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As national selection processes are already underway, fans of the Eurovision Song Contest worldwide are no doubt starting to feel the excitement build for the 60th contest in Vienna next year.  But along with this excitement comes the perennial problem (or I think I’d rather call it an opportunity) of having to answer a question that often can’t be answered in words: What is Eurovision?  While this particular question is likely to come up for non-European fans such as myself, there is the obvious follow-up/counterpart that is no doubt a universal part of the fan experience: Why are you a fan?

Of course, having been asked both of the questions several times now, I’ve refined my personal approach which acknowledges that Eurovision is best understood by experiencing it.  (That and I’m well past the point of being willing to hear: Oh, so it’s like American Idol but with European countries?)   So instead of trying to put the concept into words, I sit someone down and show them what Eurovision is really all about.

I always think it’s important to start with a few examples of musicians they’ve likely heard of before.  Not only does this give them a starting point to which they can relate, it also has the potential to pique their interest from the beginning.

Céline Dion – Ne partez pas sans moi – 1988 Switzerland (Winner)

ABBA – Waterloo – 1974 Sweden (Winner)

Cascada – Glorious – 2013 Germany

I follow up with a song or two that I put in the realm of “deserving winners”.  These are songs that won the contest and are just generally great songs.  I think it’s best not to go right to the more “entertaining” past entries until showing someone that quality songs are entered and do win.  (And I like to show someone at least a few videos before risking that they might be scared off completely.)

Marija Šerifović – Moltva – 2007 Serbia

Secret Garden – Nocturne – 1995 Norway

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26HL7P_pXgE

Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix – 2014 Austria

Then, if they’re still with me, I ease into the more “entertaining” Eurovision entries.  I transition with a song or two that isn’t too out there on it’s own, but showcases a unique presentation style.

Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick Tock – 2014 Ukraine

Farid Mammadov – Hold Me – 2013 Azerbaijan

Pirates of the Sea – Wolves of the Sea – 2008 Latvia

If someone is still with me after that, then it’s time to push things a bit further…

Buranovskiye Babushki – Party for Everybody – 2012 Russia

Cezar – It’s My Life – 2013 Romania

DJ BoBo – Vampires Are Alive – 2007 Switzerland

Silvia Night – Congratulations – 2006 Iceland

And so on…

And then if I haven’t completely scared them away, I invite them to join me watch during Eurovision week.  (I sometimes consider showing more in the last group, though usually people who make it this far often end up seeking out the rest on their own without needing any assistance from me.

How do you explain Eurovision or your love to the contest?  Which songs or videos would you use to show someone what Eurovision has to offer?

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