By all accounts music is 33 year old Mr Bushpepa's "religion". Well I put this as a type of Amish music, a bit of an agrarian joint effort that may help to put up a barn, but won't invent a internal combustion engine. There's nothing forward thinking here, it's a dated soft rocky-pop triviality, enlivened primarily by his capable vocals." He describes himself as "a creative professional with extensive project experience from concept to development. Besides being so creative, he has quite some interests that vary from loving art to supporting human rights."
Not a paean to "unbelievable Jeff" Chris Kamara, instead 30 year old Sevak's "Qami" is the Armenian for "Wind". And rather than a gaseous confessional, this is your archetypal dull ballard, albeit sung in their national language which makes for a pleasant change. They have a slightly annoying habit of making a silk purse out a sow's ear and they'll have to do it again. Coming after Saara in the semi will help to calm things down a bit. I can easily see it in the Final, because apart from one year of brain fart, they always are.
It's becoming somewhat of a traditional proclamation; the Aussie's latest "mega-star" to represent them at Eurosong. So here's Jessica Mauboy, the next singer from down under I've never heard of, but as usual will come ready with the strongest voice since...Mark Zuckerberg or someone. "While she is originally from Darwin, her mother has roots in two Indigenous tribes, the Wakaman and the KuKu Yalanji". As I type it's 3rd in the UK betting which is borderline treason. It's another Aussie ESC by the numbers, production line pop that manufactures a vague recollection of some other decent song, hidden by thigh & attitude.
Another middle aged entrant to have earned their spurs as backing vocalist in the comp, 34 year old Cesar is treading the slightly ESC vote-unfriendly territory of gospel tinged soul. This may be the highest quality of the year, which of course means precisely nothing. Back in 2004 when the world was young I recall my pontificating on Mr Sorum from Norway who I felt would shine. He came last. I can foresee a similar result here, regardless of the quality (albeit repetitive) chorus and excellent production. Still juries will send it through and let's see then.

"Aisel (28) in Azerbaijani means 'the path that leads you to the moon' which is strongly stressed in her Eurovision entry". As in some people will think the song is made of cheese, and if you squint you may see a slightly unrealistic face there. I could 'wax' lyrical over this pop tripe, but my interest in the song was 'waning' after a couple of listens. All told though it should 'eclipse' it Nagorno-Karabakh neighbour, & when all said that's what they want most of all. Fact: the first ESC song to begin with a X, so to hit Eurosong immortality get that song in next year called "Quisling Quota" or similar..


24 year old Nikita Vladimirovich Alekseev who has a bit of CIS success is a game young man. The first paragraph of his bio states "He never actually met his father, but still hopes to meet him one day. " This soul searching actually makes you feel a tad sympathetic about the "Alekseev's mouth" Twitter feed, which celebrates his massive maw in all it's glory. Don't miss this one, it's got flower piercing & rose flesh wounds. He gives it some proper welly too, but placed as it is in the stiff semi, I would forecast even with the first post-horror presentation likely won't have the necessary wow factor to get it to Saturday.


Angular 27 year old Sennek, the stage name of Laura Groeseneken, comes from Leuven. "As her day job, she works as a visual merchandiser for Ikea". The song has been positively recieved despite the obvious comparison with a 90's James Bond theme, so it's little surprise that she's performed in "007 in Concert" whatever that is. For me it Lacks a certain something, another underwhelming cool Belgian effort. This isn't a Skanka by any means but in Semi1 I see this struggling to stand out. Again though I'm very much in the minority, for instance Billy thinks I'm wrong.


"EQUINOX were formed specifically for the ESC and is composed of five members who have have never performed together before". My particular favourite member is Johnny Manuel, a name for a summer season at Brid if ever there was one. "Bones" is basically well thought of stylised tripe, performed by a row of heavily coiffured harmonised ballardeers, wailing some love claptrap. Voters aren't all daft, and I think they won't warm to the manufactured feel as much as other fouler efforts (see Moldova). Having said that, it's likely to qualify and should trouble the left side of the leaderboard.

25 year old Franka Batelic ""When I was two years old, I was standing in front of our TV set, holding a remote control instead of a microphone, singing the lyrics of Tony Cetinski's, Nek' ti bude ljubav sva from Eurovision 1994." Poor kid. She's got an almost song, a peculair mix of ethno ballard split by a spoken word rap dung-like miasma. I can't see this progressing and can only suggest the whole enterprise was ever so slightly well, crazy regardless of your usual conservative Croat presentation. "I swear, that I... I will remember, Roses and horses in the rain". More roses, that's the last thing we need.

Dubbed the "Queen of Pop" (although when I googled, I have to say even Madonna screwed up her face) 31 year old, Albanian born, Eleni has had a few Balkan hits in her time. Can this be another smash for her either in Sofia or Split? She gamely prances about in the video in bottoms that cut off blood supply to her nether regions & she's clearly adept at a good crotch thrust. It feels like Ivi Adamou's elder cousin,& it's dirty pop which isn't to be sniffed at. It'll get 2 x douze from the Greeks but the question is how many more is a see-thru top worth? Inexplicably its become the bookie's favourite ESC week, I didn't see that coming...Strap yourself in.


Vienna based 22 year old Mikolas "graduated from The English College in Prague", so probably knows his way around a pub. He's been described in the more harsh circles as Timberfake for which I will let you decide. "He cut his promising modelling career short...he headed to European cities...where he made a living as a street musician". With lyrics such as 'I know you 'bop-whop-a-lu bop on his wood bamboo' or indeed 'But steady plenty these greedies wanna eat my spaghetti' you get an idea of where this is pitched. His back was hospitalised during rehearsals but if his somersault is performed well, he should excel.


By all accounts 33 year old Jonas Flodager Rasmussen sings about the Viking Magnus Erlendsson and his refusal to fight in the Battle of Anglesey Sound in 1098. The original beardyweirdy pacifist, he would have been more at home in Woodstock than West Jutland. This type of Nordic trad has been seen annually across the pre-selection vista, only this year one of them has made it through. Mr T Giantsbane has a middling effort that peaks too early, but the snow is a nice touch & and there are some particlularly bass backing singers. This song will likely "make a mark and leave it hanging there", but not in an air biscuit sense.

26 Elina’s family is "of Estonian, Russian and Chuvash descent. It is from this...she fluently speaks Estonian, Russian, English, French & Italian"...and bad popera. In a year where LED screens have been banned, it's onto last minute panic buying LED dresses to try & get that USP. Elina pleaded for a sugar daddy to provide the money for the projection, so god only knows how she had to re-pay that. Opera is one of those genres where the damp fan invests much confidence, which ultimately does't tend to be rewarded. This shoudn't be rewarded either. She's an average warbler & it's a deeply tedious one tone popera wail.

Ever the greedy vowel users, Finland are represented by a 30 year old lady which the alert UK reality show viewers may recognise. Ms Aalto came 2nd in UK X-Factor a few years back, & the kudos of that resulted in the Finnish broadcaster directly choosing her. The song is a gassy pop-fuelled romp which I rather enjoy & will likely become a LGBT anthem of sorts. She's been pilloried by the damp fan for her apparently outlandish song presentation, but when has that been an issue in ESC? I am in the minority by saying it's a safe qualifier & is my dark horse, but I don't care in fact I ain't scared no more.

'"Madame" and "Monsieur", like two poles of the same celestial body, are each pulled to the centre of a song, where Emilie masterfully sculpts the French language around Jean-Karl’s pop leanings. It’s the one-way ticket of their dreams toward simplicity.' It must be the French, and they've racheted it up this year. My nose is finely attuned to Worthy, and this has me reaching for the antihistamines. It concerns the refugee crisis which may be the worthiest of all causes. There's Black Panther saluting, turtle necks & a hilarious half a flare setup. I like the the jokey French in ESC, this isn't it, so it's marked down. It still could be top 3 tho
Why have 1 song when you can have 2 and a half? This may be one of the most peculiar yet diverting ESC songs of recent years, another surprising show of musical strength from FYROM. If I said to you I've got a Balkan reggae/EDM track with bridges larger than the Öresund, you'd probably be slightly concerned. But it's got a cracking chorus and in 23 year old's Marija Ivanovska strong vocal it shall likely be on my playlist for at least a couple of years. l I wish this well. Having said that I fear it may be lost going out after the Bulgars & will probably get the usual FYROM car-crash staging. Shame.

"The band’s repertoire is based on Georgian polyphonic music and harmony, saturated with jazz and modern music elements." This number was the last to be released to the baying public, and as such came with heightened expectation. That didn't last long. This is the lowest key entrant since the Borrowers front door lock. It's a male voice choir basically, all harmony with no room for argument. I can only see this being completely left behind at televoting, regardless of the obvious decent singing and inoffensive delivery. If you need a "For You" in your life, I point you towards Mariette at this year's MF, much more appealing.

Michael (27) has a quite solid Euro CV, replete as it is with 50 million Youtube hits. Whilst I would imagine these are mostly Teuton, he is trying to extend his reach by pouring his heart out with an acoustic ballard which is difficult to dislike, & may even tip into fondness. In essence he loves his mum & lost his father, an attempt at a real tearjerker which succeeds in a drab sort of way. You never know it may deliver a rare positive result for the Germans & the presentation is extravagant.
Pro's: all very Ed Sheeran if you like that kind of thing
Con's: he's a borderline professional ging


Everyone loves a bit of Greek at the ESC, and 2018 sees them go with the more risky ethno folk route rather than the usual tub thumping finalists. Yianni at 37, is a virtual OAP in terms of this year. Apparently "audiences connected with Yianna instantly and caught hold to her unique tone." I forsee this could be the big ethno winner this year, what with thousands of years of language as well as 20 years of showbiz at their disposal. It's more funky than your typical Balkan snoozefest but may suffer slightly as a result of, well being a bit different.

Post pubescent angst alert. You can smell the musty musk, an angry screaming fit of nonsense that appears at least to be an authentic wall of unnecessary noise. Some ESC "post hardcore" efforts are watered down & suffer as a result but this is a pile of glutenous plop, which is the best that can be said for it. "Their music videos often have juxtapositions of images of violence and celebrities in order to bring light to problems that the world faces." They're right you know there's nothing better than a picture of McPartlin in a crashed Mini to solve the Korean crisis. The damp fan sees this as a welcome diversion, I'm confused by this.

Peace alert! And from the plasticine form of 19 year old Ari as well, who seems to want to embody a pastiche of the 1990's lowlights, a slightly smug Oirish style entry which even the ESC world has well and truly moved on from. "He has been accepted into the Royal Academy of music in London wth a full scholarship" which appears to reflect in his confidence if not his critical faculties. All told this is the weakest song of the year, and I'll eat my Kæstur hákarl if it qualifies. Rank.


Yet another earnest alert! Ryan (25) is yet another sentimental twee non-entity of an entry, a mawkish Oirish nonsense, a shameful waste of it's time on stage with a monotonous drawl of plaintive drivel. But I really like it..."In his opening audition on Britain’s Got Talent, Ryan performed his now well known, self-penned song No Name which has had over 45 million hits on YouTube." Well, you never can tell. This isn't getting any better for the increasingly slightly tarnished Emerald Isle. Dog's eggs, but then again I am in the minority, & I'm reliably told that lads holding hands on a bridge in the sleet is apparently just what Europe wants...


Netta Barzilai (25) was the early front-runner. She's a looper, which doesn't mean she's a fruit loop, it means she records and plays back music in real time. And this is at the centre of "Toy", an utterly preposterous girl power slice of nonsense, replete with waving cats, chicken impressions, bubbles, &..looping. The problem is ESC won't allow her to take her kit on stage so the looping is fake backing track but this probably isn't a biggy. Of course it's my song of the year, I just hope that she won't be unduly damaged by the hype (a la Francesco). All together now "Dancing with my dolls, On the MadaBaka Beat".


A veritable odd ESC couple weighing in at the ripe old age of 43 & 37. A few lifetimes of experience and the result is a weighty peace song. This has the most BPM of the year, which when considering the extensive pacifist lyrics crammed into 3mins - e.g."In London it always rains, but today it doesn't hurt" is little surprise. It's a grower this, which isn't a valuable commodity in ESC, but I like it anyway, as I always like the Italian entries. Oh and Isle of Man resident (based on the barnet)"Ermal Meta is one of the most successful writers of the last decade in Italy with eight platinum records and seven gold in the last five years alone". Bling


"Laura Rizzotto is a 23 year old singer, songwriter and pianist born in Brazil, to a Latvian father and a Brazilian mother of Portuguese descent." Shoehorning in the Portuguese connection there. Lovely. Talking about lovely, this is an attractive jazz-lite number from a capable performer in the weak semi. But still it's likely to limp into the Final. In the year of the lady arm movement, Laura tosses her arms, hair, glances, anything at her disposal really. Fact fans: apparently her 2nd album gave "greater public awareness regarding the urgent need of conservation and restoration of Brazilian national tree, also known as The Music Tree".


A curio, this. A delicate ballard from a 24 year old with a big name but a small child-like voice, which is rather pleasant when all said and done, but may bring about premature aging. It's sandwiched between the 2 quality rousers of the year in semi1, & I was struggling to call which way this would go as a result. So I went for next to last. It's tough to impress me, & even when she gets her hubby on stage I'm not swayed. It's about "that love can last forever, that it is the most powerful thing in this universe and that love can defeat all the fears that we may have." You get the picture.


Christabelle (29) appears to have 2 personal causes. One is mental health, the subject of the song "which hits very close to home due to her suffering from poor mental health at certain stages in her life." And the other is "LGBTQQIA" which I wasn't aware had another few letters added at the end, & sounds like it could be a Valetta-based shipping company. Remembering all those letters in that order, no wonder she wants to raise mental health. The song is what you expect from Malta at its worst, horribly dated slightly off-centre hard pop which can't be rescued by a game olive trimmed wench.


What's behind the square window? "DoReDoS is a Moldovan folk-pop trio formed in 2011, they got their name from the first two notes of the musical scale. The trio is made up of Marina Djundiet, Eugeniu Andrianov and Sergiu Mîta". So yet again we have an unabashed cheesy fondue of dated ethno poop, consisting of a jolly family friendly threesome with all original musicality stripped out, and ethnic cliches pumped in. After their startling success last year, expect them to again to be punching above their weight. As part of the perfect ESC act, the choreographer would be from Chisinau. A dubious diversion in double.


A sizeable chunk of the damp fan welcome the annual Balkan ballard. I am dry as an addax's toe, so they tend to be as welcome to me as Kanye West at a Weather Underground meeting. Uncle Vanja has a steamng pile of derivative drivel to present to you, but with a prime position in the woeful Semi, I have to say it may stand a chance of qualifying.
"The video clip for the lead single of this album was filmed in cooperation with the Institute for Education and Rehabilitation of people with impaired hearing, which is based in Kotor". That's an appropriate audience if ever there was one.

"In 1998 (when Willem Bijkerk was 18 years old) he received a phone call from his hero, Waylon Jennings, who invited him to come and work with him in Nashville. Unfortunately the country singer died in 2001.." I was surprised to learn it was back in 2014 when he tried to ruin my May with his runner up place, so it's reassuringly terrifying to see he has further honed his schtick even more 4 years on. It's a terrible bit of C&W foulness, but I've realised there is an inexplicable market for this dross & he does come across as an authentically plastic Nashville holidayer with a misguided belief in his musical art. Virtually guaranteed finalist.

You may recall the fiddler on the goof Rybak from 2009, one of those off-puttingly jolly people, the type of work colleague who faces every day extolling professional positivity and then probably goes home to torture a cat in a bedsit whilst drowning in gin. Also he hasn't aged a day since his big night, which can only be down to alien DNA..or wealth. This is a Disney Junior effort, ear-worm of the lowest order & widely written off as a result. Don't underestimate the presence of the lad however, air violin an' all. There's a touch of scatology thrown in for good measure too,.. sorry, I meant scat. Which isn't nice. A shoo-in for the Final.


Here's a peculiar one. As someone relatively long in the tooth, I apparently don't have the wide eyed fascination for this type of generic club shite, nor do I have the innocent soft edges that accept this form of bland de riguer EDM. I just wish all yoof would go out, get loaded and have a good time. They might then come up with something original, rather than stale themselves with this dad pop. It's awful it really is, but Europe seems to approve with 39 year old Gromee and his "No Sleep for Lucy" band. His Swedish singer (if that's the word) isn't a bed of roses either. All told, rank but diaspora may prevail.


As you will know the Pascal is the SI derived unit used to quantify internal pressure & stress. Appropriate then that their representative, Ms Pascoal (near enough) will be carrying the hopes of this year's hosts. Lisbon is looking like a good host city and I'm wishing them well. Her song suggest shes no slouch with a hoe & horitcultural upkeep in general.."I’ll take care of your garden". It's certainly not the worst Portugueesy entrant, and has a follow-up touch of authenticity that got them the gig in the first place. I rather like it in an ethereal, unassuming way, and hope their new approach reaps a decent harvest of points.

This is a song about suicide therapy, a bold choice for an evening of musical entertainment. The "band" throttle a torpid rock ballard, surrounded by cult mannequins. Your job is to tell the difference between the band and the dummies. The leggy lead singer Cristina does her limited best to buck its ideas up, but I'm thinking ultimately it's heading for a cliff edge. They've got Moldova & Italy voting in their shite Semi which may help for them to qualify but they sure don't deserve to. The song could be a self fulfilling prophesy.

Where do I start? Julia was due to represent the Great Russian Bear tm last year but got banned from the country by the Foreign Minister. She contracted spinal muscular atrophy as a child so is wheelchair bound, and has been stridently accused of being a Putin puppet. All told, quite a year. So she topping it off by being plopped into a papier mache volcano. I hope it's not dormant. As for the song I read a review that said "I love the instrumental version of this song". From the mouth of babes...Of course it is utterly churlish & nasty to criticise her dodgy anunciation, but it does cause some confusion to a rhyming by the numbers pop ballard. Woeful.

Somebody's been to Hamleys...San Marino have looked to that powerful of combos this year, a duo of Maltese/German ladies with an aura of desperation you can taste from your armchair. There's an unhealthy dollop of rap from Jenifer, a game yet underwhelming ingredient in Jessika, and most awe enducingly of all is a quartet of small toy robots on plinths who silently wave their arms out of time. I can't be too critical as the utterly lovable amateurism of the nation means leaves me wanting more, but 3 minutes a year is certainly plenty. If Jessika is asking me who they are, I'm afraid the answer is non-qualifier.

I've not seen the live performance, because I don't need to. So here's how this infinitely tedious 3 mins of ethnic ballardry pan(pipe)s out. Understated ethno instrumentation start, slow walk-on by a dark suited man, followed by a selection of svelte dark haired maidens in flowing robes ululating "la la la" or "na na na". Man off centre hitting a big drum, another with sackbut/pipes or similar. As it reaches a damp crescendo, they likely walk in circles, upper arm movements, & ending with them all in a line pretending to care. Am I right, because this dank codpiece of a track is all wrong. A nation treating the damp fan with disdain.

Lea is a "Master of Arts in Specialised Music Performance" but something has gone awry here. Slovenia have actually provided the damp fan with another flautist. They like the flute in Slovenia. So the nation may be disappointed to see a lack of woodwind, only to be replaced by a pair of prevalent arse cheeks which may well produce it's particular form of woodwind. "No thank you" is a hot mess of a track, not one for the epileptic nor for one of delicate musical taste, the song is dank, repetitive, and fairly jarring. Apparently its bounce music, whatever that is. I'm not bouncing, my arse cheeks are firmly on the sofa.

Right firstly pass me the Plenty, I need more than one sheet to mop up the damp fan outpourings... Alfred & Amaia are a real life Spanish reality TV couple, and this fact alone seems to have clouded the sopping judgment of most of my peers. They appear to have overlooked the song, at best a paean to 80's duo ballards from young love's dream, at worst a mawkish warble through the depths of generic pop ballardry. As much as you buy into their performances, their voices are questionable & the nation has a pretty woeful Eurosong history recently, so I've gone for a low prediction. The tiny soppy part of me hopes I'm wrong though..


The bio sets the scene thusly "a three minute groove heavy workout that turns a foot tap into a somersault by the first chorus". Well, based on that push the chairs back, because you're going to cartwheel... This is Swedish, namely slick, professionally staged anodine disco-pop. 20 year old Benjamin is 5'7" tall, & the reason I say this is because he gyrates & nods a lot in this, & whenever I see a short arse dance it reminds me of Twin Peaks man from another place. In a weak MF year this was a fair enough winner and what with the novel use of LED strip lights in otherwise LED-free staging it has the usual comforting confidence.


Coco & Stee Gfeller are a brother & sister combo ("Stee had already won the Swiss drumming championships several times by the age of 12"). These two are of the opinion that this is edgy stuff, but perhaps unsurpringly from a nation known for cuckoo clocks and the quoting of this fact in a 1949 classic film, it's actually a bland pop number about bullying. I've thought the Swiss have been hard-done by in ESC terms recently, but they're regressing here. If they aren't careful I'll want to duck the country's head into the bog again.


SuRie (combining Susanna & Marie) was "recently elected an Associate of The Royal Academy of Music", get you. She's tried to help the Belgians on a couple of occasions previously and now she's taken on a greater lost cause. She's another immensely positive & likeable Brit, and will need all of that character to grin through a deeply derivative pop ballard ably supported by more strip lights (in tunnel form this time). Unfortunate arm gestures aside for a bleached blonde, she tries her best to wirng a performance out of the material but bottom 5 is a virtual certainty I'm afraid.


Niche spooky alert! His name "comes from a combination of Halloween and the last name of the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen"... Contact lenses, coffins, webby pianos, fiery steps, those crazey Kiev roadies they just don't know when to stop.... Melovin, 21, may well win his semi (it is gash after all) predominantly due to the set & his avant garde, cocky delivery. Indeed the ESC has proven how the cocky gene is spread all over Ukraine. Good luck to him, but christ please not Kyiv again.
"His biggest passions are music, perfumery & chemistry. He announced to release a limited edition of his first fragrance during the ESC".