Beyoncé-esque hair-flipping, clumsy horror imagery and chicken beatboxing all on the same stage… yep, it’s very nearly Eurovision time again.
The 2018 Song Contest boasts one of the most varied line-ups in recent memory, with a host of acts from around the globe all bringing something a little bit different to the table, hoping to bag one of the most coveted titles in music.
Based on bookies’ odds from William Hill, here are the five frontrunners in this year’s contest, and our verdict on whether they stand a chance at lifting that Eurovision trophy…
Eleni Foureira - ‘Fuego’
Our verdict: Comparisons are already being made to top-tier stars like Shakira and even Rihanna, and while we think this is possibly a little OTT (Eleni is giving us a bit more Scherzy or Cheryl vibe), ‘Fuego’ is definitely a more chart-ready and classy offering than we’re used to hearing at Eurovision.
Could she really win it?: In a word, yes. ‘Fuego’ hadn’t made much impact until rehearsals for the semi-finals began, and by the time Eleni had bagged her spot in the live final, her performance had won Eurovision fans over to the point she’s now favourite to bag the title. A song that Eurovision devotees and regular pop-lovers alike can get behind, we could easily imagine this being the winning song, and perhaps even becoming a rare crossover hit afterwards too.
Netta - ‘Toy’
Our verdict: When you look at everything that comes together to make ‘Toy’ - chicken beatboxing, Middle-Eastern instrumentation and vocal tricks that verge on yodeling - it’s easy to imagine it being a messy hodge-podge of Eurovision gimmicks that couldn’t possibly work once they’re all on the same track. What sells the song is Netta, whose energy and infectious confidence we can’t help but get behind.
Could they really win it?: That being said, more than any other song in this year’s contest, ‘Toy’ is going to split Eurovision viewers right down the middle, and it’s not tough to imagine all those voice loops and chicken noises getting on a lot of people’s nerves, which might harm Netta’s chances. Still, never in recent memory has Eurovision needed to bring cheer and escapism to the world, and with a song as undeniably fun as ‘Toy’, Netta could well overtake Eleni Foureira and bring victory to Israel.
Madame Monsieur - ‘Mercy’
Our verdict: Even though many celebrate the fact that Eurovision gives us the chance to leave politics at the door for one night, we must admit that we love to see artists taking a stand with their offerings, if they so wish, and that’s what Madame Monsieur have done with ‘Mercy’, inspired by a true story about a Nigerian refugee. That being said, we were surprised to see quite how high up the betting odds ‘Mercy’ is, simply because it’s so much more subdued than the other big hitters in this year’s contest.
Do they stand a chance?: As third favourites in the betting odds, we’d say that if nothing else, Madame Monsieur will be France’s highest-ranking Eurovision entry in some time, and with a message that affects so many of the countries around the continent, and beyond who will be watching, we could imagine viewers picking up the phone to vote for ‘Mercy’, the same way they did for Jamala’s ‘1944’ two years ago.
Michael Schulte - ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’
Our verdict: We’ll admit, at first listen we felt that an earnest Calum Scott/Ed Sheeran-esque ballad was not something we’d find ourselves getting behind at Eurovision. And then we looked up the lyrics, and realised that Michael Schulte’s passionate delivery came from a genuine place. It’s still not our favourite on the list, but we also can’t promise we won’t be blubbing away when he does this one for millions of people around the world on Saturday night.
Do they stand a chance?: Without the bells and whistles that other acts are offering, plus the fact that he didn’t have to perform at the semi-finals, Michael might have an uphill battle ahead of him when it comes to winning over Eurovision fans. That being said, we imagine his performance will be nothing short of heart-wrenching and evocative for anyone who’s ever experienced grief, so we’re also fully ready to be proven wrong.
Benjamin Ingrosso - ‘Dance You Off’
Our verdict: Hmmm… the thing with Eurovision is, we like tuning in to hear songs that are still fundamentally pop done in a different way to songs that are in the charts right now. And we could imagine ‘Dance You Off’ being sung by any number of Justin-Bieber-lite boys in the top 40 at any given point over the past couple of years. We don’t hate it, but it’s also the sort of song we could imagine coming on our New Music Friday Spotify playlist and not even realising we’re listening to it until halfway through.
Do they stand a chance?: William Hill are offering the same odds as Lithuania, Ireland, Italy and Germany (above), but we’ve picked this as the frontrunner because not only is it the most visually impressive, it’s also one we could imagine teenage fans getting behind. But the song’s mass appeal could also be to its detriment, as it doesn’t stick in your mind in the same way as other competitors this year have managed.
See if our picks are right when this year’s Eurovision Song Contest kicks off on Saturday night (12 May) at 8pm on BBC One.