Benny Cristo. photographer: Benedikt Renč

Czech pop star Benny Cristo headed to Eurovision 2020

A mixed popular and jury vote will send Benny Cristo and his song “Kemama” to Rotterdam for the 65th Eurovision Song Contest

Benny Cristo will represent the Czech Republic in the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 with his song “Kemama.” He beat out six other Czech entries in a mix of popular voting and a jury decision, and will now perform in Rotterdam in the second semi-final round on May 14. If he beats the competition, he will then go to May 16 final. Both events will be broadcast on Czech Television.

Cristo — who recently shortened his last name from Cristovao — received 12 points from the public and 10 from the jury, for 22 points. Elis Mraz & Čis T with “Wanna Be Like” came second and Barbora Mochowa was third with “White & Black Holes.”

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People both in the Czech Republic and abroad could vote using an app. There were close to 35,000 individual votes, almost 10,000 more than last year. The seven competing videos together were viewed more than 1.5 million times

“We are pleased with the growing interest in this competition, which is confirmed by the fans who have voted 10,000 more this year than last year,” Czech Television’s Eurovision delegation head Cyril Hirsch said.

“I firmly believe that we will build on the successes of the past years, and the Czech Republic will make it to the Eurovision Song Contest [finals] for the third time in a row,” Hirsch said.

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The international jury consisted of 10 previous Eurovision Song Contest participants from between 2015 and ’19, from both Europe and Australia. The public votes from outside the Czech Republic counted as an additional jury vote.

While the Czech popular vote heavily favored Cristo, the jury gave a slight edge to Barbora Mochowa, and the foreign voting went to We All Poop with their song “All the Blood.”

Some 41 countries will participate in the 65th edition of the song contest. Bulgaria and Ukraine will return after their absences from last year’s contest, while Hungary and Montenegro have dropped out. Last year’s winner, the Netherlands, is guaranteed a spot in the finals, as are the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK.

The Czech Republic will perform second in the second semi-final round, right after Vincent Bueno from Austria. The round has 18 participants, while the first round has 17.

Each round will send 10 acts to the final, and that together with the six guaranteed spots makes for 26 competitors. The winner is picked by public and jury voting. People cannot vote for their own country.

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Cristo has been active on the Czech music scene for a decade, and has 783,000 followers on Instagram. His song “Bomby” has 24 million views on YouTube. In September 2019 he performed at Prague’s O2 Arena to an almost capacity crowd that saw him fly across the arena in a balloon. He is also a professional jiu-jitsu competitor.

“I realized my song had something to say, and it would be great if a broader spectrum of people heard it. I like being able to let Eurovision show people beyond the borders of my own country what I do and what I enjoy,” he said when his entry was announced. His Afro-pop song “Kemama” is about facing obstacles.

The Czech Republic first participated in Eurovision in 2007, with Kabát singing “Malá dáma.” They scored one point in the semifinals, coming in last. 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 2009, Romani band Gipsy.cz scored no points, one of two times under the rules in effect between 1975 and 2015 when a band did that poorly in the semifinals.

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The Czech Republic did not participate again until 2015 when Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta scored 33 points, but still failed to make the final round.

In 2016, the Czech Republic finally made it to the finals with Gabriela Gunčíková performing “I Stand.” The song came in 25th out of the 26 finalists. Martina Bárta in the 2017 was not so lucky, and stumbled in the semis.

Mikolas Josef had the country’s best showing ever in 2018 with “Lie to Me” coming in sixth place in the finals. The next year, Lake Malawi came in 11th in the finals with “Friend of a Friend.”

The Eurovision Song Contest is organized by members of the European Broadcasting Union. It is the most watched non-sporting event in the world. It was first held in 1956 and is one of the longest-running shows in television history.

ABBA remains the most successful act to ever win the contest, and “Waterloo” in 2005 was named the best song ever to come from the contest. Karel Gott participated in 1968, representing Austria, but he did not win.

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