Eurovision Song Contest, Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton, 13th May 2017

Celebrate DiversityThis was indeed the 62nd annual Eurovision Song Contest and I’ve been waving them on, man and boy, ever since the 12th. Fifty years of Eurovision… I should be entitled to a medal. Well, forty-nine really, as the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle took me on holiday to Cyprus during Eurovision week in 1974, much to my frustration; in those days I didn’t have the ability to record the show, so it all passed me by. Did anyone famous win that year?

ErrolYou may have been forgiven, gentle reader, for thinking that this year’s Euroshindig took place in Kyiv, Ukraine. Not a bit of it. The real action was at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton. Mrs Chrisparkle and I, together with Lord and Lady Prosecco, Mr and Mrs Jolly-Japester and Northampton’s own Mr Flying-the-Flag (and Mrs Flag) were in attendance. The sumptuous and (almost) new Screen 2 played host to another evening of wine, women, song, political intrigue, scandal, dubious taste, and snacks.

Helen BlabyAmong those women was BBC Radio Northampton’s very own Helen Blaby, all bedecked in sparkly sequins. She hosted the evening for us, judging the Fancy Dress contest (the three French girls won) and acting as the Jon Ola Sand of the East Midlands in ensuring our voting procedure took place fair and square. No embarrassing “can we please have your votes;” “I don’t have it” moments for us; although they did run out of Velcro.

julia samoilovaSomeone who didn’t win the Fancy Dress contest was a gentleman in a wheelchair, who said he’d come as Julia from Russia. Nice mickey-taking indeed, although he didn’t get her hair right. You’ll know that wheelchair-using Julia was refused entry into Ukraine by the state officials as she had previously performed at a concert in Crimea without permission – and Ukrainian law states that she could not enter the country as a result. The EBU, who run Eurovision, have no power to override a country’s laws but they were disappointed at Ukraine’s stance. All a ploy by Russia, of course, to make Ukraine look bad; in an attempt to make her performance possible, it was suggested she could perform by satellite from Moscow, but that was dismissed outright by the Russians. Therefore, no Russia this year. In an act of extreme contrition, on the evening of the semi-final where Julia would otherwise have been competing in the ESC, she attended another concert instead – in Crimea. Honestly it’s like putting the Krym in criminal. Julia is already nominated as Russia’s performer for the 2018 contest in Lisbon. Let’s hope she tries to sing the same song and is disqualified on the grounds that it was published before 1st September 2017. As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve no sympathy with Russia on this issue. They should have thought about it before aggressively invading another country.

Moldova SunstrokeThe Errol is a great place to see the contest – it’s so comfortable, with a great sound system, and a great selection of food and drink. We even have our own hashtag – #Errolvision. I love the fact that you can take a proper bottle of wine into the cinema with you. No plastic cups, no trashy junk; it treats you like an adult. For the Eurovision, they do the usual game of “let’s bring out some appropriate food and drink for some of the countries” – so we were treated to (if I remember rightly) falafels for Israel, Babybels for Netherlands, Pinot Grigio (chilled individual bottles) for Italy, Fish ‘n’ Chip flavoured snacks for the UK, Black Forest Gateau for Germany, tzatziki for Greece; there may have been more. And, as hinted earlier on, we also have our own voting procedure where everybody has a douze points sticker and a nul points sticker and they award them to whichever countries they like and dislike most. My douze = Italy; my nul = Croatia; Mrs C’s douze = Germany; her nul = Ukraine (I think). But overall – and this will amuse you gentle reader if you know how this year’s results fell – the Errolvision winner was Moldova (gasp!) and the loser was Portugal (gasp, gasp!)

Francesco GabbaniWhat of the songs themselves? We started with Israel, who got us off to a great start with a song I really like. Mrs Flag said that IMRI of Israel looks just like me. I will love her forever for that remark. Poland and Belarus followed, to no great interest, then Austria, with Nathan sitting on the moon (not the only incident of mooning that night). Armenia – still don’t get it; Netherlands – still too many harmonies; then Moldova and finally we all had something uptempo and flashy to get our teeth into – I’m sure it inspired many episodes of epic sax later that night. Hungary – still sounds morose, then my favourite Italy, which I willed on to do really well and win but… in the end, it just didn’t somehow. There hasn’t been a more obvious runaway winner than Francesco since Alexander Rybak in 2009; so how come it didn’t win? Great tune, clever lyrics, engaging performer, and the naked ape isn’t an out-and-out gimmick, he features in the song. Although making him wear a rainbow bow-tie was silly. That means he wasn’t naked anymore – and that’s just the point.

Jacques HoudekDenmark came and went and then it was Portugal, that slow burner that would either do incredibly well or fade away into obscurity. Salvador’s eccentric delivery made a few people laugh in the Errol, and once they realised it wasn’t going to go uptempo, most people just talked through it. Not what the typical Brit thinks is a typical Eurovision song, therefore they weren’t going to show any interest in it. Did they learn nothing from Jamala? Apparently not. Azerbaijan created some scornful cackling at the horse’s head. As for Jacques from Croatia, the Errol audience burst into hysterical laughter at the pompous and ludicrous delivery of the Z-lister from Zagreb, the homophobe from Hrvatska. Many of them voted for it, thinking it was a comedy number.

Lucie JonesAustralia, Greece, Spain and Norway all came, all went and there wasn’t a lot of interest – apart from the one Australian member of the audience who of course HAD to come down to the front whilst Isaiah was on and wave his wallaby at us. Then it was the UK – and we are of course pre-programmed to hope and expect the best and demand that the rest of Europe will respectfully acknowledge our national superiority and festoon us with high scores. Lucie, as we knew she would, performed brilliantly; I think she heightened expectation by having perfected a superb delivery of that song which made us all forget that the song itself is, basically, quite forgettable; and clearly that’s what the majority of the televoters thought too. Not so bad from the juries though, and it’s always a shame to see your country slowly and inexorably drift back to the right hand side of the screen.

Ilinca and AlexCyprus: yes okay; then Romania; and the Errol was soon filled with voices reflecting the lilting sound of rapping yodel. We all enjoyed that one. Germany did really well (IMHO), Ukraine had a shocker of a song, Belgium stood like a Brussels sprout left out in the rain, Sweden went on despite saying he couldn’t, Kristian from Bulgaria gave us an absolute belter, and everyone ignored France because by that stage you’re just adding up and working out your votes.

Jamala and the MoonA bright spark in an Australian flag decided to brighten up proceedings whilst Jamala was performing yet another dirge by jumping up on to her podium and revealing his arse to 200 million people. Jamala was a trooper, she didn’t flinch one moment. I expect she’s seen better before. Still at least she got a visual souvenir of the arseholes she sings about in her song 1944. Turns out he wasn’t a drunken Aussie, but a regular Ukrainian prankster by the name of Vitalii Sediuk, and he might be facing a fine or up to five years behind bars, according to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, who goes by the name of Arsen Avakov (you couldn’t make it up).

Salvador SobralPortugal won, massively; with Bulgaria in second place and Moldova in third. Portugal’s first win since they started competing in 1964 has been met with pretty much universal approval, even though there are still plenty of people who Just Don’t Get The Song. Not only Portugal’s first win but the best ever placing for the top three countries; and the winning song is the first to be written exclusively by a woman/women – so maybe they did end up celebrating diversity after all. Salvador peed a number of people off by using his winner’s speech to denigrate throw-away pop, and on reflection I think he spoke out of turn. Maybe if he’d spent longer in the ESC bubble he might have realised how some people would have taken it the wrong way. Still, there’s no disguising his success – and his big reception on return to Lisbon airport proves his current popularity.

keep-calm-and-welcome-to-lisbon-6Mrs Chrisparkle and I had made a secret pact that if either Italy or Portugal won we would almost certainly go to see the show there next year. It will have been three years since the sea of fans in the auditorium in Vienna parted to make way for Mans Zelmerlow to walk through and we were almost trampled to death by big blokes being forced on top of us; just about enough time to forget the pain and fear and endure it all again. Till then, hope you had a great Eurovision season, and don’t get too upset with the Post Eurovision Depression – plans for next year are already afoot!

P. S. I had Portugal at 11/1 win and Moldova at 100/1 each way, and combined with a few little bets about which countries would qualify, that meant I scored a £200 win from those nice people at Skybet!

Eurovision Semi Final Two 2017

So we reconvened at the appointed hour to witness the solemn ceremony of selecting the final ten to go through to Saturday’s Eurovision Grand Finale. Mrs Chrisparkle and I were accompanied in this challenging but ultimately rewarding task by the likes of Lord and Lady Prosecco (true to their name), Mr and Mrs Jolly-Japester (same applies) and HRH the Crown Prince of Bedford (one doesn’t comment on the behaviour of royalty). Again we each chose the ten songs/performances that we most enjoyed, rather than the ones we thought would get through.

Serbia 17Serbia – Just as it was about to start I popped a bottle of prosecco and it went all over my trousers and socks. By the time I’d mopped it off the table, the carpet and my leg, the song had all but finished. I know I don’t like it much though – it’s too much of a steal from other songs. HRH noted there were two topless male dancers. Given Tijana’s see-through dress, I’ll just leave that with you. Four of us (Mrs C, HRH and the Prosecco pair) decided to put it through to the final.

Austria 17Austria – We remember Nathan as a happy chappy from the London party. Interesting staging, giving a whole new meaning to mooning. He delivered it superbly as we expected. But is there something lacking from this whole thing? Apparently not, as we all sent Nathan through apart from a grumpy Lord Prosecco.

Macedonia 17FYR Macedonia – Mr Jolly-Japester thought her name was Jana Bigchester – clearly his Freudian slip was showing. Jana romped around like a sex kitten, all tinsel and Madonna-like, wearing the epitome of f*ck me boots that Mrs C would die for. Unfortunately, with all this, a rather beautiful and charming song got totally lost. Nevertheless, six of us appreciated her splendid effort, with only Lord Prosecco being grumpy again.

Malta 17Malta – Breastlessly? enquired Mr Jolly-Japester, clearly on a roll. Well, not entirely, came the group response. Hurrah for Claudia finally making it to Eurovision, and most of us agreed that it’s a strong song, if a trifle old-fashioned. Five of us gave her the thumbs up, only HRH wasn’t impressed with her cleavage and Mr J-J just got too bored with the song.

Romania 17Romania – It wouldn’t be Eurovision without something totally ridiculous that just might set the world alight. Time then to meet Ilinca and Alex, two lovely people whom you both want to cuddle. Highly impressed with her performance, Mr J-J noted there was no end to what she was capable of with her throat. The song is total rubbish but they give the audience three minutes of sheer delight. One of only four songs that all seven of us put through to the final.

Netherlands 17The Netherlands – I explained to the gathered crowds the story of how this song was written and succeeded in puncturing the mood completely (Google it if you don’t know). The girls are lovely and it’s beautifully staged but for me it’s as dull as ditchwater. Do you remember how they criticised Mozart for having too many notes? For me this has too many harmonies. Nevertheless, four brave souls – HRH, Lord P and the J-Js all gave it the nod of approval.

Hungary 17Hungary – Lord Prosecco drew this in the office sweepstake so we were all very excited for him to hear it. Oh dear. Nice dancer. Nice violinist. Shame about the song. Mr J-J thought it sounded like an ode to constipation. We know a Hungarian who is genuinely embarrassed by this song. As the late Terry Wogan once said (of the Austrian entry in 1977) “different, but not sufficiently different to make a difference.” Only Lord Prosecco (with an eye on his sweepstake) and Mr J-J sent it through to the final.

Denmark 17Denmark – Eurovision by numbers, and quite dull. Anja went to school in Winmalee, New South Wales, where Mrs C’s best schoolfriend works as a teacher. She probably taught Anja. I’m full of riveting facts, me. Halfway through we stopped listening and started talking about Jeremy Corbyn. Only Lady Prosecco selected her to go through to the final.

Ireland 17Ireland – I think this was the time when the level of our conversation truly descended, unlike Brendan’s testicles. Three minutes asking ourselves searching questions like: What is he dying to try? Does it involve the local priest? What on earth is he doing out this late at night? What the hell are Ireland playing at? To be honest, I rather liked his balloon. Only one of us voted for him to go through: HRH, and I doubt it had anything to do with the song.

San Marino 17San Marino – Lady Prosecco had already condemned this to oblivion before Valentina and Jimmie had opened their mouths. Valentina was so hyper, Mrs J-J assumed she’d been taking speed. Did I hear the line: “I can see the future is bright, I’ll take your booze away”? Harsh. Very cruise ship; but some cruise ship entertainment is really good. Some. One of two songs that none of us voted for at all.

Croatia 17Croatia – I just can’t take this seriously in any way. I giggled my way all through it, and not in a good way. The ultimate “Look at me, I’m a star” song. I know I’m in no position to comment, but really, a man of his proportions should not wear a leather jacket. Skin tight. Fully done up. Once you’d finished laughing at his duet with himself, there was the blissful hilarity of the duelling strings, the violinist and cellist battling out to the death to see who could leave the stage with any vestige of dignity left. This was the other song that was a nul points from all of us.

Norway 17Norway – After the overweening, overblown musical flatulence that preceeded it, JOWST’s little song whispered in on a light breeze with just a slight whiff of Jarlsberg. Mrs J-J said she got Ed Sheeran vibes; I’ll have to take her word for that. Maybe it was just because it followed two totally dreadful entries, but all of us sent it through to the final.

Switzerland 17Switzerland – Miruna was wearing what I can only describe as an oversized mango smoothie, perched atop an enormous desk caddy, also in fetching mango – thoughtfully they’d removed the pencils. Later on, they wheeled up a pink piano with a pink pianist to provide colour contrast. It was like watching a block of Neapolitan ice-cream. She’s got a great voice – but we hardly noticed the song. The Proseccos and Mrs C put it through.

Belarus 17Belarus – Not Michael Holliday’s version of The Story of my Life, much to Lord Prosecco’s disappointment. Arciom and Ksienija looked like little rays of sunshine. So happy. So lacey (at least, I think that’s what that material is). It took me ages to realise they were on a boat and not merely accompanied by two giant hamster wheels. Their song, in pure Belarussian, was also very happy. And felt much longer than three minutes. Only Mr J-J voted it through.

Bulgaria 17Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov (not, as Mr J-J had it, “Tossed-off”) impressed us all with his superb voice and beautiful song. Well, nearly all. “Am I the only one who thinks this is boring?” asked Lady Prosecco. “Yes,” we confirmed. I thought it was sheer class from start to finish. Will it carry off the Grand Prix on Saturday night? Not sure. Could be a chance of so near and yet Sofia. Only the low boredom threshold of Lady Prosecco prevented it from being a clean sweep of yays.

Lithuania 17Lithuania – From the sublime to the ridiculous, featuring the winner of Lithuania’s Got Talons. When one of our party (who shall be nameless) described Viktorija’s coiffure as a “prickly bush”, we had to halt the recording for some time in order to recover. It was also noted that if Viktorija shoved her finger nail into his underpants, it would have been the longest thing down there. Rubbish song, so who cares? Bizarrely Mrs J-J, in a fit of kindness, voted it through.

Estonia 17Estonia – Two to go, and my second favourite of 2017. Another example of jacket jealousy for me as Koit marched across the stage with enormous authority which crumbled when he gave the camera his “Ed Milliband” look. They were singing about how they’d lost their Verona but they were in each other’s arms and looking happy – had they sneakily found it again but told no one? Loved the harmonies though, and this was another song that we all voted through to the final.

Israel 17Israel – I’d always thought this was a very good underdog this year and IMRI absolutely nailed the performance. Terrific vocals, smart looking guy, and an enjoyable song. I’d be happy to see the contest in Tel Aviv next year. Universal approbation throughout as this was the fourth song that we all voted for.

So how did we all do? We all got a mixture of 5 or 6 right (I scored 6) except Mr Jolly-Japester who scored 8 and thereby wins a cutting of Viktorija’s prickly bush for bedding purposes. By contrast, if I’d stuck with the eight songs that I predicted would stumble at this hurdle in my earlier preview blog, I’d have scored 7/10. Belarus, Netherlands and most particularly (guffaw) Croatia were my stumbling blocks. Ah well. We’ll all be watching the big show from the luxury of the Errol Flynn Filmhouse on Saturday night – and wherever you are, I hope you have a great Eurovision night and may the best song about a dancing naked ape win!

Eurovision Semi Final One 2017

For various reasons that you don’t need to know about, gentle reader, I haven’t done a run down of how we viewed the semis since 2014. Time to put this right methinks. For Semi Final One it was just Mrs Chrisparkle and me on the couch with some nuts and a 2008 Veuve Cliquot. Metropolitan elite? Youbetcha. We decided to assess the ten songs that we would put through to the final on the basis that they were the ones we enjoyed the most, not the ten that we thought would go through. I say that now, because we didn’t do very well…

swedenSweden – I’ve been steadily going off this song ever since I saw Robin perform at the London Party. He did his trademark false start at the beginning when someone off camera takes his microphone so that he can adjust his… well I’m not sure what he adjusted because the camera didn’t show it, so that was a waste of time. One of many guys whom we despairingly noted were wearing trousers too short and no socks. You would have thought someone like that would be able to afford a proper tailor. They stole Kurt Calleja’s pointy toe dance. In the end we both put it through as qualifying, but somewhat begrudgingly.

georgiaGeorgia – By the same token, I’ve been steadily warming to this song over the past few weeks, with its James Bondesque quality. She looks really scary… and I wondered if Mel Giedroyc’s comments about her being so nice were somewhat ironic… The main thing is that she sure delivered that ballad with some power and we both really enjoyed it, both putting her through to the final.

australiaAustralia – As Isaiah plodded through his ploddy number I felt my eyes beginning to droop… No socks, but I really coveted his frock coat. Would it look out of place down the local pub? Isaiah did some emoty bits that were really quite painful on the tympanic membrane. Just came across as dull I’m afraid, and neither of us put it through.

albania Albania – First true shocker of the night. Lindita started all wobbly – hardly surprising in those shoes. Mrs C said she was wearing a net curtain, and it’s true that her rather otherworldly appearance really put us off appreciating what little song there was. It ended up being my 18th favourite of the night – and neither of us put her through.

BelgiumBelgium – Here was the first test of true Eurovision performance. A song that’s great on video, but Blanche channels her inner Edvard Munch as she’s welded, terrified, into position in front of the camera. Bizarrely she occasionally gave us a flash of her slightly happier mode, but her performance was truly drab. To a native English speaker her accent is very disturbing, almost maniacal. I really hated it. As a result, I chose not to put her through. Mrs C, on the other hand, remembered how good the video was and just gave her the benefit of the doubt.

montenegroMontenegro – At last something to enjoy wholeheartedly. Slavko is a real Mr Showman and decided to go for it in the fullest camp mode, which is really what the song deserves. With his flying ponytail and one denier blouse, no one was going to sleep whilst he was on. I quite like the song; I think it has an old-fashioned disco sound to it that could easily be an album track on Saturday Night Fever. His trousers would go well with Isaiah’s frock coat – just saying. We both had it sailing through to the final.

finlandFinland – Good idea to have the piano just gently smoking, unlike the full inferno of The Makemakes a couple of years ago. Leena absolutely nailed the vocal with its thrilling simplicity. This was the first time that Mrs C had got this song, and she really loved it too. Pure class, raw, tough emotion, this performance was out of this world. It was my favourite of the night and we both had it qualifying with ease.

azerbaijanAzerbaijan – In comparison, this is utter rubbish. She performs the song in front of a blackboard with most of the lyrics written on it, because otherwise it’s even more impossible to understand. A man with a horse’s head sits atop a stepladder. Get off your high horse, I shouted. He didn’t answer. Maybe he’s a chesspiece; maybe it’s a fanwank. Absolutely dreadful and neither of us put it through.

Portugal Portugal – This was always going to be the biggy of the night, whether it would crash and burn or soar into the sky. For me, it really soared. There’s no question that Salvador has a comparatively eccentric delivery but it gives you an extra insight into the personality behind the voice, so that you’re appreciating this rather awkward, maybe emotionally clumsy guy finally bursting forth with a quiet love song. Vocally, he was absolutely spot on, and the concentration from the audience meant you could hear a pin drop. Mrs C’s always had her doubts about this one, but I could easily see it winning on Saturday night. I put it through without hesitation, she put it through with hesitation.

Greece Greece – This song is definitely derivative of something, but I can’t bring it to mind; the chorus, of course, is pure Cascada. Personally I think this is three minutes of sound and fury signifying nothing. Is it shallow of me to say “nice legs”? The dancing lads have obviously been inspired by Jedward’s Waterline performance. It’s good enough to qualify but not good enough to ever become anyone’s favourite. We both put it through.

PolandPoland – Another net curtain, noted Mrs C, who then went on to deconstruct its fire, desire, higher, wire lyric, and found it extremely wanting. It’s an immensely tedious song and Kasia tried to oversell it, which was painful when there was precious little there to start with. Definitely a no from both of us.

MoldovaMoldova – After the bland void of Poland, this was a much-needed kick up the brass. Epic Sax Guy and his mates are back, with a brand new sax motif that will disrupt your sleep patterns. They present it so slickly, and, although the repetitive lyrics aren’t up to much, its sheer cheerfulness makes you love it. We both had it qualifying, no question.

iceland Iceland – My notes read “tits and shoes”. Will that do? OK, I’ll develop that argument a bit. The song is another of these immensely tedious numbers but Svala has put enough thought into her appearance to take our mind off it. To be fair, it was a very good performance, but for me it can’t mask a paper-thin song (geddit?) It’s a no from both of us.

czechCzech Republic – I’ve always had a soft spot for this song, it has a warmth about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. Sadly Marta’s bacofoil look is totally at odds with it, and the background image of clips from the video, featuring semi naked people doing what looks like clumsy contemporary dance, just comes across as a little bizarre. Killed by its poor staging, we didn’t put it through.

cyprusCyprus – I quite like this song too but it’s beginning to wane, and Hovig’s performance didn’t help it for me. I thought his vocals were a bit off at times and it was just a bit soulless; not to mention sockless. Good enough to get through though.

ArmeniaArmenia – It’s atmospheric, but is it art? I don’t get this song, and I don’t get the appeal of the performers. Attitude is all very well but here it triumphs over substance; and for me entertainment and enjoyment levels were fairly low. We didn’t put it through.

sloveniaSlovenia – Is it true, what they said, that Omar is a busker on the London Underground? That’s ridiculous! As soon as it started, we both looked at each other and said “what is that tune, I really have heard it before” – and I’ve been trying to identify it for weeks now – then it came to me: Any Other World by Mika. Omar gave a great performance of a ballad that owes a little too much to musical theatre, but for us it was good enough to qualify.

latviaLatvia – I think I laughed for at least the first twenty seconds at Agnese’s hairdo and dress sense. Whatever that is on her head, I reckon she can get 6 Music on it. Who said the influence of Bjork is dead? It’s not a bad song but the performance was a bit lightweight and overall I don’t think it worked properly. However, I had it scraping through into the final, whereas Mrs C did not.

On the basis that we voted for the songs and performances we liked, Mrs C got 6/10 right, I only got 5/10. However, taking the songs that I thought would go through from my preview blog of a couple of weeks ago, I did a little better with 7/10. These Eurovision semis are hard to call! Anyway, we’ll be having another go on Thursday night, and with a few more people around for extra input. Enjoy Eurovision week!

Eurovision 2017 – The Grand Final

These final six songs are already guaranteed to be there on the Saturday night without any further possibilities of elimination. As the performance order is not yet decided I’m going to take them in alphabetical order. As usual, each preview will have its own star rating and its bookmaker odds courtesy of oddschecker.com, as at 24th April. Stick with it, you know you want to.

France – Alma – Requiem

FranceLast year France came up with an absolute smasher of a song that was far and away my favourite for 2016. Well darn me, they’ve very nearly done the same again this year, with a thoroughly entertaining treatise about the ins and outs of love delivered superbly by the bewitching Alma who captured my heart at the London Party. She saw me out of the corner of her eye, gave me a huge smile and dedicated her entire performance to me. (Well, two out of three ain’t bad.) I was uncertain about her vocals at first but she can really sell this song and it ought to do really well. The video takes the concept of dancing underneath the Eiffel Tower to a new level. 20/1 – 33/1. *****

Germany – Levina – Perfect Life

GermanyNow here’s a song that splits people. Levina redefines what constitutes a perfect life with her look at making mistakes and learning from experience. It’s a relentlessly catchy arrangement and she sings it beautifully; the only thing that maybe doesn’t quite make the grade is how the lyrics seem to end up at the same place where they started. Nevertheless, I think this is a vastly underrated song and Germany’s best entry since Cascada. 100/1. ****

Italy – Francesco Gabbani – Occidentalis Karma

ItalyIf you’ve not been anywhere near Planet Eurovision over the past three months you won’t have yet encountered the source of this year’s hype, Francesco Gabbani’s San Remo-winning satirical take on how the west look to the east for some easily digestible spirituality. Ever since it won it’s been the one to beat, and Francesco’s fantastic performance at the London Party did nothing to weaken his chances. The only downside is how brutally they’ve cut the San Remo version to make it fit inside Eurovision’s stipulated three minutes; but what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve, and anyone hearing it for the first time on the Saturday night won’t know what they’re missing. Since the original video was posted on 9th February it’s now had more than 100 million looks which is unheard of for a Eurovision song. Unquestionably this year’s best entry; funny, dancey, uplifting, and there’s an ape. Clear favourite. 10/11 – 11/8. *****

Spain – Manel Navarro – Do It For Your Lover

SpainThree superb songs, then along trundles Spain. Whether you think Manel won the Spanish selection by fair means or foul (foul being by far the popular vote), he made himself no friends with his reaction to the audience’s reaction (not very dignified), and Spain ends up being represented by three minutes of repetitious tedium that last a lifetime. To be fair, it starts quite promisingly, but then rapidly falls apart. Spain’s like that – for every Pastora Soler there’s a Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, and I’d estimate this as one of Spain’s worst entries of all time. When you get to my age there’s no way you can do it for your lover that frequently in so short a time. 100/1 – 200/1. *

Ukraine – O. Torvald – Time

UkraineTime is what the writers of this entry should be doing for crimes against music. O. Torvald – subversive name for a group – have a lot of energy on stage and were entertaining to watch at the London Party but the song is execrable. I don’t think we’ll be in Kyiv two years on the row. 50/1 – 125/1. *

United Kingdom – Lucie Jones – Never Give Up On You

United KingdomLet’s look at the positives. Lucie is a tremendous singer and performer and was by far the best contender at the UK National Selection. She’s been touring in Rent to fantastic reviews so holding her own on that stage should be well within her grasp. The song is plaintive and heart-warming but sadly not memorable. It’ll need a good spot in the running order and fabulous staging to have the remotest chance of getting noticed. My guess is that it’ll be everyone’s 15th favourite song, so nul points (or not far off that) wouldn’t at all surprise me. 25/1 – 66/1. ***

In previous years, I’ve analysed the number of looks each song has received on Youtube’s Official Eurovision channel but there doesn’t seem much point as there’s a large discrepancy between how long some of them have been uploaded – so it doesn’t make a fair comparison. For what it’s worth my favourite is Italy, with Estonia second and France and FYR Macedonia battling it out for third.

Have a great time watching the show on May 13th, wherever you are – at home with some crisps, at a party, or in Kyiv. May the best song win!

Eurovision 2017 – Semi Final Two

So here we are again, gentle reader, with a look at the eighteen songs that will battle it out in Semi Final Two. It was going to be nineteen, but there was a little ongoing skirmish between Russia and Ukraine because the Russian singer had appeared on stage in the Crimea, which just so happens to be land belonging to Ukraine that Russia have invaded and as a result, and in the spirit of Celebrate Diversity, Russia have told Ukraine they can shove their music contest up their Dnieper. Will Russia be back next year? And moreover, who will there be for the crowd to boo now? As before, you can also see the betting odds, courtesy of oddschecker.com (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places each way, as at 14th April) and also giving each song a star rating out of 5. On y va!

Serbia – Tijana Bogićević – In Too Deep

SerbiaWe start off with a song that many people rather like and that the bookmakers also fancy. She’s not quite Tijuana, but she still has some brass to present a song that starts like About You Now by the Sugababes, goes into a chorus like Katy Perry’s Firework, and spends the rest of its time sounding like Nina’s Caroban from 2011. Tijana was actually a backing singer for Nina so maybe she’s staying with a winning formula. Except that Caroban only finished mid-table. They’ve even nicked the title from Genesis. Is nothing original? My verdict: meh. 25/1 – 100/1. **

Austria – Nathan Trent – Running on Air

AustriaI thought this was all a bit cheesy and simple and phoned in until we saw Nathan at the London Party, and I tell you gentle reader, the man is a total star. He sang Running on Air a capella due to a technical issue and, unfazed, he really proved his worth. Plus he has an enormous connection with the audience (Matron!) If he can project that to the people at home this could do very well. As refreshing as a St. Clements, although essentially as insubstantial. 66/1 – 200/1. ***

FYR Macedonia – Jana Burčeska – Dance Alone

FYR MacedoniaHold the front page – FYR Macedonia in “great Eurovision song” shock! The gorgeous Jana (who also aced it at London) takes out her hair and washes off her makeup in the expectation of a life without love to the sound of a song that would have been a hit for Bananarama. It’s got a clever video too, where old Jana looks back at young Jana through virtual reality glasses, emphasising its message of enjoy life while you can. I really love this song and can’t stop singing it. Best Macedonian song evah! 25/1 – 80/1. *****

Malta – Claudia Faniello – Breathlessly

MaltaFinally representing Malta at the 9th attempt, Claudia Faniello is a great singer with wonderful stage presence and whilst this is a fine song, I don’t think there is any one aspect of it that will make it stand out sufficiently to get noticed. When Claudia was at the London Party she sang a medley of her previous songs – if only Caravaggio had made it. Another clever video, where an evening out goes seriously wrong, in reverse – his fault for using a mobile whilst driving. It would be great if Malta were to win one year… don’t think it will be this year though. 100/1 – 200/1. ***

Romania – Ilinca feat. Alex Florea – Yodel It

RomaniaEvery so often Eurovision throws up (and I mean that significantly) a mixture of genres that usually clash and burn. Rap has featured a little in Eurovision ever since Kolig Kaj fell in love with the telephone operator, and yodelling, whilst scarcer, hasn’t really achieved anything since the Pepe Leinhard Band in 1977; mind you, that was a good song. Yodel It is a truly dreadful embarrassment to modern music. But – and it’s a big but – we saw them at the London Party and my goodness they perform brilliantly. The most endearing couple on stage, they could make you believe that yap is the only way forward, and there will be millions round the world simply beguiled by their charm. Ignore this at your peril. 20/1 – 33/1. ***

Netherlands – OG3NE – Lights and Shadows

NetherlandsOG3NE. Not an enigmatic compass point or a half-completed postcode, but a convoluted way of saying O Gene. Graduates of the Junior Eurovision, the three sisters perform a song written by their dad about their sick mother. The lyrics are moving and heartfelt and may well twinge the emotions of the juries. However, musically, the combined melody and performance is the blandest thing I’ve encountered since the beige safari jacket. Nausea overload. 40/1 – 50/1. *

Hungary – Joci Pápai – Origo

HungaryFrom the blandest song in the contest to one of the most characterful. Joci gives us some authentic Hungarian gypsy vibes in this year’s least Western sounding song. (Are you sure? question Belarus. Yes, I reply.) But this is none of your happy gypsy wedding music, it’s got a very haunting rhythm and melody which suggests sadness and angst. In fact, it’s a very serious and dour account of being betrayed because of your race and knowing that only God will stand by your side in the fight for truth and justice. Not many laughs, then. Goulash, anyone? 33/1 – 40/1. ***

Denmark – Anja Nissen – Where I Am

DenmarkStrong woman sings brassy song about how being a strong, brassy woman gets you nowhere in the love stakes. Anja’s a terrific performer who won The Voice Australia a few years ago, so she can certainly be relied upon to belt out the song. Trouble is, the song isn’t that great; it’s a bit shouty, and I find it quite tiring to concentrate on. I’m sure it will qualify but I don’t think it will trouble the leaderboard on the night. 33/1 – 40/1. ***

Ireland – Brendan Murray – Dying To Try

IrelandBrendan Murray was internally selected to represent Ireland this year and his song is a sweet, gentle ballad about taking that risky step into a first love affair, entirely appropriate for a singer who is 20 going on 14. He’s got plenty of experience for his young years and I am sure he will make a splendid stab at it; but again there’s not a lot here that stands out apart from the purity of his rather feminine voice. I confess it doesn’t really do anything for me. 33/1 – 66/1. **

San Marino – Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson – Spirit of the Night

San MarinoNow we’re off to the land with more cars than people, it’s San Marino and their annual Ralph Siegel-penned, Valentina Monetta-sung entry, Spirit of the Night. Valentina’s fourth appearance in the contest makes her the equal the record for the most frequent female performer at Eurovision, alongside Elizabeth Andreassen and Sue from Peter, Sue and Marc. This time she’s partnered with American actor/singer Jimmie Wilson. It’s a pleasant little number with a racy façade but not much going on beneath the surface. The eponymous spirit is more Ovaltine than tequila slammer; still it means well and does nobody any harm. 100/1 – 250/1. **

Croatia – Jacques Houdek – My Friend

CroatiaAnother song chosen internally, which comes as no surprise to me as I cannot imagine anyone voting for this nonsense of their own volition. Did you know that opera singers are always identifiable by their spectacles? One of the most cringeworthy things I’ve ever had the displeasure to listen to. Please make the strange man singing to himself go away. No, just no. 66/1 – 150/1. *

Norway – JOWST – Grab the Moment

NorwayNorwegian singer Joakim With Steen shortens his name to JOWST, so don’t expect him to arrive on stage on horseback with a long pole. He’s accompanied by Aleksander Walmann as a mysterious keyboard artist and backing vocalist, which lends an air of intrigue. This song probably has more words per square inch than any other this year. Nice bouncy delivery and it’s an enjoyable way to waste three minutes, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. 66/1 – 100/1. ***

Switzerland – Timebelle – Apollo

SwitzerlandBack to the land of anonymous female ballads that don’t have much to distinguish themselves from the others. Actually Timebelle are a group, but the focus is fully on vocalist Miruna. However, let’s face it, it’s no Sebalter. Nor Sinplus. Nor even Takasa. The song is fairly tedious and nothing drives me to keep listening for the full three minutes. Sorry! 66/1 – 150/1. **

Belarus – NAVI – Story of my Life

BelarusThe other ethnically-charged entry this year (along with Hungary) and the first ever Eurovision song to be performed in the Belarusian language. Arciom and Ksienija are a personable young couple who sing this positive ditty about life being good and at first it seemed that it was going to be a surprise favourite this year; now, I’m not so sure. Kudos for giving us something different though. 66/1 – 150/1. ***

Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov – Beautiful Mess

BulgariaHere’s this year’s dark horse. Young Kristian performed at the London Party like a dream, and if you take the time to listen to the song lyrics, it’s absolutely beautiful. A first class ballad, delivered impeccably. Certainly a classic of the future, and by rights it should be up there with a chance on the night. Second favourite. 5/1 – 6/1. *****

Lithuania – Fusedmarc – Rain of Revolution

LithuaniaFrom the sublime to the ridiculous. Three minutes of total nothing. Lead vocalist Viktorija prances her way over the stage but nothing can disguise the thinness of the song. 42nd out of 42. 80/1 – 250/1. *

Estonia – Koit Toome and Laura – Verona

EstoniaKeeping two of this year’s best entries till last, repeat offenders Koit and Laura join to deliver a duet about how they’ve lost their Verona (you can provide your own personal definition) with true enigmatic style, elegance of performance and benefiting from a truly singalong melody. Firm fan favourite, it’s instantly appealing but it also allows you to fill in the characters’ back story for them. I think this is magnificent. Oh, and I love their slightly stagy recriminative looks in the video. My second favourite this year. 33/1 – 66/1. *****

Israel – IMRI – I Feel Alive

IsraelAnd Semi Final Two ends, not with a whimper but a bang. IMRI (apparently you have to give him capital letters, it’s the law) delivers a dancey, singalong, feelgood song that will have you up on your feet on the beach at Tel Aviv within seconds. He shouldn’t be fazed by the experience, having been a backing singer for both Nadav Guedj and Hovi Star. It’s got “summer hit” written through it like a stick of Haifa Rock. Sailing through to the final. 50/1 – 150/1. *****

And there go all the songs for Semi Final Two. To which eight songs will we saying thanks, bye? Lithuania, Malta, San Marino, Ireland, Belarus, Switzerland, Netherlands and (if there is any justice) Croatia is my guess. Remember to watch the second semi-final on BBC 4 at 8pm on Thursday 11th May – this time viewers in the UK cannot vote, so it’s all just for fun. Ten songs will go forward from both semis to the Grand Final on 13th May along with six others – the Big Five and last year’s winner, Ukraine. See you tomorrow for that final countdown – and there are some good ones still to look forward to!

Eurovision 2017 – Semi Final One

Well hello there, gentle reader! No sooner has Article 50 been triggered and a General Election announced, than it’s Eurovision time again, and ISN’T the UK going to be popular this year! 42 European nations (well, including Australia) have come together in peace and harmony (well, including Ukraine) and cast their national enmities aside (yep, Russia aren’t there) in this 62nd annual bunfest. To titillate your fancy, I’m here with my trusty friends YouTube and Oddschecker to bring you the 18 songs that constitute Semi Final One, and as any ESC fan will tell you this is by far the stronger of the two semis, so if you don’t like this lot, then I’m afraid you’re not going to have a very good time. We’ll take them in the order that Ukrainian TV have decided; guided by that pure-bred Ukrainian, Christer Björkman. With each song you’ll find the betting odds from all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places on an Each Way as at 24th April, and also I’ll give each song a star rating out of 5. Dum Tek Tek and off we go!

Sweden – Robin Bengtsson – I Can’t Go On

SwedenSo where do you stand on the use of the word “f*cking” (apologies gentle reader) in a pop song? True, it depends on context, but as far as the Eurovision is concerned, I’m not impressed. Its subsequent replacement by “freaking” isn’t much better, as it’s a word that’s solely used when you mean “f*cking” but can’t say it. Isn’t it always the way that when someone wins Melodifestivalen, you always prefer their earlier songs that didn’t make it? This isn’t a patch on Constellation Prize. There’s no doubt that the repetitious “I Can’t Go On, I Can’t Go On” makes a big impact, especially when he and his guys all walk forward in a very determined and resolute manner. It’s flashy, it’s professional, it’s Sweden; and it’s totally without heart. I suspect that this will do very well and I think that’s rather sad. Third favourite with the bookmakers. 7/1 – 8/1. ***

Georgia – Tamara Gachechiladze – Keep The Faith

GeorgiaAlmost every year it’s said there are too many female ballads. And when I first heard all this year’s songs, this was one of those indistinguishable female ballads that might have been anyone from anywhere dirging on about anything. But actually, if you concentrate on it, it’s not half bad. Tamara, who in 2009 was put out when she wanted to Putin, sings another one of those songs that could be a James Bond theme (albeit on a rough year). It’s a song about personal assertiveness; basically, if others are telling you what to do, tell them to go jump in the swamp. I hope Tamara doesn’t go anywhere near a naked flame in that PVC outfit. 66/1 – 150/1. ***

Australia – Isaiah Firebrace – Don’t Come Easy

AustraliaHotfoot from his success at winning Australian X-Factor last November, 17-year-old Isaiah gives us his best puppydog eyes as he tries to convince us, despite his meagre years, that, through the heartache of a series of so many agonising relationships, he’s picking himself up and looking at love through the experienced eyes of – wow, maybe, even an 18 year old. Isaiah is a great singer who emotes well, the song has a tuneful chorus and builds nicely to a final anti-climax. But it does lack a certain something. I had to confirm with 4lyrics.eu that the last word of the second line is in fact “sheets”. 14/1 – 25/1. ***

Albania – Lindita – World

AlbaniaIs it just me, but when a song opens with words like “we’re so alike, yet different” my heart just plummets. Lindita seems a nice girl and relishes in her opportunity to be dramatic. Another incarnation of the indistinguishable female ballad genre, the song washes over you comfortably and cosily and you never knew it was there. Despite that, it’s still probably one of Albania’s best entries. Lindita’s been on American Idol, the real deal, not one of these European fake versions, and I’m sure she’ll perform real swell. 100/1 – 300/1. **

Belgium – Blanche – City Lights

BelgiumTime for one of the early favourites. On video this is so good. Moody, dramatic, contemporary, brooding, Blanche takes us through her experience in the danger zone with a palpable sense of threat only just out of reach; and it’s great to see the Mysterons in gainful employment again. But how is this going to work on stage? I’m afraid at the London Party Blanche had all the charisma of a mushy Brussels sprout and no clue as to how to sell the song. Another 17-year-old, she’ll need a lot of direction as to how to project and make the best of this powerful material… but if she gets it, then this could go big. 10/1 – 16/1. ****

Montenegro – Slavko Kalezić – Space

MontenegroA word of warning: if you ever stumble upon a Montenegrin restaurant and Slavko Kalezic is your waiter, don’t risk it because his pigtail’s a clip-on and it might fall in the soup. And that would make an almighty mess. Not that Slavko should need any second income after this contest, as I’m sure his sheer pizzazz as a natural showman will keep him at the forefront of Saturday night family entertainment viewing for a long while. Oh wait… Space has a pretty good verse that develops into something of a late 70s disco track – I could easily imagine it as part of the Saturday Night Fever brand – all apart from those lyrics about having sex in space. “Wet dreams, wild nightmares, I surrender, come into me from within, we can be as one in the sin”. What would Mary Whitehouse make of it? 66/1 – 200/1. ****

Finland – Norma John – Blackbird

FinlandAnother early favourite – when this first reached our ears many were hailing it worthy of an Ivor Novello award. Just a singer, a pianist and an account of love now lost. For the record, she isn’t Norma, and he isn’t John. With its plaintive simplicity and moving lyrics it really stands out in a sea of bland pop as being different, but is different good enough? The staging will be vital to keep the audience’s interest up during that frilly trilly instrumental sequence, and Leena’s diction will have to be spot on – we couldn’t make out a word she was saying at the London party. It’s dour and downbeat, but appropriately so. Otherwise we’d ask the blackbird to “chirrup”, geddit? 40/1 – 66/1. ****

Azerbaijan – Dihaj – Skeletons

AzerbaijanDiana Hajiyeva lends a couple of her syllables to the group she fronts for this year’s representative from lovely Baku in Azerjeben. A quirky midtempo number that’s quite appealing on the ears but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s written by the same team who won with Running Scared, and it’s every inch as dynamic. Of all 42 songs in this year’s contest this is the one I find hardest to recall, which may be another way of saying it’s instantly forgettable. But it’s perfectly within possibility that Dihaj will win D-day. (sorry) 18/1 – 33/1. **

Portugal – Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois

PortugalThe same position in the running order as the much-fancied Sergey Lazarev last year, here comes the complete opposite, Salvador Sobral, almost an anti-performer, with his crumpled jacket and quiet reserved style. Where some performers need coaching to come out of their shells, Salvador creates an art form of it, basing his whole presentation on an intimate, private and heartfelt rendition of his song, written by his sister. It’s extremely old fashioned; as the introduction starts you can imagine the black and white footage of the orchestra, or see the blunt stylus crashing down on top of the grooves of a spinning 78. A Marmite song – personally I think it’s enchanting but I also think if you hear it too often it could pall quickly. Nevertheless, this could be Portugal’s best chance of victory for a very long time. Salvador has his health scares; let’s hope he is well enough to be able to perform on the night. Fourth favourite. 10/1 – 14/1. *****

Greece – Demy – This is Love

GreeceAnother rather anonymous midtempo number, with a very wordy verse redeemed by a disco chorus, but wait… what’s that wriggling under the surface trying to come out? Yes it’s Paula Seling and Ovi’s Miracle from 2014 oozing from nearly every note. To be fair, it’s not bad but there’s something about it that stops me being enthusiastic; maybe it’s the banal lyrics. 28/1 – 40/1. ***

Poland – Kasia Mos – Flashlight

PolandFrom one anonymous song to another. This is so lurking in the shadows that it barely registers. Shamelessly trading on the fire, higher, desire rhyme, you could hear this twenty times and still not remember it. Poland always does well, and Kasia is a good singer, but this really is so dull. 40/1 – 100/1. *

Moldova – Sunstroke Project – Hey Mamma

MoldovaAnd yet another unoriginal song, but at least this time there’s a purpose to its unoriginality. Yes Epic Sax Guy is back, he who accompanied countless internet sealions on the saxophone following the unexpected interest in his wonderful sax riff on Run Away back in 2010. This time, in a rather saucy video, the Sunstrokers are on the trail of a beautiful girl but constantly interrupted by her milf of a mum. Honestly guys, you could do a lot worse. This year’s epic sax break is possibly even more epic, and has a nice back foot shuffle move to go with it. Instantly uplifting, and I like it much more than I should. 66/1 – 200/1. *****

Iceland – Svala – Paper

IcelandSvala peers into the light like a waking meerkat with her little hands fighting away imaginary jackals. Wearing her thick red anorak indoors, where it’s not even raining; if she doesn’t take it off she won’t feel the benefit. “You make me feel like paper,” she sings, “you cut right through, I’m stuck like glue”. It’s true, there’s nothing quite so painful as a paper cut. Not so much a song, more of a collage. This doesn’t do much for me. 50/1 – 100/1. **

Czech Republic – Martina Bárta – My Turn

Czech RepMartina’s contemporary dance video to accompany this song makes you think there must be something more substantial to this song and encourages you to concentrate on it more – and actually it works as a combination. However, she’s not going to be allowed to have twenty nearly naked people in their underwear cavorting over the stage, so I expect on the night it might sound rather hollow. It’s not a bad song, albeit with lullaby qualities. Czech soul music. 100/1 – 250/1. ***

Cyprus – Hovig – Gravity

CyprusLast year Cyprus gave us schlager rock, and they’ve followed the same pattern this year. It’s an opportunity for some macho posing that Hovig sees no need to ignore. The song’s a little lumbering and heavy but I rather like it, even though they break the cardinal rule of taking you high and touching the sky. Probably delivers slightly less than it promises. 50/1 – 200/1. ***

Armenia – Artsvik – Fly With Me

ArmeniaA little mood music from Armenia, with Artsvik encouraging us to fly with her as though she were 10cc’s Mandy. It’s quite evocative and atmospheric and very nicely done but never really reaches turbodrive. It’s in the tightly fought Semi Final 1 but even so, doubtless it will qualify. 16/1 – 20/1. ***

Slovenia – Omar Naber – On My Way

SloveniaThe second of this year’s return offenders, Omar Naber offers us a pleasant and unremarkable ballad that isn’t a patch on his song Stop, which failed to qualify so I can’t see this getting through. The video seems to show a Shakespearean tragedian having an argument with himself and I don’t think that’s helping. Omar appeared at the London Party and he’s a strong performer, who deserves to have more original material written for him… oh yeah, he wrote this himself. 100/1 – 250/1. **

Latvia – Triana Park – Line

LatviaThe final song of the first semi is a quirky, rebellious little number from Triana Park, which isn’t the name of the lead vocalist but the group as a whole. Yet another song that it’s quite difficult to recall, even though it’s very different from most of the others. It’s space-agey in a modestly exciting manner, although that “all I see is you, all I see” sequence is immensely tedious. Agnese came to the London Party and aced it. 66/1 – 150/1. ***

So that’s the line up for Semi Final One. Eight songs won’t qualify and I’m going to suggest they will be: Albania, Poland, Moldova (even though it’s my favourite in this semi), Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia and Cyprus. Semi Final One is on BBC4 on Tuesday 9th May at 8pm, and that’s the semi-final in which the UK can vote. And I’ll be back shortly with a preview of Semi Final Two. See you soon!

Eurovision 2016 – The Grand Final

ESCThere are just six more songs left to consider that are guaranteed their Saturday night spot without any unnecessary hurdles earlier in the week. As the performance order is not yet decided I’m going to take them in alphabetical order. That will appeal to whatever OCD is in me. Again each preview will have its own star rating and its bookmaker odds courtesy of oddschecker.com, as at 14th April. You’ve come so far! You can’t give up so soon.

France – Amir – J’ai cherché

AmirAnd here’s a fine thing. France have come up with a total smasheroony that is many people’s favourite (myself included) and is probably their best song for generations. Amir’s original album version of the song which exceeds 3 minutes is even better. But I still love the English/French mix of the lyrics and its totally overwhelming rhythms that cling on and won’t let you go. The lyrics of self-recognition and achievement are beautifully realised in the video featuring a boy ballet dancer and a girl boxer – be who you want to be, is the message. Sadly, I don’t think it will actually carry off the Grand Prix but what a splendid thing if it did. Ethnically Amir is an exciting blend of nationalities, which comes out in his musical style. A true entertainer; at the London Eurovision Party he held the title of Monsieur Charisma. 10/3 – 11/4 (coming in). *****

Germany – Jamie-Lee – Ghost

Jamie-Lee18-year-old Jamie-Lee became the first teenager to win the German version of The Voice and is obviously on her way to becoming a big favourite at home. The song has a very downbeat feel to it, with its theme of trying to rescue a dying relationship, which is at odds with Jamie-Lee’s Disney Princess with a touch of Gaga fashion sense. I reckon it lacks that vital impact that will get people’s juices flowing. The more you hear it, the better it gets, but I think it will be too late – a case of Spirits Having Flown. 40/1 – 66/1 (drifting). ***

Italy – Francesca Michielin – No Degree of Separation

Francesca MichielinFor some reason it nearly always takes me a long time to get to grip with Italian entries; apart from Fiumi di Parole, I loved that from the start. You know how Mozart is criticised in Amadeus for writing too many notes? I feel this is a song that has not enough notes but too many words. It’s like Jim Steinman has moonlighted for La Scala and come up with a soul searching epic that goes on, and on, and…. Francesca emotes her little calzini off in the video, but at the London Party I thought it lacked oomph. A musical interpretation of flogging a dead horse. 28/1 – 40/1 (steady). ***

Spain – Barei – Say Yay!

BareiAnother song with an upbeat message about getting what you want and letting no one stand in your way. And if they don’t like it, well say yay. If you know me in real life, you’ll know that I’m not above getting on the dance floor and shaking my geriatric thing but even so when I first heard this song it rather left me cold; if this is meant to create a wall of sound it needs repointing. That said, I like it much more now, and, with some wily staging, the gaps in its structure might well be hidden. The song has courted controversy for being the first ever Spanish entry sung completely in English. Whatever next, Big Macs replacing tapas? Barei’s a game lass and certainly knows how to present a song. Kurt Calleja wants his shoes back. And his dance routine. 22/1 – 40/1 (drifting). ****

Sweden – Frans – If I Were Sorry

FransThis year’s young people’s song, if I can put it that way. And after all, little Frans is just 17. I met him at the London Eurovision Party. Very polite, very quiet, and possessor of several beanies. His dad on the other hand is a complete raver. My least favourite from the ten to choose from in the Melodifestivalen final, Frans is, however, an excellent performer and really sells the song, and I’m just beginning to get it. I reckon this will go down very well with juries and young voters, but don’t expect anything from those over [insert your own age here]. It doesn’t help that, at heart, it’s a rather unpleasant song – promising all this love and tenderness, forgiveness and reconciliation, only to discover the little sh*t’s not sorry after all. Top ten certainly, top five maybe. 8/1 – 14/1 (starting to drift). ***

United Kingdom – Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone

Joe and JakeSaved the best till last? Not quite, but not far off, in my humble opinion. Joe and Jake were certainly my choice to go forward from the UK national final (Hallelujah that we had one). The guys seem to have a great understanding of each other, and I find myself singing the song at odd moments on a far too regular basis. They harmonise well, and I really love the I, I, I….Sky, I, I sequence. Really nice, down to earth, ordinary guys too. I can’t see it on the left hand side of the scoreboard but will be crossing all digits in the hope for much better. Can’t resist a spot of Retro Britpop. You will say that patriotism is blinding my insight; maybe so, but this is my favourite UK song since Nicki French. 50/1 – 150/1 (coming in slightly). *****

As ever, I do a little counting up of the number of hits each song has received on the Eurovision.tv YouTube channel, not that it means anything at all on previous experience. These are the top ten hits as at 26th April.

10th – Russia (1603827)

9th – Spain (1746290)

8th – Serbia (1760659)

7th – Bosnia (2072256)

6th – Armenia (2707698)

5th – Malta (2707942)

4th – Azerbaijan (2874983)

3rd – France (2909088)

2nd – Australia (3053444)

1st – Poland (3532181)

Last year second place Russia came first in this table, third place Italy were 8th in this table, whereas winning song Sweden was nowhere to be seen. Azerbaijan, Australia and Spain were also in the top ten of YouTube views, just as they are this year. What stands out this year is the high placing of Poland. Worth a sneaky Each Way?

Have a great time watching the show on May 14th, wherever you are – at home with some crisps, at a party, or in Stockholm. May the best song win!