Make a synth-heavy mash-up of "American Idol" and the Olympics, and the result would look something like Eurovision. Across the Atlantic, the annual continent-wide singing competition is a Super Bowl-sized television event, with high camp, spandex and a Ke$ha-like flair for the dramatic.
You can hate reality singing competitions and still fall in love with Eurovision. Not only are the contestants performing original songs, but the competition between them isn't just about musical talent -- it's about European politics, as our London correspondent Anthony Faiola explains:
Though viewers can technically vote for any country but their own, a flurry of scholarly studies from Oxford to Brussels has shown the call-in vote to be a reflection of the region’s body politic and ethnic ties. As sure as sunset on the Aegean Sea, Greece will vote for Cyprus, and vice versa. Have no fear, Belarus, Russia’s got your back. But while Britain has a fair-weather friend in Ireland, some here argue that this nation — in Eurovision, as with so many other things in Europe — is simply the odd man out.
Plus, there's the chance for spectacular internet lulz when poorly-translated pop songs and performers with more talent than taste make it onto the show. You can watch some of the contestants below, or see the finale live at a Saturday afternoon watch party at the House of Sweden, the homeland of the defending champion. For $15, you get a drink ticket and a spot in front of the only screen to show the finale in HD outside of Europe.
Not all of the videos below have made it to the finals (and with good reason), but you should definitely watch them anyway.
Romania: Meet falsetto Bon Jovi! Also: Of course Romania chose a Eurovision contestant who looks just like a vampire.
Ukraine: Help this poor woman, she's stuck in a Lisa Frank trapper-keeper and can't escape.
Iceland: TL;DR: Sad fisherman-turned-Lego-man attempts suicide by drowning, but a crayon drawing in his pocket helps him survive.
Finland: "Where is my proposal?" demands this woman, who makes the women of "Bridezillas" look like really nice, reasonable ladies.
Slovenia: Good news, everyone: dubstep has made it to Slovenia.
Montenegro: A little bit Skrillex, a little bit "Breaking Bad," a little bit "Fight Club," a little bit Venetian Carnival.
Ireland: It's Irish Taio Cruz!
Lithuania: Those eyebrows. Stop it.