Eurovision is almost upon us, and our resident obsessive Kevin Hatchard's back to assess the entries from the UK and Ireland...
"As a former member of Westlife, Nicky Byrne has a dash of star quality that might make a big difference. I think Ireland can reach the Grand Final for the first time in three years."
Before we take a look at the UK and Ireland entries for this year's Eurovision extravaganza, let's take a look at the bets I recommended in last month's piece. I recommended backing France in the Top 10 market at [1.98], and if you got on then you should be happy, because the price has nosedived to [1.25]. I have to say I'm not surprised - "J'ai Cherche" by Amir is a catchy effort, and Amir is a likeable performer. I can see this doing very well in Stockholm.
I also advised laying Sweden in the Top 3 market at [1.77], and that price is now out to [3.35]. I've tried to like "If I Were Sorry" by Frans, I really have, but it's spirit-crushingly dull. I just can't see how the staging can lift it, and Frans won't connect with audiences across Europe.
So our first two selections this year seem to be doing well, but I don't expect the UK entry this year to have much success.
We seem to have a sado-masochistic streak in the UK, because despite the presence of some really promising songs in the "You Decide" contest (if you didn't see it, it was a wonderfully chaotic piece of television), as a nation we voted for one of the most anodyne, soulless efforts on the list.
Joe and Jake were on The Voice, but seeing as they featured after the Blind Auditions, I don't remember them. The chair-turning bit is that show's only saving grace. They are smiley, decent-looking lads, and their voices are fine, but the track sounds like something The Script would chuck away when deciding what to put on an album.
We tell ourselves in the UK that we don't get votes because people don't like us, we say that it's political. Sorry folks, it just ain't so. It's because we don't take the competition seriously, and we rarely send artists with any track record. When we have done, such as when Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck were nudged on stage, we have sent them with appalling songs that would rival Valium if they were introduced into the pharmaceutical market.
This, sadly, is another example of that failure to really look at what Eurovision voters want to see. That makes it tricky from a betting perspective. If you like the song and you're feeling brave, you could have a dart at the Top 15 market at [5.5], but it's worth noting that the UK hasn't made the Top 15 since Blue finished 11th in 2011. The song's not bad enough to finish in Last Place, despite being the current favourite in that market at [3.65].
The days of Jonny Logan and Linda Martin sweeping to Eurovision glory are long gone, and the Emerald Isle hasn't even made the Grand Final in the last two years. However, I think that Westlife alumnus Nicky Byrne has a decent chance of making it to the Saturday, and maybe even springing a surprise when he gets there.
Byrne was part of a group that sold millions worldwide, and as such he has a dash of star quality that can make a big difference. I quite like the song too - it's an upbeat toe-tapper, and it doesn't demand any more from Byrne than his voice can provide.
It's certainly not a winning entry, but I think it's good enough to make the Grand Final. Ireland are [2.56] To Qualify from semi-final 2, and that's a price I'm happy to accept.
Back Ireland to qualify from semi-final 2 at [2.56]