I always like it when contestants push the envelope a bit, and a few have had a go this year. Whether they've tried too hard is up to the Eurovision voting public to decide. But in the originality stakes, there's Samra for Armenia, which seems pointlessly innovative but follows hot on the heels of last year's haunting piece about the 1915 genocide. Also of interest is Justs of Latvia. This is not so much a song of two halves (a la Norway's Icebreaker), but rather a tune divided. Its foundation is a very contemporary deep house sound, which is wrecked utterly by soaring - yet bland - vocals. Still, good to see some folk want to be down wiv da yoof. The most political entry is Ukraine's 1944 by Jamala. I have no idea why a song named for the year Stalin reoccupied the country would have been a popular choice among the Ukrainian public. Lastly of interest is Sandhja for Finland, just because it's a poppy track that, well, just isn't Eurovision. I can imagine a one-hit diva of the decade past, such as Agnes, having a hit with this back then. But now?
Okay, let's get serious. First, who's going to win? Bear in mind my Eurovision forecasting has proven much worse than my politics punditry. I have a record of abject failure to fall back on. This time, it looks like Le France could do the business. See:
It's not my glass of vino, but it could do well with the Eurovision masses. Tune? Check. Sung in two languages, one of which is English? Sorted. Good looking smiley bloke fronting it up? Yah. If the number of YouTube views are anything to go by, the crown will be Amir's.
But what's this? The bookies disagree? They do. They have this as their favourite:
Yes, Mother Russia. Admittedly, this is a very strong entry. Russia always takes its Eurovision seriously, which must sit uneasily with the country's institutionalised homophobia and allergy to all things camp. And Sergey Lazarev does the Rodina proud here. A rising vocal crescendo, a thick solid beat, and a Eurovision vibe will see it do well. But the winner? Hmmm. The bookies are seldom wrong ...
Other particularly strong entries with the YouTube crowd are Malta and Poland.
Naturally, here's the obligatory plug for the UK's entry:
For once, Eurovision fans have a song we needn't be ashamed of. In fact, I'd go so far and say a) it's good, and b) it's a contender. Yes, I really mean that. The tune is very Eurovision, and Joe and Jake are the kind of inoffensive good-looking lads that will go down a treat with some of the regular audience. For readers overseas, vote, vote, and vote again for jolly old Blighty and its beezer entry!
And now it comes to the big moment. Who am I endorsing? This:
A cross between Barry White and Sébastien Tellier (as @CatherineBuca puts it), Serhat's I Didn't Know for San Marino is the contest's stand out tune. It croons, it discos, it even sleazes (just a little bit), it deserves to go through to the grand final and take the crown. And not only because it's excellent - I want to know how 2017's Eurovision Song Contest can fit in San Marino.
The heats begin Tuesday May 10th and Thursday May 12th, 8pm on BBC Four, and the television event of the year broadcasts 8pm Saturday 14th May on BBC One. Be there or be dull.