Girl Power! Finland’s Sandhja will hit Stockholm with a jaunty piece of Urban Pop that echoes some big tunes from back in the late ‘90’s.
This fun entry was a controversial choice at the Finnish National Selection (UMK) where Sandhja beat out some much more fancied rivals assisted by the unwavering support of the Finnish national jury.
The young Finn, of Indian heritage, will be bringing with her a 5 strong crew of female backing singers/dancers ensuring that “Sing it Away” will deliver a nice change in tone to many of the entries in Semi Final.
Fingers crossed for the Finns can sing their way out the Semi as this delicious bit of uplifting pop deserves a place in the Grand Final.
The second of the musical fusion entries in this first Semi Final comes via Greece's “Utopian Land” arguably the Mediterranean nation's most experimental entry in the contest to date.
Argo, a 6 piece ensemble, is a combination of both self-taught and traditionally-trained musicians creating songs that combine contemporary lyrics with folk music and hip hop. Rumour has it that one of the members may be dropped to ensure that a place on stage can be taken up by a dancer.
“Utopian Land” will stand out in the first Semi Final as it incomparable to any of the songs it’s competing against. That’s a good sign for Greece and bodes well for them qualifying again into the Grand Final but it will be touch ‘n’ go.
In another year Moldova's lovely Lidia Isac may have stood a chance of qualifying with “Falling Stars” but there are better pseudo-dance songs in this year's contest.
“Falling Stars” is a peppy, yet ultimately forgettable, number which will need to deliver some memorable stage moments that translates well on television to ensure it’s noticed.
Isac, a veteran of multiple singing competitions across Eastern Europe, will need to pull out every Eurovision trope to gain what would be a surprise Grand Final berth.
She’ll need to “hand grasp” for her life! Nothing to worry about here Dami.
One of the big trends at the 2016 contest is the abundance of male soloists that will take to the stage in Stockholm. No surprise really given that many nations have taken a long hard look at Mans Zelmerlöw’s winning performance from last year and are attempting to replicate some of this winning magic. Copying is the ultimate form of flattery is it not?
This year Hungary have selected husky voiced Freddie to perform “Pioneer” in an attempt to win the glittery top prize and there’s a bit of a buzz about this young man. Freddie’s not all handsome features and expressive eyebrows he’s got a raspy voice and sings “Pioneer” with just the right amount of gusto. Add in a whopping big drum and some whistling backing singers whacking fluorescent light sticks and this entry may tickle the fancy of many across Europe and Australia. Mark under - one to watch.
Dami Army take note: this is the female soloist to beat in 2016. Croatia’s entry this year is a real contender to the title and could deliver the Mediterranean traveller hotspot its first ever Eurovision win. Nina Kraljić is the inaugural winner of The Voice Croatia and has become a mini sensation across the Balkans.
"Lighthouse" is beautiful and dramatic mid-tempo entry infused with traditional instruments. Kraljić’s voice is unique and on the right side of interesting and this entry will pick up a stack of votes across the Mediterranean countries. Expect a top 5 finish.
Another handsome male soloist sporting a pair of cracking expressive eyebrows will hit the stage for the Dutch in Stockholm. Youngster Douwe Bob’s “Slow Down” is an unexpected bit of faux-country which will stand out for its originality. In 2014 The Common Linnet’s almost stole The Netherlands an unlikely win with their soft Country stylings and Douwe Bob’s entry is not dissimilar to that in tone.
This easily stands out from the other 17 entries in this Semi Final and Mr Bob appears to be riding the same Dark Horse that The Netherlands found themselves on in 2014. No sideshows here. This Bob is the real deal.
Could she be a long-lost relative of the Kardashians? Most probably not, but with Iveta's impressive mane of hair and the famous reality show family's Armenian heritage, the similarities are rather uncanny.
Of course, Eurovision's not simply about looks though, it's all about the SONG.
In the opening bars of the Armenian Singer/Model's track “LoveWave”, she initially worryingly channels Charlene's “I’ve Never Been to Me” - but fortunately for us all she moves on quickly from the spoken word to deliver a powerhouse entry.
All eyelashes and big hair, former Armenian Idol and The Voice Germany contestant Ms Mukuchyan is accompanied by a hirsute hipster in her preview clip and here’s hoping she’ll be channeling this clip when her entry is realised on stage. If anyone can give Dami a run for her money regarding stage presence it’s going to be this Armenian lass.
“LoveWave” is a big return to form for Armenia particularly after last year’s disappointing showing from the Genealogy experiment. Expect this to do well in the Grand Final.
Bring on the revolving glitterball and the speak-sing! Well, well - I didn’t know that the Sammarinese entry this year was going to bring us a bit of Eurovision gold but I’m damn pleased it has.
The monocle-head-braced linen-suit-wearing Serhat, who would not be out of place in one of Agatha Christie’s Mediterranean/ Northern African set murder mysteries, will be bringing Disco to the Stockholm stage. “I Didn’t Know” promises to deliver the “what the?” moment of the First Semi Final and it’s got nothing to do with the song - the song’s actually a bit rubbish. But at least its Disco rubbish!
Watch for a social media frenzy when Serhat hits the stage and here’s hoping for his sake he’s not heading for a Death on the Nile.
This is the song to beat in 2016. Singer/Actor/TV Presenter and owner of one super-toned set of abs, the seriously handsome Sergey Lazarev will arrive in Stockholm with arguably the best song in this year’s contest and a big fan base across Europe who will all be on his side.
The multi-talented star is such a consummate stage professional, his range goes from performing Euro-pop bangers to treading the boards at Moscow's Pushkin theatre as an actor in period pieces.
“You Are the Only One” is the best bit of dance pop Eurovision has seen in the last 3 or 4 years containing a super-catchy chorus and one killer of a key change.
This is pure Eurovision pop penned by a writing team who have outstanding Eurovision pedigree and performed by an engaging and very likeable artist. If Sergey’s official videoclip is anything to go by, we can expect the staging to be dramatic feast of visual trickery. It may well come down to our Dami versus the super-abbed Russian in the Grand Final.
Another of the vast amount of television singing contest alums Gabriela Gunčíková, winner of the second series of the Czech Republic’s SuperStar, has one whopping big task ahead of her.
The Central European nation of Czech Republic has never qualified for the Eurovision Grand Final and Gabriela’s “I Stand” is potentially their best chance at fighting their way out of the semi-final forest.
If the Czech’s can replicate some of the dramatic and arresting imagery from the “I Stand” supporting videoclip then we may see a debutante finalist in 2016. Good luck Gabriela.
When Cyprus announced that they were sending a Greek-Cypriot “cover band” to Eurovision 2016 hopes of Cyprus finally winning the contest, a feat they’ve attempted since 1981, faded quickly. However, said “cover band” MINUS ONE have produced a stellar pop-rock entry and in turn are gathering a groundswell of support now reflected in the Eurovision odds.
With the 2016 contest offering up more bands than we’re used to, the Cypriot entry is clearly the best of this bunch. Cyprus has been a winner in waiting for many years - could the gamble pay off with 2016 bringing them the unlikeliest of wins from an unexpected and brave selection?
The flaming piano of 2015 has been doused and replaced by flowing frocks and flowers for Austria who are hoping to avoid the dreaded NUL POINT result of last year. This inoffensive and sweet entry will be performed in French…yes, an Austrian entry in French – it’s Eurovision folks, anything goes!
ZOË does her best Thumbelina impersonation, dwarfed by oversized mushrooms and blooms, as she wanders through her chanson-inspired effort.
Young ZOË recorded her first single at 4 years of age – so not lazy then – and wants her effort to make everyone “smile and simply feel good”. Thanks ZOË but we’ll probably only be smiling with you once as this strong first semi will see the Austrian Thumbelina unable to escape her virtual forest of flowers.
Combining private-school boy good looks with yachtsman chic, young Estonian Jüri Pootsmann will up the cool at this year’s contest crooning his way through the deceptively strong “Play”.
Pootsmann has a lush and syrupy voice and comes to the contest with serious pedigree having won the most recent installment of Estonian Idol and being the recipient of Best Male Act from the 2015 Estonian Music Awards…in other words he’s big in the Baltics.
Add to this, the fact that “Play”, which could easily be a James Bond theme tune, is penned by the team who successfully delivered Estonia’s Top 10 finish last year with “Goodbye to Yesterday” and we will expect young Jüri will be parking his yacht well up the leaderboard in 2016. Watch him Dami – he just hit Play!
Azerbaijan has proven to be a formidable powerhouse at the Eurovision Song Contest since the country debuted in 2008, with one win to their credit and racking up multiple top 10 finishes.
This year youngster Samra will bring her “Miracle” to the Stockholm stage in a hope to keep up the run of solid results. It won't take a miracle for her to qualify for the Grand Final but she's going to need one for her to win.
This is a great little pop song with a big, if not generic, chorus. Hopefully, come the Grand Final, there’s distance in the running order between this and Dami's "Sound of Silence".
Highway gained significant fame in their home nation after performing and competing on X Factor Adria and were a popular choice to represent Montenegro in Stockholm.
Unfortunately they’re off to Sweden with a fairly unengaging bit of rock and, as many Eurovisionianados know, rock bands can be very hit and miss at the contest. Montenegro is a miss this year. Next.
Another of the many returnees to the contest, Greta Salóme comes to the Stockholm stage with a solo effort in 2016 which mimics the sound of one of Iceland’s most popular contemporary groups: Of Monsters and Men.
“Hear them Calling” has undergone a few tweaks since the Icelandic National selection, Söngvakeppnin 2016, in order to make better effect of the false ending. Fortunately, the accompanying eerily effective graphics that reflect the mythical dark heart of the island nation will remain.
Greta is great and fringe has never looked so fearsome. Iceland should make a triumphant return to the Grand Final after their misstep last year. I hear them whispering…
It looked touch ‘n go regarding Bosnia 'n Herzigovina’s inclusion in this year’s contest but, having resolved their financial issues, it’s fabulous to have them back in the contest after several years absence - but not with out some controversy.
And WHAT an entry they’ve produced for their big return throwing as many fantastic Eurovision tropes as possible into this entry to ensure qualification to the Grand Final. Local language (check), melodramatic male/female duo (check), skeletal Cello (check), random rapper (check), abrupt ending (check) - it would be criminal to not see Dalal & Deen rewarded with a Grand Final ticket.
The fabulous Ira Losco was a mere 12 points away from securing Malta their first ever victory in 2002 and “Walk on Water” presents a very realistic chance for Malta to secure a Top 5 finish in 2016.
Although this is not the winning song that Losco performed at the Maltese internal selection competition, “Walk on Water” is a vibrant and catchy piece of dance-pop that will translate well on stage.
Hopefully Ira will ditch the Real Housewives of Melbourne attire and hair-styling and crank the wind machine to cyclonic as she attempts to secure Eurovision’s ultimate bridesmaid its first ever win.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.
For all the Eurovision behind the scenes action in Stockholm make sure to follow SBSAustralia on Snapchat.