A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tobson's Big ESC 2019 review, part 5

What is the only thing that could be better than a semi final? Two semi finals, of course. The new semi proved a success in many ways but it soon became crowded and making your way through to the final became almost impossible.

The 2007 semi final in Helsinki stands out as a real televisual nightmare, a show that never ends and when it finally does it is with a result unlikely to make anyone happy. Meanwhile ten countries were pre-qualified with no sort of quality control what-so-ever. Had the two semi finals system been introduced already in 2007, the EBU would have saved themselves a fair share of viewer outrage and Andorra would have made it to the final.

Apart from Andorra's injustice, it seems the semi final system finally landed with the viewers once the semi was split in two. Suddenly the viewers started engaging with the new formula and the semi final results  seem to have become less arbitrary since 2008.

If you want more of my reviews you will find them in part one, two, three and four.

Leonora / Love Is Forever

Songwriter Lise Cabble represented Denmark three times before. Not only has she got a victory under her belt, she never placed lower than 5th. This time she has brought along Anna Rossinelli's formerly unknown Danish cousin, a former figure skater, equipped with a pleasant and happy little ditty. In our troubled times, few lines will sit worse than "Don't get too political" but possibly Europe will be in a good enough mood to overlook that.

You never know for sure, but Denmark is good at charming its way into the final. My bet is that the trick will work again but you can not be too sure. Anyway Lise Cabble is most probably set for landing outside the top five for the first time.

My grade: 3/5

John Lundvik / Too Late For Love

Once Melodifestivalen was over, I was ready to bet everything I own that Sweden would win in Tel Aviv, secure a seventh win and bumble their way onto the top of the winner table alongside Ireland. Maybe I am not as sure anymore but this is a compelling piece of gospel flavoured pop - a better performed version of Austria 2018 if you so wish - with a chorus you can easily hold on to on a first listening. This is the song most people can like at least a bit and that can carry very far, not least with the jurors.

Yes, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Perhaps not as obvious a winner as I thought at first but clearly one of perhaps four really strong contenders for victory.

My grade: 5/5

Paenda / Limits

In general, Austria have done most things right ever since selecting Conchita - what's an embarrassing nul pointer on home ground between friends? - and has provided an interesting range of entries lately. Last year they won the jury voting in the grand final. I wish I could say that success will stay with the Austrians as I really like Paenda and her low-intense presence and personable sound. Unfortunately her entry takes forever to develop into anything and when it finally does it is most probably too little and too late for most.

No. It would be a big surprise (positive, but still) if Austria would hop out of an envelope this time around.

My grade: 2/5

Roko / The Dream

Jacques Houdek is back in town after his low-key, toned-down and quietly tasteful entry of 2017 where he sang a duet with *checks notes* himself. As you do. Now he is the songwriter as well as the artistic coach for young Roko. The boy can certainly sing but is he too polite and unremarkable to fill this bombastic belter with the drama needed?

Borderline. I doubt this Jacques Houdek tribute act will stand out enough to make a mark, unless the same rainbows and unicorns used in Kyiv are unleashed again.

My grade: 1/5

Michela / Chameleon

Another one of those nifty and updated pop songs that clearly picked up a thing or two from Eleni Foureira last year. After Cyprus and Switzerland, Malta remains a bit of a question mark. This clearly is a good number - catchy and personable and not too obvious. But will it gel with young Michela? Will they be able to pull this off on stage? And the more I hear it, the more I realise that this is a pile of bits and pieces that don't really fall into any sort of coherent song in the end.

Yes, I think it is. Hardly a contender for a top ten placing, but Malta will be happy just to qualify. It's been too long.

My grade: 3/5

Jurijus / Run With The Lions

Lithuania is always a tricky one to predict. My rule of thumb has often been that if I like their entry, they will fail. And when it is dull or bad, it will qualify with ease. That should be very good news to Jurijus, who was one of the kissing backing singers in Vienna 2015, who isn't really doing anything wrong. Unfortunately the song he's been set up with is a really lean effort, another of these songs that could be washed ashore at almost any national final after being rejected elsewhere. Pleasant for as long as it goes on, then instantly forgotten.

No. How snoozy can you get before Europe votes you out? Jurijus is about to find out.

My grade: 1/5

If you want to agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. All the preview clips can be seen here.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Tobson's Big ESC 2019 review, part 4

The invention of the semi-final in 2004 was long overdue and almost like a re-birth of the contest in many ways. All through the 1990's countries had been pushed out and forced to miss editions whenever they scored poorly.

Soon enough the ratings started to drop also in the most ESC-loving territories. Finland - always keen on a song contest throughout history - lost interest in a spectacular and dramatic way and the old interest has perhaps never really fully recovered.

Giving all the countries the chance to take part every year they wish to do so has been a very important step forward for the ESC. One of many radical decisions taken between 1997 and 2008.

If you want to read about the entries taking part in the first semi final you can do so in part one, part two and part three. This is the first bunch of songs from semi two.

Srbuk / Walking Out

Although this is just a little contest for mere pop songs, sometimes you want to write A Very Meaningful Lyric about A Very Important Subject. Sometimes it works out nicely, sometimes it will just turn out to be flat, superficial and not very good at all. Female empowerment and toxic relationships are two subjects well worthy of exposure but these songwriters think the answers are simple. In Armenia, however, family is seen as most important and most cases of domestic abuse are swept under the rug. Not so easy to just walk out after all. Superficial lyrics aside, there is quite a good chorus in here and Srbuk turns out to be a vocal powerhouse towards the end.

Yes. Armenia seldom loses out and vocalists as competent as this usually go down a storm with jurors and viewers alike.

My grade: 3/5

Sarah McTernan / 22

Ireland did so well last year and maybe that has inspired them to make braver choices when the RTÉ internal jury sits down to have their say. This is a breezy and radio-friendly little number and despite the aching heart there are few clouds in the sky here. Pleasant, likeable and competently performed. And yet we are light years away from the unbeatable Ireland of the 1990's.

No. Unless this one turns out to be a real explosion on stage, this will be stranded on 12th place in the semi and remain the best non-qualifier of the year.

My grade: 3/5

Anna Odobescu / Stay

When Moldova is at their best, they send in hysterically catchy, amusing, energetic entries that leave nobody indifferent. Last year's master class of comedy performance and by far the most feelgood entry of the year is just one out of many examples. When Moldova is at their worst, they make use of some lukewarm dull-as-dishwater standard song written by international songwriters that got rejected everywhere else. Like this year.

No. This is not disastrously bad in a way that would add some undeliberate entertainment. It is just mind-numbingly anonymous and square, desperately lacking any sort of personality or purpose.

My grade: 1/5

Luca Hänni / She Got Me

If you look around the internet you will find a fair share of people willing to bet on Switzerland winning the whole shebang in Tel Aviv. Now wouldn't that be great? Switzerland last made it into the top three back in 1993 and has made it into the top ten only once since then. They surely would deserve a break. I'd let them win at once. Unfortunately I can't fully share the enthusiasm. A good song, but the likes of Malta and Cyprus are doing very much the same thing. And what about Luca himself, will he deliver on the scale that this song needs? Maybe he has it deep down inside but I'm not convinced just yet.

Yes, absolutely. Even if a few other countries are stealing the Swiss thunder, this is fun and easy-going enough and truly deserves a spot in the final.

My grade: 3/5

Carousel / That Night

I can't help but wonder what Aminata is up to these days. Keeping herself busy, I suppose, leaving Latvia to fend for itself. It's not going very well. Even if the new Supernova national final format has resulted in better songs - more focused, more professional and with better performances - they are still not enough to convince the larger audiences. Just like last year, this is really pleasant and a gem designed to be enjoyed in your headphones during a walk but it will be anything but a points magnet.

No. It will get a few polite points from here and there and remain the second best non-qualifier of the year.

My grade: 3/5

Ester Peony / On A Sunday

Shock and horror ensued last year as Romania crashed out in the semi finals for the first time ever. Apparently this lead to a shake-up back home at the TVR offices and some major changes in ESC management. This year they took a real risk as they reduced viewer influence to a minimum and let an international panel bulldozer the favourite of the people. The eventual winner has a certain something and is not a bad song and yet... it doesn't feel like the sure fire success Team Romania would want at this point.

Borderline. I lean towards a yes but only because this is Romania and they have a very strong record. Had this been Latvia it would have had 15th place written all over it.

My grade: 2/5

If you want to agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. All the preview clips can be seen here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tobson's Big ESC 2019 review, part 3

Since 2013, the running order is no longer the result of a draw. Someone involved in the production instead sequences the songs in order to make a smooth presentation and - hopefully - "good tv".

In many ways it was a good decision. When there are 26 songs, the viewers need a good running order to make it through. When the seventh standard ballad invades the stage - this happened more than a few times when we had a proper draw - few viewers enjoy themselves and start reaching for the remote control. Sequencing is a good thing when done well.

However, since 2013 the same person - Sweden's Christer Björkman - has done the sequencing on at least five occasions and maybe that is beginning to shine through. Should there be a clause saying that the responsibility for the running order cannot be held by the same person too many times?

If you want to check out my opinions on the other songs of this semi, you find them in part one and part two.

Hatari - Hatrið mun sigra

One of the problems with the ESC is that it is a contest and most people taking part in it would like to be liked and appreciated and voted for. A lineup where everyone is constantly on their best behaviour can be a bit dull. Lucky break then that Iceland is back to form, ready to shake things up with this warning from the future where everything dear to us is broken down and hate will prevail. This contains more sharp edges than we've seen for years and this is likely to offend as many as it will please.

Yes, absolutely. It must be. Had the live singing been better in the chorus, this could even have been a potential winner.

My grade: 4/5

Victor Crone / Storm

Victor Crone was a delightful sidekick to Behrang Miri in Melodifestivalen 2015 and I have found myself wondering whatever happened to him after that. I never thought he would show up in Estonia, defending the worst kind of washed-up and bleak radio pop of the kind certain commercial radio stations can never get enough of. What a shame. And how terribly disappointing it is seeing Stig Rästa writing something like this when we all know what he is capable of.

You never know as a large section of the audience really enjoys stuff like this. Or why would they listen to those radio stations in question? Still, my gut feeling tells me this is just too forgettable to go anywhere. It's a no from me.

My grade: 1/5

Conan Osiris / Telemovéis

Portugal finally scored their first victory in 2017 and now an unusually large part of the fandom think they could be heading for a repeat run. Talk about getting your mojo working! This is a very experimental track with musical influences from here and there and everywhere, suggestively performed by Conan and his dancer. Maybe it is absolutely brilliant but this one keeps flying well over my head. I'd love to love Portugal but to me this is just three minutes of posing and an attempt to make yourself more interesting than you are. I hear the qualities but the final package is not my thing.

Yes. I bet all its fans out there are right in some way. It should be in the final and will be in the final. Then it is anyone's guess how well it will work there.

My grade: 2/5

Katerine Duska / Better Love

Iceland finally found their way back on track and so did Greece, apparently. After several years of half-hearted attempts - it must be hard to keep focus while your government first dismantles your public broadcaster, then revives it again - we finally get a focus and contemporary entry, radio friendly and with hit potential. The only problem here is perhaps that it is so much of a radio song that it won't shake audiences enough to get the highest points but this one should have some solid scoring ahead of itself anyway.

Yes. Clearly. One of the best songs in the running.

My grade: 4/5

Serhat / Say Na Na Na

Isn't the last place usually reserved for something really good and therefore we could be pretty sure that whoever gets that spot is a sure qualifier? Wrong. That's not how it works. Sometimes the last spot is also a way to keep something unappealing out of sight for as long as possible, to ensure viewers will stay tuned until the end and not zap to another channel. In San Marino's case, however, that can still work to their advantage. A man in his 50's with a message that everything will be good if you sing a happy tune is pretty ridiculous. But after many competitors taking themselves Very Seriously Indeed, this could come across as a very happy and unpretentious closing point. If you don't know what to vote for by now, maybe Serhat will feel like your man.

I am going to say yes. The happy and lightweight factor could very well be just enough for San Marino to conquer the tenth place. It would be sweet if they did.

My grade: 2/5

UKRAINE (Not participating)
Maruv / Siren Song

It's hard to keep this contest as unpolitical as the EBU would want it to be and even harder when some active participants find themselves at war. The winner of the long Ukranian national final found herself humiliated on live television and then blackmailed by the national broadcaster: if she didn't publicly severe ties with her (Russian) management and record label, she would be disqualified. She refused and the plan backfired spectacularly as all other NF participants refused to take Maruv's place. NTU pulled out of the contest altogether.

A really stupid move as this would have been this year's game changer and the entry that would have blown the likes of Cyprus, Switzerland and Iceland out of the water. Sexy and catchy, yet with a very dark undercurrent of menace, it would have troubled and enthused the masses. A great loss for the contest but if the NTU is going to keep bullying their own participants in this way there is no need for them to come back at all.

Why are so many of the songs pulled out of the competition like that brilliant? Broadcasters could pull out with their Piero Esteriore-entries instead.

My grade: 5/5

If you want to agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. All the preview clips can be seen here.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tobson's Big ESC 2019 review, part 2

2001 is the horror year. The one where everything went wrong. Clearly the weakest edition of the ESC of modern times. Arguably the weakest edition of the ESC since the show switched into colour.

During this selection season I kept asking myself several times if this was the year when Europe would bring out their shovels and dig even deeper below the sad sub-standard of 2001. It really did not look promising there for a while.

To my big relief, 2019 turned out to be an OK year after all once all the entries came together. Not extraordinary in any way but at least not a complete musical dumping ground. Big relief.

To read about the first six entries of the first semi-final, click here.

Joci Pápai / Az én apám

This is where the hard part begins. Joci made it into the top ten two years ago with a slightly similar song. This new song is possibly better from a songwriting point of view but also slightly less direct and with less of a hook. Will the voters still be onboard for this? How keen are people really to vote for things they already voted for in the past?

Most probably yes. Joci is a very engaging performer and the melancholy vibe is likely to attract a number of fans. Plus Hungary has had a way lately of making it to the final - this will be their ninth consecutive qualifier.

My grade: 2/5

Zena / Like It

I listened to all the songs on Spotify and to my big surprise I found myself really enjoying this. Previously I had discarded it as a modern-sounding but tired filler and suddenly my feet was tapping along in an unexpected manner. Zena has a good voice and out of all the songs that wish they were "Fuego" in the lineup, this one actually has a few little quirks of its own.

Borderline. The ESC is still a televised event where people can see you perform and Belarus are surprisingly good at ruining their own chances with disaster staging choices. If they can keep this clean, sober and fun - and not shoot themselves in the hand like last year - they could be in with a chance.

My grade: 3/5

Nevena Božović / Kruna

Nevena was part of Serbias shoutfest non qualifier trio Moje 3 in 2013 and is now back to get her revenge. She has remained a very well-known name back home and now she is entering a big and emotional ballad, written by herself. At least it aims at being big and emotional. While nothing is really wrong with it - it is well put together and well sung - it feels like something we've seen and heard millions of times before. It doesn't trigger a single emotion in me and despite repeat listenings I have no idea what the chorus sounds like. In through one ear and out through the other one. At least "Ljubav je svuda" had a bit of action in it.

Borderline. When Serbia joined the party back in 2007, I expected them to be winner material almost every year. In reality they often stumble around the threshold for qualification. In or out? I think they will struggle this time.

My grade: 1/5

Eliot / Wake Up

Even the best laid plans can go wrong. It sounded like a safe bet to have the composer of "City Lights" handpick a talent from The Voice Belgique and craft a song especially for him or her. While "Wake Up" has an excellent intro and a haunting verse, the chorus is disappointing and falls pretty flat. There is also an acute lack of development during the song and the whole thing is ebbing away rather than building up. Then it doesn't help that the charming little Eliot himself is too inexperienced to carry this weight all by himself. Maybe he should have waited a year or two?

Borderline. There is still hope. Blanche finally delivered when she needed to and maybe the Belgian team know what they are doing. I just wouldn't bet my entire salary on it just yet.

My grade: 3/5

Oto Nemsadze / Keep On Going

Failing with a folksy offering in their own language did not discourage the Georgians, so here they go again with a powerful male singer and a song rich in local folklore. While I sort of like this, I learned a thing last year that Georgia seemingly failed to pick up on: Europe's appetite for locally flavoured belters seems pretty moderate.

No. This is the "Qami" of 2019. Oto can sing his heart out all he wants but not enough people will warm to his song in the end.

My grade: 2/5

Kate Miller-Heidke / Zero Gravity

If there is any truth to the slightly nauseating narrative that Australia was taken into the competition in order to show the UK what they could be with a bit of effort, then that plan is failing more and more as Australia has kept slipping backwards in the results. The slippery slope continues as this - the first Australian entry chosen in a national final - is little more than one big ESC cliché. Doing that same old pop and opera mashup that has been done over and over while pretending you just invented the wheel is a pretty tired look. Especially as this song carries the promise of turning into something really good without ever delivering any of the goods.

Borderline. The juries have enjoyed voting for Australia while the viewers have been less keen. Will the juries keep supporting them now?

My grade: 1/5

If you want to agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. All the preview clips can be seen here.

Tobson's Big ESC 2019 review, part 1

It is a bit quiet around this blog most of the year but suddenly spring is in the air and 40-something new Eurovision entries call my name and demand to be reviewed. Who am I to say no? Here we go with this year's 41 entries spread over seven blog posts.

Bulgaria and Ukraine are taking a year off (a particularly stupid move in Ukraine's case but let's get back to that, perhaps). This is how the first semi will begin!

Tamta / Replay

Cyprus got closer to victory than ever before in 2018 and many words have been used by people wishing to declare how this year's Cypriot offering is nothing but a copy of last year's effort. Since they asked the same team for a new song it is pretty obvious they wanted to stay in the same area and in my book this is the better song of the two. Lively and updated but hardly alone in its genre this time.

Absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt. A bit unexpected to kick off the first semi with a song as strong as this but the final is all the matters anyway.

My grade: 4/5

D-Mol / Heaven

If there is any sort of consensus about anything this year, then it is how chanceless poor Montenegro is. So chanceless that it is, indeed, a bit cruel to underline this fact by giving them the real death slot in the running order. The six happy youngsters in D-Mol make me think of Aarzemnieki - Latvia's hopefuls in Copenhagen 2014 that made for pleasant company during three minutes but never really stood any chance of qualifying. I thoroughly enjoy this despite all its flaws - or perhaps even because of them - but if this one makes it to the final it would be a surprise big enough to stop time.

Nope. Never in a million years.

My grade: 2/5

Darude feat Sebastian Rejman / Look Away

Sending Darude to Eurovision seemed like quite a nifty idea at first. "Sandstorm" might be his only major hit but it is fondly remembered by many people around the globe. People who could possibly be overwhelmed by nostalgia and vote for him. Unfortunately this entry is more Sebastian Rejman feat Darude than the other way around and the old hit-DJ finds himself relegated to being a mere special effect in his own entry, dancing around in the background like an embarrassing parent at a school disco. The song starts out pretty well only to turn almost shockingly dull before the chorus.

Most unlikely. It really would be time for Finland to ditch the UMK concept that clearly isn't working and try to replace it with something more worthwhile.

My grade: 1/5

Tulia / Fire of Love (Pali się)

This is the point where many a western european viewer might splutter out the drink they allowed themselves on a Tuesday night. White voice - a very special vocal technique reminiscent of a controlled scream - is a common feature in eastern folklore but will sound very exotic and unexpected to many others. Add a song that is remarkably similar to "I Am The Walrus" and suddenly you find yourself with a package that works and the initial shock is likely to turn into something else before three minutes have passed.

Yes, I think so. This entry has the personality and originality that so many of the songs in the lineup desperately lack.

My grade: 3/5

Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl / Sebi

Every year there is a song that really shouldn't do well based on what viewers usually like and yet defies all logic and scores well. This year, that surprise song should be this soft little whisper in Slovenian. A lovely and endearing little entry and the musical equivalent of a long, warm hug on a chilly day. Introverted but inviting at the same time.

Yes. It must be or I will be terribly disappointed in everyone and everything.

My grade: 4/5

Lake Malawi / Friend Of A Friend

For the second year running, the Czech republic sends in a light, dance-friendly pop song performed by a cute guy who is potentially a bit of a douche, at least judging from the lyrics. This is far from universally acclaimed by the ESC fandom but what many of its detractors seem to forget is that this is one of few entries on offer this year that is light-hearted and effortless-sounding. Like a bunch of guys in a student band having the time of their lives. In a good way, not in a Manel Navarro sort of way.

Yes. No need to worry about that.

My grade: 4/5

Quite a good start to the first semi, n'est-ce pas? If you want to agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. All the preview clips can be seen here.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

ESC 2018 - a thriller to remember

It is all over and I find myself breathing again. Oh my, what a terrific voting we had in Lisbon. How beautifully the 12-pointers were spread out all over the place and how beautifully the televote then changed everything.

This is just the way it is supposed to be. Could we order votings like this one every year?

I got three placings exactly correct: Israel 1st, Cyprus 2nd, Czech republic 6th. Apart from that I was completely off here and there. You liked some weird songs while you overlooked some really good ones. But I forgive you.

The great part about Israel winning is that we can now go back to the studio version and the excellent video clip. It was a hard song to pull off live. Netta did well but the studio version is the real deal.

Cyprus is the perfect runner-up. Slightly dated but with hit potential. Hopefully it will turn into a major hit around Europe and convince established songwriters how the ESC is worth a go.

No idea how Austria and Germany scored so well but I am very happy for them. Austria's song is far from a favourite of mine but I would never be upset about them having success. ORF has grown into a very ambitious broadcaster and deserves appreciation.

I can't help feeling a little bit bitter about the juries keeping Italy down, for the third time in four years. This is perhaps something that Rai should address in the next EBU meeting?

Finland and Portugal landed at the very bottom of the scoreboard. Neither one deserved that but you can't win every time. I just wonder where Saara Aalto will go from here. What is her next goal?

Two things really need to be discussed on a high EBU level as soon as possible. First thing - how long does the voting window have to be? Every year lately it feels like the interval acts never end.

Secondly - and most importantly - it is long overdue to do something about the arena security. This was the third time that the stage was invaded by someone who didn't belong there and what happened during the UK entry looked particularly nasty and potentially dangerous. One of these days the intruder will have a different agenda than to just shout a few words into a microphone.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

ESC 2018: Tobson's Final Say

Fact: this is the strongest line-up we have seen in a Eurovision final for many, many years. So far Europe has done what it should and removed most of the weaker entries (somehow Denmark is still with us) and tonight's drama could end in many different ways.

This is my prediction to what will go down well and what will just go down.

Guessing the winner is very much like playing lotto, though. There are many possible scenarios - how to decide which one is the most likely?

What has to be done has to be done. Here goes.

01. UKRAINE Mélovin / Under The Ladder
Opening the ball has been anything but an advantage in later years and most probably it is reducing Pop Dracula too little more than a spectacular opening act.
My grade: 3/5

02. SPAIN Amaia & Alfred / Tu canción
Surprising to see one of the big five buried here. Not a very subtle way of saying "Thanks but no thanks" to this the sweetest of love ballads.
My grade: 3/5

03. SLOVENIA Lea Sirk / Hvala, ne!
The final result here doesn't matter as reaching the final was a victory in itself for the Slovenian beat. I have been a keen defender of it before but in this line-up it won't carry far and the ridiculous music break won't do it any favours either.
My grade: 3/5

04. LITHUANIA Ieva Zasimauskaitė / When We're Old
This one felt like a dark horse at some point during the week, but this delightful whisper will struggle to be remembered by the end of the presentation.
My grade: 3/5

05. AUSTRIA Cesár Sampson / Nobody But You
I still don't get this one at all - I don't dislike it but I don't feel anything when I hear it - and it is surprisingly poorly staged too. It will have its fans tonight but will probably meet a very similar fate to last year's Austrian effort.
My grade: 1/5

06. ESTONIA Elina Nechayeva / La forza
Something completely different at this point in the running order, it will stand out in a positive light. My guess is most people will think eurovision opera has been done a few times already and save their points for something else.
My grade: 3/5

07. NORWAY Alexander Rybak / That's How You Write A Song
Rumour has it Alexander was tired and lacklustre in the jury final last night but if this is what you like, you won't let a small thing like that stop you. And many people like Alexander Rybak. Don't discount this one just yet.
My grade: 3/5

08. PORTUGAL Cláudia Pascoal / O jardim
Soft and introverted electronica in Portuguese will get massive support in the hall and will sound very genuine and heartfelt after the Norwegian songwriting exercise. A very worthy home entry.
My grade: 4/5

09. UNITED KINGDOM SuRie / Storm
SuRie is a real personality and can possibly pick up a few jury points just by being professional enough. But why would anyone vote for a package as empty and pointless as this one in a line-up as strong as this? Last place.
My grade: 1/5

10. SERBIA Sanja Ilić & Balkanika / Nova deca
This year's biggest surprise in my book. I had discounted this want-to-be-modern-folklore-but-sort-of-fails entry completely. Is this an unexpected points magnet in the south east or is it a filler? I lean towards the latter, still.
My grade: 1/5

11. GERMANY Michael Schulte / You Let Me Walk Alone
An emotional song about losing a parent at a young age. Walks a fine line between being touching and being too much. Could stand out as honest, sincere and easily understandable after the Serbian wailfest.
My grade: 4/5

12. ALBANIA Eugent Bushpepa / Mall
The second biggest surprise after Serbia - a bombastic piece of folksy rock with a strong vocal delivery. Unlikely to pick up many more votes than Albania usually does in a final.
My grade: 2/5

13. FRANCE Madame Monsieur / Mercy
Tastefully restrained and intense in an understated way, the French entry is almost hypnotic and creeps under the skin of the listener. Possibly not direct enough to go all the way but if the juries showered France with love this smells like a potential winner.
My grade: 4/5

14. CZECH REPUBLIC Mikolas Josef / Lie To Me
It is hard to get the party started right after someone has been as serious as the French but Mikolas is sure to dance his little heart out, backpack and all. Sounds like a hit and should place somewhere in the higher regions of the result.
My grade: 4/5

15. DENMARK Rasmussen / Higher Ground
No idea what this is doing in the final. The singing sounded extremely flat in the semi and the mere idea of grown-up men dressing up as vikings is ridiculous. The song itself sounds like the 2006 Melodifestivalen reject that it possibly is. Many people like it and I just don't understand.
My grade: 0/5

16. AUSTRALIA Jessica Mauboy / We Got Love
The Australians have been surprisingly bad at staging their entries and here comes a master class example of how to ruin your own chances. The dress and the choreography are totally wrong and make Jessica awkward and eager to over-compensate. The juries like voting for Australia but this is likely to bomb in the televote.
My grade: 2/5

17. FINLAND Saara Aalto / Monsters
Coming right after Australia was the best gift Saara - also famous for being too much and not quite being able to keep her lid on - could get. She will come across as composed and controlled and with a bit of luck, she could get Finland's first top ten since Lordi.
My grade: 4/5

18. BULGARIA Equinox / Bones
A really nice chorus is going on here while the group members fight it out for everyone's attention without establishing any proper contact with the viewers. Competent but not as good as it could have been.
My grade: 3/5

19. MOLDOVA DoReDoS / My Lucky Day
If you do the maths, you realise we could be looking at our winner here. This is Russia's real entry of the year, likely to pick up the points Russia usually gets. It is also likely to pick up quite a lot of the points usually reserved for Romania. Add the most entertaining stage act of the year and it is easy imagining this trio standing there with flowers and a trophy.
My grade: 4/5

20. SWEDEN Benjamin Ingrosso / Dance You Off
Visually appealing and a pleasant song. Could be too cold to pick up serious votes but could also be the tasteful oasis people long for at this point. Hardly a winner but any place between 4th and 15th seems reasonable.
My grade: 4/5

21. HUNGARY AWS / Viszlát nyár
Lordi part two? Unlike the Finnish horror rockers, AWS don't do anything to make themselves easily accessible but that is part of the charm. Could some brutal rock finally pick up serious votes? I would not rule that out just yet.
My grade: 3/5

22. ISRAEL Netta / Toy
This running order gives Netta a huge benefit - she will come across as more familiar and more accessible right after Hungary despite being pretty avantgarde and cutting edge. People have been ruling Israel out during the week. Most people tonight will see and hear it for the first time and possibly have the reaction we all had way back when the song was first revealed. Potential winner.
My grade: 4/5

23. NETHERLANDS Waylon / Outlaw in 'em
Unlike Netta, Waylon has everything to lose from coming after Hungary. His song will seem tame and pale in comparison - quite right since it is - and this common linnet will be quite some way from repeating his success.
My grade: 1/5

24. IRELAND Ryan O'Shaughnessy / Together
In the 1990's, Irish ballads used to win. Every year. So we didn't like them much for a while after that. Until now. This sweet and understated little breakup ballad - and the genius to let it be about a same-sex couple - could touch a nerve and possibly be a bit of a Netherlands 2014 phenomenon. One of my personal favourites.
My grade: 5/5

25. CYPRUS Eleni Foureira / Fuego
Where I hear a pretty dated Helena Paparizou reject, other people hear gold. If Cyprus would win tonight, I promise not to be angry or disappointed. Not my personal choice but if it promises to conquer the charts, it has my blessing.
My grade: 3/5

26. ITALY Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro / Non mi avete fatto niente
The best song in the running. The strongest message saved for last. If the points are all over the place and nobody runs away with the victory, consistent scoring and a few high points could lead to victory.  Meta and Moro have distracting graphics but hopefully the emotion will break through regardless.
My grade: 5/5

Like every year, I will also guess the final placings of every song. This is my vain attempt this year. Having changed the top ten around several times and nothing looks right. Let's run with this. Our winner is Israel.

01. Israel, 02. Cyprus, 03. Moldova, 04. France, 05. Ireland, 06. Czech republic, 07. Italy, 08. Sweden, 09. Hungary, 10. Norway, 11. Ukraine, 12. Finland, 13. Bulgaria, 14. Germany, 15. Portugal, 16. Estonia, 17. Australia, 18. Albania, 19. Spain, 20. Lithuania, 21. Serbia, 22. Netherlands, 23. Denmark, 24. Austria, 25. Slovenia, 26. United Kingdom.

If you want to throw mud at me for getting it all wrong, I will be on Twitter as always. Please have a look over there and throw me a tweet or two. Have a pleasant flight!