The Eurovision Song Contest 2016 – Preview + Running Order


I was way too excited to think clearly on Tuesday when my original post went up, there were typos and everything, but now I’ve had a chance to calm down, listen to all the entries for the 73rd time and change my mind about what I think is going to happen.

What’s changed this year?

Quite a bit. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Bulgaria all returned (to the semis, at least), while Romania have been royally kicked to the kerb for not paying their Eurovision telly bill from last year. Portugal have withdrawn, which is Eurovision code for “we’ve never won, and we can’t bloody afford to keep trying”. Justin Timberlake will be performing during the interval (I am not kidding), which begs the question ‘will the Yanks be competing next year?’ Well they let the Aussies in, so anything’s possible.

Also, the voting system has been revised. When I say revised, I actually mean it’s been rigged even more. To understand Eurovision voting, anyway, is to understand quantum theory written in Chinese and read from a mirror. Obviously, I have no problem with this but not everyone has my amazing Eurovision spidey-sense  all you need to know is that the public vote is meaningless, it’s all down to the juries. Nobody knows who sits on these professional juries including, I suspect, those who are supposed to be sitting on it. This is the bit they don’t want you to know and explains why it’s so easy to rig the result.

The running order is now set in stone and, of coruse, this has been completely rigged as well. France, Australia and Cyprus are stuck in No Man’s Land at no.11, no.13 and no.14 respectively, so it’s all down to who wins the war between Ukraine and Russia. No change there, then. Ukraine have the edge because they go after Russia with only Spain and Latvia to keep them apart in the Green Room. The United Kingdom have a great draw, however, going second to last. That Top 10 place might actually happen.

Predictions follow at the end, which I reserve the right to change each hour, on the hour, before 8pm tomorrow, although I still aim to maintain my uncanny knack of correctly predicting the Top 5, just not in the correct order. Take from that what you will.

1 – Belgium

Laura Tesoro – “What’s The Pressure?”

Voleur! Voleur!

The pressure, Belgium, is that you’re nicking riffs not just from Queen, but also Jamiroquai and Pharrell Williams, then trying to hide it by putting a pretty girl stage front to funk it all out in silver sequins to distract us. They might have shot themselves in the foot, though, as this song would definitely benefit more from having a male vocalist – Laura’s just not strong enough to carry this. It’s catchy, it’s different from the rest of the field and it’s going to be popular, but it doesn’t detract from the fact they stole most of it. They’re on first, too, and no-one wins when they go first.

7/10 – Naughty, naughty

2 – Czech Republic

Gabriela Guncikova – “I Stand”

Wake me up later

The Czechs are very inexperienced when it comes to Eurovision, they’ve only competed four times before and have never reached the Grand Final – until now. They even withdrew completely in 2010 because of the “lack of interest” from their own viewing public. This song is a bit of a dirge with nothing to elevate it to Eurovision standards, so they’ve kind of dug their own apathetic grave once more.

3/10 – Time to Czech out

3 – Netherlands

Douwe Bob – “Slow Down”

Don’t slow down, just stop

In 2014, the Dutch could have caused one of the biggest Eurovision upsets ever when their cute, folksy ballad “Calm After The Storm” just lost out to the force of nature which was Conchita Wurst. Last year, they reverted to a ‘safe’ Eurovision number which ultimately disappointed despite it’s potential, so this year they’ve gone back to guitars. The first line is “I’m going nowhere and I’m going fast…”. Well, quite. It sounds like it belongs more in the credits of an un-amusing BBC sitcom (is there any other kind?) than anywhere near the prestigious Eurovision stage. Close your eyes and you can actually see “starring Robert Lindsay” scrolling in the darkness. Dutch Eurovisioners expect more, Bob! Be gone with your comfortable television jingles and come back next year with a key change, at the very least.

4/10 – Being cute is just not enough anymore, Bob

4 – Azerbaijan

Samra – “Miracle”

Consistently just ‘very good’

I like Azerbaijan, they do good Eurovision. In eight attempts they’ve finished Top 10 in all but two contests. This is another dance-pleaser and more than ticks some essential Eurovision boxes, and I originally thought the field was simply too strong for this to get higher than ninth or tenth. I’m rethinking that and it could go much higher.

8/10 – Good song but is it eclipsed by too many others?

5 – Hungary

Freddie – “Pioneer”

Yes, hide you might, Freddie!

The Magyars gave Eurovision a brilliant shot in 2014 when Andras Kallay-Saunders’ fabulous “Running” came fifth, but they faltered last year and I’m afraid this year will be no different. Freddie is a nice enough chap but he just can’t sing very well. There’s a lot of pained grunting and shouting, but that’s probably down to the bad goulash his mum’s been feeding him.

5/10 – Nothing pioneering about this, Freddie love

6 – Italy

Francesca Michielin- “No Degree Of Separation”

Still mardy about last year…

I try not to go on about it, much, but Italy’s operatic trio were utterly robbed last year by a biased jury system who inexplicably put Sweden ahead of them. The public vote had Italy as landslide winners but it wasn’t enough to tip the weighted Scales of Conspiracy in the Eye-Ties’ favour. The Italian Shadowlords have therefore thrown a fully justified strop and decided ‘not to play anymore’, because this song is about as catchy as a Leonard Cohen album. Never mind, Italy, I don’t blame you for your mardiness, this time.

4/10 – Save the celebratory cornettos

7 – Israel

Hovi Star – “Made of Stars”

Go to the naughty step, Hovi…

If you ever wondered what happened to Phil Oakey of Human League, wonder no longer. He’s been in a cocoon and has emerged as an Israeli butterfly called Hovi Star (really) to sing a lovely little power ballad called “Made of Stars” which is about, well, stars and stuff. Politics aside (they’re never going to win until they stop killing people), the song “could” have been Eurovision gold but they’ve messed up on the timings. You only get 3 minutes, Israel, 3 minutes!! Don’t you know this?! But you’ve taken far too long to get to the hummus and two veg. What part of ‘power ballad’ do you not understand? Why have you waited 2 mins 26 secs to get to the goosebumpy bits? You’ve wasted the most important middle section of the song when voters make the subconscious decision whether or not to like you.

Everyone knows you have until precisely 1min 13secs to suck us in with a catchy chorus, a teasing build-up or, better still, a little wink to the camera, unless you’re going all-in for an unbeatable key change 20 seconds before crescendo (see Russia). Oh, and speaking of crescendos, you’ve messed that up, too, reverting back to a slow end instead of the fireworks, bells and whistles you promised. Talk about leading us up the garden path…

7/10 – Close, but no shishlik

8 – Bulgaria

Poli Genova – “If Love Was A Crime”

Love isn’t the crime, here

Poli Genova was an extra in Mad Max: Fury Road and she’s been living in her costume ever since. This a pleasing dance number but it doesn’t really get going and will stay in the bottom half of the final scoreboard. She does some impressive comedy-knees during the chorus, and she’s clad in some bizarre reflective strapping which might make you feel travel sick if you watch for too long. I hope she’s got some more film work lined up soon, though, because Eurovision isn’t going to make her famous.

5/10 – Welcome back, Bulgaria, but it doesn’t look like you’re staying long

9 – Sweden

Frans – “If I Were Sorry”

Look sorrier…

As title holders, Sweden have a lot to live up to, but you can usually rely on them to always finish Top 5, it’s almost Eurovision law. They’ll struggle this year, though, probably because staging the contest this year has bankrupted the Swedish economy and they just can’t afford to win it again any time soon. Personally, I think this is one of the weakest entries they’ve ever offered, but the bookies still like it. It’s a young kid doing a bit of talk-singing at the beginning before the song fully gets going into a plinky-plonky paean to young love. It’s OK, but it’s nowhere near the Eurovision quality we expect from the Swedes, so there’s a vacant Top 3 slot up for grabs.

4/10 – Yes, Frans, you should be sorry…

10 – Germany

Jamie-Lee – “Ghost”

Trees

The Germans are consistently average in Eurovision. They win sometimes, they come Top 10 occasionally, and they also love to just drop out of the scoreboard entirely when they can’t be bothered (see France). They last won with Lena’s “Satellite” in 2010, and this year’s song (and performer) reminds me a little of that. It’s jaunty enough, with elements of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, but it’s not going to do anything to excite or upset, it’s just ‘nice’. Jamie-Lee’s a nice enough kid who likes to wear toy trees on her head, but it’ll be past her bedtime by the time the final scores come in, and I wouldn’t bother waking her up for it.

6/10 – A decent support act

11 – France

Amir Haddad – “J’ai Cherche”

Bonjour!

France are notorious for not giving a toss about Eurovision but, as one of The Big Five, they’re forced into competing. Because of this, they make no attempt to hide their utter contempt for the contest by entering consistently rubbish songs which have no hope of winning. Two years ago, they came last, and they couldn’t have been happier. Then the November 2015 Paris terror attacks happened and suddenly there was a global Eurovision expectation that the French would simply have to throw forward a song asking for tolerance and world peace.

Well, they have made an effort, but instead of the expected emotive ballad, we have a catchy crowd-pleaser crooned by a suitably-swarthy Casanova of Israeli extraction (you see what they’re doing here, right?). Amir Haddad was a contestant on the French version of The Voice and is now very big in French disco circles. He’s also rather handsome, in case that hasn’t come across yet.

“J’ai Cherche” is a pop standard with on-the-nose lyrics such as “I have looked for a sense to my existence / It has made me leave my innocence behind”. You’re reaching for your phones right now, aren’t you? And well you might, because if that doesn’t convince you that the French are a serious threat this year, then get this – the chorus is in English. I know!! The French never do this, never! I have visions of pitchforks and placards being marched from the cobbles of Calais to the boulevards of Cannes protesting at such an outrageous betrayal.

This was my clear favourite in the beginning but, having seen two rehearsals, Mr Haddad just doesn’t own the stage as well as Super Sergey from Russia, and there’s no real performance, either, whereas Sergey has bought all the bells and whistles in the shop. Also, unlike Russia who had to get through a semi final, France don’t get to showcase their song before Saturday, so the lovely Amir only gets one chance to impress. Sergey, on the other hand, has had Planet Euovision gossiping about him for at least three months.

The running order draw hasn’t been kind to Amir, though, so his chances are fading slightly. Having said that, any other year and France would be as likely to win Eurovision as Leicester City winning the Premiership, and look what happened there…

8.5/10 – Could be France’s first win for 39 years…but only if Russia and Ukraine finally annihilate one another

12 – Poland

Michal Szpak – “Color Of Your Life”

Because he’s worth it

Who can forget Donatan & Cleo’s national costume spectacular of 2014 when 100 old ladies baked bread on the Eurovision stage? Well sorry to disappoint, but all those old dears are now dead and the only person left to compete for Poland is Chad from Nickelback or, if you squint, Cheryl Tweedy-Cole-Fernandez-Versini-Payne. He’s now going by the name ‘Michal’ and he’s going to seduce you with a power ballad and a wind machine. It’s great, and Chad/Michal’Cheryl has got the staring-seductively-into-the-camera thing bang on, as well as having lovely, lovely hair. He also has the best key change of the night, at the perfect time. I defy you not to start digging out all your middle-of-the-road 80s vinyl after hearing this. Cigarette lighters were invented for this song. You will cry. Yes, you will.

6/10 – There won’t be a dry eye in (my) house

13 – Australia

Dami Im – “Sound of Silence”

Shouldn’t be allowed!

You know when Australia was allowed to enter last year’s 60th anniversary event as a special, one-off, never-to-be-repeated guest, and they came fifth with a pretty good song which many people probably only voted for because it would be the one, absolutely only time they’d ever be able to vote for Australia in a Eurovision Song Contest??? WRONG! Because the Grand Eurovision Shadowlords lied through their teeth, and the Aussies have been allowed back again. No quarantine laws here!

For all we know, they’re in it forever, now. Eurovision is massive in Australia – the reason for their VIP guest-pass last year – but seriously, is this just one more step towards Eurovision becoming open to anyone? Sigh. Anyway, if you can wade your way through the corks and barbecues heading to Stockholm on Saturday, you’ll be treated to Dami Im, a lady whose name looks like a Scrabble anagram but whose voice gives us a power ballad of suitably Eurovision proportions. They take this seriously, the Aussies, and really did their homework last year, but even though this song is nowhere near as strong, they’ll still do well.

8.5/10 – Hard not to like them but they still shouldn’t be allowed

14 – Cyprus

Minus One – “Alter Ego”

‘Ave it!!!

I don’t quite know what’s happened to me this week but there’s no point denying it any longer – I have a huge crush on Cyprus this year. I think I’m actually in love with them, in a very unhealthy way. The Cypriots often throw in a traditional tune with balalaikas and flutes, but this time they’ve gone all mean and moody and it’s making me think naughty thoughts. This has grown on me so much, probably because it makes great walking music; just the thing for marching to work through the Everton ghettos every morning. No-one bothers me, not when I’ve got a filthy Cypriot rock band for protection.

Minus One are a group of rugged chaps who would look more at home in some Helsinki grunge bar than a seaside taverna in Limassol, and watching them strut their stuff takes me way back to a previous life of sweaty rock clubs and long-haired lotharios, but that’s another blog entirely…

There will be cages, strobes and even a wolf at some point. Grrrr! If you haven’t guessed, I’m a sucker for all this leather-coated, tattooed, eyebrow-piercing, manly weirdness, I am utterly seduced and I will need to lie down in a darkened room during the interval.

9.5/10 – Right up my street, but I might be the only one who lives here

15 – Serbia

ZAA Sanja Vucic – “Goodbye (Shelter)”

Should have stayed true to herself

I’m doing a complete turnaround on Serbia. They’ve been my favourite for ages, thanks to a cracking performance at their national finals (see link above). But since they got to Stockholm, the whole production has changed and what you’ll see on Saturday night is a shadow of what it should be – it’s like they’ve been bribed to throw it. If I had a Eurovision heart, they just broke it. They’ll still do well, but not half as well as they deserve, and it’s their own fault.

From a 9.5/10 down to a 7/10 – Bottled it

16 – Lithuania

Donny Montell – “I’ve Been Waiting For This Night”

For God’s sake, be careful Donny!

Anyone called Donny Montell should automatically win Eurovision, but sadly Donny has to compete just like everybody else. This is actually a very good song, but the stylist got lost on the way from Vilnius and poor Donny has had to do his own hair and wear his own clothes. He’s also clearly been let loose on the vodka, even though he’s not old enough to drink. Like Latvia, there’s some seriously dodgy dad-dancing going on (it’s obviously a Baltic thing) and, at some point, he’s going to attempt a somersault. This could be the year the Eurovision ambulance makes its debut.

6/10 – Be afraid, be very afraid

17 – Croatia

Nina Kraljic – “Lighthouse”

Too near the rocks

About 20 years ago, Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries moved to Zagreb and had a musical daughter whose destiny was to represent Croatia in Eurovision. The result is a lovely little song which would be great to blast out on the arl’ car stereo as you drive across the Dinaric Alps, or somewhere equally Hobbity. It’s charming and pretty and all that stuff, but it stands about much chance of winning as Dolores becoming Pope. Also, she has bizarre dress sense which is way too distracting.

6/10 – Lacks welly

18 – Russia

Sergey Lazarev – “You’re The Only One”

Calm DOWN, Sergey!

Last year, Sweden won mainly because they had a gimmicky light show thing which helped their singer look better than he was. I can’t be sure the Russians aren’t aiming to do the same thing this year because their stage show is a blatant attempt to copy the Swedish tactic. Having said that, it’s pretty good, regardless. Someone in the Kremlin has been sent to Eurovision School, and it shows in spades. Actually, Russia are threatening to usurp Sweden as Kings of Eurovision. They’ve done very well in recent years and would probably have won last year had Polina Gagarina been allowed to bring a hundred children and some puppies onto the stage for her rousing crescendo. This year, the Russians are pinning their hopes on Mr Lazarev and his energetic disco pleaser. It’s causing some hot chatter in the Eurovision catacombs, that’s for sure, and not just because of the stupid lights, because they have a pretty fine ace up that well-tailored sleeve…

Get ready to be Euro-dazzled, then, because Super Sergey is going to smash our heads in with not one, but two crucial key changes within 15 seconds of each another. I know! You read right! It’s unheard of, it’s cheeky and it’s a downright filthy tactic! But don’t faint at Russia’s audacity, just get your betting slips out instead. Their only threats are the Frogs. who could still edge it with the sympathy vote, or the Ukrainians, who are politicising the hell out of Eurovision this year, and way more than should be legal.

Unless Sergey falls off his invisible stage, or the Ukrainians assassinate him, it’s surely in the bag?

9.5/10 – A double key-change?!! Come ON…!

19 – Spain

Barei – “Say Yay!”

Just chillin’

You can always rely on the Spanish to just turn up at Eurovision and have some fun. They don’t care where they come, they just want to share the tapas and Rioja and maybe have a siesta during the pre-vote interval. This entry is a cheery number sung by an energetic songtress with a penchant for glittery spandex. See, you’ve got your money’s worth already. It may place Top 12, but only if she wears those leggings.

7/10 – Just go with it

20 – Latvia

Justs – “Heartbeat”

Childline is 0800 1111

Justs is a clean-cut, preppy kid who’s just entered his rebellious leather jacket phase and wants to tell us all about the meaning of love even though he’s only 14. The stubble isn’t real, by the way, it’s drawn on with a Sharpie. It’s an average song but Justs is giving it all he’s got, complete with static dancing which is almost dad-like. He’s a sweetheart, but the Eurovision sharks will eat him alive.

6/10 – School disco

21 – Ukraine

Jamala – “1944”

Hijacker

I feel very strongly about this song, but for unkind reasons. Last year Ukraine withdrew from the contest because of all the turmoil going off over there, but they’re back with a blatant attempt to guilt the rest of Europe into voting for them with lyrics which don’t hold back. The first verse goes “When strangers are coming, they come to your house / They kill you all and say ‘we’re not guilty'”. Well if that isn’t setting your stall out, I don’t know what is. The rest it is wailing, literally, and it’s not even in tune. When Putin hears this, he’ll consider it an act of war and it’s all going to kick off again in the Crimea. But the weirdest thing, the most insane thing,  is that Russia will probably give it 12 points. Go on, watch, they will.

This has been up there as second-favourite all week, even after two rehearsals and a semi-final which only served to prove that this ghastly woman cannot sing. It’s horrible, in every way, and I can’t emphasise enough how utterly inexplicable it is that this even got past the semi final, never mind be challenging for the trophy. It’s political and cynical, and the stupid Eurovision voting electorate will vote for it in their droves. Shame on you all.

2/10 – Play nicely, Ukraine…

22 – Malta

Ira Losco – “Walk On Water”

It’ll stick in your head, don’t fight it

You might not think of Malta as Eurovision heavyweights, but they’re consistent high achievers, with a fair few second places to their names and a strong pedigree in powerful female vocalists. It’s what they do well, so it makes sense for them to stick to what they know. This one is more dance-orientated than usual, but the combination of gorgeous chanteuse, sultry dancing, some well-chosen high notes, a good speck in the running order and, most importantly, a catchy chorus, means this is definitely one to watch. It won’t win, but it’s a grown-up bet to place Top 5.

8.5/10 – A real grower

23 – Georgia

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz – “Midnight Gold”

It feels wrong to like this

Who knew Georgia could be funky? These guys are bonkers and the song is about as un-Eurovision as you can get. It’s just so wrong, it’s somehow right. So glad they made it through the semis but there’s an element of “we don’t really give a toss if we come last”,  which they probably will, which is making me like them even more.

7/10 – Georgian subversion

24 – Austria

ZOE – “Lion d’ici”

Austria had a famous win in 2014 with the marvellous “Rise Like A Phoenix”, surely one of the best winners in Eurovision history. The Austrians are still a bit overwhelmed by their own success, however, so they’ve decided to take it easy for a few years. This cute little ditty wasn’t supposed to get past the semis, which means they’ve had to stump up some extra Euros for the extended hotel bill – they thought they’d be back in Vienna by Wednesday morning. The classic schoolgirl error was choosing to sing in French instead of German. It doesn’t matter what  you’re singing, French sounds lovely but German doesn’t, so it’s their own fault, really.

5/10 – Not going to plan…

25 – United Kingdom

Joe & Jake – “You’re Not Alone”

Awwww…..

For the last five years, the UK entry has been selected internally by a panel of evil Shadowlords who have never, ever seen Eurovision in their numerously-reincarnated lives. And look where that got us. So this year they went back to letting the Great British Public decide, which could have been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it made the nation feel part of proceedings (OK, no it didn’t) but on the other, it also meant that thousands of drunk piss-texters could have chosen us a song even more rubbish than last year’s  (which was beyond dire).

Luckily the winning ditty from the six on offer was genuinely the best one and might actually get us in the Top 10 which, considering every other country in Europe hates the bones of us, would be no mean feat. Joe & Jake are two rejects from The Voice 2015 who teamed up as a duo and have presented us with a catchy, very Euro-friendly bop-a-thon which should garner the votes of plenty frustrated French housewives, randy Estonian teenagers and probably a few fellas, too. On song alone, it’s one of the best in the race and the draw is fantastic, but that won’t matter. If Sweden was singing this, they’d flipping walk it.

8/10 – Brilliantly-Eurovision but they need different passports to get close to the Top 5

26 – Armenia

Iveta Mukuchyan – “LoveWave”

Watchable, listenable, but not winnable

The Armenians did pretty well in 2014 with a respectable 4th place. This year they’re going for the tried and tested pretty-girl-with-wind-machine formula and an “ooh-oooooh” chorus which might exacerbate the insomnia but, mild catchiness aside, there’s not much else to it, but there doesn’t need to be, so expect this to make the Top 10 with relative ease. Going last always helps, too.

7/10 – Ticks the relevant boxes but lacks the Oomph-factor

Honourable mention:

San Marino

Serhat – “I Didn’t Know”

They didn’t make the final, but this is actually classic Eurovision…if it was 1974. You have to watch it to appreciate just how glorious this is in every Eurovision way possible. It’s got the Seventies beat, the throaty whispered vocals…and a Fedora. This might even have beaten Abba’s Waterloo, it’s that good. Sorry, my darling Serhat, you’re just 42 years late with this.

Predictions (which I will change many times before 8pm Saturday…):

If it was up to me…

  1. Cyprus 2. France 3. Russia 4. Serbia (if she ups the Welly Factor) 5. United Kingdom

What will probably happen…

  1. Russia 2. Ukraine 3. France 4. Malta 5. Australia

Prediction update (as of 2230)

  1. Russia 2. Ukraine 3. Australia 4. France 5. Spain

Spain nailed it tonight, right? From zero to hero…

Fancy a flutter?

It’s a little pointless betting on Russia unless you want to combine with some other Top 5 places, or go for a Winner + Last Place. Russia + Georgia would be my choice for something like 12/1.

Cyprus has an outrageously possible shot of upsetting the smorgasbord by finishing Top 5 which, at the moment, you can get for around 10/1, the same as United Kingdom.

Malta have been gathering some serious fans this week, too. Top 5 for them is currently at 3/1. Combine with a Russian win to get around 5/1.

United Kingdom are currently 4/1 to finish in the Top 10, but the odds are shortening all the time so get your tenner on sooner rather than later.

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One response to “The Eurovision Song Contest 2016 – Preview + Running Order

  1. highlife of our year is the Eurovision 🙂

    Like

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