The epic annual campfest known as the Eurovision Song Contest is set to spread its pageant of artistic excellence and international rivalry to new and distant shores this year. For the first time since its 1956 debut, fans across the world will be able to take in the pinnacle of European pop culture in real time, thanks to a global livestream on Eurovision’s official YouTube channel.
The expansion comes just in time to mark the 60th anniversary of the contest, which, its organizers note, is the most watched non-sporting event in the world, with recent audiences reaching between 100 million and 600 million. In the U.S., the contest may be best known for launching the careers of Celine Dion and ABBA.
Eurovision found a considerable boost in interest outside the 52 participating countries last year with the victory of Austria’s Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen who dedicated the night to “everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.”
Wurst even caught the attention of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who praised the performer’s message of tolerance and diversity. “She is an incredible singer and entertainer,” he said. “But what made her win so meaningful was the way she turned her victory in the Song Contest into an electrifying moment of human rights education.”
The 2015 Eurovision Semifinal, held in Vienna, begins on Tuesday, May 19th at 4 p.m. EST, and the competition reaches its conclusion at the same hour on Saturday, May 23rd. Catch up on the action with this playlist of the year’s semi-finalists, including Moldova’s pan pipe-accented banger “I Want Your Love” and Armenia’s potentially genocide-referencing “Face the Shadow.”
Celine Dion – Eurovision 1988
ABBA – Eurovision 1974