Flo Rida was not initially supposed to be in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. But there he is, featured on a song representing the nation of San Marino… Let me explain.
Imagine it’s the 1950s. You’re in Europe and you just really want to promote European unity and make people stop fighting. What do you do?
If you said “Start a continent-wide song competition,” you are correct. In 1956, the first Eurovision Song Contest was broadcasted from Lugano, Switzerland with seven participating countries: Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, and West Germany. The countries each submitted two songs, which were then performed live and scored by a jury. The contest was such a hit that the countries decided to do it again the next year, and the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Austria wanted in on the fun. The countries realized that they messed some things up — after all, it was their first time — so they established some rules:
1. Each country submits one original, apolitical song, generally sung by an artist from that country.
2. Each country gets a jury. The jury votes on which song they like the best, but they can’t vote for their country’s song.
3. Whoever wins hosts the next year.
In the second-ever Eurovision Song Contest, the UK’s song was less than two minutes long while the Italian entry was over five minutes long. This annoyed a lot of people.
4. Your song has to be under three minutes long.
As the contest grew, the organizers have added qualifying rounds, a public voting system, and more, but those are the main four rules of Eurovision, and with little exception, they’ve worked ever since. Honestly, they’ve worked really well. And despite what you may initially think of Eurovision, you definitely recognize a few songs or artists from Eurovision. Ever heard of a band called ABBA?
Alternatively, how about a French singer named Celine Dion?
You might not recognize the song here, but you might recognize the name of the band from the song Walkin’ on Sunshine:
Conversely, while you might not recognize the original artist, Nel blu, Dipinto di blu, sometimes called Volare, has been covered by about 10 billion people, including Dean Martin and Andrea Bocelli:
This one might just be me, but I have a foggy yet distinct memory of sitting in a school bus listening to Loreen’s Euphoria. How this song from Eurovision would have gotten all the way to San Diego, I don’t know, but I don’t have a better explanation for what happened.
You might also know Riverdance, which was first performed as an intermission act at Eurovision 1994 in Ireland:
And finally, we return to Flo Rida:
San Marino is a very small European country entirely surrounded by Italy. It has a population of just under 34,000 people, which does not give San Marino a very large pool of potential singers to select from. In fact, they’ve only sent four Sammarinese artists to compete, and two of them were in a band. When San Marino isn’t sending a song by Valentina Monetta, who has represented the country on four separate occasions, they get artists from other countries to sing for them, as there is no restriction on sending an artist not from the country they represent. In fact, you’ve seen this in play already, as Celine Dion is notably not from Switzerland. So this explains how Flo Rida was able to be on the song without it being disqualified.
COVID did what nothing else over the course of the last 65 or so years had been able to do: it took out Eurovision, just like it took out every other major gathering of people. After all, Eurovision is just a giant concert. The main artist of “Adrenalina”, Senhit, was originally supposed to compete in the 2020 edition of the contest, and she sent in a disco track called “Freaky!” that would have gone absolutely nowhere in the competition. Given that song title and the song’s accompanying music video, now is probably the best time to discuss one other major theme of Eurovision, which is the LGBTQ+ community.
Eurovision’s been a mainstay in the LGBTQ+ community for a very long time. In 1961, just the fifth year of the contest, the winning song contained references to a same-sex relationship. In 1997, the first openly gay artist participated. The very next year, Dana International, a transgender woman from Israel, won the competition. More recently, Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won in 2014. There’s been a lot of controversy about this— Turkey no longer participates in the contest, and there’s a large suspicion it’s due to Turkey’s anti-gay stance. Similarly, when China censored Ireland’s 2018 entry, which featured a gay couple dancing in the background, the Chinese broadcasters immediately lost the rights to show Eurovision. Eurovision was built to be a place to come together, not to discriminate.
Anyways, back to Flo Rida. After the 2020 Contest got canceled, the organizers of Eurovision had a difficult decision to make: should they make an exception to the original song rule? Normally, songs can’t be released more than about eight months prior to the contest they’re going to compete in. But there were some great songs in 2020, and there’s a fair argument that those competitors would be robbed if they couldn’t perform their song live onstage. The organizers disagreed, which invalidated “Freaky!” and every other song from 2020. This sucked for countries like Georgia, who submitted a pretty good song in 2020 and then submitted garbage in 2021. However, this change did not suck for countries like San Marino, who submitted a bad song in 2020 and then turned around and submitted a great song in 2021. Someone must have noticed their 2020 entry wasn’t going to perform very well and said, “Hey, what if we got Flo Rida to feature?”
Miraculously, he agreed. He also told the BBC that he wants to perform it live with Senhit. Please, Eurovision. Make it happen.
- *Featured Image: Jack Izzo
- Eurovision 2021 will be streaming on the Eurovision Youtube Channel at 3 p.m. Eastern. The Semi-Finals will be broadcast on May 18 and May 20th respectively, with the countries that advance competing in the Grand Final on May 22.