At some point, I thought fewer songs in a semi would make it easier to predict the outcome. Instead there are so many tiny factors at work. One of the weaker entries could pick up consistent small points from most countries and end up making the final cut. This new jury system could tempt a jury or two to keep down one or two favourites at the very bottom of their ranking, which could have a real impact in the end as well.
A couple of songs should feel absolutely safe tonight (unless we have one of those complete surprises that shakes the contest at its very foundation and that I am secretly very fond of), some should be equally sure non-qualifiers and then there is a bunch of borderline entries. Be aware that if the voting is tight, who ends in 9th place or in 11th could be completely arbitrary. But here is my contribution to the guessing game.
Aram Mp3 / Not Alone
The big bookmaker favourite got a totally incomprehensible spot in the running order. It's not a particularly good opening song and would have needed a number of songs before it to showcase how original it is. Could result in a lower score than anticipated tonight but Aram should not be at risk. Safe.
Aarzemnieki / Cake To Bake
This could have been the jaunty pause from all the more serious entries - somebody who takes the whole contest with a laugh and sings something happy and unpretentious - but just like Armenia the Latvians will suffer from their starting position. There is no need for a break this early on in the show and the good mood will be forgotten by the time the phone lines open. Borderline.
Tanja / Amazing
Tanja has the benefit of being the first entrant with an instantly recognisable eurosong. She has many things going for her - a spectacular number, good dancing, good vocals - but I am not convinced the song is memorable enough. Estonia had luck on their side last year and made it to 10th place in their semi and will need the same sort of luck this time around. Borderline.
Sanna Nielsen / Undo
An elegant, stylish and polished little ballad that really wouldn't be anything special if it wasn't for the magnificent Sanna Nielsen who could breathe life into any old song, basically. This one could prove to have a surprisingly hard time among all the other ballads in this semi and could score lower than expected. Not that we will know until later in the week. Safe.
Pollapönk / No prejudice
Positive, loveable and wacko uptempo from Iceland. Would deserve extra points for message and cheerfulness but the big question is if people will find this adorable or plain silly. Borderline.
Hersi Matmuja / One Night's Anger
Sorry, Albania. I have really tried to get my head around this entry and told myself took focus on all the good elements in it and Hersi's really good voice. But it never comes together, which is a bad thing in a televote. Out.
Tomalchevy Sisters / Shine
Let's call a spade a spade, shall we. This is a pretty weak song performed in a not too convincing way, with special effects to cover up for this fact. Had this song represented Switzerland we wouldn't for a second consider it a potential qualifier. The past has proved that any country can fail in a semi final, Russia will too one day. Perhaps sooner than we think. Borderline.
Dilara Kazimova / Start A Fire
This isn't the first time that Azerbaijan has bought a lovely tune to send off to Eurovision, but it is not all that often that they find suitable talent to carry the song for them. Dilara has a wonderful voice and really makes this song come alive. Safe.
Maria Yaremchuk / Tick Tock
How to take a weak song and dress it up to kill. Everything looks and sounds perfect here and for three minutes most people will fail to notice how little of a song is really hidden underneath it all. I just ask myself what the Latvian Cake to Bake would have sounded like if the same Swedish production team would have worked on that one instead. Safe.
Axel Hirsoux / Mother
In a final with few ballads and few big voices, this one would be bang in the final. But when you have a large variety to choose from you have the right to be picky. And this bombastic, almost parodic, entry could soon prove too much for the viewers. Poor Axel would have deserved a much better song, something to better showcase his voice, but now he just find himself stuck in that annoyingly high-pitched register most of the time. Borderline.
Christina Scarlat / Wild Soul
At first sight, there are many things I like here: the voice, the presence, the sound of it all. But before three minutes come to an end I realise this is the most insipid of all songs tonight. Not the worst but the one provoking the least amount of emotion in me. Bad sign. Out.
12 SAN MARINO
Valentina Monetta / Maybe
It doesn't help much that this is the best part of the Siegel/Monetta-trilogy. It sounds like a good album track from the early 80's that will be liked by most but will be nobody's favourite. Goodbye, thank you and please try another songwriter next year. Out.
Suzy / Quero ser tua
Portugal's comeback could have been more sophisticated than this lambada-flavoured schlager-lite, but after three pompous and very serious entries this could come across as nothing but jaunty and likeable. Likely to get thumbs down from the juries but if the margins are on her side, televoting could take Suzy to the final. Borderline.
The Common Linnets / Calm After The Storm
For the second year running, the Dutch send in a low-key quality song that is atypical for eurovision but that could have a very prosperous life after the contest. It just has to work. Safe.
Sergej Ćetković / Moj svijet
The only Balkan ballad in the running is well performed and should sail smoothly into the final, especially since the dancer on roller skates - that created a number of question marks after the first rehearsals - seems to have found a good place in the camera work. Safe.
Kállay Saunders / Running
A confident performer with a catchy chorus and a slick stage show performing last after a line-up with a few too many slow songs? Probably no winner come Saturday but could very well be the one with the highest scores tonight. Safe.
What really complicates this prediction are all these borderline entries that all could sneak into top ten but could equally well end up outside. But my ten qualifiers tonight are: Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Netherlands, Montenegro, Hungary.
Estonia and Iceland are wishful thinking. As for Russia, I wouldn't mind replacing them with Portugal or Latvia. And then there's Belgium - at the back of my head I think they have a fair chance of qualifying but all the songs on my list would deserve it more. And if the first envelope contains something like San Marino, then anything is possible.
Tonight we will know. The show starts at 21:00 CET and can be seen live here.