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Eurovision Song Contest 2014
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The whirligig of the weird and wonderful spins into Copenhagen as 26 nations vie for the dual-edged honour of being Euro-victors and having to host next year.
As ever, much of the more colourful fare has succumbed to the semi-final scythe. It's a "normalising" procedure that seems intended to shunt out as many eccentrics as possible. So gone are Portugal’s nutty nod to the Lambada (more's the pity), and you won't be hearing any prog-rock warbling (say goodbye, Georgia's The Shin and Mariko) or tributes to cake-baking (take a bow, Latvia)...
But fear not: plenty of nonconformity wriggled from under the Grim Euro-Reaper's axe to fight another day. So you can still enjoy Austria's drag-act Bond theme, a Swiss whistle-and-banjo workout, and the parping rap-and-trampolining of Greece (please win!).
Among the more straight-faced entries, listen to an interesting mood-piece from Norway and see if you can’t picture the opening titles of a new Scandi drama.
And of the deep-pocketed nations already through: Germany boasts an unlikely contrabassist, singer and accordionist trio; the Italian tells us she loves parking inattentively; and the UK has a plea for love and unity, with a bit of an “Enya sings Citizen Smith” vibe going on. Molly Smitten-Downes, who co-wrote the song, is the current fifth-favourite.
Top of the bookie's chart, however, is Sweden's Sanna Nielsen with Undo. You'll either love her little vocal hook, or find it armchair-punchingly annoying.
Hosts Denmark, perhaps horrified at a two-wins-on-the-trot scenario, offer Cliché Love Song, sporting as it does the refrain “scuba duba dubda dididay”.
But whatever you think of the music, Eurovision is an unfailingly well-mounted spectacle – more than nine million tuned in last year. And born-for-the-role Graham Norton will keep things light even during the divisive scoring and political argy-bargy (Russia and Ukraine are both through). So douze points for him, as ever.
Graham Norton commentates on the 59th musical extravaganza from Copenhagen, Denmark, who won last year with Emmelie de Forest's Only Teardrops. All eyes will be on Molly, who is aiming to become the first UK winner since 1997 with her self-penned anthem Children of the Universe. However, she is likely to face stiff competition from the other 25 countries, including the host nation's Basim with his Bruno Mars-style Cliche Love Song, the German trio Elaiza, who use traditional instruments to produce a more modern sound, and France's Twin Twin, who bring to mind Jedward with their fun dance track Moustache. Fans of The X Factor will recognise the Spanish act Ruth Lorenzo, who came fifth in the 2008 contest, while Austria have entered a man posing as a bearded lady. It really does take all sorts. Red button viewers will be able to access lyrics to all songs and send comments.
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