This year’s Eurovision Song Contest has drawn more attention than it perhaps otherwise would have due to the minor-disagreement-cum-total-diplomatic-disaster that briefly amused the world’s press: Russia will be a notable absentee in Kiev on Saturday.
Nevertheless, even without stalwart Russia, prodigal son Turkey and upstart Bosnia & Herzegovina, as many as ten thousand fans are expected to pack into the International Exhibition Centre in Ukraine for the 62nd Annual Eurovision Song Contest. This year has proved interesting as a lifelong Eurovision fan for a number of reasons: first off, it is the first time in memory that an entry not sung in English is being marked out as the frontrunner. Indeed, it will be hard to stop Francesco Gabbani, his dancing gorilla and hoarse tones from winning the competition with the hideously catchy Occidentali’s Karma. But a number of entries have reeled Italy in with confident performances in Tuesday and Thursday’s semi-finals: as a result, even though the bookies might disagree, the result of this competition is not a forgone conclusion.
It’s really hard to look past Italy. The bookies even at their most generous have Francesco Gabbani at 6/5 closing to evens. You’d be lucky to get 1/4 for a Top Five finish. Occidentali’s Karma appears to have everything: it is infectiously catchy pop, has the novelty aspect (a rather talented gorilla that will no doubt be subject to countless Harambe jokes) and a dance that is simpler to do than the Macarena. However, having watched the performance in a live format, the worry is that Gabbani’s gravelly tones actually do the song a disservice. As a result of this, other countries have started to close the gap.
One of these nations is Portugal. Hailed as a borefest by many of the Eurovision die-hards, Salvador Sobral and his beautiful, soft jazz-ballad Amar Pelos Dois closed in from the mid-thirties down to 15/8 after his stunning performance on Tuesday night. It helps that the looker from Lisbon is rather good-looking, leading to the hashtag #Salvadorable trending on Twitter on Tuesday. Even though the contest is chock-full of ballads this year, this entry is a stand-out and may even sneak it.
Australia could do well, but Isaiah, whilst a decent vocalist in his own right is singing an average song. Blanche’s entry for Belgium is a fan favourite, but Tuesday’s performance wasn’t polished as it perhaps should have been and the song is not good enough to win. Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov is a favourite with the fans as well (as well as being practically a foetus at seventeen), but will the casual observer feel the same way as they do?
The Best of The Rest
Worldwide meme sensation Epic Sax Guy is back with Sunstroke Project and Moldova this year, with a similarly catchy tune called ‘Hey Mamma’. Even without the hip-thrusting that made him famous, the song has the chance to do rather well indeed. It might be worth a shout for a Top Five Finish, with some bookmakers offering 80/1 for the small nation to win the whole thing.
Romania’s entry this year has harnessed, although with a distinctly anglicised-pop twist, the power of the human voice with their timeless classic ‘Yodel It!’ this year. Bookies have rather optimistically priced this to win the competition at 22/1, but regardless of its finishing position, this entry will be sure to have you yodelling along (or make you make a mental note never to go to Bucharest on holiday).
If you want to folk-off, you might like Belarussian entry NAVIBAND with their entry ‘Historyja majho žyccia’, translated to ‘Story of My Life’. If you like popera and men dressed like Jekyll and Hyde designed by Vivienne Westwood, you may enjoy Jacques Houdek and his…interesting work, My Friend representing Croatia. And if you like harmonies, look no further than the rather underestimated O’G3NE from The Netherlands, a team of three sisters who will be first group ever to represent a country at both Junior Eurovision and standard Eurovision finals. If you like rock, you’ve had it. The best you can hope for is host Ukraine’s O.Torvald and his apocalyptic faux-metal ditty, Time. Best sticking with predictable acoustic Euro-pop, available in droves from Manuel Navarro and Spain with the questionably named ‘Do It For Your Lover’.
Don’t laugh Great Britain out of the competition yet. Lucie Jones is an ex-X Factor contestant whose song, at first listen, appeared incredibly mediocre. This was perhaps because on the actual record, it does. However, when sung in the live arena, Jones’ charisma and outright power shows through and with the staging that she has been given, she has been slated by the bookies to do rather better than most people think. It could go either way, but an informed guess would argue that she will most likely end up on the left side of the leaderboard.
Heart says Portugal. Head says Italy. Anyone but Romania.
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