Singing wolves, a woman angrily washing her hands, a grinning man in a yellow raincoat holding a balloon. Either the new Doctor Who has turned out a lot weirder than anyone anticipated or it’s the final of Eurovision 2022.
With the second semi-final done and dusted, the 20 acts joining the UK’s Sam Ryder and the other representatives of the “big five” finalists of Germany, Italy, Spain and France has now been confirmed. And as Eurovision fans would hope, it is a magically mixed bag – featuring pop, rap and heartfelt flute playing. And that’s just the first two minutes of Ukraine’s entry.
But how to sort the Euro gold from the caterwauling crud? The 2020 grand final begins at 8pm on Saturday May 14, on BBC One. Here is a definitive (ish) list of the 10 songs to watch out for.
1. Space Man, Sam Ryder (UK)
Having started his rise to global stardom making TikTok videos in his shed – a sentence you could only write in 2022 – Ryder has had a jet-fuelled ascent and now stands within crooning distance of European glory. So laid back it will be a surprise he isn’t wheeled on stage in a four-poster bed, Ryder has won a lot of admirers since arriving in Turin. That’s partly due to his chilled persona. But also thanks to Space Man a song about “appreciating what you already have in life” that lands like a mix of mindfulness podcast and Take That in full balladeering mode.
2. The Rasmus, Jezebel (Finland)
Eurovision used to be cool (sort of). And then it was naff. And now life has turned full circle and artists with established careers are prepared to throw their hat in the trans-Continental ring. Hence the presence of popular pop-metal group The Rasmus, who have already sold millions of records and come to Turin with a full-pelt mix of hair metal and goth-rock. Jezebel has genuine pedigree: singer Lauri Ylönen composed it with Desmond Child, co-writer of Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, Livin’ On A Prayer and Bad Medicine (it’s not all good: he gave the world Michael Bolton’s How Can We Be Lovers?).
3. Cornelia Jakobs, Hold Me Closer (Sweden)
With Ireland cast once again into Eurovision purgatory following the semi-final elimination of Brooke Scullion, Sweden has another opportunity to clock up a record-equalling seven wins. In a pretty wacky field – even Sam Ryder has a slightly cartoonish quality – Hold Me Closer plays it straight as it splits the difference between Sigrid and Adele. Jakobs has real stage presence and the framing of the song – which starts with her seated and moochy and finishes with her bopping before a pulsating red “sun” – has an overblown quality reminiscent of an Eighties pop video.
4. Alvan and Ahez, Fulenn (France)
Parlez-vous Breton? Imagine the UK sending a Cornish or Welsh language act to Eurovision – with some assistance from Disclosure or Fout Tet. France has done the equivalent by packing off Brittany vocal group Ahez accompanied by techno producer Alvan. The vibe is Game of Thrones soundtrack-meets-Prodigy – hard to object to in most situations, let alone on Eurovision night.
5. Ochman, River (Poland)
Eurovision always makes space for a hair-dryer ballad or two. This year the task of blowing our socks off is entrusted to Krystian Ochman, a Polish-America singer who grew up in Massachusetts and placed first in The Voice of Poland two years ago. As the name indicates, River is a big, blustery weepy –and, if not the most original song to make the final, it delivers a payload of emotion. If you’d much rather Eurovision without the novelty, this is the belter for you.
6. Konstrakta, In Corpore Sano (Serbia)
Is it a song? Performance art with music? A hallucination brought on by past-its-sell-by-date cheese? Serbia’s entry is potentially all these and more. It features former indie pop artist Ana Đurić seated and washing her hands repeatedly (she does also find time to sing) as around her dancers apparently dressed as NPCs from the Elden Ring video game look sad.
The daughter of a minister in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Đurić clearly gives a lot of thought to politics, with In Corpore Sano described as a critique of the Serbian healthcare system. Whether the best or worst thing at Eurovision 2022 is hard to say – but it is undoubtedly the most memorable.
7. Stefan, Hope (Estonia)
Clint Eastwood and Mumford and Sons are the twin inspirations for Stefan Airapetjan who won Estonia’s version of the Masked Singer while disguised as a Satanic goat. Tragically no goat masks, Satanic or otherwise, feature in his Eurovision performance: instead Thursday’s semi-final saw Stefan dressed as a cowboy and aggressively strumming a guitar. The song itself is as bit of a chugger with an upbeat hook that repeats the refrain “I hope, I hope, I hope” until you start to hope he’s nearing the end. By then, of course, the chorus has burrowed into your inner cortex and isn’t going anywhere.
8. S10, De Diepte (Netherlands)
Tackiness and grandstanding are part of Eurovision. Yet amidst the carnival atmosphere a pure, understated moment can cut as cleanly as a blade. Such has been the achievement of Dutch singer S10 – aka Stien den Hollander – whose De Diepte has a gracefully lulling quality and does not sound a zillion miles from the albums Taylor Swift recorded after moved to a cabin in the woods during lockdown. Prior to Eurovision, Stien has sung frankly about her struggles with mental health. And De Diepte (“The Depth”) pulsates with something all too rare at Eurovision – true, unfettered emotion.
9. Kalush Orchestra, Stefania (Ukraine)
The expectation is Ukraine will sweep to victory on Saturday night as Europe acknowledges its brave resistance to Russia’s bloody invasion. But even without that heart-breaking context, Stefania is a bopper. It also pulls off the difficult task of being genuinely emotive whilst splicing in some agreeable Eurovision lunacy – such as when rapper Oleh Psiuk cedes the spotlight to a blistering solo on the sopilka, a traditional Ukrainian woodwind instrument.
10. Subwoolfer, Give That Wolf A Banana (Norway)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novelty songs, Subwoolfer features two men dressed as wolves and a DJ in a silver spacesuit. So wacky it’s almost profound, it is obviously impossible to hate a banger with lyrics such as “I want your grandma, yum, yum”. Peak Eurovision bonkers and a track sure to trigger flashbacks for years to come. Actually, I’m having one right now.