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Latvia

A jolly song about a Cake to bake. OK. Cool and cheerful song that will have some panel members tapping their feet and maybe voting enough to get them in the Top 10 this year.


Estonia

Tanja has a go at Loreen's style with the solid electro beat and a convenient male dancer. She shows a lot more flesh than her Swedish predecessor and moves around a bit quicker. It's a decent track but I don't see it being that popular or unpopular.



Sweden

So we know they'll be making a good effort. Almost all their entries stand as potential chart acts in their own right. This is no exception. More serious ballad, building as ballads usually do in Eurovision to a drum-assisted crescendo but not too annoyingly so. The echo is quite important but I am not sure she'll get that on the night. Neverthess this will appeal across the board and see Sweden into the Top 10, and, I reckon, quite high there too.



Iceland

A bit crazy - all good stuff about not having prejudice, a bit too politically correct for me and too obviously put together for Eurovision. Not something I want to play again and doubt whether many others will but it's a safe vote for countries so expect it to get enough points to keep away from the bottom.



Albania

They always seem to make the main competition and have some pretty individual entries that you either love or hate. This one has the ballad and bloke with a guitar doing rock stuff. The girl looks angry most of the time and it's an Evanescence type of track. Strong but it lacks any hook or, to be honest, much appeal - that singer isn't particularly watchable.



Azerbaijan

They'd love to win again and do keep making strong efforts. Here they come again this year with a potential #2. Pretty girl with gentle song that sounds like it ought to tell a story.




Nice enough but at digging out burning bullets from his chest I began to wonder what it was all bout. Ah, of course, it's all about trying to win this thing and that's not a bad effort at all.

Ukraine

Well, you have to worry with the title Tick Tock. The country will be getting some sympathy votes I suspect this year. I hope the singer doesn't come from Crimea or they'll be all kinds of problems. Assuming she isn't and that Ukraine hasn't been wiped off the map in its entirety then this is a jolly number but a bit desperate and tries a bit too hard. As always the girl is lovely and we'll be guaranteed some pleasant viewing. Sure, left hand side of the board but not a great deal more this year.



Belgium

It really is time Belgium did better. here we have someone who looks like he won a Belgium's Got talent contest and is still wearing the same suit. Big chap, good voice, near opera style. Singing about mother, he is guaranteed to get some votes - no-one would want a song about mother to get nul points now would they. The Balkans will like this so there's a few votes guaranteed - and Italy and Malta too. Serbia won with something like this a few years ago. We should watch out for this as it is one of those that might just sneak up on the night if he sings really well.



Moldova

No, I don't want to listen to this again. This is one of those annoying tracks that is oh so serious but never really gets anywhere.



San Marino

Maybe is the title and maybe this will be the year when little San Marino gets into the main competition and scores a few points. I can't see this getting many and it is a bit forgettable but, like Andorra, it's time we heard more from the little places.




Portugal

This started encouragingly enough - something we can dance along to perhaps in Latin style - but then it all goes a bit wrong. In fact it just goes on and that girl looks so angry. I would not want to meet her on a dark night in a Lisbon ally. Expect to see plenty of legs on show on the night and she may be able to hold that last note and not frighten us too much.



The Netherlands

Something modern and interesting from Holland this year. They had a good entry last year and are really making quite an effort these days. This is folksy but with an insistent back beat and it grows with nice harmonies and it will appeal to Country fans too. I can imagine Mumford & Sons doing this and it would be #1. Now I think of it, we should have had them doing the UK entry.

I like this a lot. I would like to see it do well and feel it really should.




Montenegro

With so many entries being in English it was a pleasant change to have this in Montenegran or whatever they speak over there. This is all good classic Balkan fare. Violin, strong drum beat, good solid singer from a bloke of indeterminate age. Nice as far as it goes.



Hungary

This is the last that is available at the time of writing. A plaintive number to start. Then it starts and is much more commercial with a Bruno Mars feel. That's no bad thing and this could be quite successful. No-one bothers much about Hungary these days and they seem nicely placed between the Balkans, the East and the West so they may be a good political choice this year. Nasty subject matter. This is not cheery Eurovision pop, though. It's one of the tracks that could make the charts over here if released.




Well that was fun. remarkably, I managed to predict all 10 of the acts from Group 1 that will make the Final on Saturday.

[Credit for the photos to Photographers Andres Putting, Elke Roels and Thomas Hanses (EBU) Date added 21/May 2012 Topics Eurovision Song Contest, Baku, 2012,]

In no particular order, they are:

Iceland


The violin was there and they cut the looooong break near the end too which worked well. If they can borrow a wind machine from somewhere they could do well.

Greece


Possibly the prettiest girl in the contest this year. Not the strongest song nut she performed well and, come on, the song has maniac rhyming with aphrodisiac so it has to stand a chance. Greece always seem to do well but don't expect too much this year.

Albania


This is that extraordinary track that has the most dramatic style of any for a long time. A serious entry. It will appeal to all those who might have been shaking their heads at the mini skirts and oh oh ohs. Massive outsider yesterday but now a real contender.

Romania


This girl, I mean track, is much fancied! I didn't think they'd manage to attract as many votes without the beach background, tiny bikinis and general appeal that the promo video had in spades. However, she did well and it's a catchy little number that people seem to like.

Cyprus


Great track but not that well performed this time. One of my early predictions. Not so sure now.

Denmark


Another early favourite of mine. Good singer but, again, not a brilliant performance compared to her previous efforts.

Hungary


I suspect this scraped through the semis and doubt that it will make the left hand side of the board on the night so nothing to worry about there.

Moldova


Everyone seems to like Moldova, or feel sorry for them. I mean they haven't a hope of affording to host the contest so it's lucky that this track isn't going to get a great deal further.

Ireland


JEdward were the last to be announced. after a lacklustre performance they may feel fortunate to have got through. This is one hell of a great song but they need to mime to a backing track to stand a chance of getting in the winning zone.

Russia

Yeah, and Russia got through.

Ok, folks, here we go. I've been through all the first semi final contenders and here are 8 that deserve a mention. The Eurovision.tv site has some very smart very widescreen videos this year which are reproduced here rather smaller. The other 10 really are not worth troubling with - some real disasters there you can check out in your own time.

The ones most likely to get through the first round, therefore, in alphabetical order:

Albania

This is an extraordinary song and an extraordinary video too. I have no idea what either are about but maybe that's Albanian 21st Century art. I have previewed this before and said that if the singer managed to reach all the notes this could be impressive. It was a bit of a screech before but in this take she's superb. It's not something I would rush out and buy nor will it appeal hugely to many Eurovision voters but it has got something about it that makes it stand out. It sounds like a typical 8th placer with respectful votes from quite a few but it's not a winner.



Cyprus

I have already promoted this big time. It's a very catchy number and if the girl performs well it should do very well. She does have a lot of competition in the pretty dark-haired girl singing pop songs category, though, so may well suffer from split votes there. despite what I said in the introduction, however, the 'official' video is terrible and totally does not do the song or the singer justice with some silly fairy tale about Snow White. So I've added the far better, albeit very scratchy, one here.



Denmark

This is great, a very US-influenced young girl leading a band with a well-written song that will definitely appeal to lots of the younger voters. She's right on tune and looks like a very young Britney or Christina mixed with someone else I can't quickly identify. Nice but that doesn't mean it's interesting enough to win.



Hungary

Theirs is a strong song - quite a protest too but, without the smart video, I doubt if it will get far. It may not even make it past the semis but I included it as there has been a lot of talk about it and the guy is very popular.



Iceland

This is a nice track, two people, which is often a good combination these days, and it seems to have come from the same stable as Denmark's 2010 brilliant number. The girl sings and plays a violin and the boy's bearable too, something which might have cost Azerbaijan a win last year as he just made us all laugh but luckily there weren't any other real contenders at the end of the day. There's a massive pause near the end which will really confuse the audience. That trick has been used many times before but seldom in Eurovision so it'll help make this a memorable track and may give Iceland their highest showing in this competition. I think it is a contender.



Ireland

Well, this has to be the best song but... can JEdward sing it live? The official video shows their badly synchronised efforts from the performance when their song was selected but, thank goodness, the soundtrack is the good studio version. Now, if they can pull off a good mime, stay fairly still and no one notices they'll win. In other words, they may well not win. Your guess is as good as mine.



Moldova

Great trumpet, rhythm, a jazzy, modern, fun feel to this. It's a bit wacky but I reckon it could have a lot of appeal. The guy singing is good and should come across well on tv and the girls are stunning. It's cool and unpretentious which I admire from this little state that has tried hard over the years. Remember the upside-down flower pots last year? At one point they were Top 3!





Romania

I have just written about this in my last post. A good number and nice video. Could do well.


Russia

If you haven't already heard, Putin has persuaded some old ladies from some distant village to perform. They look pretty sad, despite the grins, and he really is taking the p*** out of Europe with this entry. His nation has tried very hard to win in previous years with some very impressive entries but this is plain ridiculous and I won't even give it another airing here. If you want to watch five or six old women in dresses made of red carpet singing, unbelievably, in English about having a party then go and find it yourself. Putin's boys will ensure that it gets through the semis, though. If it doesn't then there'll be hell to pay.



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