Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest blesses our tellies with the campest, most bizarre and most outré performances in Europop. With this year’s edition, the show will have aired 66 times – it’s been going strong since the 50s – and it still dominates the viewing figures. Last year, more than 180 million people tuned in across 36 countries, including 150,000 from Iceland which accounts for 99.9% of the entire country’s population. It’s kind of a big deal, but if this icon of modern Europe is still a mystery to you, here’s a brief history. And don’t forget to join LOTI A.M.C so you can put all your new-found knowledge to good use. 

The first Eurovision aired from Sweden in 1956 as Le Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne and was one of the earliest attempts at broadcasting a live televised event to a large international market (though it was a much tinier event than now). Only seven European countries competed, with the home country Switzerland taking home first place – they’ve only won once again since, but that was with Celine Dion (who’s French-Canadian) representing them.

Despite being mostly known and viewed by European countries, Eurovision has launched some huge names in music internationally. In 1973, ABBA won for Sweden with their performance of ‘Waterloo’ and went on to become one of the most successful music groups of all time. Celine Dion’s Switzerland win – in ’88, by just one point – was a good 20 years before ‘My Heart Will Go On’, and her position as one of highest-selling female artists in the world. And most recently, Italian winners of Eurovision 2021 Måneskin’s cover of ‘Beggin’’ reached the top 10 on the Global Billboard charts.

While it has had some serious musical successes, there’s no doubt that Eurovision is known for its madness – Verka Serduchka for Ukraine in 2007 and Dustin the Turkey for Ireland (who’ve historically had the most wins) in 2008 come to mind. And this year’s competition promises to be no exception. Latvia’s 2022 entry opens with the line “instead of meat, I eat veggies and p*ssy,” and Norway’s singing about wolves, bananas, grandmas and someone called Keith. Truly Europe’s finest.

The semi-finalists for this year’s competition were selected in January and the Grand Final will air on the 14th May. So, as of yet, we don’t know everyone that will be involved on the big day. But we do know that it’ll come as a welcome distraction and celebration of European camaraderie during a time of conflict. Willkommen, bien venue, welcome, benvenuti – and long live Eurovision.