It has been entertaining to watch clips of some of the rehearsals for the Semi Finals and also see the impact that they've had on the betting odds. I haven't seen everyone and none of the automatic qualifiers but there's been enough amongst the others to keep us amused!
Italy are still way out in front, despite no-one seeing any rehearsals yet or, at least, none I've noticed. That really is quite a credit to the material released so far and the general aura surrounding the entry this year. In a sense, the competition is Italy's to lose now and I would imagine they must be pretty nervous as they see how badly most of the rest are doing! Will Francesco manage to be one of the good ones after all? Let's hope so as the rest aren't up to much anyway.
The young lad from Ireland seems to have lost his nerve completely. He had a very good song but it simply hasn't worked so far and they've dropped from a potential Top 10 position to a massive 400-1 shot and may not even qualify. They're going to have to battle it out with a bunch of no-hopers in the Semis whereas before they'd seemed a sure fire qualifier.
Greece have the song that the audience will like but the experienced singer will have to get her act far more together if she's going to get far. They should qualify but only just, I fear. Again, once way up with the leaders, mainly because of the singer's popularity and experience, the song she was provided didn't help much and that brought her chances tumbling and now the poor performances to date have Greece out there at 300-1! Amazing.
Belgium has been the greatest disappointment so far. Quite recently the very good recorded track had put them as high as 2nd, the main challenger at one point to Italy and I was glad to have got them at 8-1. Now they're 85-1 as the girl simply isn't doing well at all. The song is in an unusual low register for the most part and it just seems odd. the singer has little obvious personality too, from what observers are saying. the track does have potential so I'm not writing them off yet but, once a potential winner, she'll be lucky to stay in the Top 10 now.
Another big fall in expectations has come from the Australian entry. The nice lad has a rubbish song, basically, and has so far failed to deliver it very well on stage. He was once up in the Top 3 but now may not make the Top 10. They'll be disappointed Down Under.
Staying more or less where they have been all the time are the UK and Netherlands. I don't think either has a chance in hell of winning but both are competent and should be trusted to come across well. The Netherlands group is great but they just have a grotty song. We haven't heard Lucie Jones on stage in Kiev yet but I reckon she'll be fine and shouldn't lost her almost solid 14th or 15th place. With a bit of luck she might scrape in the Top ten if the others continue to fall and she hangs on.
Doing well in rehearsals have been Finland, who have a dark song and little to worry about in terms of presentation. The singer is excellent and has nothing to worry about whereas others have all kind of weird and wonderful antics to cope with. She has brought a dull song into contention just by being solid on stage so far.
Romania have also not only kept a potential Top Ten position but actually made themselves a contender with a potential 5th place now. The song is the silly yodelling thing which some voters will love so expect to see a combination of 10 and 12 points and 1s and 2s which will do them nicely. I do hope it doesn't win as it it's pretty crap but better crap than most. And it is Eurovision, after all. If it's time for a silly, cheerful song then there's precious little choice. Romania yodelling, Italy's gorilla or Moldova's Cool Sax Man and sexy young women who seem to get more dressed on stage rather than the more usual other way round.
In Russia's absence, someone has to carry the Big Red Flag and collect all the votes they would have had. It looks like Armenia and Azerbaijan will be the main beneficiaries this year. They have interesting songs. Azerbaijan, in particular, have a quite scary performance which may have some impact. Armenia's singer is good and they have a habit of attracting votes with pretty singers too. neither is really a winner in my book and no-one really wants to go to Baku again either. Armenia might be more popular as no-one knows anything about the place at all.
The two main contenders after Italy are Bulgaria and Portugal. Both have very strange looking guys with well-written songs. I much prefer the classic Portugal song which is really quite unique and could have come from the 1920s. It really ought to do well and is, in my view, the contender. So far, however, the chap who is singing it has been unwell and his sister, who conveniently wrote it and can sing it really well, has stepped in to do the camera settings and stuff. Quite frankly, the guy only has to stand there and wobble about a bit. It is something he doesn't need to rehearse and I have a feeling he'll be great first time.
The Bulgarian lad is young but seems confident. The English translation and accent are a bit odd but, as I said, it is quite a modern sound and the juries seem to like Bulgaria as a convenient combination of East and Balkan politics so they'll do well from that stand-point.
I expect Sweden will do well again. They seem experienced and there's a good-looking chap performing with several other good-looking chaps and the song is poppy enough to be memorable for the time it takes to get the votes. After that you'll forget it but it will make the Top Ten. Just. It simply isn't interesting enough and, unless, everyone else falls flat, there will be a good six or seven that'll beat them. They will, though, be the main beneficiary of the Scandinavian votes. There's only Denmark to compete really. they'll do well from that point of view too but the song is pretty poor and very boring. Neither have moved much in the betting so far. Neither will win either.
Now, once the automatic qualifiers have had their show it may be that things change again. Spain, for instance, seem to be totally unwanted this year. Again. It is, admittedly, a terrible song but the young lad who sings it is a bundle of personality and that may just start to earn him some votes after all. be prepared to be appalled and surprised by Spain. Germany is very tedious this year. So Is Ukraine's entry. Quite awful, really. No return to Kiev in 2018 that's for sure! France have a good pop star and she will do OK but the song is forgettable.
With Italy looking pretty certain, I've cashed in my bets for the win and I'm looking now at who might make the Top 10. the odds are minute, of course, but there's fun to be had if Belarus qualify, for example. they have a jolly traditional Eastern bloc number and are about 800-1 to win but 8-1 for a Top 10 position. About the same as Lucie. So I've set up a series of bets where five ought to be definites and the winnings from them will pay the losses on some wilder cards. If a wilder Belarus does come up trumps then even better.