Brace yourselves: the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest is hurtling towards Earth. Yes, the continent that gave you such cultural giants as Beethoven, Michelangelo and Mr Bean is about to launch another massive attack on the eardrums of the world.
42 countries will be descending on Helsinki, Finland, for the annual thinking man's Superbowl. This year's collection of looney tunes is a very mixed bag. Rock, funk, swing, opera – they're all here, as well as something indescribable from Romania. The themes are varied too – world war, world peace, fighting, not fighting, dancing and, of course, vampires. There's also a rare example of trans-Aegean harmony, with both Greece and Turkey agreeing to shake it.
As in previous years, most entries are in English, although some singers are showing their skills as cunning linguists. Latvia's singing in Italian, Cyprus in French, and a couple of entrants are chucking in every language they can think of (except Finnish, of course). Meanwhile, the French entry isn't so much francophone as francophoney.
In advance of the main event, a CD with all 42 songs has been released (actually, it escaped). Bellowing Balts, warbling Walloons, melodious Maltesers, they're all on this disk battling it out in Helsinki in fight to the Finnish to win the greatest song contest in all the world. Here's what I make of some of this year's hopefuls:
Song: Salvem El Món
After failing to ignite Europe with Pyrennean pop in their first three entries, Andorra has gone for a harder edged sound. I'd love the mini-state to reach its first final, but I can't see this crypto-punk effort taking them there.
My Score: Deux points
Participant: Roger Cicero
Song: Frauen Regier'n Die Welt
Last year we had Germanic country and western. This year, it's Teutonic swing. If you ever wondered what Michael Buble would sound like in German, here's your answer. It's just as well he's singing in German. The English lyric goes: When "I found out she wanted to save the environment
I sewed "No thanks" on my parka"
My score: trois points
Song: I Love You Mi Vida
Dripping with Hispanic testosterone, four Hispanohunks strut their stuff with all the zest of an Andalucian orange. But let me not be swayed by four pretty faces. Well, not yet, anyway. It's a good song, but it has a rotten position in the final draw. In Eurovision's 52 year history, no song at number 2 in the draw has ever won.
My Score: Dix points
Song: Drama Queen
Just when you thought the glory days of Europop had gone, along comes a great Dane who knows how to put on a show. The spangles and sparkles and the feathers have been dragged (ahem) out of the dressing-up cupboard and the song has all the makings of Eurovision classic (along with Ooh, Ah Just a Little Bit and The Drowned Men of the River Seine).
My score: dix points
Song: Flying The Flag (For You)
This year the UK had a chance to redeem itself and send a decent entry to Eurovision. But in the national final, French chanteuse Cyndi snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. So instead of quality fromage what do we get? Processed cheese. After this homage to no-frills flying crash lands on May 12, the BBC needs to take yet another look at its selection procedure, and I expect questions to be asked in the House of Commons.
My score: deux points
Participant: Edsilia ROMBLEY
Song: On Top Of The World
At last, a class act from Holland. A stellar performance from Edsilia could project her into the final. And then anything's possible.
My score: douze points
Song: Questa notte
This adorable song, sung in Italian, gives me warm fuzzies just about everywhere. It's got a good draw too – the last of the semi-finalists to perform. It's may be too soon to return Eurovision to Riga, but I hope they do well. Belissimo.
My score: douze points
Song: They Can't Stop The Spring
The Irish are picking up their flutes and going back to their roots. It's a pleasant enough song, and will go down as smoothly as a pint of the black stuff in Irish pubs from Lisadell to Latvia. I only hope she gives it more welly than I've seen in the previews. And surely this is the only time that the word archipelagic has made it into Eurovision.
My score: huit points
Participant: Verka SERDUCHKA
Song: Dancing Lasha Tumbai
This song speaks to me of moonbeams illuminating the Great Gate of Kiev, of rolling wheat fields in the bread basket of eastern Europe, and the sun glinting on the golden domes of orthodox churches in Lviv. On the other hand, it could just be a camp old trannie dancing her tits off.
My score: huit points
The semi-final of Eurovision is on Thursday night, with the grand final on Saturday 12 May. If you can't wait for the CD (and who would blame you) then you can see all the participants and download the songs at eurovision.tv.Powered by Sidelines