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Eurovision 2021: The ones to watch

Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into Rotterdam this year.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James

After two years, the Eurovision Song Contest is officially back, bringing joy – and a hefty dose of camp – to the world through the power of music.

As the competition finally arrives in Rotterdam following the cancellation of last year’s competition, the stakes are higher than ever for this year’s entries, many of whom are returning again this year for a second shot at Eurovision glory.

With the semi-finals set to take place this Tuesday (18 May) and Thursday (20 May) ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final, we’ve rounded up some of the ones to watch this year…

San Marino – Senhit, ‘Adrenalina’

If you’re looking for song with a little more adrenalin-a, then Senhit is here for you. San Marino’s entry this year feels like what we’ve come to expect from Eurovision. It’s certainly catchy and err… ‘Adrenalina’-filled.

Rap superstar Flo Rida – him of ‘Low’ fame (‘apple bottom jeans, boots with the… Ahem!) – makes an appearance in the video but it’s unclear if he’ll actually appear on stage in Rotterdam, with some fans convinced he will and others less so.

Whether it’ll help or hinder Senhit’s chance of climbing the leaderboard, we’ll just have to wait and see.

North Macedonia – Vasil, ‘Here I Stand’

Eurovision is known for an eclectic mix of music year after year. While we love the cheesy pop we also love a ballad. Given 2019’s winner – Duncan Lawrence with Arcade from this year’s hosts, The Netherlands – they go down well with the audience too.

As well as delivering soaring vocals Vasil, who came out publicly in an interview with Attitude at the beginning of the month, will be taking to the stage in Rotterdam as one of the first high-profile figures in North Macedonia to ever come out publicly as gay. And we love him for that alone!

Iceland – Daði og Gagnamagnið, ’10 years’ 

Undoubtedly a fan favourite from last year, Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið have a got a big job on their hands. If you didn’t hear ‘Think About Things’ (where were you?!) you probably saw videos of people imitating the music video’s rather surreal dance.

Having something go viral TikTok is one thing, but does it translate over to Eurovision? Iceland were a favourite to win last year. This year’s entry – 10 Years – tries to replicate the combination of simple if slightly odd dance moves, green pixelated jumpers and electronic beats, but some say its retreading of last year’s ground could count against it.

Either way, it should be one of the performances of the night.

The UK – James Newman, ‘Embers’

Always a big topic of conversation – who are WE sending to Eurovision? The answer: James Newman, who like many acts this year is getting a second go after last year’s cancellation.

This year, the multi-platinum selling, BRIT Award-winning and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter hopes to score us some points with his upliftings single Embers.

It’s certainly cheerier than last year’s (unfortunately-titled, given the circumstances) ‘My Last Breath’ and more like what you want when you think of Eurovision. Fingers crossed for James!

Greece – Stefania, ‘Last Dance’

Greece’s entry could be a popular one. 18-year-old Stefania has previously competed in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest so she’s already got some experience under her belt.

‘Last Dance’ is an energetic dance track (unsurprisingly) and could easily belong in a going out or gym playlist. Social media was loving the images and brief look at her first rehearsal in Rotterdam last week. From what we can see, we’re in for a good performance here!

Czech Republic – Benny Cristo, ‘Omaga’

Benny Cristo seems to have been another hit with Eurovision fans online this year.

The sneak peek of his performance released online by Eurovision teases an envy-worthy jacket and some fun choreography. Honestly, once you’ve got those things what else do you need?!

Russia – Manizha, ‘Russian Woman’ 

Now, this one’s interesting. The country the act represents and the act’s causes and beliefs aren’t exactly aligned…

The feminist and pro-LGBTQ Manizha wrote ‘Russian Woman’, which questions attitudes and expectations of women in Russia.

While she’s taken some flak for it, clad in a rocket red boilersuit, Manizha looks like she’s ready to work. And <clap> we <clap> are <clap> here <clap> for <clap> it!

Cyprus – Elena Tsagrinou, ‘El Diablo’ 

An early favourite, ‘El Diablo’ is another upbeat club bop and crowd-pleaser – not that there’s anything wrong with that! Elena gives us a Lady Gaga-esque track and video, that’s bound to catch on.

We know we’ll be repeating the chorus is anything for a while to come!

The Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy, ‘Birth of a New Age’

As hosts, it’s up to The Netherlands to put on a good show. After listening to Jeangu Macrooy’s aptly timed Birth of a New Age we’re sure we’ll get one. The song is optimistic, resilient and celebratory, which is exactly what we all need after the last year and a bit.

The performance will also feature – for the first time – lyrics in Sranan Tongo, one of the languages of Suriname, where Macrooy was born. Great to see authenticity in all its forms being represented.

Lithuania – The Roop, ‘Discoteque’

Bright costumes, cheery pop tune and a fun dance – that’s pretty much the recipe to a staple Eurovision entry. Well, if it ain’t broke…

The song may talk about dancing alone, but we’re sure many of us will be.

The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals air on Tuesday 18 May and Thursday 20 May on BBC Four at 8pm BST in the UK.

The Eurovision Grand Final airs this Saturday 22 May on BBC One at 8pm BST.