The wait is almost over and the first Eurovision Semi-Final is nearly here. Kevin Hatchard's in love with some songs, but running scared from others. Read our expert's Eurovision best bets here...
"Hatari's assault on the senses will be a big hit with some fans and juries, but will it appall and alienate others, and the whole package seems too divisive to finish in the Top 3 here."
Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final 1
Tuesday May 14, 20:00
Live on BBC Four
So here we are - Eurovision week has arrived! Tel Aviv is buzzing with anticipation, and we're hurtling towards the first semi-final. This is on paper the weaker of the two semi-finals, and if you want my assessment of the market leaders when it comes to winning the entire contest, you can read that here.
For now, we focus on Tuesday night's extravaganza.
Magic of Oz worth considering when backing a winner
Greece leads the betting in the Semi-Final 1 Winner Market at [2.22], and "Better Love" by Katherine Duska is perfectly pleasant, if not a track that really grips you. Katherine has more than a hint of Jess Glynne about her, and she sings this really well, but it left me a bit cold. I suspect this will do well with juries and televoters alike, but I can't get excited at that price.
Australia (yes, they're in Eurovision - we're not having this conversation again) have gone down the pop-opera route, with Kate Miller-Heidke belting out "Zero Gravity." I wasn't too sure about this the first time I heard it, and this genre tends to be a bit divisive at Eurovision, but after a few listens I've decided I love it. There's a lot going on vocally, and there are enough big moments in the track to keep you interested. The staging is cool, with people tumbling in mid-air behind Kate, who has gone for an "ice queen" motif.
If you want to back an entry to win this semi-final, I'd be much more comfortable backing this at [4.7] than going for Greece at not far north of evens.
Iceland a little too outrageous to flourish
"Hate will prevail. Happiness comes to an end. For it is an illusion. A treacherous pipe dream."
Hard as it is to believe, this isn't the latest greetings card that's selling out around Europe, but it is a snippet of the lyrics from the Icelandic entry. Anti-captalism art collective Hatari have promised to "unveil the anomie of neoliberal society, the low price for which man now sells himself ever more blatantly." Now I don't know how they saw the fee I got for this article, but who doesn't love a bit of unveiling of anomie?
The song itself (industrial techno, if you please) is performed largely in a terrifying growl, and while there are moments of relief in there, the entire aural experience is frankly a bit stressful. The staging is like a sequel to Mad Max that no-one asked for, with dystopian BDSM gear de rigeur, and there's a huge spherical cage in the centre of the stage that some of the audience might consider clambering into just to stay safe.
For all my heretical teasing, there is probably a laudable message in here somewhere, but I don't think that's going to come across to a lot of televoters. I suspect the song itself won't be a universal hit with juries either, and the whole bondage thing is a big risk.
This is trading at [1.7] to finish Top 3 in this semi-final, and although I think Iceland will probably qualify for the Grand Final, the polarising nature of the song and the staging may well keep it out of the top 3. If you can lay it for anything short of [2.5], I would do so.
Portugal a better bet to qualify than Slovenian snoozefest
The market has formed a clear opinion of which ten entries will qualify for the Grand Final, so our aim here is to find which of those is borderline at best, so we can lay them in the To Qualify market.
Slovenia's entry, sung by Zala Kralj, is painfully dull. It's apparently a duet, but I can't work out what role Gasper Santl plays, apart from being stared at by the vocally-sound but emotionless Zala. Gasper and Zala are a couple in real life, but on this evidence don't accept an invitation to join them for a double date or a night of board games. Zala's thousand-yard stare is enough to put you off your Scrabble.
The overall field for the first semi-final is admittedly weak, but this is so forgettable that I think it's worth laying in the To Qualify market at [1.48].
If any of the market's top ten fall short, I think Portugal are well-placed to qualify at [2.82]. Conan Osiris (of course that's not his real name, he's really Tiago Miranda) is a captivating performer with a great voice. He is a self-taught singer-songwriter who has had success in his homeland, and his performance at the national selection contest was very well received.
The performance is bonkers, with a topless guy strutting next to Conan and executing some painful-looking dance moves. The rehearsals suggest there's been a bit of toning down from the national contest, and instead of the fluffy white get-up Conan once donned, he now wears colours from the Portuguese flag.
The song is a heady mix of genres, and it won't be universally popular, but the vocals are really strong and this could sneak into the big dance on Saturday.
Lay Iceland in the Top 3 market at [1.7]
Lay Slovenia in the To Qualify market at [1.48]
Back Portugal To Qualify at [2.82]