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Eurovision Song Contest: Eight songs to look out for

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, Kiev

media captionUK Eurovision artist Lucie Jones shares her predictions for this year

The nation's hopes will be pinned on Lucie Jones this year as she heads to Eurovision in the hope of reversing the UK's poor run of recent form.

Yet with 24 songs in contention at Kiev, it's anybody's guess who'll be leaving Ukraine with the famous glass microphone trophy in their hands.

We've listened to all of them on your behalf and have picked eight tracks we think will make a splash at Saturday's grand final.

image copyrightBTRC

There is more than a dash of The Shires to this melodious slice of ukelele-backed folk from Belarussian duo Artem Lukyanenko and Ksenia Zhuk.

Pointedly sung in their native language, it's a jaunty holler whose references to "new desires and better ideas" could be read as a coded rebuke to neighbouring Russia.

Belarus have only made it past the semis on four occasions since joining the contest in 2004.

Could the first entry to be sung in the country's native tongue see it better its best ever showing - a sixth-place finish in 2007?

Watch the video.

image copyrightMarie Wynants

Think Lana Del Ray and Lorde with a sprinkling of Birdy and you have this moodily credible slice of indie pop from 17-year-old Blanche.

Real name Ellie Delvaux, she'll be hoping to continue Belgium's recent run of top 10 finishes after a lengthy period in which it struggled to make it past the semis.

"All alone in the danger zone, are you ready to take my hand?" she moans over a dark soundscape of ambient electronica.

Belgium were the last country to be confirmed as finalists at the end of Tuesday's semi-final, prompting a massive sigh of relief and more than a few tears.

image copyrightDiliana Florentin/Virginia Records

Russia's departure from this year's competition could work in favour of 17-year-old Kostov, the youngest performer at Kiev and the first Eurovision entrant to be born in this century.

Born in Moscow in March 2000, he could pick up a lot of the votes that would have gone to Russia's Julia Samoilova were she still participating in the contest.

His dramatic self-penned ballad is also a stirring enough composition to put him on course to better the fourth-place finish Bulgaria's Poli Genova managed last year.

Indeed, Kristian could go all the way to the top - provided, of course, he does better than this guy…

image copyrightRAI

A firm favourite with both the fans and the bookies, Italy's entrant is the one to beat this year.

An irresistible explosion of playful pop with a sing-along chorus, Occidentali's Karma - Westerner's Karma in English - also comes with a dancing gorilla that will be sure to send the audience bananas on Saturday.

The gorilla, explains Gabbani, derives from Desmond Morris's seminal work The Naked Ape - referred to in the lyrics - and its theory that we are all simians under the skin.

As one of the so-called "big five", Italy get a free pass into the final along with the UK, France, Germany, Spain and host nation Ukraine.

image copyrightTRM

Remember Epic Sax Guy, the saxophone-playing Moldovan who became an internet sensation after performing at Eurovision in 2010?

Well, Sergey Stepanov is back to represent the former Soviet republic again with the other two members of Sunstroke Project, violinist Anton Ragoza and vocalist Sergei Yalovitsky.

This year's offering is an upbeat slice of pure pop froth that comes with backing singers in wedding gowns and plenty of opportunities for Stepanov to blow his own trumpet.

Moldova's last appearance in the final came in 2013 when they finished 11th.

image copyrightCatia Castel-Branco

Amidst Eurovision's sea of generic Anglophone pop, this lush Portuguese love song stands out like a rebellious rose in a garden of dandelions.

So does Salvador Sobral himself, his man-bun, Pacino-esque features and air of genial scruffiness setting him apart as surely as if he'd arrived wearing a clown's costume.

Written by Sobral's sister Luisa, Amar Pelos Dois translates into English as Love for the Two of Us.

There's a lot of love for Portugal's entry this year - not least because Salvador has a serious heart condition that saw him miss the first week of rehearsals.

Don't be surprised if we see the land of the fado record its first top five finish.

image copyrightAndreea Zamfirescu

Ever wondered what rap and yodelling would sound like in close proximity? Thanks to our friends in Romania, you no longer have to.

Yodel It! is just the kind of offbeat combo that Eurovision was made for, and one that ensures Romania is back with a bang after being barred from taking part last year.

Singer Ilinca Bacila, 25, describes herself as Romania's only yodelling artist and says she likes to drink palinka - a kind of fruit brandy - before performing with her rapping cohort Alex Florea.

By the way, we're not kidding about Romania being back with a bang. Their Eurovision performance sees them joined on stage by a pair of glittery cannons.

image copyrightReuters

Sweden has an impressive track record at Eurovision. It's won six times in all, most recently in 2015 when Mans Zelmerlow triumphed with Heroes.

It's also mastered the art of making its submission stand out from the crowd. Remember the stylish computer visuals that saw Zelmerlow accompanied on stage in Vienna by a stick-figured animated buddy?

Robin Bengtsson will be hoping to match that with a slick routine involving four suit-wearing male dancers on treadmills that recalls nothing so much as Take That in their prime.

The song is not bad either - an up-tempo pop ditty in which 26-year-old Bengtsson sings about wanting to take off all his clothes for his "freakin' beautiful" partner.

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