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Agnete, Norwegian Eurovision entry Agnete, the 2016 Eurovision entry from Norway. Photo by Andres Putting for EBU

Why Americans Should Learn To Stop Worrying And Love...

Alex Harris Goldberg explains all about the most-watched non-sporting television show in the world

Alex Harris Goldberg Alex Harris Goldberg – US expat, UK broadcaster

"Eurovision? I think I've heard of that! Isn't that like the European version of American Idol?" Oh no, friends, it is SO much more, and SO much better.

I discovered the Eurovision Song Contest by chance while I was attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. My friend and I were planning to go to one of the premieres when at the last minute we decided to order a pizza and find something to watch on French TV. Enter: Eurovision.

I was immediately hooked, and I've been attending ever since. Here's the 411 on the most-watched non-sporting television show in the world:

First and foremost, it's not a talent show like Idol/X Factor/The Voice. It's a contest made up of completely original songs written specifically for the competition. Each of the 42 countries send a song to compete, and we at home get to pick up the phone and vote for the one we like (except you can't vote for your own country). These public phone votes are combined 50/50 with the votes of a professional jury in each country. These people are music industry types: DJs, singers, songwriters, producers, etc.

With all the basics covered, I've picked a few entries to look out for this year:

RUSSIA: This guy is the one to beat. His name is Sergey Lazarev and he is a major pop star in Russia, not to mention the whole ex-USSR region, who very well might already be fans. Expect a Top 3 finish from this good-looking chap. https://youtu.be/w7hRZS-nLhY

ICELAND: This very talented young woman is named Greta Salóme and this ain't her first time at the Eurovision rodeo. She represented her homeland back in 2012 as part of a duet, so she is primed and ready in 2016! Like the Russian entrant, she'll be using intricate projections behind her to enhance her performance. As rehearsals got underway, there was some outrage that Sergey from Russia "stole" Greta's angel wing graphics! Always a scandal at Eurovision! https://youtu.be/7xQxQRdZasQ

MALTA: Another small island country, and another Eurovision alumnus! Ira Losco was the Eurovision runner-up in 2002 and this time she is back to win! There aren't too many clues about how Ira plans to perform this entry so it's hard to predict if she can match her 2nd place finish, or indeed best it. We'll find out on the night! https://youtu.be/9J7O5BGqPDk

AUSTRALIA: Wait, Australia is in EUROvision? Yep! Australia LOVES Eurovision and they've been begging the organizers to let them participate for years. Last year it was the 60th Anniversary of the Contest and as a gesture of inclusion, Australia was invited to compete as a one-off. They were told they could come back the next year if they won. They didn't win. But here we are a year later and Australia has been invited back anyway! They are playing to win with this track from proper superstar Dami Im. https://youtu.be/2EG_Jtw4OyU

BULGARIA: The theme this year seems to be that former contestants are returning. Poli from Bulgaria competed in Eurovision 2011, though her song flopped out of the Semi Final stages. Expect her 2016 effort to sail through to the Final, though it's hard to predict how this will place. A very poppy, contemporary track. https://youtu.be/yKsNfccUTuk

SWEDEN: The host country is sending a young man named Frans. This is a Justin Bieber-esque number that could give us the first back-to-back win since the 1990s. https://youtu.be/h8D7KNFtTlE

FRANCE: France is known for singing in…..French. No surprise there. But this year they're going bilingual, which has upset some people. I think it's for the best, and this is one of France's strongest entries in recent years. https://youtu.be/boYQovCybYQ

UK: And finally….since you're reading this in The American, you might be living or working in the UK. And while our British friends might be considering leaving the EU, they don't show any signs of ditching Eurovision. The show rates extremely well for the BBC, no matter what your British partner or workmate might tell you. This year, The Beeb created a shortlist of six entries that the public chose from back in February. The public chose Joe & Jake, two former contestants on The Voice UK. They're endearingly sincere performers who have their sights set on a Top 10 finish. I predict a finish closer to the bottom, unfortunately. https://youtu.be/C5VvsLEd1TI

Well, I hope you're now ready and prepped to enjoy Europe's favorite TV show (football aside).

And now I never want to hear you say "It's like American Idol, right?" ever again!

HOW TO WATCH Eurovision 2016 LIVE from Stockholm, Sweden:

In the UK: Semi Finals May 10 & 12 on BBC4 at 8pm and The Grand Final, Saturday May 14 on BBC1 at 8pm (with commentator Graham Norton).

In the USA: Semi Finals May 10 & 12 via www.eurovision.tv at 3pm EST and The Grand Final, Saturday May 14 on Logo TV from 3pm EST

Alex Harris Goldberg presents the Top 20 US Singles Chart on Chart Show TV daily, and can be heard as a continuity announcer on Channel 4. Tweeting @capslockALEX


Eurovision 2016 Photo by Anna Velikova for EBU

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