Friday, 24 May 2013

Eurovision 2013: We are one?

So that's another Eurovision Song Contest over. Congratulations to Denmark on scoring their third Eurovision win. I didn't have "Only Teardrops" down as a winner but hey, what do I know? That's the trouble when you hear the songs on a loop for weeks on end; you lose all sense of perspective.

2013 was an interesting year for Eurovision. SVT scaled down the contest considerably, in terms of budget, size and spectacle. It was no Moscow or Baku. Malmo was simple yet effective and the Swedes proved that you don't need to splash the cash in order to produce a slick television show. The venue for the 2013 contest, the Malmo Arena, was particularly cosy, so much so that the press centre next door appeared to be larger! Before the recession hit, it seemed that almost every country hosted a party, in 2013 there were fewer and they were certainly more stringent. I was fortunate to be invited to a reception by the Georgian Ambassador. It was a lovely afternoon of fine music, cuisine, culture and yes, wine. My experience of Georgians at Eurovision has always been a positive one, they are by far the friendliest delegation and it is always a pleasure being in their company. I would dearly love Georgia to win Eurovision, it would be truly fascinating to see them stage the contest and of course to visit the country.

Georgia is an emerging democracy and as such, at times, there are difficulties, as with any other country undergoing radical social, economic and political change. On May 17 it was reported that there was violent protests in the captial Tblisi against gay rights activists. Given that the country is keen to join the EU, this is a worrying turn of events. As the BBC report highlights, this wasn't a far-right mob, these were ordinary people who fear the unknown. This is when events like Eurovision are all the more powerful, and all the more important. My friend Monty wrote an excellent piece on the LGBT relationship with Eurovision last week.

Last year there were calls for Eurovision to be boycotted, that Azerbaijan is a regime country and that by attending the event journalists and fans were merely feeding into government propaganda. I went to the country and experienced life there, first-hand. Yes argubably it was the side of Azerbaijan that the authorities wanted us to see, but still, I asked those important questions. I met with activists from the group Sing For Democracy and learned a lot about life in the country. I didn't live in a bubble as some fans have stated. It is interesting to note that those acitivists and critics of the government in Azerbaijan did not want people to stay away; they wanted us to come to the country, to ask questions and to shine a spotlight on Azerbaijan's political situation. Eurovision was the only opportunity for this to happen which it why it was so important that the event went ahead.

I spoke to some fans of the contest in Sweden who were appalled at the events unfolding in Georgia and one even appeared to be outraged that I could consider going there. Change takes time and yet it can also happen rapidly, as recent developments in the UK have shown. In ten years we've gone from gays being banned from the military and Section 28 to full equality even in terms of marriage. Much of my research has focussed on Estonia and this is a place of truly inspiring change. In Estonia, little over ten years ago, there were serious safety concerns over the decision to hold a gay rights march in Tallinn. Activists were threatened and attacked, the same is true of Riga too. Fast forward to 2013, Estonia is a full and equal member of the EU, it's basically a smaller version of Finland. The other week, in the tabloid newspaper, Őhtuleht, there was a debate about sending an openly gay athlete to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sotchi. As the newspaper article stated in the opening paragraph "Russia is a homophobic state". As contentious as this statement might be, the fact is that a tabloid has spoken out against homophobia. This change wasn't due to Eurovision of course but events such as Eurovision shine a spotlight onto countries and allow them to be scrutinised like never before. Estonia has changed, but it changed with dialogue. Dismissal does not work. This is why I am supportive of Georgia hosting Eurovision one day. It's far too simplistic to just write a place off and too often smacks of western double standards. Many British people are all too quick to point the finger at countries which are apparently homophobic and yet they'll go on holiday to Dubai and to Egypt, where it's actually illegal to be gay.

As my good friend Zuly pointed out in a recent discussion, why when we are talking about human rights abuses do we only talk about a select few countries? Europe is a big place. Ok on BBC Three I discussed the situation in Belarus, because it was relevant at that point in time. However what about the rise of fascism across the EU, which at times, has appeared to go relatively unchallenged? The poor human rights records in some countries actively benefits the business interests of others; namely the west. Look at oil-rich Azerbaijan and the Arab states and the amount of British investers and holidaymakers. Look at the sweatshops used by high street retailers; we are shocked when factories collapse and people are killed and yet turn a blind eye if it means we get cheap socks. I am just as guilty. Let's not forget that there are allegations of human rights abuses in the UK too. We need to look a little bit closer to home.

So what does all this mean for Eurovision? Well the 2013 slogan, We Are One", fashioned the continent as united. In fact, we aren't one. We aren't one economically, politically or as the case of Georgia shows, socially. However neither is the EU, despite all member states signing up to the same basic values. Whilst for that moment in time, we were one, watching Eurovision together, we were all sitting in very different living rooms. The developments in Georgia show how much gay people in particular take for granted their basic freedoms which were hard won. It also highlights a need for the Georgian authorities to prove that they can protect all sectors of society, particularly if they are serious about joining the EU.

The voting in the contest this year also appears to be particularly controversial which allegations of vote-rigging by several countries. The EBU need to take these allegations seriously. There can be no whitewash as there was in 2009 after the voting scandal in Azerbaijan. It's interesting that Azeri President Aliyev has ordered an investigation into why his country did not vote for Russia in the final, Belarus' President Lukashenko has also waded in complaining that he believes the results to be falsified. This, coming from a man alleged to have rigged elections for years... Meanwhile in Baku three people have been jailed for an alleged terror plot on Eurovision last year. The EBU keep insisting that Eurovision is not political, however, politics clearly does come into it, whether they like it or not.

As for the results. It was an interesting year given that not a single Former Yugoslav country qualified to the final for the first time since 1993. Belgium and the Netherlands, who haven't fared so well over the past decade or so, returned to form. Norway returned to the top five for the first time since their 2009 victory and Italy continued their strong run in the contest since returning in 2011. Hard luck on the UK's Bonnie Tyler, she was a great ambassador for the UK. Ultimately though, as with last year, what works on paper doesn't translate into votes. The BBC need to have a long think about what it is they want from Eurovision.

Thanks to everyone who made Eurovision in Sweden a terrific experience, thank you especially to the BBC team who despite popular opinion, do work extremely hard when it comes to Eurovision. Better luck next year to the UK and of course, Georgia!

Whilst it might be a quiet season for Eurovision over the summer, it's going to be a busy one for me as I try and finish my book, based on my PhD. Will keep you posted!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Nation building through Eurovision

The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place today. For some countries the results tonight are incredibly important. One example is Georgia, a country keen to promote itself on the world stage. Part of the process of constructing “the nation” involves establishing the state within the wider geopolitical context. For a small country participation in events like the Eurovision Song Contest offer an opportunity to do exactly this.

Earlier this week I attended a reception with the Georgian Ambassador here in Sweden who spoke about the importance of events such as Eurovision for promoting the country. This wasn’t the usual affair with free wine, food and banal chat. This was a Georgian cultural afternoon where the Ambassador presented for 20 minutes about Georgia and the importance to them of European integration. For years the Estonian government have been advising the Georgians on reform and it is clear from speaking to them that this is a country which is hungry for recognition as a full and equal European partner.

What’s this got to do with Eurovision though? Well smaller, lesser known countries have few opportunities to punch above their weight. As the Irish showed in the 1990s, Eurovision gives host countries the chance to say something to the world and on their own terms. The publicity gained from winning and staging the contest could not be bought. What’s interesting is that with Georgia, it is mere participation in this event which is important to them. It’s not just smaller, lesser known countries which use Eurovision as a promotional opportunity. Some use it as an exercise in public diplomacy. Greece, on its knees financially and yet still continues to participate in Eurovision. Failure to take part would effectively present an image of the country as a poor relative of the EBU. Last night the Greeks performed their song at the Euro Café here in Malmö. Before doing so they performed the Turkish entry from 2004 before announcing “Turkey should be here in Eurovision”. This is hugely significant and a reflection of the progress the Greeks and Turks have made in terms of their relationship. Eurovision offers an opportunity to further international relations and I think this is what makes it just that little bit more than a TV show.

Good luck to all the participants tonight!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

It's all political!

Rehearsals are continuing here in Malmo; some good, some bad and some very ugly! I'm not going to provide a critique as there are so many others blogging about the performances. I will say though, it's amazing how opinions change, as they always do. Songs which I hadn't even considered qualifying are now coming across very strongly. I have a sneaky suspicion about Malta now! Time will tell...
The Swedes are injecting a little bit of politics into the event this year, even though the EBU continuously insist that Eurovision is "not a political event". The slogan for this year, "We Are One", is said to reflect the diversity of Europe and the importance of universal human rights. Given that the contest is taking place in Malmö, one of the most diverse cities in Sweden, this is fitting.
The Swedes aren't afraid to tackle the difficult questions that were dodged so many times in Azerbaijan. At the press conference for Belarus our host, Alexandra Pascalidou, asked the delegation about the situation in their country with regards to freedom of expression. Awkward. The team, unsurprisingly, didn't answer the question and just said how much they love Eurovision. Their Dear Leader would have been proud I'm sure. Some journos here questioned the appropriateness of such an angle given that "it's only Eurovision". I think it's completely appropriate. These are press conferences and yet they're used as an opportunity to fawn over random acts. There are very serious and real questions concerning freedom of speech and human rights amongst so many of the participating countries. I spoke to Alexandra after the press conference, she's a feisty woman and was completely unrepentant about asking those delicate issues.
"I have fought hard for equality for all throughout my life. I'm a Greek Swede born in Romania. We have countries in this contest which don't uphold basic freedoms which most of us live by. I will not be told not avoid certain subjects by anyone".
I think it's important to speak for people who have no voice, to raise these issues. Yes, the singers can't do anything to change things but it would be wrong to simply sweep it under the carpet. I'm not meaning to have a go at Belarus, it's one of my favourite songs this year, however it is essentially a regime country. The EBU are in a very awkward position and will be should the contest ever go to Minsk.
Tonight it's the Belarusian party, I'll be there. I will try and speak to some of the delegation about life in Belarus. Is it really as bad as is reported? I doubt I'll get a true picture of the situation. It's important not to let ourselves become pawns in a propaganda exercise, no matter how much free booze they ply us with. We aren't one. That's the point that the Swedes are trying to make and fair play to them, they're certainly not "running scared".  

Friday, 10 May 2013

Eurovision days 2/3/4

The Eurovision bubble is certainly in full swing, I’ve no idea of what day of the week it is. After the rehearsals on Monday I went to Ukraine for two days, as you do. So this particular blog post today is less about Eurovision and more about my expedition. I’m going to be working on a research project on Ukraine’s nation branding campaign later in the year. I was last there in 2007 and so much has changed. They’ve built a new terminal which is impressive, signs in both Cyrillic and English, air condition and specific smoking areas. Euro 2012 appears to have left a lasting legacy. Old Soviet habits die hard though; the hotel was, well, interesting. I was staying in the Hotel Ukraine, right in the centre of Kyiv. 4 stars, allegedly. It’s in need of renovation but was perfectly situated. To get the room key you need to take a piece of paper to the “hostess”, there’s one for each floor, she then grudgingly gives you the key to the room. It provides jobs but is so inefficient although I suppose it stops people bringing undesirables into the hotel. Or does it? In the lobby there were adverts for an “erotic show”, which basically meant a pole dancing club where the women were completely starkers. In the evenings there also appeared to be a lot of ladies, sitting by themselves in reception… Kyiv is a really beautiful city, it was scorching hot and it was nice to be back.

On Tuesday evening I decided to check out the local gay bar, Pomada. It’s funny, we take basic freedoms for granted, people in the UK question the need for gay pride events these days. It’s worth keeping in mind that there are countries on the doorstep where being gay is particularly difficult. Arguably Kyiv is more cosmopolitan than the rest of Ukraine, however the tight security and underground nature of the bar suggests that gay life in Ukraine is discreet to say the least. It’s also worth remembering the important role that straight girls play in the lives of gay men; certainly in Pomada it appeared that they were real champions for their gay friends. The drag queen was particularly interesting given that she was dressed as a Soviet veteran, the day before the national parade commemorating the Soviet army’s victory, Europe day. Commemorations and memorials are essentially a form of nation building, affirming a national identity and reminding citizens of that constructed identity. On May 9th people also visit the graves of their relatives, laying flowers and having a bit of a party. It was really interesting to see people having a picnic by the graveside with shots of vodka. I must have been Ukrainian in a previous life…

I returned to Sweden last night (Thursday) with Estonian Air via Tallinn, it was so nice to be back, even for 45 minutes. You know you’re in Eesti when the wifi works perfectly. I had to laugh though, the safety demonstration on the flight was in Estonian and English, they then played a Russian version at which point the flight attendants stopped demonstrating! Read into that what you will! When I arrived I went straight (only straight) to the San Marino party. A lovely evening was had by all although hearing a jazz version of their entry from 2012, “The Social Network Song” was a tad bizarre. Alcohol was free, well the first three drinks were. Lovely food, good company, followed by the usual dance floor fodder later, fantastisk, as they say in Sverige! Dancing the night away in the Euroclub was Farid from Azerbaijan, a sweet bloke and a very friendly delegation. There was a slightly awkward moment when the DJ played Armenia’s 2008 entry, at which point they looked really uncomfortable and stopped dancing. Fair play to them though, they could have stormed off in a huff and yet they stayed and continued to party with everyone else.

Today the press centre opened, it’s a little camp and very stylish - would we expect anything else from the Swedes? They’re handing out bottles for water, boasting that Sweden has some of the best tap water in the world. We all know its Scotland which has THE best of course! There’s free tea and coffee, lots of space available and it’s all incredibly well organised. The EBU press conference took place earlier and questions were asked about human rights in Eurovision. Should countries which don’t uphold basic freedoms be allowed in the contest? The EBU replied, rather diplomatically, that they work with national broadcasters and not the state and therefore they should be allowed. What happens though if the national broadcasters are tightly controlled by the state? A good point was made; change comes from within and by working with countries which have difficult political situations then positive change can be achieved. However this change also has to come from within the specific countries too. Similarly to the complexities surrounding gay pride in Moscow, these things can’t be imposed from outside.

More people are arriving and it’s all getting a little hectic. More tomorrow!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Eurovision 2013 - Day One

Eurovision 2013 has officially started! It’s scary how quickly time flies. I’m here in Malmo where it’s all kicking off. Armenia is back after withdrawing last year so no doubt it’ll be business as usual for them and Azerbaijan (i.e. ignoring each other!) Whilst it’ll be interesting to see the interaction between the Swedes and the Belarusians following the teddy bear incident last year, after the controversy of 2012, it’s looking like a tame year in comparison, politically speaking.

So far so good here in Malmo, the city is small but friendly, expensive but clean and it’s shaping up to being the perfect city for Eurovision. Often when the event is in larger cities it gets lost somehow, Moscow and Istanbul were classic examples of this. Small cities like Tallinn, Helsinki and Malmo allow for an intimate atmosphere. I’m in a hotel with my friend Elaine for the first week before moving to an apartment in week two. It’s a rather small hotel, with a transparent shower screen. Good job we know each other pretty well! (We certainly will do after this trip!)


Eurovision of course has a massive gay following and the Swedes, unlike our Azeri hosts last year, are not afraid to reach out to the contest’s core fans. In the hotel reception there are gay magazines, Eurovision guides and maps of the city’s gay scene. We certainly won’t have any exciting experiences this year like we did in Baku; underground gay bars and local pubs for local people. However, it’s quite refreshing really to feel welcomed in a city where people are safe to live their lives.

The theme for the show this year is “We are one” which is an interesting one, fashioning Europe as a united entity when in reality it’s a fractured construct, economically, politically and socially. Much has been made here in Malmo of the multicultural vibrancy in the city, so perhaps it’s fitting that such an international event is here, in the city where over 150 languages are spoken.

The Swedes are doing things differently this year, they’ve arranged Eurovision on a much smaller scale. The venue is small, the press centre is restricted until Friday and currently the assembled press are crammed into the Slaghuset (the slag house, and venue for the Euro Club). SVT are undoubtedly aiming to present a slick, professional television show. For them, this is just that, a television event. Unlike previous hosts where Eurovision has become almost like a circus, the Swedes don’t appear to be engaging in a quasi-propaganda offensive. To be blunt, they don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

Rehearsals began in earnest this morning. I will try and update the blog daily, although I am going to Ukraine for two days tomorrow, back Thursday. Euro Club opens tonight so no doubt there will be a few sore heads and lighter wallets tomorrow! More later!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Big Prediction

I admit it, when it comes to predicting the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, I'm pretty useless. I did pretty well from 2004-2006 and yet didn't see Germany coming in 2010. In 2012 I had about ten possible winners down. I tend to get around 8 out 10 the ten qualifiers correct and I dare say it'll be the same this year. I've listened to the songs too many times to form any sort of objective opinion. Let's face it, the vast majority of viewers (and voters) will hear the songs once on the Saturday night final (perhaps in the semis if they're particularly keen). The performance for the juries on the Friday is crucial, as is the Saturday night final. Take the UK's Blue in 2011; they murdered their song on the Friday and the juries marked them down, yet in the final they pulled it out of the bag and the public rewarded them with fifth place. The draw is also pretty important, a song in stark contrast to the entries performed before can really stand out. 2013 is generally seen as an open year with no runaway winner. It'll all come down to how the song is staged and how well it's performed.

I just can't see Denmark doing the business, despite it being the favourite. I can however, see something coming from slightly left-field. Malta is a catchy little ditty, could it be a dark horse? Perhaps not. Belarus? Minsk would be interesting but can't see it happening. I think if the voters and jurors go up-tempo then the winner will be either Norway, Germany or Ukraine. If they go for a ballad it's going to be Georgia, Italy, Azerbaijan (remember the Turkish vote will be stronger this year since Turkey are out) or even Russia. For what it's worth, I have each way bets on Norway, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I shouldn't really place any more, although I probably will. I'll wait and see what the rehearsals are like. Songs which come across strongly in the preview videos don't always come across well on the night - look at Ukraine last year. Similarly, songs which don't appear to go anywhere in the videos are transformed when performed on the stage. It's going to be an exciting and interesting contest!

I travel to Sweden on 4th May and will be blogging daily. Happy Eurovision!

The Big Review (39) United Kingdom

Last but certainly not least, it's my own country, the United Kingdom. Last time Eurovision was in Malmo, the UK team were greeted with a banner which read "Welcome Untied Kingdom". With a referendum on Scottish independence looming, that statement could still stand! After taking a gamble last year with Engelbert Humperdinck, the BBC have chosen another seasoned performer to represent them in Eurovision, Bonnie Tyler. Bonnie is of course a well-known act with massive hits under her belt. Those hits were nearly thirty years ago though. "Believe In Me" is a nice song, I like it a lot and it will certainly do better then "Love Will Set You Free" (it can't do much worse!) I just don't know if this is instant or impactful enough to capture those important votes. In a funny twist of fate, by entering Eurovision, Bonnie follows in the footsteps of Nicki French, who had a big hit with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and represented the UK in 2000. I'd like to see the UK on the left-hand side of the scoreboard. If "Believe in Me" makes the top ten I'll be surprised (and of course delighted!) If Bonnie flops then I think it's time the BBC had a re-think about what they're going to do in 2014 and also ask themselves what it is that they actually want from the contest. Loreen proved last year that the Eurovision tag is not a barrier to having an international hit (#3 in the UK!) and perhaps we should try and send something a little more relevant to the UK music scene in future. Still, "Believe in Me" is a nice song and I wish Bonnie well. She comes across as a nice lady in interviews and given that I live in Cardiff, it's nice to have a Welsh act representing the UK. Go Bonnie!

The Big Review (38) Spain

Spain, like France seem to have lost their way when it comes to Eurovision. I dearly wish Spain had won last year with Pastora Soler's "Quedate Conmigo". Alas it wasn't to be. This year they've opted for an established band, ESDM and a song which sounds very Celtic. It's nice enough but a bit, well, odd. Bottom five for sure!

The Big Review (37) Italy

Since their return in 2011, Italy have injected class into Eurovision and that tread continues in 2013. This year they've sent the actual winner of San Remo, Marco Mengoni with the gentle ballad "L'essenziale". This is a good song, Marco has a great voice and oozes charisma. Like Georgia, if the voters go for a ballad, this could do it. If they win, I just hope that the Italians will be a little more organised in 2014 than they were in 1991!

The Big Review (36) Germany

Germany serves as an example to any jaded western broadcaster of how to turn around fortunes in Eurovision. Where as previously they would be seen as total no-hopers (in fact, they were, finishing near the bottom on several occasions over the past decade), they have made Eurovision a credible event again. Their national final was revamped, they won and have been in the top ten every year since. This year they've chosen Cascada with the song "Glorious". Cascada are no strangers to the UK and had a number one with "Evacuate The Dancefloor". Some have commented that "Glorious" is similar to the winning song of 2012, "Euphoria", accusations of plagiarism ensued which essentially amounted to nothing more than a storm in a teacup. If anything, Loreen plagiarised Cascada! I like this a lot and would love Germany to do well. I'd be happy if it won, I just hope it's not in Dusseldorf in 2014!

The Big Review (35) France

Out of all the Big Five countries, France is probably the most apathetic when it comes to Eurovision. The public pay little attention to it, despite some real efforts from the state broadcasters to get some big names. This year they've opted for quite a contemporary sound. Essentially it's like the French version of Amy Winehouse. I like this at the start but after a minute or so, I lose interest. I imagine the same thing will happen with the televoting public too. I think this is a candidate for the bottom five which is a shame, it's not that bad, it's just not that good either.

The Big Review (34) Sweden

With Sweden hosting the contest in 2013 there was a lot of interest surrounding Melodifestivalen this year. There was also a great deal of diasppointment amongst fans in the voting results and the standard of songs. It was almost as if the Swedes were trying not to win again! For the first time ever, the winning song, "You", came from the Andra Chansen (second chance) round! This entry is fairly standard Swedish schlager fodder. It's good but no cigar. I doubt Sweden will do the double but with a big hometown roar and strong performance, this could be in the final shake-up on the night.

The Big Review (33) Romania

Last year I was convinced that Romania had a fighting chance of winning Eurovision with "Zaleilah". This year I am convinced that Romania are not only going to fail to qualify, they will fail badly. Cazar's vocals, whilst impressive, are also downright freaky. The song "It's My Life" doesn't do much for me either. I full expect people at my preview party tomorrow night to be falling around laughing when this comes on. Still, it's memorable, for all the wrong reasons. If Europe is having a bit of a laugh then this might just sneak through but I'm sticking to my guns. For now.

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (32) Switzerland

It's the Sally Army Band for Switzerland! Or Takasa as they are now calling themselves. Still, it's the Sally Army Band for Switzerland! When this was chosen it even made it to the BBC news website. It's certainly a quirky story. Some have mentioned that the Salvation Army have homophobic members, however, which religious organisation doesn't? As for the song, "You and Me", it's a catchy one and performed well. It's not my favourite but it comes at the right time in the contest and I think this will qualify relatively easily. Certainly no winner but an interesting backstory for the commentators to tell.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (31) Georgia

Georgia knows how to put on a good Eurovision party. Indeed their 2010 effort was more impressive than the official Welcome Reception! Georgia is an EU-aspirant country, pro-actively tackling corruption and keen to make a mark on the world stage. Participation in Eurovision is very much part of this process of projecting a positive international image. The chance to win and stage Eurovision are serious opportunities for some countries and that's very true when it comes to Georgia. Last year the delegation spoke candidly about Eurovision and the platform it affords them. To put it crudely, they're out to win. This is perhaps their best ever chance. "Waterfall", written by the winning Swedish team behind Loreen's "Euphoria", is a dramatic and moody ballad which of course, features the obligatory key change. It's old-fashioned but it's performed incredibly well and I can see this going far. I'd be absolutely delighted for Georgia to win, not only do I stand to win a lot of money with the bookies, it will also provide the perfect opportunity to visit an interesting country with a rich cultural history. If they go for a ballad, this could well be it.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (30) Albania

Albania were traditionally the first country to announce their Eurovision entry, using the long-standing Festivali i Këngës as a national final. I sat through the event in December 2009 - never again! Just when you think it's about to end, it continues and continues - to the point when even the contestants look bored! Albania have come up with some pretty decent entries in the past. Whilst their song this year is well-performed, it doesn't really do anything for me. I can't see this qualifying although saying that, many couldn't fathom how they did so well last year with "Suus".

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (29) Norway

After their landslide victory in 2009, Norway have had a tough few years in Eurovision. Their entry "My Heart Is Yours" flopped badly on home turf in 2010, they failed to qualify in 2011 and in 2012 they came last in the final. This year they have come out fighting. "I Feed Me Your Love" (that's an offer a boy can't refuse!) is a very modern piece of electro-pop which builds nicely. It's contemporary and fresh. Intially I wasn't sure of this and whilst I would prefer to venture out of Scandinavia next year, I think this is a possible winner. It has massive hit potential and would be good for the contest. Staged simply yet effectively, no gimmicks, just pure class. If the voters of Europe opt for an uptempo song then this could be it.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (28) Hungary

Hungary are a strange country when it comes to Eurovision. At the start of the voting in 1994, the year of their debut, they looked like they were going to walk the contest. Since that time success has evaded them. They were the big fan favourite in 2011 with "What About My Dreams?" yet in the final it flopped. Still, they've qualified for the last two contests. Their entry this year is a rather strange yet melodic, plodding song. It'll be interesting to see how this one is staged. I don't hate it, I don't particularly love it either. It's a Marmite song if ever there was one. Fair play to them for trying something different. I can't see this qualifying although I said that last year...

Qualifying: No