The 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, will be held at a time when many parts of the eurozone struggle with recession, writes Ricardo Goncalves.
The 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, will be held at a time when many parts of the eurozone struggle with recession and austerity measures that have prompted protests in some countries across the continent.
The high costs associated with participating in the event - and potentially hosting it should they win – have seen countries like Portugal, Poland, Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina pull out of this year's contest.
Sweden, which is hosting thanks to Loreen's winning entry “Euphoria” last year, is downsizing the event, spending around $20 million. It's about half the estimated production cost of the 2012 show in Baku, Azerbaijan. And that's not including the $100 million it forked out to fast-track construction of its new arena, dubbed the Crystal Palace, where last year's Eurovision was held.
But if you were to measure success by the number of eyeballs focussing on the production, then a success it is. More than 125 million people watched Eurovision in 2012, making it one of the world's biggest televised events.
There has been much criticism of the Eurovision voting system, with political or bloc voting often evident.
This year, though, it will be interesting to see if the sympathy vote is in play. Will countries struggling with harsh austerity measures deliver their 12 points to nations going through the same thing?
As for my 12 points, they'll be going to the song which leaves a lasting impression in my head. In fact, I've already downloaded two Eurovision 2013 singles from iTunes.
My Eurovision experience dates back to my childhood in Wollongong.
My family would get together on a Sunday in May to watch the spectacle, always rooting for Portugal, which typically never did very well.
Given most of my family migrated from Madeira, Portugal, more than 33 years ago, watching the event was a way for my family to connect with its heritage.
When I was younger, there was never really a chance of finding out who the winner was ahead of Australian broadcast time, because of the limited technology.
But these days, it is hard to avoid.
I go on a total media blackout on Eurovision day. No internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no television. If I'm rostered on to work at SBS, then there's no chance of turning a blind eye to the result on the day it's broadcast, because SBS is Eurovision's home in Australia. Luckily, I've never been rostered on. Yet.
There have been times in the past when a friend has texted me the result early. And once one of my parents inadvertently told me what they thought was the result. Dad, I'm looking at you.
So my passion for Eurovision extends far beyond the often-trashy clothes, laughable dance routines, and sometimes catchy pop tunes.
It represents tradition.
These days, it's an excuse for my friends and I to continue the family memories by getting together and watching the show.
We have our own scoring system, and the person who guesses closest to the top five wins the opportunity to host our Eurovision party the following year. OTT? Maybe. Fun? Yes.
Our system is based on the songs we like and how we think Europe will vote. It's complex and we take it seriously. Sort of.
So my favourites this year?
I've got a very heavy bias towards dance, electro and pop tunes. Combine all three, and you're a winner in my books.
There are two clear standouts.
My 10 points would go to Germany. Its entrant this year is Cascada with "Glorious". Cascada is already well known globally, with hits like "Evacuate the Dancefloor" and "Everytime We Touch". The song is catchy, fun and prime for some great dance remixes. Natalie Horler, the lead singer of the group, also has a powerful pop voice.
My favourite this year is 27-year-old Irish pop/dance singer, Ryan Dolan. His single, "Only Love Survives" hits the mark, following the similar style of DJs like David Guetta. Again, I can already hear the potential remixes of this song should any producer be looking for a project. 12 points! But like any dance or club song, its execution will be important, because sometimes the music overpowers the vocals. Last year, it wasn't a problem for Loreen.
That doesn't mean I think Ireland will win. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Finland, Malta or Sweden take it out. Their sounds are very 'today' mimicking the likes Ke$ha, Bruno Mars, Coldplay and Birds of Tokyo.
I must give a special mention to Serbia's Moje 3 with "Ljubav je svuda". No, I don't understand what they're singing. But just take a look at their stilted and awkward dance moves, the gold devil/angel outfits, the facial expressions and the questionable singing ability. Pure Eurovision. Oh, and the hair whip #pureeurovision.
The Eurovision 2013 grand final will be shown on SBS One at 7:30pm Sunday May 19.