7 Things You Need To Know About The Eurovision Song Contest

The Eurovision Grand Final is May 12.

If American Idol and the World Cup had a baby—and dipped it in glitter—the result would be the Eurovision Song Contest, an outrageously camp competition viewed by more than 200 million people worldwide.

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Launched in 1956, Eurovision is a fierce spectacle with over-the-top costumes, choreography, theatrics, and pyrotechnics. How over-the-top? In 2014, Ukraine’s Mariya Yaremchuk sang to a man in a giant hamster wheel.

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To get you up to speed before the Eurovision Grand Final, airing May 12 at 3pm/2c on Logo, we’ve listed seven things you MUST know about the campiest competition on the planet.

  1. ABBA!

    The Swedish supergroup is probably the biggest name to come out of Eurovision: ABBA launched into the pop stratosphere after winning with “Waterloo” in 1974.

    Other recognizable acts to emerge from the contest include Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, Enya (with her band Clannad) and t.A.T.u.

  2. There’s gays galore.

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    Any competition this kitschy is sure to draw the gays. Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won in 2014 with “Rise Like A Phoenix,” and trans performer diva Dana International took home the prize for Israel in 1998, with the appropriately titled “Diva.”

    Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

    Other queer contestants include Norway’s Tooji (2012), Ireland’s Ryan Dolan (2013), Malta’s Glen Vela (2010), Duncan James of British boy band Blue (2011) and bisexual Swedish singer Ola Salo of the Ark (above), who performed “The Worrying Kind” in 2007. That same year, Ukraine drag queen Verka Serduchka entered the competition with “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.”    

    In 2016, out Israeli entrant Hovi Star made headlines in April when Russian authorities tore up his passport as he tried to enter the country.

  3. There’s political intrigue.

    While the promotion of political agendas is officially verboten, some contestants still use the spotlight to address social issues: Luxembourg’s 1981 entry, “Maybe It Isn’t America (Because America Isn’t the Be-All),” lashed out at Reagan-era USA. In 2009 Dutch semi-finalists The Toppers threaten to pull out if host city Moscow interfered with a Pride march. (True to form, Moscow broke up the march.) Finland’s Krista Siegfrids made a subtle plea for same-sex marriage in 2013 with a lesbian kiss during her upbeat anthem, “Marry Me.”

    In 2015, Germany pulled its original entrant, Xavier Naidoo, after he was linked to a right-wing homophobic political party.

  4. It’s not just for Europeans.

    Not every country that participates in Eurovision is actually part of Europe: Israel, Canada, Morocco, Azerbaijan, and Australia have all been invited to participate at various times.

  5. Camptastic fashions

    STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 9: Nina Kraljic of Croatia performs during dress rehearsal of 2016 Eurovision Song Contest at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholms, Sweden on May 9, 2016. 18 semifinalists will be voted by the jury during semifinals of Eurovision Song Contest. (Photo by Mehmet Kaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
    Mehmet Kaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty

    Joan Rivers would have a field day with Eurovision’s mind-blowing getups, like Croatian Nina Kraljic’s look from 2016 (above).

    BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - MAY 27: Singer Duo Jedward of Ireland performs during the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 at Crytal Hall on May 27, 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
    Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

    Jedward’s 2012 performance of “Waterline” saw the twins done up like C3PO.

    Eurovision-2016-Belarus Ivan

    And in 2016, Belarus’ Ivan performed naked with a pack of wolves. (It’s the only way to get away with wearing fur, right?)

  6. The can’t-miss performances.

    During his performance of “Together,” Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy will bring two male dancers to Portugal to recreate a romantic dance they did in the song’s video. And everyone is gagging for Israeli’s Netta Barzilai, a frontrunner with her Bjork-esque song “Toy.”

  7. Drinking games!

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    Drinking games are an essential part of the Eurovision Song Contest tradition: Below, we’ve concocted a basic one suitable for sharing. (Really get into the spirit by choosing a liquor from the country you’re rooting for. Cheers/prost/skal!)

    Everyone in the room must take a swig whenever:

    * someone sings in a language other than English.

    * someone makes a political statement, including the judges or audience members

    * there’s a wind machine.

    * fireworks go off.

    * a male performer is so hot you’d message him on Grindr.

    * there’s a technical glitch or malfunction.

    * The hosts mug for the camera.

    * ABBA is mentioned. * The United States is acknowledged. (Two swigs if Logo gets a shout-out!)

Watch the Eurovision Song Contest, Saturday, May 12, starting at 3/2c on Logo.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.
@LawrenceFerber