Tonight is the first night of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which means that TV screens across the continent will be tuning in to watch 39 performers sing their hearts out for their countries in a three-round pop battle.
Eurovision has yet to really catch on abroad, probably because Western Europe tends to write it off as a purely campy spectacle. And with past competitors like Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Deen, it’s not hard to see why:
And yeah, it’s full of weirdos, and some of the songs aren’t even in English, but Eurovision is really just like any other reality singing competition — it’s got a super confusing and super political voting system, tons of vamping, but it’s a place where an underdog — like Marija Serifovic, an out lesbian of Romany descent — can still win the day.
(If you think Marija’s impressive, check out the woman she beat.)
And I’ve got a feeling 2013 is going to be better than ever. Here’s just a sample of all there is to look forward to:
5. The William Hung, But With Half A Prayer: Cezar, Romania
This year, I filled out my bracket by just writing “ALL POINTS TO CEZAR” and sending it to my bookie. I can’t actually convey how I feel when I listen to Cezar. According to a video in which Cezar talks about himself in the third person, Cezar is actually a very well respected opera singer in Romania. If you would like to hear some more Cezar (and you do), please enjoy his holiday offering.
6. The Needless Comeback: Bonnie Tyler, U.K.
Actually, Bonnie Tyler— yes, that Bonnie Tyler — is only one of two comebacks (Cascada will be representing Germany), but obviously she’s the best. As the representative for the U.K., Bonnie will have a guaranteed spot in the final round. God I hope she got my letter about arranging for a choir of boys with bright eyes to swoop down from the rafters right when the song hits its peak. Can’t wait!
7. The Surprisingly Rad Act That Won’t Make It Out Of The Semis: Who See, Montenegro
My mental image of Montenegro had always been “The Caribbean of Yugoslavia,” but clearly there’s a lot more going on over there. Namely, some dudes in Hasmat suits, serious dancing, a fleet of baton twirlers, and a lady belting a hook like she’s laying down a techno track and it’s 1998.
Mildly NSFW, if your work is anti-booty bouncing.
8. The One You Love In Spite Of Yourself: Krista Siegfrids, Finland
Finland’s act is definitely at some weird point on the Ke$ha // P!nk spectrum, and she is pretty clearly 100% nuts, but I don’t even care, because dang if the song isn’t catchy. I like this song so much I just pinned this to my “Wedded Bliss” Pinterest board. (Kidding! I pinned it to my “No One Wants to Marry You” board, next to a video of me singing Katy Perry’s “Hot’N’Cold” in the wedding gown I found at the Bushwick Salvo.)
9. The Group That Plays Their Own Instruments: Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov, Bulgaria
You really think Bulgaria is going somewhere kind of cool and Ellie Goulding with this one for about 15 seconds, and then the bagpipes drop. I also can’t get enough of the guy on drums. He and his mullet have come to us straight from 1985 and he is making sweet, tender love to the camera.
Actually he kind of looks like Bill Nye, which is a thought you won’t be able to unthink.
11. The Odd Couple: Esma & Lozano, Macedonia
I honestly have no idea what (F.Y.R.) Macedonia was thinking when they chose this duo. I don’t know who this weird guy is and I don’t care, because about a minute-half into the song ESMA comes out and Esma should probably just be elected President of Eurovision right now. Thank god for you, Esma.
12. The Chump Who’s Gonna Go Too Damn Far: Robin Sternjberg, Sweden
No offense to Loreen here, because she totally killed it last year (and WON, guys, if you missed it), but Sweden really needs to stop effing this up. Every year there is an obvious choice for Sweden, and that choice is Robyn. But every year they find some other jerk instead. This year, that jerk is even named Robin. Kid’s got a face like Buble and a smile like a criminally insane Buble. I think he came from my nightmares.
13. The Hippies With Too Many Hats: Gianluca, Malta
Because that’s a reality singing show staple, right? I used to think Malta might be a place I’d like to visit, but if it takes six people and two fedoras to sing one Jason Mraz song, I’m going to have to rethink my plans.
14. The Girl With The Pipes: Amandine Beourgeois, France
France has a tendency to dial it in, but not this year: Amandine has a sultry, Duffy kind of sass, pipes of steel, and the unfortunate styling of a Sarah McLachlan video. Here’s hoping she doesn’t let that stop her.
You can check out even more Eurovision strangeness at the official site, but what’s the point? We’re all obviously #teamcezar.