From an excitement point of view, last year’s Eurovision Song Contest was one of the most dramatic in years. A change to the way the voting was announced meant that the contest went down to the very final vote, with the Ukraine’s Jamala eventually winning by just 23 points.
This year’s contest is a strange one. As ever, the semi-finals have weeded out some of the more interesting acts, as well as some of the prettier songs which tend to get overlooked in favour of generic Eurobangers (I really liked both Finland and Malta’s entries, which have already fallen by the wayside). And, with more songs than ever in English, this year’s contest feels as homogenised as it ever has.
Still, there are some lively contenders here. Keep reading for your 2017 Eurovision preview.
2017 Eurovision preview – Your Eurovision favourites
In recent years I have been one to oppose a short-priced Eurovision favourite. Last year’s Russian entry went off the 8/13 favourite but I was keen to back the Ukraine at 7/1 and was rewarded with a tasty profit.
Amaury Vassilli’s Sognu went off as a short-priced favourite for France in 2011 before finishing 15th while I also opposed the Netherlands in 2014 who ended up being beaten into second place by Conchita Wurst.
This year, however, only an early draw is standing in the way of the odds-on favourite. Francesco Gabbani is Italy’s representative this year and his upbeat, singalong number Occidentali’s Karma looks set to storm to the title.
Beginning with a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the song – translated as Westerner’s Karma – mocks the west for trying to adopt Eastern culture, and features lyrics in English, ancient Greek and Sanskrit. He’s also accompanied on stage by a dancing gorilla, a reference to Desmond Morris’ book The Naked Ape. If that may all sound too highbrow for Eurovision, it’s also a hugely catchy up-tempo hit with an instantly memorable chorus.
Having been absent from the competition for 13 years, Italy have done pretty well since their return in 2010 with four top ten finishes including a second and third place. The draw could be an issue – he goes 9th – although both Sweden and Austria have won from the first half in recent years. It’s certainly the song to beat in Kyiv.
After Italy, choosing a potential winner is a tough job this year. One of the leading contenders is Bulgaria who field 17 year old Kristian Kostov in an attempt to beat last year’s best ever finish of fourth.
Kostov’s Beautiful Mess is a perfectly decent ballad, but while the former Bulgarian X-Factor runner-up has a lovely voice, for me it’s not even the best ballad in the competition. It’s one of the favourites, though, and can be backed at 4/1.
Sweden have one of the best records in the competition and their recent performances have been terrific. They have finished in the top five in five of the last six years, with Loreen and Mans Zelmerlow both winning the contest since 2012.
This year’s entry is Robin Bengtsson whose I Can’t Go On is a typically upbeat piece of Scandi-pop, with a chorus you’ll be singing along to by the end. You’ll notice from the lyrics that the song has been rewritten to airbrush a naughty word from the chorus, but it’s right in the middle of the sweet spot of the draw and looks terrific each-way value at 30/1.
Some outsiders to look out for
Perhaps in a reflection of what’s been happening in the charts, in recent years it would be fair to say that the Eurovision has become less eclectic. For a start, all but four of this year’s entrants are in English, and for many of the songs their influences can be clearly heard.
Austria’s Nathan Trent has clearly been listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran on his entry Running On Air while Hovig from Cyprus has simply lifted the bassline from Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human for his song Gravity. For those of you old enough to remember Wilson Phillips, you’ll find plenty of that on the Netherlands‘ entry Lights and Shadows.
Australia have a good record at the contest since being invited to enter and 17 year old Isaiah Firebrace is channelling Sam Smith on his classy entry Don’t Come Easy. It’s a mid-paced pop song that cruised through to the final despite the youngster missing a high note in the semi-final, and has a decent enough draw.
Australia have finished fifth and second in their two previous Eurovisions and so the odds of 200/1 (10/1 to finish in the top five) look pretty generous.
After the Oscars success of the music from La La Land, Portugal throw up a jazz-infused ballad this year which is likeable and totally different from anything else in the contest.
Portugal hold the unwanted record for most Eurovision appearances without a win, and Salvador Sobral’s Amor Pelos Dois has been written by his sister Luis and is described as a ‘sad love song’.
It’s certainly a lovely song but whether it will be drowned out by two dozen Eurobangers remains to be seen. There’s been plenty of love for it this week and it has been backed heavily – it’s just 6/4 to break Portugal’s contest duck.
If you’re looking for some outsiders to back, you could do worse than Belgium and Romania.
Belgium have been responsible for some of the most interesting Eurovision entries in recent years. They have finished in the top ten in both of the last two years – despite going first in 2016 – and this year’s contender is another assured piece of well-produced pop.
Blanche came through the first semi-final with her song City Lights despite looking utterly terrified throughout the performance. I don’t think the staging is quite as impressive as it could be but it’s arguably the only song in the contest that would nestle comfortably in the current top 40. I like it, and she’s got a great draw, so the 4/6 available on a top five finish is tempting.
It wouldn’t be Eurovision without some yodelling and this year’s high-pitched warbling comes from Romania in their aptly-titled Yodel It. The truth is that this song is a cross between The Script’s Hall of Fame and something from The Sound of Music and it actually works pretty well.
It’s a catchy, likeable and perfect Eurovision tune, and its unashamed kitsch could see it gain plenty of support around the world. It sits between two of the weaker contenders in the draw and I think it could perform better than expected at 40/1.
The United Kingdom entry is co-written by 2013 winner Emmelie de Forrest and Lucie Jones sings Never Give Up On You. It’s a decent song and the staging is lovely but the chances of it winning in the year of Brexit are somewhere south of zero.
The UK have finished 24th in each of the last two years and so the 5/2 on Lucie finishing 21st or below looks far too good to ignore. She is a tempting 18/1 to finish last.