Ukraine and Nine Other Nations Advance to Eurovision Final

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For years, watching the Eurovision Song Contest from the United States involved climbing on a rooftop to adjust the direction of a satellite dish and subscribing to a Portuguese channel.

Today it’s as simple as tuning into a network app for the live broadcast. This year, champion figure skater Johnny Weir did on-air commentary for the U.S. feed of the first Eurovision semifinal in Turin, Italy, from a studio on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday (May 10), 10 nations advanced to the grand finale on Saturday out of a pool of 17 semifinalists: Armenia, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Moldova, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Here’s the 10 qualifiers from the First Semi-Final! #Eurovision #ESC2022

— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) May 10, 2022

It was the first time in four years that Armenia had advanced to the final. “I can imagine how happy [the people of Armenia] must be,” Rosa Linn, one of the co-writers of “Snap,” Armenia’s Eurovision entry, said after the show. “I just lost my uncle and my grandpa. It’s a sad time but I’m happy to bring some smiles to my family after such a terrible period.”

Linn started her musical career with U.S.-based record label Nvak Collective, founded by Armenian-American singer and songwriter Tamar Kaprelian, and last September released her debut single “King” in collaboration with U.S. artist Kiiara.

Ukraine’s Oleh Psiuk, who fronts the Kalush Orchestra, thanked everyone who has been supporting his country. He said he is trying to stay calm while his country is under attack by Russia. “We understand we need to stay focused because we want to promote Ukrainian culture and let everyone know about it,” Psiuk said. “This is our goal.”

Ukraine has been leading the odds from all bookmakers and is tipped to win the contest on Saturday, though Eurovision has offered up many surprises over 66 years. If Ukraine does take the trophy, it will be the nation’s third Eurovision victory, after Ruslana’s “Wild Dances” in 2004 and Jamala’s “1944” in 2016.

Have a look at the First Semi-Final qualifiers’ reactions! 👀 #ESC2022 #Eurovision

— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) May 10, 2022

Considering that Ukraine’s song is titled “Stefania,” named for Psiuk’s mother, he was asked if he had talked to her since being announced as a finalist. He said he had only texted her. “I asked my girlfriend to call her, maybe they’ll [talk] tomorrow morning.”

Sigga, Beta and Elín Eyþórsdóttir from Iceland’s Systur spoke to transgender rights, as Sigga’s son recently announced he was transgender. “Everyone is free to express themselves as they like, with the gender they want,” she said. “We want to support people who are going through hard times, especially the Ukrainians. Don’t let the media normalize the war.” The Icelandic song, “ Með Hækkandi Sól,” is a low-key folk tune, written by Beta, which harks back to the sisters’ earlier recordings.

On Thursday, 18 countries will perform in the second semi-final and 10 more will advance. The “big five” countries of Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the U.K. automatically advance because those countries contribute the most money to the Eurovision budget, and it would be difficult to produce a show without them.

The first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 saw only seven countries participating. As of 2004, there were too many entrants to fit into one broadcast, so the semifinal was introduced as a method of eliminating some countries. In 2008, there were even more countries in the contest and so a second semifinal was introduced.

Eliminated from the competition after the jury and public voting in the first semi-final were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Latvia and Slovenia.

The second semi-final includes, in running order: Finland, Israel, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, North Macedonia, Estonia, Romania, Poland, Montenegro, Belgium, Sweden and Czech Republic.

Additional Reporting By Silvia Danielli from Billboard Italia

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