Having been robbed of the joy of the world’s largest singing competition last year The Eurovision Song Contest is set to return in all its glittery, camp, chaotic, technicolour glory when the first semi-final kicks off on Wednesday 19 May (Oz time), 2021 at Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena.
This year’s contest is brimming with dance-floor stompers, melancholic odes, glam rock belters and '80s tinged bops. Could this be a year that an entry in a language other than English takes the trophy?
Here’s the skinny on the favourites.
France – Barbara Pavi – 'Voila'
France may have claimed victory at Eurovision five times but, to be fair, they’ve not had their hands around the glittery trophy since 1977. They enter the 2021 contest in the unenviable spot as bookies favourite and will be represented by 27-year old chanteuse Barbara Pavi, of Iranian and Serbian heritage. Her contemporary yet nostalgic chanson 'Voilà' romped to victory at France’s internal song selection competition, Eurovision France, cest vous qui decidez! , topping both the jury and televote. Pavi’s compelling performance at her national final allowed the song, a story of woman’s journey out of the shadows and into her own power, build to a giddying, gasping conclusion. As one of the Big 5, France are guaranteed a spot in the Grand Final where we’ll see for the first time the performance in full.
'Voilà' deserves its favouritism and it’ll take something special to beat Pavi for the victory.
Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – 'Tout I’Univers'
Amongst the many returning artists from last year’s cancelled contest is Switzerland’s Gjon’s Tears who, alongside entrants from Iceland and Lithuania, was one of the favourites to take the top prize in 2020. The talented Gjon Muharremaj will compete in the second semi-final with 'Tout I’Univers', attempting to take home the first win for Switzerland since Celine Dion in 1988. Gjon’s Tears is the moniker for 22-year old Gjon Muharremaj who’s no stranger to singing competitions having appeared on Albania’s Got Talent as a 12-year-old and reaching the semi-final stage of The Voice France. 'Tout l’Univers' will be the first Swiss entry to be sung in French in 11 years and explores the impact of past relationships and how to live with them in the present. Gjon’s impressive falsetto deliciously elevates the song and his passionate, engaging delivery will help rack up both jury and televoting points come the Grand Final.
Malta – destiny – “Je Me casse”
Could Malta be destined for greatness in 2021? The tiny Mediterranean nation has never won the contest but has come close, landing in the bridesmaid position twice (2002, 2005). Having already won the 2015 Junior Eurovision Song Contest for Malta, songstress Destiny Chukunyere scored the ticket to Rotterdam by emerging victorious on X Factor Malta, which acts as the island’s selection competition for the contest proper. After cancellation of the 2020 show Destiny, like many other artists from other countries, was offered the chance to return to compete in 2021. And she’s brought with her a serious bop that has the bookies twitching. 'Je Me Casse' is a female empowerment anthem that’s part electro-swing, part pop infused with a healthy dose of soul and will be one of the highlights of the first semi-final. “Hell no, I’m not your honey,” Destiny declares during the chorus. Well, she might not be our honey but maybe, just maybe, she could be our winner.
Italy – Måneskin – 'Zitti e buoni'
You know the mullet has gone super mainstream when you see it sported on the main stage at Eurovision. Since Italy’s return to the contest in 2011 they’ve proven to be a powerhouse on stage and cannot be underestimated. The Italians continue to send consistently great songs from differing musical genres, making them one of the contemporary competitions most formidable participants. Måneskin, which is Danish for moonlight, is a four-piece rock outfit who formed at high school in Monteverde in 2016. The glam-rock group came to public attention when they placed second in Italy’s version of X Factor and impressed juries and audiences alike with a win at this year’s super competitive Sanremo Festival, which acts as the Italian selection competition for Eurovision. Lead singer Damiano David growls and gyrates his way through 'Zitti e buoni' delivering a rock ‘n’ roll tour-de-force. Another of the Big 5 nations, Italy is guaranteed a spot in the Grand Final and, in a year when very few bands are taking the stage, these young rockers may blast past the ballads and grind their way to the top prize.
Greece – Stefania – 'Last Dance'
Bookies are a great indicator of favouritism but so are the hardcore Eurovision fans. And one of their favourites this year is 18 year-old Dutch-Greek singer Stefania, representing Greece. Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, to Greek parents Stefania, like Malta’s Destiny, is no stranger to Eurovision, having performed at junior version of the contest as a member of the group Kisses in 2016. On cancellation of the 2020 show the Greek broadcaster swiftly offered the raven-haired beauty a chance to appear on the stage in Rotterdam in 2021. Stefania will strut out in the second semi-final and perform 'Last Dance', an '80s infused belter boasting a ballsy chorus which could easily be featured on the Footloose soundtrack. Holding out for a hero indeed, there’s no wonder the fans love it. Stefania is the perfect pop princess ready to explode onto the international stage and her 'Last Dance' could be this year’s dark Pegasus.
Serbia – Hurricane – 'Loco Loco'
Bring on the big lips and the hairography! Serbia’s Hurricane tick a lot of boxes when it comes to Eurovision fans. The Serbian girl group, consisting of Sanja Vučić, Ivana Nikolić and Ksenija Knezević, has fans frothing over their high-octane, ethno-pop banger 'Loco Loco'. Hurricane, who perform in the second semi-final, are already a viral sensation having amassed over 100 million views on YouTube and gaining the right to represent Serbia at Eurovision by winning the 2020 internal selection contest Beovizija 2020. Serbian broadcaster RTS offered the trio the chance to return to the contest in 2021 in the hopes of delivering the nation a second win. 'Loco Loco' is a full-on dance-pop assault which could see this girl group stomping all the way to victory.
And of course there's Australia's favourite, Montaigne!
The 65th Eurovision Song Contest kicks off in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, broadcast live and in primetime exclusively on SBS and SBS On Demand from 19 to 23 May. Stay tuned to the SBS Eurovision website for updates: sbs.com.au/Eurovision
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WATCH ON SBS AND SBS ON DEMAND
Primetime evening broadcasts
Semi Final 1 – Friday 21 May, 8.30pm (AEST), SBS **FEATURING MONTAIGNE
Semi Final 2 – Saturday 22 May, 8.30pm (AEST), SBS
Grand Final – Sunday 23 May, 7.30pm (AEST), SBS
LIVE early morning broadcasts
Semi Final 1 – Wednesday 19 May, 5am (AEST) SBS **FEATURING MONTAIGNE
Semi Final 2 – Friday 21 May, 5am (AEST) SBS
Grand Final – Sunday 23 May, 5am (AEST) SBS