BBC News

Eurovision 2014: The ones to watch out for

By Sarah Jane Griffiths
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

image copyrightEBU
image captionThe Eurovision final takes place on Saturday

The first of the Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals takes place on Tuesday to decide who goes through to Saturday night's grand final in Copenhagen, Denmark. So who should we be looking out for in this year's competition?

Just 20 of the 31 acts competing in Tuesday and Thursday night's semi-finals will make it through to sing for their country on Saturday - joining the "big five" (the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany) and host country Denmark in the final.

The current favourites include Armenia's Mp3, Swedish chart star Sanna Nielsen, Norway's Carl Espen and Denmark's Basim, who came fourth in the Danish X Factor in 2006.

Here are some of this year's most entertaining, weird and wonderful performers.

The bearded lady: Conchita Wurst - Austria

image copyrightThomas Ramstorfer
image captionWurst says she has been an avid watcher of Eurovision "as far back as I can remember"

Austria's entry Conchita Wurst is the transvestite alter ego of former boy-band star Tom Neuwirth.

Also known as "the bearded lady" she has called the beard "a symbol of tolerance".

"I wanted to show that you can achieve anything - you have to work hard and you have to believe in yourself," the singer told the BBC.

"I think everybody should make their life fabulous because, it sounds so cheesy, but we just have one.

"And if you want to be a bearded lady then you are allowed to do that, because you're not hurting anybody," she continued.

Sadly not everyone agrees, with Conchita recently facing a transphobic backlash online, as conservative protesters in Russia, Armenia and Belarus branded the contest a "hotbed of sodomy".

The Celine Dion fan will perform Rise Like a Phoenix in Thursday's second semi-final, a song all "about learning from the bad times".

image copyrightChristophe Lartige / France 3
image caption"We tend to favour a lighter, more festive approach, because we want to have fun and to be able bring energy to what we do"

It is not just Conchita Wurst cashing in on the current trend for facial hair - although France's 2014 entry prefer to sing about that hipster favourite The Moustache.

Twin Twin's bouncy melodies have "a healthy sense of gimmick", according to their Eurovision profile, and the exceptionally catchy dance track "tells the story of a man who already has everything, but who still wants a moustache".

The track is "a humorous and affectionate critique of our culture of hyper-consumption", according to the creative trio, who have already performed for fans around the world and will be hoping some of them vote on Saturday.

image captionSmitten-Downes hails from Leicestershire

Six months ago she was working part-time in a shop to fund her music career but after being spotted on the BBC Introducing website, 26-year-old Molly Smitten-Downes was asked to write a song for Eurovision. The result is this year's promising UK entry, Children of the Universe.

Molly said she has had a "really positive reaction" to her song, which features stirring lyrics such as "power to the people", and predictions are suggesting it should definitely do better than Engelbert Humperdinck did in 2012 - coming a slightly embarrassing 25th out of 26.

Things won't get too stressful for Molly until later this week as she is one of the "big five" acts who automatically make it through to the grand final, although staying focused could prove a challenge.

"I think there's party after party after party all week, but I'm going to have to be really sensible and go home and rest my voice," she told the BBC before she left for Copenhagen.

"So that will be hard, but you know, you've got to keep your priorities straight!"

image copyrightDaniel Bienias
image captionCleo, who is also a painter, was discovered by Donatan

Singer Cleo and producer Donatan had a top 10 hit in Poland when they teamed up for My Slowianie in October last year.

The original video has been watched more than 40 million times on YouTube - and now the duo have recorded an English version (translated to mean We Are Slavic) to compete in Eurovision.

Award-winning producer Donatan has worked on more than 50 albums in Poland, several of which have gone gold or platinum.

image copyrightMario Micallef
image captionFirelight have been enjoying the Eurovision build-up

If you are partial to a Marcus Mumford-style folk-country-rock fusion, chances are Firelight's Coming Home might end up being your favourite Eurovision entry this year.

The Maltese band is "a family affair" fronted by singer Richard and his sister Michelle, together with their siblings Wayne and Daniel and old friends Leslie and Tony.

In an effort to produce music that is "a little bit different", they've turned to an exotic-looking stringed instrument known as a mountain dulcimer.

"It comes from the Appalachian mountains in north America and it has a very sweet sound, a cross between a sitar and a guitar. I fell in love with it," Richard told the BBC.

He revealed he's even been playing it on the bus, with an impromptu performance on the way to a Eurovision gig in Amsterdam last month.

"We've been hitting it off with the Latvian guys and the Swiss and the Greeks. They're fantastic people, they just pick up a guitar and start playing and that is what we're about," said Richard.

image copyrightLinda Rutule
image captionIf music be the food of love, play on

Fully embracing the novelty school of Eurovision thinking is Latvia's Cake to Bake by Aarzemnieki.

At the London Eurovision party last month the group dedicated their performance to Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry, before getting mobbed by Eurovision fans hoping to persuade lead singer Joran Steinhauer to pose in their selfies.

It definitely features high on the list of Eurovision earworms of the year (in joint place with France). All together now... "Mix some dough, add some love, let it bake."

Aarzemnieki are not the only foodies in this year's competition though. Belarus' answer to Robin Thicke, a young man going by the name of Teo (also known as "the one with the maracas") is pinning his hopes on a song called Cheesecake.

image copyrightIsaac G Sidro - Roster SL
image captionLorenzo was mentored by Dannii Minogue on The X Factor

You may recognise Spanish entry Ruth Lorenzo from the UK's 2008 series of The X Factor, which saw her come fifth after sharing the stage with Alexandra Burke, JLS and Diana Vickers.

She wrote her track Dancing in the Rain in London, inspired by the UK's climate.

"I feel so happy because all of the British fans that I have here have been so supportive," she told the BBC.

"I come to London and I feel like home, same as when I go back to Spain, so I'm really, really excited. I better get the 12 points from you guys!"

image copyrightRTR
image captionWill the twins' Eurovision experience give them the edge?

The Tolmachevy Sisters are no strangers to Eurovision, having won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Romania in 2006, when they were just nine years old.

Anastasiya and Maria scored 154 points for Russia that time round and are the first act to make the transition to the Eurovision big time.

Now 17, the Tolmachevy twins still dress identically for their performances and are hoping the world will "show some love" for their pop-tastic entry Shine.

They will be vying for their place in Saturday's final in the first semi-final on Tuesday - minutes before Ukraine's act, Mariya Yaremchuk.

image copyrightArnos Martirosyan
image captionAram Mp3 - real name Aram Sargsyan - who has a wife and young son, describes himself as a family man

Kicking things off first in Tuesday's semi-final, Armenian entry Aram Mp3 is being tipped by both bookies and fans as a strong contender for the Eurovision crown.

He will be performing Not Alone, a track that caters for a plethora of music fans thanks to its journey from ballad to dubstep and back again.

Despite being super-famous on his home turf, he "doesn't consider himself a celebrity and somehow has managed to stay extremely modest", according to his Eurovision profile.

It also reveals that music "healed him". As a young boy, Aram suffered from breathing difficulties - following a doctor's advice to try singing, his parents encouraged him to join a choir and his health condition improved.

image copyrightJonatan Gretarsson / RUV
image captionPollaponk - harking back to the glory days of Showaddywaddy

Pollaponk can often be spotted sporting the same outfit in different colours - be it the retro tracksuits in the video for their entry No Prejudice or these suits (co-ordinating shoes just out of shot).

Founding members Haraldur Freyr Gislason and Heidar Orn Kristjansson used to be in a post-punk band called Botnledja but started Pollaponk in 2006, just before they graduated as pre-school teachers.

They submitted their first album as part of their course work, and it went on to become a huge hit in Iceland with both children and adults - which was the plan.

No Prejudice is about a young person who has a speech impediment and is afraid of being teased or bullied.

image copyrightAugusto Betiula
image captionWill Moneta's emotional ballad catapult her into the final?

It must all seem a bit like Groundhog Day for San Marino's Valentina Monetta, who is making her third attempt to get through to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

She is the only artist to have failed to make it past the semi-final stage twice - in Azerbaijan in 2012 and in Sweden's Malmo last year.

This time she's chosen a song called Maybe (Forse) to try to wow Copenhagen. Let's hope it really is third-time lucky for Valentina.

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