All the knowledge you'll need for your compulsory Eurovision viewing
It’s the most fabulous time of the year again – Eurovision 2017 is here. This is the 62nd time that the European-wide (well, plus Australia) singing contest will take place and this time it’s found a home in Kyiv, Ukraine. With over forty two countries competing for the title, two semi-finals will be held tonight and on May 11 to whittle the number of singers down to just 26. With so many names and faces to get to grips with before the grand final on May 13, we’ve put together a handy list of countries and contestants to watch out for below.
France – Alma
Singer Alma Maquet was chosen as France’s Eurovision contestant after submitting a recording of herself singing online to a broadcasting network. Last year, her single La Chute est Lente was released and her song for this year’s competition Requiem is a single off her new album Ma peau aime. It was written by former Eurovision songwriter Nazim Khaled.
In an interview with Eurovision, she said, ‘Eurovision breaks boundaries and brings people together.’
Spain – Manel Navarro
As one of the Big Five, Spain is guaranteed a spot in the grand final and singer Manel Navarro could clinch it with his bilingual island pop song Do it For Your Lover. The 20 year old singer, who channels a very Californian beach boy vibe, is surrounded by controversy this year however. He competed alongside other hopefuls on Objectivo Eurovision, a reality TV show to select Spain’s contender, and lost the popular vote to a singer named Mirela. At the last minute, a panel of radio directors overruled the vote and selected him. (He also responded pretty poorly to the crowd, flashing a rude gesture as boos ensued.)
Performing: Do it For Your Lover
UK – Lucie Jones
You may recognise this Welsh songstress from her days on X Factor in 2009, when she was kicked to the curb after Simon Cowell chose to keep Jedward instead. She’s kept busy since then with stints on the West End playing characters such as Maureen in Rent and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. After winning BBC’s Eurovision: You Decide, she will be representing the UK at Eurovision with the rousing ballad Never Give Up on You written by former Eurovision contestant Emmelie de Forest and her team of writers. It will also be the first UK Eurovision performance since Brexit.
Speaking of the tension surrounding the upcoming performance, she said, ‘It’s a different feel outside the UK this year, and also within the UK about Eurovision in general – but haters are going to hate and it’s not for everyone.’
Italy – Francesco Gabbani
Say no more, this man is performing with a dancing gorilla. Francesco Gabbani, a popular charismatic singer, was directly approached to represent Italy at Eurovision and he’s a hot ticket to win. Everything about this performance will be larger than life: his catchy as hell tune written by himself and a team of writers, his bright graphics and unexpected animal guest.
Performing: Occidentali’s Karma
Sweden – Robin Bengtsson
Former reality TV contestant Robin Bengtsson is taking a leaf out of OK Go’s book this year with a treadmill dance routine, set to an English club tune named I Can’t Go On. He won the chance to represent his home country after winning the national singing competition Melodiefestivalen (which he had competed in the year prior but lost) and is a popular favourite to win.
Performing: I Can’t Go On
Australia – Isaiah
Isaiah Firebrace is one of the youngest contestants this year at Eurovision at 17 years old and hails from a tiny town called Moama. Don’t let his age fool you, he won the hearts of the Australian public and the country’s edition of X Factor just last year. He was selected by a broadcasting company called SBS to represent the nation – this is only the third time that Australia will be competing at Eurovision.
Performing: Don’t Come Easy (written by last year’s Australian Eurovision songwriters)
Belgium – Blanche
Another young one on the list, 17 year old Ellie Devaux’s velvet tones are reminiscent of Birdy and her mellow yet upbeat song City Lights is predicted to be a crowd favourite at Eurovision this year. The Belgian singer chooses to go by her moniker Blanche and competed on The Voice Belgique, wowing judges with her performance of Daydreamer by Adele.
Performing: City Lights
Portugal – Salvador Sobral
Born in Lisbon, this 27 year old singer will be representing Portugal this year with the gentle Portugese ballad Amar Pelos Dios written by his sister. This isn’t his first time on the big stage, as he was a contestant on a national reality singing competition called Idolos in 2009 and also beat out other hopefuls in the Festival de Cancao to represent Portugal at Eurovision this year. His soulful crooning will bring a degree of old world charm to Kyiv’s stage.
Performing: Amar Pelos Dios
Other popular favourites include Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov, Ilinca and Alex Florea from Romania and sister act OG3NE from the Netherlands. Russia will not be competing this year, as their contestant Julia Samoylova was barred from Ukraine after performing in annexed Crimea. While Eurovision offered a compromise in which she could perform via live satellite link, it was ultimately rejected.
British viewers can watch the grand final tonight at 8pm on BBC One and Graham Norton will be providing live tongue-in-cheek commentary. Eurovision will also be streaming the performances and behind the scenes live on YouTube.