What is it about Albania and the Eurovision? Every December they unveil their entry for the following year's contest far earlier than other countries, and with few exceptions it usually sounds pretty ropey. But at some point between then and May, magic dust is sprinkled, the fairy godmother waves her wand, and it transpires that the Cinderella of the Balkans shall be going to the ball after all. You hear their entry again, and it's hard to believe it's the exact same song as the disaster area you first encountered before Christmas.
But Albania wasn't alone in exhibiting a Cinderella effect in last night's first semi-final - which is just as well, as on the basis of the national selections this had been shaping up to be one of the lowest-quality contests in a good few years. If Thursday's semi follows a similar pattern, it looks like it might just be all right on the night come Saturday. In particular, Norway are doing themselves proud as hosts - pulling off the ingenious masterstroke of using presenters who look like they might actually have hosted television programmes once or twice before.
As for the results, I'm pleased that my prediction for the ten qualifiers was almost spot-on - the one blemish was that I had Finland pencilled in instead of Moldova. I'm particularly delighted to have been right about Portugal, as I feared my heart might have been ruling my head on that one. My biggest disappointments were seeing Slovakia and Malta fail to progress - I hadn't rated Malta previously, but it was a strong performance on the night. It's slightly galling to see Russia (as usual) go through in the place of those superior entries, but I'm not remotely surprised - 50% jury voting was never going to make more than a small dent in the traditional political voting from Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and Belarus.
Performance of the night - Iceland, by a country mile. I'm beginning to toy with the possibility they might just have a chance of winning - but then I have a feeling I probably did the same with the song's alter ego two years ago (ultimately it finished well down the leaderboard in the final).