(CNN) -- At first glance the Eurovision Song Contest may seem like any old talent show. Singers perform live on TV, the public and special juries vote, and at the end of the night a star is born.
But don't call this "X Factor" or "American Idol". This is reality TV on steroids.
Every year around 40 nations from Spain to Azerbaijan field a musical act, each singing an original song in front of a huge television audience.
As part of the European festival of kitsch, some contestants sashay across the stage in barely-there dresses, and shriek into wind machines with the force of hurricanes. Pyrotechnics, fire, and massive LED screens are de rigeur.
It's a big draw. In 2013 more than 180 million viewers in 45 countries tuned in to the action. This year's final takes place on May 10 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Although officials describe Eurovision as a non-political event meant to unite Europe through song, politics inevitably colors the voting and the performances.
This year is no different. Tensions over Crimea are already coloring the perception of acts from Russia and Ukraine.
During the semi-finals on May 6, some of the audience inside Copenhagen's B&W Hallerne booed the Russian act, a pair of 17-year-old twins called The Tolmachevy Sisters.
"Months of frustration over Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and Putin's anti-LGBT laws have left Europeans angry," Adams says. "The booing was a release, a statement of solidarity with Ukraine and Russia's sexual minorities."
It doesn't help that Russia's love song features lyrics that some see as hinting at a border incursion: "...living on the edge, closer to the crime, cross the line, one step at a time...maybe there's a day you'll be mine."
In the past, Russia has relied on support from voters in the former Soviet bloc. Those votes seem less certain this year.