Eurovision makes glorious return with human disco balls, giant mechanical dresses and camp chaos

The Eurovision Song Contest returned on Tuesday night (18 May) for the first semi-final, and it was as chaotic and as dramatic as ever.

Fans had been eagerly anticipating this year’s contest in Rotterdam after the event was called off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic – and Tuesday’s spectacular return didn’t disappoint.

Seeing 3,000 people gathered in the Rotterdam Ahoy to watch some of Europe’s most wild and wonderful acts perform was an emotional experience for many viewers after a year of looking at the same four walls.

Just six countries are guaranteed a slot in Saturday’s final – the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and The Netherlands, who won the competition in 2019. The rest must battle it out at two semi-finals.

Performers from 16 different countries gave it their all on Tuesday night, but just 10 made it through – and there were some spectacular, surprising, and extremely cringe moments during the two hour show.

Eurovision semi final

Croatia’s Albina performs during the first semi-final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty)

Lithuania kicked off the show with The Roop’s “Discoteque”, complete with bright yellow outfits and some mesmerising robotic dance moves. It was, in true Eurovision fashion, the personification of camp.

Slovenia served Adele realness with Ana Soklič’s power ballad “Amen”, while Russia’s entry Manizha took Eurovision zaniness to new heights by walking out of a giant mechanical dress on wheels – because of course she did.

Sweden’s entry Tusse kept the Eurovision wackiness to a minimum with “Voices”, instead delivering a radio-friendly potential hit. Australia was the only competitor not to appear in person, instead sending a pre-recorded version of Montaigne’s “Technicolour” – the kaleidoscopic performance couldn’t have been more colourful if it tried.

North Macedonia brought Eurovision camp to a new level by literally turning its entrant Vasil into a disco ball for his cinematic ballad “Here I Stand”, while Ireland’s Lesley Roy ran through an elaborate paper world with “Maps”. In what can only be described as pure television gold, presenter Chantal Janzen was forced to ad-lib on camera right before Roy took to the stage after a camera broke. Janzen was just seconds short of reciting a poem to fill the time before the camera was eventually replaced.

Eurovision semi final

North Macedonia’s Vasil performs during the first semi-final. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty)

Eurovision semi final

Malta’s Destiny performs during the first semi-final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. ( KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty)

Elena Tsagrinou channelled her inner Lady Gaga and Lil Nas X on “El Diablo” for Cyprus, while Norway’s TIX captured the hearts of Europe with what has to be one of the cheesiest songs to ever grace Eurovision.

Croatia’s Albina unleashed all the camp glory of Eurovision on the stage with “Tick-Tock” before Belgium took things down a notch with Hooverphonic’s “The Wrong Place”.

Ukraine quickly became one of the favourites of the night with Go_a’s song “Shum”, and Malta closed the night with Destiny’s very sassy and addictive “Je Me Casse”.

But just 10 of the night’s performers could make it through to the final. After an interval performance called “The Power of Water” (yes, really), the results were unveiled. Norway, Israel, Russia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, Sweden, Belgium and Ukraine were revealed as the countries to make it through to Saturday’s big event.

Eurovision’s spectacular return didn’t disappoint after a long and arduous year away. The second semi-final will take place Thursday night (20 May) before the finalists take to the stage to battle it out for the crown in what promises to be a gloriously camp return to form.