Eurovision 2015 drinking game: Emerging trends to watch

Those accustomed to drawing up Eurovision Bingo cards or rules for a themed drinking game (beverage of choice, alcohol optional) each year before watching the biggest song contest in the world are aware that there are recurring themes. Certain essential highlights of every screening will have you crossing off squares and chugging shots in no time.

Glitter and sequins, smoke and wind machines, violins and fireworks, costume reveals and acrobats, winks to the camera and key changes are all oldies but goodies, but new trends emerge every year. Now that we know which acts have made it to the final, find out what you need to add to your watch list:

The cults of Eurovision
The ESC is often referred to as a cult event. Some of this year’s contestants are taking that flippant term literally. Armenian supergroup Genealogy take to the stage in a formation strongly resembling a Wiccan circle. Six (coincidence?) high priests and priestesses of the sombre ballad in purple cloaks and suits look ready to embark on the most fashionable occult ritual ever televised.
Bojana Stamenov’s backing singers (for Serbia) look a lot like benevolent Klan members auditioning for Phantom of the Opera… until the big costume reveal.
(Non-qualifier) Mélanie René of Switzerland looked like she had an army of synchronised fembots marching to her drum – until she, too, changed the story with an effective reveal.

Number of appearances in final: 2
What does it mean? These acts don’t just want your votes, they want your soul…

In related sartorial news: Hooded cloaks are part and parcel of the cult leader look, but truncated versions of that same garment read superhero or pop royalty. Flowing capes have been on display (attached to a terrible onesie) on semifinal eliminees Trijntje Oosterhuis (Netherlands) and Leonor Andrade (Portugal), as well as on finalist Elhaida Dani (Albania). Rehearsals indicate there will be some very dramatic cape action in the performance of Spanish favourite Edurne. We salute these brave performers for looking danger in the eye, despite Madonna’s recent calamitous cape tripping incident.

Number of appearances in final: 2
What does it mean? Pop community conquers cape phobia.

You do you, girl
Perennial favourites world peace, love and harmony are all over the song contest lyrics (as they should be), but in a post-Conchita universe, it’s important to note how great it is to be you, especially if you’re not the same as everyone else. Belgium’s Loïc Nottet has described his highly rated “Rhythm Inside” as a “song about being different,” while Bojana Stamenov has built her highly effective pop diva persona around the message of her song “Beauty Never Lies” (“Finally I can say: yes, I’m diff’rent, and it’s okay!”) You know it’s a popular message when even Russia’s Polina Gagarina pipes up (doubtlessly to redeem her country after last year’s display of national intolerance): “We are the world’s people. Different yet we’re the same.” This year’s much-publicised participation of contestants with a disabilty was on-message for Poland’s Monika Kuszyńska (wheelchair bound after a car accident), but not enough to secure Finland’s Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (and the band’s members affected by with developmental disabilities) a place in the final.

Number of appearances in final: 3
What does it mean? Well, it worked for Conchita…

Air guitars? So 2014!
Granted, this is a one-off, but striking enough to be counted as directional. Violins are ten-a-penny every year, but this is the first recorded appearance (or rather non-appearance) of an air violin at Eurovision. Slovenia’s Maraaya have achieved a fusion of two Eurovision standards (interpretive dance, string instruments) to create an entirely new stage gimmick.

Number of appearances in final: 1
What does it mean?No matter how tired the cliché, someone will find a way to revive it.

Tree of the Year
Vienna has provided this year’s contestants with a spectacular stage with an LED backdrop on which they could let their imaginations roam free. They have chosen to populate it with… trees. Lots of trees. From Armenia’s purple oak, Hungary’s growing sapling, Poland’s cherry branches and Azerbaijan’s dead forest on a moonlit night (all qualified), to Switzerland’s enchanted thicket and Ireland’s gently swaying branches (both not qualified), that’s a lot of heavily symbolic foliage for one continent. Semi-final eliminee Macedonia (Daniel Kajmakoski’s “Autumn Leaves”) technically had no trees, but where else did those falling leaves fall from?

Number of appearances in final:4
What does it mean? All those trees will come in handy as firewood for the fires in our hearts Eurovision lyrics want to light.

Black is back
Faux bridal gowns are a long-standing Eurovision tradition and there are plenty of white dresses on display (Russia, Slovenia, Norway and Poland, to name but a few). This year, however, the exact opposite is uncharacteristically popular. Estonia, Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Cyprus and the Czech Republic are taking to the stage in that coolest of Monochromes: head to toe black. Many more are in black and white. In the final, Germany’s pre-qualified contestant Ann Sophie is sure to do her song title “Black Smoke” justice with an all-black outfit.

Number of appearances in final: 6
What does it mean? Austerity sucks. Also: goth chic.

Eurovision does Elsa
Granted, Disney-esque ballads are hardly a brand-new trend, but hot on the heels of mega-hit “Let it Go,” quite a few entrants seem keen on emulating the Frozen ballad’s success. Armenia’s “Face the Shadow” sounds like something straight off the soundtrack of Brave, San Marino’s “Chain of Lights” would do any Disney romance proud, and Iceland’s “Unbroken” didn’t even try to disguise its inspiration (lyrics: “I‘m letting go. Go”). In bare feet and a sparkly dress, María Ólafs even looked like a Disney princess. Unfortunately, that didn’t secure her a place in the final. In fact, only one Disney contender (Armenia) has made it through.

Number of appearances in final: 1
What does it mean? Eurovision stars want lip-synced parent-child renditions of their songs to go viral, too.

Other stories I have written about Eurovision 2015:
Eurovision Song Contest Guide to Vienna
Eurovision 2015: Vienna embraces its glorious pointlessness
2015 trend destination hot list (Vienna is 10/54)