Here we go, then. I confess I haven't really been able to fire up my usual interest in Eurovision - neither the Swedish heats nor the European competition - this time around. I hope that it's a passing thing and not a sign I'm getting too old to enjoy what used to be a sure-fire mood lifter for the winter and spring months, when there's usually precious little else happening on the TV front. Perhaps one reason for my comparative lack of interest is the songs themselves: there are few really bad ones, but on the other hand there are few that really make an impression. Swedish TV scrapped its traditional panel programme reviewing of the Eurovision songs this year, which meant I had to catch up on them on Youtube. I started out optimistically, but after about the tenth competent but unmemorable power ballad I began to feel bored. Call me old-fashioned, but a good pop tune in my view really should have a hummable chorus. I still know the tune of the chorus of "Rise Like a Phoenix", which goes to show there was more to Conchita than that beard.
Still, I've managed to find a few contenders I quite liked the sound of. Caveat one: some of these I have not heard live yet, and they may sound better on video. Caveat two: 42 songs are a lot: I may have missed some really obvious star number in the power ballad flood.
United Kingdom: Maybe it's because this was the first Eurovision song I heard (excepting the serviceable but bland Swedish one), maybe it's my britophilia, maybe it's the just-about-applicable-to-villain-situation message ("I'll never give up on you" - attagirl). Anyway, I believe this is my favourite among the ballads. I know it's too late to ease diplomatic relations by giving the UK points - unlike last year - and the bewildering half-rhymes would be more understandable from a country where English is not the first language. Nevertheless, this is a good tune. Let's cut the limeys some slack this year.
The Netherlands: Speaking of pep talks, here are three babes in the wood (enchanted?) singing a tremendously supportive song. If the girls manage to sing in harmony as well live as they do on video (update: they did) this should be worth listening to.
France: Gosh, it's a beautiful language, isn't it? I can forgive a little English in the chorus. Moreover, the video was shot in Paris, and made me dance around a bit. Much depends on how well the singer does live, but if she delivers, this is a sweet swinger of a song.
Cyprus: Finally, a hummable chorus! The song is written by a Swedish Eurovision pro, and it shows. The number may not be as polished as Russian Sergey's "You're the Only One" last year, which was in the same genre, but it will serve.
Switzerland and Estonia are two maybes: in Switzerland's case, though I did get tired of the number before the video was through, it was professionally done and sung, plus I was intrigued as to where Apollo - the name of the song - fitted into the whole thing. Ever since I got Apollo (Apollon?) as the Greek god I most resembled on a Facebook test, I've had a particular sympathy for the Olympos straight guy. Not everyone can be Hermes-like and mischievous. In Estonia's case, we get a duet - which makes for a nice change - a classic Eurovision sound and references, albeit somewhat confusing, to Romeo and Juliet. But again, the song outstays its welcome somewhat.
So there we are: not that bad, when you come to think of it. I have no idea who could win this year, and it may very well be none of the above. The boy from Australia (yes, they're back) is a real looker and sings well, but let's be honest: the song is a snooze. Then again, I didn't see last year's winner coming, either.