This year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and controversial in recent years.
With appearances from Madonna and previous winners, and debate over the decision to host the event in Israel, fans should expect the unexpected when festivities begin on Tuesday May 14.
Here is everything you need to know about the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
– Who is representing the UK?
The United Kingdom’s pick this year is 21-year-old Michael Rice from Hartlepool, County Durham, and winner of the BBC One sing-along show All Together Now in 2018.
Before that he tried his luck on the 11th series of The X Factor in 2014, auditioning with Whitney Houston’s I Look To You but only making it to the bootcamp stage.
He is 50-1 to guide the UK to a shock win.
– What is he singing?
Rice triumphed over five other vocalists on the televised contest Eurovision: You Decide with the song Bigger Than Us.
The track was penned by Laurell Barker, Anna-Khara Folin, Jonas Thander and Swedish star John Lundvik, who is representing his country at this year’s contest.
– Who is touted to win?
Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands is on course to win his country its first Eurovision title since 1975.
According to Coral, the 25-year-old remains favourite to take the title at the contest with his anthemic ballad Arcade.
He is currently at odds of 2/1 to win having been the favourite since his song debuted in March.
This means Amsterdam could host the contest in 2020.
– Who else is expected to perform at the event?
The Queen of Pop is reportedly set to sing two songs during the finale on Saturday May 18, including a classic track and a new single, possibly Medellin, her collaboration with Colombian singer Maluma.
Her performance has not come without controversy after international groups called for her to boycott the event.
– Why have some artists called for a boycott?
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, electronic music pioneer Brian Eno and movie directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are among celebrities who have urged a boycott of Eurovision, alongside some Palestinian artists and activists from the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons and music manager Scooter Braun, the man behind Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, have signed an open letter from the non-profit organization Creative Community for Peace condemning the boycott.
It claims the move is “subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.”
– Why is Ukraine not competing?
Ukraine pulled out amid rising tensions over its chosen performer’s ties with Russia.
Singer Anna Korsun, 27, who performs under the name Maruv, won the national finals to be Ukraine’s entry.
Several politicians then argued she should not be allowed to represent Ukraine because she often performs in Russia.
Her tours in Russia have become a toxic issue because of the tug-of-war between the two neighbours following Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
– Why is the competition being held in Tel Aviv?
Where the contest happens depends on which country triumphed the previous year.
Israel’s Netta Barzilai claimed the top spot in 2018 with the catchy pop song Toy, a Me Too anthem, which featured bizarre chicken noises.
The acts will therefore perform inside the Expo Tel Aviv, which can hold as many as 7,000 fans.
– Why is Israel even in the contest?
Non-European countries are far more common than one might expect.
Israel made its Eurovision debut in 1973. It became eligible after becoming part of the European Broadcasting Union, which is behind the event.
The rule also allows countries like Azerbaijan, who hosted in 2012, and Georgia to compete.