There are two types of people in the world, those who love Eurovision and those who love it but just don’t know it yet. The yearly musical get-together of the vast majority of countries in Europe, as well as ‘special guests’ Australia, hits our screens on Tuesday evening for the first of two semi-finals. Thursday evening will see the second of the two semi-finals before the big final spectacular on Saturday night. In the UK, the Eurovision Song Contest is still viewed as a bit of a cringefest, in which random Balkan countries take to the stage with unappealing rock guitar riffs while Scandinavians continue to churn out eurotrash. That may have been true in the years of Terry Wogan’s tongue-in-cheek song bashing commentary, but the reality these days is that the standard of entries now, as well as the production values that accompany the songs is extremely high.

A look at some of the winners in the past 10 years, show songs which have gone on to have universal appeal, like Alexander Rybak’s ‘Fairytale’ and Loreen’s ‘Euphoria’, while recent winning entries from Ukraine and Portugal have highlighted the fact that the contest is also capable of acknowledging more artistic performances. Last year was a slight return to the more kitsch years of the past when Netta from Israel took first prize with her wonderfully ridiculous, yet very catchy song ‘Toy’. As such, this year’s event comes from the city of Tel-Aviv.

41 countries will put their sparkly sequined hats into the ring this year with 35 vying for 20 qualifying positions over the two semi-finals. Host country, Israel, as well as the ‘Big 5’ of United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain and Germany already have their place in Saturday’s final assured, while 10 from the 17 in Tuesday’s semi-final 1 and a further 10 from the 18 from semi-final 2, two nights later, will make it through to join them. So, what does Tuesday have in store for us? The answer to that is some Cypriot and Belarussian pop, a little bit of Czech indie music, a dash of ‘P-Opera’ from Australia as well as an ear-bending piece of Icelandic Techno-Punk. It is Katerine Duska from Greece however who is the favourite to take the honours from the 1st semi-final and with her rousing rendition of ‘Better Love’ it is easy to see why. A very strong vocal performer combined with a well written song and good choreography will definitely see Greece qualify for the final and most likely with the highest points tally on the night. If she is to be beaten, then it will likely be from Australia in the form of the very talented Kate Miller-Heidke. Her Opera performance of ‘Zero Gravity’ is unlike anything else in this semi-final and has a lovely starting position of 12 surrounded by two very different styles of songs. Australia have only been in the contest for 4 years, but have already racked up 3 top-10 finals positions.

Semi-Final 2 on Thursday evening is perhaps the stronger of the two qualifiers and it will see the current favourite for the contest take to the stage. The Netherlands have offered up a cracker this year with a beautiful song called ‘Arcade’, both written and sung by 25 year old Duncan Laurence. The ballad is a skilfully crafted piece of music packed with emotion, and is rightly the bookies choice to take the win in Tel-Aviv. At 1/100, it is certain to qualify from semi-final 2, and is just 11/8 to top the 2nd qualifying group. If it is to face competition for the top spot then it will likely come from Sweden, Azerbaijan, Russia and Switzerland. Sweden knows how to produce a Eurovision contender almost as well as a northerner knows how to make a brew, and this year is no different with John
Lundvik likely to give us a polished performance of his ‘Too Late For Love’. Switzerland might not be
a country that has the allies required to win the event, but their entry of ‘She Got Me’ is probably the most radio-friendly some in the whole competition and will surely be popular with the televoting public.

Russia have always been a country who throw their weight at the Eurovision Song Contest and in the returning Sergey Lazarev (he was 3rd in 2016) they have another chance of a top placing this year, while Azerbaijan sing last in the 2nd semi-final which is a good draw for them to achieve a strong impact with their very likable ‘Truth’. Away from the top five in the market, there are also very catchy numbers from Norway, Denmark and Ireland although I would expect only the first two of those three to progress to the final. In terms of the most likely winner of the 2nd semi-final though it must be Netherlands, and although prices are quite short, there is very much a reason for that. It
looks like a winner in waiting.

I’ll be back with a preview for Saturday’s Grand Final later in the week.

Tips (Odds from Betfred)

Australia To Win Semi-Final 1 @ 9/4
Netherlands To Win Semi-Final 2 @ 11/8

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