For the first time in Eurovision history, a global crisis has forced the competition to forgo crowning a winner for the year. With competitors self-quarantining to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there was no proper Eurovision Song Contest 2020, but in its place, there was Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light on Saturday, May 16.
A global virtual event featuring contemporary and past competitors, the broadcast featured messages of encouragement from artists, clips from songs that would have competed for this year’s win and remote performances aplenty. From one past winner’s walk down deserted city streets to a surprise appearance from an ABBA legend, here are 10 standout moments from Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light.
At the close, it was also revealed that the song contest will return in 2021, taking place in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Johnny B. Great
A two-time Eurovision winner (1980 and 1987) who also wrote the song that won in 1992, Johnny Logan was a strong choice to open the show. The Irish singer-songwriter performed his 1980 winning song “What’s Another Year,” which he pointed out has a certain resonance these days. “This is just another year. It’s gonna be a difficult one, but we’re all in this together,” Logan said. Doubling down on being in this together, Logan’s remote performance of “What’s Another Year” featured vocals from the show’s hosts as well as fans from around the globe.
Netta Nets A Standout Moment
Netta won 2018 Eurovision with the brash bop “Toy,” but the song she brought to the 2020 virtual broadcast was a complete 180. Performed in her bedroom with a music box as accompaniment, Netta crooned the lovely, meditative “Cuckoo” and demonstrated a vocal depth and breadth you might not know she possessed if you only knew her from “Toy.” It was a standout performance – just the right amount of gentle melancholy to fit the times we’re going through without ever devolving into histrionics.
The Winner Takes It All
ABBA legend Björn Ulvaeus made a rare on-camera appearance as part of Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light. Why would one of the most successful global pop stars of all time make an exception for this particular event? Well, ABBA’s win for Sweden at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo” was the gateway to their global conquest, and Ulvaeus paid heartfelt tribute to the power of the competition. “The ESC is one hell of a launching pad and it still remains one of the most genuinely joyous events of the TV year. It’s so disarmingly European, it so allows you to escape and be happy and even forget about the coronavirus for a little while. Everybody knows why there couldn’t be the usual Eurovision final this year, but we hope this show will comfort you in some small way knowing that it will be back next year. Very good title, by the way,” Ulvaeus added, referencing the Katrina and the Waves tune “Love Shine a Light” that won for the U.K. in 1997. “I’m glad they didn’t use ‘Waterloo.’ Long live the Eurovision Song Contest.”
— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) May 16, 2020
Making the Belgrade
Marija Šerifović, who won for Serbia with the dramatic “Molitva” in 2007, performed that song (which means “prayer”) in a very unique fashion. While most have been performing from their living rooms or backyards during self-isolation, Marija actually took to the empty streets of Belgrade with her band (her players all wore masks) to belt “Molitva” in the middle of a completely empty residential intersection while people sang along from their apartment windows. It was visually arresting, although you sorta had to wonder why Šerifović herself wasn’t wearing a mask during the b-roll that featured her walking down the street waving at essential workers.
For the Heroes
Måns Zelmerlow, who won the 2015 competition with his song “Heroes,” reprised it for the 2020 special in a gorgeous tribute to the hospital workers fighting the pandemic. Watch it below.
This one goes out to all the Heroes of our time 🙌
— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) May 16, 2020
While the Rotterdam Philharmonic played “Love Shine a Light” from isolation, the ceremony featured a montage of beautifully lit landmarks from the 41 countries represented in this year’s Eurovision — including the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the Eiffel Tower.
A Return to Eurovision
Many past winners took the “stage” during this year’s show. But 2019 champion Duncan Laurence’s performance of “Someone Else” brought a haunting and melancholic tone to the proceedings.
The Lovely Finale
The 2020 contestants came together from apart to sing “Love Shine a Light,” which was the 1997 winner from Katrina and the Waves and a unifying theme throughout this special Eurovision. It was a fitting ending to the socially distant program.
Heartfelt Messages From Around the World
Unable to perform in front of an audience, the would-be 2020 competitors beamed in from their houses to share messages of hope and encouragement in these challenging times. The short vignettes also showcased clips of the contestant’s competing songs, giving us a taste of what could have been. One highlight: Elisa, who would have represented Portugal at 2020 Eurovision, delivered some refreshing honestly instead of scripted warm sentiments during the broadcast. “It’s totally okay to not feel okay,” Elisa said. “Everyone is facing the same thing. Stay home a little longer and stay safe.”
A Brief Encounter
Conchita Wurst, the 2014 Eurovision winner for Austria, was extremely relatable during his Eurovision cameo. “One of the most beautiful things in the last couple weeks is I haven’t worn any underwear and I love it very much,” he said. The appearance was all too brief, which is weird since he made it clear he’s not about briefs these days.