My final pre-rehearsal preview post takes a look at the Big 5/Big 6/Big 7 oh whatever.....
Apart from the big 5 and the defending champions, Austria, we have another country and a very special guest in this year's final - Australia, who have been invited as a one-off special guest to this year's 60th contest.
There was some opposition to Australia's participation in this year's ESC from some sections of the fan community, but after the initial shock, I was very agreeable to the idea. After all, Australia has a very committed and loyal Eurovision fan community, and as associate EBU members they do have a right to be there after all! And they might even have a serious chance of winning the thing!
AUSTRALIA- "Tonight Again" - Guy Sebastian.
Lots of names were being thrown around before the official launch. I remember tuning in for the live announcement that Guy Sebastian would represent Australia at this year's ESC, and I was very happy with this. Guy is a familiar name to those of us who followed all the international 'Idol' contests in their early days before we became saturated with TV talent shows. Anyway he's a safe pair of hands (or lungs) and "Tonight Again" is an extremely catchy pop song, with an incredibly good chance of winning, particularly if the juries and voters embrace the novelty value of Australia's participation. Either that or it could spectacularly backfire, but I'm convinced it's going to do very well.
AUSTRIA - "I Am Yours" - The Makemakes.
How does Austria follow Conchita? With a band, which is good, because I like bands, and it's a Coldplay-styled piano ballad with little shades of the 60s in places, and a chorus which borrows from Coldplay's "The Scientist". The lead singer is very on-trend with his facial hair too. This is a very credible entry to defend Austria on home ground and although it may not be to everyone's taste, it does the job. BTW if you're in need of the follow-up song then it's already out there - "You Are Not Alone". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CmAA8C7H0A
FRANCE: "N'Oubliez Pas" - Lisa Angell.
After being chosen as this year's French representative, Lisa was apparently targeted in some sections of the French media for not being young enough, thin enough or pretty enough, which is a bit ridiculous. "N'Oubliez Pas"is written by Robert Goldman, the brother of the great Jean-Jacques Goldman. On first hearing I was struck by its similarity in tone to Isabelle Boulay's excellent "Parle-Moi" and then I discovered that Robert Goldman also wrote that, under his pseudonym of Jimmy Kapler he had written some of the biggest French hits since 2000 and of course was also responsible for Natasha St-Pier's ESC entry so he's got some previous Eurovision history too. This song is a subtle and classy ballad, but it's just too forgettable and gets a bit too shouty towards the end.
GERMANY - "Black Smoke" - Ann Sophie.
The German final was a complete headline-grabber. you had The Voice winner Andreas Kummert with his bluesy stomper "Heart of Stone". People voted for it in droves, but then he turned his back on the German public. It was all too much for him. There was booing. And Ann Sophie then inherited the right to represent Germany in Vienna. This song has been co-written by UK chart star Ella Eyre, which makes me wonder why UK artists are having to put songs into various countries' national finals whilst being overlooked by our own country's selection process....oh I could go on and on. But back to Ann Sophie. She looks like Lena's older sister but won't do as well as she did; she will do better than Elaiza though! It's a contemporary song and I just hope they improve her styling from the national final too. This is a strange song as sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't.
ITALY - "Grande Amore" - Il Volo.
I had my first full Sanremo online experience this year and I completely enjoyed it! Of course the contest had a very different dimension for me: "Fatti Avanti Amore" by Nek was my favourite song but I was sensible enough to know that he probably wouldn't go to ESC if he won. In the end that was all irrelevant as it was "Grande Amore" which triumphed. The three young men who make up Il Volo are already an established act, and this song has a massive view count on YouTube. Everything is pointing to a win or at least top 3 for this one, thanks to the combination of the trio's powerful vocals and a song which is packed with drama and emotion, and which crosses the linguistic barrier. In a year of forgettable ballads and mid-tempo songs, this has the strength and quality to go all the way.
SPAIN - "Amanecer" - Edurne.
Year after year, Spain completely waste their opportunities at Eurovision. I know she has a lot of fans but this song does nothing for me, despite being another G;son/Sanchez-Ohlsson rewrite. They were also responsible for D'Nash and Pastora Soler's songs but this doesn't even come close. It's all style over substance and it fails to move me.
In the time-honoured fashion of the old Eurovision Song Contest preview shows, we've left the UK entry until last.
UNITED KINGDOM - "Still In Love With You" - Electro Velvet.
It's not any one of about 300 suggested UK entrants this year. As I said in a Twitter post at the time the song was revealed, it sounds like the UK entry for the 1929 ESC, if such a thing had existed then. To judge this song, you have to divorce it from what is current in the UK, and just accept it as a completely daft, fun, throwaway song. And that's what it is. But Eurovision is a different animal these days. By the way, I'm guessing that after that horrible Tory win in last week's elections (and promised EU referendum) there won't be any repeat of the UK's post-election win of 1997.
I think the main problem with this song is that despite it being a love song of sorts, Alex and Bianca do not play a convincing couple and there appears to be a lack of chemistry between them when performing this duet. I sincerely hope though that they have a ball in Vienna and enjoy their Eurovision experience, even if it will presumably end up propping up the right hand side of the scoreboard.
Right that's it for my pre-contest preview. So who's my prediction to win? At the moment - Italy. Or Australia. Or Sweden. Or Estonia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Russia...
I need to see all the rehearsals before making my final predictions. In the meantime I'm off on holiday to the land of Loïc Nottet! :))