Dust off those plastic Union Jacks and revise the numbers 1-12 in French until you’re saying douze points in your sleep. Yep, it’s Eurovision time, and this year there’s a real shock in store. It’s something that no-one was prepared for and, speaking personally, I’m still shivering since finding out. If you’re not sitting down, then you need to, right now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because this year…..WE HAVE A GOOD SONG!
Yes, the whole of Le Royaume-uni might have to don the crampons and woolly hats and get ready for a nosebleed as we prepare to scale the dizzy heights of the Eurovision scoreboard for the first time since, well, the last time. We’re back to our Bucks Fizz best, and the only things which might screw us over, are the high quality of the competition (I’m really not joking), and the ‘fix factor’ of the running order, which used to be decided by a random draw, but which is now decided by the show’s producers. Hmmm….
Remember, only the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain are guaranteed a place in Saturday’s final, because they
waste contribute the most money to staging it. Hosts Denmark also qualify by right. Everybody else has to qualify via the two semi-finals on Tuesday 6th and Thursday 8th May, both on BBC Three @ 8pm.
UK voters can only vote in Semi Final 2.
So if you fancy a bet, here are the potential runners and riders for Saturday night’s final, followed by two Top 5 predictions – what should do well, and what will do well. Just so you know, I did an Eric Morecambe last year, getting the correct Top 5 countries, just not in the right order…
* All odds quoted are pre-semi final. Odds for successful acts will be significantly shorter for Saturday’s final.
The title says it all, really, and I don’t even think they’re being ironic. This is an extremely annoying plinky plonky number which was obviously written in 10 minutes, and is performed by a Bruno Mars wannabe who can’t dance, can’t sing and isn’t even nice to look at. Denmark threw this into the pot in the hope that they never have to host the contest again, but their ruse might backfire as, quite unbelievably, the bookies have this as the third favourite, and that’s a travesty. It’s not even bad in a Eurovision-good kind of way. It’s just bad in a shit-song kind of way. Fellow Scandinavians will vote for this, but hopefully the feelgood factor won’t cross any other borders.
Verdict: Banal and useless – 1/10
Unusually for us, there’s been little fanfare in the media about our entry for Eurovision this year, but I think I know why. It’s so we don’t jinx what could be a sleeper success. There’s been no Song For Europe competition, no bringing boy bands and Welsh warblers back from the dead, just to kill them all over again in front of 170 million people. This time, the UK Eurovision People In Charge have sensibly decided to self-select our entry from a secret field of decent songwriters and performers, instead of leaving the decision to the bonkers British public. The result, is a radio-friendly pop/rock anthem with a chorus of backing singers which is so Eurovision-perfect, Sweden nearly nicked it for themselves.
Not only does it include two Eurovision prerequisite words in the title – children and universe – it also boasts a masterful ‘Power to the People!” chant that should at least give us the votes of 46 million Ukrainians. It also has karmic ‘ooohs‘ a-plenty in the chorus, which places it sky high on the Scale of Hummability, and Ms Smitten-Downes, despite the ridiculously long name, has a powerful live voice, and good stage presence. The crowning glory, however, will be the wall of raining fire on the stage when she performs. Stage fire has featured in at least 40 Eurovision winners, so that’s got to be a good sign. The running order will be crucial, but if you fancy a homegrown Top 5 finish, at least, then this is worth a cheeky tenner. At long blinking last!!
Verdict: Good enough to win, but Europe won’t vote for us – 8/10
I love Italy in Eurovision. They’re temperamental, passionate and barking mad, as proved by the 27 times they’ve petulantly withdrawn from the competition for no apparent reason. They’re the Jose Mourinho of Eurovision, and only agreed to come back to the contest in 2011, after being assured that they wouldn’t have to lower themselves and qualify via one of the semi-finals, but would instead be added to the ‘Big Four’ (the four main financial contributors: UK, Germany, Spain and France), and qualify automatically. Yep, they’re a stroppy bunch, the Eye-ties. This year, they’re sending a pocket rocket called Emma Marrone, who’s going to rock it out with a soundfest screamed entirely in Italian. I’ve no idea what she’s singing/screaming, but you can’t deny the energy/amphetamines going on, and it should get the crowd going. The bookies don’t fancy it, but it passes the time and, if you’re as drunk as I’m going to be by the time it comes on, it might be easier to follow.
Verdict: Italian Euro-rock at its best – 6/10
Another of what is now The Big Five, Germany are guaranteed entry every year, but they don’t always take it. Sometimes they like to have a rest, but this year they’re giving Eurovision another whirl. They last won in 2010 with the bouncy Lena’s “Satellite”, but I think they’re still in debt from having to host the 2011 event, and they don’t want to do it again any time soon. The song’s called “Is It Right?” and I’m happy to answer “No, It Isn’t”. The smiley singer is stuck in 1985, and the song’s too bland and samey to even stand a chance against the unstoppable Swedes or magnificent Austria. So it’s a big ‘nein’ to the German effort, which is about the same amount of points they’re going to get for this.
Verdict: Sour Krauts – 3/10
Just like Germany, the French have no intention of winning Eurovision either this year, or any year in the near future. In fact, they’re guilty of the worst Eurovision abuse I’ve seen in years, and that includes Dustin the Turkey from 2008. The French being the French, they just don’t care, shoving two fingers up at the cuddly Eurovision community with a song so bad, not even David Hasselhoff would record it if asked. The ‘band’, for wont of a better word, are a bunch of nursery rhyme idiots kidnapped from a Timmy Mallett show, who should all have been guillotined at birth. Nobody minds cheesy Eurovision, but this is a crime of ‘Mon Dieu’ proportions.
Verdict: Sacre bleu! – minus 3/10
You’ve seen her before, haven’t you? Yeah, she was an X Factor finalist once, one of Simon’s favourites. Now she’s back, about to prove that the show was wrong to let her go. This is a simple, but powerful song, relying entirely on Lorenzo’s vocal and presence. If she doesn’t crack under the pressure – and with her history, this should be a walk in the park – then this could do really, really well. She’s got to hit those high notes, and the vocal has to be flawless. If she manages both, then this is absolutely the song to put a sneaky tenner on an each way, especially with odds of around 29/1.
Verdict: Power and presence, this could be a shock success – 8.5/10
Semi-Final 1 – Tuesday 6th May
This is the bookies’ favourite, and you won’t get anything better than 2/1, but I’m not sure why everyone’s going gaga over it. It’s an OK ballad/sermon on domestic abuse (a recurrent theme in this year’s contest) which goes later into weird dubstep, but it doesn’t half take its time to get going, and Eurovision voters aren’t known for their patience. Also, it’s a bit sparse on the arl’ lyrics. By the time the “umph” moment arrives, the only words Mr MP3 can manage are “you’re not alone”, over and over and over and over. Eurovision purists won’t have a problem with that, but modern Eurovision requires much, much more. It’ll probably get Top 5, but only because the bookies are forcing it that way.
Verdict: Disjointed and too repetitive, even for Eurovision – 5/10
Mark Twain once said that “the only two certainties in life are death and taxes”, but he obviously forgot to add “and Sweden doing well at Eurovision”. Yet again, our favourite nation of beautiful people has come up trumps with an infectious, viral number that you’ll be humming in the shower for minutes to come. Everything on the Eurovision menu is ticked here; pretty singer, solo piano background leading into orchestral majesty, and short, memorable melodies. There’s even a key change in there somewhere, so they really have thought of everything.They’re unstoppable, as usual. This song is a very strong contender and has ‘kerching’ written all over it. But it’s been in my head since last Thursday and will not go away, and now all I want to do is sleep. Guaranteed Top 3 finish, should win. One of my favourites, but it won’t be for much longer if it doesn’t GO AWAY.
Verdict: Manna from Eurovision heaven – 10/10
It’s a difficult time in Ukraine right now, what with the toppling of governments, oppression of the common man, and Mr Putin doing his best to encourage peace and diplomacy by sending in his tanks and armies to crush anybody mad enough to object to his despotism. But if you were being really cynical, you might argue that the Ukrainian revolution has come at the perfect time to win the Eurovision Song Contest, because if there’s one thing guaranteed to bag that trophy, it’s being in the middle of a war with Russia. If we’re talking about the song, then it’s pretty decent, using a minxy little brunette to warble lyrics like “tick tick, don’t stop, kiss me kiss me till I drop”, but it’s not good enough on its own, to win. Song-plus-Sympathy, however, and that’s why the odds have been slashed.
Verdict: Eurovision warhorse – 7/10
Magyars aren’t known for their prowess in Eurovision; their best showing ever was a 4th place in their first attempt, in 1994. This year, however, they might have to start saving up the forints because this tune from a Louis Smith lookalike could surprise a few people. It’s another song about abuse (see Armenia), but it’s very good, is catchy, sung in English by the half-American Kallay-Saunders, and it kind of sticks in your head, which is mandatory if it’s to have any chance at all. I think this will score highly, the only thing counting against it being Hungary’s anonymity in the competition thus far.
Verdict: A quality song from a beautiful voice – 8/10
Oh, hello, is it ballad time already? There are no bells or whistles with this, it’s a solo female voice and a piano, and it’s all very pretty and a worthy song, but Eurovision it ain’t. It will score highly, probably Top 10, but with so many dance/pop tunes in the field this year, the risky ‘ballad gamble’ is not going to pay off. Even if the beautiful Ms Kazimova bags the whole male vote of Europe, it won’t be enough, mainly because the people who do vote are women, who won’t like her.
Verdict: More rom-com soundtrack than Eurovision – 7/10
Axel is a kind of Belgian Paul Potts, bless him. Big bloke, big voice, big song, but it’s a little bit creepy, to be perfectly honest with you. As the title suggests, it’s a song about his mother, or anyone’s mother, but I’m guessing it’s his. Look at him when he performs, this song is personal, too personal. He’s got the Eurovision crescendo thing going on – the big finish is everything – but the middle-aged dancer and Hirsoux’s too-passionate performance just feels very, very wrong. As soon as you finish watching this, you’ll feel like you need a shower.
Verdict: Too Norman Bates, even for Belgium – 2/10
No, this isn’t TaTu, but real sisters with no fake incest going on either. Russia traditionally do well in Eurovision, with several recent seconds and thirds, and a win in 2008. This year’s entry is a rousing pop song which, in usual circumstances, would definitely be a contender for the top spot. But the situation in Ukraine will inevitably see a lot of protest voting and these cutesy sisters are going to bear the brunt. It’s a good song, it really is, but politics is just too strong for even the mighty Russia to overcome this time.
Verdict: Strong song, rubbish timing – 7/10
The 2001 winners have gone off the boil in recent years, and this entry isn’t going to do anything to change their fortunes. It’s a nearly-song, with average vocals and nothing to make it stay in your head, which is a crime against Eurovision. Weak, half-hearted and a bit of a waste of time, really. Tanja seems nice enough, but she performs like she knows she’s drawn the short straw.
Verdict: Amazing? Liar! – 2/10
Last year, the Netherlands had one of their strongest songs ever in the brilliant “Birds” by Anouk, a fitting return after a 9-year absence. Unfortunately, this year’s effort looks like sending them back to Eurovision oblivion. It’s a folksy, middle of the road number by a very attractive duo comprising successful Dutch country singer, Ilsa de Lange and former Holland’s Got Talent (really) finalist, Waylon. No, he doesn’t have a surname, which is his ‘thing’, apparently, but he’s easy on the eye, so that’s OK. Unfortunately, Eurovision isn’t yet a modelling contest, so on song alone, this effort belongs at the MTV Country Music Awards, and nowhere near the Copenhagen stage. The voters will agree with me.
Verdict: Look, but don’t touch – 5/10
“Don’t be proud, no please don’t bother, just come on and ask your mother, how to bake, how to bake, bake that cake.”
Nothing else to say, really.
Verdict: Guilty as charged – 1/10
Relative newcomers to Eurovision, Montenegro first appeared in the 2007 semi-finals, but have yet to make a final. I really hope they manage it this year, because this song is quite rousing and it does grow on you. There’s a Celtic influence and it’s really quite beautiful, even if I have no idea what Mr Cetkovic is actually singing about. It’s going to take a big leap of faith for semi-final voters to send Montenegro to the final proper, but please, please, I hope it happens, because the song deserves it.
Verdict: A rank outsider to even make the final, but if it does, it could do well – 7/10
With three Top 12 finishes since 2011, the Moldovans aren’t bad at this Eurovision malarkey. This is a typically rousing rock ballad but it doesn’t really deliver anything special or different. It might just scrape out of the semis, but even if it does, it’s not going to grab any meaningful votes from the wider voting public, not when it’s up against the monster trucks of Sweden, Austria and, yes, the UK.
Verdict: If it makes the final, it’ll settle for mid-table safety – 6/10
I don’t even know where to start with this one, but I know where to end, and that’s about five seconds in. Even in Eurovision’s 1970s heyday, this would have horrified adult viewers and scared most children. Aside from the primary colour suits flooding the stage, and very frightening beardage going on, it’s just a…well…I don’t know what the hell it is, that’s the problem. The only thing I can say with any certainty, is that it’s the only Eurovision entry in 58 years that has managed to get the word “trigonometry” into the lyrics. That’s how scary Iceland is right now. The song’s called “No Prejudice”, but it’s impossible not to be prejudiced against such utter, utter shite.
Verdict: Bad enough to start another Cold War – minus 10/10
Albania came 5th two years ago. No, really, they did. They’ve only been in the Eurovision arena since 2004, but they’re giving it a good shot. This is a pretty good song, which really grows on you, but you need at least two listens; a luxury semi final voters don’t have, so whether it makes it to the final, is doubtful, but it does deserve to. It’s a piano-backed gentle orchestra number and even though it’s sung in Albanian, the emotion of the song really does come through. There’s even, dare I say it, a touch of Kate Bush about it, especially in the final third, so it should go through simply on that.
Verdict: Very decent song from a charismatic singer – 7/10
Just like their football team, San Marino are usually on a hiding to nothing at Eurovision. They’ve only been in it four times, and never made it past the semis. I don’t think this one will break the duck, either, mainly because the lovely Valentina, here, just can’t sing very well. It doesn’t help either, that San Marino insist on picking Valentina to represent them every single year. It’s like Chelsea buying a Fernando Torres in each January transfer window and never realising that he’s shit.
Verdict: Another spanking for the pretend-Italians – 1/10
The Portuguese entry is a bouncy, samba-ish number which is old school Eurovision, and it shows. They’ve stolen some Gloria Estefan beats along the way and there’s a very strange man on stage banging a drum, but it’s just OK which, in modern Eurovision terms (the same as ‘the modern game’ in footballing terms), is simply nowhere near good enough. Even the samba bits can’t rescue it, and poor Suzy seems to be struggling to get into it. She has a Stepford smile and eyes like a frightened rabbit. She just doesn’t want to be there, poor thing, but I think Tuesday’s voters will quickly end her pain.
Verdict: The rabbit needs putting down – 1/10
Semi Final 2 – Thursday 8th May
Now we’re talking. Now, it’s getting very, very interesting. Yes, it’s a man in drag, and that’s so 1998. OK, so Israel’s Dana International was, technically, transgender, but still, if it’s shock value Austria are going for, then they’re 16 years too late. But once you’re past the “oh it’s a bloke in a dress” thing (you’ll be surprised how quickly you do get past it) what you have is a bloody good song, almost James Bond-esque with its lofty orchestrals and key changes, and Wurst has an incredible voice and a magnetic stage presence.
The real irony here, is that people are going to be so preoccupied with looking at this bearded Shirley Bassey, they’re not going to pay any attention to the song, which is brilliant. The bookies have this at 20/1, and that’s mean. I really think – and hope – that this will get Top 3 at least. It’s superb, from a vocal and quality point of view. But the viewers will either vote in droves, or be too scared to go there. It’s in semi-final 2, which means the UK can vote on it. I think we will. Watch this, watch it again, then watch it some more, it’s fabulous, and the more I hear it, the more I know it deserves to win. Will it? Won’t it? You know what, I think it just might…
Verdict: Eurovision show-stopper, but Sweden’s entry is more voter-friendly – 9.5/10
One of Eurovision’s most successful countries, you never quite know what Ireland are going to give you. From the highs of Dana and Johnny Logan to the depraved depths of singing turkeys and Jedward, the Emerald Isle is a true anomaly. This year, they’re giving us a pop standard which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Even the few Celtic violin strains they’ve chucked into the background can’t save this from being a middle of the road, average attempt at Eurovision bonhomie. The Irish are clearly still skint from ten straight years of having to host the damn thing, and they’re absolutely determined not to win it ever again, so this should see them through another barren year.
Verdict: Not even Michael Flatley could resuscitate this one – 3/10
After the horror that was Krista’s “Marry Me” last year, Finland have stopped the nonsense and gone back to the tried and tested rock approach that won them the contest in 2006 with Lordi’s “Rock Hallelujah”. OK, so it’s not as camp and over-the-top as the monster rockers, but it’s a good effort. The band are a bunch of teenagers, so this is their biggest gig to date, but if they can hold it together, they might make a Top 10 finish. They’re billed as “The Finnish Bon Jovi” but that’s a blatant lie. They’re more One Direction with fish and, for any grounded teens watching, there are votes to be had, but the majority of the Eurovision demographic will be a bit ‘meh’ about this.
Verdict: Cute and talented, but it’s the wrong competition for them – 6/10
Last year, Malta entered a quirky, impossible-to-dislike song by Gianluca called “Tomorrow”, which had everyone smiling but was never going to win. Those cheeky Maltesers have done the same thing this year, with a song that has the ‘aah’ factor and will appeal to anyone who truly believes that world peace and an end to war can actually happen. The sound is a cross between Deacon Blue and Mumford & Sons (stay with me) and it’s a foot-tapping tune you’d expect to hear in a smoky folk-rock club somewhere in Dublin. I like it, but it’s not very Eurovision and the voters just aren’t ready to accept proper music yet, it’s not their market or in their comfort zone. Just like last year, Malta are banking on a swing in voting habits, but it’s not going to happen, which is a shame.
Verdict: Right song, wrong market – 7/10
As regular readers will know, I like Greece in Eurovision, especially when Sakis Rouvas is singing. He’s not there this year, booooo, instead we have the stupidly-named Freaky Fortune, which probably sounds hip in Greece, which is where they should have stayed. They’re Athens’ version of NKOTB or Backstreet Boys, but they’re 20 years late, and not as good. Actually, they’re pretty crap all round. It’s a tame attempt to grab the youth vote but the problem is that the youths it may have appealed to once, are now in their fifties.
Verdict: Bring back Sakis! – 2/10
This is the annual synth-pop entry, which usually comes from somewhere Scandinavian, but Romania grabbed the only slot available. It’s the same duo who had a go last year, and the song is OK, but a bit formulaic and relies too much on the electronica going on during the chorus. Distinctly middle of the road, even with the bonkers multi-key change long note in the middle, which might kill Ms Seling if she doesn’t get her breathing right.
Verdict: Will be a ‘miracle’ if it does anything – 3/10
Norway used to be masters of the nul points, in fact they reveled in it and they hold two unenviable records – the country with most nul points and most last places, both of which the UK have been trying their hardest to match for some time. But around 1995, the Norway Eurovision People In Charge decided to stop fannying about, and take things seriously. This led to the orchestral triumph of Secret Garden’s “Nocturne” in that year, and Alexander Ryback’s popular “Fairytale” in 2009. This year, they’ve decided to mix things up even further and it’s put me all in a dither.
Carl Espen looks like an extra from Sons of Anarchy who’s popped into the bar for a quick pint of snakebite before heading back up Route 66. Tattooed arms, Metallica beard and silver earrings, you’re expecting him to start roaring a Meat Loaf tribute or screaming thrash guitar number. Instead, a piano starts playing and Espen opens his mouth from which emits an almost operatic voice which quivers with fragility. It turns out the song is a haunting paean to depression and angst, and I can’t decide if I like it or not, nor do I have a clue how well it will do. It’s either going to add to their nul points tally, or it’s going to blast to the top of the scoreboard with a million points. I have absolutely no idea at all about this one.
Verdict: Stroke of genius or dead dodo, you decide – 6/10
No, Israel isn’t in Europe, in fact nobody knows where the hell it is, technically, but don’t let that detract from your Eurovision enjoyment. This song is a gravel-voiced opus from a wild-eyed, slightly scary songstrel who at least sings some of it in her native tongue. Apart from a good backbeat, it’s pretty forgettable, and nobody’s going to vote for Israel until they start behaving themselves. In the official video, Ms Finegold brandishes a sword a lot, and shouts about “skinning you out”, whatever that means, and another lyric is “I’m going to have to clean up your mess…”. Gosh, Israel, you don’t mind stirring it up, do you….?
Verdict: Something more peaceful might have been an idea – 2/10
Well Eurovision wouldn’t be Eurovision without some national costumes going on, and that’s Poland’s role this year. But it’s not just the clothes that are dated, it’s the song, too. It’s very 1988, with girls attempting to rap and shout over the music, and it’s just a mess, from start to finish. Multi-colours, 80s make-up, crap choreography, it’s like watching Bananarama on speed. Horrible, in every sense.
Verdict: Guilty – 0/10
If Roger Whittaker was 25 and Swiss, this is the kind of stuff he’d be doing. It’s a whistle-fest of jolly, bouncy, banjo strumming fluffliness. There’s nothing offensive about it, it’s just ‘nice’. Having said that, Eurovision has a penchant for violins, especially when they get their own solo in the final third. Remember Alexander Ryback’s “Fairytale” a few years back? Well he won the damn thing thanks to his trusty string. This entry doesn’t compare, and if the singer’s lips dry up due to nerves, then his whistling’s completely buggered anyway.
Verdict: Swiss cheese – 5/10
This is Slovenia’s strongest entry in the few years they’ve been participating, and they’ve obviously been doing their Eurovision homework. They start off with a solo flute, which is always going to get votes, and then we go into a catchy, well-crafted pop song which is hard not to tap along to. The bookies don’t fancy this to even get past the semis, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t, there are at least five worse songs than this one. Maybe the Slovene lyrics might put some people off (most countries sing all in English now), but come on, it’s got a flute!
Verdict: Flute-tastic – 7/10
Possibly the best ever title for a Eurovision song, “Cheesecake” does exactly what it promises. It’s terrible, but it gets away with it because it narrowly squeezes itself into the “Eurovision Terrible” box and not the “Just Terrible” one. Teo can’t sing, he can’t dance, and he definitely can’t write songs. For example: “You showed me dance, but I’m no Patrick Swayze, you’re not Jennifer Grey…” and “I look over all the maps trying to escape, ’cause I’m tired of being your sweet cheesecake.” Hmmmmm.
If he makes the final, good for him, because he’s everything Eurovision should be about – crap but harmless. But that’s not going to happen.
Verdict: Sickly – 2/10
This song’s not bad at all, but the problem lies with Tijana herself. She looks completely out of her comfort zone and she needs more stage help because on her own she looks lost, like the last pissed person dancing next to the DJ at the end of a wedding. For the semi, the whole performance will need a massive overhaul if she’s to do the song justice. Some raining fire, that’s what she needs. Otherwise, she’s not making it as far as Saturday.
Verdict: Must try harder – 3/10
If, like me, you love a bit of Georgian folk/pop fusion, then this should be right up your street. Unfortunately, they’re just taking the piss. There’s some nice twanging going on at the beginning, but that’s kind of where it ends. Once they get warbling, it’s actually painful. I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but every singer is woefully out of tune. They’re a funny bunch; a wild redhead, a bloke on a stool brushing a single drum, and two blokes in berets strumming their guitars. The beat is all over the place, the song doesn’t know what it even is, and cats the world over will be screaming outside your window before this ‘tune’ is even halfway through. This is going to get nul points, even in the semi.
Verdict: Cuckoo in the nest – 0/10
According to the bookies, this is even worse than Georgia. It’s not, but it’s close. It has a few good riffs going on, but the poor girl can’t sing a note and has zero stage presence. She bounds around the stage like an excited Andrex puppy, but apart from the oft-repeated chant “Attention!”, there’s nothing else here to capture even the most sympathetic Eurovision voter.
Verdict: Outside even the rank outsiders – 2/10
Top 5 Predictions for Saturday 10th May – FINAL
What I think will happen
What I’d like to happen
3. United Kingdom