Saturday, 3 May 2014

In Molly we trust

Twelve months ago I found myself in the delightful situation of travelling across the Oresund Bridge aka The Bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo. This wasn't just any old tourist trip but a sacred pilgrimage to the Eurovision Song Contest. Within the confines of the Malmo Arena I feasted on a lumpy German dance diva, a world-weary Dutch woman emoting about birds, a Norwegian feeding us her love and Bonnie Tyler. Poor old Bonnie. The highpoint of the UK's evening was seven hard-earned points from Ireland and just a further sixteen from the rest of Europe. Oh the shame. Again. Denmark won with the drum and tin whistle epic served up by the highly forgettable Emmelie de Forest. This year then, a trip back across The Bridge to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and some disused factory.

The BBC have seemingly risen to the challenge of finding a worthy UK entrant this year. No more flicking through their directory of cabaret contacts. Oh no. Instead we have Molly. Here's a woman who knows her craft and has written the entry herself. She's emerged from the same arena that launched Florence & the Machine and Jake Bugg onto the world. There is more to new talent than mind-numbing Saturday night talent shows. Ironic then that Molly now finds herself on the biggest Saturday night talent show of them all. Is Children of the Universe the right kind of song to appeal across Europe though?

The rest of the continent probably thinks it has it nailed too. To my weary ears, the overall standard seems to be much better than last year. Europe's legion of Eurofans seem to think that Scandinavia has it in the bag again. Sweden's Sanna Nielsen has certainly worked that ticket - she's been trying for the contest since 2001. Undo is one of those slightly depressing ballads that tend to surface on Celine Dion albums. Also rated is Norway's Carl Espen with a wrist-slitting dirge, the likes of which we haven't seen since the last John Lewis Christmas advert.

Maybe the pick of the ballads coms from Austria's Conchita Wurst, resplendent in golden gown and a nice black beard. Seriously. Conchita's campaign for tolerance is laudable but she also has a cracker of a song. Rise like a phoenix is Bond-esque but its success will depend on how voters cope with the visual aspect of Conchita.

Shouty, bold women are to the fore this year. Macedonia's Tijana (lumbered with a song which rhymes 'to the sky' with 'you and I') has been bested by Italy's top pop diva Emma  who in turn is succeeded by Israel's Mei Finegold. The latter is a one woman homage to strutting and meaty thighs. Mei's entry, Same heart, should see Israel in the final after a four year absence.

If it's pure fun that you are after then look no further than Poland. Saucy minxes perform a tongue-in-cheek slice of naughtiness which has already registered around 40 million hits on You Tube. Great tune too and the whole thing is in keeping with the spirit of Eurovision. Katie Boyle would be proud. Cash-strapped Greece are offering up some fun too with the kind of song that pumps out in gyms across the world. As if to emphasise the point, the singers have brought along an Olympic trampoline star to bounce along during their performance of Rise up. Silly but fun.

There are no real obvious 'nil point' contenders this year although Ireland's tin whistles and Riverdance effort may be down near the bottom of the Euro barrel. Add to that Latvia's paean to cake-baking (they need Mary Berry on the jury for that to work) and Switzerland's irritating whistler and there are your weakest links.

Who could win then? Hungary are highly fancied even if their song deals with the less than Eurovision friendly subject of child abuse. Running by Andras Kallay-Saunders is well-performed and as contemporary as you get. Dilara Kazimva of Azerbaijan has a superb, emotional ballad that may resonate across the continent. I'm sticking some money on Malta though. Coming home by Firelight has the right kind of Mumford-lite/Radio 2 sound to appeal to many. Importantly, they look as though they are enjoying themselves too.

For the hardy fan (me) there are a couple of semi-finals to plough through tis coming week before the main event on 10 May with Graham Norton taking on the delights of the disused factory, shouty women, Greeks on trampolines and the Go Compare man singing about his mother for Belgium. No doubt he will also be looking to see if the UK can sidle up the left-hand side of the scoreboard for once. In Molly we trust? Of course!

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