My guide to the Grand Final of 2019

Miki (Spain) Second Rehearsal | Photo: Andres Putting (EBU)

Miki (Spain) Second Rehearsal | Photo: Andres Putting (EBU)

Some will watch it for Madonna, some will watch it for a laugh, some will watch it for the competition, and some only watch it just to be able to hold their own in the break room on Monday morning. Regardless of the reason, it’s a common fact that this spectacle is the world’s biggest live music event with approx. 200 million viewers around the globe each year.

Even though you shouldn’t put too much faith in the bookmakers’ odds, it’s always interesting to follow their predictions during the weeks leading up to the Night of Truth. This year, the man in the lead – Duncan Laurence from The Netherlands – has reigned the rankings for what seems like forever. And since the rehearsals started in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, the distance between him and the first runner up has just grown bigger and bigger. Right now his chances of winning are predicted at 47% (to compare with Australia’s Kate Miller Heidke who’s currently in second place at 12%). Behind these two, there are many contestants competing for a chance at taking home the crystal microphone; mainly Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Iceland, Azerbaijan and France.

Let’s take a look at what the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2019 has in store for us tonight.

Pre-qualified for tonight’s Grand Final is, as usual, the Big Five – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom – and the hosting country, Israel. To the stage, these entries contribute two women and five men, two unforgettable dancers, a galaxy, burning money, a two-story house, sisterhood empowerment and a homecoming king.

Tuesday’s Semi Final added six women and nine men, one powerful Balkan ballad, one LSD trip in space, two sleepy lovers, disco, BDSM, Avicii vibes, a bunch of gymnastic props, two crazy-cool dancers, some frisky indie-pop and a something which looks like a transparent shower curtain with chandelier bling but is supposed to be clothing of some kind.

Lastly, Thursday’s Semi Final completed the Grand Final with another five women, seven men, four gospel singing mamas, some dirty dancers, a chameleon, a floating orb of light, two laser surgeon robots, a Sami joiker, a gigantic chair, an eagle, and more mirrors/holograms than you can even count.

Doesn’t that sound like something you won’t be able to miss? Below, you’ll find my guide to this evening’s competing entries.

(The bookmakers’ rankings by each entry below is according to the current standing by the time of the publication of this post. I may decide to make an update of these before this evening’s broadcast if something significant happens along the way. Otherwise, you can follow the current standings in real-time here >)


01 Malta: Michela, Chameleon
As the winner of the first season of Maltese X Factor in 2019, 18-year-old Michela Pace won the honour of representing Malta in ESC 2019. The song is written by a team of ESC songwriter veterans, and just as usual when it comes to Maltese Eurovision entries, there are Swedes involved in the mix.
The song has a nice beat and a catchy melody, and the staging is imaginative and colourful, true to the vivid imagery of the song’s official music video.  Maybe it’ll be enough for Michela to reach top 10.
TREND ALERT: White outfits
Swedish Connection: Malta usually has at least one Swede in the team. This year they are songwriters Joacim Persson and Johan Alkenäs, choreographer Ambra Succi as well as all four dancers.
Odds’ ranking: 11/26

02 Albania: Jonida Maliqi, Ktheju tokës
A schooled violinist and guitarist, Jonida Maliqi has made a successful career as a singer in Albania, both as a solo artist and starring in various musicals. Besides this, she’s also a well-known TV presenter hosting several musical and dancing shows.
Her entry, Ktheju tokës (Return to your land) is a call for all Albanians living abroad to come home and reunite with their fellow countrymen in order to gain peace of mind and soul. If you happen to notice an eagle during her performance, it’s the eagle from the Albanian flag acting as a symbol of the home country. Her singing performance was far from perfect in the Semi Final, making me rather surprised when she qualified. I hope she’ll do better tonight.
TREND ALERT: Black outfit with gold accents
Odds’ ranking: 23/26

03 Czech Republic: Lake Malawi, Friend of a Friend
The indie-pop band Lake Malawi gives us a happy good time with a frisky, catchy tune telling the story of the new neighbour causing some kind of jealousy between the singer and his girlfriend. The official video was quite playful, with the singer moving between posts in an Instagram feed, and they’ve been able to bring some of that playfulness on stage in Tel Aviv with some elaborate special effects. During rehearsal week, they looked quite tired and bored, but as soon as the audience entered the arena they came alive, like the live band they are. Hopefully, the crowd will answer his call for engagement tonight.
Odds’ ranking: 17/26

04 Germany: S!sters, Sister
Two former child artists, now successful solo artists, are joined together to present this year’s German entry. Carlotta Truman and Laurita Kästel are both talented artists in their own right, and the song is fairly decent.
I can’t help feeling that there’s something lacking here though. They’re supposed to be seen as close friends, if not sisters, but there’s no chemistry there. It just feels like they’re thrown together for this performance, not as if their collaboration is something they’ve both wanted. And, when the message is about supporting each other, this issue seems quite important.
TREND ALERT: Black outfits (with gold accents)
Odds’ ranking: 26/26

05 Russia: Sergey Lazarev, Scream
Many ESC contestants have participated successfully in TV shows like Idol, X-Factor or The Voice, it’s certainly a good way to attain attention and fame these days. Russian Sergey Lazarev plays in another league though, being a former judge on one such show, The Voice: Ukraine. He’s a megastar in Russia, both as a singer and an actor, with heaps of awards and accomplishments on his resume. Maybe you recognise him from Eurovision 2016 in Stockholm when he represented Russia singing You Are The Only One while climbing a projected wall.
This year he exposes his inner demons, singing of how his threatening tears of pain and desperation aren’t quiet things but scream. As usual, the Russian production treats us with an act filled with special effects, this time in the form of mirror holograms, and their qualification is a sure thing. Personally, I think the song would have benefitted from a more traditional staging, with him standing still and the angst being interpreted by a dancer or two. I don’t know why they always keep forcing Sergey to move around so much, it restrains his singing performance unnecessarily.
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 6/26

06 Denmark: Leonora, Love Is Forever
20-year-old Leonora is not only a talented singer but also a successful figure skater, three times winner of the Danish Championships and also a participant in both the Junior World Championship and the Nordic Championship.
Her innocent French chançon, Love Is Forever, is another voice in the choir of songs telling us to stop fighting and overcome our differences in favour of love and peace. Its staging is sweet and endearing and suits the song beautifully. I’m not sure this is the best way to deliver the message, though, the naiveté of both song and staging making it feel like they don’t even believe the words themselves. But why not give it a try? Any attempt at getting this important message through is worth the while.
TREND ALERT: Black/white outfits
Swedish Connection: Among the songwriters for Denmark’s entry is Swedish Melanie Wehbe.
Odds’ ranking: 16/26

07 San Marino: Serhat, Say Na Na Na
I believe many of you remember Serhat from Stockholm 2016 when this Turkish singer last represented San Marino with I Didn’t Know. Just as last time, he will close the first Semi Final with a disco song. This song, however, is much better than the last one, and Serhat doesn’t look as creepy on stage as he did three years ago. Say Na Na Na is a positive and uplifting song, telling the listener to not sulk and worry but dance and be happy. It’s catchy and joyful, but I still don’t understand how it managed to qualify from Tuesday’s Semi Final. He was so out if tune I think he might have invented a whole new key for himself. And I can’t for the life of me understand why the backup dancers are wearing shorts. This is the main contestant for finishing last tonight.
TREND ALERT: White outfits
Odds’ ranking: 25/26

08 North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska, Proud
New name, same country. After a vitriolic dispute with Greece, spanning over more than two decades, we don’t need to call this country the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia anymore. Since the two countries finally reached a compromise last year, we’re presented with the simpler and more easily pronounced North Macedonia.
Tamara another one of this year’s returning artists, having before represented F.Y.R. Macedonia in 2018. Proud is a strong power ballad, with an empowering message, dedicated to Tamara’s two children, it’s lyrics urging the listener to always be themselves and stand up proudly for who they are.
Swedish Connection: The North Macedonian entry is produced by the Swedish duo Tine Matulessy and Marie Ryberger.
Odds’ ranking: 14/26

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09 Sweden: John Lundvik, Too Late For Love
For the fifth year in a row, Sweden sends a male solo artist to ESC, this time in the form of John Lundvik, a talented singer and songwriter who brings authenticity and warmth to the Eurovision stage. In a place where acts often feel artificial and polished to perfection, John brings honesty and pure joy to the audience, although never without professionalism and competence.
Too Late For Love builds compellingly, and his four backup singers, The Mamas, brings a joyful gospel touch to the song, and as I’ve heard some international ESC fans say, John’s smile is like a hug.
Sweden is almost always highly ranked in this competition, something that often irritates fans who find us overrated, but this time I believe our entry is actually worthy of the praise. Yes, we have a good chance at winning, but the competition is fierce and there are many others who are equally deserving of a potential victory.
The act in Tel Aviv is produced by Swedish Sasha Jean-Baptiste, one of her totally three entries this year.
TREND ALERT: Black outfits with silver accents
Odds’ ranking: 4/26

10 Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl, Sebi
Time for three minutes of meditation in space. The Slovenian duo first met through Instagram when Gašper heard a clip of Zala singing and realised she’d be the perfect vocalist to perform his songs. Their love ballad Sebi is a calming oasis in the chaotic Eurovision World, and I like the song even though I’m not particularly fond of the staging; just like with Spain’s duet last year, they only concentrate on each other and it feels like we’re intruding in their private moment. If you want my vote, you’ll have to let me in.
TREND ALERT: Welcome to space!
TREND ALERT: White outfits
Odds’ ranking: 20/26

11 Cyprus: Tamta, Replay
Georgian born Tamta is one of the most successful and influential artists in Greece. For several years she’s been in the juries of both Georgian and Greek X-Factor and she has also starred in several musicals such as Rent and Cabaret.
Replay is an upbeat song, just as we’ve learned to expect from Cyprus. (Remember crazy hot Fuego who placed second last year?) This is a cool, sleek act full of confidence and power. Look out for the dress change.
TREND ALERT: Black/white outfits
Swedish Connection: The song is written by a Swedish team and the stage performance is produced by Swedish Sasha Jean-Baptiste, her second of totally three entries tonight. The performance also includes four Swedish dancers.
Odds’ ranking: 13/26

12 The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence, Arcade
Here he is, Duncan Laurence, the predicted winner of ESC 2019. Mainly a pianist and songwriter, he’s decided to enter the stage himself to perform Arcade, a song inspired by the story of someone he once loved deeply but who died at a young age. Arcade is an exquisite piece, its emotional fragility ripping your heart open, and the lyrics are truly beautiful. He delivers it on stage sitting by his piano and when he does, you can’t help feeling for him and his broken heart. I’m amazed at how well he nails each note in this intricate melody, in spite of the emotional performance and the obviously present nerves.
If this is a year for a ballad winning Eurovision, Arcade will most definitely be the one doing it. As said before, Duncan has been reigning the odds rankings for months, and whatever happens below him in the list he just keeps on gaining ground. It’s impossible to know these predictions will pan out in the end, but let’s just say there’s no doubt Duncan’s Arcade will end up high on the scoreboard at the end of the night.
If you haven’t watched the official music video yet, you really should. It’s gorgeous.
Swedish Connection: Among the songwriters we find Swedish Joel Sjöö and behind the stage we also find Swedish backup singers.
Odds’ ranking: 1/26

13 Greece: Katerine Duska, Better Love
Katerine Duska is a Greek-Canadian singer-songwriter, her compelling voice a fusion of Cher, Annie Lennox and not a little hint of Lana del Rey. She’s sleek, she’s competent and she’s gracious.
My only problem with this act is the staging; just as with the official music video, I can’t get the connection between the song/lyrics and the gymnastic props used in this number. And what is she wearing? Is she aspiring to win the Barbara Dex Award?
TREND ALERT: White outfit
Odds’ ranking: 15/26

14 Israel: Kobi Marimi, Home
Kobi is an actor with a theatre major and several plays on his resume. They say he was insecure growing up and that his acting has helped him build up the confidence he now possesses. Before entering the reality show Rising Star (which is also the Israeli national selection) Kobi didn’t have any professional music experience, something it’s hard to believe when you hear him sing.
The song is a pleasure to listen to, and a worthy number for the hosting country.
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 24/26

15 Norway: KEiiNO, Spirit in the Sky
After several years of more or less mainstream pop, Norway chooses to dig deeper into their musical roots. This year they deliver electronic pop mixed with Nordic folk and traditional Sami joik. KEiiNO consists of songwriter Tom Hugo, singer Alexandra Rotan and rapper-joiker Fred Buljo. On paper, it sounds like a strange combination, but the fusion is highly enticing and with the addition of alluring Nordic lights and Scandinavian mountain lands it can even work well enough to make it into the top 10 tonight.
Spirit in the Sky is inspired by the Sami belief that nature gives you strength in times of trouble.
TREND ALERT: Black outfits
Odds’ ranking: 10/26

16 United Kingdom: Michael Rice, Bigger Than Us
Even before he qualified for tonight’s show, Swedish John Lundvik had a place reserved for him in the Grand Final as one of the songwriters for this entry from the United Kingdom. And you can hear he’s behind this composition, this joyous gospel for once giving the UK a better shot at a decent placing than in many years.
Michael Rice is well-known in the UK after winning the BBC Entertainment show All Together Now in 2018. Noticeably, it’s said he put most of his prize money towards his mother’s restaurant. At just 21 years old, Michael takes the Eurovision stage with confidence and, together with the backup singers, he delivers a surprisingly good act.
The official music video is a cute little story I can really recommend.
TREND ALERT: Welcome to space!
TREND ALERT: Black and white outfits
Swedish Connection: The song is written by our very own John Lundvik, together with Swedish songwriters Anna-Klara Folin and Jonas Thander, and Canadian-British songwriter Laurell Barker. And among the backup singers, we find Melanie Whebe, Linda Pritchard and Sahlene who represented Estonia in 2002.
Odds’ ranking: 19/26

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17 Iceland: Hatari, Hatrið mun sigra
Ever since they qualified by winning the Icelandic national selection Hatari has been the talk of the town in the Eurovision community. And surely, they’re nothing like we’ve ever seen on the Eurovision stage before. They describe themselves as an anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective and their song Hatrið mun sigra (Hate will prevail) is their vision of what will happen to our world and humankind if we continue our capitalistic way of life. Hatari’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest is said to be “the group’s first bold step in their global plan to orchestrate the inevitable downfall of capitalism”. It’s hard to believe, I know, but apparently one of these guys works as a news presenter on national television back home in Iceland. Can you imagine any of your favourite news presenters showing up in a band like this?
It’s not the kind of music I generally listen to, nor do I believe I’m about to take up the habit after Hatari’s ESC participation. Even so, I always welcome diversity in this competition – it makes it so much more interesting and inspirational than ten mainstream love ballads in a row.
TREND ALERT: Black and white outfits
Odds’ ranking: 7/26

18 Estonia: Victor Crone, Storm
Please welcome on stage tonight’s second Swedish singer, Victor Crone, representing Estonia. While new to the Eurovision stage, Victor participated in the Swedish national selection Melodifestivalen in 2015 singing with Behrang Miri. Storm is songwriter Stig Rästa’s third Estonian ESC entry, previously being the composer of both Play, performed by Jüri Pootsmann in Stockholm in 2016, and Goodbye to Yesterday which Stig performed himself together with Elina Born the year before in Vienna.
I’m getting heavy Avicii vibes when listening to this song, and it was one of my main favourites when I started listening to this year’s entries. The staging is lacking though, and while many other entries have grown, this hasn’t. The lyrics contain this year’s worst rhyme: “A storm like this, can break a man like this”. I mean, is that even legal? I like the syncopated melody in the bridge though, it’s delicious. The song is very demanding for Victor‘s voice but I hope he nails it tonight.
Swedish Connection: The Estonian entry is performed by Swedish singer Victor Crone, who is also found among the songwriters together with Swedish Sebastian Lestapier and Estonians Stig Rästa, Vallo Kikas and Fred Krieger.
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 22/26

19 Belarus: ZENA, Like It
At only 16 years old, ZENA is no stranger to the musical stage. Representing Belarus in Junior Eurovision Song Contest two years in a row, in 2015 and 2016, and later co-hosting the same contest in 2018 when it was held in Minsk, she has more ESC routine than most of the other contestants in this year’s competition.
Her song, Like It, holds an empowering message with ZENA talking herself into going out in the world and live the best life possible. It’s catchy, the dancing is on point, and she emanates a confidence most people can only dream of. And whatever you do, don’t miss those crazy-skilled dancers!
Odds’ ranking: 21/26

20 Azerbaijan: Chingiz, Truth
After last year’s non-qualifier, Azerbaijan veered off their habitual route and decided not to use Swedish songwriters this year for the first time since their very first entry in 2008. Many were wondering how this would affect the Azerbaijani entry this year. But 27-year-old Chingiz Mustafayev from Azerbaijan brings with him a modern, up-to-date song with an infectious beat. As many other ESC contestants from eastern Europe, Chingiz has participated in The Voice: Ukraine, but his current fame is mostly due to his victory in the Azerbaijani version of Pop Idol.
In his song, Chingiz pines for an ex who broke up with him, breaking his heart at the same time. She’s moved on, but he’s still unable to do so. He knows the truth, but he doesn’t want to hear about it. The song is sleek and catchy, and with a little remix, it’d be perfect for the dance floor on a late night at the club. With him on stage in Tel Aviv, he brings two robots conducting heart surgery on Chingiz’s broken heart. The guy makes me think of Tony Stark for some reason…
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Swedish Connection: Behind the stage Chingiz is backed up by Swedish backup singers.
Odds’ ranking: 8/26

21 France: Bilal Hassani, Roi
19-year-old Bilal Hassani is a singer, songwriter and major social media star with nearly 1 million followers on YouTube and his YouTube Channel getting viewed by over 2 million people worldwide. His covers of Djadja by Aya Nakumura and Made for Now by Janet Jackson have both received strong endorsements from their respective performers. At 15 years old, Bilal persuaded all the judges at his blind audition for French The Voice Kids with a cover of Conchita Würst’s Rise Like a Phoenix. Bilal’s powerful song Roi (King) – written by last year’s French contestants Madame Monsieur – has travelled back and forth through the odds rankings, reaching as high as third place during the weekend before the first Semi Final. And just as Conchita Würst five years ago, Bilal is definitely a dark horse in this year’s contest. The staging for this act is amazing and supports the empowering message beautifully, and I’ll not be surprised if you recognise dancer Lizzy Howell whose story went viral two years ago.
This entry has been my favourite from the first time I saw it, the official music video bringing tears to my eyes every time, and I can definitely see this song as a potential winner on Saturday. France: douze points de moi!
TREND ALERT: “Quand je rêve je suis un roi (When I dream, I am a king), “You will never remove my crown” etc.
TREND ALERT: White outfits
Odds’ ranking: 9/26

22 Italy: Mahmood, Soldi
Since Italy returned to the show in 2011, they’ve fared really well in comparison with most of the other Big Five countries and they usually send high-quality songs. And this year is no exception. The Italian-Egyptian artist Mahmood brings us a modern pop song with delicious Middle Eastern vibes. The Italian lyrics of Soldi (Money) talks about an absent father pretending to care but lying to his family and only asking his son for money.
I usually love any song performed in Italian, and this one is no different. The language is enchanting, and Mahmood delivers the message of the lyrics convincingly. But not only that, the music is compelling, and the beat makes my body move without my consent.
Odds’ ranking: 5/26

23 Serbia: Nevena Božović, Kruna
One of the returning artists this year is Nevena Božović who represented Serbia in Malmö, Sweden, in 2013 as part of the group Moje 3. In contrast to that song, which was upbeat and playful, this year’s entry, Kruna, is a heartfelt love ballad that will try to sweep you off your feet. She looks gorgeous in her stylish black dress and the heavy silver jewellery, and the staging is gorgeous and hugely compelling.
TREND ALERT: “Kruna je tvoja, ljubavi moja” (The crown is yours, my love)
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 18/26

24 Switzerland: Luca Hänni, She Got Me
Luca’s musical career started in 2012 when the Swiss 17-year-old won Deutschland sucht den Superstar. He was the first non-German to win the show and the youngest ever winner.
This gipsy-Balkan infused Latino number isn’t something I’d ever expect coming from Switzerland, but at least listening to it I’m sold. (As I always am when it comes to music that makes me wanna dance.) She Got Me is an infectious song and an energetic act, and even though I hate the dancers’ red outfits, and the bright red light from the LED screen is blinding me occasionally, the number is tight and a pleasure to look at thanks to Sacha Jean-Baptiste. Luca emanates a cocky confidence on stage and his performance in Thursday’s Semi Final has made the entry race through the odds rankings these last few days.
Swedish Connection: Swedish Jon and Lukas Hällgren are found among the songwriters and Swedish Sasha Jean-Baptiste is the producer of their stage performance (Sasha’s third entry in this year’s Grand Final). Additionally, Luca is accompanied by four Swedish dancers on stage.
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 3/26

25 Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke, Zero Gravity
Oh, my beloved Aussies have delivered yet again. This year, for the first time ever, Australia has selected their Eurovision entry in their own national selection show, Eurovision – Australia Decides. The winner, Kate Miller-Heidke, is something as extraordinary as a singer-songwriter, an opera singer and a composer all rolled into one. She is a unique and brilliant performer and I dare say Zero Gravity will stand out enough to render her a place within the top 5. The lyrics speak of mental illness and the singer’s determination to leave all her inner demons weighing her down behind her to be able to defy gravity and eventually reach the sky.
To be honest, I was rather sceptical to this entry after my first view of the song from the Australian national selection. But seeing it now, with the new staging adapted for the Eurovision stage, it’s genuinely gorgeous! The demons trying to catch her and Kate staving them off while soaring through space – all the while hitting each note of this demanding opera pop song without fail. Absolute brilliance.
TREND ALERT: Kate surely looks like a queen up there, wearing a crown and everything.
TREND ALERT: Welcome to space!
TREND ALERT: Black and white outfits
Odds’ ranking: 2/26

26 Spain: Miki, La Venda
23-year old Miki Núñez brings an infectious fiesta to Tel Aviv. This song is a real party pleaser and I’m unable to stand still whenever I hear it. However, Spain is known for the ability to ruin entries with atrocious stagings before, and unfortunately for Miki, it looks like they’ve done it again this year. It would’ve been so easy for them to just bring some good dancers on stage, and instead, they’ve brought a two-story house, a robot and a crazy messy act. Staging-wise, I’m most impressed by Miki’s ability to run around and sing at the same time. It’s a shame really; La Venda was one of my favourites just a few weeks ago, but with this staging I doubt he will even reach top 10.
(Doesn’t he look suspiciously like he could be a younger brother of Amir who represented France in Stockholm in 2016? At least in my opinion, he’s just as gorgeous, and even though it shouldn’t make any difference in this competition, it certainly doesn’t hurt.)
TREND ALERT: Black outfit
Odds’ ranking: 12/26

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  1. Ping: The Winners of ESC 2019 | Written by Emzie·

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