Eurovision 2017: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

The Eurovision Song Contest is being held this Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Their theme is “Celebrate Diversity,” which is somewhat ironic considering the geoblocking in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil, and the three white male hosts.

No matter. Here’s our guide of the big Eurovision story lines this year, and who to watch for in the contest.

Russia’s Withdrawal
The lead up to the contest has had plenty of political controversy. Ukrainian officials alleged that Russia’s selected entrant, Yulia Samoylova, had illegally traveled to Crimea in 2015 after Russia’s annexation. In response, Ukraine issued a 3-year travel ban against Samoylova. It was widely speculated that Russia was fully aware of the conflict that would result from her selection, and Russia’s choice of Samoylova (who uses a wheelchair due to a childhood medical condition that robbed her of her ability to walk) was a cynical, deliberate attempt to provoke Ukraine. The EBU ultimately weighed in, saying that while it encouraged the participation of all countries, it respected the local laws of the host country. Russia subsequently announced it was withdrawing from the contest this year. Yulia Samoylova, incidentally, performed again in Crimea on May 9, the day of the first Eurovision Semifinal.

Russia’s absence from the contest this year has opened up a potential power vacuum. Russia can generally be relied upon to get votes from many former Soviet bloc countries because of the large number of ethnic Russians there and shared pop culture. One thing we will be watching for on Saturday is how those points are distributed. Do other Eastern European counties (e.g., Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus) benefit? Or, will the those votes simply be distributed to the songs each country likes the best?

Who’s in the Mix to Win?
All eyes are on Italy. Almost immediately after winning Italy’s prestigious Sanremo festival, Francesco Gabbani’s “Occidentalis Karma” became the odds leader, and he has stayed there ever since. As of the time of writing, the official video has amassed over 110 million views on Youtube (10 times more than anyone else in the competition). The question wasn’t whether Italy would win, but by how much.

And then, Tuesday’s Semifinal included a preview clip of Italy, part of a standard effort to showcase 3 of the Big 6 who have automatic entries into the Final. The full live Eurovision performance is available to watch on YouTube. Gabbani’s performance was unfocused and sloppy, leaving some to wonder if the frontrunner is going to choke. Though the horserace has gotten more interesting this week, he remains the favorite.

If not Italy, then who?
Portugal, that’s who. Yeah, that’s right, Portugal. The country with the longest Eurovision drought in history, who in 48 previous appearances has never won, is in with a shot this year. “Amar pelos dois” is a gentle cabaret ballad that sounds like a recent discovery from the Great American Songbook. But Salvatore Sobral’s unique stage presence completely draws you in. Look for a lot of jury love here, as well as a potential groundswell of public support for the underdog.

Bulgaria is also in the conversation. “Beautiful Mess” is a modern pop ballad with an attractive staging that features on-screen animation. Though only 17 years old, singer Kristian Kostov is a mature, poised performer, and he delivered a very strong performance in Semifinal 2. Unlike the other two contenders, which are going 9th and 11th, respectively, Bulgaria drew the second half of the final and is slated to go 25th out of 26 songs.

Other countries in the mix to place very well on the night are Sweden, which has a prime second half draw and a clever staging involving treadmills; Armenia, with a fab song, a fab staging, and a fab diva; Hungary, with a Roma-inspired pop song; and Belgium, who struggled in rehearsals but has a song with undeniable commercial appeal.

What about the cheese?
Oh, there’s cheese. 2017 is a vintage year for cheese. Sunstroke Project from Moldova is back this year. They initially rose to fame at Eurovision 2010, when Epic Sax Guy became a global meme. The members of Sunstroke Project are eager to recapture their moment in the sun, and yet, they’re also relaxed and clearly enjoying their experience this time around. “Hey Mamma” is wildly fun and, yes, gives us more epic sax.

Romania’s song is called “Yodel It!” As you might expect, there is yodeling. As you might not expect, there are glitter cannons.

The Master of Rennet, however, is Jacques Houdek from Croatia. “My Friend” is 2017’s answer to Cezar’s “It’s My Life.” Only more so. Prepare yourself.

And in case you think it is all going to be camera tricks, fire curtains, and giant images of the artist on video projection, rest assured we still get some stage props. Keep an eye out for Austria’s moon, Ukraine’s big head, and U.K.’s mirrored fan. As if you could miss them.

How to Watch in the United States
For those of us with access to extensive cable packages, Logo will be broadcasting the Contest with commentary from Michele Visage and Ross Matthews. Though the announcement came late, Logo has been publicizing it over the last two weeks. Let’s see if more than 52,000 Americans tune in this year!

Those of us in North America without access to Logo have been stymied by geoblocking thanks to the deal the EBU signed with Viacom. At least the good people of Sweden and Germany are there to help us out. If you run into problems at Eurovision.tv, try catching the broadcast at svt.se or eurovision.de.

Updated 5/12/2017: Since we posted this primer, Portugal has overtaken Italy as the odds leader. Looks like a lot of people are putting money down on Salvador. It looks like game on!

Our Predictions: 2017 Semifinal 2

It’s not often that we both have the same qualification picks. Even though we often appear to be of the same mind, you don’t know how much we agonized separately to narrow this potentially epic Semifinal down to just 10. We then agonized together because looking through historical voting data is no fun by yourself.

Jen:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel
Chris:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel

Serbia: Tijana Bogićević – “In Too Deep”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

As Serbia worked on its staging this week, we realized that “In Too Deep” is saddled with a poor vocal arrangement, which makes the song sound muddy and hurts the overall impression. We have a feeling this is going to play as a bit of throat-clearing before the show kicks off in earnest with Austria.

Austria: Nathan Trent – “Running On Air”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

A decent song elevated by a charming performer and a fun staging. To think we were worried. Nathan’s gonna swim like a champion.

Macedonia: Jana Burčeska – “Dance Alone”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

We love this song, but we hate the way Macedonia staged it. Shi from escgo! sums the problem up nicely. With any luck, this will go through instead of Netherlands, but we’re not holding our breath.

Malta: Claudia Faniello – “Breathlessly”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Look, a lot of artists at Eurovision this year have plastered their mugs all over the video backdrop. But does anyone look more conceited than Claudia when doing it?

Romania: Ilinca featuring Alex Florea – “Yodel It!”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

We expect this to qualify, but something has been bothering us about the staging for “Yodel It!” Romania’s key selling point is Ilinca and her yodeling. Yet in the camera clips we’ve seen, they cut away from her when she is yodeling. Granted, Alex is the more charismatic of the two singers, but the song is called “Yodel It!” It’s like Romania is missing the point of its own song.

Netherlands: OG3NE – “Light and Shadow”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

If the results of the first Semi are any indication, there isn’t a lot of patience for dated crap like this. Still, it’s hard to pick against it when the Vol sisters are singing well.

Hungary: Joci Pápai – “Origo”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

We’ve been listening to the ESC Insight podcast, and on Sunday’s episodeMonty Moncrieff and Ewan Spence discussed how the staging for “Origo” tells a Romeo and Juliet story. And gosh darn it if Joci and dancer Alexandra aren’t telling that story better than the song in this Semi actually inspired by Romeo and Juliet.

Denmark: Anja – “Where I Am”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Anja is a singer to be reckoned with. Even if the song isn’t the best, she is gonna drag it to the Final through sheer force of will.

Ireland: Brendan Murray – “Dying to Try”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

Stop watching “Dying to Try” if you experience the following: nausea, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts, or ringing in your ears. Call your doctor immediately. Do not watch “Dying to Try” if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been pregnant before, have never been pregnant, or have boy parts.

San Marino: Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson – “Spirit of the Night”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

We like that San Marino decided to give “Spirit of the Night” a disco club atmosphere. If we were in a disco club it would be fun. Here, it just looks like an unfocused mess.

Croatia: Jacques Houdek – “My Friend”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Do you even realize how hard it is to switch from pop voice to opera voice like that? Yes, the song is insane and the staging is even more insane, but like Cesar before him, Jacques rises above it all.

Norway: JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann – “Grab the Moment”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

“Grab the Moment” is a cool song and we hope that voters watching tonight agree. But we’re afraid it’s going to get lost in the shuffle.

Switzerland: Timebelle – “Apollo”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

The Barbara Dex Award competition is going to be fierce this year, but at least Switzerland is in with a chance to win something in Kyiv.

Belarus: NAVI – “Historyja majho žyccia”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Belarus should sail right through the Final, so long as they don’t crash into the Forbidden Desert.

Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov – “Beautiful Mess”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Kristian is the youngest competitor at this year’s Eurovision, but he is one of the most mature performers. He will qualify with ease.

Lithuania: Fusedmarc – “Rain of Revolution”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

This is the week where we envy the folks in the press room, but we also recognize that to pay for that privilege, they are forced to listen to songs like “Rain of Revolution” again and again. Their ordeal will be over soon.

Estonia: Koit Toome and Laura – “Verona”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Falstaff wishes he ate that much ham.

Israel: IMRI – “I Feel Alive”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

The song and the staging are fun, IMRI is eye candy and has drawn a good slot, and… well, the vocal may be a bit dodgy. No matter: the plusses outweigh the negatives.

May 7, 2017 Rehearsal Recap

Today, Ukraine and the Big Five get their second chance to rehearse on the big stage. Here are your Eurovision words for the day:

  • Mirrors
  • La scimmia nuda balla
  • Good luck, and don’t fuck it up

O.Torvald replaced the mountain props and the clocks in their chests from Ukraine’s national final with a big giant mirrored head. We are having a hard time connecting to this song, and the staging doesn’t help us.

Italy is using a tweaked version of Sanremo staging, including the break-dancing ape and the audience-friendly choreography. This week Francesco has solidified his standing as the Song Contest’s presumptive winner. His task between now and Saturday is to stay in the moment and not let the pressure get to him. Which is a Buddhist concept, after all.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the existential horror one feels when enduring Spain. “Do It For Your Lover” makes us long for the slick professionalism and songcraft of “Cake to Bake.” The silver lining is that Spain has announced that for Eurovision 2018 it will revive Operación Triunfo, a selection format that resulted in a strong run of songs for them in 2002-2004. Doesn’t help us right now, though.

Germany has produced an inoffensive package, in grey tones, for a song that wasn’t memorable to begin with. With so much attention given to Spain’s awfulness, it’s easy to forget that it’s usually the mediocre song that lands at the bottom of the table. We can’t come up with one country that would include this in its Top 10. We think Germany could be looking at another nul points, not because it’s the worst, but because it has not given anyone a reason to vote for it.

It’s like the United Kingdom saw San Marino’s 2014 staging for “Maybe” and said to themselves, “You know, that actually was a good idea. It could really be something with a budget.” So UK made the fan mirrored, which reflects Lucie and the lights on the floor. To their credit, it is a unique stage picture this year. Our issue is with Lucie, who is a good singer but insists on treating Eurovision like it’s the West End. Not only is she singing “Never Give Up on You” like a showtune, word on the street is that she does not connect with the cameras. If Lucie only plays to the house, she’s not going to make the necessary connection with the viewers at home.

France, who before rehearsals was looking at a possible Top 10 finish, has disappointed. They kept the tango across Paris concept but have left out the tango dancers onstage. This is a huge unforced error. Alma sounds confident singing the song, but in the rehearsal footage she looks alone and exposed. France is going to need a camerawork miracle to make this succeed.

May 4, 2017 Rehearsal Recap

Good evening, chickies, it’s Semifinal time! We have now seen two rounds of rehearsals for almost everyone competing in Tuesday’s first Semi.

Here are your Eurovision words for the day:

  • Diaphanous
  • Lumbering behemoth of ego
  • And the color: white

Sweden opens the show. As expected, Robin has preserved his Melodifestivalen staging, except the dancers are now mic’d and providing the backing vocal. The sound and set is not quite as slick as the Swedish national staging, but it’s fine and has allowed Robin to remain largely free of unwanted fan attention during rehearsals. We just wish he didn’t look so freaking vacant.

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Georgia has opted for a red and black staging. Tamara begins her performance in a see-through red cape, which she ditches as the song builds. It’s a simple staging that relies heavily on Tamara’s big vocal. We have been indifferent to “Keep the Faith” thus far, but we can see this qualifying if Tamara can deliver on the night. Side note: we neglected to mention in our original review of “Keep the Faith” that Anri Jokhadze co-wrote it. It’s always nice to have Anri around Eurovision.

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As good a track record as Australia has with their songs, they really are terrible at staging. Isaiah’s concept focuses on him, with massive sensitive Isaiah images on the video screen. Unfortunately you’ll be seeing a lot of that sort of thing this year. It turns out that enormous faces on projection screens are this year’s mullet dress. Anyhow, Isaiah is standing on this plinth that moves kind of like a flat circular treadmill, so he can walk in place. His Semifinal draw is bad luck in this respect, as Sweden’s staging uses treadmills to much better effect. Oh, and they throw in that au courant 2011 innovation, the pyro curtain. Australia’s stock has fallen.

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In the belt-fest that is Semifinal One, Albania distinguishes itself from Georgia because Lindita’s see-though cape is white, not red. The backdrop echoes her steampunk-inspired music video. It’s just… a lot. Albania is more vulnerable to pitchiness than Georgia, which is not great news for them.

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Poor Belgium. Despite all the adoration from fans (which we never shared, and we’re kind of smug about that), “City Lights” was always going to be a challenge to stage. What is panning out is pretty much worst-case scenario. Blanche has taken a beating from the fans during rehearsals. She’s not been finding the camera and her vocals haven’t been good enough. Folks on the ground have been reporting that her confidence is low. And the staging has lost all the charm of the admittedly cool music video with the big glow ball. Qualification is by no means assured for what was many thought would be a top five finisher.

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Montenegro. Montenegro. Whoo boy, where to begin? Disco entries often struggle, and we see no evidence that this will disrupt the trend. Slavko is pitchy, and for the life of us, we don’t understand why he insisted on hiding his backing singers. Wouldn’t you want to have as many people on stage as possible to ramp up the party atmosphere? Maybe he’s afraid he’ll take someone’s eye out when he whips his ponytail around.

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Finland has preserved their staging from UMK. Since the national finals “Blackbird” has largely flown under the radar with fans. In part that’s because the song is a downer. But what folks don’t know (or have forgotten) is that this song is better live than on the recording. It’s professional, lovely, and emotional. Mark our words, it will be rewarded.

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Bless Azerbaijan, always going high concept. Dihaj is enclosed in a chalkboard room, and she writes on the walls. When her backing singers appear, she writes on their backs. Azerbaijan has thoughtfully supplied us with choreography you can do at home. Dihaj is in great voice. To wit, we can’t understand most of what she’s saying, but we don’t care. There’s also the small detail of the dude on a ladder wearing the horse’s head. We got a live one, folks!

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Portugal has given their staging a little oomph for Eurovision without losing their song’s intimacy. We haven’t seen Salvador in rehearsals due to health issues that are keeping him from Kyiv until the dress rehearsal. His sister, who wrote the song, has been pinch-hitting for now. It all looks lovely and promising, and we have high hopes.

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Greece is the anti-Australia. There’s a lot of razzle dazzle that tries to distract us from the mediocrity of the song. Shirtless dancers, rising plinth, holographic underwater effects. None of it helps Demy find her high notes though.

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Poland has gone for a rudimentary staging, which is appropriate given the rudimentary song craft. Kasha is wearing a white dress with a lot of see through material (surprise surprise). There’s a violinist on stage and there is liberal use of the wind machine. Kasha sounds fine, but the song is just a snoozer, with the worst, most cliché rhymes out there. Still, whenever anyone from Poland is in good voice, ignore them at your peril.

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Moldova is giving the good people of Eurovision what they want: a catchy tune, playful dance-along choreography, and epic sax. Sunstroke Project knows exactly who they are and what they’re good at. It helps that they look like they are having the time of their lives up there. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Sign us up for more!

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Hey look, another white cape! At least Iceland’s cape is conceptually justified. When it is under lit, it looks like paper. We get it. Svala is a seasoned performer and looking fab in white with a plunging neckline. And she has a moment at the end with lasers. We just wish the song was better.

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Czech Republic—blessed with a jury-friendly song and prime placement in the first Semi—was one we had earmarked as a potential surprise qualifier. Yeah. Not gonna happen. The backdrop echoes the lovely music video, which under other circumstances might have worked. Unfortunately, the Czech delegation has done nothing else to help themselves. Martina is decked out in an unflattering gold lame pantsuit that wears her more than she wears it. Worse, it detracts from the minimalist Dove-Real Beauty concept that made the music video work (and, again, is being broadcast behind her). The final nail in the coffin: Martina starts off the song seated, sapping energy from what was already a low-energy ballad.

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Cyprus is attempting the most difficult choreography in this Semi, simulating the heaviness of gravity. It requires core strength and balance. Hovig and his dancers have had some challenges with the movement, but they been using their rehearsal time to master it. The performance is coming along, and we think will play nicely on the night.

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Norway’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

This year’s winner of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix is JOWST with “Grab the Moment.”

JOWST’s real name is Joakim With Steen. At Melodi Grand Prix 2017, he was the dude with the light-up mask. Up until now, Steen has been a sound engineer and producer. “Grab the Moment” is his first foray into making his own music. For this effort, JOWST teamed up with Aleksander Walmann, who is best known for his runner-up finish in 2012’s The Voice Norge. Walmann is also early in his career, but this is not his first collaboration with a house music DJ. Last year, Walmann was featured on Simon Field and Jamie’s rather fabulous cover of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings.”

In the bio on his website, JOWST says he is seeking to mix genres and to make something that sounds new. Well, with “Grab the Moment,” he has created a cool beat, a patter-heavy verse and a harmonic chorus with voice modulation. Walmann is a good singer, and he handles the crowded lyric with ease. The combination is successful, and it is an enjoyable way to pass three minutes.

But, as much as we like “Grab the Moment,” it’s a song that doesn’t necessarily pack a visceral wallop. It’s sort like the movie Dodgeball. Both are well-done and likable. You enjoy them both in the moment, but you don’t remember much about them when they are over. Also, they both feature Alan Tudyk.

Hopefully Aleksander Walmann will voice the chicken in the Norwegian dub of Moana.

Iceland’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Svala has booked her ticket to Kyiv by winning Söngvakeppnin with “Paper.”

Svala “Kali” Björgvinsdóttir’s music career has spanned more than 20 years, and she has experienced more than her fair share of ups and downs over the course. She had a near brush with big time success in late ’90s/early ’00s. She was living in Los Angeles and had signed a six-album deal with EMI–one of the biggest record deals ever for an Icelandic recording artist. Snoop Dogg was the creative chair of her label, Priority Records. Svala’s first single under the label was “The Real Me,” a Britney-style pop song co-written by Anders Bagge (who, tangentially, later found Eurovision fame with Azerbaijan’s “Drip Drop” and “When the Music Dies”). The single had been on the Billboard pop charts for several weeks by Fall 2001. Then September 11th happened, and her label struggled. Nevertheless by this point, she had gained some fame in Iceland.

A few years later, Svala reinvented herself by teaming up with Einar Egilsson and his brother Edvard to form the ’80s-inspired synth-pop band Steed Lord. Though self-distributed, the band’s songs were licensed by North American TV shows, and they were commissioned by H&M to design a clothing line. Then, in April 2008, the band’s car was hit in a head-on collision. All three band members suffered severe injuries, and Einar required three surgeries to save his life. Despite the near-fatal accident, they once again relocated to Los Angeles and the band continued to tour actively. In 2015, Svala became one of the four judges on Iceland’s version of The Voice.

We tell you all of this because Svala’s story is much more interesting than what you’ll see during her three minutes on stage in Kyiv.

When we review songs for this site, we listen to them over and over again. This can be a pleasure or a pain, and in the case of “Paper” it is turning out to be death by a thousand cuts. We do not find the lyrical metaphor or the musical arrangement at all engaging. We were also confused by her staging at Söngvakeppnin, which seemed muddled and disconnected from the song. Iceland would need to considerably revamp “Paper” if they want any chance at making an impact. They are in a competitive first Semi and they must fight to get their share of oxygen. We feel like their chances are slim.

Rehearsal Roundup and Our Predictions: 2016 Semifinal 1

One of the great joys of Eurovision fandom is the transparency of the fortnight leading up to the Contest. We get sneak peeks into the rehearsals to see the acts coming together. Now, those sneak peeks are limited – 30 second clips from the first rehearsal, 2 minute clips from the second rehearsal, all carefully crafted to shield us from the camerawork. But, we do get a sense of costuming, lighting, choreography, and staging. This, combined with the song order, gives us the next great chance to evaluate the songs’ prospects since they were announced.

Due to time constraints this year we’re also going to use these posts to present our predictions. Earlier than usual, but sometimes life gets in the way.

So let’s catch up, shall we?

Here are our predictions for the first Semifinal:

Jen:

  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Armenia
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia
  • Cyprus
  • Austria
  • Iceland
  • Malta
Chris:

  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Armenia
  • Russia
  • Cyprus
  • Austria
  • Estonia
  • Iceland
  • Malta

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Eurovision to Be Broadcast In the U.S. for the First Time

SolayohOn Monday, Logo TV announced that it will be broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest Final live on Saturday, May 14. This will be the first time ever that the contest will be viewed by American television audiences.

In the Lemur household we received this news mostly, but not entirely, positively. We have for years believed that Logo was the most suitable network to give Americans the opportunity to join in the Eurovision fun en masse. In recent years, we have seen an increasing stateside interest in the Song Contest, both in conversation and in traffic to this website, so we felt the time was ripe for the show to come to these shores.

Logo, for those unfamiliar, is a Viacom-owned cable network that targets LGBT audiences. Its biggest cultural contribution to date has been RuPaul’s Drag Race. Logo reaches 52 million households, roughly 45 percent of U.S. households with television. So while this U.S. broadcast represents a big step forward, it is important to note that access is still limited.

The downside of a Logo broadcast is that they negotiated an exclusive deal with the EBU. Access to the Final via Eurovision.tv, from what we understand, will be geoblocked for American audiences. We can only watch the Final on Logo or Logo’s website. So for those of us who have gotten used to watching online, we must now either make sure our cable package carries Logo or use a proxy server to view something that had previously been available to us for free.

We also observed how the news story was framed. Logo’s press release prominently featured Alyona Lanskaya’s “Solayoh” (ahead of Conchita, no less), and characterized Eurovision as “the campiest competition this side of ‘Drag Race.'” No denying Alyona’s camp cred, but it seemed strange placement since most Americans are unfamiliar 1) with the country of Belarus and 2) its rich history of Eurovision camp.

A shadow and a doubt grows in our mind, because Americans tuning in for a 3-hour camp fest may be disappointed. Sure we still get an occasional Cezar, but the Song Contest has come a long way from the camp high water mark of 2009. We may have a few moments (one less, sadly, because of Romania’s expulsion), but the simple fact is that Eurovision is becoming more competent every year. What’s equally important, in our opinion, is how Eurovision has become an increasingly prominent platform for LGBT rights, but that story hasn’t been presented yet over here.

The other thought we’ve had is that this broadcast has the potential to engage an audience unfamiliar with Eurovision performance conventions. Iceland and Russia are using screen projections – but will folks know that it’s simply a ripoff of last year’s winner? How about Conchita’s phoenix wings? Azerbaijan’s fire curtain? Or the sheer Greekness of every Greek song presentation? Will Americans have any clue what to make of a Balkan ballad?

Oh the things you will see…

National Final Season in Review 2016: Our Favorite WTF Moments

Joy of joys, based on what we saw this season, we have hopes for some WTF moments this May in Stockholm. That said, we all know that the real WTF action is in the national selections. Here were some of the standouts this year.

Norway: The Hungry Hearts – “Laika”
A song that captures the legacy of Verka Serduchka but is for the ladies. The Golden Girls joined Devo for a nostalgic look at the Soviet Union’s salad days, when disco music filled the streets and garbage bags were the height of fashion. Blanche gets the solo, naturally.

Belgium: Amaryllis – “Kick the Habit”
When Amaryllis sings of her need to kick the habit, she’s referring to her powers of telekinesis. Amaryllis is like Carrie that way, if Carrie had seen A Christmas Story and The Kiss of the Spider Woman musical, and if she had gone on the Phantom Manor (or, if you’re American, the Haunted Mansion) ride a few 100 times. Here’s a fun game for you to try at home: imagine Elmer Fudd singing along. “I’ve got to kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit.”

Iceland: Sigga Eyrun – “Kreisi”
Let’s just say it wasn’t the most sympathetic portrayal of mental illness we’ve ever seen.

Estonia: Meisterjaan – “Parmupillihullus”
Things could have been so different for Kylo Ren if he had studied the ways of the samurai, learned to play the jew’s harp, and if Joseph Gordon-Levitt had been cast instead of Adam Driver. (We really enjoyed this one, by the way. It works on many levels.)

Germany: Gregorian – “Masters of Chant”
We don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea of Gregorian chant-inspired pop. We probably should, but we don’t. But “Masters of Chant” was so on the nose that the whole package just felt dumb. Gregorian was, of course, dressed in rhinestoned black cloaks, and there was fire. And green lasers. As one does.

Romania.
No, we are not going to discuss Ovidiu Anton in this post. Everyone gets to enjoy his WTF glory in Stockholm! But did you know that winner of Selecția Națională receives the golden idol prop from Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Ovidu's trophy!

Latvia: The Riga Beaver
Lest we forget, the Riga Beaver made a return appearance at Supernova. The self-styled Cultural Symbol of Europe raised his game this year, playing Pictionary, conducting classical music, leading fitness breaks, doing craft projects, and singing “Let It Go” with a 8-year old ballerina. At this point, he has more than earned the right to read out the results of the Latvian vote at Eurovision. Make it happen, Latvia.