Now that we’re in March, the 2022 contest is only a couple of months away, and we’re really starting to get an idea of what this year’s edition is going to look like. So – who’s sitting in a strong position going into Turin?
Currently, the defining story of the 2022 contest is the rightful exclusion of the Russian broadcaster, meaning there will be no Russian entry this year. This is just the latest example of how wider political developments so often find themselves overlapping with the contest. From a purely Eurovision point of view, this exclusion of Russia is likely to have a significant impact on the contest: the Russian act has placed inside the top 10 seven times in the last ten years. Whilst there could only be speculation as to who the Russian act would’ve been, it’s likely they would have been a strong contender and one who would have continued this trend.
It’s now time to look at the position some of the other strongest countries at Eurovision are finding themselves in. For the sake of clarity, the positions in the odds of these countries are what were being reported by Eurovision World in the afternoon of the 28th February.
The current two favourites to win are Italy and Ukraine – the two countries, incidentally, who were the top two choices of the televote last year. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra combines traditional folklore and hip-hop in their song ‘Stefania’, and whilst I am not sure how the typically conservative juries will vote, I can already see this high-energy performance being one of the public’s favourites. Italy, meanwhile, are taking a different direction than last year. They’re sending a beautiful ballad (‘Brividi’) performed by Mahmood and Blanco. Eurovision fans will recognise Mahmood, as he placed 2nd in the 2019 contest. Could he go one better this year and take home the trophy? I wouldn’t be surprised, nor disappointed, in a second consecutive Italian win. The song is stunning and the chemistry between the two singers is really what helps to make it. With the right staging, the contest could be staying in Italy for yet another year.
Whilst we currently do not have a confirmed Swedish act, the famous Melodifestivalen is coming to an end, and there is seeming confidence in the Swedish selection as they sit in third place to win. Cornelia Jakobs, with her song ‘Hold Me Closer’, is looking like the frontrunner and this would be the correct choice for Sweden to make. Over recent years there has been some criticism from fans that Sweden has a habit of sending well-produced and polished songs, but ones lacking in authenticity. Jakobs doesn’t fall into this category, as there is something distinctly raw and real about her performance, and she could give Sweden its best chance at securing a record-equally seventh victory.
There are a couple of very strong ballads from both Poland and Australia that are looking like contenders for the top spot. Representing Poland with the song ‘River’ is Krystian Ochman, whilst Australia is sending Sheldon Riley with ‘Not the Same’. Whilst both are very strong songs with incredible supporters, for me, the Australian act is the stronger one. It has better staging (the national final staging of ‘River’ really needs to be changed before Turin, it doesn’t quite convey the powerful emotions of the song). Furthermore, I think Riley’s performance could give us one of those rare ‘moments’ at Eurovision, just like Tamara Todevska’s jury-winning performance of ‘Proud’ in 2019.
It should come as no surprise following Måneskin’s victory and international success, there are currently two rock acts in the line up, and I would expect these numbers to grow. Finland is once again sending a rock band in the form of The Rasmus, which seems fitting considering Finland seems to achieve its best results recently when sending a band. Whilst ‘Jezebel’ isn’t the strongest song out there, and doesn’t pack the same punch that Blind Channel’s ‘Dark Side’ had, the performance at Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu was polished and effective, and I could see Finland securing yet another solid result from sending a band.
The case of Bulgaria is more interesting. No country has fluctuated in the odds as much as they have, from the top five, all the way to the bottom, before rising to the top again. Currently, Intelligent Music Project’s ‘Intention’ is sitting somewhere in the middle, and whilst I am struggling to make any sort of prediction as to where this could end up, it isn’t looking like Bulgaria will be getting a particularly impressive result – if they even make it to the final.
And what better way to conclude than to look at some of the most fun songs in this year’s line-up so far – the ones that might not be loved by the jury, but could get the viewers at home dancing as they pick up their phone to vote. Lovers of Fuego will undoubtedly enjoy the Spanish entry, ‘SloMo’, which is looking like it might lift Spain out of the bottom five after a disappointing run over recent years. Norway and Latvia are looking like two of the most memorable performances this year, and I recommend listening to their entries ‘Give That Wolf a Banana’ and ‘Eat Your Salad’ if you’re in need of something to give you a smile. The latter song has possibly one of the most interesting opening lines I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song.
Obviously, with new songs still to come and plenty of pre-parties and revamps still on the cards, anything could still happen in Turin in May. After all, that’s the excitement of Eurovision.
Image Credit: EBU / Thomas Hanses