Eurovision: 7 secrets to being a hit at Europe's favorite song contest

Story highlights

  • Ballads and big hair, Europop and patriotism: Eurovision Song Contest celebrates its 60th anniversary this year
  • Don glitter hotpants? Get a Swede to pen your song? CNN takes a look at what it takes to win Europe's favorite song contest

London (CNN)It may be the brashest, brassiest, hardest partying 60-year-old anyone knows.

Europe's beloved song contest, Eurovision was first broadcast in 1956 and it has been sharing its unique blend of ballads and big hair, politics, patriotism and Europop every year since.
    That makes it one of the longest-running TV shows in the world -- and with estimated annual audiences of 180 million according to broadcaster the European Broadcasting Union, arguably one of the best loved.
    If you have been living off-planet and don't know Eurovision, just imagine American Idol backcombed its hair, put on some silver spandex and flung open its doors to entrants from half the world.
    Recent contestants have included a troupe of tuneless Russian grannies and some chesty Polish milkmaids who provocatively churned their way into the imaginations of a generation of middle-aged men.
    Winners have included Lordi, a Finnish metal band dressed as Orcs and, last year, a glamorous bearded lady from Austria.
    It's weird. It's wacky. It's definitely camp. And it has awesome soft power. Up-and-coming nations on the periphery of Europe scramble to host the show to raise their profile on the world stage.
    As Eurovision celebrates a very significant birthday what does it take to win at Europe's favorite song contest?

    1. It's not that much of a big deal if you aren't European

    Azerbaijan hosted in capital city Baku in 2012. Israel has won it three times. And this year Australia will be competing.
    This oddity is down to the fact that members of the European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision's host broadcaster, can all enter if they want to. Members come from 56 countries including some that are probably a surprise like Egypt and Lebanon.
    This still doesn't explain Australia, which Eurovision says is a one-off in honor of the Aussie's love of the camp glitterfest.

    2. But, if you can, be Irish

    Jedward of Ireland performs during the Eurovision in Concert event, in the Melkweg in Amsterdam, on April 21, 2012.
    The small country nestled next to Britain is the most successful Eurovision country ever -- it's won the competition seven times.