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 tons of of hundreds of thousands of followers — Eurovision is way over 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 choosing up a keyboard to attempt to console himself. He began choosing out a mild melody on the instrument, then lyrics popped into his head. “Wait, it gained’t be lengthy,” he sung, “belief your coronary heart and simply keep sturdy.”
“This music got here out of me,” Garvanliev mentioned, “and I assumed, ‘Holy smokes, I’ve one thing lovely 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 — one among 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 metallic act whose members costume as monsters.
The sector shall be at 20 % capability, with simply 3,500 folks 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 sequence of Dutch authorities trials to see the best way to 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 shall be performing a unique music than the one they’d deliberate for the 2020 occasion. In a contest recognized for one-hit wonders, who disappear from view virtually as quickly as the competition ends, this 12 months’s contestants need to 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 most important 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 due to his music “Assume About Issues,” a catchy disco quantity about his new child baby.
By the point Eurovision was canceled, the music’s video had been watched hundreds of thousands of instances on YouTube. Quickly, it was going viral on Twitter and TikTok too, after households began performing variations of the video’s dance routine while stuck at home in lockdown.
“It modified my life, that music,” Freyr mentioned in a video interview. Earlier than the pandemic, Freyr usually solely received booked for reveals in Iceland, he mentioned. Abruptly he was promoting out excursions throughout Europe.
“I’ve most likely had among the best 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 hold getting higher?” he sings within the refrain). He felt he needed to hold the observe related in fashion to “Assume About Issues,” since Icelanders had voted for a enjoyable disco tune to characterize them on the competitors, he mentioned. It nonetheless took 12 makes an attempt to provide you with a brand new music he appreciated, he added.
The observe’s to this point not gone viral, however Freyr mentioned that didn’t hassle him. “I didn’t go to try to recreate the success, as a result of I do know it’s unattainable to foretell one thing like that,” he mentioned. “Luck must be a part of it.”
4 different Eurovision returnees mentioned in interviews that they discovered the pandemic to be the most important 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 received 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 jot down entries for the competition, a bunch 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 “Beginning of a New Age,” an uplifting observe about being “the fad that melts the chains.” Macrooy mentioned he hoped it could converse to everybody standing up for his or her rights now, whether or not folks of colour, L.G.B.T.Q. folks 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 folks claiming their area 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 way of 2020,” he added.
He’d just lately 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 forestall dancing).
For Montaigne, such desires are actually a factor of the previous. She just lately 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 should 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 hundreds of latest instances of coronavirus at present being reported day-after-day. “It will have been so dangerous if I used to be the one who introduced coronavirus again to Australia, the place we’re sitting in stadiums, having a great 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.