Sprinkle the sequins and pump the volume: The annual Eurovision Song Contest reached its climax on Saturday with the grand final broadcast live from the city of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
There are catchy choruses, a kaleidoscope of costumes and tributes to the spirit of Ukraine in a competition that since 1956 has captured the changing zeitgeist of a continent.
Last year, 161 million people watched the competition, according to the organizer, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), making it one of the most watched events in the world.
Here’s what to expect as acts from across Europe – and beyond – vie for the continent’s pop crown.
Who is competing?
This year, 37 countries sent an act to Eurovision, chosen through national competitions or internal selection by broadcasters. The winner of last year’s event usually hosts the competition but, as Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues, the UK is doing the honors this year for the 2022 winner, Ukraine.
Six countries automatically qualify for the final: the winner of the previous year and the five countries that contributed the most funds to the competition – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The rest will have to perform in the semi-finals with 20 acts chosen by public vote on Tuesday and Thursday.
Those eligible are: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.
The final will take place on Saturday at the Liverpool Arena.
Eurovision is not just geography. Eurovision is very popular in Australia and the country was allowed to participate in the competition in 2015. Other entrants from outside the borders of Europe include Israel and Azerbaijan.
Who are the favorites?
It’s hard to predict the winners of a competition whose past winners range from ABBA to Finnish metal band Lordi, but bookmakers say Swedish diva Loreen, who won in 2012, is the favorite on her strength. ballad Tattoo.
Finland’s Käärijä was a crowd-pleaser in the semifinals with her pop-metal party tune Cha Cha Cha and Canadian singer La Zarra, competing for France, also ranked high for her Edith Piaf-style song Évidemment.
And never underestimate left field entries like Croatia’s Let 3, whose song Mama ŠČ! is pure Eurovision camp: an anti-war rock opera that plays like Monty Python meets Dr Strangelove.
What will happen in the final?
Around 6,000 people will attend the final, hosted by long-time BBC Eurovision presenter Graham Norton, Ted Lasso and West End star Hannah Waddingham, British singer Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian rock star Julia Sanina.
Each competing act must sing live and stay within the three-minute limit but be free to create its own performance – the louder the pyrotechnics and the more detailed the choreography, the better.
Russia’s war on Ukraine will strike a solemn note in a competition famous for celebrating cheesy pop.
The show will open with a performance by last year’s winner, the folk-rap band Kalush Orchestra, and singer Jamala, who won the competition in 2016, will perform a tribute to her Crimean Tatar culture. Ukraine has won the competition three times since the country began participating in 2003.
One person who won’t be showing up is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He asked to discuss the final via video but the EBU said such a speech would violate the “non-political nature of the event”.
How is the winner decided?
After all actions have been taken, viewers in participating countries can vote by phone, text message or app but are not allowed to vote for their own country.
This year for the first time, viewers watching from non-participating countries can also vote online, with combined “rest of the world” votes weighted by an individual that country.
National juries of music industry professionals also allocate between one and 12 points to their favorite songs, with an announcer from each country coming out to announce the coveted “douze points” ( 12 points).
The public and jury votes are combined to give each country one point. Ending with “nul points” (zero points) is considered a national shame. The UK has suffered that fate several times – most recently in 2021. It returned last year, however, when Sam Ryder came second and hopes this year’s contestant, Mae Muller, will also show strong performance.
Where can I watch?
Eurovision is shown by national broadcasters belonging to the EBU, including the BBC in the UK, and on the Eurovision YouTube channel. In the United States, it is shown on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.