Eurovision highlights so far
Conchita Wurst – Austria
Austria's Conchita Wurst (right) has been hoovering up the pre-Eurovision press with her high impact drag look setting tongues wagging worldwide. Combining a hyper-glam beauty pageant presentation with a perfectly manicured beard, Conchita's drag is both clever and instantly memorable, a smart move in a contest with nearly 40 entries. Her track Rise Like A Phoenix shows off her enviable pipes even if it'll struggle to stand out in a ballad heavy year. And despite Eurovision's camp credentials there are fans from other nations less than enthused about her taking part. Protesters in Belarus, Armenia and Russia have launched online petitions demanding she be removed for the competition for promoting "Gay propaganda" (which seems to miss the point of the contest as a whole). Still, Conchita is unfazed claiming her beard "is a statement to say that you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look". Lovely.
It's 40 years since ABBA struck Eurovision gold for Sweden with Waterloo, giving Sweden it's first of five Eurovision wins and internationally launching one of the biggest pop groups ever. Sweden's pop track record is impeccable with the post Abba rush giving the charts everything from Ace of Base to Avicii.
Unsurprisingly, Sweden takes Eurovision very seriously with Melodifestivalen, their yearly competition to pick an entry, a lavish TV event. This year saw Sanna Nielsen get through to finally represent her homeland having entered Melodifestivalen seven times in total. Her track Undo is a melodramatic ballad that feels both current and classic like the best Eurovision tunes despite clunky lyrics on the chorus. 2012 saw Sweden win with Loreen's Euphoria, a tune that became a legitimate chart hit in it's own right.
Molly – UK
Much like us, the UK have had a rough time of it with Eurovision of late. Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler failed to impress and it seems that this year is an attempt to rejuvenate the British approach. Plucking relative unknown Molly (last name not necessary, apparently) to represent them with her self-penned Children of the Universe is a brave move in a competition littered with seasoned performers. So far it seems to be paying off. Bookies have Molly placed as one of the favourites and her track is a pleasant surprise. Riffing on the kind of moody drum'n'bass pop that Rudimental have done well with makes it feel like a contemporary twist on the usual fare. Plus there's an inspirational message to win over a broad TV audience. Even if the tune doesn't win, it already feels like the UK reputation at Eurovision is shifting, perhaps it's an approach we should adopt for ourselves.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent