With just a few hours to go, here's my best shot at some sort of prediction as to what we've got in store in Vienna.
Unlike previous years, there really isn't one stand-out song for 2015. Quite a few have their merits and, as rehearsals have come and gone, several have gone down well with the audience there but not always the same ones each time! There are good songs and good performances but not necessarily do the two come together, or, at least, few have so far and none have combined the best of both.
There is a clear Top 3 from which the winner is likely to emerge: Sweden, the almost permanent bookies' favourite to date, Russia and Italy. Now, on a normal Eurovision night, Italy would walk this with Il Volo having experience, lots of fans as they've been doing this for ages and it's a superb moody, operatic type of song that even people who don't go to operas quite admire and can be inclined to vote for. The trouble is that, so far, the three guys have not exactly stunned observers with their performance and it is all about the vocals; there are no marks for the nice suits.
Russia would love to win and give two fingers to Europe as it celebrates a year since annexation of Crimea and they have the absolute classic Euro ballad and a lovely lady to sing it. She sings it extremely well and has hardly put a foot wrong throughout the build up but somehow I feel she'll be pipped at the post by someone.
Sweden have a good late 80s number and some fabulous graphics on our screens and it may well be their night but I just don't see it. They'll get loads of huit points but I just feel the douze points will be dished out very broadly and they'll be close but not kissing the beard at the end. Actually, that's probably a good reason why Russia might prefer to come 2nd after all. Not the sort of thing they'd want to show on the old Soviet Station Entertainment Channel.
After those three there are a couple who have been battling away all week: Belgium and Australia. Belgium have a weird song but an inspired young lad singing it and he has been one of those few that have really got high approval ratings from the people listening and watching. Belgium came from being completely ignored and maybe not even getting through the Semis to a definite contender for at least 4th place at one point. Australia also have a cool chap singing and it's a pretty current sort of track but I think it's a bit bland. He can sing and perform well but however hard he tries, and he will try, there's something missing in the whole thing. So, all those waking up early in Oz to watch the show will be disappointed, I reckon. And anyway, surely you can't invite some country on the other side of the planet to join in your 60th Anniversary celebrations and then let them win the prize for the night, do you? No. They wouldn't even get to host the damn thing next year so it would all be cocked up and some runner-up or, probably United Kingdom, will have to stump up the cost of it next time. I suppose we could give it to the Scots to host. They'd like that.
So it could be Belgium but that would require voting groups to be pretty young and spaced out. If they're old or don't like chocolate then they'll choose Italy or someone else.
That someone else might be from the third group: Estonia, Serbia and Norway. No, let's rule out Estonia and Norway straightaway. They have excellent songs and very good singers but Norway's is quite worryingly dark and we never do get to find out what he did as a child. No way can that be allowed to win and we're not going to humming that in the car on the way to work on Tuesday. Estonia's is nice an catchy but it's also pretty gloomy and it would take voting groups comprising near suicidal thirty somethings to give this douze points. It will do well, for sure but not well enough. That leaves Serbia. Now, the jolly fat lady that sings this has a sort of vive la difference approach and this is all jolly politically correct. Now we haven't got to sit through 2 minutes of Finland's special needs chaps croaking at us out of time and out of tune, Serbia is the natural choice for the do-gooders out there in voting land. Terrible song but when the fat lady sings it might be all over as she really can belt it out and many supporters of all sizes will like that. I don't but I have to accept it is a contender.
We're now down to the lower regions of the left hand side of the board and there are several scrabbling to make the Top Ten and in amongst these are a couple of possible winners. First, there's a 16 year old who looks about thirty eight singing about Mama for Israel. It may not be Mama at all but it sounds like that at the start. he also has the most annoying lyrics of the whole competition and we all know how well songs with crap lyrics do. Listen out for the Leave -Tel Aviv rhyme! He, like Belgium's lad, had lots and lots of audience approval and rehearsals have been great for him. Such a bad song, though. But still, he has a chance. I'll hate it happening after several years of reasonably good results but maybe it's time for crap again. If it weren't Israel then it would be rather more possible but as Israel seldom gets great support across the forty voting nations I think they'll finish up Top Ten and that's not bad.
The other contender in this batch is Spain. Now I love this one. It has a really powerful structure and all the key changes and expression that a big ballad type of number needs to satisfy lots of nation's older voters. It's my personal choice to win but I remember having similar enthusiasm for a similar Spanish entry a few years ago which got about eight votes in total and that was probably from Portugal. So I am wise enough to accept that Spain simply doesn't cut it with the rest of what comprises Eurovision for some reason my knowledge of history is too poor to fathom. If, however, the voters are also similarly lacking concern for whatever may or may not have gone before then this would be a strong contender. there are signs that the young lady performing has done a good job so far and is up there with Russia on the looks and voice front, possibly also the front front now I think of it too. So if Italy's boys disappoint and voters still disapprove of Big Red's antics over the year then Spain will be the nation that gets the ballad lovers votes and may be in with a chance after all.
Sharing the scrabble for the left side of the board are the old USSR states Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. They may dislike each other quite a lot but they dislike most of Western Europe as much so will be guaranteed not only to stifle the points tally for contenders like Italy, Sweden, Spain and the boy Belgium but also to award each other and Russia douze points as well as doling out the twelves to the likes of Slovenia and Latvia and maybe even Lithuania. It is for that reason that Azerbaijan always comes in the top five and even won once. They have lots of money and neighbouring states don't particularly want to argue. Even Russia feels it needs to keep in with Azerbaijan. So they'll do well. they won't win as it is not a good number at all but they'll get plenty of points.
Georgia has one of the sexiest girls on the stage and she'll be doing things with feathers and wings that may frighten us but it's all good traditional Eurovision stuff. And there isn't that much around this year so Georgia will be up there doing fine, maybe even beating Azerbaijan. Both will knock Armenia into a cocked hat unless some deals have been done behind the scenes. Armenia hold quite some sway from the southern parts of the old Soviet Union and, again, may do well with a terrible number.
So, who's left? Slovenia and Lithuania have lovely catchy Europoppy numbers. If they happen to perform exceptionally well then their sort of half-way-house status between East and West may just get them enough sixes and sevens to complicate the top part of the board. I feel it's unlikely. Slovenia were once very much fancied but their performances have been lacklustre when they needed to be really sparkly to work. All is not yet lost but I don't see them making the top spot now.
Oh, yes, then there's United Kingdom. I honestly have no idea how they'll do this year. we have had a disastrous run so far. Last year we tried the cliches but it was flawed lyrically and uninspired performance-wise. This year I think the couple will put on a good show and sing well but a 1920s style mixed up with slightly sad electro-pop may only appeal to half a dozen people in Latvia or Lithuania. I don't see any douze points coming our way at all but we won't be bottom.
Bottom has plenty of contenders already. This is the 'other' group. they're hardly worth mentioning as they're all pretty bad. Well, Montenegro isn't bad at all but it is extremely old-fashioned and with so few Baltic states in this year they simply won't get enough friendly support to win. Germany has a dreadful 1940s look and feel about it. Not a good look or sound. Apparently the girl singing is actually not the act that won the competition for the Germany entry this year. Austria have an appallingly boring band of blokes with 1970s hair. Clearly Vienna doesn't want the cost and inconvenience of this charade again in a hurry! Latvia, Poland and Portugal will both shout at you a lot. Good times to make some tea or heat up the pizza.
Romania, Albania, Greece and Cyprus are the others you'll hear but probably not notice. The Cyprus bloke is a pleasant chap and the song trundles along but unless he does something exceptional he will stay with the others in this bottom section where nothing is likely to happen, France have a nice song but you'll not recall anything about it afterwards.
Last in my commentary come Hungary. Hungary could have taken the whole show but keep messing up their rehearsals and voters appear to have given up now. At one point I might have had them as a potential winner but now I fear they might come last. Quite an extreme situation and they are worth watching as they might just upset everything on what could be a close night.
So a class performance from Italy, Belgium or Spain could make any of them top five. It'll be Russia in second place and hopes for a #1 slot could be all over for Sweden after the fat lady has sung. Serbia might just win.