Eurovision Update: The Final 26 + Running Order for Copenhagen, Saturday May 10th 2014

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The two semi-finals have been fought and the 20 countries to make it through to Saturday’s live final to join ‘The Big Five’ plus hosts Denmark, have been decided by the very, very dodgy European electorate.

The fact that Poland and Iceland have made it, is utterly bonkers, but then that’s Eurovision. The most delighted out of the semi-finalists, however, is Ireland, who didn’t make it, which was their dastardly plan all along.

As a revision to the initial preview post, here are the final 26 acts in order of appearance and guess what? The United Kingdom is last to go…

Is that good?Is that bad? Well, in 2010 there was uproar when voting lines for each entry were opened the day before the Grand Final. The reason was obviously to make as much money as possible from votes, the downside being – pretty flipping obviously – that people were voting for whichever country they liked best, without even hearing the song. It wasn’t a Song Contest, it was a What’s Your Favourite Country? Contest.

Thankfully, the idiots responsible for that rule were executed, and we’re now back to something fairer. Voting lines will not open until all acts have performed (allegedly). So, being last won’t be a bad thing, although historically, performing around four from last usually proves fruitful. Still, at least we’re not first, like Engelbert was. Hell, at least we’re not Engelbert.

My own predictions have been slightly altered as well now, following the semi results and the announcement of the running order. Not that I’m taking this seriously at all.

Odds quoted are correct as of Friday 9th May.

1. Ukraine – “Tick Tock” by Maria Yamenchuk

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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. It’s first up, though, which is never good.

Verdict: Eurovision warhorse – 12/1

2. Belarus – “Cheesecake” by Teo

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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.

Thank God this is up second, so there’s enough time for the voters to forget it.

Verdict: Sickly – 80/1

3. Azerbaijan – “Start A Fire” by Dilara Kazimova

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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 – 50/1

4. Iceland – “Enga Fordoma (No Prejudice)” by Pollaponk

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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 – 100/1

5. Norway – “Silent Storm” by Carl Espen

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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 a 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 – 33/1

6. Romania – “Miracle” by Paula Seling & Ovi

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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 – 25/1

7. Armenia – “Not Alone” by Aram MP3

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This was the bookies’ favourite, right up until Thursday night, when Austria swooped in and shook everything up, quite rightly. On Monday, you couldn’t get anything better than 2/1 on this, but now it’s 9/2 and slipping further with each hour that passes. That’s because it’s not very good, and definitely not a patch on Austria.

I’m not sure why everyone’s going gaga over this. 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 – 9/2

8. Montenegro – “Moj Svijet” by Sergej Cetkovic

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Relative newcomers to Eurovision, Montenegro first appeared in the 2007 semi-finals, but this is the first time they’ve made it to the final proper, and I’m so pleased they have. This song is quite rousing and it does grow on you, and the use of traditional Montenegran instruments is really quite beautiful, almost Celtic, even if I have no idea what Mr Cetkovic is actually singing. With little Eurovision pedigree, I doubt many will vote for this, but it’s a giant step up on the Eurovision ladder for Montenegro and, if they keep churning out charm like this, then long may that continue.

Verdict: Just enjoy it – 150/1

9. Poland – “My Slowianie” by Donatan & Cleo

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Well Eurovision wouldn’t be Eurovision without some national costumes going on, and that’s Poland’s role this year. I prayed and prayed to the Gods of Eurovision that this song would not make it through the semis, but they obviously had more important things to do, like make sure Iceland got a slot, too. But it’s not just the clothes that are dated in this entry, 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: You could add a zero to the 100/1 odds.

10. Greece – “Rise Up” by Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd

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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! – 20/1

11. Austria – “Rise Like A Phoenix” by Conchita Wurst

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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 had this at 20/1 on Monday, just in case it didn’t get past the semi. But now it has, it’s the favourite, at 5/2, so hopefully some of you took notice at the beginning of the week and might make a few quid come 11pm on Saturday.

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. After romping through the semi final, it should be the former. 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 – 9/2 fav

12. Germany – “Is it Right?” by Elaiza

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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 – 100/1

13. Sweden – “Undo” by Sanna Nielsen

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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.

Drawn slap bang in the perfect middle of the show, 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, and one of my favourites, but it won’t be for much longer if it doesn’t GO AWAY.

Verdict: Manna from Eurovision heaven – 11/4 second fav

14. France – “Moustache” by Twin Twin

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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! – 150/1

15. Russia – “Shine” by The Tolmachevy Sisters

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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. Many predicted they wouldn’t even make the final, but they have, so there’s a chance they may do better than originally thought, but the bookies don’t fancy it at all, and think even Denmark has a better chance than this, which is just criminal.

Verdict: Strong song, rubbish timing – 100/1

16. Italy – “La Mia Citta” by Emma Marrone

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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 – 66/1

17. Slovenia – “Round and Round” by Tinkara Kovac

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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 didn’t fancy this to even get past the semis, but it did so, just like Montenegro, I’d love to see this do well, because it deserves to. It’s got a flute!

Verdict: Flute-tastic – 150/1

18. Finland – “Something Better” by Softengine

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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 – 66/1

19. Spain – “Dancing in the Rain” by Ruth Lorenzo

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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 because the odds have lengthened to an incredible 40/1.

Verdict: Power and presence, this could be a shock success – 40/1

20. Switzerland – “Hunter of Stars” by Sebalter

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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 – 66/1

21.  Hungary – “Running” by Andras Kallay-Saunders

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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. But it’s a good late draw for them, so it might stick around in people’s heads long enough to sway them.

Verdict: A quality song from a beautiful voice – 14/1

22. Malta – “Coming Home” by Firelight

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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 – 40/1

23. Denmark – “Cliche Love Song” by Basim

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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 they’re drawn fourth from last. On Monday, this was third favourite to win, but then they fired the person in charge of Eurovision odds, who was clearly insane, and now it’s back to being an also-ran.

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 – 25/1

24. Netherlands – “Calm After The Storm” by The Common Linnets

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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. But because I know nothing, the bookies have decided to put this as third favourite…..

Verdict: Look, but don’t touch – 7/2

25. San Marino – “Maybe” by Valentina Monetta

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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. This one has broken the duck, and only because Pope Francis issued a Papal Edict from his summer holiday home, demanding that Europe’s Catholics pick up their phones and vote. It doesn’t matter, because this won’t do anything, 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 – 200/1

26. United Kingdom – “Children of the Universe” by Molly Smitten-Downes

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There’s been no Song For Europe competition this year, 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.

By the time Molly comes around to perform, the contenders for Can’t-Get-You-Out-Of-My-Head Eurovision tune thus far will be between Hungary, Sweden and, of course, Austria. But here we are, last, and not only do we have a great draw, but the four songs before us are much slower and/or crap (Denmark), so it’s the perfect time to end the show with a rousing anthem, guaranteed to stay in everyone’s Hum Box and force them towards a telephone. Odds have lengthened from 10/1 at the beginning of the week, but do an each way, because this could well get Top 4.

Verdict: A great draw, and good enough to win, but will Europe vote for us? – 12/1

Top 5 Predictions for Saturday 10th May – FINAL

What I think will happen

1. Austria

2. Sweden

3. Norway

4. United Kingdom

5. Netherlands

What I’d like to happen

1. Austria

2. United Kingdom

3. Sweden

4. Spain

5. Norway

—————-

Enjoy!

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