WHEN almost 2oo million people sit down to watch Eurovision 2019 this Saturday, they better not be expecting ballads and big skirts… as this year there’s leather gloves and BDSM on the menu.
As Iceland’s entry Hatari make it through to the final, we look at how the family friendly singing contest has changed, with 7 ft giants, gnomes and milkmaid dancers.
Ukraine’s 2007 Tin-Man-goes-camp-disco
The annual singing competition was launched in 1956 to bring previously war-torn Europe together with a “light entertainment programme” – but since then it has changed a lot.
Viewers had to blink twice when Tin Man Andriy Mykhailovych Danylko – a Ukrainian comedian and pop star, better known by his drag queen persona Verka Serduchka – performed ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ in 2007.
Appearing to have rolled around in kitchen foil and stumbled off the Yellow Brick Road and into a camp disco, the singer and dancers put on an energetic performance that left the crowd open-mouthed.
And their bizarre entry paid off – they made it to second place in the show held in Helsinki, Finland.
Azerbaijan’s 2008 blood-covered demons
With their first ever appearance in the contest, Azerbaijan went all out with Elnur & Samir’s ‘Day After Day’ in Belgrade, Serbia.
The singers each performed in angel and devil costumes – with the latter at one point pouring ‘blood’ from a goblet on to a dancer from his throne.
Poland’s 2014 sexy milk maids
Poland ensured they were remembered in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2014.
Donatan and Cleo performed ‘My Slowianie – We Are Slavic’, which featured the lyrics: “Vodka is better than whisky and gin.”
But the most outrageous moment of the set came when a number of sexy milkmaid dancers burst onto the stage.
They went on to suggestively pretend to churn butter and scrub clothes, causing quite the stir on Twitter.
Moldova’s 2011 gnome party
Demonstrating how you can be a hit on Twitter but still come 12th were Moldova in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2011.
The Gypsy punk band Zdob si Zdub performed their song ‘So Lucky’ with the addition of tall pointy dwarf hats and a girl on a unicycle.
Ireland’s 2008 turkey mockery
While not quite making it to the grand final of the 2008 competition, Irish children’s TV presenter Dustin the Turkey became a Eurovision fan favourite with the song ‘Irelande Douze Pointe’.
It was a mock entry, designed to make fun of the contest, and featured the lyrics: “Drag acts and bad acts and Terry Wogan’s wig.”
Ukraine 2013’s giant man
The singer for Ukraine’s 2013 performance, Zlata Ognevich, made quite the entrance when she was carried on stage in Malmo, Swede,n in the arms of a giant man dressed in medieval garb.
Igor Vovkovinskiy is 7 feet 8.33 inches, and when not carrying women around stages the 36-year-old is a law student and part-time actor.
He was born in Ukraine, but is now living in Minnesota and is currently the tallest person in the United States.
Despite appearing for only 20 seconds, he was an instant hit with viewers on Twitter who said they would vote just for him.
Russia 2012’s pensioner choir
When a group of little old ‘grannies’ walked on stage in traditional Slavic dress during Russia’s 2012 performance, no one expected them to get up and start dancing to an up tempo beat while cooking bread buns.
Buranovskiye Babushki – an ethno-pop band made up of six elderly women from the village of Buranovo, Udmurtia, were elected by their nation to represent them – with their bubbly ‘Party For Everybody’.
Romania’s 2013 Count Dracula
Romania’s 2013 entry in Malmo, Sweden saw singer Cezar performing ‘It’s My life’ dressed as a very tall Count Dracula.
Forty seconds into the performance, three semi-naked dances emerge beneath red cloth and perform interpretive dance around him.
Austria’s 2014 Conchita Wurst
The winner of the 2014 contest in Copenhagen, Denmark was Austria’s Conchita Wurst – real name Thomas Neuwirth, a singer and drag queen – who captivated viewers with her ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’.
However, not everyone was so keen, with legendary Eurovision commentator, the late Terry Wogan, calling the performance a “freakshow”.
Since winning, she has become a global gay icon and revealed last year that she is HIV positive.
Finland’s 2006 death mental monsters
After a public vote, Finnish viewers selected death metal band Lordi – famous for their monster stage costumes and songs named ‘Chainsaw Buffet’ and ‘Devil’s Lullaby’ – as their 2006 Eurovision entry.
And, despite initial embarrassment in Finland, they were glad they did – the band, who are platinum-selling in their native country, nabbed the top spot in Athens, Greece with their theatrical ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’.
Ukraine’s 2014 human hamster wheel
Pop star Mariya Yaremchuk belted out her song ‘Tick-Tick’ for the 2014 Eurovision – but it wasn’t her everyone was looking at.
Behind her, model Igor Kuleshyn was seen running on what appeared to be a human-sized hamster wheel for the duration of her song.
“Post 2000 Eurovision has seen the weirdness stakes raised significantly,” says Chris Jefford, media commentator and founder of Truant London.
“Eurovision has started to be defined by the narrative that exists around it – it gets the joke, and is happy to play up to it.
“It’s a race to the top of the hashtag leader board, rather than votes.”