I have a Eurovision Song Contest spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has 28 tabs. The first three tabs are focused on the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals and finals. The remaining tabs are for every participating Eurovision country that has a national selection contest to choose their representing song. Every artist that makes it to that country’s finals is ranked in the corresponding country tab.
I never imagined myself to be the sort of person who would have a Eurovision Song Contest spreadsheet. Especially not one that’s two dozen tabs deep. Yet, here I am. A Yankee who finds himself with strong opinions about Eurovision things. Did Iceland make the right decision sending Systur instead of Reykjavíkurdætur? No. Was Romania robbed by the jury vote? Maybe. Are there too many ballads? I’m new to this, so who am I to say, but possibly.
How is it in the year 2022 I have so many opinions about Eurovision? Seriously, who am I?
For most of my life, Eurovision has lived in my head as a European music competition featuring campy pop performances. If you asked me last year at this time to name five artists who’ve competed in Eurovision I’d be able to tell you Abba, Olivia Newton-John, and Conchita Wurst. That’s it. I wouldn’t even be able to get to five.
The Eurovision Hook, Line, and Sinker
What changed? The main thing is Ukraine. In 2021, my partner and I started planning a trip to Ukraine for September of 2022. When I visit another country I like to have an understanding of the current events in the region. I was immersing myself in English-language news publications out of the country.
This focus on Ukraine is what led to becoming wrapped up in the controversies surrounding Ukraine’s national Eurovision song contest Vidbir. I won’t go into details about the controversy, but if you’re curious they’re detailed on Wikipedia’s Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 page.
Reading about the controversies led to watching all of the Vidbir performances. I started sharing the videos on Facebook with commentary. At some point, I joked “sorry, this has become a Eurovision fan page.” Little did I know that would become reality.
As any good algorithm will do, YouTube started recommending additional Eurovision contestant videos from other countries. And that’s how I discovered Latvia’s Citi Zēni’s “Eat Your Salad.” The colorful band’s sexually-charged pop-rock song about eco-friendly living made me grin from cheek to cheek. I was entertained.
If Ukraine was the hook that makes Latvia the line. As for the sinker, there were two.
The first was a video of Estonia’s Eurovision choice Stefan performing his song “Hope” at a Slava Ukraini rally in Tallinn. That beautiful moment showed the deeper meaning and importance many of these artists have to their home country.
The second was Portugal’s enchanting entry with MARO’s “Saudade, Saudade.” As soon as her voice came in I had to stop what I was doing, pause the song, put on my headphones, restart, and close my eyes. For three minutes, all I could feel was the powerful sorrow in this song.
All of these moments combined to change my perspective about the Eurovision Song Contest. It had meaning. It is important. I suddenly had a need to understand this annual event.
The Top of the Eurovision Spiral
When I first started my stroll around the top of the Eurovision spiral there wasn’t a spreadsheet in the plans. My intention was to form softly held opinions while I casually watched the semi-finals and finals. In preparation, I thought it would be a good idea to watch some of the entries in advance. That was when my descent down the spiral started. The songs were earworming deep into my head. Throughout the day I’d find myself humming S10’s “De Dietpe” or We Are Domi’s “Lights Off.” Personal opinions on who should finish near the top started to form. And so, on the morning of the first semi-final, I made what I thought would be a simple ranked list.
As the day went on it became impossible for the list not to become more. It evolved. My preferences changed as the performers all tried to bring their A-games. My rankings shifted. Greece’s Amanda Tenfjord rocketed from twelfth on my list to number one by the end of the show. I started planning for the next semi-final and I built the finals tab.
I was riveted to Peacock (where we can stream the event live in the United States) as the votes came in. I like Sam Ryder’s “Spaceman” well enough, but I didn’t think it deserved so much love from the judges. Would Ukraine, the expected winner, be upset? Watching as the popular vote came in and the board dramatically shifted was a tense experience. I cheered as Serbia’s Konstraka received votes. It was a delight to see such an eccentric performance get so much love.
Finally, I wept with joy when the people put Ukraine over the top. Reel me in Eurovision! I’m yours.
The Middle of the Eurovision Spiral
Now, weeks after Eurovision, I’m still surprised by how much I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Exploring these artists, seeing their faces when they finished, hearing their stories, and reading about all of the drama – it was a delightful and dramatic journey. The remaining questions were “what’s next? Am I going to keep paying attention to this ridiculous song competition or move on?”
Answering that question is how my spreadsheet exploded to 28 tabs. I came into Eurovision late. Therefore, with the exception of Ukraine, I hadn’t paid much attention to the national competitions. There was so much Eurovision still to consume! I’m now in the middle of the Eurovision spiral. This includes working backward to see how the countries determined who would be the representative and if I agree with those decisions.
This part of the Eurovision journey has been a music lover’s bounty.
For example, exploring the entries into Spain’s Benidorm Fest has been a gift.
Rigoberta Bandini’s tribute to mammaries, “Ay, Mama,” was shocking (in all the right ways). I had to share the video with all of my friends. That led to a deep dive into the artist’s catchy music and learning I missed the boat on the viral success of “In Spain We Call it Soledad.”
I imagine a different Eurovision where Spain sent the Galician folk trio Tanxugueiras and they performed before or after France’s Alvan and Ahez’s Brittany song “Fulenn.” It would have been a tremendous moment of historical European representation.
Hopping to the other side of the world I still believe Australia made the right choice with Sheldon Riley. His song about growing up gay and with Asperger’s is heart-wrenching. However, in this author’s humble opinion, Jaguar Jonze must go next year. In both 2020 and 2022, she showed an understanding of the assignment and brought the correct energy to the stage.
Further Down the Spiral?
I don’t know where my Eurovision spiral ends. I’ve already started a 2023 spreadsheet. My goal is to track the national selection competitions as they’re announced. I’ve even flirted with the idea of traveling wherever Eurovision 2023 might land (fingers-crossed the situation improves enough for Ukraine). I have no idea how the ticket process works, so this is very likely a pie-in-the-sky idea. Perhaps I’ll simply find myself choosing one of the national selection competitions as an excuse to visit a new European country. Spain’s Benidorm Fest is currently near the top of my list as a possible adventure.
The most likely situation is I’ll find myself here in the Bay Area limited to a television experience. Maybe I’ll find a bar planning to stream Eurovision live, so I can have other people around who share my new obsession. For now, I’ll find lonely comfort in my Eurovision spreadsheet.