Who’ll be performing (41 nations, down from last year’s total by two, following the withdrawal of Bulgaria and Ukraine):
Solo Female (14): Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia
Solo Male (18): Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
Duos (3): Finland, Germany, Slovenia
Groups and Bands (6): Czech Republic, Iceland, Latvia, Montenegro, Norway, Poland
Artists under the age of 20 (at the time of performance):
Belarus: Zena (16)
Belgium: Eliot (18)
Croatia: Roko (18)
Carlotta Truman (19)
France: Bilal Hassani (19)
Malta: Michela Pace (18)
Emel Franca (18)
Mirela Ljumić (17)
Ivana Obradović (18)
Željko Vukčević (19)
Tamara Vujačić (16)
Zala Kralj (19)
Artists over the age of 40 (at the time of performance):
Sebastian Rejman (41)
San Marino: Serhat (54)
Solo Artists using a pseudonym, mononym, or nickname:
How the songs were chosen:
National Final (26): Albania, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy*, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (*- The winner of Italy’s San Remo Festival is given first right of refusal for the ticket to Eurovision. This year, the winner accepted the invitation.)
Partial National Final:
Public artist selection, internal song selection (2): Israel, Malta
Internal artist selection, public song selection (1): Finland
Internal Selection (12): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Switzerland
What language will the song be performed in?
English (28): Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway*, Romania, Russia, San Marino**, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
* Norway’s song contains a phrase in Northern Sámi.
** San Marino’s song contains a countdown in Turkish.
Bilingual with English (5): Croatia, Denmark, France, Poland, Serbia
No English (8): Albania, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain
How many acts have previous involvement with Eurovision?
Joci Pápai previously represented Hungary at Eurovision in 2017, coming in 8th place overall with “Origo”.
Jurijus served as a backing singer for Lithuania’s 2013 entry, “Something”, and 2015 entry, “This Time”.
Tamara Todevska competed on behalf of Macedonia in 2008 alongside Vrčak and Adrian Gaxha with “Let Me Love You”. They came in 10th place in their semifinal, but due to the rules of qualification that year, they did not make it to the Final.
Tamara also served as a backing singer for Toše Proeski in 2004 (“Life“) and her sister Tijana Dapčević in 2013 (“To the Sky“).
Sergey Lazarev sang for Russia in 2016, coming in third place with “You Are the Only One”.
Serhat competed for San Marino in 2016 with the disco remix of “I Didn’t Know”, coming in 12th place in his semifinal.
Nevena Božović sang for Serbia in 2013 as a member of Moje 3, who came in 11th place in their semifinal with “Ljubav je svuda”.
Luca Hänni was the spokesperson for the Swiss Jury at Eurovision 2017.
How many acts have previous involvement with Junior Eurovision?
ZENA twice competed at the National Final to represent Belarus at Junior Eurovision:
2015: 4th place, “Mir”
2016: 3rd place, “Kosmos”
ZENA was the co-host of the 2018 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in Minsk.
ZENA with fellow Junior Eurovision 2018 hosts Eugene Perlin and Helena Meerai (photo: BTRC/EBU)
Nevena Božović represented Serbia at Junior Eurovision 2007 with the song “Piši mi”, coming in third place overall.
Are there backing singers who have previous Eurovision and Junior Eurovision experience?
Stig Rästa, who represented Estonia in 2015 (“Goodbye to Yesterday“) and co-wrote “Storm”, as well as 2016’s “Play“.
Émilie Satt, co-writer of “Roi”, represented France in 2018 with “Mercy” as one half of Madame Monsieur.
Destiny Chukunyere, the winner of Junior Eurovision 2015 with “Not My Soul”
Mladen Lukić, who represented Serbia in 2018 as a part of Balkanika with “Nova Deca”
Anna Sahlene, the Swedish-born singer who represented Estonia in 2002 with “Runaway”. She also performed backing vocals for Australia in 2016 (“Sound of Silence”).
How many acts had previously been involved in a National Final (not counting their 2019 victory)?
2004 (for ESC 2005): “Frikem se më pëlqen”, 3rd place
2006 (for ESC 2007): “Pa identitet”, 8th place
2007 (for ESC 2008): “S’ka fajtor në dashuri“, 4th place
* – Jonida Maliqi had also taken part at Festivali i Këngës in the years before it was used as a National Final, including 1995 (with “Planeti fëmijevë“), 1997 (with “Flas me engjëllin tim”), 1999 (with “Do jetoj pa ty”), 2000 (with “Çast”), 2001 (with “Ik”), and 2002 (with “Do humbas më ty”).
2011: Eliminated in Semifinal (no linked song)
2007: “With Love”, 3rd place (Greek National Final)
2015: “Det rår vi inte för”, Eliminated in Andra Chansen (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
2017: “Dear God”, 10th place
2017: “Origo”, winner
2018: Submitted to San Marino’s 1 in 360, did not progress to live rounds.
2019: “Awe”, 3rd place (Mārcis Vasiļevskis appears in both Carousel and Laime Pilnīga)
2012: “Tu ne viena“, Eliminated in Semifinals
2014: Eliminated in Heats (no linked song)
2015: As a member of Rollikai, 12th place (no linked song)
2017: “Get Frighten”, as the hidden main vocalist for Lolita Zero, 4th place
2017: “Cruise Control”, Eliminated at Preliminary Rounds
2018: “Agony”, 5th place
2007: “Kazi koj si ti“, 2nd place
2008: “Vo ime na ljubovta” with Vrčak and Adrian Gaxha, winner (later translated as “Let Me Love You”)
2015: “Brod što tone”, 2nd place
2013: “Det er du”, Eliminated at Semifinals
2018: “I Like I Like I Like”, Eliminated at Finals
2018: “You Got Me” with Stella Mwangi, 3rd place
2008: “Flyer”, 4th place
2013: “Ljubav je svuda” (as a member of Moje 3), winner
2018: “My Turn”, 3rd place
How many had taken part in non-Eurovision-affiliated TV talent shows or major music festivals?
Dancing with the Stars Albania, Series 4 (2013), Host
The Voice of Albania, Series 5 (2017), Judge
X-Factor, Series 1 (2010-2011), Runner-up
Holos Krainy (The Voice Ukraine), Series 8 (2018), 4th place
Popstars (Germany), Series 11 (2015), Quarter-finalist
Yeni Ulduz (Pop Idol), Series 1 (2007), Winner
New Wave, 2013, 11th place
Holos Krainy (The Voice Ukraine), Series 6 (2016), Eliminated at Battle Rounds
New Wave Junior, 2013, 9th place
Junior Slavianski Bazaar, 2014, placement unknown
Fabrika Zvyozd (Star Factory, Russia), Series 10 (2017), 3rd place
The Voice Belgique, Series 7 (2018), Eliminated after first Live Round
Supertalent, Series 1 (2011),
Pinkove Zvezdice (Serbia), Series 3 (2017), Winner
Zvijezde (2018), 2nd place
Super Idol (Greece), Series 1 (2004), Runner-up
X Factor Georgia, Series 1 & 2 (2014-2015), Coach
X Factor Greece, Series 4 & 5 (2016-2017), Coach
The Voice Kids, Series 2 (2015), Eliminated at Battle Rounds
Geostar, Series 5 (2010), Winner
Holos Krainy (The Voice Ukraine), Series 3 (2013), Runner-up
Kiddy Contest, Series 8 (2002), Winner
Star Search, Series 2 (2004), Semifinals
Das Supertalent, Series 3 (2009), 11th place
The Voice Kids, Series 2 (2014), Runner-up
The Voice of Ireland, Series 4 (2015), 3rd Place
X Factor, Series 6 (2012), Eliminated on 3rd live show
Festival di Sanremo 2016, Nuove Proposte (Newcomers), 4th place
Sanremo Giovani 2018, Winner
Chorų karai (Clash of the Choirs), Series 1 (2010) (as a member of the Klaipeda Choir)
Lietuvos talentai (Lithuania’s Got Talent), Series 2 (2010), 9th place
Lietuvos balsas (The Voice of Lithuania), Series 2 (2013), Eliminated in Live Shows
Megasztár, Series 2 (2005), Eliminated in Consolation Round
Slavianski Bazaar, 2016, 2nd place
Sunčane Skale, 2003, 2nd place
Norske Talenter, Series 1 (2008), Finalist (as a member of Duolva Duottar)
Melodi Grand Prix Junior 2010, Superfinalist, with the song “Det vi vil”
Idol, Series 9 (2016), Semifinalist
New Wave, 2002, Winner (as a member of SMASH!!)
Танцы на льду (Dancing on Ice), Series 1 (2006), 2nd place
Цирк со звёздами (Circus of the Stars), Series 1 (2008), Winner
If you are currently sitting at home wondering who is going to win the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, don’t worry. This feeling of bewilderment is echoed across the Press Centre in the Tel Aviv Expo.
Although the Eurovision community is as invested as always, nobody can agree on who the front-runner is. We have had years with overwhelming favourites such as Netta or Conchita: both of those winning acts were perfect storms that drew early fan love and mainstream press attention in the lead up to their Contests, and then delivered eye-catching performances on stage. This year we do not seem to have that.
Momentum is always key. A Eurovision winner’s trajectory should be like a pushing a boulder down a hill. The pace starts off slow but as the boulder goes down the slope it picks up speed to the point where its momentum becomes near-unstoppable.
‘Euphoria’ is the a great example of this trajectory with the buzz building from that first performance in Melodifestivalen. Even before arriving on the ground in Baku, Loreen was a clear frontrunner because we knew what to expect in regard to song and staging. We also had a reliable team in SVT that was able to build up and sustain the story around the song.
We also saw this in 2009 with Alexander Rybaks’ ‘Fairytale’ and to a lesser extent, Emmelie De Forest’s ‘Only Teardrops’ in 2013. These acts were all an easy call to win the Contest. Their growing buzz led to betting predictions pointing towards their victory from early on. It didn’t take much effort to see the story being told.
Using Staging To Build Up Press Momentum
The reveal of staging concepts during the week of technical rehearsals usually provides key moments of pickup for an artist on a winning trajectory.
After seeing all the rehearsals, nothing has captured significant attention within the Press Centre. Nothing has impressed usto the level where the buzz is palpable within the Eurovision bubble or the outwardly-focused social media set. The unfortunate large-scale ‘Sorry’ lyrics of Germany, Spain’s Wicker Man, the beating laser-heart of Azerbaijan, bendy poles for Australia, the return of sand artists, and multiple Sergeys have all fallen short of exciting us.
This year’s staging gimmicks are fine in and of themselves, but they appear very early on in their performances and quite often fail to develop from the initial reveal. While artists who have chosen a clear concept are squeezing out every possible ounce of suspense and drama, the concepts themselves can feel like a stretch.
Spain brings us the horror of the Wicker Man (Source: EBU)
The storytelling in the staging should be landing like an anvil, but instead seems to be floating by like a feather in the breeze. Once you realise what is going on at the start, these staging concepts do not build nor unveil further surprises beyond the 2-minute mark. The ‘wow moment’ that we have seen in many of our classic Contests is simply not there.
Artists whose songs are less focused on staging and instead demand a crescendo of emotion and personal investment are also not building up the momentum as expected. Despite The Netherlands coming to the Song Contest as the favourite, the response to it from the Press Centre and fan sites has been muted. Inside the Eurovision bubble, ‘Arcade’ struggles into a 4th place prediction for its own Semi Final.
Duncan Laurence’s rehearsals were heavily burdened with high expectations and could never live up to the hype built up among the fandom as a consequence of its film clip. Remaining seated behind the piano places a physical barrier between him and the millions watching at home, which, when combined with the lack of looks down the camera lens, means we are denied the communication of vulnerability and emotional connection that we desperately need in this fragile song. Even the crescendo of the song denies us that emotional moment: when Duncan throws his hands into the air, the camera is looking on coolly from a distance rather than pulling in for a connection.
Trying To Build Up Momentum In The Press
We have now seen all 41 entries rehearse and address media. I personally feel that this year is lacking a visible story as the Contest approaches such as a meme of the magnitude of 2018’s ‘Yeah Yeah Fire’.
Sergey Lazarev, the most notable of the returning artists, has failed to make as much of an impact in the media as expected. Lazarev’s own press conferences felt overshadowed by Philipp Kirkorov as his head of production turned up as a walking headline. His presence took the attention away from Sergey on the press interview stage, and the hunger for a win amongst the whole team appeared to be lacking despite feeling robbed of a victory in 2016. When asked about his chances, Sergey downplayed the need to return for revenge and rather focused on just enjoying the return to the circus of Eurovision with what the team believe is a better song for the Contest.
Russian Press Conference with Sergey Lazarev and the walking headline of Philip Kirkorov (source: ESC Insight)
Moving between the various press conferences there are very few game-changing soundbites. Portugal failed to make headlines with Conan’s comments that the team were denied their requested production changes, and we have not seen Mahmood command media attention on the question of nationality and belonging in a host country that also shares these concerns. Momentum, this is not.
From a press perspective, the only artist that cuts through for potential headlines is Iceland’s Hatari. The band has not backed away from utilising the Song Contest in Israel as a way of opening discussion on politics and Palestine. However, given the rules set by EBU, they are constrained in using the Contest as a platform.
Their press conferences have been the most heavily-attended over the course of the first week, yet much of their PR is not aimed at fan press. So far, the headline grabbing has not reached much beyond the Israeli media airing their concerns of their attendance, a smattering of broadsheet media in the UK such as The Economist, and their homeland press in Iceland. Nevertheless, this feels like a game plan that is only going to take flight after the Semi Final, but it is dependent on pick-up from the mainstream media – and they tend to turn up late in the Eurovision fortnight.
How Important Is Momentum?
The first week in Tel Aviv has not produced the same level of buzz for any one single artist as we have seen in the past. Whilst there are pockets of nationalistic pride for an artist, or even smaller pockets of true fandom developing, it’s clear that these alone are not enough of a sizable following to create the big moment. Nobody’s boulder is picking up speed. We are seeing this lack of momentum being played out in the betting odds and in the coverage produced so far.
In fact, if there is an overarching story of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 for the greater audience at this point, it is that we are in Israel for Eurovision, rather than about what is happening in the Song Contest itself.
From my place within the Eurovision bubble, none of this year’s artists have found the perfect combination we have seen in past Contests to create a visible buzz around them. Every single entry has problems, which means that we cannot safely point to a winner or even a few clear front-runners for the crown.
This either makes Eurovision 2019 the most excitingly close Song Contest we have seen in some time, or one that will be tagged as forgettable and skipped over by the fandom in years to come.
The last week of the Eurovision 2019 season is here, and in six days time we will have our winner. From tonight we will be keeping score.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Monday 13th May
Ahead of the first Semi Final’s jury show, the Insight team look back at the last rehearsals from the Semi Final contenders.
With Ewan Spence, Samantha Ross, and Stuart Wilders.
With the live shows ready to rock and roll, 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.
The clear standout of the auto-qualifier rehearsals yesterday, Bilal’s aspirational anthem Roi has been given every opportunity to succeed by the French delegation. His vocals sound much stronger than the national final, a subtle remix has given the song more energy and the presence of two captivating onstage dancers communicate the message of the song effectively. Some of the other big 5 delegations should definitely be taking notes…
The home nation has suffered a fair amount of blowback from fans at home and abroad for following Netta’s bold modern pop with this old school stage ballad. However, to the production team’s credit, they’ve polished this stage show to near-perfection. It’s still a rather dated effort, but there’s a package here that could appeal to enough voters for Israel to avoid the bottom five. Considering the form of recent host nations, that’s a minor victory in itself.
Kobi Marimi rehearses for Eurovision 2019 (eurovision.tv/Andreas Putting)
Italy are wisely keeping things simple for the stage performance of Soldi. A combination of animations and some well-chosen English language translation appear on the LED backdrop to assist with storytelling, while Mahmood delivers a confident performance that feels more like a star turn at an awards show than a Eurovision hopeful fighting for attention in a field of 26.
After a welcome return to the top five in 2018, poor Germany look to be on a collision course for the bottom five again this year. The song remains as limp and lifeless as when it inexplicably won Unser Lied für Israel, and while the girls are delivering perfectly serviceable vocals, they’re left adrift by a dull and unimaginative stage show that ends with the ultimate admission of modern Eurovision defeat – the unearned Golden shower effect.
Sisters for Germany 2019 (eurovision.tv)
In the absence of a party anthem from Israel this year, Spain’s summery Iberian bop could fill the void quite nicely. Miki is certainly delivering on the energy, but the stage show feels seriously over-cooked. There’s flames, an oversized dollhouse, an actual wickerman and a lot of quite frenetic running about. There’s lots to enjoy here, but the overall impression is that a little bit of streamlining could go a long way.
They say that the accepted definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again while anticipating a different result. In the case of the United Kingdom, they seem to be stuck in a feedback loop of vaguely aspirational balladry. Everything about Michael Rice’s staging screams ‘X Factor Winners Single’, but sadly the overall effect is more Ben Haenow than Leona Lewis. He’s a gifted singer and by all accounts a lovely chap, but a fresh approach is needed.
You can stay up to date with all of the latest Eurovision news and analysis right here on ESC Insight. Sign up to the newsletter here, and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
As the rehearsal timetable switches over from open rehearsal time to working on the actual televised product, Samantha Ross takes time out from watching the stage to meeting the artists.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 11th May
As the Eurovision world prepares for the Orange Carpet ceremony, Samantha Ross catches up with the singers and song-writers to talk about the Song Contest.
Featuring Kate Miller-Heidke, Victor Crone & Stig Rasta, Katerine Duska, and Serhat.
With the live shows starting tomorrow, stay up to date with all the Eurovision news 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.
Our first look at the stage shows from the Big Five and our hosts Israel in today’s podcast from the Tel Aviv Expo.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 11th May
It may be the weekend, but our daily podcasts from backstage at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 continues, as we discuss second rehearsals from the Semi Finals and our first look at the Grand Finalists.
With Ewan Spence, Alesia Michelle, and Danie Tregonning.
With the rehearsals comfortably under way, 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.