Everything you need to know about this year's Eurovision Song Contest

Jen Crothers
·5-min read
Photo credit: ESC
Photo credit: ESC

From Good Housekeeping

When the Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled last year, it extinguished a perennially cheery light that ignites across Europe in May of each year - a celebration of song, jaw-dropping performances and Graham Norton's acerbic wit.

But not all is lost - Eurovision 2021 is an unstoppable force and the show will go on this year, pandemic or not. Here's everything we know about the 2021 competition:

Eurovision 2021: When is it on?

The event begins on Tuesday 18th May and runs to Saturday 22nd May, on the BBC.

The first semi final is on Tuesday 18 May, the second is on Thursday 20th May, with the final on Saturday 22nd.

Eurovision 2021: What happened in 2020?

COVID happened! On March 18 2020, it was announced the contest was cancelled. A show, Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light was aired in its place on 16 May 2020. The organisers explained, "We've put together a diverse set of performances for you to enjoy as we celebrate the songs of this year, as well as some big hits from the past. Together, we can unite through music."

Eurovision 2021: Where is it being held?

At the wonderfully named Rotterdam Ahoy venue in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

They won the 2019 competition with Arcade by Duncan Laurence, and the prize was the right to host the following year's competition. It’s the fifth time the country is hosting the contest, with the last time back in 1980.

Eurovision 2021: What happens if we’re still all in lockdown?

Every broadcaster taking part in the contest will film a 'live on tape' recording of their country's entry if the participant cannot travel to Rotterdam, or has to quarantine when they arrive.

Each recording will take place in show conditions - in real time, with no edits to the vocals or performance. So they're primed for it all going ahead.

Eurovision 2021: How does it work?

What's known as The Big Five (Italy, Germany, Spain, UK and France) are a group of countries already qualified for the final, and who will vote in the semi finals. As host country, the Netherlands will also automatically qualify for the final.

A semi final draw was made in January 2020, and this still stands for 2021.

Seventeen countries are taking part in the first semi: Australia, Belarus, Ireland, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Norway, Romania, Ukraine.

Those countries, plus Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, will vote on the 10 countries who will go through to the final.

The second semi final has 18 participants: Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Moldova, Poland, San Marino, Serbia, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Portugal, Switzerland.

France, Spain and UK will also cast their vote during this semi final.

Twenty six countries in total will go through to Saturday's final.

Eurovision 2021: How many countries are taking part?

Forty one - the same line up as was planned in 2020.

Eurovision 2021: Who will be presenting?

The 2020 line up will finally get their time to shine: Actress and presenter Chantal Janzen, singer and commentator Jan Smit, and Eurovision legend Edsilla Rombley, who represented the Netherlands twice at the contest, in 1990 and 2007.

Beauty vlogger NikkieTutorials will be hosting online interviews and behind the scenes chats on YouTube.

Eurovision 2021: What about the 2020 songs?

While the artists for 2020 have been allowed to roll over to 2021, Eurovision bosses decided that the songs proposed for 2020 would not be eligible for entry in 2021.

Eurovision 2021: Any other changes?

Pre-recorded backing vocals! Eurovision bosses decreed that that pre-recorded backing vocals would be allowed for one year, and that backing singers, on or off stage would be allowed.

Live and recorded backing vocals will also be allowed - but all lead vocals still must be live.

Eurovision 2021: What’s the logo?

It's the same one from 2020 rolled over to 2021.

The designers explain: "It is an abstract presentation inspired by the map of world and visually connects the location of the capitals of the 41 participating countries with Rotterdam as Europe’s beating heart." Indeed.

Eurovision 2021: Who’s opening the show? Who's performing at the interval?

Singer Lenny Kuhr, one of the winners of the contest in 1969, and Alexander Rybak, who won the 2009 competition for Norway were due to perform in 2020. They have both said they'd like to perform at the 2021 show.

Eurovision 2021: Are the 2020 entries singing in 2021?

These countries announced they would carry over the same artists they had entered for 2020: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine

Eurovision 2021: What’s the UK entry?

Last year, James Newman (brother of pop star John) was due to represent the UK with song My Last Breath, but whether he will perform in 2021 is still to be confirmed.

The BBC's Eurovision Series Producer has suggested an announcement about the UK entry will be made early this year.

Eurovision 2021: Who will be commentating?

As ever, the BBC have once again lined up the hilarious and wonderful Graham Norton to bring his sweet shade to proceedings.

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