Ukraine and the UK are the favorites as the final countdown begins for tonight’s annual Eurovision extravaganza, which takes place in Italy.
Hundreds of millions of people are set to tune in to one of the most-watched TV events in the world, with a song about Meghan Markle and a track called Give That Wolf a Banana among the 25 finalists.
TikTok star Sam Ryder represents the UK and should be assured to avoid the unfair zero point breakup of James Newman’s entry last year.
His song, Space Man, made him a favorite and he moved up to fourth from last – which is normally a good thing.
Ryder also hopes some of his 12 million followers will rally behind the public vote.
The Essex singer-songwriter – who is the 6/1 second favorite at Ladbrokes – said the song was written 18 months ago and he never intended it to be use in the contest.
Nor does he worry about his rank on the Eurovision ranking.
“I can sing in a room and connect with people without thinking about where I’m coming from on a scoreboard,” he told Sky News.
“It’s for the love and the joy of singing. It’s something that celebrates inclusivity, self-expression, love, peace, joy, unity…” added the singer.
Ryder faces a Ukrainian entry who could well claim victory in a show of support for the war-torn country – with the chances of rocking them to the big points.
Hip-hop group Kalush Orchestra perform Stefania, a track that mixes traditional Ukrainian folk instruments with modern sounds, and is a tribute to the mother of one of its members.
Speaking ahead of the big day, singer Oleg Psyuk told Sky News the group felt “a great responsibility” and “spoke on behalf of our country and was heard on behalf of our country”.
The Ukrainian TV commentator for the contest, Timur Miroshnychenko, was even forced to broadcast from an air-raid shelter during the semi-final.
If the country wins, the suggestion is that the UK would be the preferred candidate to host next year – if the war continues.
Other notable hopefuls include Serbian artist Konstrakta, whose particular song references Meghan Markle and begins with the lyrics (translated into English): “What could be the secret to Meghan Markle’s healthy hair?
“What could it be? I think it’s all about deep hydration.”
Eurovision fans looking for more weird and wonderful Europop should also seek out Subwoofer’s yellow “alien” heads from Norway and their song Give That Wolf A Banana.
Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs and Italy, reigning Eurovision champion, are also considered.
The home country is pinning their hopes on two of their most popular young stars, Mahmood and Blanco.
Mahmood, of Italy’s X Factor, finished second at Eurovision three years ago, while singer and rapper Blanco topped the charts for eight weeks last year.
Spain could also finish top of the charts thanks to Chanel Terrero, a Cuban-born dancer and actress, who performs the Shakira-esque dance track SloMo.
The northern Italian city of Turin is hosting the show after Italian rockers Maneskin stole the show in Rotterdam last year.
The Eurovision Grand Final is hosted by Graham Norton and begins on BBC One on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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