With just a few weeks to go now, an update on the competing nations seems in order. Things have largely settled down as we await the first live performances, which is when we'll be most likely to see some changes as great recording artists just don't sparkle on stage or something that didn't catch our imagination suddenly erupts with the personality of the singer.
At the moment there are 6 groups. I've given them names.
Since the outset, Russia has been in the top 2 and is now firmly established in the top spot with France a close second. France has closed in over the weeks, mainly due to the personality of the guy singing and his single has been very popular across much of Europe.
Sweden and Australia were both hot favourites in the Top 3 from the start. Sweden had a cool young lad doing something a bit different and Sweden just have that incredible enthusiasm for this competition and put so much effort and thought into the selection process that they almost have to do well every year. S it happens, though, the rather dreary performance has sagged to date and, whilst still with respectable chances of winning, it is not seen as likely now. He will need to find some magic in rehearsals and on the night to restore their previous threat to Russia. Australia have chosen the impressive Dami Im to represent them in their second effort to play the European game. We like Australia and Australians but, seriously. what are they doing in this competition? It messes up the whole affair, not just because they have a great singer who will steal loads of votes from others but also they simply aren't in Europe and already have their own similar show in that part of the globe. They simply cannot be allowed to win. Luckily, Dami has not got the best of tracks. Sound Of Silence is not the cool Paul Simon number but an oddly phrased ballad. It's good but not that good and even a bit annoying in places. They'll come 4th.
Not tenors as they're mostly female. No, these are entries that will almost certainly make the Top Ten or thereabouts, just not very high up the Top Ten. They'll probably come 5th to 15th. There is Ukraine, a remarkably good singer with a protest song that will not get them 12 points from Russia. She will not win as that would be too controversial but Ukraine always gets plenty of votes in this competition, whatever they do. Ukraine is joined in this group by several other contenders to this 5-15 area: Serbia have a serious lady and they're good at serious ladies. I don't think the track has a chance but quite a few others do for some reason. They seem to lead the Balkan ladies vote at things stand. Malta have a serious lady too but she is a little more modern and has a Carrie Underwood flavour which can do her no harm at all and may even propel her near the top of this lot. Voters do like Malta too. They don't have to think too much about voting for Malta. Armenia will get most of the small ex-Soviet state votes with their fairly harmless but not particularly inspiring entry. people like the small countries and an average song from a small country does better than a crappy song from a big country. Armenia tried to make theirs catchy but it really didn't work very well. Bulgaria could be the stars of the show with a little pop star performing for them. The song is pretty unexceptional but the singer is popular and should be confident on stage and appeal to the younger set who haven't got a great deal to vote for this year. Last of the six is a bloke representing Latvia. he has a catchy little ditty which will do well and probably come 6th as Latvia seem friendly to almost everyone, spanning Balkans as well as ex-Soviet lakes of voters.
Italy and the Czech Republic seem unable to decide which group they're in. Italy looks and sounds like a Top 10 act but doesn't seem to be able to hold its support as well as the Tenners, with whom they should belong. they'll probably come 10th at the end of the day but will oscillate up and down a lot between now and then. Czech Republic shouldn't really be in the final as their track is neither inspiring nor likely to get many votes but, somehow, they've garnered support from somewhere and have to be taken seriously. If they qualify and put on a good act then they may get enough average votes to make 15th. I am adding Croatia to this group too, although as I write they are predicted to be with The Others. That is because the song is excellent and has most of the qualities and features needed for Eurovision. At one point Croatia were sitting very pretty in 3rd place behind Sweden and Russia, well ahead of Australia too. Something has gone wrong for them in the meantime, however, as they've drifted out and out since. I had them as a winner at one point. I still think they'll be runner-up - if Nina can perform well.
Poland, Netherlands and Spain are each quite different but are in a little band of nations that could either win this thing or disappear completely with half a dozen votes. Poland have a singer that looks like someone out of The Feeling or The Darkness, I can never figure out which. He warbles and looks pretty unique and will either appeal greatly and get lots of votes or do nothing much at all. The Netherlands have this thing about bubbling along innocently before competitions and then on the night suddenly looking like they might win and often come in the top few and nearly steal the crown. This year could be like that again with a gentle number that rumbles along nicely and, depending on how they perform on the night, will either be up there at No.2 or down there at No. 22. Spain have an immensely catchy number - a real Euro treat if you can get past the first bit which isn't so good. If you can't then this will bomb badly. If the girl performer can get it across then it could even win the whole thing.
Here is a group of contrasts as there's Germany and United Kingdom who are guaranteed a place and several others who really look a bit vulnerable and may not make it through the Semis, like Cyprus, Hungary, Austria, Iceland and Belgium. Maybe Israel too. Germany and UK both have very good tracks but who knows how well their performers will perform on the night? With phenomenally good presence, either could surprise us and threaten the favourites but, with odds of several hundred to one at the moment it seems unlikely. Cyprus have a pretty cool rock track, one of f=very few that are likely to make it through this year. For that reason alone they may get a lot of support, being the only place for that type of fan's votes. Expect them to be right up there if all goes well for them on the night. Hungary, Belgium and Israel can safely be ignored this year but may just scrape through to the Final so we have to mention them. Iceland deserve a mention as they have the most spectacular backscreen show this year. They may not qualify but if they do make it through they'll be a surprise too as I think the audience will react favourably and they'll get a slew of reasonable level votes from across the board. Austria is another country that may not actually make it through and that would be a shame as they have a delightful number and another smart backscreen show. It's trippy and sixties but gently fascinating and the girl is very watchable. I hope she gets a chance but fear she might not.
There is, of course, a seventh group: The Strugglers! These are the nations who seem to be struggling even to qualify. This includes Norway, Denmark and Greece who usually do pretty well and Ireland, who haven't been so great recently but are still a nation to be reckoned with in terms of past success and song-writing ability. To be honest, none seem to deserve better this year, though, with distinctly average tracks that are not going to inspire anyone very much. the only exception could be the Federal Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They have a good singer and a passionate song that I feel should be in the Final. Maybe they're out at 1000-1 for political reasons.