Music lovers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief! Eurovision is back! It’s just a shame that with lockdown restrictions easing significantly on the 17th May, no-one will watch it as they’ll all be having a lock in down the pub. A month to go, and plenty of time for things to change in terms of staging and live performances, but here’s a quick rundown. No entry from Will Ferrel this year - more’s the pity. We should get more rehearsal, vocal and staging snippets over the next couple of weeks. Staging feels more important than ever this year given the limited audience. Potentially an advantage to the more intimate songs. Additionally, recorded backing vocals are allowed for the first time, which will help lift those songs that rely heavily on the backing track. Semi Final 1: 18th May 2021 My 10 qualifiers at the moment: Malta - Worthy favourite in this weakish semi final. Polished pop song that should win the semi from the last slot provided there’s no own goals in the staging. Cyprus - Very Gaga-esque. Should attract solid televote and jury support, but the song stalls at times and there’s no ‘moment’ to lift it into the top 5 on finals night. Sweden - As per usual staging unlikely to change from the Melfest final so is what it is - solid standard pop not out of place 10 years ago, but difficult to see it contending on finals night. Romania - Not much for televoters to cling to in a mid tempo song, but great draw positioned between 2 uptempo numbers. Fairly easy Q - staging key in terms of where it goes from there. Lithuania - Enjoyable but doesnt capture the same quirkyness that their 2020 entry did. Qualifying but a little overrated imo. Russia - Likely a 10/10 from the Russian diaspora and a 1/10 from Western televoters and juries. Lost friendly votes with the withdrawal of Belarus but Russia doing Russia things and coasting through. Croatia - expecting this to translate well to the big stage on the night. In a semi final crowded with upbeat female vocals i think this stands out sufficiently. Azerbaijan - Slightly underrated by the markets imo. Lyrics are repetitive but instrumentals are classic Eastern Eurovision and expecting a strong staging. Norway - Villain of the early selection season after beating fan favourites KEIINO. His victory in the Norwegian selection relied on a narrative that wont translate to wider Eurovision audiences, and if unchanged the staging is likely to alienate juries. Still, simple melodic song gets enough of a televote to Q for me. Ukraine - Stands out well, particularly in between two pop numbers. Memorable enough to Q in spite of the niche genre. And the others: Belgium - stands out in this semi of upbeat pop. All rests on the staging to capture the mood of the song - without that there’s zero televote support to lift this through. Israel - Engaging performer but little in the song to take votes from the other female led pop songs in the semi. Uphill battle. Australia - Tricky song to stage, tricky song to sing. Risks turning into a mess and probably gives Aus their first NQ. Ireland - inoffensive but no clear USP for televoters or juries. North Macedonia - For such an unremarkable ballad its peculiarly structured. Difficult to identify where jury or televote support comes from but might just escape last. Slovenia - In the coffin slot and heading home on Tuesday night. Semi Final 2: 20th May 2021 My 10 qualifiers at the moment: Switzerland - I dont find this quite as captivating as his 2020 entry - may lose voters in the first minute unless staging keeps them involved, but an easy q nonetheless Bulgaria - Another one that could easily be lifted by the staging. Song is delicate, but im concerned it doesnt grab the viewers on first listen. Iceland - Another regression from their 2020 entry, but the nerdy disco vibes should still strike a chord and song is catchy enough. Finland - stands out sufficiently in the shorter semi final, particularly following Bulgaria in the running order. Greece - I think there’s enough here for the diaspora to propel a solid televote and sporadic jury support for a safe qualification. San Marino - Provided this doenst turn into a mess on stage it’s catchy and current enough to gather support across the continent, and a rare qualification. Moldova - If the music video is anything to go by we can expect a big effort put into the staging. Enough of a hook to lift it through the semi final, and not much more. Serbia - Perfect draw in between Georgia and Iceland, but another that could be messy on stage. Friendly votes probably get it there. Estonia - I think this is slightly underrated in terms of qualification chances. It’s fairly ploddy and drab, and in the coffin slot, but I think there’s a eurovision market for this type of male fronted pop. Denmark - Likely very poor jury support but I’m not counting this one out - Eurovision nostalgia on steroids and a great show closer. And the others: Austria - Pleasant enough song, well produced, and likely solid jury support. Question marks for me over its televote score so not convinced yet that its qualifying. Albania - revamp to the song has improved it but feels like the Balkan ballad we get every year at Eurovision. Unlike Serbia, im not sure that the regional votes will be enough. Poland - Generic synthwave that never builds or goes anywhere. Would need excellent staging to motivate viewers enough to pick up the phone. Czech Republic - Interested to see where the staging goes with this one - song is catchy but it doesnt lend itself to a clear staging concept. A non-q for me just now but has some potential. Latvia - Bold but a bit too jarring for a light entertainment show. Despite eurovision fan support can’t see this progressing. Portugal - Dead as a dodo. Georgia - Deader than the Portuguese dodo. Big 5 + Host: France - Masterpiece. Timeless. Captivating. Im usually disappointed by French entries but this is spectacular. Is it too French? I think juries will fall for this in a big way - televoters is the open question. Germany - resoundingly negative fan reactions so far, little jury support, and headed for a bottom 5 finish. Italy - Really well constructed, credible entry that I think corners the rock vote (killing off Finland in the process.) It’s not a genre that enjoys particularly wide Eurovision appeal, but mid top 10 wont be a surprise, top 5 if staged well. Spain - disappointingly dull ballad. Vocal gymnastics will be tricky pull off on the night. Chumming Germany down to the bottom 5. UK - not a fan. Uptempo is a nice change but I don’t see much here to motivate televotes/jury support in what will be a a fairly uptempo final, and theres solid dad dancing vibes from the music video. Right hand side of the scoreboard, again. Netherlands - clearly not keen on the idea of hosting twice in a row - mission accomplished. More thoughts on the outright and adjustments to the qualifiers to follow in the coming weeks. Agree? Disagree? Hit me with your thoughts.