Eurovision Song Contest 2019 kicks of in May in Tel Aviv, Israel when 42 nations compete for the top place tune. This year’s installment of the globally broadcast competition will feature three rounds.
Semi-final 1 takes place on Tuesday, 14 May and semi-final 2 is slated for Thursday, 16 May. The Eurovision final is Saturday, 18 May. Playing host broadcast network is the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC).
Bitan 2, a 10,000-seat convention hall at Expo Tel Aviv, gets the home venue nod in a continuation of live pop music performances staged there. In recent years, the facility has hosted a variety of rock and pop concerts by the likes of Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, Pitbull, and David Guetta.
This is Israel’s third time hosting Eurovision. The 1979 and 1999 song competition finals were held at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem. Israel earned Eurovision 2019 hosting rights following its first place finish in last year’s competition with “Toy” performed by Netta Barzilai from Hod HaSharon.
Croatia’s entry into Eurovision 2019 will be “The Dream” performed by Roko Blažević , a talented 18-year-old vocalist from Split.
Dora 2019 Returns as the Gate to Eurovision
Blažević ’s path to Tel Aviv in May first went through Dora 2019, the national song contest of Croatia. Held at the Marino Cvetković Sports Hall in Opatija on 16 February, Dora 2019 marked the official return of the song festival following a seven-year hiatus.
Dora was previously used to select Croatia’s Eurovision song entry from 1993 to 2011. Recent years have seen a less formal nomination process.
“The Dream” collected a commanding 42 percent of the vote to emerge victorious from the final field of 16 songs. Voting was based on a combination of points from viewer ballots and ten regional jury groups.
Rounding out the top three finishers were Lorena Bućan with “Tower of Babylon” in second place and “Brutalero” sung by Luka Nižetić with third.
In all, 162 song entries from around Croatia submitted between November and January were considered for the contest. Dora 2019 was organized by public broadcaster HRT. Iva Šulentić, Jelena Lešić and Mirko Fodor presented the nationally-televised event.
A Young Superstar with a Veteran Career
Blažević hails from a highly-musical family. His father and mother are both experienced singers while his brother plays guitar. Blažević began his music career at the age of twelve by joining a local singing group. He also plays piano and performs in a band with the sons of Zlatan Stipišić Gibonni, Rando and Luka.
Blažević is no stranger to TV singing competitions either. He won Pinkove Zvevdice in July 2017 and picked up second place on Zvijezde this past December.
And if the teenager’s resume wasn’t impressive enough, Blažević is frequently compared to Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, who is incidentally of Croatian descent.
Powerhouse vocalist Jacques Houdek, Croatia’s representative at Eurovision 2017, is mentoring Blažević in this year’s contest. Houdek also happens to be the songwriter behind “The Dream”.
“The Dream” Becomes Reality
A light but powerful tune set to modern dance-pop production, “The Dream” sweeps from a quiet, sparse opening to its anthemic chorus. “We all dream of love” belts Blažević at the song’s mighty crescendo, delivering an inspiring message of hope and unity.
Hope was also the theme of Blažević’s reaction upon winning. When asked what fans can expect from him in Tel Aviv, the Split native said, “They can expect even more. I think we’ll do our best as we did here tonight...we hope for the best, of course.”
Blažević’s performance at Dora contained both English and Croatian verses.
For the Thrill of Song
In the era of large cash prizes and contracts associated with many televised talent competitions, Eurovision’s prize closet remains relatively spartan. The winning artist receives no money, nor are there guaranteed opportunities to advance his or her career.
The winner does gain significant international exposure from the contest, which may convert into appearances, album sales, and performances at other events.
Instead, the main prize is awarded to the national broadcaster supplying the winning song and performance in the form of broadcast rights to the next year’s contest.
Because there is no large, formal prize, Eurovision maintains a sort of competitive purity akin to the Olympics--the participating performers play for pride and national representation on the global stage.
Originated by the European Broadcasting Union in 1956 as an event to unify the post-war continent, 2019 marks the 64th edition of Eurovision.
The song competition is the longest-running, most watched reality TV series in history, annually grabbing an estimated 600 million viewers form around the world. The event’s popularity has spread beyond mainland Europe in recent years, earning sizeable audiences in Asia, Australia, and Latin America.
A History of Mixed Results at Eurovision
Croatia’s independent participation in Eurovision dates back a relatively short term to 1993. The country previously entered as a part of Yugoslavia throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Yugoslavia won Eurovision in 1989 with the song “Rock Me” by Riva. As a result, the 1990 competition was held in Zagreb.
Croatia’s highest showings in the contest are two fourth-place showings--Maja Blagdan’s rendition of “Sveta Ijubav” in 1996 and Doris Dragović singing “Marija Magdalena" in 1999.
While Croatians at home and abroad will undoubtedly rally behind Blažević, “The Dream” faces an uphill battle. Oddschecker currently peg’s Croatia’s chance of winning Eurovision towards the middle of the pack. The favorites are Russia’s Sergey Lazarev and Sweden’s soon-to-be-determined entrant.
Photo by Benny MZ
Europe and The World Watches and Waits
Eurovision 2019 will be televised live by each participating country’s public broadcaster including HRT in Croatia. Viewers can also find live-streams on the contest’s official YouTube channel.
Blažević Eurovision performance of “The Dream” is scheduled for the second half of semi-final 2 on 16 May.
Erez Tal and Bar Refaeli will present the semi-finals and final broadcast as main hosts. Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub will provide commentary from the green room.
Regardless of how Blažević and “The Dream” place at Eurovision Song Contest 2019, Croatia and the world will be watching. A big win is already at hand for the gifted young vocalist and his anthem of love and hope by virtue of making it this far.