In the immortal words of the great philosopher Ase Kleveland (1986) - soon we will know who'll be the best in the Eurovision Song Contest :) But in the meantime here's my preview of the first half of semi-final 2.
LATVIA: "Here We Go" - PeR.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Every year I expect so much from Latvia, and almost every year without fail they let me down. This year they have a rapping crew by the name of PeR who had not one but two (very different) songs in the very underwhelming Latvian national final, but neither of them impressed me. This might have a fairly memorable chorus but the rest of it is too forgettable. Historical fact: rap never does too well at ESC and I can't see this changing things. They will need to make a massive improvement in their performance to change my mind.
SAN MARINO: "Crisalide (Vola)" - Valentina Monetta.
After the notoriety of "The Social Network Song" from 2012, Ms Monetta and the one and only Ralph Siegel are giving it another go for Team San Marino. This is refreshingly old-school Eurovision (i.e. it actually has a bit of a tune and a key change) but it also has a twist. You think it's a big ballad then 2 minutes in it goes all poppers o'clock on us. I like this because it's sung in Italian so that's half the job done already. The fans are going to go mental at the key change and (probably more than in hope than in expectation) I've got this one as a qualifier. This year's ESC logo is a butterfly - could that be an omen for this song???
FYR MACEDONIA: "Pred Da Se Razdeni"/"If I Could Change The World" - Esma & Lozano.
Yet another one of those internally selected entries which was changed along the way. Firstly it was "Imperija" which was shelved for whatever reason you care to believe - I can't really understand why, as it was pretty catchy.
But things even seem to be changing by the day for its replacement, as an English-language club remix has now surfaced and was performed at Eurovision in Concert. Which version will we see on the ESC stage? This song is pretty bonkers and has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. Yet there is something strangely appealing about this for me (nothing presumably to do with cute guys who wear glasses eh) and I would be very happy to see it qualify. I don't know if it's old age or what, but I'm finally getting into Balkan songs at ESC! Only about 20 years behind everyone else.
AZERBAIJAN: "Hold Me" - Farid Mammadov.
In the 21st century ESC you can never discount Azerbaijan. Yet there's a part of me which hopes that now they've had their win that they might just take a little break from being a serious contender for a while. Oh wait....that might have to happen some other time as yet again they become automatic qualifiers and top 10 contenders with "Hold Me" which, like "Crisalide" has a old-school feel. Farid looks like a boy in search of a boyband. There is nothing particularly new or original about this but I've got the feeling that it will do very well indeed. Probably just because it's Azerbaijan, rather than it having any unique qualities. And crucially, there is a key change. And finally one for the conspiracy theorists out there: there's a few Turkish diaspora votes to spare....
FINLAND: "Marry Me" - Krista Siegfrids.
Another year, and another member of Finland's Swedish-speaking community gets the opportunity to represent the country. This one is actually very contemporary compared to the usual underachieving Finnish efforts - she looks and sounds like a Finnish Ke$ha (!) and it has a bit of a Katy Perry vibe. You could see this one in the top 40 chart, which you can't say for a lot of this year's entries. The lyrics have a universal theme, and people will remember the wedding dress. It's not really one of my favourite songs this year but it will stick out among the ballads and might just get Finland's best result since Lordi.
MALTA: "Tomorrow" - Gianluca Bezzina.
During those heady nights of national finals season earlier this year, I remember tuning in to the final stages of the interminable Maltese final to find that the official Eurovision site had posted the wrong result. In the end it was refreshing to know that in fact this carefree and charming little ditty had made it. "Tomorrow" is a Maltese take on Train's "Hey Soul Sister" with the same crowd-pleasing appeal and I think this has a really strong chance of qualifying but can't see it doing much beyond that. "Tomorrow" unfortunately suffers from some trademark bad-rhymes ("His name is Jeremy/Working in IT" and it's downhill all the way from there) although to be fair, Jeremy from the video is cute in a geeky kind of way. :))
BULGARIA: "Samo Shampioni" - Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov.
(He and) She Bangs The Drums. Yes it's those "Water" people, with yet another song which belongs to that post-Ruslana time where it was more about the drumbeats than the melodies. They still remind me of Safri Duo. Being completely honest here, I've never rated any of the Bulgarian entries and this hasn't changed my mind. Nevertheless at least it has some authenticity about it and doesn't pretend to be all generic and contemporary. Can't see it qualifying though.
ICELAND: "Eg A Lif" - Eythor Ingi.
As I said back at national finals time, T think it's a wise choice to keep this one in Icelandic as of all the native language songs this year, this one would have the best chance of "doing a Kuula". A simple, memorable melody (despite the language, Egg a Leaf is an easy one to remember) and it's performed without the need to be sidetracked by irritating backing dancers or silly props. A qualifier!
GREECE: "Alcohol Is Free" - Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis.
Much as we'd love that to be true, we should maybe call the Trades Description Act people as that title is wildly inaccurate. Especially in Sweden :)) I think this one could have a similar impact as "Party for Everybody" did last year - a native language song with the title in English which people will remember. Just substitute the grannies for the Greek boys in kilts and this one is sailing all the way to the final, people!! This one is "going to go big in the hall" as Terry Wogan used to say, and this is going to give that semi-final such a wake-up call.