-- The longest-running annual international TV song competition and one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world is coming to American screens for the first time on Saturday.
Each participating country submits an original song to be performed live on the program, which is transmitted simultaneously to all countries. Votes from a jury and the public are combined to determine the most popular song in the competition.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare:
A few important facts:
More than 1,400 songs have been sung in the competition since the show began. Each song must not be longer than three minutes and performances cannot include more than six people on stage.
So who are these singers we’ve never heard of?
A cast of singers from 26 countries have made it to the Grand Final. Each country has one singer –- all probably unknown to most of you.
In the early days, back in the '60s, it was just Western European and Scandinavian countries. Now, the competition includes Russia, Morocco, Israel, and Australia. This year, 42 countries competed.
Why should we watch it?
Because it’s cheesy and you’ll love it. The show is known for being pretty tacky. Performances usually include wind machines. Songs are usually about love and world peace. There's bound to be at least one performer in traditional costume. And at least one singer will try singing in English, despite not speaking the language.
Because there’s bound to be some controversy. While the rules state that singers are not allowed to make political statements ("No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted"), there's room for interpretation.
How does it even work?
The winner is selected by a so-called "positional voting system." This means that each country can award two sets of 12, 10, 8–1 points to their 10 favorite songs. One set of votes comes from a professional jury and the other set comes from the public.
Countries cannot vote for their own singer -- which means there's a lot of unofficial tactical voting. Countries often vote for their neighbor or friends.
In terms of location, each year, the festival is in the country that won the previous year’s award. This year, it's in Stockholm, Sweden.
Mans Zelmerlow, who won in 2015 with the song "Heroes," is co-hosting this year's show with Petra Mede, a Swedish comedian.
What’s the point anyway?
But there are many reasons to have this contest, even if doesn't bring much fame and success for the winners.
The contest was conceived as a way to foster peace by uniting Europe through music. Over the years, countries around the world have sought to join the competition as it's increased in popularity.
The Grand Final of the 61st Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast live on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. EST.