Sunday 24 September 2017

Eurovision 2017: Who are the contenders to win in Kiev?

Robin Bengtsson performs the song
Robin Bengtsson performs the song "I Can't Go On" during Melodifestivalen 2017 at Friends Arena
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

Who is in with a shout of winning this year's Eurovision? Our expert takes us through the contenders.

Italy

If the bookies are to be believed the Eurovision will be returning to Italy for the first time since 1991 next year.

The performance of Francesco Gabbani's impossibly catchy song 'Occidentali's Karma' features a man dancing in a gorilla suit - if that doesn't scream Eurovision glory what does?

To top it off Francesco oozes charisma and Italian charm on screen.

And in a victory for traditionalists, should Italy win it will be the first time since 1991 that two winners in a row were songs not primarily sung in English (Although mainly in Italian, Francesco's song has an English phrase sprinkled here and there).

The YouTube video has already chalked up over 100m views  - making it the most viewed Eurovision song ever on the site, and it hasn't even been performed at the contest yet.

What singer wouldn't love a trip to Italy in early summer 2018?

 

Sweden

Sweden has been labelled the Ireland of modern Eurovision - and quite rightly so.

Their recent run of results in the competition has been nothing short of staggering.

The country has finished in the top five an amazing four times in their last five appearances - including two wins. No mean feat when you consider almost twice as many countries now compete than did in Ireland's heyday in the 1990s.

Another Swedish victory this year would see the country tie Ireland's all time winning record of seven victories.

Robin Bengtsson's modern pop song 'I can't go on' wouldn't be out of place on a Justin Timberlake album.

His performance is complemented by attractive male dancers strutting rhythmically on threadmills. Robin is pretty easy on the eye as well, another surefire vote winner.

Sweden's broadcaster SVT could be facing their 'My lovely horse' moment next year if they have to pay to stage the contest for the third time in five years - but we well could be heading north in 2018.

 

 

Azerbaijan

Another country with a successful formula they stick to - hiring Swedish songwriters to produce their entry. Azerbaijan has become a defacto second Swedish entry annually.

But if it ain't broke why fix it? The country won in 2011 with a Swedish song and has achieved numerous other top ten places since their 2008 debut with songs penned by writers from the land of Ikea.

'Skeletons' performed by DiHaj is a perfect Eurovision song - pretty layerless and becomes grating after a few listens, but is catchy enough on first listen to grab votes.

Her performance is suitably eye-catching - she's enclosed by blackboards and randomly has a man wearing a horse head standing on a ladder. It's a suitable 'wtf' moment to be memorable.

Azerbaijan infamously bulldozed a impoverished neighbourhood in Baku to build a brand new arena especially to host Eurovision in 2012, at least it might get a second use in 2018 if DiHaj delivers the goods.

 

Australia

Our friends from down under have embraced Eurovision with a passion that shames many European competitors.

Let's just skip the whole 'not in Europe' thing; Israel have been in since the 1970s.

This will be Australia's third entry - and they'll be hoping for a third top five placing in a row. Dami Im narrowly missed out on victory last year with her stunning modern ballad 'Sound of Silence'.

The ozzies have the perfect attitude to the competition - they treat it with the fun and joviality it is treated with in the UK and Ireland, but their notorious competitive spirit comes out when it comes to their entry. When it's their three minutes, things get serious.

Should Australia win broadcaster SBS would partner with a European broadcaster to effectively rent a host city in Europe for 2018.

17-year-old Isaiah won X Factor in Australia last year - and his song 'Don't come easy' contains strains of Adele and Hozier.

The stage performance is simple but effective. Possibly not a winner, but a strong entry nonetheless.

 

Bulgaria

Someone needs to check Kristian Kostov's passport - the mininum age to perform at Eurovision is 16 and Kristian looks like he still might have baby teeth to lose.

Born in 2000, he's never seen an Irish victory at Eurovision.

However he could be costing Ireland a lot of votes this year, as he performs in the same semi final as Brendan Murray.

They both are fishing from the same pool of votes, performing boyband-esque ballads surely looking to appeal to teenage girls and their mammies alike.

However Kristian certainly has the stronger song, and coming after Ireland in the second semi final could be a downfall for our hopes of making the final.

Bulgaria finished in the top five last year for the first time in almost a decade - 2007 marked their first ever appearance in the final.

Song 'Beautiful mess' is atmospherically staged and quite memorable on first listen and is sure to be among the contenders come voting time on Saturday.

 

The outsiders

So, let's say the bookies have got it majorly wrong, where could the winner come from?

In terms of th chasing pack Belgium had seemed like a good punt until rehearsals started, when things have all gone to pot.

FYR Macedonia also delivered a modern pop song and impressive video, but their stage show has badly let them down. The song is called 'Dance Alone' - and that's just what their performer is doing. Badly.

For my money (literally) Finland are a dark horse to do very well. A beautiful song that is stunningly staged always stands out from the clutter at Eurovision, and this has it in spades.

Belarus could do a lot better than the bookies suggest, its folk song is standalone in the genre this year and well performer. Not a contender to win in my eyes, but could be a surprise top ten.

The UK will achieve their best result since Andrew Lloyd Webber penned their entry in 2009. Former X Factor contestant Lucie Jones represents the country with ballad 'Never Give up on You', penned by 2013 Eurovision winner from Denmark Emmelie de Forest. Depending on the running order she should finish in the top ten, maybe even scrapping into the top five.

 

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