One thing I was going to say that also made me love Eurovision more was that I lived in Greece for a couple of years, and as an outsider looking in at how they viewed the competition it was a fascinating contrast with the slightly awkward relationship we have tended to have with it in the UK.
For a start, you genuinely heard tracks from the show in cafés and on the radio, and the kids who lived in the apartment across the road from ours had the CD and used to spend ages making dance routines to the songs in the street. It was lovely and made it feel much more than a one-off night.
And just a warning as well, if you didn’t watch the semi-finals. Prepare yourself. I actually found it quite emotional when they struck up the band on Tuesday night. Eurovision genuinely feels like a bit of light after a very dark winter.
It will be interesting to see how the main show treads the line between full on glitzy excitement at being there, and some recognition that across Europe there has been, and still will be, a lot of grief. I’m not convinced that the Brit awards or the Oscars trod that line terribly deftly. I think this probably will.
The BBC have put tonight’s running order into a Twitter card so I don’t have to type it all out. Personally, this is genuinely worth the licence fee alone.
The UK’s entry – James Newman – has already had his hands on the coveted trophy. Just for a publicity still, mind you. He tweeted earlier asking people for their support and to help by visualising him winning. You never, ever know…
We’re also missing out on seeing IRELAND, which is a shame. Lesley Roy and her song Maps had a unique staging where she appeared to be running through books and trapped in an origami forest with forced perspective making her part of the scene. It was very effective.
Well, very effective on TV.
In the arena … hmm … perhaps less so …
Towards the end, the pullback revealed that if you were in the hall, she’d just basically been running around some very, very, very small boxes while a massive camera on a crane obscured your view.
The song was alright though, and I am still surprised it didn’t squeeze in. The video is worth three minutes of your time though as a warm-up.
So talking of cracking songs we’ve missed out on, we have been robbed – ROBBED I TELL YOU – of seeing NORTH MACEDONIA. I’ve no idea why it didn’t get through.
Singer Vasil is openly gay which is a big deal in a very conservative country which legalised same-sex sexual activity in 1996 but has a poor record on LGBT rights.
He told Attitude magazine: “I was born and raised in (North) Macedonia where it is definitely not OK to be gay, or any of that. Every time I came back home to the Balkans, to (North) Macedonia, you feel this need to put on a mask. I sympathise so much with everybody here that lives in fear of judgement, discrimination, injustice, bullying.”
Here I Stand managed to mix the feel of something from near the climax of Act I of a decent musical, with a touch of Queen. But most importantly, halfway through the song, Vasil pulled open his costume to reveal that he was only a goddamned HUMAN GLITTERBALL!!!
How people did not vote for this on Tuesday I will never, ever know. Heathens!
I don’t know how many of you will have watched the semi-finals? I must confess I used to be a semi-final refusnik because I thought it rather spoiled the effect of seeing everything for the first time on the big night, never knowing if somebody was about to pitch up in folk costumes with a live sheep* and a rustic nose-flute or something.
However I’ve been converted in recent years into watching all the shows because sometimes there are cracking songs that don’t make it through, and also, surely, in the true spirit of the contest, you want to also actually see the very worst that Eurovision has to offer.
[*I’m told live animals are not permitted on stage during the show by the rules.]
I know former hosts of this live blog – waves to Heidi and Stuart – have often suggested some kind of drinking game to go with the show.
Personally, the drinking game for me is to find out whether I can still live blog and co-ordinate a snap breaking news story while drunk at the end of the night.
You don’t have to worry about that however, so if you do want to take part, I’d like to suggest these rules. A drink when you spot:
- Someone says “it’s great to be back”!
- Someone says “a wonderful show”!
- A former winner of Eurovision appears!
- A costume change!
- A cynical key change!
- Ludicrous musical instruments!
- Thigh-high boots!
- An excruciating guitar solo!
- Unexpected interpretative dance in the bagging area!
- A guest appearance by a well known US rapper that just co-incidentally and luckily for the organisers due to the genuinely random nature of the draw ends up finishing the whole show (NOTE TO EDITOR: is this too obvious here that I know this is going to happen and also am a bit suspicious of how convenient it is?)
Please drink responsibly. Non-alcoholic beverages are also available. When the fun stops, stop. No, hang on, that’s gambling, isn’t it?
I absolutely love this from musician Mary Epworth just now, who has succinctly hit the nail on the head about what for me is one of the real joys of Eurovision.
You’ll notice I’m new here, by the way. Just so you know where we are coming from, I unashamedly love Eurovision, watched it as a kid, watched it with ironic post-modern detachment when I was a pretentious twentysomething, and then have grown to truly love it and introduce it to my own kids as the wonderful, glorious and absolutely ridiculous celebration of music that it is.
But I don’t take it too seriously, so if you are here for the latest betting tips and an accurate inside track on what is going to win, I’m not your man.
If, on the other hand, you are here for stupid jokes, instant social media reaction, and me occasionally getting over-enthusiastic about things and SHOUTING ABOUT THEM IN ALL CAPITALS BRIAN BLESSED STYLE then we are going to get along famously.
If you want to get in touch you can find @-me on Twitter at @MartinBelam. Or you can email me at email@example.com with EUROVISION at the start of the subject line. That way I’ll find it in my inbox, which is otherwise mostly full of unread urgent pleas from my editors to actually meet my deadlines.
Welcome to the 2021 Eurovision song contest
Bienvenue! Välkommen! Witaj! Добро пожаловать! Welcome! Do come in and settle down for our live coverage of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, which gets underway on the hour in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 🇳🇱🇳🇱🇳🇱🇳🇱
Yes, after last year’s enjoyable Eurovision: Shine A Light show replaced the cancelled contest, we are back with a competitive tussle again. 26 songs, one winner, and several hours of biting nails as the votes seemingly come in from 1,057 different countries.
I feel a bit emotional already to be honest.
Lots of the artists who should have had their moment of Eurovision glory last year are back for another bite, including the UK’s James Newman and Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið, who may well feel that they would have won with Think About Things in 2020, and that we should be in Reykjavík tonight, not Rotterdam. That’s all in the past though, and there is plenty to look forward to.