The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 was the 65th edition of the long-running event. With the cancellation of the 2020 contest due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was decided by the EBU in a deal reached with Dutch broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS that Rotterdam would pick up where it left off and once again be the host city, with the shows being held at Rotterdam Ahoy. The official announcement was made during the Europe Shine a Light special on 16 May 2020.
The official dates were as follows: the semifinals were held on 18 and 20 May 2021, with the grand final on 22 May.
39 of the 41 countries that were due to participate in 2020, including the returns of Bulgaria and Ukraine, returned. Armenia withdrew on 5 March 2021 citing lack of time to put an entry together. Belarus was disqualified by the EBU (see "Incidents" below). With their withdrawals, as well as the carried over withdrawals of Hungary and Montenegro, the 2021 edition featured the lowest number of participating countries since 2014.
Rotterdam City Council voted on 23 April 2020 to provide extra funding to keep the contest in the city.
The EBU announced that the songs confirmed for 2020 would not be carried over, however the individual broadcasters had the option of internally sending their confirmed 2020 artists or inviting them to participate in their 2021 national selections with an automatic place in either a semifinal round or the final. 26 of the confirmed artists from 2020 eventually returned: 24 chosen internally and 2 via winning their national finals.
Approximately 183 million people watched the 2021 contest, with an additional 50.6 million unique viewers in over 230 countries and territories around the world watching via the online streams on the official YouTube channel.
For the first time under the current scoring system, the United Kingdom fell victim to the dreaded Nul Points. Three other countries - Germany, Spain and the Netherlands - each got nul points in the televote.
Italy captured its third win with Zitti e buoni by the band Måneskin, the country's first victory since 1990. France and Switzerland completed the podium, both recording their best finishes of the 21st century and their best placings since 1991 and 1993 respectively, with Iceland (recording its first top 5 since 2009) and Ukraine (its best placing since its win in 2016) rounding out the top 5. It is the first time since 1995 that the top 3 were made up of songs in a language other than English, and the first time since the free language rule was introduced in 1999.
- 1 Format
- 2 Incidents
- 3 Participants
- 4 Withdrawn/Uncertain
- 5 Other Countries
- 6 Trivia
- 7 References (if any)
The presenting team remained in place for 2021, made up of two-time Eurovision participant Edsilia Rombley, TV presenter Chantal Janzen and singer/current Dutch ESC co-commentator Jan Smit. Social media celebrity Nikkie de Jager (NikkieTutorials) was promoted from online content host to become the fourth main show presenter.
"Open Up" remained the theme of the 2021 contest. With everything the world has been going through over the past year, carrying over the 2020 slogan took on an even greater meaning.
The 2021 logo is an update of the 2020 logo, inspired by the world map with Rotterdam as its heartbeat. Each abstract flag piece represents the capital city of each of the 41 participating countries converging via its relative distance towards Rotterdam, the center of Eurovision 2021.
According to Sietse Bakker: “The logo connects Rotterdam with the capitals of the participating countries and symbolizes coming together, regardless of the form. It shows that we are open to everything the participants have to offer."
The EBU says: "Last year’s artwork was about our legacy, telling the story of looking back. Now it is time to look ahead and tell a story about where we are going.”
The stage designed for 2020 was also carried over for 2021. It is inspired by the contest's theme, as well as the typical flat Dutch landscape. Augmented reality visuals were used in some performances and the grand final opening.
For this year's postcards, various locations around the Netherlands "Open Up" to each artist using a "tiny house" concept. Each house was decorated with items that connected with each participant, with the artist appearing at the end via chromakey. A white beam of light passes through the house, refracts, and becomes the colors of the country's flag before travelling to the venue and lighting up the ceiling in the flag's colors prior to the start of each performance.
To minimize costs and technical stress on the host broadcaster, the EBU would conduct a 1-year trial experiment for the 2021 contest where pre-recorded backing vocals could be used on backing tracks for performances. All lead and featured lead vocals would remain live, however delegations could still choose to use live backing vocalists if they desired.
The Dutch organizers guaranteed that there would be a contest in 2021. To drive this point home, they presented four different plans. The plans took into account health and safety for all involved, as well as the readiness of a safe coronavirus vaccine.
They are as follows:
Scenario A: A full contest as planned, with all delegations, fans and media present. Activities such as Euroclub and the Eurovision Village would go on.
- Scenario B: Similar to former Scenario A, but with social distancing rules in place according to Dutch health guidelines. Delegation sizes and activities would be reduced.
- Scenario C: Similar to Scenario B. Those countries that cannot make the trip to Rotterdam due to travel restrictions would perform in their home country. Some outside activities would be replaced with virtual alternatives.
- Scenario D: In the event of a nationwide lockdown in the Netherlands, all delegations would perform in their home countries and the shows would be presented at Ahoy without an audience. Outside activities would be replaced with virtual alternatives.
As of 3 February 2021, scenario A had been completely ruled out by the organizers. Scenario B was confirmed on 2 March 2021 with strict health and safety guidelines. The standing space closest to the stage would be covered over and the space filled by the green room to promote social distancing.
Euroclub did not take place under this scenario, and the Eurovision Village was held as a virtual event throughout Eurovision Week. The only live outdoor event was the opening ceremony on 16 May 2021, which took place at the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal.
Under Scenario B, the international press covering the event would be made up of 500 members on site, with an additional 1000 members in a virtual press room.
On 1 April 2021, the organizers announced that the contest would be a Fieldlab test event, with 3,500 audience members being welcomed into the venue for each of the live shows provided they show evidence of a negative coronavirus test and if case numbers were low enough. At the time of the announcement, under the current framework the audience would be limited to Dutch fans only. This was officially confirmed by the organizers on 29 April 2021.
All participating delegations were asked to create "live-on-tape" recordings as a backup in the event that travel restrictions or quarantine rules would make some participants unable to make the trip to Rotterdam. They would be created in real time as it would look on the actual Eurovision stage in a studio setting in their home countries without any edits to the performance including vocals and visual enhancements such as virtual reality, confetti or drones. Additional measures were put in place to ensure fairness, such as meeting with the host broadcaster regarding schedules/planning, the Head of Delegation being present during the recording session, and a link for the Executive Supervisor and representatives from the host broadcaster and an independent voting observer to view the sessions and provide support and assistance. Each delegation was permitted 1 hour and 3 takes for recording, with no limit on rehearsals prior to the session.
In the event that a country had arrived in Rotterdam and could not participate in the live shows, the delegation could choose between using their live-on-tape backup recording or footage of their second rehearsal if that delegation already got to rehearse on stage.
Australia was the only delegation using their backup recording due to travel restrictions. Iceland used the recording of their second rehearsal (see "COVID-19 tests" in the Incidents section below).
2013 Finnish representative Krista Siegfrids was invited to present an exclusive series for the ESC YouTube channel called Krista Calling, which will take viewers behind the scenes during Eurovision Week from the opening ceremonies to the live shows. She also hosted the second edition of the Eurovision Song Celebration on 28 and 29 May, which featured all 39 of the backup performance recordings (with the exceptions of Ireland and the United Kingdom), fan recaps and other bonus material. Show 1 on 28 May featured the non-qualifiers from the semifinals, while show 2 on 29 May featured the finalists.
Co-presenter Nikkie de Jager hosted an online backstage series called LookLab with NikkieTutorials, featuring the participants discussing "the glitter, glamor and gossip" of the 2021 edition.
In the days leading up to the contest, each country was spotlighted in a daily takeover on the official Instagram account where fans could ask questions to the artists.
AVROTROS put together a special documentary series on their YouTube channel entitled "Road to Rotterdam", which followed Edsilia, Chantal, Jan and Nikkie from their re-selection as the presenters to Eurovision Week. The series was in Dutch with English subtitles.
A special short-film series aired on the ESC YouTube channel titled Music First, the title inspired by Duncan Laurence's 2019 victory speech. In each episode, a 2021 participant takes viewers behind the scenes during the recording process of their entry to give insight into the origins of the song.
Each semifinal included a mini-documentary called "A Winner's Journey", where past winners reflected on their Eurovision experience and their winning moments using the "tiny house" frame featured in the participants' postcards. Among them were reigning winner Duncan Laurence, 2-time winner Johnny Logan (Ireland 1980/1987), Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and The Waves (UK 1997), Lenny Kuhr (Netherlands 1969), Anne Marie David (Luxembourg 1973), Getty Kaspers of Teach-In (Netherlands 1975), Eimear Quinn (Ireland 1996), Marie Myriam (France 1977), Nicole (Germany 1982), Izhar Cohen (Israel 1978), Niamh Kavanagh (Ireland 1993) and Ruslana (Ukraine 2004).
Petition against the Cyprus entry
A Christian group in Cyprus petitioned to have the Cypriot entry El Diablo withdrawn from the contest, calling the entry "scandalous" and going against Christian values (the title translates to "The Devil"). There was also a report that there was a threat to burn down the headquarters of the Cypriot broadcaster.
CyBC issued a statement backing Elena Tsagkrinou and remaining committed to the project, stating that the true theme of the song is the eternal struggle between good and evil.
Disqualification of Belarus
On 9 March 2021, Belarusian broadcaster selected rock band Galasy ZMesta to represent the country with the song Ya Nauchu Tebya (I'll Teach You). Upon further translation of the Russian lyrics, the song was revealed to be a political statement in favor of the Lukashenko regime, which is in violation of the contest's rules. Several Eurovision news sites such as Eurovoix, ESCXtra and ESCUnited issued statements regarding their coverage of Belarus at Eurovision, and in an article by Wiwibloggs several past Belarusian artists such as Dmitry Koldun, NAVIBAND and last year's planned representatives VAL opened up about the current state of artistic freedom in their country.
Belarus' Eurovision commentator Evgeny Perlin resigned in protest during the summer of 2020 over BTRC's coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations.
In a statement on 11 March 2021, the EBU contacted BTRC about the song's ineligibility due to the rule violation and requested that a modified version of the submitted song or a new song be submitted that complies with the contest rules or face disqualification.
On 26 March 2021, the EBU released another statement, saying that the entry that had been submitted to replace the original song, "Pensyu pro zaytsa" (Song About Hares), was also rejected by the EBU on the same grounds that the lyrics would put the contest into disrepute. Because of this, Belarus was disqualified from the 2021 contest.
MRT had chosen to internally carry over their 2020 artist Vasil Garvanilev for 2021 to perform the song "Here I Stand". The video, shot in the country's national art gallery in Skopje, sparked controversy over a piece of art that some believed resembled the Bulgarian flag (another version of the video was re-uploaded to the official ESC YouTube channel with that scene removed). A petition was launched to replace Vasil as the North Macedonian representative and had gained over 10,000 signatures, prompting the North Macedonian head of delegation to release a statement about evaluating aspects of the country's participation in future. Some time later, a counter-petition in support of Vasil was signed by thousands of Eurovision fans around the world.
On 23 March 2021, Vasil announced that he would remain as the 2021 representative for North Macedonia.
All delegations and press were subject to screenings for COVID-19 once every two days. Delegations were instructed to remain at their assigned hotels unless going to the arena for rehearsals and the live shows.
Prior to the opening ceremony, members of the Icelandic and Polish delegations tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in both delegations missing the event. As a precaution, the Romanian and Maltese delegations (who were staying at the same hotel as the other two) were placed in quarantine and also missed the opening ceremony. The latter delegations' tests came back negative, clearing them for the semifinal 1 dress rehearsals.
Kateryna Pavlenko of Go_A felt unwell prior to Ukraine's second rehearsal, which was completed with stand-in singer Emmie van Stijn. Pavlenko was cleared to continue in the competition following a negative test. Van Stijn received high praise for her stand-in performance and was invited by Go_A to sit with them in the green room during the first semifinal as a gesture of thanks.
On 19 May 2021, it was announced that Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson from Daði & Gagnamagnið had tested positive prior to the semifinal 2 dress rehearsal and jury final, resulting in the entire delegation having to go into quarantine. Iceland withdrew from further participation in the live shows as a result, however it was also announced that their song would stay in the competition and footage from their second rehearsal would be used instead of a live performance. The group's hotel room acted as their green room space.
On 20 May, it was announced that Duncan Laurence had also tested positive following the first semifinal, ruling him out of performing live on stage in the grand final. However, he was still able to do his interval act in a pre-recorded performance. Romy Monteiro, who participated with Duncan in the 5th series of The Voice of Holland, took his place as the Dutch vote spokesperson.
At the jury show for the first semifinal, Romania, Ukraine and Malta all experienced issues with their performances, most notably Roxen who sounded off beat during the chorus of her song. The EBU acknowledged that there was an issue with the in-ear monitoring system and all three acts were granted the chance to perform a second time.
Prior to Lesley Roy's performance in the first semifinal, a camera broke causing an extended delay. Chantal Janzen improvised to fill the time while the situation was being rectified.
During the jury final, the rotating platform that Senit and her dancers were performing on was not stopped at the appropriate time, forcing the performers to jump off while the platform was still rotating at high speed which could have potentially caused serious injuries. SMRTV filed a formal complaint to the EBU regarding the incident and even offered to pull the delegation from performing in the live final to protect their safety. Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl offered his apologies to SMRTV and guaranteed the artists and performance would be protected to the highest degree.
Gjon's Tears revealed in an interview with Deban Aderemi of Wiwibloggs after the contest that during his performance in the jury final, part of the frame prop he was performing on started to move, giving him a bit of a scare. It did not affect his performance as the juries saw it due to the effective lighting and camera angles, and in the end Gjon went on to win the grand final jury vote.
Natalia Gordienko accidentally dropped her microphone halfway through her performance in the final. One of her backing dancers helped her retrieve it quickly, allowing her to continue.
Accusations of drug use
It was alleged that Måneskin frontman Damiano David was inhaling some kind of illicit substance in the green room during the final. At the winner's press conference, David replied to a reporter that bandmate Thomas Raggi had broken a glass and he was helping to clean up the mess.
The EBU released a statement on 23 May 2021 confirming that there had been broken glass in the Italian section of the green room during an on-site check. David also told the media during the press conference that he would voluntarily offer himself to a drug test upon the band's return to Italy. Another statement issued by the EBU a day later announced David's test came back negative and the case was officially closed. France, which finished second in the grand final, later stated that they would not appeal for Italy's win to be overturned.
There was no semifinal allocation draw for the 2021 contest. As such, the allocations of the participating countries conducted on 28 January 2020 including the Big Five and the host country remained the same. The Netherlands would retain its start position of #23 in the grand final.
The semifinal running order was finalized on 30 March 2021.
The countdown officially marking 100 days to the Eurovision 2021 final began on 11 February 2021.
|Natalia Gordienko||2006 (with Arsenium and Connect-R)|
|Vincent Bueno||2017 (backing for Nathan Trent)|
|Destiny Chukunyere||JESC 2015 (winner), 2019 (backing for Michela Pace)|
|Stefania||JESC 2016 (member of Kisses)|
|Sanja Vučić (Hurricane)||2016|
|Ksenija Knežević (Hurricane)||2015 (backing for her father)|
|Vasil Garvanilev||2019 (backing for Tamara Todevska)|
Semi Final One
All qualified countries in both semifinals will have a "Q" as their placement until the final results are revealed.
|03||Russia||Manizha||Russkaya zhenshchina||Russian, English||Russian woman||3||225|
|06||North Macedonia||Vasil Garvanilev||Here I Stand||15||23|
|08||Cyprus||Elena Tsagkrinou||El Diablo||The devil||6||170|
|11||Belgium||Hooverphonic||The Wrong Place||English||9||117|
|12||Israel||Eden Alene||Set Me Free||5||192|
|14||Azerbaijan||Samira Efendi||Mata Hari||8||138|
|16||Malta||Destiny Chukunyere||Je Me Casse||English||I'm outta here||1||325|
Semi Final Two
|02||Estonia||Uku Suviste||The Lucky One||--||13||58|
|03||Czech Republic||Benny Cristo||Omaga||15||23|
|06||Poland||Rafał Brzozowski||The Ride||14||35|
|08||Iceland||Daði & Gagnamagnið||10 Years||2||288|
|09||Serbia||Hurricane||Loco Loco||Serbian||Crazy Crazy||8||124|
|12||Portugal||The Black Mamba||Love Is On My Side||English||4||239|
|13||Bulgaria||Victoria||Growing Up is Getting Old||3||250|
|14||Finland||Blind Channel||Dark Side||5||234|
|15||Latvia||Samanta Tīna||The Moon Is Rising||17||14|
|16||Switzerland||Gjon's Tears||Tout l'univers||French||The whole universe||1||291|
|17||Denmark||Fyr & Flamme||Øve os på Hinanden||Danish||Practicing on each other||11||89|
All countries voted. The final took place on 22 May 2021. The Netherlands remained in the position drawn during the Head of Delegation meetings in March 2020.
- Andorra - RTVA confirmed on 14 May 2020 that Andorra would not return for 2021.
- Armenia - Despite confirming their participation, Armenia withdrew from the 2021 contest on 5 March 2021, AMPTV citing the inability to put an entry together on short notice. Ongoing tensions between the country and neighbor Azerbaijan could also be a reason for its withdrawal.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina - BHRT confirmed on 6 October 2020 that Bosnia and Herzegovina would not return for 2021 due to ongoing debts owed to the EBU.
- Hungary - MTV confirmed on 15 October 2020 that Hungary would not return for 2021.
- Liechtenstein - 1FLTV confirmed on 30 July 2020 that Liechtenstein would not debut in 2021.
- Luxembourg - RTL confirmed on 30 July 2020 that Luxembourg would not return for 2021.
- Kazakhstan - The EBU confirmed on 18 August 2020 that there are no plans to invite Kazakhstan to debut in 2021.
- Kosovo - The EBU confirmed on 18 August 2020 that Kosovo will not debut in 2021 as RTK does not meet the criteria for EBU membership. However, RTK aired all three shows.
- Monaco - TMC confirmed that Monaco would not return for 2021.
- Montenegro - RTCG confirmed on 12 October 2020 that Montenegro would not return for 2021.
- Morocco - A possible return for Morocco to the contest has not been discussed by SNRT.
- Slovakia - RTVS confirmed on 11 July 2020 that Slovakia is unlikely to return for 2021.
- Turkey - The Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister has stated that he would like to see Turkey return to the contest.
- Omni Television broadcast the 2021 contest in Canada. The semifinals aired live on TV, with the grand final streamed live via omnitv.ca and aired on TV the following day.
- All shows were broadcast in the United States on NBC's Peacock streaming platform. WJFD-FM carried it on radio with commentary by Ewan Spence and Ross Middleton.
- There were only two songs in the contest performed entirely in French. Both made the top 3, the first time a song in French made it to the podium since 1993.
- The entire top 6 of the final were comprised of songs either fully or partially written by the artist(s) performing it.
- Though Måneskin performed an edited version of their song during the final, they performed the full uncensored version as their winner's reprise.
- With Duncan Laurence unable to pass on the trophy due to testing positive for COVID-19, it was instead displayed on a pedistal at the front of the stage with the four presenters gathered behind it.
- Of the 26 artists that were carried over from 2020, only 3 made the top 5 with Gjon's Tears placing the highest (3rd).