I’ve got my Swedish flags all ready, the Latvian Ad Break Beaver T-shirt is packed, and all that remains is to look at the second semifinal’s Eurovision hopefuls, before overloading Twitter next week with RELENTLESS CHEESE.
Albania: Eneda Tarifa – Fairytale. It’s… alright. Not very memorable, though. Doubt it’ll qualify. 5/10
Australia: Dami Im – Sound of Silence. Yes, our Aussie chums have been allowed back this year, with a former X Factor winner. It’s a polished effort and might do well on the radiowaves, but I preferred Guy Sebastian’s funky 2015 entry. 7/10
Belarus: Ivan – Help You Fly. There’s been a lot of interest in this chap after he declared he’d perform naked with live wolves. Yes, really. While it’s unlikely this’ll happen, this is an alright track. It doesn’t merit the hype of one man’s dangly bits, mind. 6/10
Belgium: Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure. Tell you what – Belgium’s not been bad the past few years. This is funky stuff, reminiscent of that bloody Fleur East track that was everywhere after X Factor. Reckon it’ll do fairly well. 8/10
Bulgaria: Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime. Helium-filled chipmunk intro aside, it’s not too shabby, but the chorus doesn’t feel as catchy as it should be, somehow. Might scrape into the final. 6/10
Denmark: Lighthouse X – Soldiers Of Love. Oh come on, now. You had a decent raft of songs, and you picked something you hope looks like a One Direction offering. You could’ve had this lovely lady instead. TRY HARDER NEXT TIME. 3/10
FYR Macedonia: Kaliopi – Dona. Jeez, this was a drawn-out song reveal, with a show that seemed to last for hours, where everyone from Kaliopi’s ex to her cleaner (probably) turned up in a Parkinson-style chatshow. And all for a ballad where the chorus could be ‘doner’ or even ‘donut’ if you’re not paying attention. Probably not a finalist. 5/10
Georgia: Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz – Midnight Gold. Now this I like. There’s a UK indie chart hit vibe about this, maybe a touch of the Franz Ferdinand? If they changed the band name, they might do alright touring here. 10/10
Ireland: Nicky Byrne – Sunlight. Westlife ruined the stool industry by breaking up and leaving no boybands needing to stand up on the key change. Good job Nicky’s come out of retirement to fix that. It’s alright, but it’s not outstanding like Jedward were. *ducks, runs* 6/10
Israel: Hovi Star – Made Of Stars. I like that Hovi Star, with Made of Stars, won the Rising Star contest. Bit of a theme, no? We’re short on ballads this year, and this one’s pretty strong. Hovi has also been extremely graceful handling some awful homophobic incidents in Russia recently, so I wish him the best of luck for a final spot. 9/10
Latvia: Justs – Heartbeat. 2015’s contender Aminata penned this track, and while I wasn’t overly impressed during the Supernova selection show, it’s been a real grower. Another song that’d fit right into UK radio, and definitely heading final-wards. Also, adding a point for Justs being easy on the eye, Brooding YA Hero-style. 10/10
Lithuania: Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night. Lithuania put on the sort of long, drawn-out talent show X Factor would be jealous of, so Donny’s entry slipped under my radar. He represented them back in 2012 too, and maybe he’ll get some votes from long-term fans, but this just feels a bit… generic. 5/10
Norway: Agnete – Icebreaker. There’s a problem here. Listen to the verse, and you’re thinking it’s going to build into something like Loreen’s Euphoria. And then we reach the chorus, and it… slows down into Margaret Berger’s Feed You My Love territory. And that bothers me. I can’t dance to this. Can’t fault her singing or the production, but… I dunno. Will probably qualify. Could be worse; could have been, er, this guy. 6/10
If you haven’t heard of Lynda Woodruff, she’s Swedish singer Sara Dawn Finer doing her best Estuary accent as the EBU’s best-loved correspondent. She’s popped up during Sweden’s Melodifestivalen selection show, announcing the scores in Azerbaijan, and she finally got her own interval slot showing us round Stockholm. Amayyyzing.
Poland: Michal Szpak – Color Of Your Life. A scandal I managed to miss, where hot favourite Margaret was beaten by this gentleman’s ballad. It feels nice and safe after those Polish milkmaids, and it’s not terrible, but… we could’ve had Polish Rihanna. Think on that. 7/10
Serbia: Zaa – Goodbye. Meh, it’s so-so. Doubt it’ll trouble the left side of the scoreboard if it scrapes through. 5/10
Slovenia: ManuElla – Blue And Red. If you squint, this is basically Taylor Swift, and that’s not too shabby. 8/10
Switzerland: Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind. Scratches the synth-pop itch, but doesn’t really go anywhere. Might limp to the final. 6/10
Ukraine: Jamala – 1944. This made the mainstream news, with its no-honestly-it’s-not-a-metaphor-for-Russia-ruining-Ukraine-today message. Jamala hasn’t seen her parents in Crimea for two years, so you can see why she might write about how crap the situation is, and I’m glad it was cleared by the EBU to compete. It’s a stunning bit of ethnic-tinged electronica, and I really hope this does well. Former entrant Ruslana says you’re an idiot if you don’t vote for it, so listen to the nice Wild Dances lady and do it. 10/10
Romania: Ovidiu Anton – Moment Of Silence. Oh dear. After a lavish national final, Ovidiu’s magnificent bit of Meatloafian rock was crowned the winner. And then Romania was kicked out of the contest for failing to pay EBU debts. Whatever the TV company’s approach was (just coast along and hope nobody asks for money pre-Eurovision?), Ovidiu was treated pretty badly, and he’s had lots of support from other entrants – even an invite to sing alongside Moldova’s Lidia Isac, which is a marvellous gesture from Romania’s neighbour. I’m sad I now won’t see him in the second semi, so let’s all take a moment to think of what could have been. Not many acts have a man waving a sword around.
Coming in the last instalment, the Big Five and Sweden, then I’m in Stockholm ruining Twitter instead. I bloody love Eurovision season.