The contest is also full of musical quirks. Over the years it has evolved into a multi-genre smorgasbord where dance divas go head-to-head with rock bands, and rap acts rub shoulders with balladeers. Last year’s leaderboard was led by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra; their winning song Stefania blended hip-hop and traditional folk music with infectious pop hooks. It is customary for the winning country to host the following year’s contest, but because of the ongoing war in Ukraine, 2022 runners-up the UK are hosting on the winners’ behalf.
Eurovision has a rich history that includes helping to launch the international careers of Swedish pop legends Abba, who won the 1974 contest with Waterloo, and Canadian superstar Celine Dion, who claimed victory for Switzerland in 1988 with Ne partez pas sans moi. Four years before Grease made her an era-defining icon, Olivia Newton-John represented the UK at the 1974 event, finishing fourth behind Abba with Long Live Love. However, despite this impressive back catalogue and the contest’s fondness for nostalgia – among the special guests this year are Liverpool-born singer Sonia, who competed for the UK back in 1993 – Eurovision is not an institution in the shadow of its history: indeed, it is now more relevant than ever. According to the EBU, last year’s contest in Turin, Italy was watched by 161 million people across 34 markets where viewership was measured. That represented a rise of seven million year-on-year.
The secret of its enduring success
Even more impressively, Eurovision is now especially popular with Gen Z viewers, a demographic less wedded to live TV broadcasts than any other. In the 34 markets measured by the EBU, last year’s grand final attracted 56% of the total TV audience aged 15 to 24 – a proportion four times higher than average. So, it comes as no great surprise that for the second year running, youth-focused social media app TikTok has teamed with Eurovision as its “Official Entertainment Partner”. Rob Lilley, presenter and producer of The Euro Trip, a weekly Eurovision-themed podcast, says the contest’s fast-paced format makes it incredibly “Gen Z-friendly”. No song is allowed to exceed three minutes, and the “postcards” – or VTs – that introduce entrants to viewers last just 40 seconds each.