As long-term readers will know, since this blog started in 2008 I've made an annual eve-of-Eurovision prediction for the top 3-5 placings in the contest. I thought for the purposes of comparison (and also just in case I've lost interest in blogging by May!), I'd attempt an additional, much earlier prediction this year, unaffected by reports from the rehearsals which are always such a huge factor in trying to fathom out what is really going to happen.
I think the puzzle this time can be summed up fairly succinctly - will France walk it, or not? It's the best song in the contest by miles, it's hugely distinctive - but it's just possible that it might be distinctive in the wrong way, ie. in the sense of not having enough of an appeal to younger televoters. We could see a repeat of the Natasha St-Pier/Sandrine François scenario, when France also had the best song and the best singer, but never really threatened to win. It's hard to say whether that will happen, but if France does fall short the winner then becomes extremely tough to predict, because bubbling under are five songs that are fairly evenly-matched - Sweden, the UK, Germany, Estonia and Hungary.
My instinct is that Sweden can't win - they've been banging away with these formulaic show-stopping efforts for as long as anyone can remember, and in recent years haven't come within touching distance of victory. The shadow hanging over Hungary is the strikingly poor record of out-and-out dance tracks in the contest over the years - one of my all-time favourite Eurovision entries Je t'adore failed to even qualify for the final in 2006. Germany are presenting a class act in every sense, and although I've always felt the song was a touch too low-key to win, Lena Meyer-Landrut's fame and popularity across the continent may offset that problem. And the UK? Although my first impression was positive, the more I've listened to the song the more I've come to feel that it's a bit 'forced' and soulless - although, again, Blue's fan following may partly come to the rescue.
So, by a mixture of process of elimination and a gut feeling at this stage that France won't win, here is what I've come up with -
Winners - Estonia (Rockefeller Street - Getter Jaani)
2nd - France (Sognu - Amaury Vassili)
3rd - Germany (Taken By a Stranger - Lena Meyer-Landrut)
4th - Sweden (Popular - Eric Saade)
5th - UK (I Can - Blue)
So I'll see if I'm still saying that in a few weeks' time after the rehearsals! Although France is my personal favourite, it would be nice to see Estonia back on top - their fine run of results in the late 90s/early 2000s (crowned by unexpected victory in 2001) was one of the great fairy-tales of the contest's history, and it's been a shame to see them regress since then.