Kicking off this year’s contest with a whistly dance groove will be Moldova with an entry performed by Ukrainian Eduard Romanyuta. Far from bashful, young Eduard proudly boasts that he’s accumulated over 1000 television appearances and, in a year where there’s scant pop songs to consider, 'I Want Your Love' could “want, want, want, want” its way into the final. Additionally the cute Ukrainian will have the 3G voting block on his side (Girls, Grannies and Gays) and you’d expect his performance to be accompanied by some slick backing dancer antics. It’s nice to see that Ukraine, a crowd favourite tragically unable to participate in this year’s contest, will have some representation on the Vienna stage – expect that factor to earn a vote of two. Watch 'I Want Your Love'.
Armenia’s conceptual entry 'Face the Shadow' is beyond classification and promises one of the highlights of the first Semi Final. The anthemic entry will be performed Genealogy an ensemble of six singers from varying backgrounds gathered specifically for this event. The singers, all with Armenian heritage, herald from Australia (Mary-Jean O’Doherty Vasmatzian), the US, Africa, Europe, Asia and Armenia itself. So our Guy won’t be the only Aussie act performing in the Wiener Stadthalle. 'Face the Shadow' is ripe for all the Eurovision tropes so be prepared for the wind machine to be set to cyclonic. And thankfully there’s not a Kardashian in sight. Watch 'Face The Shadow'.
Belgium’s Loïc Nottet appears to have channelled Kiwi Lorde’s monster global smash 'Royals' for his stripped back clicky entry into the 2015 contest. Young Loïc cites South Australia’s Sia as one of his idols and his cover of her hit 'Chandelier' is pretty impressive and garnered praise from the performer herself. The Belgian will be taking “full creative control” of the staging of his entry and, if his preview clip is anything to go by, expect water and copious amounts of paint (that’d be a Eurovision first) to be flying around the stage. Loïc will easily snap his way into the finals. Watch 'Rhythm Inside'.
The Dame of Dutch rock Trijntje Oosterhuis brings serious pedigree into this year’s competition. She’s one of the vocal coaches on The Voice of Holland and has performed with artists as varied as Queen, Andrea Bocelli and X Factor Australia’s Ronan Keating. 'Walk Along' is a middle-of-the-road rock song composed by another Dutch diva Anouk whose song 'Birds', from the 2013 contest, sparked a renewed confidence in Dutch entries. It’s a pity the song does not really go anywhere and unfortunately for our friends with a penchant for orange we won’t be seeing a repeat of last year’s sterling second placing. Watch 'Walk Along'
Expect to hear lots of commentary and opinion surrounding this year’s Finnish entry into Eurovision. Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät is a punk band made up of four mentally handicapped men who have been performing together since 2009. The group won a ticket to Vienna by successfully winning the Finnish national selection (UMK) where they snatched victory over charismatic boy-band Satin Circus. This entry is unlike anything else we’ll see in Vienna and, when compared to other entries, it’s disappointingly short at a very curt 1 min 40 seconds. For inclusiveness the entry gets “douze points” but as a song in a song contest… well, you be the judge. And this year our votes count! Watch 'Aina Mun Pitää'.
Be prepared to hear lots of entries throughout the contest that are just like this one, as this year’s line up is littered with “heartfelt” ballads. The Greek entry, fortunately, is one of the better ones. Cypriot Maria Elena Kyriakou, a recent winner of The Voice of Greece, has delivered a ballad that’s big on energy and vocals and one which begs to be accompanied by thrusting hand grasps, fancy lighting, a passionate pianist and one cranked up wind machine. Greece’s pedigree in the contest suggests that Maria should qualify to the final where we’ll be watching closely to see if the German and Greek voters and juries show each other a bit of love when it comes to doling out the votes. Who says Eurovision is not political? Watch 'One Last Breath'.
Watch out Guy! 'Goodbye to Yesterday' is one of the hot favourites to win this year’s contest and there’s good reason. The Estonian duo of Elina Born & Stig Rästa broke all local records this year in winning their national selection, Eesti Laul, by a whopping 79 per cent. Their act is not dissimilar to last year’s successful Dutch entry, which placed second overall, where the duo has traded Nashville sensibility for moody hipster. 'Goodbye to Yesterday' is a sixties style jangly duet about miscommunication between a forlorn couple. This act will appeal to a broad cross section of voters and the agonisingly hip entry could have us saying “hello” to one of Europe’s prettiest capitals Tallinn in 2016. Watch 'Goodbye to Yesterday'.
Winner of the Skopje Festival, the F.Y.R. Macedonia’s National selection for Eurovision, Viennese resident Daniel Kajmakoski has opted to sing his entry in English rather than his native tongue. Reminiscent of last year’s Montenegrin entry, a self-assured Kajmakoski could surprise the Vienna audience with his raw and emotional ballad and land a place in the Grand Final. Having failed to qualify for the final since 2012 F.Y.R. Macedonia will be hoping 'Autumn Leaves' will resonate with the voting public and reverse their recent fortunes. Watch 'Autumn Leaves'.
Serbia is returning to the contest after a one year hiatus and it’s fantastic to see them back with one big song that cheekily disguises itself as a ballad. The strong positive message of 'Beauty Never Lies', with lyrics such as “I’m different and it’s okay”, will resonate with the audience in Vienna and at home. And as the final third of the song transforms into a dance floor thumper bubbly Bojana will most likely have the hall dancing with joy. One of this year’s dark horses the infectious Serbian entry will be one that Guy should pay careful attention to. Watch 'Beauty Never Lies'.
Boggie, a nickname for successful Hungarian jazz singer Boglarka, will represent her nation with the earnest stripped back peace anthem 'War’s for Nothing'. This hymnal ballad may struggle against stronger entries in the first semi-final but that should not take away from the positive message of the song. This entry promises a quieter moment on the Vienna stage that will have us all considering the futility and absurdity of conflict. Watch 'War's For Nothing'.
Another duo? Yes, but this one has a twist. The Belarussian entry is comprised of Uzari, male pop vocalist/composer, and Maimuna, a classical violinist, who will arrive in Vienna with a dramatic pop anthem 'Time'. This is one of the best Belarussian entries in many years and we’re expecting the stage to be set alight with fire bursts as Maimuna reaches a crescendo on her violin. 'Time' should romp into the final and could possibly give Belarus its highest finish in the contest to date. The violin alone will be worth votes when it comes to the Grand Final. Watch 'Time'.
The best ballad in this year’s contest has an Aussie connection. One of 'A Million Voices' composers is Sydney ensemble Cassette Kids vocalist Katrina Noorbergen and will be performed in Vienna by the stunning Polina Gagarina. Although Russia’s sure to get a cool reception in the Wiener Stadthalle there’s no denying the power of this song. It’s big and it’s going to get lots of votes. Expect seasoned performer Polina to pull out some dramatic staging and deliver on all the Eurovision performance tropes. This is the only entry in Semi 1 with the ability to quash the momentum of Estonia. Watch 'A Million Voices'.
A boy band from Denmark with a 60’s style pop ditty may not be ground breaking stuff but it will be refreshing when assessed against the earnestness of many of the entries in the first semi-final. Fresh, fun and undeniably energetic Anti Social Media will have toes tapping throughout the Wiener Stadthalle and across Europe and Australia. Although a return to Copenhagen is not likely in 2016 the Danes should qualify and continue their formidable pedigree in the contest. Watch 'The Way You Are'.
Another powerful “heart-felt”, but this time, ethno-infused ballad, comes courtesy of Albania’s Elhaida Dani. Elhaida’s profile stretches across the Mediterranean courtesy of winning The Voice of Italy in 2013 boding well for her garnering precious votes. 'I’m Alive' is a solid effort that works towards a stunning end. Fortunately for Albania Elhaida will benefit from being drawn later in the running order which often augers well for votes. Watch 'I'm Alive'.
Romanian pop/rock band Voltaj have successfully been performing and charting across Europe for 20 years. Their entry 'All Over Again', sung in Romanian and English, has a strong message regarding a specific domestic issue plaguing Romania. Often young children are left at home alone across the Eastern European nation whilst their parents travel across borders to find work to support their families. This restrained yet optimistic entry shines a light on a particular issue deserving of awareness across Europe. Watch 'De La Capat/ All Over Again'.
Channelling The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen, Georgia’s Nina Sublatti will finish the first semi in style with the powerful rocky 'Warrior'. Co-written by Thomas G:Son, the composer responsible for the 2012 winning entry for Sweden 'Euphoria', Nina belts out lyrics like “world’s gonna listen to me” and her strong message of empowerment will undoubtedly captivate the viewing audience. Will Nina have her arrow trained on Guy? Better watch you back Mr Sebastian. Watch 'Warrior'.
Tune in to watch the first Semi Final on Friday May 22nd, 7:30pm on SBS ONE.