The Eurovision finally kicks off proper this week, with the two semi finals on Tuesday and Thursday whittling the 43 entrants down to a more manageable 25 for the grand final on Saturday. So it’s probably about time I gathered my thoughts about the cream of this year’s crop. The tragic loon in me is tempted to do a full rundown detailing my thoughts on every entry, but in the name of expediency I’ll restrict myself to a top ten.
10. United Kingdom: Blue – I Can
I had to stick the home country in really, if only to mark the huge step forward in quality from last year’s disaster. I was never a particular fan of Blue during their heyday, and Lee Ryan remains a quite spectacular imbecile, but the song is decent. Their vocals have been ropey during rehearsals, but if they manage to pull it together they have a genuine shot at bringing it home. Even if they fall short, it should comfortably wind up giving us our best result in a while, and for the sake of future UK entries I hope they get some credit for that.
Prediction: Top five seems likely.
9. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Dino – Love In Rewind
Very much a wildcard entry. Bosnia have quietly developed a nice little line in quirky, atmospheric entries, without falling into the trap of repeating themselves. This one starts off with some ghostly acapella wailing before settling into an eerie carnival-esque folk ballad. Things like this either really click or fail miserably, but I think this one is tuneful enough to go the distance.
Prediction: Top ten, with a shot at top 5.
8. Italy: Raphael Gualazzi – Madness of Love
Italy stropped out of the Eurovision in 1997 when their entry that year failed to win (he still came fourth, guys! Jeez!). They’ve finally gotten over it apparently, and this laid back jazz number is one of the more intriguing entries of the year. I can’t see it challenging the upper reaches, but hopefully they’ll stick it out this time.
Prediction: Mid-table finish, and lots of angry Italian stropping afterwards.
7. Israel: Dana International – Ding Dong
On name alone this was my most anticipated entry of the year. Dana International is of course a former winner and general Eurovision legend. Rumours abounded, first that RedOne had written her comeback, then David Guetta. Alas, neither of these stories turned out to be true, and it’s hard not to be a little disappointed by the pleasant but somewhat limp slice of europop we’re left with. It’s not half as dynamic as ‘Diva’ but still guaranteed to be a complete spectacle on the night. Expect an outrageous dress, lots of dramatic arm waving and some woman dressed as a tree in the background carrying all of the vocal heavy lifting.
Prediction: Likely to end up in the bottom third of the leader board.
6. France: Amaury Vassili – Sognu
The pre-contest favourite with rapidly shortening odds. The French always do best when they play up to their haughty image with something refined and melodramatic – as seen in their spectacular 2009 entry from Patricia Kaas. This operatic piece with shades of Ravel’s Bolero and Vangalis’ Conquest Of Paradise and looks set to go the distance. He’s a great singer and it’s very impressive, but in my shallow, pop loving heart I’m hoping something a wee bit less worthy takes the gold. If for no other reason than that this is unlikely to become a big hit single after the contest.
Prediction: Probable winner, a dead cert for the top five.
5. Germany: Lena Meyer-Landrut – Taken By a Stranger
Germany have taken the unusual decision to bring back their winning entrant from last year to defend her title on home turf. Some have questioned this decision, but it does make sense. The danger of coming back to the contest as a big name is that the burden of expectation is so much higher. This number is surprisingly understated compared to Satellite, and may not have enough instant appeal to make a serious challenge for the title, but it’s a bewitching little grower that won’t see her embarrassing herself.
Prediction: Low top ten.
4. Norway: Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba
Summery afro-fusion with a refrain sung in Swahili is perhaps not what we would have expected from the icy climes of Norway, but this entry from Norwegian-Kenyan songbird Stella Mwangi is an absolute delight. To me this is the song that could most credibly be an international hit single outside the contest. Expect to find it spinning around your head for days.
Prediction: With a good draw, I think this can make the top ten, but it could be forgotten if it appears too early in the running order.
3. Belarus: Anastasia Vinnikova – I Love Belarus!
Belarus can always be counted on to send something completely demented, and this might even top their previous high watermark, the terrifying Angelica Agurbash. This isn’t so much a song as a dictatorial war cry. Military chanting, mangled English and a key change so ridiculous it makes me lose bladder control. Try to walk down the street listening to this without breaking into involuntary nationalistic fist-pumps. Just try.
Prediction: Alas, I fear this is too niche to qualify.
2. Sweden: Eric Saade – Popular
Sweden can almost always be relied upon to make the effort, but they’ve had a run of bad luck in recent years. This storming pop number should put them back where they belong though – assuming his complicated glass box routine doesn’t go wrong. The lyrics are somewhat questionable, but with a chorus this catchy what does that matter?
Prediction: Top ten, with top five potential.
1. Hungary: Kati Wolf – What About My Dreams?
Hands down the best and most poppers o’clock song this year. Diva vocals, a pulsating dance beat, a bloody gospel choir!. This couldn’t be more melodramatic if it tried, and in a fair world it would be walking away with this contest. Alas, I can’t help but think of fan favourite Hera Bjork’s performance last year and wonder if perhaps it’ll underperform. Either way, if this isn’t performed with the wind machine set to gale force ten, I’m going to be very unhappy.
Prediction: Top fifteen