ESC2016: Here come the six super troupers…

As you will probably know, the ‘Big 5’ (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) are the countries that contribute the most to the EBU coffers, and as such they get an automatic pass to the Grand Final. Some people are a bit sniffy about this as it’s seen as favouritism, and it does breed accusations that sometimes the Big 5 just don’t try to send songs that are vaguely competitive and popular, as they don’t have to battle through the semi-finals and the indignity of being sent home early.

It wasn’t a great year for the Big 5 last year, when Germany finished in last place with the dreaded ‘nul points’. They were joined in the bottom five by France and the UK, with Spain languishing nearby in 21st place. Only Italy struck gold last year, finishing a well deserved third place. So what of 2016 – have they upped their game? Will it be nul points and national embarrassment for the Big 5, and how will defending champs Sweden do this year?

FRANCE

Amir – J’ai cherché

Doesn’t Amir have a look of Bradley Cooper about him!? This is a great entry from France and has been in the bookies top three for months. News came back from his first rehearsal that it was a bit wobbly, but hey that’s what rehearsals are for, right?

Back in 2011 France were the hot favourites with the bookies right up until the night of the Grand Final, when the wheels fell off for poor Amaury Vassili. His operatic number saw him pitch the wrong first note and he never fully recovered. Let’s hope Amir lives up to the hype this time. France haven’t won since 1977 (we think we’re bad in the UK), and whilst I can’t see that happening, it should deffo be top ten, perhaps top five.

GERMANY

Jamie-Lee – Ghost

Can Germany storm back up the leader board this year after their disappointing showing last year?

It’s a no from me. I just don’t get it. For me it’s a hook-less song that doesn’t really go anywhere. And, whilst I’m all about rocking your own individual signature style, Jamie-Lee needs to fire her stylist. The Harajuku Girls vibe and the song, it’s all a bit of a hot mess. Bottom five for me…

ITALY

Francesca Michielin – No Degree of Separation

Since their return in 2011 there’s certainly been no second-guessing Italy’s entries. Each year a different vibe, but each year suitably Italian. I feel like I’ve heard this haunting melody before. Answers on a postcard, please…

I like the way it drops into English – but perhaps more of this needed to lift the hook of the song for us English speakers? The song is growing on me, but the music video is a distraction, so I’m hoping for staging in Stockholm that really enhances the song and enchants me.

SPAIN

Barei – Say Yay!

The most dated sounding of the Big 5 and Sweden this year. Whilst the sound isn’t particularly fresh, this is the first time that the Spanish entry is sung completely in English. Oh Dios mío en España!

It might do well with the UK audience, because the sound is reminiscent of our very own Jess Glynne. For me, say nay…

UNITED KINGDOM

Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone

When I blogged from Stockholm back in March, I said that the UK had selected the best of our potential six songs for Europe. Best of a bad bunch, perhaps. Well, a couple of months on and I don’t feel like that. It’s a really strong song. The more I listen to it in the mix with all the other entries, the fresher it sounds. Mix Coldplay and 1D together, and you’d get this.

Since their first rehearsal a couple of days ago, the boys have bounced up the betting odds. Odds of 100-1 and over have now been slashed, and they are (as I type) 14th in the standings (from way down in the thirties) – very encouraging for our lads. Blimey, we might even make it over to the top half of the leader board this year!

Having met Joe and Jake briefly a couple of weeks ago I hope their likability factor is also being played up this week. No national embarrassment for us, or them, however it goes this week. And I think it will probably be better than any of us can imagine.

SWEDEN

Frans – If I Were Sorry

Regular readers of this blog over the years, and my friends and euro chums, know that I am seemingly more biased (and blinded!) towards the Swedish entries every year. True story, I guess. True because I like the songs they select – simples.

If you read my blog post from March, it was written when I was in Stockholm for Melodifestivalen. It was the clear favourite to win that contest, which it did. At the time it then also became the favourite to win the ESC. It has drifted slightly sine then, but still sits in the top five. I haven’t changed my mind since March having now heard all 42 entries. I still think this is the song to beat. Sweden are not ready to relinquish their Eurovision crown just yet!

Already a smash hit in Stockholm, it will become an international smash hit after Eurovision. An even more encouraging sign for the popularity of the song is that MTV UK have play listed the music video on their channel. This is unheard of – a Eurovision song on MTV in the UK before the finals. If it does win, and we’re back in the Sweden, I will probably sit out either the Melodifestivalen or Eurovision next year.

*Gasps from the crowd*

So, that’s our ‘super six’ for 2016. Overall a better showing than 2015, I’d say. With at least one song in each of the semi-finals and the ‘super six’ in with a chance of winning. It will be interesting to see if there are any game changing performances in Stockholm. I haven’t watched the rehearsals so it will all be fresh for me when I arrive in Stockholm tomorrow (Monday). Let’s see if I change may mind, and also yours! In the meantime, a reminder of the ‘Big 5’ and Sweden…

So, time to pack my bags – it’s an early start in the morning. I will soon be back in the Eurovision bubble. Mama Mia! 😀