Eurovision 2021 finally gets underway tonight with the first semi-final, exactly two years to the day since the final of the previous Contest. It’s been a long old wait but finally we’re going to see a return for Europe’s favourite music competition. Before we head into tonight here’s a few a things to look out for in semi final one.

1. #OpenUp to Lithumania

The honour of being the first song of the decade, after the two year wait, goes to Lithuania’s The Roop. Their song Discoteque is very apt given the lyric “Let’s Discoteque right at my home, it is OK to dance alone”. An ideal song for the era of lockdown. The group were meant to represent Lithuania before the cancellation last year but their continued popularity carried through at their national selection back in January. They won almost six times as many votes as the rest of their competitors combined, they’ll be going mad for it on the streets of Vilnius.

2. Battle of the Bops

Sometimes the Contest can be a little on the ballad heavy side. However, after a tough 12+ months the Eurovision Gods have shone down and treated us with an abundance of up-tempo female solo bops. And it just so happens many of them have made it into this first semi. Australia, Cyprus, Croatia, Israel and Azerbaijan have all brought a similar pop sound with Ireland and arguably Malta added to that list too. The Eurovision nations saw that we have struggled with Covid and rewarded us with fun. For this, I am eternally grateful.

DiscObama approves!

3. Back Up Tape Down Under

2021 is a weird new world. And that’s no different for Eurovision. For the first time in the Contest’s history a country will compete without taking to the stage itself. In preparation for the show all countries had to pre-record a version of their entry to be used in the event they couldn’t travel to Rotterdam. Fortunately this only applies to one nation and given their tough restrictions there’s no surprise it’s our friends down under. Thanks to the preparation from the organisers Australian singer Montaigne will still be taking part tonight, and to be honest you, you wouldn’t know she wasn’t there until the very end of the performance.

We really will Montaigne

4. A New Face Voice on Semi Duty

If you’re watching from within the UK then you’ll have a new voice in the (remote) commentary booth. These year sees Scott Mills celebrate his tenth year in the comm box for the BBC. He was supposed to be paired with Rylan Clark-Neal but sadly Rylan has been taken ill at the last minute. Former semi commentator Sara Cox will be joining Scott tonight and on Thursday. This year will also see singer/songwriter & professional footballer Chelcee Grimes join the team. Given the the modern Eurovision continues to appeal to a younger audience bringing in another young voice is a great move. Also as someone with family from Liverpool a Scouse accent is a very welcome addition!

5. International Viral Sensation Duncan Laurence

The act who’ll #OpenUp the show will be the most recent Eurovision winner, Duncan Laurence. If you’re a fan of the Contest then you’ll know his winning song Arcade but even if you’re not you’ll probably still know his song. Having been used widely on TikTok it entered charts such as the UK Top 40 and the US Billboard Hot 100. Now he won’t be singing that song tonight but he will be opening the show with his new single Feel Something. Stay tuned later in the week for that song you’ve probably heard at some point in the last year.

Told you you’d recognise it.

6. The Dutch are Putting on a Show

Courtesy of that pesky old panny-d the Dutch broadcasters were denied their opportunity to host the show in 2020. Still, in a time of Covid, they’ve put in so much effort and planning to make sure we have a show at all. They’ve taken this extra time to produce a fantastic spectacle with great hosts (Nikki and Edsilia specifically) and very high production values. As long as nothing goes wrong with the in-ear monitors like it did with the dress rehearsal all should be fine. Having been starved of Eurovision for longer than normal it’s great we’ve got such a wonderful show for the first one back.

7. Everyone Loves a Malteaser

Like the run of competitive acts, I’m closing out this preview with Malta’s Destiny. Of all the songs you’ll see tonight this one has the best chance of winning come Saturday’s grand final. Destiny is no stranger to Eurovision having won the Junior Contest in 2015 and performed as a backing vocalist for Malta’s last entry in 2019. The island nation has never won the competition and in Destiny they have their best possible chance. This is going to be a performance and a vocal you will not forget.

The first Eurovision semi-final will be broadcast from 8pm tonight on BBC4.

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