Sound the klaxons, whip out the national flags from storage, and surround yourselves with generous helpings of cannoli, zubrówka and patatas bravas dear readers, for the greatest televised event of the entire year is upon us. That’s right, it’s time again for the illustrious Eurovision Song Contest; the annual occasion where everybody on this continent (plus, erm, Australia) attempts to out-camp each other by way of delivering incredible pop bangers while wearing ludicrous costumes.
The road to Eurovision 2017 has been a dramatic journey already, with our brave fallen solider, Montenegró’s Ponytail Man (pictured above) unjustly denied admission to the finals. We’ve already seen the UK miss a prime opportunity by not entering the contest with a) Steps b) Wolf Alice singing an altered version of their song, ‘Euro Germ’. But then, what would Eurovision be without a bit of theatricality, eh?
As the big night approaches, and Katrina from Katrina and The Waves (our last victor, in ‘97) prepares to deliver point scores on behalf of the UK, we’ve sifted through the disco bangers, yawn-inducing ballads, sensational Euro-bops, and unnecessary dance routines alike…
Salvador Sobral - Amar Pelos Dois (Portugal)
This one's nice. See, while the UK is lumped with people like Ragin' Binman (aka Ragin' Binman) huffing their lumbering faux-soul all over the charts, Portugal's got this lovely little ditty which they can afford to just whack out for a Eurovision entry. This isn't even their best pop star! 'Amar Pelos Dois' sounds like the kind of lovely, violin-y thing that you want to be playing while you eat pasta and have a Significant Romantic Moment with your beloved. Sure, it's not a 'banger' per se. Your nice Aunt Betty would definitely approve. But if someone wanted to propose to me one day with this playing in the background, then I would not automatically say no. And that, my friends, is not nothing. Also, extra points for the outfit choice, which we'll dub 'kid-who's-borrowed-his-dad's-slightly-too-big-suit-chic (with pocket square)'. (Lisa Wright)
Francesco Gabbani - Occidentali’s Karma (Italy)
Even from title alone, 'Occidentali's Karma' seems like it's quintessential Eurovision - bonkers, basically. Unfortunately for us all, it turns out to be a lot less ridiculous than the sum of its parts might've suggested. Gabbani's trying his best 'yer da after a couple too many bevs at a distant relative's wedding' impression, complete with a pretty hideous little tache.
It all seems a little disappointing from Italy this year th....OH GOD WHAT THERE'S A DANCING GORILLA. It doesn't even really get an introduction, just sneaks up half way through the track and starts waving, then turns to something approaching street dance. There's even people singing along in the front rows - maybe the most surprising thing of all here, given how instantly forgettable a song 'Occidentali's Karma' is - and though Francesco Gabbani doesn't look like the sort of chap you'd let take you out for dinner, by the time the end of the track arrives and he re-starts a hideously out of time routine with his new primate pal, it's hard not to love him. (Will Richards)
Ilinca ft. Alex Florea - Yodel It! (Romania)
If there's any one sure-fire way to guarantee Eurovision victory, it's crudely shoe-horning in a shitload of yodelling to what's already a pop banger. Letting each mountain-scaling shriek fly loose with the reckless abandon of a goatherd summoning the very spectre of Maria von Trapp herself, Ilinca is truly a hero for the ages, carrying 'Yodel It!' into the realm of genius. Alex Florea, meanwhile, acts as her steadfast sidekick, cheerfully slagging off the ol' 9 to 5 job, and delivering Romania's feel-good message from the top of a 200-ft tall concrete pillar. “Don’t you hide that light inside of you!” he declares, before the pair yodel their way into the heady climes of Eurotrash Nirvana. Not to go overboard here, but 'Yodel It!' might be the best song written this decade. If it doesn't win, the whole competition's a farce. (El Hunt)
Demy - This Is Love (Greece)
From the start, Greece's entry for this year's Eurovision looks like it's building up to be a full-on, fist-pumping ABBA-style turbo banger. Come the chorus, though, and it's more jelly shots with The Boys in Magaluf fodder, which is a little bit of a disappointment, but 'hashtag This Is Love' still goes pretty hard. The best bit about the whole thing, though, is the fantastically awful sort-of lyric video that accompanies the track. Words jump out of the screen like something a 13 year old created the night before a deadline on Powerpoint, and 'This Is Love' has to be commended how fabulously OTT it is. (WR)
Dihaj - Skeletons (Azerbaijan)
'Skeletons' is a strange one, because in some ways it is so close. So close to that thing that makes Sia's 'Chandelier' or Rihanna's 'Umbrella' a classic pop song – that indefinable thing that means it'll get yowled out on X-Factor by Chantelle from Preston every year until we all eventually die, thank god. But then you listen to it. You listen to the breathy vocals and the atmospheric synths, and you watch the smokey video of Dihaj staring at a big tree and it's just Tatu's 'All The Things She Said' but without the risqué bits, isn't it. (LW)
Lucie Jones - Never Give Up On You (United Kingdom)
This year particularly, the United Kingdom is up against it at Eurovision. Now, more then ever, 48% of this nation really could have done with a Remainer's anthem to rally behind. A disco anthem titled 'Get In The Bin Nigel Farage' might've done the trick. A tasteful tribute to Icelandic Throat Singing, coupled with a burning effigy of Theresa May could've been a real contender, too. But no. No. Instead we're left with this offensively inoffensive mediocrity. It's more beige than watching James Bay paint a wall with beige paint, and then watching it slowly dry.
Devoid of any signs of life, 'Never Give Up On You' may as well be an ode to the United Kingdom's grim Eurovision persistence instead. A slumbering ballad-corpse which never even threatens to rouse from the same snoring plod, it's not even bad, it's just really fucking dull. Lord knows why anybody is tipping this one as being any cop. Pencil in this song slot for any scorecard questions/costume changes/beer runs, tbh. (EH)
Sunstroke Project - Hey Mamma (Moldova)
YESSSSSSS. 'Hey Mamma' is an absolute whopper. Saxophones. Violins. Brides singing into wedding bouquets. We don't know much about Moldova here, but this may just be the country's crowning glory. Turns out the Sunstroke Project also represented Moldova at 2010's Eurovision with an equally obscene, overly sexual, sax-filled ditty, and why change a winning formula?
Also, just want to take this moment to note how bloody lovely the YouTube comments on Eurovision videos are. Maybe the only place on the internet where reading the comments is actually advisable.
"SLAY! This is what Eurovision is about. Fun, energetic passion. SAX!!!!" "This was sooooo much FUN and AMAZING! Full of positive energy :D Let's go Epic Sax Guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! " "They deserved it. With an awesome and memorable song and performance and a great song that appeals to a worldwide audience, qualification would occur. That's the formula. " There you go, then. (WR)
Artsvik - Fly With Me (Armenia)
There are four main points to be considered here. 1) The literally mental hair do Artsvik is rocking at 0:13, which resembles one of those wheatsheaf sculptures you might get at a harvest festival, possibly made of bread. 2) The general aura of Shakira in the whole first section of the song, had she relocated to the heat-baked desert so as to avoid the whole breast/ mountain issue. 3) The bit at 2:19 where it turns into Holly Valance's 'Kiss Kiss'. 4) The fact that the whole video looks like a budget version of Kylie's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head'.
Basically, 'Fly With Me' is a pretty alright second tier pop song and, therefore, should be at least Top Five by Eurovision standards. (LW)
O.Torvald – Time (Ukraine)
There are a lot of eyes on last year's winner Ukraine regardless, but recent events have put them centre of the Eurovision spotlight. Last year the country stole the show with the politically-charged '1944,' and took aim at Stalin's mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars that year; an act Ukraine's government recognises as genocide. This year, their entry O.Torvald has largely been overshadowed by the host-nation's ongoing tensions with Russia, who will not be performing at the contest this year.
Context aside, let's cut to the chase of the actual song. Sounding like a cross between Foals with laryngitis, and Royal Blood with... well, probably laryngitis as well, 'Time' is unique in being this year's lone rock effort. Ominous countdowns peep through O.Torvald's meticulously latexed chests, there's a healthy serving of pyrotechnics, and few barbed lines about violence and lies, as well. The arrangement's a bit of a mess, the singer could do with a blackcurrant lozenge, but it's not terrible, is it? To be fair O.Torvald could probably do a decent job opening up for The Rasmus on tour, if they fancied it. (EH)