Czech entry to perform second in Eurovision final

In its fifth try the Czech Republic reaches the final round of the pop song contest

The Czech Republic has its best shot ever at winning the Eurovision Song Contest. The 61st edition of internationally televised pop music competition will be held May 14 in Stockholm, and a Czech singer has at last made it to the final round after the country failed to get past the semifinals on four previous attempts. Andorra is now the only eligible country to have never made it to the finals.

The show will be broadcast in the Czech Republic by Czech Television 1 (ČT1) at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. It will also be streamed live on Youtube.

Gabriela Gunčíková
qualified for the finals on May 10 with the song “I Stand.” The second round of semifinals was held May 12, and the lineup for the big finale is now complete.

Gunčíková has been put put in a difficult position. The producers have placed her performance second out of the 26 acts, so people people tuning in late after hearing about the show on social media will miss it.

Belgium will kick off the show, and the final act will be Armenia. Some big countries including Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland failed to qualify this year. Romania was disqualified for nonpayment of debts, and Portugal voluntarily withdrew.

Gunčíková was runner-up on the second season of Česko Slovenská SuperStar, the local version of Pop Idol. She also won the New Artist award at the 2011 Czech Nightingale Awards (Český slavík). In 2014 and '15 she toured with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which is actually a US-based progressive rock band.

Countries participating in Eurovision can chose acts either by jury or by a popular vote. Czech Television, as the station that will locally broadcast the show, picked Gunčíková by expert jury, with no public input.

“I Stand” was written in English by Aidan O'Connor and Sara Biglert, with music by Biglert and Christian Schneider The song was released March 11 as a video and March 12 as a digital download. In the sad love song, the singer laments her past mistakes but finds strength from the support of an unnamed person who helps her to remain standing.

The official video was directed by Uroš Trefalt and features Gunčíková on a building surrounded by water and later in a field covered by flowers.

Eurovision rules require the songs to be original, but the performer does not have to write it. Songs also cannot be overtly political in nature.

The Czech Republic first participated in Eurovision in 2007, with Kabát singing “Malá dáma.” They scored one point in the semifinals, coming in last and failing to make it to the finals. In 2008 singer Tereza Kerndlová did better with “Have Some Fun,” scoring nine points, but this was only good enough to be second from last.

In the third attempt, Romani band scored no points, one of 16 times since 1975 when a new voting system was introduced that a band did so poorly. The performance featured lead singer Radoslav Banga dressed in a caped costume as Super Gypsy.

The Czech Republic dropped out after that and did not participate again until 2015 when Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta sang the heavily produced ballad “Hope Never Dies,” scoring 33 points, good enough for 13th place out of 18 in the semifinal, but still not making it into the final round.

The winner of the final is determined based on viewer's telephone votes mixed with national jury votes.

New voting rules take effect this year, changing how the viewer and jury votes are tallied. Viewers cannot vote for their own country of residence.

Another novelty this year is that pop star Justin Timberlake will sing his hit “Can't Stop the Feeling” out of competition during the interval. Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Shellback co-wrote and co-produced the song together with Timberlake.

Non-European country Australia will also be competing this year, after having been a special guest last year. 

The show this year is being broadcast from Sweden because Måns Zelmerlöw won last year with his song “Heroes.” This is Sweden's third time hosting the program. The first was in 1975, following a win by ABBA with “Waterloo” and the second was in 2000, after Charlotte Perrelli won with “Hero.”

ABBA remains the most success act to ever win the contest, and “Waterloo” in 2005 was named the best song ever to come from the contest.

The Eurovison contest began in 1956 in an effort to bring unity to Europe through friendly competition, similar to sporting events like the Olympics. The theme for 2016 is Come Together.

Eurovision Song Contest

Video on YouTube

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