The campy continent-wide tournament of patriotic pop hysterics returns.
Every year in May, Europeans fall under the peculiar spell of an unusual event that combines patriotism with disposable bubblegum pop: In the 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest, no fewer than 43 countries will compete against each other under the fitting motto “All Aboard!” Performing dramatic, over-the-top songs in hopes of winning over voting viewers from all over Europe, and, as of 2015, Australia, it’s the place where ABBA and Céline Dion (singing as a hired gun for Switzerland in 1988) first found fame. Last year, Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with a heartfelt ballad, meaning this year’s host is sunny Lisbon.
Austria’s dream hunk Cesár Sampson will test his luck with the emotive “Nobody But You.” He is no newcomer to the contest: in 2016 and 2017, he provided background vocals for Bulgaria. This year, he’ll carry the flag for his own country, performing a song which he describes as feeling like “the christening of a ship.”
Despite staying away from the previous contest in Kiev, Russia will be joining the spectacle once again. Julia Samoylova will try to make up for lost time with the power ballad “I Won’t Break.”
It remains to be seen whether the United Kingdom – part of the Big Five financial contributors who automatically nab a spot in the final round – can shake its curse of consistently underperforming: they are sending SuRie with the catchy song “Storm,” another Eurovision veteran who danced for Belgium in 2015.
Who will get the most douze points this year? Voting may often follow deeply partisan divides, with friendly nations voting for each other irrespective of the music, but this much is certain: The 2018 edition of Eurovision will provide millions of viewers with enough cheesy entertainment to make fun of (while secretly caring passionately).
Semifinals May 8 & 10; Finals May 12, 21:00, Lisbon, Portugal. Coverage on ORF.