The sequins are fastened, wind machines at the ready. Here we go … the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest is finally here!
While the eyes of the world focus on Austria, a very similar sounding nation on the other side of the world is getting ready to take part.
Guy Sebastian will be our one and only chance to see Australia continue in the Eurovision Song Contest, with a win automatically giving us the chance to participate again.
No win, we’re out forever. Our spot in the final is sadly a special one-off, a nod to our obsession with the song competition for its 60th anniversary.
Having begun in 1955 as a way to unite Europe in a non-political, non-confrontational way, the Eurovision Song Contest has evolved to become a worldwide phenomenon watched by millions.
In fact, it’s the most watched non-sporting event in the world.
Back home, the song contest has had a unique following. SBS first broadcast the contest in 1983, giving migrants a chance to follow along with the madness and feel a little closer to home.
Now, Eurovision isn’t just for Aussies with an ethnic background, it’s found a place in the gay community and in the young who are captivated by its theatrics.
Commentating this year for the sixth year in a row are Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang, with veteran SBS weekend newsreader Lee Lin Chin taking up the duty of being Australia’s voting spokesperson.
No precedent with Australia’s inclusion
Speaking exclusively to Neos Kosmos before getting on a plane to Austria, Sam Pang says this year is filled with unknowns.
“There’s no real precedent for this, everyone will be finding out at the final,” he says about Australia’s inclusion in the song contest.
“It really is that unknown. I have no idea what will happen.”
Pang admits that with the interval act performance by Jessica Mauboy last year and Guy’s inclusion this year, it’ll be hard to top it for the years to come.
“I don’t know where to go after this, it’s probably the peak,” he admits.
“The only way it can keep going down this track is if Guy wins.”
That might not be such a difficult prospect.
Guy Sebastian and his song Tonight Again is tipped to reach the top five of the competition, with odds on Wednesday predicting Guy will finish fourth behind Sweden, Russia and Italy.
Judging by the number of ballads in the competition this year, Guy might be in with a fighting chance for the win, as Tonight Again has an upbeat, Motown feel, something very in at the moment.
In Austria this week, Guy said he’s been shocked by the production values of the show, and the sheer size of the stage, but says he’s feeling extra prepared.
“We’ve talked about every shot, the pyros, everything is really analysed. It’s just so well oiled,” he said.
“By the time the night comes, I would have run it five or six times.”
Sam Pang is a fan, but also says he has a soft spot for Greece’s entry, One Last Breath performed by Maria-Elena Kyriakou.
“I really like Maria-Elena’s song,” he says. “If she throws in a wind machine, then maybe she can tick all the boxes.”
Greece’s hidden political message
The song was one of ten voted into the final on Wednesday at the first semi-final, and will be up against Australia’s Guy Sebastian.
While it’s illegal to include overt political commentary in Eurovision songs, many have likened Maria-Elena’s One Last Breath to Greece’s current political and economic turmoil. The lyrics can be construed as having a hidden message:
“I’m begging you take me
out of this firing hell.
Come back and save me –
What happened wasn’t fair.
Nothing left. All that I have
is one last breath.”
Greece’s current government has been arguing that the terms of its bailout package haven’t been “fair”. It could be said that it is using its “one last breath” to fight for hope for its people.
Amazingly, with Australia in the mix and being given voting rights, we could be seeing a number of our points heading Greece’s way thanks to our large local Greek and Cypriot community.
Greek Australians have been very loyal fans of the contest, and have voted ‘unofficially’ with SBS’ live voting channel for years. In 2009, they crowned Sakis Rouvas champion despite Norway’s Alexander Rybak taking the title.
Who will Greek Australians vote for?
But the question remains, will Greek Australians vote with their hearts or vote with patriotism this time around?
If Cyprus’ John Karayiannis enters the final with his ballad, One Thing I Should Have Done, Australia’s votes could be skewed to the Greeks and Cypriots.
Neos Kosmos’ Facebook has been filled with commenters conflicted about their vote.
One reader lamented the fact that she’s Greek and her husband is Cypriot.
Sam Pang says he’s as much in the dark about where Australia’s votes will go as the next man.
“I know there’s a massive Greek community, there’s a lot of Italians, Maltese are everywhere,” he says.
“I have no idea what will happen.”
Because Australia has voting powers it does mean that Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro have to be on their best behaviour. While it isn’t their style to insult acts, they have been told by SBS management that there are things they can and cannot say.
“So Julia and I can’t come out of the back of a song and say, wow, I won’t vote for that one,” Sam says.
When Sam and Julia began commentating Eurovision six years ago, they were very much the black sheep of the huge media cohort.
While most countries would stick to their own acts, Julia and Sam would interview anyone and everyone, getting hilariously kooky interviews. Because they interviewed so many acts, more often than not they would have interviewed the winner, giving them a huge upper hand for the broadcast.
Their style was never mean, a change from the sometimes overt commentary many Australians were familiar with thanks to Terry Wogan. “It’s not just enough to make jokes, you’ve got to celebrate the event,” Sam says.
Australians will be able to watch the Eurovision final live at 5.00 am AEST on SBS 1 or hear it on SBS Radio 3. SBS 1 will repeat the broadcast at 7.30 pm on Sunday night.
How to vote
For Australians to vote they will need to tune in to the LIVE Eurovision broadcast on Sunday May 24 at 5.00 am AEST on SBS ONE or SBS Radio 3.
To vote they will need to text or call the numbers that appear on screen during the live broadcast. There is a limit of 20 votes per phone number.
This will make up 50 per cent of Australia’s vote, while the other 50 per cent of the vote is decided by a National Jury in each participating country.