Slovenia: "NARODNOZABAVNI ROCK" - ANSAMBEL ZLINDRA & KALAMARI: another trip into the Eurovisional timewarp. Terrifying blend of Soviet-era rock and folksy, em, folk. Unfortunately Slovenia doesn’t seem to get the same points-swapping as its ex-Yugo neighbours and this just sounds like them sticking two fingers up and, I guess, doing what they want and not caring about the result?
Ireland: "IT’S FOR YOU" - NIAMH KAVANAGH: I suppose I should say nice things about this as it’s written by the same fan-group responsible for "Someday", but unfortunately it’s not as schlager-tastic as that, rather it’s another "You Raise Me Up"-variation. She is a good singer though and will deliver a faultless performance on the night. But will it be enough?
Bulgaria: "ANGEL SI TI" - MIRO: There is something very appealing about this....it’s got the 90s euphoric-dance vibe right, it’s got a little bit of the ‘Tornero’ about it too, and he looks very nice in the video. It reminds me of "Tokyo" by Danny Saucedo, which can only be a good thing. And it makes me think of Nek, for some reason, as well. Anyway it’s the kind of Europop I like to see at ESC.
Cyprus: "LIFE LOOKS BETTER IN SPRING" - JON LILYGREEN & THE ISLANDERS: Now this is very very nice indeed. A very pleasant contemporary acoustic-flavoured mid tempo ballad,with performed by an appealing young man from....Wales! Not very Cypriot then, but this year I think they can be very proud of their entry and it will hopefully get more votes than the usual 12 points from Greece ;)
Croatia: "LAKO JE SVE" - FEMINNEM: this would be the same Feminnem who represented B-H, right? I have a problem with big Balkan ballads, as they are usually all drama and no significant hooks for me. This is probably no different, but it’s quite strong and contemporary enough to pick up votes from all corners of Europe. In with a big chance.
Georgia: "SHINE" - SOPHO NIZHARADZE: Another pretty brunette with a mediocre, contemporary ballad. That’s the best I can say really: there’s nothing too wrong with it, but it washes over me and I wouldn’t really bother if I never heard it again. It also faces some tough competition in this semi-final.
Turkey: "WE COULD BE THE SAME" - maNga: whilst I wait for my unfulfilled dream of Tarkan representing Turkey, I’ll settle for the country’s biggest rock band doing their duty. This is maybe not my favourite Turkish ESC entry (the ska-tastic "For Real" by Athena from 2004 continues to hold that honour) but again it’s different from the usual and that’s enough to get my attention.
And finally, the "Big 4" who, along with host nation Norway, qualify directly to the final:
France: "ALLEZ OLA OLE" - Jessy Matador: Oh flippin’ eck, it sounds like one of those Magic System songs which always get in the French charts during the summer :) Anyway it’s catchy and it got me tapping the old feet. However it will probably alienate the traditional ESC voters and won’t repeat the Patricia Kaas result of last year. Or I could be totally wrong - maybe the voters might want a party-song among all those mid-tempo ballads this year?
Germany: "SATELLITE" - LENA: Almost 3 million views on YouTube: it’s looking good for the young winner of the talent show to find this year’s German entrant. Incredibly contemporary by ESC standards, it sits very well within the current fashion for quirky female singers, however whether this will translate to the traditionalists is another thing. Her voice is an acquired taste, to say the least. But I can’t get the song out of my head...
Spain: "ALGO PEQUENITO" - DANIEL DIGES: First things first: he’s quite easy on the eye, and he has lovely curly hair (which is usually a deal-breaker for me) but I’m not letting this cloud my judgement. Because for some reason this carousel-style soundtrack still annoys me. It’s extremely theatrical, which could either work very well or be over-staged and totally kill its chances. Who knows?
Norway: "MY HEART IS YOURS" - DIDRIK SOLLI-TANGEN: All together..."you raise me uuuuuup...." Co-written by that well-known native of Oslo, Fredrik Kempe (!). This is one of this year’s big hitters and a very strong (and not entirely unattractive) contender to defend Norway’s honour, even if (IMHO) I’d rather have seen A1 or Alexander Stenerud, or Bjorn Johan Muri for that matter, doing the honours. It’s a poor draw position, but I think he will do his country proud on the night.
United Kingdom: "THAT SOUNDS GOOD TO ME" - JOSH DUBOVIE: um, no, it doesn’t actually. How do I begin to imagine all the happy faces I’d like to see? Well don’t worry Josh, because you won’t see them, they’ll all be too busy squirming and wondering why one of the world’s most influential musical nations (well maybe not at the moment, but we were once) gleefully f***s it up again when it comes to Eurovision. Poor Josh: another lamb to the ESC slaughter. Being the Millwall of Eurovision (no-one likes us, etc etc) we’ll be back in the bottom half of the scoreboard without any question. No one likes us....but I just wish somebody cared enough to give us an entry to be proud of, for once!