What a week it has been! After two semi finals, a bunch of press events and what felt like a million rehearsals, we have seen a pool of 42 entries reduced to 20. These 20 will join 'the big 5' (France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK) plus Ukraine (this year's host country) in Saturday night's final. In a year that began with Italy as the supposed guaranteed winner, we have ended up with a far more open competition than we originally thought - even as I type, the betting odds are consistently shifting and just today we saw Portugal overtake Italy as the favourite to win for the first time. Gripping stuff.
Before we look ahead to the final, let's take a moment to discuss the non-qualifiers from Thursday's semi final. As I predicted, it was a far more exciting and entertaining show than Tuesday's due to the concentration of the more upbeat and fun entries in the line-up. Unfortunately, that also meant that some great entries didn't quite make the cut...and by that I mean Estonia. Yes, Verona (one of my absolute favourites) tragically failed to qualify for the final, to my absolute disgust, I might add! We won't know the stats until after the final, but I am very much looking forward to seeing whether it was the jury, the televote or both that saw this fan favourite robbed of a spot in Saturday's show. That was the only real shocker for me, every other non-qualification came as little surprise to me and for the most-part, I was happy with the 10 that went through.
In addition to Estonia, there are a few entries that I would've loved to have qualified to Saturday night. Jana Burčeska, the entrant for the [FYR] Macedonia, despite my concerns, gave us the best performance of Dance Alone she had ever given. It's not all sad news for Jana though; her song remains one of the most popular of the year among eurofans AND, as we found out live on TV, she is both engaged to be married and expecting her first child! Back to semi final 1, I believe Finland should've definitely made the final as it is one of the most elegant and classy entries to ever grace the eurovision stage. Latvia's Triana Park were also robbed of a spot in my opinion and without them the final looks a lot less colourful, especially with the amount of white, black and blue staging designs. Speaking of red staging, an entry that unexpectedly clicked with me big time during the semi final performance was Georgia's Keep The Faith, which was sung perfectly by the fabulous Tamara Gachechiladze. Had this been placed later in the running order, I believe this would've qualified instead of Poland, who's entrant Kasia Mos was also fantastic and deserved her qualification so I can't be too upset.
Now, before dissecting my predictions, here is a recap of the running order for Saturday's finale:
The top 3
Unlike last year's contest, the quality of entries this year is less strong overall, and so the top tier is a lot less crowded. It has been widely predicted that Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria are the surefire top 3, which to a great extent I agree with. The official music video for Italy's Occidentali's Karma has over 100 million views on Youtube and as I said earlier, it was viewed as the favourite to win since it was announced. However, Portugal's stunning Amar Pelos Dois has been riding a fresh wave of hype since rehearsals started and judging by reactions from the semi, this probably won both the televote and jury vote rather comfortably. Bulgaria has also been a favourite throughout the build-up to the contest, which has remained the case now that we've seen just how impressive the staging is. It is also worth noting that Bulgaria has been drawn 25th out of 26 in the finale running order, which may give it an extra push from televoters.
The televote winners
I can see Romania's Yodel It as a (deserved) televote winner, however I can also see the juries killing its chances completely and costing it a spot in the top 5. Everything about this screams 'public favourite', from the colourful and ridiculous staging to the joyful message of the song, I have no doubt that voters across the world will take to this. Similarly, Moldova's Hey Mamma is also playing for the same kind of voting demographic - casual/passing fans of the contest who only watch the final, often with drinks in hand, looking for a fun act to back in a semi-ironic way. The contemporary club-friendly production oddly gives Moldova the edge in this battle with regards to the juries, especially due to how well-staged it is.
The jury winners
On the reverse side, Armenia's entry Fly With Me, which is my overall favourite this year, will probably be let down by the televote this year. Despite it being absolutely incredible from a performance perspective, I can see the level of technical details in the performance and the slow-burn of the song itself cost Artsvik precious votes from the public. That said, this ticks every jury box for staging, performance and vocals so hopefully it will still snatch a deserved top 10 spot despite being so early in the running order. My concern is that it was drawn fifth for the final, suggesting that it didn't rank as well as I hoped in its semi. Similarly, The Netherlands' O'G3NE delivered a spectacular vocal performance on Thursday, so I could see that being rewarded handsomely by juries if they can repeat that on Saturday.
This is where it gets interesting. Even though I generally hate surprises, it's always nice to have a wildcard or two on finale night to spice things up. Last year, Austria and Poland rose from the bottom of the scoreboard to cause some serious damage on the left-hand side by slaying the televote, which was made even more entertaining by the introduction of a tense new scoring system. This year, I can see the reverse; I believe that some entries may do better than expected as a result of a strong jury support. The UK's Lucie Jones has blown everyone away with the reveal of her gloriously gold and starry staging concept, which along with a strong vocal could help the UK get their best result in years (let's hope). My second wildcard pick is even more odd, because it's a former fan-favourite; Belgium's Blanche was once a possible winner, but since the rehearsals began, there were a load of people thinking this wouldn't qualify all of a sudden. Now that she has qualified and is slaying the other entries on iTunes charts across Europe, could this sneak into the top 5? With its position being so late in the running order, there is a chance.
Top 10 prediction
7. The Netherlands
...I can see the UK landing between 15 and 11 for some reason...
Well there you have it! On Sunday morning we will have a champion and hopefully some stats to digest (my favourite part), which in itself might just warrant another post! But for now I am gonna try and enjoy the Eurovision festivities before it ends for another year...