Eurovisions backstage gossip – stage rule, truth to vote and song details

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Eurovision Song Contest has been around for 66 years since 1956, which is a lot of time for behind-the-scenes secrets to build up and for some very precise and odd rules to come about.

This year, UK hopeful Sam Ryder will aim to impress the audience at home in order to make sure we don't end up with another year of "nil points".

But it's not just as easy as turning up on the night and putting on a show-stopping performance, it seems.

From lyrics to extensive dress rehearsals, we've got the low down including secrets from Presenter Rylan Clark-Neal and former Eurovision judge Richard Wilkins.

Qualifying songs

From the length of the song to the lyrics, even the time the song was released – everything is very precise when it comes to Eurovision's choice of songs.

The first rule is fairly simple – the lyrics and music can’t have been commercially released before September 1 the year before.

Another qualifying rule for the song is it must not be any longer than three minutes – but there's a very good reason for that.

In Stockholm, for example, the show starts at 9pm, the first song is at about 9:15pm, and 26 songs later it’s past 10:30pm.

Then there’s all that banter from the hosts, and finally the results, meaning it’s a very lengthy evening.

In 2015, Finland broke the record for the shortest song in Eurovision as the band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät participated with their punk-rock song Aina Mun Pitää with a length of 1m27s.

Luckily, entrants don't need many lyrics, as Norway’s 1995 winning song Nocturne demonstrated with just 24 words.

The legal term isn’t “lyrics”, it’s “discernible vocals” and the edgy Belgium interprets this in their own way, as in 2003 and 2008 they entered songs in an imaginary dialect.

Understandably, there's no miming in Eurovision – all vocals must be sung live.

They are so strict on this that no voices are permitted on the backing track either.

The rule book follows then to say that if you sing live you better sing well.

For the TV broadcast each country is allocated 50 minutes of rehearsal time split over two days.

This ensures technical precision of everything from the lighting to the music.

It is not all over after that though as there are then three full dress rehearsals for each Semi Final and the Grand Final.

So, when an act qualifies for the Grand Final, they will have completed 68 minutes on stage for their three minute song.

But none of the above guarantees a spot on that big stage, as, ultimately, the Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor decides if the song is eligible for the event or not.

Stage rules

Rylan Clark-Neal previously told the Metro: "I remember my first year of Eurovision, I went backstage and on the floor, because you’re only allowed six people on stage, aren’t you?

"There are six boxes numbered one, two, three, four, five, six. They make you all stand in an individual box to make sure you’re not trying to smuggle on a seventh."

He added: "It’s like the Hunger Games! No one dies, thankfully."

Judging secret

Former Eurovision judge Richard Wilkins has revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets at the song contest including how while judging the semi-finals the judges "sit in a secret bunker".

"I can't reveal the exact location of the secret bunker – but it's a cool thing," the television personality said.

"The interesting thing is the judging is done on the dress rehearsal, not the actual televised show," he added, before noting: "But the dress rehearsal is exactly the same."

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  • Eurovision Song Contest
  • Rylan Clark-Neal

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