LONDON — When the Eurovision Track Contest was canceled final March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Vasil Garvanliev, North Macedonia’s entry, was distraught.
“My complete life, I’d been working my butt off to get there and my journey didn’t even take off,” Garvanliev, 36, mentioned in a phone interview. “I used to be devastated.”
For Garvanliev — and the occasion’s a whole bunch of tens of millions of followers — Eurovision is excess of a glitzy, high-camp music contest. “It’s the Olympics of singing,” Garvanliev mentioned.
Final March he sat on his mattress feeling depressed, he remembered, earlier than selecting up a keyboard to attempt to console himself. He began selecting out a mild melody on the instrument, then lyrics popped into his head. “Wait, it received’t be lengthy,” he sung, “belief your coronary heart and simply keep robust.”
“This music got here out of me,” Garvanliev mentioned, “and I assumed, ‘Holy smokes, I’ve one thing stunning right here.’” In fact, “I didn’t realize it’d find yourself being for this 12 months’s Eurovision,” Garvanliev added. “I didn’t even know I’d be requested again.”
However in January, after an eight-month-long agonizing wait, Garvanliev was invited to carry out at this 12 months’s competitors — certainly one of 26 returning acts from Eurovision 2020. Scheduled for Might 22 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 2021 is prone to be the strangest version of the competition ever held — a excessive bar, given previous winners have included Abba and Lordi, a Finnish heavy steel act whose members costume as monsters.
The sector might be at 20 p.c capability, with simply 3,500 individuals within the viewers cheering the contestants on, whereas remaining seated to minimize the chance of coronavirus spreading. The occasion is formally a part of a collection of Dutch authorities trials to see how one can run giant occasions in a secure manner. The contestants will all have made prerecorded variations of their songs in case they catch Covid-19 and are unable to carry out.
However maybe essentially the most uncommon facet is that each one the returning contestants might be performing a distinct music from the one that they had deliberate for the 2020 occasion. In a contest identified for one-hit wonders, who disappear from view nearly as quickly as the competition ends, this 12 months’s contestants must show they don’t match that sample.
“That is our troublesome second album,” Garvanliev mentioned, referring to the phenomena of bands struggling to match their early success. He hoped his 2021 music “Right here I Stand” wouldn’t fall into that lure.
The entrant going through the largest problem in capturing final 12 months’s magic is Dadi Freyr, Iceland’s act, together with his band Gagnamagnid. Final 12 months, Freyr was the favourite to win because of his music “Assume About Issues,” a catchy disco quantity about his new child little one.
By the point Eurovision was canceled, the music’s video had been watched tens of millions of occasions on YouTube. Quickly, it was going viral on Twitter and TikTok too, after households began performing variations of the video’s dance routine whereas caught at residence in lockdown.
“It modified my life, that music,” Freyr mentioned in a video interview. Earlier than the pandemic, Freyr usually solely bought booked for exhibits in Iceland, he mentioned. Abruptly he was promoting out excursions throughout Europe.
“I’ve most likely had among the finest pandemics,” Freyr mentioned.
Freyr’s entry this 12 months is one other catchy disco observe known as “10 Years,” this time about his marriage (“How does it maintain getting higher?” he sings within the refrain). He felt he needed to maintain the observe comparable in type to “Assume About Issues,” since Icelanders had voted for a enjoyable disco tune to signify them on the competitors, he mentioned. It nonetheless took 12 makes an attempt to provide you with a brand new music he favored, he added.
The observe’s to date not gone viral, however Freyr mentioned that didn’t hassle him. “I didn’t go to attempt to recreate the success, as a result of I do know it’s inconceivable to foretell one thing like that,” he mentioned. “Luck needs to be a part of it.”
4 different Eurovision returnees mentioned in interviews that they discovered the pandemic to be the largest hurdle to writing a brand new hit. “For the primary three or 4 months of the pandemic, I simply didn’t do any writing in any respect,” mentioned Jessica Alyssa Cerro, Australia’s entry, who performs as Montaigne.
“I kind of bought to November and was like, ‘Hmm, I ought to most likely begin engaged on that Eurovision music, huh?’” she added.
Jeangu Macrooy, the Netherlands’ entry, mentioned in a phone interview that he equally struggled. “I used to be getting no inspiration — I used to be simply sitting inside,” he mentioned.
Then, in December when he was attempting to put in writing entries for the competition, a number of ideas and emotions round George Floyd’s homicide and the next resurgence of the Black Lives Matter motion began effervescent up inside him.
Quickly he had conjured the lyrics to “Start of a New Age,” an uplifting observe about being “the fashion that melts the chains.” Macrooy mentioned he hoped it could communicate to everybody standing up for his or her rights now, whether or not individuals of shade, L.G.B.T.Q. individuals or the in any other case marginalized. The refrain of “You’ll be able to’t break me” is sung in Sranan Tongo, the lingua franca of his native Suriname in South America.
“It’s an ode to individuals claiming their house and saying, ‘I deserve respect and should be accepted for who I’m,’” Macrooy mentioned. “I couldn’t have written it if I hadn’t lived by 2020,” he added.
He’d not too long ago been dreaming of individuals dancing to the observe, he mentioned, “so if that doesn’t occur at Eurovision, it’ll be awkward.” (The occasion’s present coronavirus security guidelines stop dancing).
For Montaigne, such goals are actually a factor of the previous. She not too long ago discovered she wouldn’t be touring to the Netherlands to compete, after Australian officers determined her attendance was an excessive amount of of a coronavirus danger. As an alternative, Eurovision followers must watch the backup efficiency of “Technicolour,” which she recorded in March.
Montaigne mentioned she was high-quality with the choice, particularly as a result of she knew the pandemic was removed from over within the Netherlands, with 1000’s of recent circumstances of coronavirus at the moment being reported daily. “It will have been so unhealthy if I used to be the one that introduced coronavirus again to Australia, the place we’re sitting in stadiums, having a superb time dancing and touching one another,” she mentioned.
Even with out attending, she nonetheless has a narrative to “inform my grandkids about,” she mentioned. She’s the one Eurovision contestant ever to have missed the occasion twice due to a pandemic.
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