United Kingdom - Lucie Jones - Never Give Up On You
The Eurovision Grand Final is just over a week away, and the UK will once again try to end a drought that has lasted since Katrina and the Waves won the contest in 1997. In the intervening couple of decades, the UK has finished last three times, picked up a big fat "nul points" in 2003 (oh, Jemini, yours is a stain that will never wash out), and has only managed three top-ten finishes.
If you're about to shout at the screen that it's because no-one likes us, or that it's because of Brexit, don't bother. I don't believe that's the reason for the UK's consistent failure. We fail because we refuse to take the competition anywhere near as seriously as our continental cousins. In Sweden, for example, the Melodifestivalen selection contest to find the Eurovision entrant is one of the biggest events of the year. Countries send big pop stars with millions of album sales on their CVs, while we send Scooch and Daz Sampson.
Even when we have brought out big guns like Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck, we have weighed them down with dreadful songs that should be available on the NHS as an insomnia cure.
In X Factor alumnus Lucie Jones, we have a talented singer who I suspect will deliver an excellent performance on the night. The song has been given a bit more oomph than before, and I know the guys who will do the staging (I'm proper showbiz, me), and I'm convinced they'll lift the track with a superb backdrop. It's an uplifting ballad that gives Lucie a chance to really show off.
This isn't a winner for me, but it is trading at [2.4] to finish in the Top 15. It'll be close, but I think this can just about squeeze in, Brexit or no Brexit.
Ireland - Brendan Murphy - Dying To Try
The days of Irish dominance in Eurovision are long gone, with a pantheon including Johnny Logan, Linda Martin and Eimear Quinn now consigned to history. Let's not forget, Jedward were entered for two years' running in the early part of this decade, and things have declined since. If you're going downhill from Jedward, you're not in a healthy place. The Krays did less damage to the reputation of twins.
Ireland haven't qualified for the Grand Final since 2013, when Ryan Dolan finished last. The last Irish winner was 21 years ago, and there have been just four top-ten finishes since.
This year's effort is "Dying To Try", by 20-year-old Brendan Murphy. It's a nice ballad, and although Brendan's high-pitched voice won't have universal appeal, I quite like it. The worry is that he's been a little off in live performances, and if he doesn't nail the notes in the semi-final, this could be a disaster.
Ireland are [2.64] to reach the Grand Final, and that's probably about right, because it feels to me like qualification really hangs in the balance.
Back the United Kingdom to finish in the top 15 at [2.4]