It's become traditional at this time of year for me to say "oooh, this is a tough one", but actually I don't think it is this time, at least in terms of guessing the winner. I don't really get the hoo-ha over Denmark (admittedly the staging is very effective), but sometimes a consensus is just so overwhelming that you have to accept it's probably right. This is, after all, a popularity contest. So I suspect Eurovision is heading back to Copenhagen, which offers us a neat symmetry given that Denmark were also the winners the last time the contest was held in Sweden.
But who will finish second? That's much more problematical. The bookies suggest it will be a close fight between Ukraine and Norway, but the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that the Ukrainian song is slightly overrated (I still expect it to be in the top six or seven). Until about an hour ago, I was firmly of the view that the true contenders for the runner-up spot were Russia and Norway. Both had points in their favour - the Russian song is perhaps more televoter-friendly and has the inbuilt advantage of the ex-Soviet bloc vote, while Norway has the better draw and is more jury-friendly (ie. it's the best song left in the contest in my opinion). On balance, I reckoned that favoured Russia slightly.
But now I've seen the German dress rehearsal and I'm totally confused again. If that performance beguiles the audience in the way I think it might, in a sense it kills both Russia and Norway - it kills Russia because it's the very next song in the running-order, and it kills Norway because it's a similar type of music. On the other hand, I still can't help thinking back to all those occasions when strong dance tracks have fallen flat on their face at Eurovision (that was the main reason I was sceptical that Loreen would win last year). Another possibility is that the vote could be evenly split between Germany and Norway, allowing Russia to come through the middle. Who knows, so I'll just have to make a wild guess.
The Netherlands is one of those entries that is pretty much guaranteed a very strong 'niche' vote that will fall short of outright victory - my guess is it'll slot in somewhere between about fourth and seventh. The wildcard this year is of course Finland, replete with its wedding dress, lesbian kiss, and lyrics that are so un-feminist that James Mackenzie deleted them to enhance the debate. There was a time, not so long ago (2002, in fact) when gimmicks like that would have been more than sufficient to win the contest. I think we've moved on from those days, but time will tell.
So here's what I've got...
Winners - Denmark (Only Teardrops - Emmelie de Forest)
2nd - Russia (What If - Dina Garipova)
3rd - Norway (I Feed You My Love - Margaret Berger)
4th - Germany (Glorious - Cascada)
5th - Netherlands (Birds - Anouk)
Possible dark horses - Iceland, Finland, Ireland
As for me, I'll be sticking to my non-English language rule and voting for Iceland (or possibly Estonia, which I slightly regretted not voting for in the first semi), but my heart will be with Norway all the way. This is the third year in a row that I won't particularly be cheering on the UK, mainly because the internal selection means that I don't really feel I have any stake in the entry. Weirdly, Fraser Nelson has a lengthy piece in the Spectator on that very subject, in which he makes a number of points that I've made before myself - for example that Jonathan King, for all that he is a thoroughly objectionable human being, was the last person who actually had a well-thought-through plan for finding the right UK entry. I think Nelson takes his argument to an extreme, though - it's not as if an internal selection process is in some way 'un-Eurovision'. (The great French ballads of the early 2000s were internally selected, for instance.) And I think passing the contest onto ITV or Sky would be a terrible idea - say what you like about the BBC, but at least they faithfully broadcast both semi-finals every year, which I'm not sure ITV or Sky could be trusted to do.
The real step forward would of course be for Scotland to have its own entry. Hopefully only three more years to go...