Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent

Eurovision 2024

Richie Anderson, Rylan, Graham Norton, Scott Mills
Credit: BBC
Photographer: Sarah Jeynes/Ray Burmiston
Richie Anderson, Rylan, Graham Norton, Scott Mills Credit: BBC Photographer: Sarah Jeynes/Ray Burmiston
The countdown to the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 has been somewhat mixed. With war rife in more than one of the participating countries, there has been controversy over participation and heated discussion amongst the contest's ardent fans. However, as the semi-finals took place on Tuesday and Thursday, the competition discussion turned its focus to the performances and the songs themselves.

Before we look at the final's potential high and low lights, it is only fair to give mention to a few surprise exits that have happened along the way.

Australia picked a firm fan favourite from their 2019 selection show, Electric Fields, to return to the competition and finally make their way to the contest. However, despite a stunning performance of One Milkali (One Blood), the electro duo failed to capture the telephone voters' hearts and waved goodbye to the competition.

Two returning artists, Natalia Barbu (Moldova) and Hera Björk (Iceland), showcased their killer vocals, yet somehow failed to make the same impression as on their debut performances. Alas, rather undeservingly, they were sent home prematurely.

Czechia's Aiko raised the bar with her entry Pedestal, but despite echoes of Olivia Rodrigo, her entry didn't receive the love it deserved, while Matla's pop bop Loop (Sarah Bonnici) suffered from being the opening number in a very strong round and got sent packing.

Belgium's Mustii may be a huge name on his home turf, but despite pre-show excitement for his song, his performance fell a little flat, and he became another victim of the televote, albeit perhaps a little more deservingly than the aforementioned.

The Final

With bookies championing Croatia's Baby Lasagna and Switzerland's Nemo as the most likely winners, let's start by assessing their much-hyped semi-final performances.

Baby Lasagna, a bookie favorite, is an underdog in the contest. Only after another artist withdrew from the national finals, Baby Lasagna emerged as a compelling performer, commanding the stage with minimal tricks or projections. The song is addictive and easily chantable, and when he took the stage, it set the arena on fire. Fans clearly adore this song, indicating its potential as a winner.

However, Nemo has steadily built their name in the buildup to the contest, even overtaking the odds on numerous occasions. Their high energy and somewhat risky performance were truly captivating, and their vocal delivery of a very challenging song was faultless. Again, the auditorium ate up every moment of the performance. Once again, winning vibes were demonstrated.

Yet, Eurovision 2024 is far from a two-horse race. So, who do we rate? And who do we slate?

Let's start with our homegrown talent... Olly Alexander is a firm favourite of the British public. A brilliant vocalist and versatile performer, his journey to Eurovision saw him shift from a bookie favourite to an unlikely outsider following the reveal of the slightly generic Dizzy. The promise of a killer performance left many disappointed when the complex staging seemed to really hamper his ability to deliver vocally in the semi-final preview. Hopefully, he can resolve all issues before the final, but currently, securing a Top 5 position appears highly unlikely.

Pop makes a big return in 2024. Taking a leaf out of 2Unlimited's dance earworm terrain, the Netherlands' Joost Klein delivers the unforgettable Europapa. While the live performance didn't quite deliver the power punch anticipated, just a few tweaks and this could find its way into the Top 5. Austria's Kaleen proved that a killer vocal and well-designed dance routine can really make an impact. Her declaration, We Will Rave, will bounce its way into your heart and mind. Cyprus' Silia Kapsis, the youngest entrant, channels naughty pop on Liar, which deserves to do very well. Meanwhile, Lithuania's Silvester Belt on record kills it with the electropop earworm Luktelk, but his lackluster performance needs reworking if it is to really make the impact the song itself warrants.

People around the world applaud Eurovision for bringing more ethno-centric sounds to the forefront. Armenia's Ladaniva sent the arena into a frenzy with their playful Jako, while Greece's Marina Satti's fusion sound on Zatti really does deserve to soar.

While these performers all deserve strong placements, there are a few acts that are really making a dash for glory and who could unsettle Baby Lasagna and Nemo at the final hurdle. Norway's GÃ¥te really shone in their semi-final. With a truly magical performance, Ulveham could well walk away winners after lifting their entry. While Ireland's Bambie Thug may not be universally popular, their performance quality is undeniable. With stunning staging that is truly memorable, they could see Ireland even score against Sweden. Italy has a very impressive Eurovision track record, and while she may be slightly less likely to take the crown, a Top 3 finish is almost guaranteed for Angelina Mango's La Noia. Finishing out our five most likely to upset the balance are Ukraine's Jerry Heil, Alyona Alyona, and Israel's Eden Golan. Both took songs that were striking on record and transformed them into truly sensational moments on stage that will leave a lasting impression on the viewers.

While there are many amazing entries, a few made it through the somewhat questionable final. Estonia's 5miinust and Puuluup lacked any real stage presence, and it is hard to recall what (Nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi actually sounds like. Latvia's Dons was a surprise qualifier for the pretty Hollow. While he boasts a stunning vocal, the song itself gets a little lost in the mix. The same applies to Raymonda (Teya Dora) from Serbia. It's a perfectly pretty moment, yet it doesn't build enough to truly leave a lasting impression.

And how Finland's annoying Windows95man qualified for the final with No Rules is truly beyond us.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final will be broadcast live on Saturday 11 May 2024 at 8pm (BST) on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.

Olly Alexander will perform Dizzy and will be the thirteenth artist to appear.

BBC commentary will be from Graham Norton and Dame Joanna Lumley will be announcing the contest results for the UK.