Only the Eurovision Song Contest could confidently mix pyrotechnics, wind machines, glitter and political discourse disguised as pop music – and this is why we absolutely adore it.
We’ve had a Eurovision-sized hole in our lives for longer than usual, with the 2020 concert cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Australians have enjoyed relative freedom from the coronavirus over the last six months, Iceland’s shock withdrawal from the contest this week due to a positive COVID test result from a band member, is a stark reminder that the pandemic isn’t over.
Organisers have agreed to play a recording of Dadi og Gagnamagnid’s dress rehearsal so that their entry, a song called 10 Years, is still in the running.
“Dadi og Gagnamagnid have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from performing in this year’s live Eurovision Song Contest shows, as they only want to perform together as a group,” organisers said.
Luckily for us, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ Fire Saga weren’t available to stand in for Iceland.
How to watch Eurovision finals in Australia
SBS is broadcasting the entire event with Myf Warhurst and comedian Joel Creasey returning as commentators.
You can catch the second semi final on Saturday May 22 at 8.30pm, and the grand final on Sunday May 23 at 7.30pm.
While the rest of the contestants (excluding Iceland) prepare their costume changes and hairspray, here’s a look back on some of the wildest Eurovision moments of all time.
Finland’s demonic rock gods
One of the key elements of a successful Eurovision entry is to make it memorable.
When Finnish band Lordi stepped onto the stage in 2006 wearing head-to-hoof costumes pulled from the pits of hell, being memorable was no longer a primary concern.
Their song, Hard Rock Hallelujah, was so popular it became the most-voted-for song in the competition’s history (until the record was broken by Norway in 2009).
Years later, ‘the Finnish demon band’ remains a highlight of the 65-year-old competition.
Romania’s falsetto Dracula
Romania’s 2013 entrant sought to lean into stereotypes about being home to Transylvania and vampires.
In a truly spectacular performance, Cezar delivered his disco ‘popera’ (pop-opera) banger, It’s My Life from atop a growing podium.
Bedazzled in a black, sequinned gown with interpretative dancers adorned in crimson unitards, the song perfectly captured the extravagance and camp nature of Eurovision.
Sadly, Cezar only made it to 13 out of the 26 entries – but his fabulousness lives on forever.
Ukraine’s tin-man drag queen
Strangely, drag queen Verka Serduchka, who was dressed in what can only be described as tin-man meets office-chic businesswear, wasn’t the most controversial part of Ukraine’s 2007 entry.
It was actually the lyrics to the song, Dancing Lasha Tumbai, which bore a phonetic resemblance to “Russia Goodbye”.
While most viewers and judges alike were too busy gawking at the ’69’ embossed onto Serduchka’s costume, some still managed to notice the reference to the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
Since political messaging is prohibited from the competition (unless you’re clever about it), the song was allowed in and ended up coming second.
Since the first contest in 1956 as a way to keep peace Europe after WWII, Eurovision has seen its fair share of successes (Waterloo and Euphoria have crossed into the mainstream) and stolen titles.
But one of the biggest robberies was in 1968, when fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco rigged the contest to ensure fresh-faced Massiel won for Spain with the song La La La.
Multiple documentaries alleged that Franco bribed organisers and other other countries to ensure Spain would win in order to restore their international image.
Not only did the song win by one point, but it also beat out the extremely popular UK entry Congratulations by British pop idol Cliff Richard.
“I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: ‘Cliff, you won that darn thing after all’,” Richard told The Guardian in 2008.
Israel’s Dana International paves the way
Known at the time as the ‘bearded lady’, Conchita Wurst’s iconic 2014 win for Austria is still fresh in many minds.
To be clear, Wurst is not a transgender woman, but rather a fabulous drag character developed by singer Thomas Neuwirth.
And she is not the first Eurovision star to challenge gender norms on stage.
More than two decades earlier, long before Laverne Cox, Elliot Page and Caitlyn Jenner were sharing their gender journeys, another transgender star was in the spotlight – and she wasn’t feeling its warm glow.
Transgender woman Dana International represented Israel in 1998, sparking riots and angry protests by incensed, conservative Orthodox Jews.
When she won with song Diva, the singer began receiving death threats claiming she was an ‘abomination’.
Ultimately, Dana International encapsulated the camp, queer energy that forms the foundation of the contest, and paved the way for other queer stars.
In addition to being a total euro-trash pop hit, Ukrainian Mariya Yaremchuk’s song Tick-Tock pushed the boundaries by including an oversized hamster wheel.
While we might never know why it was there or what it meant, it was still wildly entertaining and wonderfully weird.
In the spirit of weirdness, we can’t go past 2016 Belarusian singer Alexander Ivanov (known as Ivan), who tried to perform his song Help You Fly in the nude – with a live wolf.
In the end, organisers told Ivan to ditch the wolf (whose name is Shakira), and he opted to include footage of the two together instead.
Speaking of controversial nudity, Poland’s sexy milkmaids in 2014 also caused a stir.
Performers Donatan and Cleo were totally upstaged by busty babes churning butter and washing clothes during their performance of My Slowianie – We Are Slavic.
Media outlets said organisers were more concerned with putting on a Eurovision Porn Contest, but it’s an image we can’t forget.