As ever a Pre-Xmas treat for the Albanians, their national selection finished in time for the Balkan turkey to be carved up. Which of course is what they've done to their Eurosong. "Duje" is a typically dubious ethno warble, this time with an entire brood. Think a dysfunctional festive family dinner replete with Dobson levels of emotional outbursts over who wants the last stuffing ball. All very predictable.   Brunette (Elen Yeremyan, 21)just wants to make art, and who better to ape than Alan Partridge with her "kiss my face" tribute. Therein follows an enticing flavour of the East, rocked to its core by more ill-advised rap in the middle as welcome as Guevara on Fox. Still all things told, it's a solid effort and with the correct staging could hit heights the Azeris can only dream of.
It's as if Australia have repaid my personal woes having to listen to their aural dereliction of duty for six years, & made up for it on their last hurrah. This is so childishly bad it leaps joyfully into the sand pit of the marvellous. Soft rock abounds & there's clearly so much fun at taking part I'm fully swept up. Unremittedly generic, the 80's keytar almost makes you want to ensure the Aussies get another invite to the show. It's a shit business.   I wouldn't have expected 2 nations beginning with "Aus" vying for song of the year, but these 2 ladies take the douzepoints home. Intelligent lyrics in Eurosong are hard to come by, but this is stand-out. Allied to an upbeat, tongue in cheek, catchy, accessible banger with dance murves, this does it for me in spades. I dream (within a dream) that Poe gives these female songwriters the lasting credit they deserve. Rave on!
Having apparently been inspired by the 60's and 70's, twins Tural and Turan Baghmanov (22) have ignored all that and gone with a damp Sixpence none the Richer type number with both an added deeply unnecessary effete rap & the never welcome 5 second silence mid song. Described in some quarters as "charming" and "pleasant", those are quarters you'll be advised to stay in gear when driving through. Useless non qualifier.   Radio 1 roadshow "pop princess" Gustaph has a strong whiff of an early 90's new town surburban club nite, all fruity alcopops and stonewashed denim. Having been "encouraged to keep quiet about his sexuality" in the past, this backing singer is very much making up for lost time with a truly sub-par, but well liked, experience. His stylist is his husband. Be afraid, all.

Difficult to recall a more overt political song in many a year, using "Evil little psychopath" as a lyric is hardly subtle.. Almost as difficult to recall less of a song in many a year. Some will say that its a mere trifle compared to the sobering message, but the message is watered down by putting lippy & a nappy on Stalin. A punk band back catalogue including "two dogs fuckin" as well as an entirely blank LP, their only acceptable relaese.

  Heartbreak High Aussie Andrew (24) is less olive fuelled and more humous lathered. It's a perfectly respectable totally underwhelming piece of lovelorn louvi. Likely to leave you with a case of mild flatulence / bloating, its nonetheless a noticeable departure from the usual ethno ferry from Famagusta they diesel out every year.
Another curiously difficult to define entry, Czechia have come up with 5 woman adorned in pink Handmaids Tale garb banging out a distinct female empowerment message. I get the feeling this lot know what they're doing and whilst the songs veers, crap raps & beats all over the place, the Slavic hook is pure gold, and forgives all other sins. I like it, they show well. In my top 5 for the year and easy q'fer..  

Mop haired Faroese twice Knightley Reiley employs a heavily vocodered voice on his studio version. He has the usual TikTok background for every sub 20 year old moppet (albeit seemingly based in Asia) and is hoping his love of neon will distract from the usual Danish well produced & deeply repetitive effort. I remember arriving on the Islands at night when my mate Tor shone a torch around the capital for me.


20 year old Alika Milova has a piano power ballad which appears to come alive at the sight of the bare shoulders. This is a solid yet unspectacular effort which will appeal to juries and few others. "Alika is also a talented ...boxer, although it seems unlikely that she'll get to demonstrate those skills on the stage in Liverpool". You've clearly not been there Mr Österdahl. And btw enough fighting talk about someone of Russian descent..

  With a barrage of K-pop rappy rock, slime green pauldron toting bowl cut asbo 29 year old Jere Pöyhönen's stage name means someone who wraps presents (geddit). So don't expect Anton du Beke sashaying across the floor. Instead this is top box brash shouting match changing tack halfway when a melody tries to break out. 1of1of2 winners n.b check out song of the season "Ylivoimainen" on your streaming service. Only real competitor to nail bar lady.
Putting the"De" in Diva, 35 year old Canadian Fatima-Zahra Hafdi, has a archtypically Chanteuse with a disco twist entry, redolent of a 80's wine bar in Mayfair. She was appalled on tour in Amsterdam pre contest at being put up in a room with bloodstained bedsheets & "sleeping in a room that smells of mold when you have a voice as wonderful as mine"... She'll eat up Liverpool from her plinth and god help the hotel receptionists.  

From the nation that gave us the word oximated, prepare for a truly terrifyingly vacuous lyrical assault, like a 6 year old butchering a haiku. However if like me you tend to ignore the words or risk likely disappointment, the song itself has mild merit in an overly produced blast of effects and cloth type of way. The name of the song and the act (Iru Khechanovi, 22) are the only subtle bits here.

Glam rock heavy metal alert. Gulp. Lord of the Lost stage names include Class Grenayde and Gared Dirge. Deep gulp. Their previous efforts have at best been described as "not really original or ground-breaking but praised for its "hard and unconditional songs"". Gulp so hard you risk dysphagia. This is tragic and should be avoided, and could result in a truly merited 25th, but then again the unwashed will probably disappoint.   I'm sure 16 year old Victor Vernicos Jørgensen won't be living up his barely used first name come the contest, but this gentle pop number is at least a rare departure from the Greek norm. There's nothing to actively dislike in the song and he belies his tender years to produce a solid Western radio friendly effort stripped back to basics dressed as Steve Irwin. The problem is he is thrashing around on stage like he's wrestling a shark.
Mary Stuart Masterson's large mawed daughter (not really), Diljá Pétursdóttir is a 21 year old physiotherapy student with very little performing pre-CV. And it shines through as "Power" is anything but. She undoubtedly tries for sure throwing herself around with gay abandon, but in those annoying leg kicks and "p-p-p's" it brings to mind Elaine Benes eating a Penguin. A likely non-qualifier & few will be surprised.   Anthemic in the sense that it rises in tone & volume & nationals may feel obliged to sing along, "We Are One" is very much a no-hoper. The song is so m'eh column inches pre-contest have been filled by the sacking of their "creative director" for bracing tweets,ill-advised given the contest's vocal audience. He may well have wanted to jump ship, if only to avoid the gold onepiece moose knuckle & for that I have some understanding.
Israeli 22 year old saucepot Noa is giving Europe the literal horn. She's a biggish deal at home and has a real messy poppy clubby female empowerment pudding of a song seemingly based around one of the few beasts that wasn't on her ark. The final 30 seconds are basicallly going to be a miasma of floor thrusts and posing which she appears highly adept at. Keep your ears out for the made-up word of the year "femininal". Natch.   The lesser known returnee of the year, Marco (34) did basically the same thing in 2013 as he will this year. Which is a wholly acceptable lilting power ballad with caramel eyes & big arms for the damp fan of both proclivities, and a top ten finish without troubling the podium. In summary this is more of the ever welcome San Remo class, & is very hard not to like, but I still think Madame was very much overlooked (check it out)..
Kudos to the band for trying something new, an indie pop lullaby that stands no chance of winning nor getting your toddler to sleep. In a year of messy efforts this has a bit of REM, Brainstorm, every noughties indie rock outfit, and the kitchen sink. It's split the damp fan, but its not a snore fest but sadly they ultimately didn't have a Saturday night story to tell.   Copper piped plumbers mate Monika is the other one of "she's been in it before, you know" of 2023, though you'd be hard pressed to summon up the demons to recall her first dank duet in '15. Her 2023 effort "is grounded in local folklore" like Krampus or Baubas. Similarly likely to put you on edge shouty "Stay" is derivative multilingual Euro nonsense which never arrived, never mind stayed near my Eurosong playlists.
Successfully "exploring social anxiety" this over-heated bunch would like you to throw a 50p piece at them for a flatulent saxophone assault of twee discomfort. I'm game, but I may aiming higher than the hat with the toss.. Its heart is in the right place, but the fingers, toes, ears, and every other body part are not. They may feel better in their sweater, but I would rather watch Chiara in a tiara or Losco in a poncho. This won't be troubling Saturday.   Oh look, another returnee. With this one I had high hopes following his '12 debut, a memorably cheesey Eastern conga. But even roping in the Shining twins, and a very little Leaf Little John on the crusty flute, this is a stinking medieval mess. Like Will Scarlet pumping out the bass in Sherwood, Pasha (36) would have even Maid Marian leg it back to witchy Geraldine McEwan. Clannad it ain't. Finalist though if only for the dwarf capoeira action.
As crucified as Mata Hari, the duo have been shredded at home pre-contest, some of it from their own manager Arcade Duncan. They've admitted themselves the song was a struggle after first performing it live. Which is an unusual approach. So this shoe gazing ballad is even more sparse than ever, but has an enjoyably emotional modern Dutchy Alan's warm bath they are adept at. They('re) Live however so here's hoping they can pull it off.   The queens of Eurosong fandom think 20 year old Alessandra Watle Mele is the King. Mops are out to soak up the gushings of frankly bewildering fervour. To me this is simply more Norge Eurosong colouring by numbers, Oirish Conan EDM claptrap. The song apparently "carries a message of self-love" but sadly probably won't be fiddling around in the lower quarters, even though it very much deserves to.
There was a Polish stink even more potent than their annual plastic miasma. Their national pre-selection seemed fishy, with Blanka Stajkow (23) winning despite all key measures of taste/common sense. Production company nepotism & bitchy backlash aside, this is a white Caribbean nothing of a song, like UB40's kindergartern niece from Chelsea. Handography, Fizz clothing, Fuego, three weak ticks but overall a big red cross. Avoid.   With a Bet Lynch swagger, pub singer Marisa Isabel Lopes Mena tries to wring as much as possible out of this jaunty Porto-pop peculiarity. It's a touch desperate, all 80's stomp and scarlet Rovers Return absinthe fever dream. Lyrics include "My mind is gone, and it got lost in there" which just about sums up this Betty's hot pot of a ditty. . May qualify if only for the performance, the song just doesn't purr..
As wrong on so may levels as the News Corp HQ, Beetlejuice bedecked Theodor is a bit like a student rag Paul Oskar. It's basically unsettling, especially when considering the song was chosen at a family public vote primetime show. Most notable for the knee bruises on the backing gyrators in Bucharest, the song is the lowest point in what is a relatively low year. Nice suspenders though.   The lyrics proclaim "I can smell you like an animal" which when being shouted at you from a lascivious Italian glam rocker with a big grin on his face is even more unsettling than their heinous number, a tuneless masculine threat message. I can imagine this being enjoyed by Russell Brand which is the most damning review I can provide. Likely last.
Occasionaly passive but mostly just aggressively odd ball, Serbia chose louche industrial Metroid Prime weirdness. Very gay indeed but not gay in the old fashioned sense at all. In a year laden with unwelcome chaotic noises forced together in unholy fashion, Luka Ivanovic (30) has beat allcomers with his queer sounds, few of which are bearable. Nuclear camp levels aside, this is uncharted territory best left unexplored. Kak man.   Self blurbed as dealing in "shagadelic rock ‘n’ roll" this Balkan boy band sure have swagger, made apparent by the lead singers pink silk pants. Thye've been widely described as having a BritPop sound, which I'm willing to accept in the spirit of what foreigners think Pulp sound like. This is all a bit m'eh, good enough to qualify, not good enough for a close-up come televoting results..
The lad legacy UK Sky show Soccer AM used to have an arguably racist noise when referring to anything related to Spanish football. I'm not sure Ms Paloma got inspiration from that exactly, but to me "Eaea" sounds disturbingly like a 3min version. She's clearly world class at presenting a warble, but the tortuous uluation is so ring clenchingly awful to my ears, as ever the damp fan guarantees of a top 5 just feels all kinds of wrong..   She's already enjoys Markle levels of Eurosong royalty, but this breathy effort may cement her Middleton status in ESC folklore. The song isn't a patch on her classic winner; it's warbly, repetitive, & very much by the numbers. But with moving roof the damp fan is becoming au fait with technical load bearing structures. Such a favourite the next time she's at B&Q it'll be free screws for her nails and a pot of matt paint to cover those ceiling scratches.
Dough face Remo, 21, apart from looking like he's had a Wogan weave dropped onto his head, is true representative of his homeland, competent yet unremarkable. He grew up "playing traditional folk music on the accordion in his little Swiss village"..Slight irony exists in that of all the nations on show, it falls to the Swiss to extol the peace message. Nice little poofs of pyro are enjoyable but little else stands out. May sneak into Saturday.   Jeffery & Andrii may sound like hairdressers, but their message is resilience and strength when faced with a nasty mullet. They are an established local act & will supply a mid-range slick electro R&B track and then do what Ukraine do, & produce the living b'jesus out of it. EBU won't want them to excel and I can't see, nor wish for, a repeat of 2022's hopefully isolated victory. Still will go big in the hall which is three thousand kilometres away from home.
I get the feeling Cockerney livewire Mae (25) was chosen not only for the Britpop swagger & the self-penned pop ditty, but also the necessary attitude to take on the mantle of Ryder, a weighy sparkly silver crown to don. So far she's pulling it off, all sass and saveloy. The song is Big Mac, initially satisfying but quickly leaves you with a headache and a vague sense of disatisfaction. Probably top 10, unless she mullers it. If so a bottom 5 beckons...