So the draw's taken place and we now know which songs will be competing over the 2 x semi-finals on 14th and 16th May. Tonight I'll be having a listen to the first eight songs in semi-final 1.
AUSTRIA: "Shine" - Natália Kelly.
Austria has the honour of being the first act on the Eurovision stage this year. I didn't follow the Austrian national finals process this year so I couldn't tell you if "Shine" was a worthy winner. Unfortunately it sails a little close to Rihanna territory so it's points deducted from me for that, and it's a little bit forgettable, and it's a title which has been over-used in Eurovision - to much better effect by Georgia, for example. Like many contestants in Eurovision these days she's come from a TV talent show (The Voice) so expect a solid vocal performance on the night. It's not the worst song they've ever submitted though, but the draw may destroy its qualifying chances.
ESTONIA: "Et Uus Saaks Alguuse" - Birgit Õigemeel.
Fact: It's not Ott. Therefore, everything else pales into insignificance. I did watch Eesti Laul and the best thing about it was, of course, Mr Lepland opening the show and then doing the interval act with a certain Tanel Padar. Eesti Laul 2013 however was a major disappointment and despite the possibility of Eesti-Slipknot a.k.a. Winny Puuh making it to Malmö, in the end it was not to be and instead yet another talent show winner (Estonian Idol) gets the ticket. On the plus side, it's in Estonian - a lovely, lyrical language, but there is nothing particularly special about this song which is, on the whole, forgettable - and the draw does it no favours leaving it with minimal chance of qualifying.
SLOVENIA: "Straight Into Love" - Hannah Mancini.
ESC being dragged into the 21st century is all good and well but there is a part of me which still longs for little national characteristics being dropped into songs here and there - a song being sung in its national language, for example. There is nothing distinctly Slovenian about this song: at least whan (American singer) Hannah competed in the national selection in 2011 she sang in Slovenian but this is just generic EDM with little dubsteppy interludes. Ordinary rather than spectacular. A qualifier? Probably not.
CROATIA: "Mizerija" - Klapa s Mora.
Now this is more like it. Time for a little bit of Balkan soul. Not sure if Europe will get the concept of klapa which is a Croatian take on acapella - but this seems more genuine than the dance-music-by-numbers which seems to dominate the contest, and it may just strike a chord in voters who want something more. Or mora as the case may be. Maybe it's just the way I'm feeling as I write this review, but I get this. A qualifier? Probably not, due to the draw alone.
DENMARK: "Only Teardrops"- Emmelie de Forest.
A lot has happened since this song won which was arguably one of the best national finals of the year.....in an era of "pre-ordained winners" this would appear to have become this year's chosen one. I may have cheered for it when it won DMGP, but my enthusiasm for it has waned a little, to be honest. Nevertheless it's one of the more memorable songs (in a year where the Nordic countries are particularly on fire) and you could see the credits rolling on this one. But then again, I said the same about "Stay" last year....! An absolute qualifier despite its poor draw position.
RUSSIA: "What If" - Dina Garipova.
Another female solo singer, another talent show contestant (The Voice) and yet another of the big guns in the early part of the draw. Chosen in an internal selection, this is reeking of deja vu. What if we came together as one/together we can make a better place blah blah blah. She's a good enough singer but this brings nothing new or original. It's a 'Disney'-style ballad, with a very predictable key change and a big 'old ESC' finish. This, as they say, could be dangerous. A qualifier.
UKRAINE: "Gravity" - Zlata Ognevich.
Ukraine will probably be due another win in the next couple of years as they're always there or thereabouts. Could this be their year? This is a contender although it's not my cup of tea. Let's face it, it's not Shady Lady, is it?? Again, this will qualify effortlessly but to me it's just an empty and forgettable song with no hook or sustained appeal.
NETHERLANDS: "Birds" - Anouk.
In a semi-final full of female singers with mainly nondescript songs, could the Netherlands do the impossible and make it to the final after many years of underachieving? "Birds" is low-key and defiantly old-fashioned, and - here's the main thing - it's different enough to make an impact, and it's more memorable than some songs which have preceded it. I think it's pretty special and for that reason - it must qualify!
Next week: part 2 of my preview.