Eurovision 2016: Watch the 42 entries for the song contest
Who will win? Who will score nul points? How suggestive will the innuendos be? As the Eurovision kicks off, Keeley Bolger brings us up to speed
It's a good job the Eurovision Song Contest has more to offer the UK than just a ranking on the scoreboard. Old-timers, newcomers, boybands, novelty acts and Eighties legends have all gone home empty-handed over the last decade.
Indeed, our best place in recent years came courtesy of Blue, who limped in at 11th place in 2011.
Engelbert Humperdinck barely nudged into the double figures in 2012, Bonnie Tyler was totally eclipsed by the other entrants in 2013, and last year's vocal duo, Electro Velvet, finished 24th (though that's not as bad as Jemini, who netted the worst ever result for a UK act - last place - back in 2003).
But is a disappointing decade enough to dampen our singing spirits? Of course not.
The Eurovision, with its commentary, costumes and clashes, is greater than the sum of its parts, or indeed our lack of "douze points". And tonight Joe and Jake, two former contestants on The Voice, are in Stockholm to represent us.
To whet your appetite, here's our guide to what's in store ...
This year's show will be broadcast live from Stockholm, Sweden, following singer Mans Zelmerlow's victory in Vienna last year, with his song Heroes.
As one of the 'big five' - countries who've made the biggest financial contribution,along with Spain, Germany, France and Italy - the UK doesn't have to qualify in the semi-finals and instead gains automatic entry. Tonight, 42 acts will compete in front of an expected 180 million viewers. No pressure, then.
This year sees the first major shake-up to the voting system since 1975, in an attempt to crack down on block voting.
In the past, votes from each country's official jury and the public were combined and announced in one go.
This time, the vote will be split, with the results from the official juries cast first, and then the public vote from all countries - via phone, SMS, or the official app - combined and announced at the end.
Hosts Petra Mede and Zelmerlow will reel off the results, starting with the country receiving the fewest points from the public, and climaxing with the country who received the highest number of points.
TAKE A CHANCE
Fans of The Voice may recognise UK hopefuls Joe and Jake. Joe Woolford (21), from Ruthin in Wales and Jake Shakeshaft (20), from Stoke-on-Trent, were competitors on the BBC One series last year. They bonded and decided to join forces. The duo won the public vote on the televised Eurovision: You Decide showdown earlier this year, with their song You're Not Alone. Scott Mills, who presented the semi-finals alongside The Great British Bake Off's Mel Giedroyc, thinks the lads stand a good chance.
"You're Not Alone has what a lot of other countries bring to the Eurovision - it's an out-and-out pop song, which is a tick from me," he says. "We also are sending two contestants from a reality show. The thing is with reality shows, you do have to be able to perform and sing live. They've been through that."
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
So far, the favourite to win is Russian former boyband member Sergey Lazarev, who will be performing You Are the Only One. Hot on his heels is French singer-songwriter Amir Haddad with J'ai Cherche. Meanwhile, the bookies have offered odds of 25/1 for Joe and Jake to scoop the prize.
In light of the ongoing refugee crisis, the theme of this year's contest is Come Together, with a special dance sequence planned to highlight the plight of those who've had to flee their homes due to conflict.
HOST WITH THE MOST
Graham Norton has been on commentary duties since the late Sir Terry Wogan bowed out in 2008. As this is the first Eurovision since Wogan's death earlier this year, Norton admits it's going to be melancholy.
"This year will be bittersweet because we will all be thinking of Terry," he says. "I'm sure I will say a few words about him as the night goes on, as it is a night that will forever be associated with Terry Wogan."
ON CLOUD NINE
Although Norton has made the commentary very much his own, there is one Eurovision tradition he will be carrying out in Wogan's honour.
"Song number nine is famous because Sir Terry always warned me not to have anything to drink until that point," explains Norton (53). "At song number nine this year, Sweden will be performing, and I will be encouraging everyone to raise a glass. Swedish people in the arena will be cheering their song in the stadium as everyone in the UK will join me and 'cheers' the memory and legacy of Sir Terry Wogan!"
Watch the 42 entries
Reviews by Jess Denham
There are 42 countries competing for a place in the final and a shot at the trophy this year, so here’s our quick run-down of all the tracks, complete withand gave our brief verdicts so that all voters can make informed choices on the big night:
“Sing It Away” by Sandhja for Finland
Think the Finnish version of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”, only with singing, not shaking. It’s good, but Taylor arguably did the whole ‘Take that haterz’ thing better.
“J’ai Cherche” by Amir for France
This one’s another upbeat number, sung in both English and French. Coming to a European club near you.
“Say Yay!” by Barei for Spain
Glittery leggings are the order of the day for this cheery, motivational track from Barei about finding the strength to fulfil your dreams. Hard not to enjoy.
“What’s the Pressure” by Laura Tesoro for Belgium
More glitter and some decidedly dodgy dance moves from Belgian singer Laura. It’s another happy one, but verging into classic Eurovision cheese territory.
“If Love Was a Crime” by Poli Geneva for Bulgaria
Something a little more sultry from Poli, with more edge than some of the other, more generic dance songs this year. One to watch out for.
“Walk on Water” by Ira Losco for Malta
Songstress Ira is up against some tough competition from other female vocalists. This is sadly nothing spectacular, despite her great singing voice, and will likely be quickly forgotten.
“Sound of Silence” by Dami Im for Australia
That’s right, Australia is back in Eurovision for a second year running despite being halfway across the world from Europe. This time, they’re backing a power ballad with a dance beat. Expect some half-naked male dancers, judging by the video.
“Miracle” by Samra for Azerbaijan
This really is the year of the ladies. Sara has a gritty voice and stunning look to match, but her song is cliched and, like Malta’s entry, possibly not individual enough to stand out.
“LoveWave” by Iveta Mukuchyan for Armenia
Iveta has definitely gone for the modern, cool vibe on this genre-mixing song, but it lacks the catchiness that Eurovision voters often love so. The high-pitched vocals occasionally grate, too.
“You Are The Only One” by Sergey Lazarev for Russia
Sergey is already a hotly-tipped favourite and with this rousing, dramatic track it’s easy to see why. It’s classic Eurovision and surely worth an each-way bet.
“1944” by Jamala for Ukraine
This one’s apparently about the mass deportation of Tatars under Stalin. Safe to say, it’s a moodier, more haunting number than many of the entries, but might well prove too arty for Eurovision voters.
“Goodbye (Shelter)” by ZAA Sanja Vucic for Serbia
Someone’s been taking style tips from a certain Amy Winehouse. Sanja will surely given a fierce, impassioned performance but the song itself is average at best.
“Lighthouse” by Nina Kraljic for Croatia
Pretty vocals, but there is absolutely nothing new here.
“Pioneer” by Freddie for Hungary
Freddie’s raspy vocals and good looks will surely prove popular, while pounding drums help add depth to an otherwise pretty boring song.
“I’ve Been Waiting For This Night” by Donny Montell for Lithuania
One Direction fans will likely fall for Donny and this soppy pop track about a girl’s smile lighting up his life etc. The rest of us, won’t.
“Sunlight” by Nicky Byrne for Ireland
It’s that bloke from Westlife! Nicky! Nicky from Westlife! He’s actually got a strong chance with this one - the lyrics are easy to sing along to and the chorus is as catchy as they come.
“Made of Stars” by Hovi Star for Israel
Eurovision’s emo entry will get the Stockholm crowd’s lighters waving. It could do well, too, as the contest does love a good weepy.
“Ghost” by Jamie-Lee for Germany
Expect eccentric costumes and stage design from Jamie-Lee, but this is a singing contest, and her vocals will need to be stronger if she’s to take home that coveted Eurovision trophy.
“Loin D’Ici” by ZOE for Austria
ZOE is singing in French and could do surprisingly well with this joyful, summery little song.
“You’re Not Alone” by Joe and Jake for United Kingdom
Our Brit boys seem set to do better than Electro Velvet’s dire result last year, but this song seriously lacks the ‘X’ factor.
“Soldiers of Love” by Lighthouse X for Denmark
Is that… a Danish Justin Timberlake? These three lads are almost guaranteed a place in the final with this poppy cheesefest. More vintage Eurovision coming right up.
“Hear Them Calling” by Greta Salome for Iceland
Greta’s dynamic entry is one of the best from the female singers this year, but whether it can beat Russia’s Sergey remains unlikely.
“No Degree of Separation” by Francesca Michielin for Italy
Francesca’s Italian singing is glorious, while the track itself is really quite beautiful. This one’s getting a lot of love on YouTube, so expect it to make the top five. One of my favourites.
“Color of Your Life” by Michal Szpak for Poland
Some soul-searching here for Michal, another theme that Eurovision voters really go in for. His vocals are powerful and intense, and he’ll likely give a memorable performance to boot.
“I Stand” by Gabriela Guncikova for Czech Republic
Unfortunately for the solo female vocalists, there are simply too many of them this year to make an impact. It’s hard to see this song going far.
“Slow Down” by Douwe Bob for The Netherlands
The Netherlands have gone for the chilled-out country vibe this year, which may be a clever decision given the bland pop of much of the competition.
“Heartbeat” by Justs for Latvia
Justs’ minimalist electro-pop is at least a bit more unique and, if staged well, could deliver an impressive result for Latvia. There’s a really great beat to this one.
“Blue and Red” by ManuElla for Slovenia
There’s a country twang to this pop song - it’s inoffensive and fun, but not going to set the world on fire anytime soon.
“Falling Stars” by Lidia Isac for Moldova
More dancey stuff from Lidia and again, it’s just not blowing us away.
“Ljubav Je” by Dalal & Deen ft. Ana Rucner and Jala for Bosnia & Herzogovina
There’s some spectacular cello action here but a big question mark hangs over whether it works with the over-egged singing and rap interlude…
“Icebreaker” by Agnete for Norway
Sorry Agnete, but this is just more of the same and we’re really getting bored now.
“Play” by Juri Pootsmann for Estonia
Just a bit creepy, really.
“Help You Fly” by IVAN for Belarus
It’s Ivan! The one who wants to perform naked with lives wolves but clearly won’t be allowed to! His song is terrible!
“I Didn’t Know” by Serhat for San Marino
Easily the worst entry this year. Truly dreadful and also borderline traumatising.
“The Last of Our Kind” by Rykka for Switzerland
Rita Ora has a secret twin sister everybody, and she’s arguably a better singer.
“Fairytale” by Eneda Tarifa for Albania
This is another over-the-top bid for the top spot, but it’s not going to get there.
“If I Were Sorry” by Frans for Sweden
Frans gets a fast pass to the final as Stockholm hosts this year’s Eurovision. This is another strong entry for Sweden, with a Milky Chance edge to Frans’ distinctive vocals.
“Midnight Gold” by Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz for Georgia
There’s a slightly heavier one from Georgia this year, featuring some exciting intstrumentals. It’s all a bit too manic though, and probably won’t score a top ten place.
“Utopian Land” by ARGO for Greece
Musically interesting, but not a contender for the title.
“Dona” by Kaliopi for FYR Macedonia
Some great string work on this song, but it’s all too flamboyant without a pumping chorus to back it up.
“The Real Thing” by Highway for Montenegro
Let’s not forget that Lordi’s “Hard Rock Hallelujah” won the 2006 contest. Heavier tracks do have a place at Eurovision and Montenegro’s entry certainly has punch.
“Alter Ego” by Minus One for Cyprus
- The Eurovision Song Contest, BBC One, tonight, 8pm