Love it or loathe it, Eurovision is here to stay. It’s quite remarkable that the Eurovision Song Contest has withstood the test of time and evolved into the present day contest that we see now. A few years ago the number of competing nations reached an all-time high and as a result Semi Finals were introduced. Instead of one night to ‘enjoy’ there are three, with Two Semi Finals and one Grand Final making up the Eurovision Song Contest.
From a small contest comprising of 7 countries it has expanded to include over 40 countries. The popularity and credibility of the Eurovision differs hugely from one country to the next. Western Europe, with a few exceptions, contained the ‘founder countries’ and enjoyed the majority of the success in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. During the mid 90s, as Eastern Europe divided more and more nations entered creating new challenges for all, however it was 2001 when the balance swung in favour of the Eastern European countries (Although this balance is evening out with changes in the voting system).
Winning the Eurovision is an undeniable honour for any country. Winning means hosting the subsequent contest (although many moons ago a couple of countries did not host the contest due to financial reasons). In order to win the contest each country uses a national selection process to choose their entry. Whilst Eurovision takes place in May, the national selection processes begin way back in October/November and continue through to March.
The selection process varies hugely from one country to the next. In 2011 for example, the United Kingdom’s entry was selected internally by the BBC. A few other countries also selected either the performers or the song internally – among the list were Azerbaijan, San Marino and Russia.
Some countries pull out all the stops and host national selections of a grand scale. Denmark, Norway and Sweden go big. However, Sweden (irrespective of the songs) does it better than most countries. Sweden’s Melodifestival is huge – some fans prefer this national final to Eurovision itself.
Sweden hosts a series of semi finals, each in different cities/towns throughout Sweden, over a series of weeks: After those semi finals and a second chance round 10 songs compete to win the ultimate prize of representing Sweden in Eurovision. Eurovision is big business in Sweden. Taking part in Melodifestival means record sales, media exposure and almost guaranteed chart success. In the weeks after the national final, which has 32 competing entries, the Top 20 is dominated by the Melodifestival songs. Which other country can claim such similar success? Sweden’s ‘Grand Final’ is held in the Globen (venue of the 2000 Eurovision) and seats over 20,000 people. They think BIG!
By the time you sit down to watch Eurovision in May – whether you watch it to enjoy the music, laugh at the whole concept or simply to see what ‘Johnny Foreigner’ is doing – you may watch with some admiration that Eurovision is pretty unique and not to be understated. That’s got to be special.
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