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What We Learned From the Eurovision 2021 Final and Winner

Eurovision fans waiting in the rain to enter the Ahoy Arena before the final on Saturday in Rotterdam.
Eurovision fans waiting in the rain to enter the Ahoy Arena before the final on Saturday in Rotterdam.Credit…Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

Eurovision 2021 will certainly go down in the history books. Not only because of Italy’s victory, but also because this was the largest in-person entertainment event in Europe since the start of the pandemic.

The Netherlands, whose confidence was undermined because of its mismanaging of the pandemic, did a great job organizing the event. The show in the Ahoy Arena showed a glimpse of life as we knew it, and a future where the virus may be under some form of control.

Here, people danced, cheered, drank and slapped one another on the shoulders.

Eurovision is a campy trifle to some, but it celebrates Europe’s cultural diversity. Yes, Germany had a dancing hand, and Finland presented a heavy metal band; the British never get any points, and Eastern European countries love hair extensions and glittery dresses. But tonight in Rotterdam, none of that really mattered.

“Open Up” was the slogan of this year’s competition, and for many coming out of lockdowns, this weird music contest was indeed a new start.

Maneskin members say they are happy to bring Eurovision back to Italy after 31 years, “especially after this hard year.”

Italy’s Maneskin won the Eurovision final on Saturday.
Italy’s Maneskin won the Eurovision final on Saturday.Credit…Pool photo by Sander Koning

Eurovision 2021 was an audacious experiment in overcoming the coronavirus — but it was about more than that. What else did it tell us?

Maneskin’s win with “Zitti E Buoni,” a song filled with off-color lines and lyrics about smoking, was not the only sign of a rock resurgence. Finland’s Blind Channel came in sixth with an angry nu-metal song called “Dark Side,” while The Black Mamba, representing Portugal, came in 12th with “Love Is On My Side,” a piece of classic 1970s rock music that wouldn’t have been out of place in Paul McCartney’s back catalog.

For the past few years, Spanish-language pop has surged in the American and European pop charts thanks to acts like Bad Bunny, Rosalía and C. Tangana. Is now the hour for French? On Saturday, Barbara Pravi came second for France with “Voilà” — a traditional slice of chanson that many critics compared to the songs of Édith Piaf. Third place went to Switzerland’s Gjon’s Tears with “Tout l’Univers,” also in French.

James Newman, Britain’s entry, suffered the biggest embarrassment of the night — receiving no points from the judges, and none from the public either. It’s the first time Britain has finished with zero since 2003. Could it have something to do with Britain’s departure from the European Union?

But, also, maybe it doesn’t. Germany, the dominant force in European politics, — received only three votes on Saturday, coming in second-to-last. Spain’s entry won just six votes; the Netherlands, 11.

The voting process for Eurovision is convoluted and takes hours, involving juries spread across 39 nations — some nowhere near Europe, like Australia — as well as a separate vote by the public. But on Saturday, the ballot tally was a highlight of the contest. As the votes were announced, the lead switched several times between acts, with France and Switzerland seeming to be likely winners at first, before Iceland came into contention, and Italy stormed through with huge public support. It might be complicated, but perhaps other major prize ceremonies, like the Grammy Awards, should consider adopting such systems and getting the public involved, too.

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Italy’s Maneskin Wins Eurovision Song Contest

The Italian rock band spoke with reporters Saturday night after winning the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest with its song “Zitti E Buoni.” It was the first in-person global cultural event to be held since the pandemic hit.

[singing] Announcer: “Congratulations.” [laughs] Announcer: “Yes.” “We were so anxious. We were like hugging, and I don’t know the words, floating of emotions, but this is unbelievable. We really didn’t expect it. And we’re so happy. Yeah.” Reporter: “Who was your favorite singer?” ”Ukraine.” “Ukraine?” “Ukraine, yeah.” “Ukraine.” Reporter: “Italy was going through a particularly difficult year, the last year with corona. Do you feel your victory is a sort of a relief, maybe, for Italians as well?” “We think that the whole event was a relief. We think that — we were really thankful to have the chance, to have had the chance, to be part of this huge event. We want to give our congratulations to all the organizers because it was really incredible, the whole event. This Eurovision means a lot, I think, to the whole of Europe. It’s going to be a lighthouse. So thank you, everybody. Really, thank you.” Reporter: “Congratulations. You defied stereotypes in gender and also outdated norms of society. What would your advice be to any young person who does the same thing, and looks up to you now?” “Well, just to be themselves and not to care about, like, stupid comments that other people make. And to the people that make stupid comments, we would say, like, just to open their mind and stop judging other people.” [clapping]

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The Italian rock band spoke with reporters Saturday night after winning the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest with its song “Zitti E Buoni.” It was the first in-person global cultural event to be held since the pandemic hit.CreditCredit…Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Eurovision Song Contest, the first major global cultural event to be held in person since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, ended in a triumph for Italy’s Maneskin, who won with a hard-rocking song called “Zitti E Buoni.”

The song received 524 points in voting from national juries and the public, beating France’s entrant, Barbara Pravi, by 25 points, and was cheered to victory by over 3,500 Dutch fans at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world, rock ‘n’ roll never dies!” said Damiano David, the band’s lead singer, accepting the prize.

Maneskin, a rare rock winner in a contest whose previous winners include Abba and Celine Dion, beat 25 other acts, some unusual even for Eurovision standards, including a folk-techno act from Ukraine, a feminist Russian pop star and an Icelandic disco band.

The show will be seen by many around the world as a sign that major cultural events, featuring competitors from dozens of countries, can be held successfully if sufficient measures are put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

In the run up to Saturday’s event, contestants had to undergo regular coronavirus testing, adhere to social distancing rules and stay in their hotels if not attending rehearsals.

The measures were not enough to stop the pandemic from intruding entirely on the event. Last Saturday, a member of the Polish delegation tested positive for Covid-19. The following day so did a member of Iceland’s entry, the hotly tipped disco act Dadi Freyr and Gagnamagnid, who were staying at the same hotel.

This was Italy’s third win since the contest’s creation in 1956; its previous triumph was in 1990, with Toto Cutugno.

Testifying to the strength of the field, the lead kept changing as the votes from the various national juries came in, with Switzerland in the top spot by then, followed by France and Malta. But the popular vote upended the ranking, and Italy passed its competitors.

An Italian journalist, crying, just said: “After all that happened with corona, we had such a bad year with all the deaths in Bergamo. This is a new beginning.”

Italy has won Eurovision!!!

I went to the press center where journalists from Switzerland, Italy and France are all filming each other.

This is legit the best Eurovision in years.

Italy has made a giant leap and acquired a solid lead over Iceland.

Finland is a surprise as well — but in the other way. It got an unexpectedly high amount of public votes, vaulting to the top spot. Until Ukraine passed it! (Note to self: remember to breathe.)

Britain wasn’t the only country to receive zero points from the public. Germany followed in ignominy. Both contestants put on a brave face by pretending to celebrate. Zero points for Spain and the hosting Netherlands as well. This is incredible. Boos resonate in the arena. This is great television!

Britain has suffered the biggest embarrassment in years — zero points from the judges as well as none from the public. Is this a sign that Britain’s exit from the European Union went down really badly with all of Europe after all?

With only a few more countries to vote, the two songs currently duking it out at the top, from France and Switzerland, are both performed in French. You don’t want to read too much into Eurovision voting but is this a geopolitical statement?

Excitement is high in the arena. A man in front of me waving a Swiss flag is competing with others who are pro-France.

And remember, the public votes are sometimes totally different to the national juries.

Italy’s hard rocking Maneskin are gaining in the voting. The Swedish jury just gave them 10 points, putting them into third place. Maybe the winner won’t be France or Switzerland after all?

The U.K. is stuck at the bottom with no points. This is quite a blow for this mega-exporter of pop music.

I remember the time when each country would call in and give the detail of all their points. It went on forever. There were many less contestants back then — it’s impossible to do that now.

I cannot believe San Marino just got “the magical 12 points.” This is a very open contest.

Israel’s jury give the first 12 points of the night to…Switzerland! A sign of things to come?

Voting has closed! The winner of Eurovision will be announced in… well, probably another 45 minutes because announcing the results takes forever.

“Édith Piaf” is trending in the U.S. as an entertainment topic on Twitter. Does it mean France has a chance?

Since the pandemic began, the Netherlands has done a lot of soul searching. They thought they were a well organized country, but the government couldn’t get testing and tracing of the virus in order. Recently, the vaccination rollout has been going slowly. But the organization of Eurovision has been spotless. Despite all obstacles, they managed to get this event off the ground and turn it into a huge succes. No matter who wins, Eurovision is helping the Netherlands and Europe out of the pandemic.

My dream of a Teach-In reunion seems out of reach. They won for the Netherlands in 1975 with the classic “Ding-a-Dong.” It goes a little like this: “When you feelin’ all right, everything is up-tight/Try to sing a song that goes ding ding-a-dong/There will be no sorrow when you sing tomorrow/And you walk along with your ding-dang-dong.”

Graham Norton, the commentator in Britain, just reminded viewers the show’s venue was being used as a hospital a year ago. It’s been quite a year!

Now we enter the mega-mix portion of the show where we hear clips from all 26 songs over and over.

Flo Rida with San Marino isn’t the first time Americans have stepped on the Eurovision stage — American singer Katrina Leskanich won with Katrina and the Waves in 1997 representing the United Kingdom, for example — but usually they turn up as special guests, like Justin Timberlake in 2016 or Madonna in 2019.

Barbara Pravi of France arriving on stage during the Eurovision final.
Barbara Pravi of France arriving on stage during the Eurovision final.Credit…Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

So, all the acts have performed — what’s next? Well, now it’s time for the lengthy voting process to begin.

How does it work? First, viewers in every country vote for their favorite acts via text message, phone or the contest’s official app. They’re banned from voting for their own country’s act — so French voters this year can’t vote for Barbara Pravi — but otherwise, they can vote as many times as they like. (Viewers in the United States can’t vote, I’m afraid.)

When the polls close, the 10 songs with the greatest number of votes from each country receive points. The top-ranked song gets 12 — or “douze points.” (This is also the point when the judges start speaking French.) The second-ranked song gets 10, the third 8, and the rest get from seven down to one point.

But alongside the public vote, there is another one. On Friday night, juries representing each country secretly picked their own top 10, which are allocated points in the same way. Their choices are often heavily influenced by politics. The Greek and Cypriot juries usually trade votes, for instance, perhaps reflecting the countries’ close cultural ties.

Eurovision’s hosts receive the jury votes by satellite link from each country directly and announce them first. This takes forever. Then the public’s votes are added to the jury tallies and the tension-filled process ends with the announcement of a winner.

If you’d like to know what he’s rapping, it includes such gems as: “Gasoline, kerosene, stop, drop, roll / I can’t blame it on the stove.”

It took 10 people to write “Adrenalina” for San Marino.

It’s the United States’ entry! Well, not really, but Flo Rida, the rapper, is about to do a bizarre guest verse in San Marino’s entry. He has been quarantining in the Netherlands waiting for this moment.

It pains me to say this because I love Sweden, but this by-the-numbers song should not have made it out of the semi-final. There is a distressing trend at Melodifestivalen to reward safe professionalism over eccentricity and risk-taking. https://twitter.com/Eurovision/status/1396208187431346177

Sweden is the second-most successful country at Eurovision, having won six times to Ireland’s seven, but its enthusiasm for the contest is hard to match — the national selection contest, Melodifestivalen, gets huge ratings and generates big hits. Whereas some countries sent the same contestants in 2021 as in 2020, with different songs, Sweden ran a new search. Sadly for last year’s winners, the Mamas, they flunked in 2021 and Tusse was selected instead.

Italy has a spotty history at Eurovision, even though the contest was modeled after the Sanremo festival: It has only won twice.

The phrase “rock is dead” is used in American newspapers all the time. If you want a country where rock is still very much alive, move to Italy, as based on Maneskin’s performance, people there are still lapping up dirty riffs and lyrics about smoking.

Jeangu Macrooy from the Netherlands performing the song “Birth of a New Age.”
Jeangu Macrooy from the Netherlands performing the song “Birth of a New Age.”Credit…Pool photo by Sander Koning

Jeangu Macrooy, the Netherlands’ entry, takes the stage to sing “Birth of a New Age,” a song penned in response to the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide.

“Skin as rich as the starlit night / Your rhythm is rebellion,” the gospel-influenced song begins, saluting the protesters who demanded justice for Floyd last year.

In the chorus, Macrooy switches from English to Sranan Tongo, the language of his native Suriname, a South American country that was once a colony of the Netherlands. “Yu no man broko mi,” he sings, over and over: “You can’t break me.”

Eurovision is well known for songs that take stands on social or political issues. In 1971, Germany’s Katja Ebstein sang “Diese Welt” (“This World”), a pro-environment track that was radical for its time. More recently, acts have pushed for gay, lesbian and transgender rights in Europe.

So it’s great to see Macrooy continuing that trend — although, sadly, he has almost no chance of winning. Few countries ever win Eurovision twice in a row. Ireland did three times in the 1990s, but by the third time they were desperate not to win again. The winner hosts the next year’s show, and it was starting to get expensive.

A long-running joke about Eurovision fans is “Norway: nul points.” And indeed Norway is the losingest country, having finished last 11 times (four of them without having scored any points). It has also won three times, but I don’t think Tix will be No. 4.

This final is genuinely the strongest Eurovision for years. So many great songs that will end up coming, like, tenth when any other year they might win. This is another of them.

Tix’s snow angel-in-chains look is sending me.

Barbara Pravi of France. Her song is “Voilà.”
Barbara Pravi of France. Her song is “Voilà.”Credit…Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

Barbara Pravi is representing France with a song that feels 150 percent Gallic — she keeps getting compared to Édith Piaf and the French pop star Barbara, and musically this makes total sense.

Pravi, who is of Serbian and Iranian descent, had her big break in the French musical “Un été 44,” in 2016. Since then she’s penned material for a bunch of French stars like Yannick Noah, Louane and Florent Pagny. More important, she (unwittingly?) set herself up for the main stage by writing songs for the French entries in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 and 2020.

Remarkably in an era when performers are media-trained into utter blandness, Pravi is an unabashed activist for women’s rights and has been forthcoming about her experience with domestic violence.

Stefania from Greece performs Last Dance.
Stefania from Greece performs Last Dance.Credit…Peter Dejong/Associated Press

Greece’s performance featured some impressive visual tricks for TV viewers:

But in case you were wondering if there really are invisible people dancing around in white pants, this what Greece looked like in the arena, using a ’green screen:

Credit…Thomas Erdbrink/The New York Times

Dedicated followers of the Eurovision Song Contest, clockwise from top left: Frank Lochthove in Berlin; Maria Bresic in Sydney, Australia; Ricardo Mohammed in New York; and James Sheen, a Briton.
Dedicated followers of the Eurovision Song Contest, clockwise from top left: Frank Lochthove in Berlin; Maria Bresic in Sydney, Australia; Ricardo Mohammed in New York; and James Sheen, a Briton.Credit…Gordon Welters for The New York Times; Paul van Kan for The New York Times; Emon Hassan for The New York Times; Daniel Rodrigues for The New York Times

Despite its distinctly “euro” sensibility, Eurovision is a global phenomenon with fans all over the world. In the age of video streaming and social media, it has never been easier to follow.

In 2018, we met some Eurovision obsessives to find out how they watch the contest, and what it means to them.

Mr. Lochthove, 45, recalled how Germany’s hosting the soccer World Cup finals in 2006 had given it the opportunity to shed a postwar suspicion of flags and national pride to cheer on the national team. But for Mr. Lochthove, the most important competition was the 2010 Eurovision, held in Oslo, which the German singer Lena won. “She managed to cast a spell on the whole audience,” he said.

Mr. Sheen said he held his first Eurovision party in 1991, and continued to host parties for the next 20 years. Each time, the shindigs grew more elaborate as he added score sheets, themed food, colored spotlights, a sound system and a smoke machine.

In 2011, Mr. Sheen drove to Düsseldorf, Germany, to be in the audience for the first time. While the parties were dear to him, nothing beat the thrill of the real thing, he said.

When Ms. Bresic was growing up in the 1970s in the western suburbs of Sydney, she knew about the Eurovision Song Contest from Croatian-language radio and from her parents’ friends.

Her parents had come from Croatian and the way they watched the contest in the 1980s was influenced by the complicated politics of the Balkans at the time.

“Mum and Dad wouldn’t be interested in watching any of the performances by certain countries,” Ms. Bresic said. When Yugoslavia won the contest in 1989, “My parents were outraged,” she said, because, in their mind, the winning band, Riva, should have been considered Croatian, not Yugoslav.

Mr. Mohammed has a singular way of keeping track of time. Asked when he started his Eurovision viewing party at Hardware, a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, he replied, “Emmelie de Forest won that year.” (For the uninitiated, that would be 2013.) He also remembered a trip to London, “the year Nicki French represented England” (otherwise known as 2000).

Mr. Mohammed, a.k.a. D.J. ohRicky, discovered Eurovision as a child in his native Trinidad, via British broadcasts. He said the closest analogy for the contest was Broadway. “Those fans know the statistics, like how many Tonys someone won,” he said. “It’s the same for Eurovision die-hards: They know the last time a country won, who wrote a particular song.”

James Newman from the United Kingdom, with his song “Embers.”
James Newman from the United Kingdom, with his song “Embers.”Credit…Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

James Newman, Britain’s entry, has just started performing “Embers” — a fun, horn-heavy, dance track about how he and his romantic partner plan to emerge from a pile of embers to “light up the room.”

Newman’s a great songwriter — he’s written hits for Zayn, formerly of One Direction, and Rudimental, a popular dance act in Britain — but chances are, even if he performs brilliantly tonight, he’ll get “nul points.” (That’s “no points,” and if you’re wondering why I’m speaking French, you’ll find out when they count the votes.)

Britain has performed poorly at almost every Eurovision since it last won in 1997 (thanks to Katrina and the Wave’s “Love Shine a Light”). The only exception was Jade Ewen’s “It’s My Time” in 2009, a theatrical ballad written by Andrew Lloyd Webber: That came in fifth.

Why does Britain do so badly? Commentators often claim it’s because Europeans have long hated Britain’s lack of commitment to the European Union, something confirmed in 2016 when the British public voted for Brexit.

But the reality is the British entries normally just aren’t very good.

Newman’s song isn’t bad, but his performance tonight isn’t exciting enough. He’s singing while doing dad dancing between two huge model trumpets. To win Eurovision, you need to do more than dad dance while standing between two huge model trumpets.

Eden Alene of Israel performing in the Eurovision Song Contest Final dress rehearsal.
Eden Alene of Israel performing in the Eurovision Song Contest Final dress rehearsal.Credit…Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

Since its Eurovision debut in 1973, Israel has been a powerhouse of the competition, with four wins, including two back to back (1978-9) and the first by a transgender contestant (Dana International in 1998).

You may have noticed, however, that, Israel is not actually in Europe. Its participation in Eurovision is possible because the contest is open to members of the European Broadcasting Union (E.B.U.), the Switzerland-based organization of public broadcasters that runs the competition. You don’t have to be part of the European Union, or even on the European continent, to be part of the E.B.U., whose 69 members hail from 56 countries that include Morocco (which entered the contest once, in 1980), Turkey (which won in 2003), and the Vatican (which should at least try).

Australia, a country mad for pop music (it was an early ABBA adopter) has long broadcast Eurovision and, in 2015, it finally landed a one-time-only invitation. Somehow Australia turned into the guest that wouldn’t leave. Not only is it still there, but it placed second in 2016 — these guys are in it to win it, eventually. Sadly it won’t do it this year, as its entry, Montaigne, didn’t make it out of the elimination round and isn’t in today’s grand final.

Elena Tsagrinou from Cyprus will be the first to perform, with the song “El Diablo.”
Elena Tsagrinou from Cyprus will be the first to perform, with the song “El Diablo.”Credit…Pool photo by Sander Koning

And we’ve begun! First up is Elena Tsagrinou of Cyprus with “El Diablo.” This song caused a minor scandal back in February, after some of the country’s Orthodox Christians said the song’s lyrics promoted Satanism.

In it, Tsagrinou sings about falling in love with “el diablo,” Spanish for “the devil.” It’s quite clearly referring to a generic bad boy she met in a bar — not Satan himself — but Tsagrinou seems to be going all out tonight to annoy her critics, with four dancers dressed head-to-toe in red spandex.

It’s a great start for the contest, in my opinion and could easily be a Lady Gaga hit. But opening songs never win Eurovision, so this probably won’t either!

Our reporter at Eurovision finale on Saturday.
Our reporter at Eurovision finale on Saturday.

Trying to get a seat in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where the Eurovision finals are taking place, isn’t that simple.

Last year’s Eurovision was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Dutch organizers have come up with an elaborate admission and testing scheme to keep the virus out while holding the largest music contest on the planet. All visitors have to undergo a test for the virus, people over 70 are not allowed and reporters are banned from the main auditorium during the final round.

More than 3,500 mainly Dutch fans were in to see the show, while journalists, some 400 of them, have been tucked away in a dark, rather depressing conference hall, where they can follow the event on four large screens.

Inside, people were filled with exuberance, partly because the show was going on after a year’s hiatus, and partly because it just felt so good to be out of lockdown. The costumes were colorful: Near me, two men were wearing orange tuxedos and another man wore a British flag as a cape.

Yet some of the reporters working for specialist Eurovision blogs and other outlets told me the setup that kept them away from the crowds made them sad. “Eurovision is about bringing people together, but they are forced to keep people apart,” said William Lee Adams of Wiwibloggs. “I’ll gladly wear a military grade face mask, if I can be among the singers and the public.”

I decided not to miss out on the live event. So I found myself at 10 a.m. this morning standing in the rain on a drab field outside of the city of Lisse for my Covid test. In hand, I had my ticket, which cost a mere €650, or about $790.

Will Ferrell, left, and Rachel McAdams in the 2020 musical comedy film “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
Will Ferrell, left, and Rachel McAdams in the 2020 musical comedy film “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”Credit…John Wilson/Netflix

Will Ferrell may well have succeeded where past winners like ABBA and Celine Dion failed: His movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” has raised awareness in North America of the world’s biggest singing competition.

Eurovision is so unknown in the United States that a common reaction to the film among Americans was: “This is based on a real thing?!?”

Yes, it is — a real thing that has been drawing hundreds of millions of viewers since 1956. But since the contest is not usually broadcast in the United States (the cable network Logo last had the rights in 2018), few knew of its existence, let alone what it’s all about.

The second-most-common American reaction to the movie’s Belarusian horror rockers and bare-chested Russian crooners seemed to be: “OK, but they must have exaggerated it.”

Well, no, they didn’t — “Fire Saga” eerily captures Eurovision’s most demented aspects, especially its signature unselfconscious reveling in over-the-top theatrics. Ferrell (whose wife is from Eurovision-crazy Sweden) pulled off a spot-on satire that eschews condescension: The film doesn’t laugh at the contest or its fans, but with them. And like many of the acts from the real competition, the songs from the movie are infernally catchy: “Husavik,” the lead number in “Fire Saga,” was nominated for an Academy Award.

Jeangu Macrooy, center, representing the Netherlands, boarded a bus on Saturday to the Eurovision Song Contest Final in Rotterdam.
Jeangu Macrooy, center, representing the Netherlands, boarded a bus on Saturday to the Eurovision Song Contest Final in Rotterdam.Credit…Robin Utrecht/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This year, 16 of the 26 finalists are acts returning from last year’s canceled competition.

But Eurovision rules require the contestants to perform a different song from the one they had planned for the 2020 event. In a competition known for one-hit wonders, this year’s contestants have to prove they don’t fit that pattern.

The entrant facing the biggest challenge in capturing last year’s magic is Dadi Freyr, a singer performing with the band Gagnamagnid, which is Iceland’s entry. Last year, he was a favorite to win with “Think About Things,” a catchy disco number about Freyr’s newborn child.

The band’s entry this year is another fun track called “10 Years.” Freyr said he wanted to keep the track similar in style to “Think About Things,” since Icelanders had voted for a disco tune to represent them at the competition. It took 12 attempts to come up with a new song he liked, he added.

Jeangu Macrooy, the Netherlands’ entry, said he also struggled. “I was getting no inspiration — I was just sitting inside,” he said.

Then, in December, a host of thoughts and feelings around the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement started bubbling up inside him, he said.

Soon he conjured the lyrics to “Birth of a New Age,” an uplifting gospel-inspired track: “They tried to drain you of your faith / But you are the rage that melts the chains.”

Macrooy said he hoped it would speak to everyone standing up for their rights, whether people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people or members of other marginalized groups.

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