Eurovision is back after two years, and the 65th edition of the world’s biggest music competition doesn’t stand to disappoint.
There’s perhaps more global interest than ever this year thanks to Netflix’s Eurovision movie “The Story of Fire Saga,” starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, which filled the void last year with bangers like “Jaja Ding Dong” when Eurovision was canceled for the first time in its history due to the pandemic.
The contest is also being made available for U.S. audiences on NBCUniversal-backed Peacock. Indeed, it’s never been a better time to tune in.
Tonight, live from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, finalists from 26 countries are taking part, with 20 of the group having proceeded to the final following two semi-finals earlier in the week. Six countries — the ‘Big 5’ of the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain, along with the host country, the Netherlands — were automatically pre-qualified for the contest.
Favorites going into tonight’s grand final include France and Italy. Meanwhile, famous faces in the mix include Flo Rida, who is accompanying San Martino finalist Senhit in her performance. (He arrived in the Netherlands on Tuesday, just in time for the first semi-final, having judged a bikini competition in Miami.)
A strict COVID-19 health and safety protocol is being applied at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. All those working within the perimeter of the venue must have a negative COVID-19 test, not older than 48 hours.
Nonetheless, the pandemic has claimed two live performances tonight. On May 19, a member of the Icelandic group Daði og Gagnamagnið, one of the competition favorites, tested positive for COVID-19, while the rest of the delegation tested negative. They took the decision to withdraw from performing in this year’s live Eurovision Song Contest shows, as they only want to perform together as a group.
Meanwhile, Duncan Laurence, winner of the 2019 Contest for the Netherlands, was scheduled to perform live during Saturday’s grand final but has also tested positive. He has mild symptoms, and because of the seven-day minimum isolation period, will not be able to perform live in the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam. He will “still feature in the show in a different form,” organizers said.
Since April 6, when prep began at Rotterdam’s Ahoy arena, some 24,400 tests have been conducted amongst crew, volunteers, artists, delegation members and press. Only 16 of those (0.06%) have returned positive results.
Keep checking back for live updates.
Eurovision kicked off with Cyprus and a sultry performance of “El Diablo,” which is said to have been controversial among Christian religious groups in the country. The Spanish “El Diablo” translates to “the devil,” and the song contains the lyrics “I gave my heart to el diablo.”
Second up was Albania with “Karma,” followed by Israel with “Set Me Free.”
Israeli finalist Eden Alene was born to Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants, and was raised in Katamon, Jerusalem. While Israel’s participation in this year’s contest, amid almost two weeks of violence between Israel and Palestine, has been controversial, Alene has already proved to be one of the most colorful participants in competition, hitting the highest note in Eurovision history — a B6 whistle — during her performance of “Set Me Free” on May 17.
Meanwhile, Belgium’s Hooverphonic performed a rousing performance of alternative track “The Wrong Place,” while Russia’s Manizha delivered a fantastically upbeat display with “Russian Woman.”
A favorite at this year’s competition, Malta’s Destiny — who is only 18 years old — showed off some powerhouse vocals in “Je Me Casse.”