The most magical time of year has arrived once again, that time of year I like to call Christmas in May. The time of year when a slew of European countries (and some countries that are questionably European) trot out the song, and performer, that their citizens deem to be the best. Or, more accurately, “the most over-the-top entertaining.” It is arguably my favorite time of year and, one day, I’ll make the journey to watch Eurovision live. And then I can die a happy girl.

Last year’s winning song was the legitimately excellent “Euphoria,” performed by Sweden’s Loreen, who I like to think of as kind of a cross between Imogen Heap and Bat for Lashes.  That means this year, the song contest will be held in Sweden — MalmÁ¶, to be exact — a country that has taken the title five other times, the most notorious being its first win in 1974 with a little group called ABBA. I’m not too taken with this year’s entry from Sweden, and I doubt they’ll win again — Loreen is kind of a hard act to follow in Eurovision terms.

This year, there are 39 countries participating — three less than last year. Armenia returns to the fold after sitting last year out, and four countries — Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Slovakia — have chosen not to participate. The first semi-final round, featuring 16 of the competing countries, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14 at 9:00 P.M. CET (3:00 P.M. EDT). The second semi-final, which happens on Thursday, May 16 at 9:00 P.M. CET (3:00 P.M. EDT), will have another 17 competitors. And the Saturday, May 18 final, which happens at 9:00 P.M. CET (3:00 P.M. EDT), will contain the countries that made it past the semi-finals, plus the six countries that are not required to compete in the semis (France, Germany, Spain, Italy, U.K., Sweden). Unfortunately, there still isn’t a broadcaster in the U.S. that will air the show, so if you live in the States, you’ll have to watch via the Eurovision website.

Once again this year, I have watched all 39 participant videos (you should do the same) and I am prepared to share with you my picks of the contestants I think are the most ridiculous, have the best chance of winning, or have a song I might actually like. Per usual, I have a guilty pleasure and it’s the song from Slovenia — I could dance my ass off to that one. (A close runner up is Latvia, because those dudes seem to be having tons of fun and they have a keytar).

A few overall observations about this year’s crop of participants.

1. Dubstep seems to have made its way into the Eurovision psyche with several contestants performing songs infused with it’s…er…charms.

2. After the success of Loreen, there seems to be a plethora of big-voiced, eccentric, barefoot female singers. I doubt that will be what the voters go for again this year, but you never know.

3. No more Jedward. After last year’s uninspired outing with “Waterline,” Ireland seems to be over them. This year, the country has chosen some dude named Ryan Dolan to represent them and he’s kinda boring. I’ll bet his Twitter is nowhere near as profound as Jedward’s.

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4. The UK has once again resurrected a big star of yore to represent them (last year it was Engelbert Humperdinck). This year, it’s Bonnie Tyler, she of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” fame. I really don’t think the UK has much of a chance here — this song is pretty terrible. They should’ve gotten help from Jim Steinman.

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5. I’m fascinated by the direction San Marino took this year. Singer Valentina Monetta, who represented the country in 2012, returns. But instead of something like the silly, frothy “Social Network Song,” she has taken a turn towards the Serious Diva route with “Crisalide,” which more closely resembles the work of Albania’s Rona Nishliu. It’ll be interesting to see whether this move will take her to the finals, or if Europe is tired of the Diva and ready to move on to something new, like one of the many Dubstep-infused offerings.

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Alright, let’s get down to business with my picks. These are in alphabetical order, by country. I split the post up into three pages so as not to assault your browsers.

Austria: NatÁ¡lia Kelly, “Shine”

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Belarus: Alyona Lanskaya, “Solayoh”

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Belgium: Roberto Bellarosa, “Love Kills”

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Bulgaria: Elitsa & Stoyan, “Samo Shampioni”

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Denmark: Emmelie de Forest, “Only Teardrops”

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Finland: Krista Siegfrids, “Marry Me”

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About the Author

Kelly Stitzel

After shutting down her own blog, Looking at Them, in mid-2008, Kelly migrated over to Popdose, bringing with her Soundtrack Saturday, the most popular column from her old site. Kelly makes a living as a fashion and marketing copywriter, which takes up a lot of her time. However, when she is able to write about things that have nothing to do with her day job, she contributes reviews and musings on music, film and a variety of other topics. In addition to Soundtrack Saturday, columns she's written include Filminism and Pulling Rank.

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