Eurovision: The first dress rehearsal for the second semi-final, at Baku Crystal Hall. Photo credit: Elke Roels (EBU)
This year, the Eurovision Song Contest, that circus of cheesy Europop, pyrotechnics and political voting will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan – and viewed by more than 125 million people worldwide. The first semi-final was held on 22 May, with the following semi-final on May 24 and the grand final to be held on Saturday, May 26. So far, the acts from the so-called “Big Five” (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy) and the host nation Azerbaijan, which won last year, have qualified automatically, with a further 20 European nations joining them for the final.
So, who are the ones to watch this year?
The Hump vs Jedward
The UK’s entry this year will be the competition’s second-oldest competitor, Engelbert Humperdinck. At 76 years old, “The Hump” is best known for his number one hits “Release Me” and “The Last Waltz” and his friendship with Elvis Presley, who later cited Humperdink as the inspiration for his sideburns. The Telegraph reports that so far, sales of Humperdinck’s single have been disappointing, saying he “has suffered a blow to his Eurovision hopes, as his entry reached just number 76 in the singles charts”. Humperdinck is, however, optimistic, with The Metro reporting “Humperdinck has said he thinks he has a ‘great great chance’ of securing the nation’s first victory since 1997”. The Telegraph disagreed – that Humperdinck’s chances to win are currently at 14/1.
Jedward – again
The Hump will be facing Irish entry Jedward, who came eighth in last year’s competition. The Daily Mail reported that the identical twins of The X Factor fame “sailed through the semifinals at Baku’s Crystal Hall”, and with Ireland having the best record for winning the competition, the pair have high hopes, saying they want a “Jepic win”.
Jedward’s performance last year
Controversy in Baku
Azerbaijani authorities are determined to make the show a success – at the cost of human rights, it appears. RFERL reported that an Azerbaijani singer was detained in prison for 10 days after speaking out against the “forcible razing of homes to make way for the gaudy Eurovision venue”, the new Baku Crystal Hall built for the event. The Financial Times reported that investigative journalists have reported being beaten or blackmailed in recent months, whilst Canada’s CTV News noted that “as Islam flourishes, however, rights activists also say that blatant trampling of democratic freedoms is being ignored by Western powers eager to exploit Azerbaijani oil wealth”.
Who are the big favourites?
The Telegraph report that Sweden were the clear favourites at 7/4, with Italy’s Nina Zilli next in the betting at 6/1; Russia rank in third at 7/1, and Serbia at 14/1 – the same odds as Humperdinck. There is also much media coverage of the so-called “Russian Grandmas”, who are the oldest entry in the competition. They perform in traditional rural costume, and though their song has an English chorus, most of the song is in their native Russian, reported the BBC. They are raising money to replace a church in their village that was destroyed by Stalin.
Humperdinck’s entry, “Love Will Set You Free”
More on Eurovision
- Humperdinck to represent the UK at Eurovision
- Azerbaijan’s shock Eurovision win intrigues tourists