Whilst the EBU has not released provisional dates for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020, I’m going to gamble and call it for Saturday May 23rd, slightly later in the year. Firstly, it nods towards the scheduling of another major televised event in Europe, the UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday May 30th. You also have the announced dates for the Danish National Final on March 7th. Assuming this isn’t clashing with Sweden, that puts Melodifiestivalen’s closer on March 14th, and the Heads of Delegation meeting on March 16th. It’s all running just a bit later.
There’s also a complication in the Netherland’s own social calendar… the return of the Dutch Grand Prix to the Formula 1 Grand Prix calendar, The classic Zandvoort circuit will be in use, just a quick tram ride from Amsterdam. The provisional date for that is Sunday May 11th. While you could have the Eurovision rehearsals running that weekend, are you going to run the opening ceremony that day as well?
Location, Location, Location
Even if you avoid the Dutch Grand Prix date wise, Amsterdam cannot avoid the Dutch Grand Prix. Handing the city two major events in close succession doesn’t feel like a smart political decision. If so, expect the bidding for the Song Contest to look for applications outside of the capital. Looking around suitable indoor arenas, with transport links, and sufficient hotel space, Rotterdam 2020 may be a good value bet.
PS… If it is Rotterdam, hosting the Grand Final on Saturday May 16th could come into play – it’s a tricky business second guessing a bidding process which already features six cities and climbing, so don’t make any solid commitments just yet!
More Personality, Less Tourism
Rotterdam (or anywhere) also takes the focus of Amsterdam as a destination. While there isn’t an active campaign of ‘Please Don’t Visit’, for many residents the city is over-run by tourists and popular locations and ‘tourist trap’ shops are being quietly removed. Don’t expect a massive amount of promotion around tourism in 2020’s Song Contest, expect more personal stories to be told and the nation-branding to be subtle and directed into different areas.
Let’s Talk Budgets
The Dutch Public Broadcasting System has a rather unique set-up – in essence there are eight member organisations who get a proportion of airtime depending on the number of members they have, with funding coming from general taxation. AVROTROS – the broadcaster who runs the Eurovision delegation – is one of those members. It has been confirmed that AVROTROS, alongside NPO and NOS, will be organising Eurovision 2020, and the first press conferences on early panning will take place in June. Budget wise I’m expecting Eurovision 2020 to be lower down the scale, nearer the 20-25 million Euro mark, roughly equivalent to Vienna.
No More Big Names Hijacking The Interval
SVT tried it with Justin Timberlake, but we all remember ‘Love Love Peace Peace’ from Stockholm 2016, not ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’. KAN tried it with Madonna this year. According to urban legend, UA:PBC had an offer for a similar ‘stunt’ interval act for 2017.
Portgual showed us the correct way to bring a big music name into the interval act with its pairing of Caetano Veloso alongside Salvador Sobral. There was a level of respect for the Song Contest from Veloso. Those who realised who it was were in awe, others saw a delicate reprise of the winning song from the year before with some new music.
More like that and less like the smothering presence of the Queen of Pop, please.
Cut Eurovision Down To Size
The Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 had twenty songs, and ran for 2 hours 45 minutes. The Adult Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 had twenty-six songs, but inflicted a marathon running time of 4 hours 11 minutes.
Adding six songs and their postcards covers takes 23 minutes, why do we need the other 58 minutes? Yes it’s a chance for a host broadcaster to show off a bit more, but there’s far too much cruft in the show. Less is more, and it will be more memorable.
Vote For Pleasure, Not Cruelty
As ESC Insight’s Ben Robertson says, “I see Eurovision as a competition of love, love, peace, peace, so therefore want the biggest focus to be on the positives.” That was not on show last night.
The new voting announcements ensured that there would be a cliffhanger ending, by reading out the televote results in the ascending order of jury scores. That meant we had moments of emotional pain with those scoring high on the jury and crashing in the televote , notably Germany’s Sisters and Malta’s Michela Pace, and the Czech Republic’s Lake Malawi, having the camera focused on them during the moment of defeat.
I’d much rather have KEiiNO’s televote victory be acknowledged as the last score, rather than the painful sight of Sweden being handed a humbling number of points live on camera.
This needs tweaked to find a way to keep the entertainment and tension but also respect the performers.
What About Eurovision In Concert?
The biggest promotional event on the calendar – the privately organised Eurovision In Concert – is held in Amsterdam every year. Will that still go ahead, take a year off, or be something the broadcaster can leverage? It would be a great time to have the artists film their postcards, but would it weaken or strengthen interest in EiC that ESC would be happening ‘close by’ the next month? All I know is that something is likely to change.
Maybe ‘In Concert’ should move to Italy for the year, given Mahmood finished second?
More Authenticity, More Emotion, More Storytelling
All songs are stories, but Eurovision over the lat few years has turned this into an art form. While the last few winners have not been from the same genre, they all have something in common. They feel real, they feel like they mean something, and the emotions on the show can be felt by the viewers at home (even if it takes two weeks of rehearsing to work out how exactly to do this).
Duncan Laurence brought heartbreak and a vulnerability to the stage. The song wouldn’t be out of place on the playlist of any major radio station. It’s not just a great Eurovision song, it’s a great song.
There are a lot of those out there.
Viewers can tell when there is no connection between the artist, the song, the staging, and the audience. That’s what Eurovision 2020 needs. Broadcasters ready to step away from ‘a Eurovision song’ and just sending us the best songs they can find. Let’s put aside the idea of manufacturing songs and focus on telling stories and creating more magical moments.
What are you looking forward to for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020? What needs changed, what should stay the same, and what would be your wildest expectation? Let us know in the comments.
That was the contest that was. The Eurovision Song Contest for 2019 draws to a close, but before we move on, let’s review the Grand Final in our final daily podcast from Tel Aviv.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Our Final Daily News From Tel Aviv, Sunday 19th May
Reviewing the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019, examining the voting sequence, thoughts on the votes, and our highlights of the show.
With Ewan Spence, John Paul Lucas, Matt Baker, and Ade Bradley.
The summer is here, but our Eurovision insights will continue. Stay up to date with all the Eurovision discussions by listening to the ESC Insight podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
Leading into song 9 at the first-ever ‘Australia Decides’ National Final, there was a sense of anticipation on the entry of indie-darling Kate Miller-Heidke, both from those present in the arena and those on the live television broadcast. Treated to some of the best talent within Australia, including the worldwide known drag queen Courtney Act and current chart-topping Brisbane band Sheppard, the standard was high. Just as the lights went up, most of the general public gasped in delight at the tall shadowy figure of the ice queen scaling the high notes of her entry ‘Zero Gravity’.
Despite momentum for underground dance group Electric Fields, it seemed that the stars were always meant to shine on Kate – a clear favourite of the production team who were glowing with praise at having such an entry in their selections. Surrounding her with a series of clips of the high camp and spectacular staging from Eurovision, framed her staging nicely.
Even though it was the clear favourite at Australia Decides, most fans – including myself – were quick to dampen Australian expectations at the much-larger 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. ‘We’ve seen this before, and it’s not won yet’ was the general consensus; from the pop-opera vocal stylings to the large-scale dress. Comparisons to Elena from Estonia 2018 were abound. How could Australia, now seemingly going for the big prop novelty stage act, possibly work?
A History of Kate
The pop-era genre is nothing new for performer Kate, who has been performing a mix of contemporary pop, folk and opera since for over a decade. She trained at the Queensland Conservatorium as a classical singer and has performed in the genre with the English National and New York Metropolitan operas.
Her breakthrough in Australia however came in 2009, when she reached the top of the charts and double platinum sales for her hits ‘The Last Day On Earth’ and ‘Caught In The Crowd’. It was used in countless television soundtracks and enjoyed heavy rotation on local radio.
It has been hard to avoid her presence in the music and arts scene since. From holding a role as Musical Director at the Australian Performing Rights Association, writing comedy songs for fellow friendly acts at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, acting on national television and now composing Operas and also the hottest musical in Australia, to a stage adaptation of cult movie ‘Muriels Wedding’, Kate has a lot on her shoulders.
She decided to submit her song for the national selections after being inspired by Nettas’ winning song ‘Toy’ last year, where she recognised that you can produce innovative music and still bring fun to the stage.
A History Of Australia At Eurovision
Australia’s history with Eurovision begins with the launch of broadcaster SBS in 1983. Largely aimed at the European migrant community, showing the contest allowed those expats to keep their connections to the homeland by watching the event that they both grew up with and to discover new music in their native tongue.
Whilst there were some haphazard attempts to localise the Contest over coming years, we can fast forward to 2009; the year in which the broadcaster decided that with growing interest and audience numbers locally to send a team to present the commentary from on the ground. Australians loved the combination of comedic and highly appreciative views from our own voices and ratings swelled. The push to compete on the ground was greater than ever, and finally in 2014, the broadcaster was asked to contribute an interval act to explain the unique love and relationship Aussies have with Eurovision. 2015 saw Australia compete for the very first time, with a fifth placing Guy Sebastian, then Dami Im (second in 2016), Isaiah (2017) and Jessica Mauboy (2018). Think whatever you like about these acts, all achieved qualification to the finals on the Saturday night on talent alone with little diaspora or cultural relationships to rely upon for points.
Whilst SBS carries the Eurovision for broadcast, the logistics are handled in most part by an external group known as Blink TV. The production company have long and wide-ranging experience in both the television and arts fields, having produced a comedy special for Adam Hills, an concert special of Kylie Minogue’s Homecoming ShowGirl tour, a large number of Australian comedy panel shows and also Junior Eurovision for the other Australian Public Broadcaster ABC-TV.
Christer Bjorkman (l) and Paul Clarke
Head of Delegation for Australia since 2015 has been Paul Clarke, also lead director of Blink TV. His experience dates back to the 1980s as a journalist and TV presenter, then head of the arts and entertainment on ABC-TV as a writer, producer-director and co-creator of hugely popular music series ‘Recovery’ and ‘Spicks and Specks’ through the 1990s and early 2000s. Simply put, his experience tends to understand both sides of what is required in regard to the trio of PR story, music and the televisual experience; thus Eurovision is his perfect playground.
Having this team at the helm always guaranteed that Eurovision relationship with Australia would be a serious one, moving away from being the regularly portrayed kitsch-fest that and negative attitude on the Contest was borne of the decades of Terry Wogan commentated broadcasts carried by SBS.
One thing is certain, when Australia joined, they were always going to mean business.
Stone In My Shoe
The Australian team remained focused but somewhat quiet over the promotion period leading up to this years contest. ‘Significant changes’ were promised for the stage show with the team working hard behind closed doors and were tight-lipped on anything further.
Miller-Heike’s promotions were in the main locally-based TV chat shows that combined mentions of her participation alongside new dates for her musical ‘Muriels Wedding’. Internationally, she participated in Eurovision In Concert, due to the convenience of her travelling to nearby Israel for the shooting of the dancing postcard.
Further media appearances were suspended on her return from Europe in April due to a highly infected blister caused from the postcard dancing in inappropriate shoes, seeing her spend a week in hospital to recover. Question marks hung over her health and PR momentum for the show hit a wall, with betting odds for Australia blowing out at a whopping 140/1, the highest for any Australian act performing at Eurovision.
Kate rests up in hospital prior to Eurovision
Nothing Holding Me Down
Ditching the giant blue dress for which she had to scale a ladder to attach to her waist, she is now resplendent in a fairytale white sparkly dress designed by the same team that were responsible for Dami Ims’ unique flowing dress in 2016 that now hangs in the Australian Music Museum in Melbourne as a significant moment in the history of the nation.
The static feel of the national final stage show also went the way of the dodo, replaced with an ambitious choice to replicate and maximise the element that did draw positives from fans – the inclusion of the Strange Fruit circus team on their bendy poles.
It is this component that ultimately now has people across Europe captivated, with viewers kept bewildered by exactly what they are seeing – an overlay image of the world hiding the surprise of the flowing movements of Kate and her two backing bendy pole ‘dementors’ until a minute into the song. This wonder is also felt within the arena audience, and the moment where she is wheeled onto the stage continues to draw audible gasps from those in attendance.
Kate takes flight (Image: ESC Insight)
Clearly the unique staging has caught a wind of attention in a year where many of the songs have failed to produce as greater sense of wonder, and in turn, momentum at the crucial part of the race to win Eurovision.
Judging by the coverage it has gathered from mainstream, many are excited for the novelty, but then stay for the narrative. ‘Zero Gravity’ is essentially an auto-biographical tale of Kate’s experience of post-natal depression following the birth of her now 3-year old son Ernie. It makes sense that her own partner and long-time collaborator Keir Nuttall then shares the writing credits on the song; telling of their private journey of emerging from a dark place to literally floating on air, throwing off the burdens to achieve a sense of weightlessness.
The staging concept finally makes sense, leading the general public to be left in a sense of wonder in how it can be achieved – along with utmost respect to control the apparatus whilst delivering flawless vocals on all the rehearsals. And there is now a narrative we have seen play out over the past three months which has captivated everyone from the BBC to Ukrainian television for coverage. All the elements created by the Australian Delegation are working in harmony, and the momentum seemingly is peaking just at the right time. In the evening before we decide, odds have dropped to as low as 6/1, holding a second favourite status leading into the 2019 Contest final.
Whether it’s enough for a win, we shall see shortly.
The opening ceremony always sets the tone for the Eurovision final, and this year is no exception. Leaning heavily into Tel Aviv’s reputation as the party capital of Israel, we get Dana International performing her version of Omer Adam’s Ha Habibi Tel Aviv, Nadav Guedj reprising his 2015 anthem Golden Boy, and Israeli national treasure Ilanit singing the country’s first ever Eurovision entry, Ey Sham. Don’t tune in late, this is a real treat for Eurovision fans of all generations.
The familiar faces don’t end with the opening ceremony – this year’s Contest is packed with cameos from notable Eurovision stars. Izhar Cohen is back to read the Swedish points, Netta debuts her infectious new single Nana Banana, and there’s a spectacular medley in which Conchita, Måns Zelmerlöw, Eleni Foureira, and Verka Serduchka cover each others’ Eurovision hits before joining forces with Gali Atari for a heartwarming run through Israel’s anthemic 1979 winner Hallelujah. It’s quite the spectacle – particular when Eleni somehow manages to out-camp Verka with a seductive interpretation of Dancing Lasha Tumbai that won’t soon be forgotten.
Nadav Guedj finally delivers on his offer to show us Tel Aviv… (Eurovision.tv/Elena Volotova)
A Long, Long Wait for the Votes
As you might have gathered, the interval performances this year are extensive. You might wish to get comfortable once the competitive songs are over, because there’s a fair old while until the results come through. In addition to the aforementioned returning artists, there’s also an ambitious piece from local star Idan Raichel, the return of Israeli ‘mentalist’ Lior Suchard with some more ‘mind-reading’, a video cameo from Gal Gadot, and, of course, the biggest one of all …
Yes, the controversial queen of pop has finally confirmed that she’ll be performing in tonight’s show, after weeks of fevered speculation. She’s strictly rehearsing behind closed doors, so we don’t know exactly what her performance is going to look like yet, but we do know that she’s set to sing her latest single Future and her classic 1989 hit Like A Prayer. Love her or loathe her, it’s bound to be a moment.
Madonna will perform a two-song interval set during tonight’s show. (EBU/Steven Klein)
A Change To The Voting
The powers that be at the EBU have once again tampered with the voting system this year, making a small but critical change to the way the final televote is presented. Instead of starting from the song with the lowest televote and working upwards, the points are revealed in the order of their jury score – starting with revealing the televote for the country that finished last with the juries and so on. Having seen the run-through during rehearsals, there’s a slight sense of lost momentum in this system as it’s less clear what the significance of the votes is until the very end. That said, it does clean up the final winner announcement quite nicely, and we’re bound to be on the edge of our seats either way.
A New Winner!
Will the Netherlands justify the fairly consistent faith of the bookies? Will Iceland’s dominance in the media translate into a victory? Could Australia’s spectacular stage show push them over the edge? Or will Switzerland’s party anthem give them the best possible Eurovision comeback after years in the Semi Final doldrums? We genuinely have no idea, and things seem even more open this year than usual – which will hopefully lead to some very exciting results! Whatever happens, enjoy the show and don’t be too downhearted if your favourite doesn’t win. There’s always next year.
Stay tuned to ESC Insight for a thorough post-mortem on the results online and on the ESC Insight podcast. Check out the latest version of the ESC Insight newsletter here, or subscribe here to receive regular updates direct to your inbox.
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One show to go in the season, the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, so download your copy of the ESC Insight Alternative Commentary ‘Riff’ Track for the show. Having spent the 2019 Season with ESC Insight, why not join us for the drop from twenty six songs to just one. Our winner.
You’ll be able to watch the show on your national broadcaster (or head over to www.eurovision.tv for the free live stream without a commentator).
For a million reasons, legal, technical or otherwise, we can’t automatically sync up with the live broadcast, so you need to do a little bit of work. Grab the MP3, cue it up in your audio player of choice, be it portable on headphones, or on your computer or tablet. Feel free to start listening whenever you want, but starting five minutes before show starts is just about enough – more makes it comforable.
I’ll remind you in the show, but when you hear the beep, you pause the track, and start up again when our hosts say “let the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 begin!”
Enjoy! And you can still follow me real time on Twitter for updates direct from Tel Aviv and the Contest.
Eurovision 2019 Podcast: Grand Final Commentary
Ellie Chalkley, Elaine O’Neil, and Ross Middleton, take you though the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019. Press play before the show starts, and don’t forget to pause when you hear the beep!
You can stay up to date with The ESC Insight Podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed for all the shows, or use iTunes to get the show automatically downloaded to your computer if that’s your thing.
And it comes down to this. Less than a day to go, and we find out our winner. But what can we expect in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019?
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 18th May
Previewing the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019, we look at the running order, the favourites, and the surprises
With Ewan Spence and Sharleen Wright.
With the Grand Final nearly here, stay up to date with all the Eurovision discussions by listening to the ESC Insight podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.