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Sweden put a huge national effort into picking their Eurovision entry and it seems to pay off. This year they are favourites again with this excellent track from a nice lad called Frans. It is easy to listen to and very cleverly doesn't throw every trick in the book at us but merely suggests we might sing along in the breaks.

This is not guaranteed to be the winner but it will be up there in the Top 5 for sure.

I really wish we could have a similar 'Melody Festival' here. We did get to choose, admittedly, after years of just being told by a small committee at the BBC, but we had just one week of limited exposure and one short programme with a vote amongst those watching a secondary TV channel. Songs now get a lot of publicity around Europe and people get to hear many on the radio as well as on the stage so the requirement for instant hit is not as necessary as it once was. The Swedish system may involve a little too broad an audience and favours the middle of the road rather than something a bit special.

Their guy is also an established performer. We choose a couple of nervous lads who didn't make The Voice finals.

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.




Sweden swept to an easy victory this year. I have gone on enough already about how good that song is so no need to say much more here. It had been my clear favourite from the first day the tracks were released but so had France's entry last year and that did terribly. You can never tell with Eurovision and that's part of its appeal, I suppose.

I have refused to write about Russia's ridiculous entry and am so relieved that it didn't make it. They were 113 points behind, where they battled with Serbia who took the top ballad spot that we Brits had hoped might go to Engelbert for the UK.

The host, Azerbaijan, and Albania exchanged 4th and 5th places most of the night. I had not expected Azerbaijan to make the Top 10 but they pulled reasonable votes in from almost everyone, presumably to ensure their journalists get out safely tomorrow. Albania was one of my long shots. Most people thought I was mad so that was quite satisfying.

6th place could have been any of Estonia, Turkey, Germany, Italy or Spain with just 23 points separating Estonia in 6th and Spain in 10th. Estonia's guy performed his ballad really well - my other long shot - and this clearly has been a night of the big songs. Italy I had down as a Top 10 but the other three surprised me.

At one point, Cyprus were in 3rd place but my other three predictions failed miserably. In the case of Denmark, inexplicably too. Their performance was good and almost exactly like the promotional video version - not a winner but no way did it deserve to come 23rd! That's fourth from the bottom. Apart from Sweden, tracks you might expect to hear in the charts across Europe were clearly not flavour of the night in Baku, with Iceland and Norway also suffering, Norway coming a most unexpected bottom of the pile.

I think everyone had expected UK's Engelbert to put on a marvellous performance and wow all his fans across Europe and, even if he didn't win, no-one predicted that he'd be only saved by Norway from coming last. The thing was, though, he wasn't very good. There was none of the style or the confidence he'd exhibited before and several key notes were just off. He did seem, I'm sorry to say, an old chap who had known better days. He was joined in the lower section by Jedward who surely won't be getting any more invitations to represent Ireland. They did score a few more points to manage 19th place but just couldn't perform live an otherwise excellent track. At one point the backing singers were more in evidence than they were, and more in tune. I even thought that might have been a good move by someone as the backing singers were good. Having a load of water gush down on them at the end didn't make any sense at all and that, together with silly outfits and stupid dancing, totally spoilt the well-written song.

So that's that, and my excuses and apologies for only getting 6/10 this year. The right song did win, though, as I'd said, thank goodness.




Engelbert Humperdinck must have done something to restore UK's odds of winning to a more respectable 18-1 tonight after increasing to well over double that after the first Semi Final.

On the other hand, Iceland seem to have lost a massive load of support, going right out to 80-1 currently, less fancied than even than the host country's pretty uninspiring affair. Maybe the President's family have just realised they had some investments over there with that bank that many of our own local councils seemed to like a few years ago.

Russia continues to firm up a potential 2nd place with only Italy offering any other generally agreed threat to Sweden.

However, Thursday night could well bring all change when we discover whether Loreen can really reproduce her amazing track on the stage there. As the rehearsals have now been completed and the big money will have been placed on the basis of how they went, it would seem that all is going well for a Stockholm trip next year.

Here are the better entries for the Second Semi Final, again in A -Z order. To be honest, only Malta really stands much chance of making that much of an impression but they're here anyway and, if you really really want to see what the other nine have to offer before they're forgotten completely then they're all available in lovely widescreen on Eurovision.tv. Edit a few days later: listening to Sweden again, that is one good performance and a definite contender to win.


Bosnia & Herzegovina

Always in the running, this is a serious but good track and well sung. It has a nice flute section but isn't really a winning entry - again.



Estonia

Another serious entry - there are a lot this year - by a talented singer. It's a classic Balkan-sounding number which will help get support from a good tranche of nations' voters. Good song. Stands an outside chance. Top 10 maybe.



Malta

This country has tried so hard in the past but never made it to the top. This year they have an Enrique Iglesias sound-a-like with a well-written song and plenty of hooks with its Hey Hey Hey and Yeah Yeah Yeah which I'm sure will go down well. Really quite catchy and a top 10 contender if not that much higher.




Netherlands

A quirky number, quite different from the rest which might get some attention. A girl, hopefully without the feathers that she wears in the video and slightly odd costume, playing a guitar, folky and simple. You'll smile if nothing else and think that it was quite nice. Reminds me a bit of the winning norway entry a while ago. It's not as good as that, though, and not a real winning contender but deserves a mention here.






Norway

Tooji is in the same vein as Malta'a entry this year but not as impressive so the votes will be split to Norway's disadvantage and this won't be bringing them another win. It's energetic, though, and a better looking bloke than Malta. It'll make the left side of the voting board but not a great deal more.



Serbia

Here's another scenic number from the country that is trying to regain a number 1 slot from a few years' ago and which usually gets high scores from all but one or two of its neighbours. It has lots of flavours and my son says it's pretty much a Coldplay number rehashed which I suppose isn't necessarily goingto to do any harm. Well-presented and stands a chance of breaking into the Top 10 too.



Slovenia

Conspicous by their absence, due to some pretty dull entries recently, this passionate and anthemic number might change that this year for them. I'm not that sure what to make of it but, if it's really well sung on the night and it builds well on the stage I can see it being popular.



Sweden

Always in with a chance with great songwriters and production people around, this heavy trance number will meet with young voters' approval. It needs atmosphere to work best and quite how it can be presented at its best on a stage remains to be seen. It's good, though, and could be a Top 5 entry if it goes right for the girl. Edit a few days later: I am now predicting this as a possible winner, after listening again. It is very very good indeed. 





Ukraine

I always feel that I have to mention Ukraine as they always seem to do well. Sometimes they definitely deserve it, other times they don't but they're the one old Soviet State that can be relied on the present us with a good-looking, dark haired girl with an almost perfect figure and lots of appeal for the guys out there. This one is another intense dance affair in true Eurovision style but it does lose its way half-way through and you start wondering just who is actually singing - the blonde or the black girls? I guess we'll find out on the night. Not a winner but they'll be competing and stealing votes from many of the other girls no doubt.



Next post will sweep up the remaining entries that are automatically through to the final - the countries that pay for it, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK, plus the Azerbaijan effort to win twice in a row.



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