The night is finally upon us for the Eurovision Song Contest to properly begin. Well technically it began last night when the juries voted on the semi final dress rehearsal, so half the points are already locked in. In terms of telly though, tonight’s the night. 10 will progress to Saturday night, 8 will fall. Ding, ding. Round 1!
1. This is quite possibly going to be one of the tightest semi finals since this system was introduced. Five of the top ten in the bookies fall in this semi final. Four of this five are also in the first half of the semi final (Czech Republic, Israel, Bulgaria & Estonia). This first half also includes Azerbaijan (one of the countries that has never failed to qualify the final) and Albania & Lithuania, both of which have been very popular here in Lisbon. When you take into consideration that never before have more than five songs qualified out of the first half of a semi final at least two of these should be on the first flight home come Wednesday morning.
2. For those watching in the UK there may well be a familiar face performing at 15th in the running order. Runner-up of UK X Factor 2016 Saara Aalto will be taking to the stage with her song ‘Monsters’, representing her native Finland. Prior to her X Factor career she attempted to represent Finland twice, again finishing as runner-up on both occasions (yes, there’s a theme). She is finally living her dream by appearing on the Eurovision stage. It’s fun song and Saara has been nailing it in rehearsals. However, for her to finish second this time round would require a minor miracle.
3. Cyprus. Oh Cyprus. To be fair you don’t actually have to look out for the Cypriot performance. It’s going to slap you round the chops and tickle you silly. It’s not hard to see why the powers that be have placed Eleni’s Foureira’s ‘Fuego’ last in the running order. It’s definitely a showstopper. Eleni gives a fierce and fiery performance littered with perfectly executed slut drops and hair flicks. Of the 18 songs it’s the only one I am 100% sure will qualify for Saturday night. She has also gone viral in the ESC community with a deadpan translation of her chorus. Exquisite performer and comedy goddess, what a champ!
4. The script. The attempts at ‘humouristic’ sketches have at least aligned themselves with the show’s nautical theme as they sink without a trace. It’s a shame because all four presenters are doing their level best but with a stinker of a script. In particular Filomena Cautela on green room duty is the stand out of the four. If only for a Swedish script to bring this to life. At this stage I’d happily take a Danish script!
5. For viewers in the UK you’ve got yourself a shiny, new commentator guiding yourself through this evening’s proceedings. Having proved his superfan credentials in Brighton as a judge on Eurovision: You Decide Rylan Clark-Neal will be joining regular commentator Scott Mills in the BBC booth tonight. Rylan has been very open about his love & knowledge of Eurovision in the past so it’s great for those of us in a similar position to have one of our own on comms. Hopefully he will combining this knowledge with his usual entertaining persona to take you through tonight’s events with Scott.
6. In terms of other songs to look out for tonight, here goes: Albania has on point vocal. Mikolas nearly broke his back trying to rehearse for Czech Republic. If you don’t cry at Lithuania you have a heart of stone. Israel was hot favourite to win until Cyprus pipped it this morning. Belarus is silly and ends with a sickening final shot. Estonia is opera in a big light up dress. Macedonia is an absolute car crash. Austria is above par, Greece is not. And Switzerland is awesome, if you don’t agree with that I have no time for you.
7. Finally, if you’re in the UK you can vote tonight. No country gets to have a say in both semi finals and as we qualify straight into the final our semi is drawn at random. We Brits are lucky enough to have a say in such a fiercely competitive semi so use your vote wisely. We’ve had enough practice in recent years with seemingly endless elections and referendums. Once more we can wield our democratic will in this most important of votes this country will undertake. Vote. And vote well.*
*And by vote well, I mean vote for Switzerland. Please.