THE BLOG

Eurovision 2013 - Ones to Watch

17/05/2013 17:34 BST | Updated 16/07/2013 10:12 BST

The annual celebration of all that is kitsch, camp and quirky in European music (including songs from er, Central Asia and the Middle East) comes to our screens this Saturday at 8pm BST, from Malmö, Sweden. National broadcaster's schedules for those outside of the UK can be found at www.eurovision.tv and for the UK at www.bbc.co.uk/eurovision. Links to all this year's songs are on both sites.

We've watched both semi-finals and as many rehearsals as we can to give you a taster of what to look out for (and when to take a loo/fag/cuppa break).

The Scandis

Denmark is this year's favourite, with a quirky, floaty, pan-pipe fuelled musical melodrama. It's good, and catchy, but doesn't quite have the edge that previous recent Scandinavian winners like Fairytale and Euphoria had. Still, the performance and the staging are immense - and it feels like a winner.

Norway is a music-lover's favourite. Setting the tone with a dark and dirty electro-beat, it sounds like something that Swedish songstress Robyn would produce as an album track. Not sure that the Saturday night Eurovision audience will quite connect. However, it certainly sounds and looks current - something which worked well for Sweden last year.

Hosts Sweden are looking to repeat last year's emphatic win with a sweet up-tempo number by young Swedish singer Robin Stjernberg. Robin's entry is a grower not a show-er, which isn't necessarily a good thing on the night (although it rather depends on one's taste). He reminds me of a young Gary Barlow; talented, geeky and the kind of man who will have to battle every day of his life to remain slim - and still end up looking slightly podgy. Bless, he'll grow into his looks and be seen judging Swedish X Factor in 2025.

Ex-Soviet States

Russia is an early favourite - some peace-loving dirge that elderly Russians in ex-Soviet states will feel obliged to vote for as though their phone lines are still being tapped. I can't imagine many in Western Europe giving a crap about the song though. I suspect Angelina might, though.

Ukraine's entry, Gravity, will do well, despite not really going anywhere. Still, it's a bookie's favourite and Ukraine have a good track record in putting on decent performances. Watch out for the seven foot giant with size 24 feet.

Georgia's is my favourite song this year. Penned by the ubiquitous Aphrodite-maned, affreux-named Thomas G:son (a Swede, who has penned entries for Sweden, Spain and Denmark in the past), it borrows beats and tunes from previous G:son songs, then mashes them up into a storming power ballad performed by an oddly asexual Georgian couple. A few pyrotechnics and a belting performance and this could do very well.

Old Europe

Italy is my personal tip for the top. Gorgeous lyrics, handsome man, velvet voice. May struggle not being in the English language, but this hasn't harmed Italy in the recent past. It's such a sexy song - and if he pulls off the performance, he'll melt a few hearts and propel a few dialling fingers to take the top spot.

Germany is one of the few countries putting forward someone who has actually sold records internationally. Cascada's entry is good Eurovision fare - big, bouncy, familiar Europop - but it is sadly pretty instantly forgettable.

Netherlands has a firm fan and music-lover's following. Personally I'm not a fan, though a dreary little number like this often makes people take notice, as a place of quietude away from the flames and dry ice. However, in a year replete with mid-tempo dreary ballads, this might only stand out because it is drearily sung in English rather than Estonian.

Dance the night away

Finland has been adopted as a gay marriage theme with a successful YouTube parody and even has a dance gimmick and - shock horror - a lesbian kiss in the performance. There's less to this song than meets the eye (or ear) though, sadly - though it's infectious Katy-Perry-esque pop which might place well.

Ireland, Belgium and Belarus all enter average Euro-pop numbers. Little to distinguish or recommend between them, but perfectly listenable and watchable fare. The Irish drummers are worth an ogle and try not to get distracted by Mr Belgium's nose. Apparently it thinks it is large enough to follow the Walloons and start its own separatist movement.

Put the kettle on

Armenia, Iceland and France...I'm not sure I can be bothered to write about how dreadful I find these (nor attach links). They're each the kind of entry that can't even be listened to once without you wanting to slit your wrists (or rather, the songwriters'). I really don't know why France bother entering such tat - it's as though they refuse to accept that there's a global audience for music (or rather, an audience for international music). Same goes for French cinema but I won't start that debate here. Makes me seethe though! It's not a bad song - just not right for Eurovision.

What about us?

If the UK had entered Bonnie Tyler in 1982 with Total Eclipse of the Heart, the massive lungs-and-hair combo of Wales' finest might have won it for us. Bonnie herself is great - the song middle-of-the-road fare (at best) and we'll do well to avoid being bottom of the table. Why the BBC insist on (undemocratically!) dredging up artists past their prime and much worse - giving them songs that wouldn't even make UK charts - and then building them up (only to feed the "it's all political" bullshit that follows every weak UK entry's fair placing) is beyond me, or anyone who enjoys Eurovision.

And the rest

Azerbaijan will do well with a half-attractive singer, half-decent song and interesting staging. Likewise the sweet Malteseentry. The Greeks sing about free alcohol (lucky, since that's all they can afford these days). Finally, Romania's entry is from that genre that only ever appears in Eurovision: "popera". Yes, opera sung in the style of pop. Forget Bucharest, after enduring it you'll be wanting to book a rest.

Predictions

Top ten? Italy, Georgia, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, The Netherlands and Azerbaijan. Watch me proved wildly incorrect on Saturday. And let me know what you think below!