Eurovision 2018: the songs to look out for, from gay couples to toy camels

The annual jamboree of dance bangers, pop opera and token metalheads rolls around this weekend – here are some of the best tracks from a very strong crop

The token metal entrant

Goodbye Summer by AWS (Hungary)

Eurovision, maybe due to an obscure EU directive, has to have a token metal act each year – and if they’re theatrical enough, as with Lordi in 2006, they can win. This year it’s Hungary’s AWS with Goodbye Summer, a song inspired by the death of the lead singer’s father (“I’m washed out and weary / You’re still holding on” he sings, bleakly). It’s surprisingly listenable – even helped by a dodgy key change at the end – although it’s such an anomaly compared to the other acts, it does feel a bit like Hungary’s right-wing government shouting: “No one likes us, we don’t care.”

The muso’s choice

Mercy by Madame Monsieur (France)

Salvador Sobral of Portugal almost ruined his win last year when he declared it a victory for real music. “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling,” he said, “so let’s try to really change this and bring music back.” It was the moan of someone who only watches Eurovision under duress. But if you too are a believer in “real music”, then look out for France’s brilliant Madame Monsieur, with Mercy. There are no fireworks to their entry; it’s just a fantastic pop song, brimming with feeling, about a child born on a refugee ship, and it’ll please anyone who loves Christine & the Queens. Merci for Mercy, indeed, GCSE French fans!

The dance bangers

Fuego by Eleni Foureira (Cyprus)

Cyprus’s Eleni Foureira is the bookies’ favourite with Fuego – a dance banger that sounds like it was written to hit every bar around the Med as soon as Eurovision ends. Foureira has incredible hair and tosses it at every opportunity – she’s even made an instructional video for Eurovision TV – and I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes someone’s eye out in rehearsals and is forced to leave.

Monsters by Saara Aalto (Finland)

If that happens, look out for the other banging dance tune in the line-up: Finland’s Saara Aalto with Monsters. Sung by the former X Factor runner-up, Aalto’s guaranteed the fetish – and alt-right – votes thanks to her dancers’ leather-heavy uniforms, but she deserves a lot more because the tune is brilliant. She is this year’s best Scandinavian act, and also sings upside down at one point while strapped to a Catherine wheel, which is surely worth something.

The one with the chicken noises

Toy by Netta (Israel)

A few weeks ago, Israel’s Netta looked like she’d cruise to victory with Toy – a song that has everything from chicken impressions to a chorus perfect for the first #MeToo Eurovision (“I’m not your toy / You stupid boy”). So why’s she no longer leading the pack? Perhaps because she spends the first half of her performance standing behind what looks like an airline check-in desk. Fingers crossed she steps that part up for the final.

The one that can only disappoint

Lie to Me by Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic)

At a recent press event in London, Mikolas Josef – the Czech answer to Justin Timberlake – walked around with a backpack, telling everyone he had a surprise in it for his performance. If it’s fistfuls of pyrotechnics, it’ll be fantastic. Sadly, chances are it’ll be a toy camel, since the video for his track Lie to Me features him bizarrely astride one. Real camels are not allowed on the Eurovision stage; toy ones are. The reveal can only disappoint.

The one with the big dress

La Forza by Elina Nechayeva (Estonia)

If you like pop opera, you’ll love Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva, who does the sort of glass-shattering operatics you normally only find soundtracking football tournaments. If you don’t like pop opera, enjoy the fact she has a humungous dress that people project animations on. It’s this year’s best gizmo – it cost €65,000, according to Politico, which Estonia’s government refused to pay for – although it does look a bit like a wedding guest trying to upstage a bride.

The returning winner

That’s How You Write a Song by Alexander Rybak (Norway)

Someone should have told Norwegian violinist Alexander Rybak to retire on a high. Rybak cruised to victory at Eurovision 2009 with Fairytale – a violin hoedown and one of the catchiest songs ever to win. This year he’s back with the violin-disco of That’s How You Write a Song, during which he gives instructions for penning a Eurovision hit (“Step one, believe in it and sing it all day long”). The lyrics are clearly unhelpful to any aspiring songwriter listening, but the bigger problem is this has been done before. During 2016’s contest in Sweden, hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw presented their own guide to how to win Eurovision with Love Love Peace Peace, a very funny track that featured Rybak on violin. Is that where he got the idea? How on earth this is the third favourite (assuming he gets through the second semi-final on 10 May), I don’t know.

The one that will annoy Russia

Together by Ryan O’Shaughnessy (Ireland)

The great surprise of Tuesday’s first semi-final was easily Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy. His Together doesn’t sound impressive on first listen – a cliche-stuffed love song (“I thought we’d be together ’til we die”) – but in Lisbon it soared, a real tear-jerker. It was helped by great staging: a young couple dancing with each other on a park bench, and twirling around a lamp-post in the snow. Who are the couple? Two men. That might not go down well in Russia with its “gay propaganda” ban, but should everywhere else. The UK’s SuRie, with Storm, is also a strong entry and would be guaranteed a top 10 placing if it wasn’t such a vintage year.

Contributor

Alex Marshall

The GuardianTramp

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