By this time next week, we will know who emerged victorious in the 57th Eurovision Song Contest. As of this afternoon, the ladies and gentlemen of the press have had to endure, and possibly enjoy, over eighty rehearsals. Speaking from personal experience, I always found that the rehearsal process dulled, rathen than sharpened, my focus. Songs that began the week as a heap of festering nonsense suddenly became treasured old friends. The entries I'd pinned hopes on tend to wither on the vine and die. In other words, I've hardly ever picked a winner in the past thirty years. With that cherished thought in mind, here's who I think will progress to next Saturday's final in Azerbaijan, Land of Fire and according to some media outlets, Land of Compulsory Eviction. Onwards . . .
Iceland - Never forget by Greta Samóme & Jónsi
Latvia - Beautiful song by Anmary
Lyrically not a beautiful song at all with it's odd references to Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. The melody is catchy though. In the rehearsals, Anmary was wearing a vile blue frock which made her hips look huge. The backing singers were dressed in pastel-coloured hotpants. Hello? 2012?
Albania - Suus by Rona Nishliu
Romania - Zaleilah by Mandinga
Cheap and cheerful holiday music with a catchy (bordering on irritating) tune. The throwaway simplicity of the song should get it into the final and possibly to the top spot.
Cyprus - La la love by Ivi Adamou
She's only seventeen and looks as though she is having fun. Again, this is music to live your summer vacation too - cheery, catchy and well-performed. Cyprus has never won the contest - this could do very well for them in 2012 though.
Denmark - Should've known better by Soluna Samay
The Danes tend to steer a very safe course through the contest with bland, safe, middle-of-the-road slices of pop. 2012 is no different and this mundane number will offend no one. Well, perhaps me.
Russia - Party for everybody by Buranovskiye Babushki
Hungary - Sound of our hearts by Compact Disco
A downbeat song which sounds as though it should be a Depeche Mode b-side. Despite goood rehearsals, this is only seen as a borderline qualifier.
Moldova - Lautar by Pasha Parfeny
Ireland - Waterline by Jedward
This is the kind of entry that sounds as though it has been written by a computer programme. It's safe and ridiculously bland. The twins are as irritating and, if the rehearsal footage is to be believed, woefully off tune at times. All that aside, it would be a major surprise if this did not qualify.
Are you still with me? Shall we plod on to semi-final two? Ok . . .
Serbia - Nije ljubav stvar by Zeljko Joksimovic
This is a Balkan ballad-by-numbers, all moody verses and plaintive chorus. Definitely a case of the performance being better than the song but this is a big shoe-in for the final.
Netherlands - You & me by Joan Franka
Portugal - Visa minha by Filipa Sousa
This romantic slice of fado may just scrape into the final list. Filipa is a classy performer and she makes a good job of this ballad.
Ukraine - Be my guest by Gaitana
This one is all shrieking horns and beats. If we're being kind, then the performance is vivacious. If not, it's a mess.Either way, it's on it's way to the final.
Slovenia - Verjamem by Eva Boto
Sweden - Euphoria by Loreen
It's the favourite to win but to date, Loreen's rehearsals have been worryingly underwhelming. Her piece of mid 90s trance may not be the shoe-in voctor that most were expecting.
Georgia - I'm a joker by Anri Jokhadze
Larger than life performance from a powerful, if effete, singer. This song jumps from cod opera to disco with ease. It's weird enough to appeal. Probably . . .
Estonia - Kuula by Ott Lepland
This is a big atmospheric ballad that builds nicely and is presented gimmick-free. Possibly the classiest song of the year but than by no means guarantees a victory.
Norway - Stay by Tooji
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Korake ti znam by Maya Sar
A lovely, gentle ballad whose chances seem to have been wrecked by a harsh stage setting and a frock horror. Full length black lace with shoulder pads anyone?
Enough for now! We'll take a look at Engelbert and the other qualified finalists during the week.