After making a profit from the last two Eurovision Song Contests, Kevin Hatchard's looking for a hat-trick in Stockholm. In his first preview, he looks at the market leaders.
"Sweden have a great recent record, but this is their worst entry for years. It's boring, and would need spectacular staging to take it anywhere near the podium."
The days are getting warmer, the birds are tweeting, and my next door neighbour just ordered some garden furniture. Ladies and gentlemen, spring is upon us, and that means it's time to start thinking about Eurovision.
We can ruminate upon the United Kingdom's dismal entry in a few weeks (if you voted for it during that chaotic You Decide programme, shame on you), but for now it's time to take our traditional look at the top five entries in the Winner market.
Last year I said from the start that I felt Sweden's "Heroes" by Mans Zelmerlow had the look and feel of a winning entry, and so it proved. The staging was superb (who doesn't love a marching gnome?), and Mans energetically delivered a catchy dance track.
This year the favourite is Russia's Sergey Lazarev with his track "You Are The Only One". It's got a moody start, but it picks up very quickly. I really like it (I've been humming the chorus for ages), and Sergey is a match for last year's winner in the performance stakes. In one of his other videos, for the rather creepy "Take It Off", he wears what appear to be lacquered NFL shoulder-pads, and bright pink trousers. Shyness isn't a word in Sergey's vocabulary.
What's interesting is that Russia have taken a totally different tack from last year, when they finished as runners-up with the sensational ballad "A Million Voices" by the hyper-emotional but wonderful Polina Gagarina. Lazarev has a good CV - he was in popular boy band "Smash!!", and no-one can doubt his commitment, as he's been trying to get a shot at Eurovision for the best part of a decade.
At [3.1] it's not exactly priced attractively, so you might want to keep an eye on the market, but I can totally see this finishing top of the pile on Grand Final night.
Oh Sweden, what have you done? After superb recent winners like Loreen's "Euphoria" and last year's effort, this year's hosts have turned in the equivalent of a kid scribbling down their homework as they rush into class.
It's hard to get across how forgettable and boring this is. The cherubic Frans half-sings and half-speaks this, and he sounds like he finished fifth in a Professor Green soundalike contest. At the Melodifestivalen contest, he sang this against a backdrop of lights which coalesced into words, but it'll need a lot more than that to lift this to anywhere near top spot.
We can never discount the Swedes, as they have finished in the Top 3 in four of the last five years, but this is their worst entry for some time. I'm more than happy to lay this in the Top 3 market at [1.77]. If it wasn't for that stellar track record, I'd be telling you to lay it in the Top 5 market at [1.39].
Frans - you really should be sorry.
I still don't agree with Australia being part of Eurovision, but somehow the powers that be have totally ignored my input, and good old Oz will be part of this year's contest. Cool cat and thoroughly nice chap Guy Sebastian did a fine job in 2015, finishing fifth. This year, Australia will begin their quest in the semi-finals, so it is possible they might not be part of the Grand Final.
So, what of this year's effort? Well, singer Dami Im can belt out a tune, and she won the Aussie version of X-Factor, so we shouldn't expect any nerves on the night. However, "Sound Of Silence" doesn't feel like a winner to me. It seems a bit dated, and although some of the juries will appreciate Dami Im's excellent vocals, the song might have limited appeal to televoters. I'd lost interest by the two-minute mark, and I don't think I'll be the only one.
This is [2.36] to finish Top 5, and that feels too short to me.
After a two-year absence, Croatia are back in the Eurovision fold, and "Lighthouse" is a very likeable song. Nina Kraljic has a beautiful tone to her voice, and she makes the most of a track that stirs but never quite moves you in the way you'd like it to.
This is [2.5] to finish Top 5, and there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, Croatia haven't made it through the semi-finals at Eurovision since 2009. It's also worth noting that they haven't finished in the Top 10 since 2000, and 1999 was the last time they bagged a Top 5 finish.
Will this entry buck those trends? Unless it benefits from spectacular staging, I don't think it will.
Break out the very best croissants, because France have finally put in a decent song! Formidable!
At long last, France haven't put forth a joke entry, or a song that could bore you to death in three minutes flat. This is a half-French, half-English song that is catchy, and Amir gives it some oomph. It's a tiny bit repetitive, but you can forgive that if a song's got a decent hook. This could do pretty well, and I'm happy to give it a recommendation in the Top 10 market at [1.97].
For my Eurovision Grand Final betting preview and updated odds please follow the link.