‘Excitement’ doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel at this time of year. The week before Eurovision usually passes in a haze of previewing, looping my favourite songs and making playlists for me to march to, and that’s even before the magical day is upon us. Suffice to say, we’re all in for another delicious songfest and I’d even go so far as to say that the field is even stronger than last year, which was especially heroic.
People think I jest when I bang on about my love for Eurovision, but it’s a genuine, reciprocal relationship with something that’s never going to leave me, never answers back, always stays the night and consumes every fibre of my being for months afterwards when I still can’t get the ruddy songs out of my head. If asked, I can still sing “Rise Like A Phoenix”, “Calm After The Storm” and “Shine”, word-perfect, from last year’s competition. Seriously, I can.
So let’s get on with it, and get your betting fingers ready, because I mean it when I say that you could make some serious cash if you play it right…
In full confirmed, not-at-all-fixed running order:
The blurb says, quite helpfully, “Maraaya are Marjetka and Raay. The name is a combination of their names.” Phew, thanks for that, you know how stupid us Eurovisioners are! Anyway, to the song, it’s quite infectious, but you’d need ten listens to get there (yes, I’ve listened to all of them ten times, except for Italy, which I’ve listened to 43 times). Sadly, you have to hook this audience the first time around, which it will fail to do. Also, Marjetka can’t sing, which is always a bummer.
Needs a bit of a rev – 6.5/10
France have always hated being in Eurovision but they’re financially committed as one of The Big Five, so every year they try and enter the worst song imaginable so they can just get the damn thing over with and go back to being rude to the rest of the continent. “Don’t Forget” isn’t bad, to be fair, and ticks quite a lot of boxes in the ‘Eurovision Cliches List’, like power ballad and songs about hope, peace and solidarity. But because the French also refuse to ever sing in English, they won’t pick up as many votes as they perhaps could, because nobody will know what Ms Angell is actually singing about. She won’t be wearing a skimpy dress, either, so they can forget about getting any votes from the Eastern Bloc, which is where all the power lies.
Now before anyone gets started, Israel have a very established Eurovision pedigree, despite being as European as Australia. They’ve won three times, the last in 1998 with the stupendous Dana International. But their pedigree – and their (very average) song – is irrelevant, because nobody is going to vote for this country until they sort themselves out and stop killing and displacing people for no reason. Politically, they’re this year’s Russia. Oh, and the chorus ends with “Before I leave, let me show you Tel Aviv…” Woah…. stop right there, boyo.
No Hallelujahs this year, or any year in the near future – 1/10
Stig Rasta is, apparently, “Estonia’s hottest songwriter”, so ignore this at your peril. I’m being serious. Stig stumbled across Elina on YouTube and was “charmed by her musicality” (so that’s what they’re calling it now…) Anyway, this song is one of the best, in my opinion, telling a he-said/she-said story in an annoyingly catchy way. I’m not sure it’s good enough to win, because Sweden and Italy are just so strong this year, and it’s also up quite early, but Estonia have had some very solid placings, including a win in 2001 and two sixths, so they have a fanbase and is a good bet for a Top 5, even a Top 3 place. It’s just that the people who will like this are not necessarily the same people watching Eurovision, unfortunately, but if you like an outside bet, then make it this one. If Nick Cave and Kylie decided to enter Eurovision, this is what they’d sing.
Can’t get it out of my head – 8/10
Oh don’t get me started…
I’ve been putting off writing anything about this song because, frankly, it’s the most rubbish song we’ve ever entered, and that includes Samantha Janus and the deplorable Love City Groove. Isn’t it bad enough that the Tories got back in again, without realising that their countrywide cuts have now evidently extended to Eurovision; the last supposedly untouchable bastion of what makes this country great? The People In Charge could have come to me with fifty quid and a kilo of cheddar and I’d have written them something a million times better than this Charleston-inspired lyrical latrine. It’s so bad, it offends me, because they’ve broken every rule of Eurovision. It makes no sense, Eurovision-ally, and that is something I just can’t forgive. Ever. There’s nothing hummable, no annoying hook to stay in my head for months, no glitter, no fake tans, no fireworks and, the most heinous crime of all, no key change! What on earth were they thinking? And why are they even called Electro Velvet? What’s electro or velvet about either of them? It’ll probably win now (no it won’t, it really, really won’t).
The definition of ‘insignificant’. 0.5/10 (and that’s for the interlude when nobody’s singing)
Armenia have been strong contenders in the last few years, which is saying something as they only debuted nine years ago and they only missed 2012 because of “security concerns”. They’ve only finished outside the Top 10 once, and their best showing was last year when Aram Mp3 came 4th with the (bookies favourite) “Not Alone”. They love to enter stirring songs, but this one falls a little short for me. Genealogy is a six-piece group from around the world – only one is Armenian – and their song is about (wait for it) “peace, unity and love”. Kerching, surely! But despite the lofty voices, operatic undertones and potential orchestral majesty, the song doesn’t quite fulfill its potential and could have been so much more. It’s like buying a pint of Budvar and realising they gave you Fosters.
Needs more welly – 7/10
Lithuania are fast becoming the new Italy in Eurovision because they throw their toys out of the pram if they don’t get good marks. When their first ever go finished in ‘nul points’, they sulked off and refused to enter again for five years. When they did come back, they gave us crap songs, including one called, stupidly, “We Are The Winners”, which they plainly weren’t. In 2009 they threatened to boycott again, if Russia weren’t banned, which is a tad ironic because, on the night, Lithuania gave Russia 12 points. This is another entirely forgettable song, so expect them to go off in a strop again when no-one votes for it.
Mardy mardy mustards – 3/10
Another Eurovision underachiever, Serbia are going for the “I’m an outsider” vote this year by planting a big and beautiful singer to warble on about being “different and that’s OK”. Only one problem with that – she’s not different, is she, so I feel a bit cheated? So she doesn’t have the figure of a supermodel, so what? Isn’t that a good thing? Anyway, if this is about the song, then it’s nothing to write home about and La Stamenov doesn’t have a great voice, especially when she’s nervous, and her backing dancers are rubbish. But it’s impossible not to like her (and I couldn’t give a toss what size she is), so I think she’ll be popular.
Outdated mission statement – 6.5/10
The thing with Norway is, they either like to win it (three times), or come last (eleven times), there’s no middle ground with this lot. They like violins, too, having fiddled their way to glory twice, in 1995 and 2009, but four cases of ‘nul points’ don’t lie. You might remember the tattooed biker bloke who entered last year, who turned out to have the voice of an angel (8th place) but this year they’re playing safe with a ballad duet between two people who would never be together in real life (there’s zero chemistry here). The main problem with this song is that Ms Scarlett can’t actually sing very well. She’s concentrating too hard on her ingenue image instead of giving us the vocal goods. Anyway, next to their Scandinavian neighbours, this has no hope.
Will achieve the middle ground they crave – 5/10
Always, always, always a sure fire bet to get Top 5, Sweden are arguably the most consistent nation in Eurovision. I know Ireland always get the plaudits for being “most successful”, but each way betters will always go for Sweden because they just know how to “do” Eurovision like nobody else.
Granted, they usually throw in an attractive blonde chanteuse to do the honours (Sanna Nielsen would have won last year if Our Conchita had got a sore throat), but this year it’s the blokes’ turn. “Heroes” starts off like Avicii’s “Hey Brother”, so there’s an instant familiarity there. The build-up is typical Sweden, teasing us with anticipation, before heading into a rousing chorus, and rumour has it that he has a spectacular, innovative stage show to go with the infectious rhythm. Obviously it’s catchy, as per Eurovision rules, and it will not get out of my head when I’m trying to get to sleep, so I’m starting to resent the bloody thing but, although it’s only my second favourite song (my heart’s been lost to Italy) – this will score HUGE.
Another thing working in Sweden’s favour is that they had to progress through the semis, which means the song’s already had significant airplay and enjoyed a week of promotion, which Italy’s hasn’t, being one of the Big Five. That could mean the difference between winning and losing. However, this is up quite early, whereas Italy has, spookily, been given the golden last slot. Hmmm.
One minor criticism about this one, though – Mans is not the best vocalist singing live. It sounds great when produced, but on the stage, not so much. Even so, the battle between this and the Eye-Ties will be very, very close.
Bookies’ favourite – 9/10
Cyprus only pop up in Eurovision when the mood takes them. They didn’t bother last year, having sensibly concluded that a failure to qualify for the previous 72 contests wasn’t the best harbinger of good fortune. They’re back this year, though, with a very pretty ballad reminiscent of Mr Big’s “To Be With You”, which viewers will either love or fall asleep to. There’s evidently a shortage of specs this year, too, as this fella’s borrowed his from the Italian entry.
Good song but the wrong contest – 6/10
I know, I know, Australia? What the chuff?!!! Calm down, dear, it’s just this once (unless they win it, in which case we’ll all have to move to Australia next year). So why are the Aussies in it at all? Because the Eurovision Song Contest is the most watched programme on Australian television, which all adds to the Eurovision coffers. So, for this special 60th contest they’ve been invited as guests of honour with a sparkly pass straight through to the Final. “Tonight Again” is a strong, catchy pop standard which is dangerously, obscenely hummable. Singer Mr Sebastian is teddy-bear cute, like an Aussie Gareth Gates, and the novelty of an Australian entry might just swing a few undecided voters as well as attract a whole new breed of protest and wouldn’t-normally-vote-at-all voters. I think this will do very well. Worth a bet to place in the Top 5.
Skippy & trippy 8.5/10
Belgium are so hit and miss in Eurovision, it’s impossible to predict their fate. They won once, in 1986, but in the last six years alone they’ve only qualified for the final twice. This year, they have a decent enough song; modern, contemporary and it will appeal to the youth vote. But their biggest problem is their singer, Monsieur Nottet, who is so impossibly arrogant that you just want to smash his face in. Well, I do, anyway. His self-penned promo blurb proclaims that, at the tender age of 19, he is a “complete artist who is already conscious of the universe he wishes to create” who “became a darling of the public thanks to his charisma and all-round personality”. If that doesn’t make you want to vomit, then I don’t know what will. I mean, just look at him… Twerp.
The tune doesn’t matter if you’re this much of a ****. 5/10
Last year’s victorious ditty “Rise Like A Phoenix” was – in my humble opinion – one of the best Eurovision winners ever. The James Bond-esque grandeur and the electrifying performance of the most attractive bearded lady in the world was so gobsmackingly camp, not even Shirley Bassey could have topped it. So are Austria going for double gold this year? Well, for Best Beard, it would probably win again, but not for Best Song. That’s not to say this tune isn’t worthy, but the world will be expecting another humdinger of a showstopper, not a piano-led ballad sung by a hairy Chris Martin. It’s all very pleasant, but not strong enough to put up any real opposition to some of the stronger dance-led tunes on the Eurovision racecard. Let’s face it, hosting Eurovision has been known to bankrupt smaller nations than Austria, so there’s no way they want to go through all this again.
Hairy but not scary – 7/10
As regulars will know, I’ve been campaigning for years for the great Sakis Rouvas to make a Eurovision comeback for Greece but, until that happens, they’re never going to get close to that trophy. So, with still no snake-hips to dazzle us once again, we’ve got to put up with a blonde ballad, which is all very nice and emotional but takes far too long to get to the all-important key change and fireworks. Maria-Elena does have Bonnie Tyler hairdryers and ticker tape, though, so it’s worth a listen, but depending on the draw, she’ll do well to stay in the Top 20.
Austerity continues – 6/10
Last year’s Montenegran entry (the first time they’d entered as an independent state) was one of my favourites but it did bob-all. This year, they’ve ditched the cuddly Sergej Cetkovic and gone for a David Gest-a-like called Knez who’s obviously pumped so full of botox, they’d better keep the flamethrowers well away from him. The song is a typically Eastern European folky number, melodic and easy on the ear, but it takes far too long to get going and I haven’t a clue what he’s singing. This used to be one of the highlights of Eurovision but now that most countries sing in English, it’s going to count against them, no matter how laudable.
Middle of the road – 5/10
Another Big Five nation, the Germans have a strong track record in Eurovision; their most recent success being Lena’s “Satellite” in 2010. This year they’re going with a similar ingenue-type songbird called Ann Sophie, who’s 24 but sounds and looks 45 and acts a little bit bonkers. The song’s catchy enough and has a bit of balls, especially when Fraulein Sophie starts screeching a bit, but she’s not always in tune and her performance risks being too contrived with numerous timed smiles to camera which overdo the cheese a bit (and her teeth will blind you). So on the night she’s either going to do her best Dolores O’Riordan and wow the world, or implode into a squelchy mess of Saturday night karaoke singer and be carried off the stage by two burly bouncers into a waiting strait jacket.
Mad as sauerkraut – 7/10
Sadly, there’ll be no national costumes from Poland this year, and they’re all the poorer for it. This song is about, wait for it, “building bridges of tolerance in the name of love”, and it’s sung by an inoffensive woman who was partially paralysed in a car crash in 2008 – not that she’s going for the sympathy vote, it just explains why she won’t be prancing around the stage like everyone else. The tune’s a bit turgid, though, so don’t waste your money or your vote.
Building bridges of mediocrity – 5/10
Latvia won Eurovision in 2002 but since then they’ve either come last or failed to qualify at all. This song is OK, but it’s not Eurovision. Would do well in a nightclub at the end of the evening, but you forget it as soon as it’s over, which is a Eurovision cardinal sin.
Meh – 4/10
When Frank Lebeouf isn’t playing at being an actor, he’s popping up in Eurovision for Romania. He sings about as well as he can act, though, so I wouldn’t count on this going anywhere. It’s so-so; quiet build-up verses and a tap-along chorus. Nothing to get the great unwashed Eurovision electorate excited, though.
More middle of the road than Status Quo – 5/10
I thought Spain were hard done by last year when ex-X Factor finalist, Ruth Lorenzo, only placed 10th with the lovely “Dancing In The Rain”. So I thought they’d bounce back for another go with something similarly memorable, but it appears nobody got the memo. Singer Edurne is nice enough, and ticks the ‘blonde, tanned and toothy’ box but apart from a lot of wailing, there’s not really much to write home about. She’ll get the male vote but, as we all know, it’s not men who vote at Eurovision, is it? If the stage manager lets her do pyrotechnics, she’ll end with a bang, which is always worth at least another 856 votes, so who knows, maybe this is a sleeper.
Blonde ambivalence – 6.5/10
This is the contest’s most sedate entry; a slow folky anti-war song (obviously) sung by a cute elfin-like brunette with (probably) bare feet and some of her mates backing her up in case she looks too forlorn singing by herself. I suppose it would grow on you the more you listened to it, but Eurovision isn’t about slow burners, it’s about fireworks and wind machines and bad fashion, and I’m afraid this ticks none of those essential boxes.
Too worthy – 5/10
Does anyone remember Ukraine’s Ruslana from a few years ago? She was a wild chick who ran around in a skimpy fur bikini surrounded by lots of fire-throwing hunks and….well, anyway, she won, and for some reason this entry reminds me of her. There’s no fire, or fur bikinis for that matter, but Nina is a tough cookie who dresses in black raven feathers and glares into the camera with her black eyes and will definitely grab the attention of the few male voters out there. The song’s OK, could be a bit stronger in truth, but maybe Ruslana can chuck some ex-Soviet bloc fairy dust Georgia’s way.
Fiery feistiness – 8/10
This is described as “a mystical contemporary ballad”. Not sure where the ‘mystical’ bit comes in, but it’s a decent enough attempt at something stirring and memorable, and it has the all-important key change two thirds of the way through, but there’s not enough substance to sustain it. Huseynov is an affable chap who has good stage presence, a smashing voice, and will woo a certain section of the crowd, but it’s just not enough. This is a favourite with your friendly bookmaker, but I think it’ll miss the Top 5 altogether.
Good but it’s not right – 7.5/10
Another country whose great song stuttered in the voting last year because of politics, Russia has come back strong with a song which mentions all the Eurovision lyrical requirements, such as “children”, “we believe” and the golden lyric itself “all we want is peace”. It’s a glorious power ballad and Polina definitely has the voice to carry it off. She’s also very gorgeous, but not in a way that would piss most other women off, so she’ll work that microphone like a lover and still get votes. The late draw in the running order will work in their favour, so I expect them to get Top 5. Sneak a fiver each way and you could end up with a few free pints come the end of the night.
Power-tastic – 9/10
Ms Dani is a massive star in both Albania and Italy, but I don’t know why. All she does during this song is wail her way through it like she’s stuck on the toilet. It’s unremarkable and I’m amazed it got through the semis, especially at the expense of Denmark and The Netherlands, who were miles better. The problem is that the song, and Elhaida, doesn’t know what it is. Is it a shouty number, or a song with a message, or an R&B rip-off with unintelligible lyrics? If she stops wailing long enough, we may find out.
We’re only alive because she won’t let us die in peace – 4 out of 10
Well between Sweden and Italy, it was always going to be about the running order, and those very generous Italians have managed to bag the prized final singing spot so their song remains fresh in everybody’s head. Assuming the Eurovision People In Charge don’t open the phone lines at the start of the show (which, crazily, they’ve been known to do), then this could be the nail in Sweden’s coffin.
I may have mentioned in previous years just how much I love Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest. As you’d expect of the Eye-Ties, they do their own thing (when they’re not having a strop about something) and they don’t give a toss what people think of them. Everything’s exaggerated and nobody ever knows what their songs are about, but it doesn’t matter because they’re in Italian, and even if they were singing about sewers it would just sound fabulous. But whilst Italy have always given us value for money, they’ve never looked particularly bothered about winning the competition. Until now.
Realising that being one of The Big Five, year on year, is a bit pointless if they never have anything to show for it, they’ve replaced their Eurovision Committee Head with somebody who actually wants to win it. To achieve this, they’ve raided Simon Cowell’s rejects bin and come up with Il Volo (‘The Flight’); a poor man’s Il Divo, but still a decent operatic trio who could surprise everyone, especially the entire population of Italy, by bagging that trophy. They’re not half as attractive as The Divvies, even if they’re sure to scrub up well on the night (I guarantee they’ll be kitted out in tuxes with loose ties), but the song could well have this year’s Rise Like A Phoenix-Factor. It’s a stirring tour de force full of Three Tenors va-va-voom that’ll have every female (and quite a few fellas) fighting for the phone once the lines open.
There are only two things counting against Italy as nailed-on winners. Firstly, because they haven’t had to qualify, this song has had only a fraction of the airtime that the Swedish song has had so, for many, Saturday night is the one and only time they’ll have heard it. Sweden, however, have been plugging their tune to death all week in the semis, the press conferences and all the free available radio slots across Europe. Secondly, one third of this trio insists on wearing Timmy Mallett glasses, which are a guaranteed passion killer for any undecided, but randy, voters out there.
However, if you want get an early bet in before the chaos begins on Saturday, put a tenner on this to win, and do it now. I’ve been right too many times for me to mess up now… Sweden or no Sweden. This. Is. The. One. And it’s up last, so what can go wrong?
I have great love for this, it’s the one to watch – 9.5/10
I can’t remember a Eurovision Song Contest where the running order was so crucial. Italy have been drawn last (what were the chances of that, wink wink….?) so I think that’s sealed it. Not that the draw was random, anyway, as for the last few years it’s been the Eurovision Committee who decide who sings when. An outrageous policy, obviously, and one which makes everything open to a bit of back-scratching, and if there’s one country which likes a big fat scratching stick, it’s Italy…
1. Italy, 2. Sweden, 3. Russia 4. Australia, 5. Estonia
Where the safe money is: Do a tricast on Italy, Sweden and Estonia to make the Top 5 – you should get at least 12/1
For the risk-takers: Stick twenty on the Aussies to shock the Eurovision universe. You should get around 8/1 before Saturday.
Early Bird (Thursday/Friday betters): Italy are still 4/1 with some bookies (BetFair, Paddy Power) but that’s definitely going to shorten once the running order is confirmed, so get your bets on NOW.