Eurovision 2016: The Big Five and the Host Country

For those who are unfamiliar with the way Eurovision works, not everyone has to go through the semi-final phase. Every year six countries–and every so often seven–are shooed in ahead of all of the others directly to the finale.

Five of those countries are the ones known as “The Big Five.” They are the countries people in the US immediately think of when they think Europe–the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. (Originally it was “The Big Four,” Italy was added in only a few years ago.) The excuse is that they are the largest contributors to the show every year in order to fund it, and therefore they earn this preferential treatment. But it’s also that they are the five best known countries, and this makes sure, especially once participation numbers shot up as the eastern European countries were added into the mix–that they are always in, no matter how terrible their act may be.

1200x630_332272_eurovision-hopefuls-line-up-for-final

The sixth country granted to honor of a shoo in slot is the winner from last year. The winner every year hosts, so it would be embarrassing if their act was not voted into the final. So they get a pass straight through. The seventh country–if there is one–is the special invitee. This was only begun last year, as Eurovision becomes something that countries outside of the European Broadcasting area become aware of. Last year Australia was the first country to be invited to perform. This year there is no special guest, but Australia, who did surprisingly well in the voting, has stuck around and will be included in the regular semifinal.

Big5

The original “Big Four” rule was introduced in 2000. (Italy joined in to make it five in 2011.) But an unforeseen side effect of this has emerged over the last decade–with the sole exception of Germany in 2010, those who do not compete in the semi-finals seem to barely make a dent in voting when it comes to the final round. Much like a contestant on American Idol whose audition is left on the cutting room floor, and finds themselves montages through the Hollywood rounds, these countries find themselves coming into the finale with a serious handicap. Those who have had their live act given higher exposure via the semis are better known, and have already developed a voting base before the voting round in the Grand Finale.

In order to try and make up for that, Eurovision had the six straight to the finale contenders perform on stage prior to the the semi final rounds on Tuesday and Thursday, and posted all six performances on line. The full performances weren’t broadcast on television, but the first semi finals round had a segment at the end showing clips of each, and encouraging viewers to go on line and see the full performances themselves.

So, in the interest of fairness, here now are the six direct to the final round acts for your judging pleasure, to watch prior to Saturday’s vote.

France: Amir “J’ai Cherché”

France couldn’t make up it’s mind if it wanted to go full non conformist and sing in French, or bow to the fact that 99% of the other acts all sing in English.

Spain: Barei “SayYay!”

I’m not feeling the gold sequinned football jersey, but I do like the song.

Sweden: Frans “If I Were Sorry”

Good news! Sweden will not be winning back to back this year. Sorry Sweden.

Italy: Francesca Michielin “No Degree Of Separation”

They spent money to have a real set instead of just digital backgrounds.

The UK: Joe & Jake “You’re Not Alone”

It’s not nearly as bad as some years, but it’s midpack at best.

Germany: Jamie-Lee “Ghost”

Another real set, plus digital background. Between that and the costume, this one could be a contender.

We’ll have the recap up of tonight’s semifinals in the morning.

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