcasing Local Talent
Eurovision is a great opportunity for a host nation to show off their local talent, and this year is no exception. We open the show with a remix of “Venus” (itself a Dutch-originated hit) by 16-year-old DJ Pieter Gabriel. One of tonight’s intervals, “Music Binds Us”, features Rotterdam-born Afrojack, pop singer Wulf, and Eurovision alum Glennis Grace. And, of course, Duncan Laurence will be featured, with a performance of both “Arcade” and his new single, “Stars”…
…even if Duncan can’t perform in the arena.
Not a Normal Year…
It goes without saying that 2021 is nothing like a normal year, and this year’s Eurovision has had to undergo significant adaptations in order to make it to air. The crowd is small (literally an order of magnitude smaller than the capacity of the event in Düsseldorf a decade ago), and nearly all of the off-site activities, like Euroclub, Eurovillage, and even the freedom to have a wander in the city beyond a delegation’s hotel, have been curtailed. We’re still living in a world where COVID is on the brain, and we saw it in the Semifinals with the absence of Australia, and then the last-minute diagnosis of a member of the Icelandic team.
Fortunately for Team Iceland, the prerecorded rehearsal footage of “10 Years” was already highly polished and suitable for broadcast in lieu of a live performance. Furthermore, rather than displaying an angle that showed that the Icelandic performance wasn’t live (that is, a wide shot of the band on a screen, rather than on stage), the clip of “10 Years” is immediately followed by cheering audiences. Other than their absence from the Opening Flag Parade and the fact that the Icelandic Greenroom is now the band’s hotel, it would be hard for a casual viewer to know the difference.
The audiences, too, are aware of this year’s restrictions. The Eurovision live shows are registered as a FieldLab event, with audiences being tested and monitored closely. For more information, see Ben’s article on the “Eurovision Bubble” this year. While there are regulations in place, the atmosphere is open and carefree, and it almost seems like audiences are able to escape the spectre of COVID for a few hours.
The absence of Duncan Laurence, however, is more keenly felt, and more pointedly mentioned. His aforementioned performances of “Arcade” and “Stars” are prerecorded, and his job as spokesperson for the Dutch jury vote has been given to singer and presenter Romy Monteiro. Finally, rather than handing the crystal microphone to his successor, it will be placed on a plinth for the new winner to pick up. No word on what will happen if that winner is Iceland, however…
Of Course! The Music!
But, at the end of it all, we’re here for the music. And this year’s Grand Final is shaping up to be one of the most spectacular in recent memory. Between the explosive joy that’s about to be released following the 2020 Contest That Never Was, and the hard work of artists who’ve had an extra year to hone their performances, the level of quality of this year’s entrants is exemplary. There’s truly something for everyone, from danceable pop to lush, glamorous rock to heartfelt balladry, both modern and classic. There’s a tapdancing middle finger, a pair of giant trumpets, an onstage springtime ritual, and the highest note in Eurovision history, sung by a girl who makes it look easy. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a first-time viewer, you’re going to have a good time.
Eurovision, we’re good to go.