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Poland


I have no idea why Betfair had Poland as favourite to win a few days ago but they have dropped to a predicted 6th at the time of writing. The lead singer reminds me a bit of The Darkness guy with his straggly long hair, twig-like legs and the voice is a bit similar too. He sings in English, a sort of ballad and has a habit of trying to appeal to camera. Not for me, though, thanks all the same.

I found the song a bit boring but it had its moments and maybe it will have some appeal. It does have an effectively catchy o-o-o-o bit but nothing like as good as either the UK's or another I can't now remember in that respect.

So it has no chance of winning but may be around there on the left side of the board for no reason I can really give you. Make your own mind up if you really are interested in Poland.

Romania


They have a pretty good record at Eurovision with a couple of 3rd places and they've been just outside the Top 10 in recent years with more consistency than most. This year, though, I doubt they'll even make the left hand side of the big scoreboard. It's one of those big and dramatic type of productions with mist and gloom and three rather ugly blokes dressed up like walk-on characters from Game Of Thrones. There are three blokes and two slightly better looking females but only one bloke seems to sing. Oh, there is a sixth who wiggles around with a sword for what I perceive to be no purpose whatsoever.

I really dislike this sort of entry and hope it fails to qualify as I really don't want to watch it again. You can here. It is called Moment of Silence and if you'd like to see how bad it is, watch the remarkable Disturbed version of Paul Simon's Sound Of Silence first. Now, that's how to perform in that style (if you have to, that is).

Estonia


This nation has a strange record in Eurovision. They have either done really well and made the Top few or finished in the lower regions. They've won and come 3rd in recent history but also failed to qualify more times than most. This is not likely to be a good year as this is an unexceptional number and I can't see how it could garner much by way of votes unless all the voters are in their middle age and live in grey semi detached suburbia, visit IKEA and a garden centre on Sundays and find this sort of thing comparatively interesting.

The singer is a pleasant enough young man and, rarely for this competition this year, clean shaven. He can sing very well but has been given a dull number. Now sometimes dull numbers do well as we find something in them second time that we missed the first time. See if you can see something for yourself.

This may not even qualify if their group has a lot of Nordic competition.

FYR Macedonia



Macedonia would love to improve on their best place so far. 12th ten years ago. They really haven't done terribly well and haven't even participated that much. Kaliopi puts on an emotional performance of quite a good song. She is a talented singer with a rough tone in places which sort of works for a song like this. The backing orchestra seems a bit out of place but maybe the staging will change on the night. One or two violins would work well rather than lots of instruments. The girl is a cross between Texas and Pretenders lead singers in many ways so that has to be in her favour too.

It is unlikely to do a great deal better but she might get lucky and make 11th place if she qualifies. Now that is by no means certain either as I am not sure how popular the country is these days. I say it deserves a second play and to reach the Final for what it's worth. If it's a year for an anthem then Macedonia have a good one.



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.






Of course, Elena is the reason the Romanian entry by a group called Mandinga is climbing the popularity charts. She sings well too. This is one of those tracks that looks good on a video where she's changing her clothes and the scene every line for no apparent reason and the whole thing makes you feel fairly content with the world and maybe even want to visit Romania one day soon. On stage, though, with a fixed stage, one set of clothes and no beach or sunshine and it may not quite have the same appeal. Cheery stuff, though. The type that often lands up in the Top 10 but this is not a winning contender.

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