Here we are again. My Christmas. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Lisbon after the triumph of the man with the voice as smooth as luxury Portuguese honey, Salvador Sobral and his ballad Amar Pelos Dois (Love for Us Both).
Although this was a crowning moment for the voting public and juries, having made some appalling decisions in the past, the fact is this; Christmas can be disappointing for everyone occasionally and this year is the year I got the musical equivalent of used European socks as a gift. The song quality, by and large, is the poorest I have seen in all my years of covering the competition, both as a fan and as a music journalist: a term I use incredibly loosely.
Nevertheless, a few good entries have slipped through a net that has been engineered to catch only the most generic of generipop, and it is with these hidden gems in mind that I voluntarily step into a miserable and arbitrary breach to analyse each entry. So, grab the nearest bottle of supermarket prosecco you can find and try to enjoy the veritable non-smorgasbord of music to follow.
I correctly predicted 85% of finalists and the winner last year, so I’m not a bad judge of Eurovision success. But, bear in mind that I am a fan and in no way market myself as a tipster. I won’t be focussing on non-qualifiers unless they’ve got something different to offer. Bear in mind that the running order as of time of writing has not been released, so countries will be ordered thusly; qualifiers from semi-final one, qualifiers from semi-final two and finally, the Big Five (Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the UK) and the host, Portugal.
Albania – Eugent Bushpepa – Mall
This song is not about a mall. It is called Yearning, and it was chosen by Albania’s famed and oldest selection process to choose a Eurovision song, Festival i Kenges. It has since been reworked by an audio engineer with credits including Foo Fighters and Nick Cave records. This song scores points because the artist appears genuinely talented, and the song is in Albanian, which I think given the nature of most of the other songs is a distinct advantage. It has really quite tasty orchestral overtones which I think will help it, and the song isn’t badly written. I can’t see it winning, but then that goes for most of the songs here.
Will it do well? Probably too complex for most Eurofans.
Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef – Lie to Me
The first proper dance song in the competition, and a catchy one at that. Mikolas is a spritely young thing that was first approached for Eurovision last year but rejected it on the basis that the song did not suit him. This one does. Funk driven bassline and brass hook aside, this song has got a flash of naughtiness about it that will do it the world of good. This might be a pop song like the rest, but it’s got that twinkle that a good figurehead and expert production will give you. Josef also has this so-called ‘X-Factor’; he just looks like the cool guy you know that has no job, but for some reason looks effortlessly cool and minted at the same time.
Will it do well? Oh yes, and I’d say this one is a shoe-in to do well. Top five.
Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaite – When We’re Old
This song will no doubt benefit from its placing after Mikolas’ funky-relevant trumpet party tunes. However, the brutal truth is that it’s a fairly standard pop-ballad, with no real defining features. Ieva is talented enough as a singer, but the song doesn’t really exhibit much of that. She might be singing about lovely sentiments, but it really needs a booming crescendo to pull it together. Expect to flop.
Will it do well? Unlikely.
Israel – Netta – Toy
This song will probably win. Which I don’t begrudge; that much. What I do begrudge is that this song communicates inclusivity on behalf of a country with a less than pleasant human rights record. I’m not saying that every song must accurately represent the politics of the country it represents. But Netta leaves a bitter taste in the mouth like the taste I felt when Azerbaijan won. This should not take away from the song; it will win the public vote and the song is a total banger, not dissimilar in style to Nadav Guedj’s ethnopop mix, Golden Boy, that captured the hearts of the public. The song has totally stuck with the voting public and the only thing that can stop it now is a fatal dose of Occidentali’s Karma; by which I mean an overhype that ultimately stops the song from winning the competition, a la poor old Francesco Gabbani and his dancing gorilla from last year. Remember him?
Will it do well? Without a doubt. I would not be surprised if next year’s contest was hosted in Tel Aviv. It’s where the obvious money is, but there’s no chance of a decent return unless you’re putting an uncomfortable amount of money on a song competition. Winner.
Estonia – Elina Nechayeva – La Forza
Over the years, there have been a few opera entries to Eurovision, most notably Cezar and his *ahem* interesting operatic-dance anthem a couple of years ago. This particular one is about as cheesy as a delicatessen. Nevertheless, it still pulls together more raw talent than half of the finalists put together. Nechayeva demonstrates a vocal range that can only be described as ‘fucking impressive’ and I’m pretty sure that only dogs can hear the song’s closing notes. The song itself isn’t bad, and props to the Estonians for going out of their way to provide talent, something that hasn’t been sent by Eesti Laul (the Estonian selection process) in many recent years. Cool light up dress too, as you’ll no doubt find out.
Will it do well? Serious dark horse. Calling top five.
Bulgaria – Equinox – Bones
How the mighty have fallen. Bulgaria smashed it out the park last year, finishing second with seventeen-year-old Kristian Kostov. This song, despite qualifying for the final, will not follow in the same vain. There’s lots of generic, low-fi indie pop this year but this couldn’t be more middle-of-the-road if it measured it out to the centimetre. There’s also no such thing, as far as I can work out, as ‘loving beyond the bones’. I assume it’s a metaphor.
Will it do well? Christ, I hope not.
Austria – Cesar Sampson – Nobody But You
Did somebody say generic? Cesar Sampson is trying to make the jump between backing singing for the aforementioned Kristian Kostov in 2017, and Bulgarian entry in 2016, Poli Genova. However, this ‘Rag’n’Bone Man’s back catalogue’ effort is poor. Certainly nothing to mark it out as quirky, interesting, or even worth paying attention to. I wonder if he’s considered doing it in drag.
Will it do well? Nope.
Finland – Saara Aalto – Monsters
A big pre-Eurovision favourite, this will probably do well through sheer quirk and name. Aalto is a huge name in Finland, and you might recognise her as the runner up of the British X-Factor a couple of years ago, a final that 25% of all Finnish people watched. So, she’s a star; but what of the song? Well, it’s generic. Plus, ca change. Her backing dancers also look like liberated members of Hitler’s senior command with their black boots and grey suits. It’s a dance ballad, Aalto is a big name and is popular across the board, so expect it to do very well. Personally, I don’t think it has the staging to win the competition. You need that with a song that’s a bit “bleh”; ask Mans Zelmerlow.
Will it do well? Top five.
Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Together
Well, well, well. How did we get here? Gimmick. Gimmick is how we got here. Ireland were a shock qualifier from Tuesday’s semi-final. You might recognise Ryan from the X Factor as well. The song itself is sweet enough, but the big pull for this song really is the staging of two male dancers re-enacting Ryan’s love story. Eurovision has always been, in all reality, a big gay pride party. I get that being seen is an important part of acceptance. However, the cynic in me can’t get away from the conclusion that Shaughnessy’s effort is staging over song.
Will it do well? I’m going against my better judgement and saying that this will finish in the top ten.
Cyprus – Eleni Foureira – Fuego
Another big hitter, this time from Cyprus. This is a bona-fide dance anthem, a real euro-floor-filler which in mirroring Western pop will probably do incredibly well. She’s a massive star in Greece and the Mediterranean, as well as being an established performer for the best part of a decade. The staging is fairly standard, and not as remarkable, talent-wise as a lot of the stuff Cyprus has sent before. But it’s contemporary personified and will seriously bother the top three.
Will it do well? Safe bet for top five. Winner on the outside.
Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off
Young Benny is younger than me, which makes me pretty upset on a lot of levels. What also upsets me is that Sweden went through an age-long selection process – the hallowed Melodifestivalen – and came out with this. Dance You Off is another low-fi, vaguely funky song about wanting to dance with ‘anyone but you’. As much as I can appreciate the sentiment of having no-one to dance with, the record is totally unremarkable. Ingrosso’s standing as related to the other, more famous Ingrossos and his country of origin mean he will probably end up doing quite well. Which I will begrudge along with the rest of him.
Will it do well? Safe for top ten. Doubt it will bother top five.
Norway – Alexander Rybak – That’s How You Write a Song
Remember violin dude? Rybak stormed the competition in Russia in 2008 with his awesome and folky Fairytale. This song couldn’t be further from that. It’s a seventies-tinged record with a bit of violin in it to jerk the minds of the casuals back to ten years ago. It’s not a bad record to listen to whilst you’re doing some housework. Alex is a pretty cheeky character as well; aren’t we all suckers for that winning smile? However, it’s a major step down from his last effort. If this is how you write a song, I’m not sure I want to go into songwriting.
Will it do well? Probably top five, with regret.
Hungary – AWS – Vislat nyar
I don’t get catered for as a metalhead at Eurovision. Ever. But this year, the great nation of Hungary has provided me with the thing I’ve always wanted; for my interests of metal and Eurovision to collide in beautiful fashion. I never expected this song to make it out the semi-final, so to have it in the final of the competition is truly a joyous moment. The song is filled with tasty riffs and a deathcore breakdown towards the end that surprised even me with its ferocity. Which means it will almost certainly come last, but I couldn’t give a toss.
Will it do well? Miracles happen, kids.
Australia – Jessica Mauboy – We Got Love
Another star back in Australia, Jessica Mauboy is another sad case of decent singer singing bad song. The song itself is totally unremarkable. I can’t even think of anything positive or negative to even say about it. It’s a bit upbeat and reminds me of the official song of a World Cup, or European Championship, as in “contemporary but other than that, completely arbitrary”. It may have got through the semi-final, but I am calling an Australia flop for the first time in their performance history.
Will it do well? Hopefully it will keep us company down the bottom.
Moldova – DoReDoS – My Lucky Day
Despite having a name stylised like a Bebo account, DoReDos entry continues in the same zany vain as Sunstroke Project last year. It’s just a catchy song, and Eurovision absolutely personified; slightly shaky English, heavily-accented song-writing with brass hooks, bells and whistles draped all over it. Another song you would want to do well purely on the basis that all the band look like they’re having a great time. I’ll be having a great time with them.
Will it do well? Conservatively estimate top ten, but then I didn’t predict them to come third last year.
Denmark – Rasmussen – Higher Ground
Big beardy Rasmussen has tried to swing the Euro-public this year with a song that sounds weirder the more I listen to it. It’s a bit Woodkid, complete with anthemic chorus, war-drums and huge, booming brass section behind it. Can’t say I’m overly swayed by it, still. A march to war as this should be more impactful. The fact is that this song doesn’t make me thirsty for battle, rather another shot of something to pass the time.
Will it do well? I predict a flop.
The Netherlands – Waylon – Outlaw In ‘Em
A country, toe-tap rock ballad reminiscent of one of my favourite bands (for my sins), Florida Georgia Line, Outlaw In ‘Em is one to watch. Waylon was part of The Common Linnets, a band that represented the Dutch in 2014, coming second beyond eventual runaway winner Conchita Wurst. From a rock perspective, this song is nothing new. But cast against the drab, moody, generic nature of so many of the entries this year, I could quite easily see it cracking the Top Five, but maybe that’s an optimistic estimate.
Will it do well? Left side of the scoreboard, possibly more.
Slovenia – Lea Sirk – Hvala, ne!
An ex-concert flutist and ex-conservatory standard singer, Lea Sirk has used none of her classical education in the performance of Hvala Ne. It’s got a bit of a trap-style drop on it and a cool dance that goes alongside it, but that’s more or less all that you really need to know. The guy who produced it was once on Carl Cox’s record label, Intec. I presume, given the standard of this song, that he is no longer with them.
Will it do well? Bottom five.
Serbia – Sanja Ilic and Balkanika – Nova deca
This is what we really all watch Eurovision for; songs in languages we don’t remotely understand littered with cultural sounds. The mission statement of BalkanikaiIs allegedly to revive “byzantine and medieval” Serbian music traditions. One presumes that they did not have digital synthesizers and decent mastering back in Byzantine-era Serbia, and to be honest, as much as this song is intriguing from a cultural standpoint, it doesn’t stand in structure any further away from the pack than the rest. Its entry to the final was one of those headscratcher moments where you’re not sure how or why an event has occurred, but you are confused by its occurrence.
Will it do well? All good empires must fall. Ask Roman Reigns. Right side.
Ukraine – Melovin – Under the Ladder
Melovin won the Ukrainian X Factor a couple of years ago, and is almost as young as Benjamin Ingrosso, which makes me doubly cross. Having failed to win his national selection last year, he has managed to worm his way into the semi-final, and then the final, purely by virtue of public vote. Perhaps its his youth that has excused him from coming to the contest with such a poor song; he joins the conga line of artists this year with a very boring song. Nevertheless, he is here, and mid-table mediocrity awaits. To be honest, in making the final instead of Russia, he has won already.
Will it do well? Enjoy the success while it lasts, me ain’t lovin’ this. Bottom five.
Spain – Amaia and Alfred – Tu Canción
You know when things aren’t ground-breaking, just nice? Amaia and Alfred have quickly and quietly dispersed of any lingering doubts over Spanish Eurovision credentials, owing to their last-place entry in 2017, Do It For Your Lover. Tu cancion is, simply, a bloody good ballad. Given, Alfred Garcia sounds almost identical to last year’s winner Salvador Sobral, but I am willing to forgive this on the grounds that the harmonies between Alfred and Amaia are pitch perfect. And a couple. Which makes it cute, in a saccharine way.
Will it do well? I don’t care if it’s vapid, I really hope so.
Germany – Michael Schulte – You Let Me Walk Alone
Another elongated selection process, another alright song. He came third on the German edition of The Voice, and absolutely swept through the German selection with the maximum possible store. It’s not a bad song by all accounts, about his Dad, and Schulte wrote it partially himself, which is always worth a few Chris points. It reminds me a little bit of Calum Scott’s version of “Dancing On My Own” with its piano-dominant melodies. It’s the best entry since Satellite in 2011 and Standing Still in 2013 and will hopefully do well. This is one of the few acts that you might actually sympathise with enough to hope them to perform well.
Will it do well? International reaction was encouraging but could go either way. Predicting left half of the scoreboard.
United Kingdom – SuRie – Storm
When the BBC announced it was to bring back an audience-voted selection process for Eurovision after years of internally-selected misery, I was thrilled. However, we ended up with six pretty much identical songs and got the best out of that. Storm is another banal song, enlivened only by staging and SuRie’s Lennox-style dancing. Her voice isn’t bad, but the song is another generifest. Furthermore, given our current standing within Europe, I highly doubt that our EBU colleagues will be that keen to give us too many points. Not that it stopped them from withholding points from us before, in fairness.
Will it do well? About as well as UKIP in the recent local elections. Bottom five.
France – Madame Monsieur – Mercy
I suppose that the French think that this is a bit quirky. I disagree with them. It can join Australia in the corner I’ve reserved for finalists that think that pedestrian pop will get them anywhere. Even though it won the French vote (I refer you back to my previous statements), it came third in the international juries, which is unsurprising; the song practically consists of the word ‘merci’ repeated twelve hundred times. It deserves nothing less than to fall on its arse.
Will it do well? Last.
Italy – Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro – Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente
This is a bloody powerful record. Written in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack, it is a giant Eurovision fuck-you to terrorism, referencing Nice and London. It won 44.5% of the vote in the Italian selection. I don’t really have anything to say about the song; the song feels irrelevant given subject matter. I am glad that a Big Five country is using its automatic final status for a statement to be made.
Will it do well? Hopefully, but Italian language may set it back. Top ten.
Portugal – Claudia Pascal – O Jardim
Portugal were going to struggle to match the minimalist, jazz-infused perfection of history maker Salvador Sobral in their defence of the Eurovision crown. They haven’t done a bad job by all accounts. Claudia Pascal has a similar smokiness to her voice that gives her an air of complexity on O Jardim. The bottom line is that this is no Amar Pelos Dois (Sobral’s winning song). The piano riff at the beginning also feels like a rip off of The Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘That Home’. See if you can spot it.
Will it do well? With no hype, I doubt it will catch a heady voting tailwind like Amar Pelos Dois. Bottom Ten.
Well done! You made it to the end. Pour yourself a drink. If there’s anyone left reading this, I suppose you’ve done enough to earn yourself a prediction as to who is going to win. Surprises happen, but I can’t see them happening this year. This has been a terrible year for Eurovision entries and suggests that the runaway favourites thus far will remain insurmountable. As a result, I am backing the bookies and calling Israel to win the contest this year. Nevertheless, if Hungary win, I promise to buy a ticket to Budapest next year to be CV’s ‘man on the ground’. Enjoy the show!