9 GREECE: Koza Mostra featuring Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free
Aka the wish-fulfillment anthem for boozed-up holidaymakers everywhere, the Greek effort comes as a welcome antidote to the endless ream of ballads emanating from Eurovision towers this year. For Agathon and his kilt-clad Koza Mostra mates spare no expense when it comes to mad ska-tinged sax breaks, growled lyrics about free drinks and general lunacy. You just know it’s going to bring the house down on semi-finals night, sail through to the final (well when has Greece ever let you down?) and probably do rather well when it gets there. Because as bonkers as it is, there is nothing else in the contest quite like it.
10 ISRAEL: Moran Mazor – Rak Bishvilo
Much has been made of Israeli singer Moran’s, shall we say, quirky image, from her Nana Mouskouri-esque specs through to her penchant for very tight-fitting, plunging frocks. But really, since when has being a dollybird been a pre-requisite to win Eurovision or at least come up with a half-decent song? Because that’s exactly what Moran’s done here, bringing the Israelis back to the sort of song they do best with this soaring, dramatic ballad. And she hasn’t half got a decent pair of lungs on her either. Of course those who like their Eurovision ladies a bit more conventional and sparkly looking may give this a wide berth – but ultimately we suspect the power of the song will see her through to the final. She certainly deserves to be there.
11 ARMENIA: Dorians – Lonely Planet
Armenia return to the contest after a year’s break with a song – penned by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi – dedicated to the best-selling range of travel guides beloved of backpackers everywhere. Actually they don’t. It is, in fact, another earnest eco-ballad, albeit one with impressive credentials, and while it’s well-performed it’s ultimately a bit of a Marmite song, either inspiredly brilliant or deathly dull depending on your opinion. As such it’s hard to tell whether or not it’ll make it past the semi-final (Armenia having proven in 2011 that they are not infallible when it comes to making the final) – so much could depend on how those rock riffs and heartfelt lyrics translate to the stage.
12 HUNGARY: ByeAlex – Kedvesem
Here’s an oddity from Hungary, a low-key, quiet little indie song which isn’t so much sung as whispered by ByeAlex. There’s a part of us which wants to sit there shouting ‘SPEAK UP ALREADY!’ every time we hear him sing it. However there’s also a part of us which has been utterly won over by its simplicity and deceptive charm. Once again, in a ridiculously competitive semi-final, we’re not sure if it’ll have the required impact to make it through. But we would be utterly delighted if it did.
13 NORWAY: Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love
If there’s one thing likely to throw the Hungarians off kilter and ruin their chances of qualification, it’s having a small quiet song stuck in the running order behind this Scandinavian titan, one of the favourites to win the entire contest. Yes, we know that Norway have won fairly recently and that it might be time to give someone else a go – but how can we possibly rule them out when they come up with a fabulous song like this? Everything about I Feed You My Love (with the possible exception of its title – but maybe she just misspelt ‘lunch’) works – it’s modern, moody electro pop, thoroughly up to the minute and performed brilliantly by the vaguely scary Ms Berger. Possibly the best song in the competition in other words and a dead cert for the final – although possibly a bit too mean and moody for the win (bearing in mind we are dealing with viewers who vote en masse for Russian grannies and the like). Still, stranger things have happened.
14 ALBANIA: Adrian Lulgjaraj and Bledar Sejko – Identitet
Those people still reeling from the genius-like screeching of Rona Nishliu in 2012 will be relieved to know that the Albanians are back on far safer ground this year – the sort of safer ground which was popular in about 1984, actually. There’s something very old-fashioned about Adrian and Bledar’s rousing rock anthem, putting us in mind of a Big Country album track or similar. Not that that’s a bad thing, for it’s certainly a very catchy and likeable tune – just one that’s not as memorable as some of the country’s previous efforts. We hope it does score a place in the final but in a very competitive field we’re not getting our hopes up.
15 GEORGIA: Nodi and Sophie – Waterfall
In a contest dominated by Disney style ballads this is probably the most Disney-esque of the lot – a huge, soaring epic number which might start off quietly enough but quickly builds to the sort of big, surprisingly powerful chorus that Eurovision audiences just love. We’ve seen this kind of duet a million times before on the contest stage – and the similarities to this and Running Scared are all too obvious – but if that can triumph then there’s no reason why, with a good performance and the attendant fireworks (not to mention the inevitable waterfall), this can’t too. Tbilisi 2014 anyone?
16 SWITZERLAND: Takasa – You and Me
Takasa’s path to the Eurovision stage has been a rocky one, after the band – comprising members of the Swiss Salvation Army – were told to ditch their name and uniforms due to them contravening contest rules. They might have returned with a new name and a white-shirted, black-tied look (obviously spent a lot of time coming up with that one then), but the song is still the rousing, anthemic same. Given its Salvation Army origins, there’s something unsurprisingly wholesome about the whole thing – it feels a bit like the kind of song the Brady Bunch might sing if they existed in a 21st Century Universe – but is no worse for that, while the band has the added novelty of 95-year-old bass player Emil, the oldest person ever to set foot on the Eurovision stage (and old enough to be Bonnie Tyler’s dad, doncha know). We fear it may get lost in such a competitive field, but it’s still our favourite Swiss entrant for a while.
17 ROMANIA: Cezar – It’s My Life
There are no words, really. When the dust settles on this year’s contest Romania’s Cezar is likely to be remembered – albeit possibly for the wrong reasons. For while his standard issue disco number starts off ordinarily enough, it’s not long before he unleashes his frankly awesome countertenor vocals on the world, guaranteeing gasps and laughs in equal measure – not to mention providing fodder for patronising ‘let’s all point and laugh’ comedy clip shows for years to come. The stage show, we’re told, is even more OTT, and frankly we can’t wait. Because while there is a sense of ‘so bad it’s good’ about this effort, we sense that without it the final would be that bit more boring.