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Eurovision 2024: The Staging Revolution Written by on May 8, 2024

The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 is a breathtaking show. It is notable that this year the show has not just hitmaking songwriters and multi-million selling artists, but also creative directors that make up the best the continent has to offer. Ben Robertson writes about this impact.

It started in 1957.

The host country entry from Germany, ‘Telefon, telefon’, brought to the Song Contest what has been regarded as the first ever gimmick of the competition, as artist Margot Hielscher picked up a telephone and held it to her ear throughout her performance in Frankfurt.

Ever since that time each song at the Song Contest has had to think not just about songwriting and singing, but also about staging. And as the show has become ever more focused on the television aspect, and as pop music has become ever more a visual art, the Song Contest has followed.

2024 is the year when the Song Contest, and the staging at the Song Contest, becomes bigger than it ever has been before.

Much has been made about the fact that Olly Alexander has Danny L Harle, arguably one of the globe’s most in-demand songwriters, as the man responsible for bringing ‘Dizzy’ to fruition. However in equal measure look at Theo Adams, the creative director behind Olly’s incredibly slick staging, who has previously worked with Paloma Faith and Kylie Minogue. Theo is a big name in the music industry no matter the metric, and the attention-to-detail in Olly Alexander’s three minutes is insane.

There was an era when we thought what Benjamin Ingrosso came to Eurovision with was music video-esque. This is on a whole different playing field of immersion.

And that isn’t the only act with sublime staging with big names behind them.

I will first introduce Ukraine. Tanu Muiño is the creative director for ‘Teresa & Maria’ this year, who is behind one of the most visually recognisable moments of all competing entries we have seen. During the first chorus Jerry Heil rises high above the arena proudly standing over the audience akin to how Mother Ukraine stands above Kyiv. It is pure theatre that is backed up by an ending that is a clear homage to female empowerment.

Tanu Muiño’s career goes way beyond the Song Contest and her work is a who’s who of the world’s biggest names, with Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa amongst the names that have worked with the Ukrainian.

Look too at Italy, for which German choreographer Majnoon is on board to produce the routine for Angelina Mango and her five dancers. Majnoon’s work includes work with Madonna and BTS, but also Rosalia’s highly regarded Motomani tour.

These kinds of creatives, of this kind of level, haven’t necessarily been treated on Song Contest territory before. Those well induced in Eurovision circles in recent years will know of names like Sasha Jean Baptiste and Fredrik ‘Benke’ Rydman who have created numerous three minutes of visual sensation that have been remembered for years to come.

Now the names bringing their best work to the Song Contest is game changing. We spoke a decade or so ago almost solely about which songwriters or artists that we got on board, whereas nowadays we get it is arguable that the biggest and most important names of each act are those creatives letting the magic unfold.

And then we get to the stunning package that Bambie Thug has brought to the Song Contest. The glow-up from Late Late Show to here is remarkable beyond belief and the modern, enchanting, playful and powerful witch character that Bambie becomes on the Eurovision stage makes this an act that will be remembered for years to come. This song, now packaged in a West End ready product, makes perfect sense as a three minute construct, in a way that would be nigh on hard to imagine from audio alone.

A name to watch out for here is creative director Sergio Jean, coming from a diverse background in short film and commercials, and now bringing shocking drama to the Song Contest.

Staging has been a part of the Song Contest in practical terms from day one. What I think is notable now is that staging matters more than ever before, and the attention to detail from stand-ins to LiveEdit/CuePilot to every single camera position being millimetre perfect. This is further enhanced by modern rule changes that allow for pre-recorded backing vocals, meaning a rehearsal has infinitely less focus on the music but more on the positions of dancers and decisions about what costumes to wear and which camera to stare into.

The downside, if there is a downside to this breathtaking entertainment that Eurovision is providing, is that this succeeds in widening the gulf between competing broadcasters. There are broadcasters or artists or record labels able to invest in such epic wow moments and pieces of magic on the stage, and there are others for which blowing the budget means funding the artist to have a full set of dancers along with them on stage.

Nobody dares to suggest that the Song Contest is and will be an equal playing field, but it threatens to make it all the more harder for the Premier League big spenders of the Song Contest to fail, and leave others on longer and longer non-qualification lists.

There is no magical solution for how the Song Contest should balance this, or where that balance should be. For now, I’m just proud that some of the continent’s most talented staging directors are gracing this show with their presence and their A game.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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