Preview: Eurovision Song Contest 2019

Lee Williscroft-Ferris previews this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and gives his tips for those in it to win it.

It’s that time of year again. Following Netta’s victory for Israel in last year’s Eurovision Song Contest with the insanely catchy ‘Toy’, the 2019 edition has been taking place in Tel Aviv. 41 entries have been whittled down to 26, with countries like Ireland, Austria, Croatia, Poland and Finland having been knocked out in the semi-finals earlier this week.

With all the pre-contest favourites having survived the preliminaries, the Grand Final looks set to be one of the most exciting in recent years. What’s more, the contest’s producers have expertly crafted the running order to guarantee a memorable evening. Throw in a hotly anticipated interval performance by Madonna and we are surely in for a treat.

Here are the 10 entries we think the winner will emerge from:

AUSTRALIA: ‘Zero Gravity’ – Kate Miller-Heidke

Australia first entered the contest in 2015, having been invited as a ‘guest’. They’ve entered every year since and have become a semi-permanent feature of the competition. Having developed an excellent reputation, Australia’s entry in 2019 is ‘Zero Gravity’, a popera anthem to overcoming post-natal depression, performed to perfection by Kate Miller-Heidke with staging we can only describe as being like Frozen on pogo sticks. Despite not making much of a wave before rehearsals began, the entry is now a firm favourite to snatch the trophy on Saturday night.

NORWAY: ‘Spirit In The Sky’ – KEiiNO

No, not *that* ‘Spirit In The Sky’. Hugely popular among Eurovision fans since being selected earlier this year, Norway are hoping to top the table with a combination of catchy pop and ‘joik’, a form of singing practised by the Sámi people of the north. It’s not groundbreaking and in many ways, it’s your typical Euro fare but if its performance on the iTunes charts in many European countries is anything to judge by, the other 40 countries should be keeping a close eye on this one.

SWEDEN: ‘Too Late For Love’ – John Lundvik

Sweden are just one victory away from equalling Ireland’s record for the most wins in the contest and you can never discount the Scandinavian country as potential winners. London-born John Lundvik also co-wrote the UK entry in this year’s contest and is a vocal powerhouse. ‘Too Late For Love’ is a gospel-tinged track with an incredibly infectious chorus. Lundvik’s backing singers, known as ‘The Mamas’, add a huge dollop of sass to the performance. We fully expect Sweden to land in the top ten on Saturday night.

AZERBAIJAN: ‘Truth’ by Chingiz

Azerbaijan are willing to look beyond their own shores and spend big to secure a quality entry for the contest and this year is no exception. ‘Truth’ is a dark, brooding dance track articulating the pain of a failed relationship. Chingiz himself has gained something of a reputation for whipping his shirt off and dancing topless to his entry on Snapchat. You get the sense that he’s certainly very self-assured; judging by the quality of the song, he should be.

THE NETHERLANDS: ‘Arcade’ by Duncan Laurence

It’s been 44 years since The Netherlands last won the contest and the country spent many years in the doldrums, having failed to qualify for the final for 8 years in a row before entering an era of relative success in 2013. Duncan Laurence, a bi singer-songwriter from Spijkenisse (try saying that after a few glasses of Bucks Fizz) has been the bookies’ favourite for months. ‘Arcade’ is a beautiful ballad about staking everything on love and losing it all. Laurence’s voice is stunningly emotive and the simple instrumentation enhances the song’s impact. One to watch for sure.

ICELAND: ‘Hatrið Mun Sigra’ by Hatari

After a few years in the Eurovision wilderness, Iceland is back with an absolute banger, the title of which translates as ‘Hate Will Prevail’. Hatari are a ‘BDSM techno and punk rock band’ who have already built up a formidable reputation on the live music scene in their homeland. Their performance features leather, spikes, black contact lenses, verses delivered in what can only be described as an angry growl and a gimp. However, this is more than just a cheap gimmick or novelty act. It’s actually an outstanding song with a message and looks set to catapult Iceland back towards the top of the scoreboard.

FRANCE: ‘Roi’ by Bilal Hassani

Bilal Hassani, ex-contestant on The Voice Kids and a prominent YouTuber, is a huge Conchita Wurst fan and it shows. Proudly queer, Hassani has a collection of wigs with names and comes to Tel Aviv with an unashamed anthem to being your authentic self. The entry has emerged as a frontrunner since rehearsals began, thanks to some incredibly moving staging and the sheer force of Hassani’s vocals. At a time of increasing global divisions, the significance of a queer singer of Moroccan descent winning the contest on Israeli soul would not be underestimated. Bonne chance, Bilal!

SWITZERLAND: ‘She Got Me’ by Luca Hänni

Switzerland last won in 1988, when Céline Dion graced the stage complete with perm and ra-ra skirt. This year, the Swiss are going for gold with a track that has all the hallmarks of a 2019 chart hit. Despite some incredibly cliched lyrics, there’s an irresistible riff and the stage performance is second to none in terms of choreography and impact. Switzerland have also been allocated the penultimate slot in the grand final, which bodes well for the country that won the very first contest back in 1956.

ITALY: ‘Soldi’ by Mahmood

Italy consistently features among the pre-contest favourites and can generally always be relied upon to send a high-quality song. This year does nothing to stray from that path. ‘Soldi’ is a testament to an absent father and his obsession with money (or soldi). Mahmood, a Milanese artist partly of Egyptian descent, has a distinctive timbre to his voice and the song includes a trademark double-clap in the chorus. It’s catchy and modern but also conveys a very personal message. It also features a line in Arabic, which is significant in a year in which the Eurovision phenomenon has made Israel its home.

GREECE: ‘Better Love’ by Katerine Duska

Katerina Duska is one of two artists born and raised in Montreal taking part in this year’s contest and her song was co-written by none other than David Sneddon. Remember him? ‘Better Love’ is a chart-worthy entry with echoes of Jess Glynne and, with lyrics like ‘Way to love who you love’, we like to think it’s also an ode to equality. The otherworldly staging only serves to enhance what is already a very strong song.

Do you agree with our preview? Take a look at a preview of the songs in grand final here:

Or listen to all the entries here:

The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 will be broadcast live on BBC One at 8pm on Saturday.

Follow Lee on Twitter (@xixianykus)

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