Eighteen countries compete in Eurovision semi-final number two, but only ten can make the cut for Saturday’s Grand Final. Here’s what to look out for.
The One For Fans Of Vikings
Rasmussen – ‘Higher Ground’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: 6th out of 18
Odds to win Eurovision: 19th out of 34 to win
Looking like he’s been given the night off from leading the Free Folk in Game Of Thrones, musical theatre alumnus Rasmussen – accompanied by his warrior backing dancers – is hoping to bring home the bacon for the third time for Denmark (they last won in 2013) with this history lesson about Magnus Erlendsson a Viking who refused to fight. It’s big on brooding atmosphere, chants, sails and a snow-blizzard.
The One With The Returning Hero
Alexander Rybak – ‘That’s How You Write A Song’
Odds qualify for the grand final: The favourite to qualify
Odds to win the contest: The second favourite to win
Even Eurovision muggles will recognise the face – and eyebrows – of Eurovision 2009. Violinist Alexander Rybak won in 2009 with ‘Fairytale’, which recorded the highest score ever. Now, he’s back, back, (RY)BACK and hoping achieve what only Ireland’s Johnny Logan has before by claiming the title twice. To say this ebullient disco-pop – with added scatting – has proved divisive among the Eurovision hardcore is an understatement: some view it as catchy and cute, like Cbeebies’ Mr Bloom doing an iPad advert, while others are managing to find adjectives to describe him that aren’t exactly befitting of a contest celebrating inclusion. It’s been hovering near the top of predictions to win for a while, so either there’s more of the former or musical Stockholm Syndrome has set in.
The One For Fans of Diplomatic Drama
Julia Samoylova – ‘I Won’t Break’
Odds to qualify for the grand final: 12 out of 18
Odds to win the contest: 24 out of 34
This is why we can’t have nice things. Last year, Julia Samoylova was all set to compete in Eurovision in Kyiv,but was banned by Ukrainian authorities from entering the country because she had previously sung in the disputed region of Crimea. Russia withdrew from the contest in protest, and the Ukraine was punished by a fine from a European Broadcasting Union. Depending on which view you believe, she was either a Russian propaganda tool or an unwitting singer caught in the slipstream of events. Either way, this year she’ll get her chance to shine.
The One For Fans Of Precision-Tooled Scandipop
SWEDEN – Benjamin Ingrosso – ‘Dance You Off’
Odds to qualify for the grand final: The second favourite
Odds to win Eurovision: 17 out of 34
Sweden are the absolute dons when it comes to Eurovision. After winning their rigorous national selection Melodifestivalen (which is watched by precisely half the country and has an international cult appeal), Benjamin Ingrosso – who is part of a Kardashian-style reality TV show dynasty in Scandinavia – is aiming to give the country their seventh victory; which would tie them with Ireland for most wins. There have been some grumblings that the track is a bit too slickly scientific and generic and generic in its construction, like a Build-A-Bear version of Troye Sivan or Justin Bieber, but it’s machine-tooled to climb the upper echelons of the leader-board. Resistance is futile. And if they don’t win, they could always send the reunited Abba again next year.
The One for Country Music Fans
Waylon – ‘Outlaw in Em’
Odds to qualify for the grand final: Ninth out of 18
Odds to win Eurovision: 22 out of 34.
Well, this is different. The Netherlands have gone Nashville with this gruff-voiced Waylon – whose stage name is cribbed from his idol, country musician Waylon Jennings (as opposed to say, The Simpsons’ Smithers) – belting out a rhinestone-studded, Jack Daniels-sodden tale of how there’s a rebel in us all. Bafflingly, he seems to have been styled from Nicky Wire’s Oxfam bag and there’s krumping backing dancers.
The One Who Could Play Download
AWS – ‘Viszlát Nyár’
Odds to qualify for the grand final: Eighth out of 18
Odds to win Eurovision: 17 out of 34
Screamo/post-hardcore band AWS won the Hungarian national selection process after metal bands there urged their fan communities to rally behind it. Larynx-shredding, barefoot-favouring frontman Örs Siklósi wrote ‘Viszlát Nyár’ (which translates as ‘Summer’s Gone’) about the death of his father. For those playing the Eurovision drinking game, it’s also got a walloping great key change. They’ll be hoping their energetic, crowd-surfing pyro-filled performance follows in the footsteps of metal-horror band Lordi by topping the table.
The One For Fans Of Dancing Robots
Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening – ‘Who We Are’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: Dead last
Odds to win Eurovision: Dead last
Since they first entered in 2008, San Marino has only made it to the Grand Final of Eurovision once – in 2014. As singer Jessika and Honey G-esque rapper Jenifer have the worst odds in the contest, they’re unlikely to qualify this year. With a performance that seems have to be dreamed up by a misfiring team on The Apprentice (“Let’s have cute dancing robots!”), you can practically see Karren Brady cartwheeling her eyes. One element of stagecraft they’ve been experimenting with is having one of the robots ‘propose’ and present a ring to Jessika, thus seeing them inadvertently stumbling into the thorny “robot sex” debate. Still, in Terminator style, there’s a chance Skynet might be hacked and those seemingly-benign androids will turn round and start a massacre. In which case: DOUZE POINTS ALL ROUND!
The One For Fans Of Kitsch
DoReDos – ‘My Lucky Day’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: The third favourite
Odds to win Eurovision: Eighth out of 24
Moldova are throwing the kitsch-en sink at this one. Like a French farce performed by ChuckleVision, it’s a rollickingly fun Sam and the Whomp number about a woman dating two men at once (who look a bit like they could be in a Moldovan remake of Peep Show), while advent calendar-style doors behind them reveal glimpses of hanky-panky. It’s straddles the right line between wholesome and karaoke night at your local swingers’ bar.
The One With The Fake Out
Lea Sirk – ‘Hvala, ne!’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: 16 out of 18
Odds to win Eurovision: Second from last
Resembling the Slovenian Katy Perry, Lea raps over a minimal trap beat but the rabbit she pulls out of the hat is partway through, the music goes off and she pretends there’s been a technical hitch. It’s a fake out which should send the audience wild.
The One Bringing The Vampire Chic
Melovin – ‘Under The Ladder’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: The fourth favourite
Odds to win Eurovision: 18 from 34
This spooky-eyed 21-year-old former winner of the Ukrainian X-Factor’s stage name is an amalgamation of ‘Halloween’ and fashion designer Alexander McQueen. He starts his performance of his goth-Bastille number by lying down in a coffin-like structure before emerging – which might be the best entrance from someone you previously assumed was dead since Engelbert Humperdinck represented us in 2012. With a piano that bursts into flames, Melovin is hoping to secure the Ukraine their third win. The last time they won was in 2016 with the controversial ‘1944’ by Jamala, about the deportation of the Crimean Tatar population by the Soviet Union at the hands of Stalin (With the lyrics: ‘The strangers are coming/They come to your house/They kill you all…’, it was never destined for Spotify party playlists).
The one everybody’s going to watch while debating why Australia is in Eurovision
Jessica Mauboy- ‘We Got Love’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: Sixth favourite
Odds to win Eurovision: 19 out of 34
There’s always somebody at a Eurovision party who protests: “Why are Australia in Eurovision? They’re not even in Europe!”, while skipping over the fact they had no idea that microstate San Marino existed under half an hour ago. Australia was first invited to perform as part of Eurovision’s 50th anniversary back in 2016 partly due to its cult appeal Down Under. Owing to the time difference, if they win, they’ll nominate another country to co-host with – in this case Germany.
Now that’s out of the way, they’re despatching one of their biggest stars – Jessica Mauboy – who’s toured with Beyoncé and serenaded Obama. It’s not her first time at the rodeo: she was a guest performer in the interval of the contest in 2014. ‘We’ve Got Love’ starts off spare because turning into a dancefloor-ballad with pounding drums and synths. On the night though, you release you’ve been too distracted by debating the pros and cons of Australia being there to have actually paid any attention the performance, so you’ll resort to shoving ‘7s’ in all categories on your BBC play-at-home scorecard.
The One Who Are Bringing Father Time
Sanja Ilić & Balkanika: ‘Nova Deca’
Odds to qualify for the Grand Final: 14 out of 18
Odds to win Eurovision: 15 out of 18
Because is it even Eurovision if there isn’t a load of traditional instruments you’ve never heard of before and an old man with a beard playing a flute?
The Eurovision Semi-Final 2 airs on BBC4 tonight at 8pm