There's no doubting that Russia wants to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Year after year, they send blissfully mainstream, ultra-professional numbers that have me humming along reluctantly while fearing that my own mother country will be bested. (The bread-baking old ladies were a different but equal kind of threat.) And since it's only a matter of time until they win (again), maybe this year is as good a time as any. I don't think Sweden stands a chance - Frans is a sweet lad and the lyrics are clever, but I suspect the song is too low-key for massive European appeal - and the less said about Germany's entry, the better. Whereas Russia's ditty "You're the Only One", well-sung by the iceberg-climbing Sergey, is so catchy it has me jigging in my seat. Plus it's not about world peace, thankfully.
I can't help wondering, though, if the powers that be in Russia have really thought this through. Yes, "Russia wins Eurovision" would be great PR. "Eurovision fan arrested for waving rainbow flag" - not so much. For the Russian authorities, hosting this competition will be tricky to say the least - a little like hosting a multinational dog show in a country where the promotion of keeping pets is prohibited. Ah well, when there's a will, there's a way, and my goodness there's a will.
And it's not like the race is run yet; there are other strong contenders for the Eurovision crown. Here are a few (though please note that I've only heard the music video for some of them):
United Kingdom: Wouldn't it be marvellous if Britain won? Think about it: the timing really couldn't be better. Also, they've sent a good solid pop tune this year, professionally executed by two boyband-cute guys, without any archness or irony. To be honest, the song isn't my absolute favourite, but providing the boys don't tank completely live, I'm tempted to vote for them anyway. This kind of responsible Eurovision behaviour from the Brits should be encouraged and reinforced.
Azerbaijan: (yes, I've checked the spelling): There could be more power in the singing, but this is classic toe-tapping Eurovision fare. I wouldn't mind working out to this tune.
Austria: Far away, apparently, there is a lovely country, where they sing, and there are waving flowers on the ground... Yes, this number is extremely treacly. I suspect there are more hard-hitting My Little Pony cartoons. Having said that, the girl sings sweetly in beautiful French (do they speak French anywhere in Austria? The Alps, maybe?) and it's a real earworm.
Poland: The verse is a little dull, but I love the "Oh-oh-oh-oh" refrain, which in the video at least sounds really great. The rock power ballad vibe and suitably hirsute singer make me think of Queen.
Australia: Much as I love Eurovision, I don't think I'd watch it in the middle of the night. For this dedication alone, the Australians deserve to participate a second time around. Also, they sent a really strong entry last year, and here they are again with another winner - a ballad that no music radio channel would have to feel ashamed about airing. If the Aussies become a permament Eurovision fixture, I for one wouldn't grumble. But if they win, which country will they team up with when it comes to holding the competition next year? It would have to be a really good loser to allow another country to celebrate its victory and host a show on their soil.
Other possibles are the guy from Hungary, who wouldn't look out of place down a Cornwall tin mine, the rockers from Cyprus (I'm a sucker for a wolf-themed number) and the girl from Belgium who's just like something out of Fame. Let battle commence.