What happened to Eurovision last year?
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Eurovision was postponed for the first time in its long and illustrious history. Artists were told they couldn't use their 2020 songs for this year's contest. While many of the acts that would've competed in 2020 have stayed on to aim for music's ultimate prize in 2021, not all of them have.
Will Eurovision be behind closed doors?
Wonderfully, the answer is no. The crowd is so important at Eurovision, and it's recently been confirmed that there will be a live audience of 3,500 people at the Rotterdam Ahoy for the semi-finals and Grand Final, which takes place on Saturday May 22. All audience members have to stick to strict hygiene protocols.
What happens if an entrant contracts COVID-19 and can't perform?
All acts have filmed a "live-on-tape" backup version, that will be played in the event of their absence due to health reasons or travel restrictions. Acts were each given an hour, and were allowed just three attempts at performing, so fairness has been maintained.
Australia have confirmed that their act Montaigne won't be attending the event in person.
Malta - "Je Me Casse" by Destiny - 4.77/2 in the Winner market
This has shot to the head of the market, the official video has had over five million views, and when you hear the song you'll know why. Former Junior Eurovision winner Destiny has a fantastic voice, and a real presence. The song is an up-tempo effort about female empowerment, whether it's resisting the clumsy advances of some dumbo in a club, wearing what you want even if it's a bit racy, or generally feeling good about yourself.
It's a strong message and a great song that's delivered by a magnetic performer. It's understandable to be wary about backing a favourite in a big field, but I've made that mistake before, and I'm not making it here. Back Malta to win at 4.77/2, because I think that price will shorten the closer we get to Eurovision week.
France - "Voila" by Barbara Pravi - 6.86/1 in the Winner market
While I understand the appeal of Malta's entry, I am a bit baffled by France's ascent in the market. I'd describe Barbara Pravi as Edith Piaf on steroids, and while she sings parts of this beautifully, it all gets a bit chaotic and distracting at the end. A lot of people absolutely love this, but I found it really hard to connect with the song as a potential winner, and I think there are stronger efforts out there. It'll do well with juries, but will it move televoters across Europe?
Switzerland - "Tout l'Univers" by Gjon's Tears - 7.26/1 in the Winner market
The 2019 winner Duncan Laurence proved that a bit of falsetto does no harm at all, and there are some similarities between "Arcade" and this Swiss entry. The vocals are excellent, but it doesn't feel like there's a big moment in there, and at that price, I can't get excited about backing this to take top spot.
Just like with the French entry, juries will really go for this, but the public might not.
Italy - "Zitte e buoni" by Maneskin - 7.413/2 in the Winner market
When you get past the rock cliches (lead singer has eyeliner, everyone has long hair, there's a boatload of black), this is actually really good fun. I imagine Maneskin (who are graduates of the Italian version of X Factor) will perform brilliantly live, and this will pick up a fair few fan votes. There's a bit of Italian rap in the middle which may turn a few people off, and while I can't see this as a winner in a million years, it should be on the first page of the leaderboard.
Iceland - "10 Years" by Dadi og Gagnamagnid - 17.016/1 in the Winner market
If the 2020 contest had gone ahead, I'm convinced that Dadi Freyr's "Think About Things" would have won the grand prize. It was a catchy, quirky, and the brilliant video went viral. "10 Years" isn't quite as good, but there's not much in it, and the same electro-funk fun is in evidence.
Long-haired Dadi (who is 6ft 10in) still dominates the piece, and quite right too. His vocals aren't amazing, but the silliness and likeability factor has survived from last year. He and the backing singers still wear tops with pixelated versions of themselves, and there are keytars that shoot out sparks. What's not to like?
I would back this to win at very least as a trading option, but I'll also recommend backing it to finish in the Top 4 at 4.3100/30. If you want a surer thing, Iceland is trading at 1.855/6 to be Top Nordic, and I can't see Denmark, Sweden, Finland or Norway beating Dadi and company.