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Good Playlist: Eurovision 2024! ▶️

You know you want to sing and dance along.

- May 10, 2024
Eurovision 2024 takes place this week in Malmö, Sweden.
Eurovision 2021 stage in Rotterdam (cc) Sietske.

On Saturday, May 11, 2024, voters across Europe – and farther afield – will select the 67th Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) winner. The annual celebration of songwriting highlights the quirky diversity of European countries. Music and messaging simultaneously unify and divide Europeans as they evaluate each country’s selection and over-the-top stage productions.

Although nominally apolitical, as discussed in our Good to Know explainer, Eurovision is seldom far from politics and controversy. Our first playlist highlights the more political songs, while the second simply bops. Additionally, we provide two formats since many (most) songs need to be seen to be fully appreciated, particularly if this is your first interaction with Eurovision. 

Join in the fun on May 11 

Have I convinced you to join me in viewing the show live? Need a Eurovision bingo card to play along? The United States doesn’t participate in Eurovision, but (for a fee) U.S. fans can join the “rest of the world” voting bloc. U.S. viewers have some streaming options to watch the finals, along with an estimated 160 million or so people worldwide.

Need to dip your toes in before committing? Consider this loving parody of the perfect Eurovision song “Love Love Peace Peace” by presenters Måns Zelmerlöw (a former winner) and Petra Mede (this year’s host), performed during the vote count at the 2016 contest in Stockholm. 

Yes, there’s drama – and politics

Purportedly, the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 as a way to unite postwar Europe via the new medium of television. The first Eurovision song was “De Vogels Van Holland, a paean to the beauty of Holland. Despite, or perhaps because of, the peacebuilding nature of Eurovision, war is a frequent theme – and not always in the lighthearted manner of ABBA’s win with “Waterloo (Eurovision 1974). 

Portugal’s 1974 entry, the ballad “E Depois do Adeus” by Paulo de Carvalho, included no references to war. Still, it served as one of the signals for the start of a military coup that ended Portugal’s 50-year fascist dictatorship.

In 2016, two years after Russia annexed Crimea, Ukraine’s winning submission “1944” referenced Stalin’s deportation and ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tartars. Russia protested the song’s inclusion at the time and then, last year, placed its singer Jamala on a wanted list

More recently, Kalush Orchestra wrote Ukraine’s winning 2022 entry, “Stefania,” as an ode to the difficulties of motherhood. In the context of Russia’s invasion, the song took on a broader, nationally unifying message during the war. After their Eurovision win, Kalush Orchestra auctioned the trophy itself and the lead singer’s pink bucket hat to raise money for Ukrainian troops

In 2023, Croatia’s Let 3 protest song “Mama ŠČ!” managed to sneak criticism of both Vladimir Putin and his ally, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, past the censors via indirect allusions, including multiple references to the tractor Lukashenko had gifted Putin. In 2009, Stephane & 3G’s song “We don’t wanna put in” used a similar tactic but ultimately was disqualified and Georgia’s broadcaster declined to replace them. 

Who will be next to push the limit? 

Eurovision has also served as a platform for political speech spanning gender identity to environmentalism, sometimes in unexpectedly off-color ways that just skirt the censors’ attention (see, for example, “Eat your greens” by Citi Zēni for Latvia in 2022). 

This year’s entry from Spain, “Zorra” has already generated controversy. Critics say including this song obscures a long history of feminist songs, including “Toy,” a response to the #MeToo movement in 2018; “Russian Women” (2021); and “My Sister’s Crown” (2023). 

Eurovision also provided a voice to LGBTQ+ concerns, perhaps most notably with Israel’s 1998 entry “Diva.” The song’s victory brought international visibility to singer Dana who spoke candidly about religion and her experience as a transsexual woman. Subsequent songs throughout the contest have highlighted marriage equality (“Marry me”), queer acceptance (“Rise like a Phoenix”), and the downsides of gender stereotypes (“Boys do cry”), often with significant backlash.

For scholars of international political economy, Eurovision has something for you, too, especially in the years after the 2008 financial crisis. Lithuania’s 2010 entry, “Eastern European Funk,” protested Lithuania’s second-tier status in the European Union. And Greece’s rollicking, folk-inspired 2013 entry, “Alcohol is Free,” criticized the government’s response to the Greek debt crisis. This year, Croatia’s entry “Rim Tim Tagi Dim” by Baby Lasagna tackles the issue of economic emigration from the perspective of a country where 50% of young people express interest in moving abroad to work.

Political Eurovision songs

About or in response to war:
Social activism
Economic concerns

Just for fun Eurovision playlists

The songs on the next two playlists are important for Eurovision fans. Some are just songs that bop – or stand out as fun oddballs (as determined by my research assistants). This started as a “don’t miss” list, but really, you shouldn’t miss any of them. Enjoy!

Best to watch:
Best to listen to:

Do you have a good playlist with a political science theme? Want someone to make one? Know someone who has one? Send us your suggestions using this form! Please note that we will review all proposals but not all will be published.

Alexandra Guisinger is a Good Authority contributor. Ari Anafi and Simon Nickerson provided research assistance for this article.