It’s that time of year again. Tonight in Malmo, 26 acts will compete for the title of Eurovision Song Contest winner 2013 and the right to host next year’s competition in their country.
This year the honour falls to Sweden, who won in 2012 thanks to Loreen and her track Euphoria, which collected 372 points.
Euphoria went on to be a chart topper in 17 countries and also reached the top 3 here in the United Kingdom.
This year our hopes rest with Bonnie Tyler and her entry, Believe in Me. While unlikely to win the contest, the 61-year-old continues to be popular on the continent and should be confident on improving on the dismal 25th place Engelbert Humperdinck managed last year.
So, listed in running order, here are my views on the songs vying for the votes of Europe, along with latest odds from William Hill if you fancy a flutter. Click on the country’s name to view the YouTube video.
France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’enfer et Moi (200/1)
The first of many entrants in this year’s contest to come from talent shows, however Amandine has not gone down the typical path of your average X Factor winner. She won the sixth series of La Nouvelle Star and bagged herself a top five album in France. Having recorded her second album in London at the same studio as the late Amy Winehouse, it is hard not to make comparisons between the two women’s voices. Sadly, L’enfer et Moi (Hell and Me) looks likely to be lost and forgotten about during voting which is a shame as her sometimes raspy, sometimes sweet vocals compliment the edgy backing music well. It’s a good song but the lack of a distinct chorus and the early performance mean she’s likely to be near the bottom of the pile once Europe has voted.
Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something (200/1)
Lithuania have never won Eurovision and this track is unlikely to change that. While a passable indie- lite track, Something doesn’t really leave you feeling anything after hearing it. Andrius has a good, not outstanding voice and the most memorable bits of his semi-final performance were his dancing eyebrows. There are worse songs in the contest this year, but unfortunately for Lithuania, there are quite a few better ones too.
Moldova – Aliona Moon – O Mie (100/1)
Last year’s Moldovan entrant Pashar Parfeny is back this year but this time as the composer of this likable power ballad from Aliona Moon. Her performance includes an impressive stage show which happens mostly on her dress (you have to see it to understand it!) Combined with Moon’s impressive vocals set to a suitably dramatic backing tune, O Mie (A Thousand) may help the Moldovans improve on their best ever finishing position of sixth.
Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me (33/1)
The wannabe bride-to-be represents Finland’s best chance of winning the contest since monster rockers Lordi took victory in 2006. Krista has courted controversy in some of Europe’s more conservative sectors by finishing her performance with a lesbian kiss with one of her backing dancers, and indeed in her own country, with feminists slating the song’s lyrics, in which Siegfrids contently plays the dutiful wife. Evidently though no publicity though is bad publicity as she qualified from Thursday’s semi final ahead of well received songs, including the entries from Switzerland and San Marino. A typical, catchy pop number with clever use of wedding bells throughout, Marry Me may yet take us back to Helsinki next year.
Spain – ESDM – Contigo Hasta el Final (200/1)
As one of the ‘Big Five’, Spain automatically receives a place in the final. With some of their entries over recent years, (Las Ketchup, Daniel Diges, Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, I’m looking at you) it’s probably a good job. Happily though both last year’s entry and this pleasant track from ESDM have raised the bar for future years. A bright and breezy track, Contigo Hasta el Final (With You Until The End) does not deserve rank outsider status. Bagpipes give the track a Gaelic feel but vocalist Raquel’s singing still manage to overpower every other instrument on stage.
Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills (125/1)
Since the introduction of semi finals, one time winners Belgium have struggled to make the cut, progressing just once in 2010. 18-year-old Roberto Bellarosa, winner of The Voice in his homeland, was one of the first artist announced for Malmo but initial reaction to Love Kills was poor and Belgium were dismissed as finalists early on. However, the track was remixed and is now an inoffensive if equally uninspiring pop ballad, although unfortunately there is a small, yet still ill-advised dubstep section which doesn’t fit in with the rest of the song at all.
Estonia – Birgit – Et Uus Saaks Alguse (200/1)
Estonia have a good record in recent years, and Birgit makes it four Grand Final appearances from the last five for the Baltic nation. Her song (So There Can Be A New Beginning) however does not do justice to her impressive voice. Outdated and dull, you get the feeling it’s meant to be more epic than it comes across. It probably doesn’t help that I can’t speak Estonian, but the language barrier can be overcome by a powerful song delivered with passion. Sadly for Estonia, Birgit’s song does neither for me.
Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh (125/1)
Alyona Lanskaya becomes only the third act from Belarus to qualify since they debuted in 2004 with Solayoh. Originally she was due to enter a song called Rhythm of Love (think Edward Maya – Stereo Love) but this was pulled and replaced by Solayoh. It is the most Eastern sounding song this year (Armenia and Azerbaijan will probably love it) but retains pop credentials by sounding a bit like Shakira. Solayoh is a big improvement on her first song and this is among my favourites this year. I’m not sure it can win, but it could be a dark horse for a top five place.
Malta – Gianluca – Tomorrow (66/1)
Malta are desperate to win Eurovision and few would begrudge them – they have tried 25 times and have still to take the victory. The charismatic Gianluca Bezzina has already won the award for happiest competitor – he does not stop smiling! Tomorrow is a worthy finalist and it could be that a simple folk-pop song with a catchy ukulele riff brings the island nation one of their best ever results.
I expect Malta to quietly rack up the points.
Russia – Dina Garipova – What If (14/1)
Some songs just sound like winners. What If is one of those. Yes, the lyrics are annoyingly clichéd and the piano-led track sounds like an identikit X Factor winner’s song – wait for the inevitable key change. But somehow or other, Russia still manage to make it work. Dina’s strong voice helps the cause no end, she sounds like she believes in her song which makes a huge difference. From the ‘comedy’ of last year’s singing grannies to this is a huge improvement. While I wouldn’t vote for it personally, it is no doubt a strong contender for the win.
Germany – Cascada – Glorious (33/1)
Imitation is the best form of flattery as they say, and despite a court ruling out plagiarism, Glorious does bear a big resemblance to Euphoria which won Eurovision in 2012. Germany have opted for the big name with a proven track record abroad – Evacuate the Dancefloor topped the UK charts and they have a clutch of top ten hits to their name here and elsewhere. Despite this, Glorious is one of their weaker tracks and I think the song’s relatively short odds are trading off the Cascada name alone.
Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet (200/1)
Returning to the final after a year away from the contest are Armenia. Having withdrawn through concerns for their safety last year in Azerbaijan (the two coutries technically remain at war), they hold a proud record of only missing one final in the years they have competed since 2006. For me, it’s a surprise they qualified this year. Lonely Planet is a dull, light rock song performed without conviction and I think the excellent Albanian entry which failed to qualify from the same semi final should have mopped up the guitar lovers’ votes instead of this. A return of the brilliantly bonkers Inga and Anush next year would be a step in the right direction as Jan, Jan remains one of the unexpected highlights of ESC 2009.
The Netherlands – Anouk – Birds (25/1)
This is the first time The Netherlands have qualified since the introduction of the semi finals so Anouk is already in a class of one in Dutch eyes. If they are honest, in most years, they did not deserve to qualify with the exception of 2012. Already a superstar in her homeland and on the continent, the singer is sure to pick up more fans thanks to Eurovision. Birds is a simple, old-fashioned song with satisfying imagery-filled lyrics delivered impeccably by Anouk’s impressive vocals. The juries will love it, but her chances may suffer with the casual televoter who has yet to hear the songs as it’s not instantly memorable.
Romania – Cezar – It’s My Life (100/1)
Every year has a terrible, excruciatingly bad entry that wants to make you rip off your own ears. This year that dubious honour falls to Cezar of Romania. He is a counter-tenor with a very high voice – a talented guy, if he sticks to material that is suited to his skills. It’s My Life however is awful. His operatic vocals do nothing over a dated disco beat which inexplicably has a dubstep breakdown halfway through. His theatrical performance and stage attire (he looks like Ming the Merciless) no doubt gave everyone a few laughs but I’m amazed they picked up the phone to vote him through the semi finals.
United Kingdom – Bonnie Tyler – Believe In Me (50/1)
The BBC’s policy of internal selection continues for another year, after mixed results in the last two attempts. Blue did well in comparison to many previous efforts by finishing 11th in 2011 while Engelbert Humperdinck did rather less well coming second last a year later. Believe in Me is a pleasant MOR track but it’s not as instant as some of Tyler’s classic 80s hits. However, despite the hits drying up in her homeland, she had a number one in France for over two months a few years ago and has appeared on TV shows as far afield as Romania and the Ukraine. The continent still respects her so hopes are high for a credible finish.
Sweden – Robin Stjernberg – You (66/1)
Traditionally host nations do well regardless of the quality of the song, and I do not expect anything to change this year. It’s safe to say Sweden won’t win two years in a row. Robin has a strong voice but the song doesn’t match this and his bizarre, elongated pronunciation of ‘you’ on the chorus becomes grating after a while. Sweden’s national selection, Melodifestivalen lasts for months – this country takes the contest very seriously. Unfortunately for Sweden, the best song wasn’t picked this year. Yohio’s glam-rock inspired electro hit Heartbreak Hotel would have been a much better fit for Eurovision.
Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem (150/1)
This is another song that has already exceeded my expectations just by making the final. I feel Kedvesem (or My Darling) will do well to avoid finishing in the bottom two as despite hearing it several times recently it doesn’t register any emotion whatsoever. Again the language barrier does not help, but I doubt I am missing much as it washes over me every time.
Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops (8/13 favourites)
Denmark are hot favourites to win their first Eurovision since 2000 with this song by former bakery worker Emmelie de Forest. Only Teardrops is definitely one of the best songs in the contest this year but I don’t think she will have it as easy as the bookmakers suggest with such short odds. The elements are all there – strong vocals, big drum beats, traditional flute and dramatic performance – but will it be enough? The Danes are in a rich vein of form, with 2013 being the sixth consecutive year they have qualified from the semis. Definitely one to watch.
Iceland – Eythor Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Eg A Lif (125/1)
This is the first time in well over a decade Iceland have sung in their native tongue but it hasn’t stopped an impressive run of six straight passes to the final. Eg A Lif (I Am Alive) is a soaring ballad that Eythor performs very well. The staging is simple and the only focus is on his voice. It’s a strong song that will pick up points, but I doubt it will trouble the frontrunners and give the island nation their first ever victory. They have been runners up twice, most recently in 2009.
Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me (12/1)
The Azeri’s 100 percent qualification success rate since debuting at Eurovision in 2008 continues with the qualification of Farid Mammadov. Azerbaijan are the form country of the contest and have placed in the top five in each of the last four years, winning in 2011. They are also contenders this year with a favourable draw, decent song and interesting choreography and staging. Hold Me is a moody power ballad and the good looking singer will not hurt their cause at all.
Greece – Koza Mostra & Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol is Free (25/1)
Greece consistently send good songs to Eurovision and 2013 is no exception. Pleasingly they have opted for a ska band to represent them this year and despite the title, the song is entirely in Greek barring those three words. Ska is a kind of music which can cross language barriers however – there’s a party and everyone is invited. Alcohol is Free is definitely a song that you can enjoy more when it’s performed live rather than on video. This should return them to the top ten.
Ukraine – Zlata Ognevich – Gravity (10/1)
I wasn’t overly keen on this when I first heard it two months ago. Nothing has changed, and the bizarre semi final performance, it qualifying for the final and it being one of the favourites to win are now making me actively dislike it. Like many of the artists here, there is nothing wrong with Zlata’s voice, but the song is dull. I’ll be topping up my drink when she performs.
Italy – Marco Megnoni – L’essenziale (25/1)
Since Italy’s return to Eurovision after a 14 year absence in 2011, they have managed to achieve two top ten positions and it looks like they will make a hat trick this year. L’essenziale (The Essential) showcases Megnoni’s strong vocals well and, without troubling the leaders, I think he will improve on last year’s ninth place for Nina Zilli.
Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love (5/1)
This is my favourite entry this year. A moody piece of electro-pop with big beat influences all combined with a killer chorus, decent lyrics, captivating performer in Margaret Berger and Norway find themselves the best way to wipe away the disappointment of last year’s bottom place finish. I have no doubt that I Feed You My Love would be a big hit here – indeed she was trending on Twitter well after her semi final performance – this one definitely has my vote.
Georgia – Nodi & Sophie – Waterfall (33/1)
We go from the sublime to this forgettable entry from Georgia. Nodi and Sophie sound like they are auditioning for a straight-to-DVD substandard Disney release with Waterfall. On first listen you think it might go somewhere, but then it doesn’t. Several listens later and I’m still none the wiser as to it’s appeal. Each to their own I suppose but this one doesn’t do anything for me at all.
Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives (40/1)
After two years of Jedward, Ireland now turn to Ryan Dolan to deliver their first victory since 1996. The Emerald Isle is the most successful nation in the contest’s history having won seven times. Only Love Survives is a catchy dance pop song with a nice message, but lacks the firepower of a winner. The live drum playing is a nice touch, but he will do well to break into the top ten against stronger opposition.
Despite 39 countries taking part this year (13 were eliminated in semi finals on Tuesday and Thursday), this is the smallest starting field for the Contest since 2010. Turkey, Slovakia, Portugal and Bosnia Herzegovina have all withdrawn since last year and Poland, Czech Republic, Andorra, Monaco and Luxembourg continue to stay away.
So who gets your vote? Let us know in the comments box below. Odds correct at time of writing.
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Photo courtesy of BBC and Eurovision, with thanks