Since its inception in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has been a much-anticipated television spectacle every year. The annual song competition has launched the careers of bands such as ABBA (which won the contest in 1974) and singers including Olivia Newton-John and Celine Dion.
Hosted by the European Broadcasting Union and broadcast on television stations around the world, the internationally televised program is a songwriting competition. Countries from across Europe send in one song — which must be original and performed live — and then a team of music industry professionals rank the performance on a scale of 1 to 12. But it isn’t just the professionals who get to decide: Viewers also get to vote, either by calling in, via SMS or on the Eurovision website. You can only vote if your country is competing (Americans can’t vote, for instance), and you can’t vote for your own country.
Viewer votes are then combined with the music professionals’ votes to determine the country’s final score. There are two semi-final eliminations leading up to the grand finale, which, for Eurovision 2023, will take place May 13.
What to Expect During Eurovision 2023
While Eurovision is an international extravaganza, Americans have largely missed the magic and mayhem of the over-the-top affair (even though Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams made a movie about it in 2020). Described as everything from a “fever dream” (Logo TV’s take) to a “stain on humanity” (Piers Morgan’s take), Eurovision has expanded since its start with seven countries to bring together musicians from around 40 countries, including Ukraine, Morocco, Albania, Austria the United Kingdom, today.
The result is a cultural melting pot of eclectic musical styles, over-the-top costumes and stage design. Some countries have entries that are purely humorous, like the time in 2008 when Ireland had a turkey puppet perform the song “Irelande Douze Pointe” (the fact that this made it to the finals should tell you that Eurovision voters adore kitsch and rebelliousness). Other countries, like Italy, have submitted bands like Måneskin, which have now gone on to mainstream success with rock hits like “Beggin'” and “Supermodel.”
Watch Måneskin perform “Supermodel” last year at Eurovision 2022 below:
As you can see, Eurovision isn’t all silliness and humor. And nor is Eurovision all about uplifting songs and rocking out. Last year, singer Diodata’s song “Fai Rumore” was a heartbreaking elegy to loss and the necessity of letting go.
Eurovision 2023: How to Watch
Eurovision 2023 is being held in Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Ukraine won in 2022 with their song “Stefania,” performed by Kalush Orchestra, so they should be the hosts this year per Eurovision tradition. However, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.K. was chosen to host, as they received second place for Sam Ryder’s song “Space Man.”
Watch the Kalush Orchestra perform “Stefania” below, which is a tribute to band member Oleh Psiuk’s mother:
As you can see, Eurovision can veer wildly from deeply touching to completely campy. It’s an atmosphere that celebrates pure creative freedom, and it’s no wonder that it’s been a television staple for decades.
So, Americans, are you ready to experience the most liberating music competition of all time? This is the perfect year to dive into Eurovision. You can watch Eurovision 2023 on Peacock TV, and catch up on the semi-finals you might have missed. The grand finale takes place on May 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern. After the show, you can watch Johnny Weir interviewing the competitors on “Watch With Johnny Weir” on Peacock.