It’s that time of year again. The date in the annual music calendar when Europe whips out its sparkly dresses, wind machines and key changes to dazzle and, frequently, offend the world’s ears.
This year, the Eurovision Song Contest will take place at the Dusseldorf Arena, following the runaway victory of German-cum-cockney popster Lena last year. Not content with the one win, she’s back again this year with her minimalist track, ‘Taken by a Stranger’, which is possibly a bit too cool and respectable for a competition that, over the years, has boasted a slurring Irish turkey puppet and a Frenchman in a golf buggy.
In fact, by comparison, this year’s contest seems decidely docile with few cringe-worthy gimmicks in sight (with a couple exceptions). But which songs should you be listening out for on the night, and which ones should you cover your ears to?
1. United Kingdom: Blue – I Can
It’s been a woeful few years for us in Eurovision; numerous last places, a ‘nil points’ and Scooch. But this year, we could actually win. Boy-band Blue reformed especially for the contest and they’ve had success across Europe in the past. I Can is a bombastic, uplifting ‘proper’ pop song that should at least save us from any further embarassment.
2. France: Amaury Vassili – Sognu
Bookies’ favourite and the world’s youngest tenor, Amaury Vassili will be feeling the pressure on the night. France, like us, ain’t done well in recent years but this ‘popera’ ballad – that could have been ripped straight out of Les Mis – should do well.
3. Moldova: Zdob si Zdub – So Lucky
And so, to the first of those gimmicks. Moldova’s answer to ‘Bill & Ben The Flower Pot Men’, ethno-rockers Zdob si Zdub will be wearing some absurd cone hats on Saturday night, whilst belting out a Moldovan folk and hip-hop fusion as a unicycling fairy rides around the stage. Trust me, it’s not as good as it sounds.
4. Serbia: Nian – Caroban
Don’t worry, you haven’t travelled back in time to the swinging 60s, this is Serbia’s retro-entry, Caroban (or ‘Magical’ if, like me, you’re not fluent in Serbian). This is a catchy one with some fetching 60s-throwback dance moves thrown in. Although, WARNING: the backing dancers’ get-ups may cause epileptic fits.
5. Ukraine: Mika Newton – Angel
Ukraine’s entry features the winner of ‘Ukraine’s Got Talent’. She’s a sand artist – and a pretty talented one at that – which is all very well and good, except this meant I wasn’t listening to the song. It’s sung by Mika Newton, in a dress that looks like it’s made out of swans. Her Maj won’t be pleased.
6. Azerbaijan: Ell & Nikki – Running Scared
Azerbaijan have done well every year in Eurovision since they debuted in 2008 and this year looks no different. This duet is a slow burner, but it grows on you. The song’s about a smultzy romance between two lovers who are afraid of committment. I’m not surprised, as Nikki looks as though she’d eat Ell alive. Look out for the fear in his eyes on the night.
7. Georgia: Eldrine – One More Day
The Georgian Evanescence, Eldrine’s song, One More Day, is a rocky number melding aggressive rap and screechy vocals. It’s quite scary. Especially as the band are dressed as satanic liquorice.
8. Hungary: Kati Wolf – What About My Dreams?
This is what Eurovision is all about: unapologetic, unassuming euro-pop. Kati Wolf, who rose to fame in Hungary as a finalist on their version of the X Factor, gave a strong performance in the Semi-Final. Can she do that again on Saturday? Look out for her backing dancers – a hoodie, butcher and an ice cream vendor – and Kati sporting some rather excessive finger bling.
9. Estonia: Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street
This catchy track is tipped to do well this year. Supposedly about magic and your imagination, Rockefeller Street even has a ‘Doo Wop’ middle section. But it seems Estonia couldn’t afford a proper set like other countries. So, instead of pyros and flashy props, they’ve brought some cardboard boxes. Maybe they’re going for the pity vote.
10. Ireland: Jedward – Lipstick
They may have seemed out of place on the X Factor, but Eurovision is their second home. Dressed like henchmen for an evil quiff overlord, Jedward stole the show in their semi-final and are second favourites to nab the trophy. Will this be Ireland’s 8th win?
Tune in to BBC 1 on Saturday 14th May at 8pm to find out who will win.