This is a mammoth 43-track collection of the official entries for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It’s in Sweden for the second time in recent years this weekend, thanks to Måns Zelmerlöw’s 2015 success with Heroes (he’s co-presenting this year’s competition, and will be performing during the interval). This year’s line-up has good old Europop at its heart. There are fewer of the tracks that have attempted to break the Eurovision mould than in recent years – whether that’s good or a bad depends on how seriously you take the whole thing – but there’s plenty here to dance along to, and enough to stoke the opinions of the European tele-voting public too.
Russia is the bookie’s favourite this year. They’re represented by Sergey Lazarev, singing You Are The Only One, and it’s certainly an attention-grabbing number with a great beat and full of energy. It’s got my favourite lyric too – something about thunder, lightning and getting exciting – which sounds like a good encapsulation of the whole affair to me. There’s plenty more in this dancey vein: I love Falling Stars, the Moldovan entry, with its camp refrain and a finale which makes a case for at least a moderate firework display in the TV performance. The Bulgarian entry, following the staple Eurovision formula rousing build-ups, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser too.
The UK’s song (if you remember, it’s the first time for ages that the public got to vote to decide on our representatives) is from fellow competitors on The Voice, Joe and Jake. It’s not bad, but ultimately it’s a safe entry which lacks the enthusiasm and memorable moments needed to do well. Talent show winners from other nations fare better: Dami Im, who won X-Factor in Australia a couple of seasons ago, performs that country’s second entry in the competition – a passionate, airy track called Sound of Silence with booming drums that give the European entries a run for their money. Of course, our hosts the Swedes do national song contests the best of all: Melodifestivalen, the annual competition to decide their representative is the most popular show on Swedish television. This year’s winner was male solo-artist Frans who performs If I Were Sorry. Lush and easy-going, it’s the pick of the slower numbers in the contest this year.
On the basis of song alone (and this is a song contest!) my money would be on France. They’ve put forward J’ai Cherché – an upbeat, romantic pop number with catchy lyrics and a broad appeal which is sure to see it do well. This album can’t express the glitz of Saturday evening’s performances which will ultimately decide if that’s the song which wins – but it’s a great tour of European pop talent, and a fantastic feel-good album to boot.