A different Eurovision than usual

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From Tuesday 10 to Saturday 14 May, Turin will host the Eurovision Song Contest, the most famous and popular music competition in the world, attended by around forty countries and which attracts tens of millions of viewers around the world every year, especially in Europe but also in some countries of other continents that have grown fond of competition over time. This year’s edition will take place in Turin, as the last one, held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was won by the Italian team Måneskin: according to the regulations, the winning country must host the next edition.

However, it will be a bit different from those we have witnessed in recent years, as the first in thirty years that took place during the war in Europe: in 1993 and 1994 there were fights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, today in Ukraine due to the invasion to Russia. The Turin edition will also be the first to return to normal after the coronavirus pandemic: in 2020, Eurovision was canceled, while a vaccination campaign had just started in 2021, and the Dutch edition envisaged scrupulous checks and limited attendance. Finally, it will be the first Eurovision to be managed and organized by the RAI in over thirty years: the last Italian edition took place in Rome in 1991, was presented by Toto Cutugno and Gigliola Cinquetti, and was a discreet disaster.

The war in Ukraine had two main consequences for Eurovision. The first was Russia’s exclusion from the competition, which followed the first hesitation of the organizers, i.e. the European Broadcasting Union (contrary to its name, it is not a body of the European Union). The second is the inevitable movement of sympathy and kindness towards Ukrainian competitors: Kalush Orkiestra, a trio that combines hip hop with traditional Ukrainian folk music melodies and brings the song “Stefania”.

The song does not contain explicit references to the war – it is dedicated to the mother of one of the band members – but the Kałusz Orchestra predicted that their song would contain many “surprises” and symbols related to the “current situation”. performance, scheduled for the semi-final on Tuesday. All this, combined with the quite catchy “Stefania” chorus, makes the Kałusz Orchestra a very favorite for the final victory. Both betting agencies and most insiders are sure of that. “I will do everything to ensure that our country wins not only the war, but also Eurovision,” said one of the team members, Oleksandr Słobodianik, recently.

However, not everyone is convinced that the Kałusz Orchestra will really win this year’s edition. “The public is showing tremendous support for Ukraine, but I don’t think they’re coming first,” he said France Media Agency Dean Vuletic, professor of modern history at the University of Vienna, considered one of the world’s leading experts on Eurovision. “In 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia took part in the Eurovision Song Contest, but did not even take the first places,” despite the fact that both countries were attacked by Serbia.

However, in recent years, public and national Eurovision juries have repeatedly proven that they can interpret a certain spirit of the times together. The 2013 edition was won by the Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst, an activist for the rights of the LGBT + community, and in the following years a number of laws were passed across Europe that legalized gay marriage or civil unions. In the 2021 edition, British player singer James Newman scored a total of zero points from both the national jury and the telegraph: something that has never happened since the new voting regulation came into force, and is by many tied to the fact that the UK had ended its exit from the European Union a few months earlier. The song was, frankly, especially unforgettable.

In British newspapers, the Newman case renewed the deep-rooted stereotype in Great Britain that Eurovision results were primarily influenced by political or geopolitical factors. And this means that, for example, to win, the countries of Eastern Europe must first of all look for the voices of the neighboring countries, more sensitive to their tastes and culture, or that France, in order to attract a large part of the society, must stop singing in French or ostentatiously display its “Frenchness” “, so to say. In fact, this thesis is less and less true, as evidenced by most of the victories of the last twenty years, which for no political reasons but for reasons essentially related to countries such as Latvia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Serbia, the charisma of a competing singer or the effectiveness of a proposed song.

No research has ever shown that block voting in recent years did win. One of the most cited studies on voting on Eurovision, published in 2014 by scholars Martha Blangiardo and Gianluca Baio, concluded that while “there are particular voting trends that occur in different cases,” “it is unclear whether this can be consider it as the ultimate proof of bias in terms of both favoritism and discrimination ”. In addition, there is an increasingly uniform taste of European and Western audiences, shaped by the dissemination of Spotify and YouTube, currently the main channels through which music is heard especially by the youngest.

Thus, more and more often at Eurovision, songs are won that have a distinctive feature that remains overwhelming for the majority of viewers and national jurors. “The secret is not to have a particular style, but to bring in something else that grabs attention,” she wroteEconomist a few years ago in an article entitled “How to Win Eurovision”, full of opinions from artists and professionals.

Therefore, after the Kalush Orchestra, Italian players Mahmood and Blanco are the favorites for an eventual final victory, who are taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest after the Sanremo Festival has engulfed “Chills”, which will also lead to Turin. Against the background of the vast majority of songs, often as tamarre as not very sophisticated, “Chills” is considered from a different league, due to the contemporary arrangement, the individual talent of Mahmood and Blanco and the intimacy, but at the same time engaging way in which both interact on stage during the song.

It is likely that this year in Italy, Eurovision will be noticed more than usual by both Mahmood and Blanco, and that the three evenings will be held at PalaOlimpico in Turin, which sell out in minutes. Eurovision Week will be an event with few precedents for attention and curiosity, perhaps comparable only to the recent editions of the Sanremo Festival.

– Also read: The revival of the Sanremo Festival

Even Rai, which will air the entire release, has invested heavily to avoid a release with a lot of stumbles and technical problems like the one in 1991: three evenings will be broadcast on Rai 1, which has never happened in recent years, and two famous W organizing the evening non-Italian singers such as Laura Pausini and Mika were involved, as well as one of Italy’s most brilliant and contemporary conductors, Alessandro Cattelan.

Regarding pandemic precautions, the PalaOlimpico will be open to one hundred percent capacity, but all viewers will have to wear a mask, as per the rules set by the Ministry of Health for indoor events. About four thousand professionals among artists, technicians and journalists will have to undergo a test that confirms their negativity every 72 hours.

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