It’s that time of year again. You say you hate it, but you know you secretly love it. For me, it’s essential viewing, and I have almost total recall not just when it comes to Eurovision winners down the years, but also the ones that didn’t win. Even now, I can sing you Sakis Rouvas’ “Shake It” from 2004, almost word for word.
Eurovision usually throws up a plethora of scantily clad blondes shaking their booty while screeching out unfathomable techno dance tracks with reliably high crescendos. But, this year, many countries have turned all that on its head and have realised, after a million years, that it’s women who cast the majority of votes, so on Saturday we’re going to be treated to many, many more attractive young men, who actually all look the same – dark haired, stubble-sporting, leather clad Adonises….shaking their booty to unfathomable techno dance tracks with reliably high crescendos.
Except the United Kingdom, of course. Which is ironic, because if there was anyone you’d put your mortgage on to deliver a fantastically over the top, 80s rock anthem of a crescendo, it would be Bonnie Tyler………who’s doing a ballad. It’s all so wrong, on every level. Bonnie knows she’s got no hope, but it’s a chance to revive her career and earn enough for the latest round of facelifts, so good luck to her.
You all know how this works – three hours of pop dirges, with the occasional novelty song thrown in to please the Superfans (like me). The quality of the song is largely irrelevant, as the winner is usually decided by the current political status of the various countries taking part. Half of Europe votes to avoid war, and the other half votes to try and start one. Last year, however, the power-hungry Eastern bloc, who have ruled Eurovision with an iron rod nearly as fearsome as the Iron Curtain they used to inhabit, were shell-shocked when non-conformist Sweden came along and nabbed the trophy – and another winning tactic was identified.
This was a tactic so terrifyingly simple, yet completely missed by the myriad Eurovision rules, and nobody saw it coming. Their plan was this – release the song three months before Eurovision, so that most of Europe has already heard it by the time the contest comes around. Familiarity breeds laziness, and the millions of sheep who do actually vote in this competition, didn’t have to waste valuable time paying attention to any of the other songs, when they could just go for the one they already had on their iPods. Cunning. Because Eurovision isn’t corrupt enough. So, this year, households up and down the cosmos will be tuning in and murmuring “ooh, I think I’ve heard this one before….” Yeah, because you probably have.
Obviously, the voting system has to be as unfair as possible, in every way, and the organisers still don’t seem to have a problem with allowing the voting lines to open from the moment the first act sings. Therefore, you can vote for countries who haven’t even performed yet, which begs the question “why bother having songs?”. Why not just vote for the country you like best, because they do nice sausages, or have pretty scenery? I’ve scoured the Eurovision rules for an explanation as to why voting lines open at the beginning of the show, not the end, but it’s something they evidently don’t want to talk about. Why don’t they just say “we make pots more money that way” and be done with it?
So, if you’re still reading this, a) well done and b) who should you be looking out for?
If, like me, you still live in cloud cuckoo land and believe it should be a real song competition, then here is my expert opinion on each of the acts – in their running order (crucial), most of which will already have millions of votes cast in their favour, before they’ve even been on stage.
Just click on the title to have a listen. You know you want to!
France – Amandine Bourgeois – “L’enfer Et Moi”
From a sultry start, this Courtney Love lookey-likey then turns in some painful hair-shaking, and a lot of pouting and stroking of the microphone, but the French language is for making love to, not whining at an audience. The song’s crap and there’s no tactical voting required because nobody likes France. Plus, they’re on first so everybody’s forgotten it by 8.30pm.
Deano Says: No chance – 50/1
Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – “Something”
The first beefcake of the night, he’s nice enough to look at, but the song’s weak and doesn’t really go anywhere. It’ll get lots of votes from Estonia and Russia, so it’ll probably make the Top 15 without having to try.
Deano Says: Forgettable – 33/1
Moldova – Aliona Moon – “O Mie”
The singing statue, this girl doesn’t move at all during the song, and relies on her beauty and trilling voice to carry her through 90% of the performance, until the very end when she suddenly grows ten feet and her dress starts to catch fire. Or something. It’s an OK song, with lots of challenging note changes, but she’s going to need more than a growing dress to win those all-important votes.
Deano Says: Wrong gimmick – 25/1
Finland – Krista Siegfrids – “Marry Me”
Truly awful, they’re playing the kitsch factor with this one and it should never have made it through the semis. Her outfit is horrific, her make-up’s even worse, and the whole thing isn’t even crap enough for Eurovision, it’s way beyond that. Oh, and she kisses a girl at the end. Wow, that’ll shock people. Hopefully, it’ll sink without trace.
Deano Says: Desperate – 100/1
Spain – ESDM – “Contigo Hasta El Final”
Bagpipes – yes, you read that right – herald the start of this song, which promises much but delivers little. It’s a banal, uninspiring, middle of the road pop song, which can’t be saved despite the enthusiastic guitar playing in the background from someone who looks quite handsome. And because Spain don’t have any neighbours who like them, this could be the first nul points of the night.
Deano Says: Hasta la vista, baby – 125/1
Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – “Love Kills”
Playing the moody card, Belgium have roped in Joaquin Phoenix to try and deliver the female vote, as he tries to concentrate on singing while being distracted by two sultry dancers who keep sticking their arms out of his back. It’s got quite a catchy chorus, and the lyrics are cleverly beamed upon the screen at the back, to try and plant it in your subconscious (a tactic used by quite a few acts – particularly Malta), but it’s perhaps not strong enough to compete with the more poppy, housey tunes that will follow him later.
Deano Says: It’s good, but it’s not right – 25/1
Estonia – Birgit – “Et Uus Saaks Alguse”
The first real contender, this has got all the right ingredients – gorgeous girl, good voice, wind machine…It’s a strong ballad that has key changes in all the right places, although the dress needs a bit of attention – she looks like a tent. If she’d show a bit of leg, then that’s worth the extra votes that Lithuania, Finland and Russia are just dying to give to this.
Deano Says: Strong filly – 8/1
Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – “Solayoh”
Pretty blonde – check; skimpy sparkly dress – check; Ruslana-esque drum beat – check; repetitive one word chorus – check; gay dancers either side of her – check. Could do well, but a bit samey to really grab people.
Deano Says: Mid-table mediocrity – 20/1
Malta – Gianluca – “Tomorrow”
Malta have obviously got sick of putting in big ladies belting out power ballads and only coming second, so they’ve gone totally the other way this year. I love this. It’s about a guy called Jeremy who works in an IT department in an office, lusting after the girl of his dreams. The bloke who sings this is so cute, you want to put him in your pocket and show him to all your friends. He smiles all the way through this simple little ditty and it’s impossible to dislike him, no matter how much you want to. He’s like a mini-Roberto Martinez, and you just want to find him a new home. This will do well, and so it should.
Deano Says: A good outside bet for a place – 8/1
Russia – Dina Garipova – “What If”
The Russians are Eurovision experts now, and they’ve gone and ‘done a Sweden’ with this one, because it’s already been out there for ages and is a favourite in most of Eastern Europe. It’s starts off slow and ballady, but you just know it’s going to blast out at some point, and the killer key change two and a half minutes in could mean the difference between winning and losing. The singer’s a bit frumpy, which is a shame, because stick her in a silver micro dress and she’d walk it.
Deano Says: Crowd pleaser – 4/1
Germany – Cascada – “Glorious”
Like Russia, Germany have tried to emulate Sweden, not just in releasing the song before the contest, but also by copying it in its entirety. Simply substitute “Euphoria” for “Glorious”, and you’ve got last year’s winner……and maybe this year’s too. Cascada had a huge club hit in 2009 with “Evacuate The Dancefloor”, and this Eurovision entry is already on their “Best Of…” album. A blatant “let’s cheat our way to the trophy” tactic, so don’t be surprised if it happens.
Deano Says: The Eurovision equivalent of putting towels on the sunbeds – 10/1
Armenia – Dorians – “Lonely Planet“
Long hair and stubble alert. Going for the female texters (and a few males, probably), Armenia are throwing in their best denim-clad boy band to try and get the rock vote, but it’s all a bit too X Factor USA for my liking. Will do well by its neighbours, but few others.
Deano Says: Denim-tastic – 25/1
Netherlands – Anouk – “Birds”
Anouk is a huge star in the Netherlands, more known for her Euro rock than ballads like this one, which she wrote years ago. It’s the first time the country has won through the semis, so expect the Dutch to carry on their Ascension parties with Eurovision mania on Saturday. It’s nice enough, but needs a kick to get going. Might be a sleeper, though, and she’s stunning to look at, in case that’s a factor for people.
Deano Says: Too tame for the purists – 18/1
Romania – Cezar – “It’s My Life”
More stubble, more intensity, more absurdity. Hold onto your alcopops, because Cezar will try and woo you through the camera with his falsetto antics. Close your eyes and it’s Monserrat Caballe singing at an Olympic opening ceremony. Open them again, and it’s Rupert Everett on speed. Bizarre doesn’t even cover it. Could get votes for its sheer bonkers-ness. “It’s My Life”?, Yeah, well I don’t know anyone else who would want it, love. Surreal has won before, though – remember Lordi?
Deano Says: It’s either nul points, or a runaway winner – 25,000/1
United Kingdom – Bonnie Tyler – “Believe In Me”
We do believe in you, Bonnie, if you were singing “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” or, better still, “Holding Out For A Hero”. But you’re not. You’re singing this safe little number which starts off OK, but promises a rousing bit of belting out Bonnie-ness in the second half, which just never comes. It’s like hearing Meat Loaf revving up a Vespa, when you know he belongs on a Harley. You’re robbing us, Bonnie, and we’re not happy.
Deano Says: Distinctly average – 40/1
Sweden – Robin Stjernberg – “You”
Metrosexual alert, they’ve gone overboard on the hair gel a bit with this fella, but it’s a nice Euro pop song and I reckon this will get votes, at least enough to scare the Swedes into thinking they might have to host it again. This could be Top 10, but the bizarre, completely unattractive dancers in the background totally ruin it. Which might be the plan.
Deano Says: Could do well – 10/1
Hungary – ByeAlex – “Kedvesem”
Nice enough bloke, deathly dull song. Another one that should never have made it through the semis, he looks like an art student who likes to talk about philosophy until the early hours, only ever drinks espresso, and is probably a vegan too. He’s going for the intellectual vote, which means no votes at all. Can’t decide if he’s David Beckham or Benny from Crossroads.
Deano Says: A potential nul points – 125/1
Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – “Only Teardrops”
This one’s got “Winner” written all over it. Begin with a cute flute intro, get the wind machine going as the pretty little ingenue singer lounges about on the floor for a bit, then bring the drummers out to get the crowd going. Rinse and repeat for another verse, then let rip in the final minute with falling fire, bigger drums and the same chorus line over and over.
Deano Says: Eyes-closed top three – 3/1
Iceland – Eythor Ingi – “Eg a Lif”
Looking at him, you’d expect this to be a hard rock number in the vein of Whitesnake or Skid Row, not a winsome ballad even Michael Bubble wouldn’t go near. The guy looks like Rick Wakeman after he’s crashed into a Timotei truck, who’d look horribly out of date even in 1986, but somehow this rubbish song also made it through the semis. It’s a nothing tune which, even in Icelandic, must send dogs and babies to sleep in seconds.
Deano Says: Zzzzzzz 100/1
Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – “Hold Me”
The 2011 winners are still three trillion manats in the red after hosting last year’s competition, but that hasn’t put them off wanting to displace another two thousand Baku apartment owners, so they can build an even bigger stadium to stage next year’s contest. Farid is a handsome bloke who sings this tortured ballad with that painful, almost constipated expression that will have women swooning in their droves. When they won two years ago with a love song sung by two people who would never, ever date each other in the real world, the Azerbaijan Eurovision Gurus decided they had a winning formula. Whilst Farid sings solo, he is nevertheless accompanied halfway through the song by a dancer who’s evidently old enough to be his mother – but that’s how they like it over there, and Farid doesn’t seem to mind.
Deano Says: Book your flights to Baku now – 3/1
Greece – Koza Mostra – “Alcohol Is Free”
The fact that this load of old bollocks got past the brilliant San Marino and Israeli entries, is an absolute travesty. It’s like watching really bad entertainment in the Greek restaurant at the end of the road. The hip young waiters mixing it up with the silver-whiskered chefs, singing a weird song about alcohol being free, while proving just how much of it they’ve had to drink. It’s terrible, even for Eurovision, and I’m pretty sure the Greeks are just as astounded as anyone else that they even qualified. None of them were banking on having to stay another two nights in Malmo, which has only added to the national debt, so if these guys even show up at all, it’ll be a miracle.
Deano Says: They should start paying – 250/1
Ukraine – Zlata Ognevich – “Gravity”
Zlata is carried onto the stage by Shrek in a kilt, for no reason whatsoever, and she then proceeds to croon her way through this pop standard while standing on some moonrock, gazing into the camera and wailing. The critics love this one, but I’ve no idea why. She just screams, basically. It’s rubbish, so it might win.
Deano Says: If it wins, there’s no hope – 5/1
Italy – Marco Mengoni – “L’essenziale”
I’ve missed Italy when they haven’t been in Eurovision. In 1997, they threw a strop about something and refused to compete for the next 14 years. Only when the Eurovision Royal Family made them one of the ‘Big Five’ countries, and thus didn’t have to go through qualifying (along with the UK, Spain, France and Germany), did they agree to come back, in 2011. As a result, Turkey threw their own strop, unhappy at the Italians being given a free pass after so long away, and the Turks haven’t been seen since. The competition needs the kind of arrogance only the Italians can provide, so please give a warm welcome to Marco, a typically swarthy, stubbly, greasily gorgeous Eye-tie, who sings this ballad like the trophy’s already on its way to the Pope’s bedside table in The Vatican. Song’s OK, but not great.
Deano Says: Three short of the whole four seasons – 25/1
Norway – Margeret Berger – “I Feed You My Love”
When I saw this in the semi, my cousin turned to me and said “no way, this isn’t going anywhere”. Which of course meant that it sailed through to the final and is now one of the favourites to win. Ms Berger has a look of Gillian Anderson about her, and she knows exactly how to work the camera during this Euro-classic. Terrible dress, I mean really, really horrible, but she’s blonde, she’s pretty, she can sing, and the song’s got the required techno beats that’ll make it huge in the clubs over the summer. I predict this to win, even over Denmark, because it’s got the end-of-the-draw advantage.
Deano Says: Get yer wallets out – 2/1
Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani – “Waterfall”
Georgia are trying to copy Azerbaijan’s victorious 2011 campaign by doing the duet thing with two people who obviously don’t fancy each other. It’s a very good song, and probably my favourite, with crowd pleasing key changes and rising power balladry, and they’re very pretty people, even with zero chemistry. It could do well because it’s the penultimate song, and I really, really like it, but it’s sandwiched between Norway’s piece of totty and Ireland’s beefcake-fest, so it doesn’t look good for the Georgians.
Deano Says: Probably won’t do as well as it deserves to – 12/1
Ireland – Ryan Dolan – “Only Love Survives”
Jedward are gone, get over it. In their place, we have more tattoos than four episodes of “Sons of Anarchy”, and enough testosterone to set off a hydrogen bomb. Bare-chested drummers, a sly bit of riverdancing right at the start, and lots and lots of leather kecks, just everywhere. Ryan’s pretty enough, in a cute boyband kinda way, but his voice isn’t really strong enough and it’s all a bit twee. If Ireland had been drawn earlier in the show, this would drop without trace, but being last on is always worth 100,000 votes, and the mums will love him.
Deano Says: Trying too hard – 20/1
So, as last year – I have two lots of predictions:
The Deserving Top 5
1. Georgia, 2. Malta, 3. Azerbaijan, 4. Norway, 5. Denmark
What Will Actually Happen
1. Norway, 2. Denmark, 3. Russia, 4. Azerbaijan, 5. Ukraine
I’ll be in – appropriately enough – Waterloo, enjoying a Eurovision party with various continental nibbles, foreign beers, and telly-shouting, so if anyone does take my tips seriously, and you win some dosh on the contest, do let me know, because I’m on 10%.