Eurovision: the kitschiest way to get up to speed on the Ukraine crisis

The world is holding its breath.
The world is holding its breath.
Image: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Update from the Quartz team: Austria’s “bearded lady” Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision contest, despite online petitions from Armenia, Belarus and Russia asking the drag queen be removed from the competition given the countries’ anti-gay laws.

It’s hard to believe, but even after two semi-finals this week, there will still be a whopping 26 songs competing to win the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night—warning: it’s going to be a pretty lengthy show. We’re assessing the chances of some of this year’s most notable songs, from the Armenian favorite to win, to the French song about desiring a moustache. But as previous Eurovisions have shown, really anything could happen. Those who didn’t make the cut this year include a Latvian song about baking a cake and a Belgian ode to mothers, so the jury has chosen wisely thus far.

Note: Odds listed here are our own and decidedly UNofficial. If you’re looking for actual oddsmaking, head here, where you will find that the professionals list the favorites as, in order: Sweden, Armenia, Netherlands, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.


Not Alone might be the perfect Eurovision song; what starts off as a yearning piano ballad rolls into a thumping EDM anthem. All with hundreds of LED lights! Arem MP3 is already something of a celebrity in Armenia, and the country has never hosted the contest before, always a good reason to vote in their favor. It’s the favorite to win, and it just might. odds: 4-1 —LW


Conchita Wurst, the bearded Beyonce of Eurovision, is a goddamn star and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. She is the most controversial figure in this year’s competition, but her performance during the semifinal put all the detractors to shame. The stirring strings of Rise Like a Phoenix, which is presumably about Conchita burning all her haters to the ground, sounds like a James Bond theme tune, but far from being a novelty, she has the voice to carry it. Her chance of winning just increased. odds: 3-1 —LW


Belarusian singer Teo is a blatant Robin Thicke rip-off, but has somehow managed to capture my cold, dead heart. His song Cheesecake goes against everything I stand for, yet I find myself listening to it at all hours of the day. Thankfully, the semi-final performance was free of the video’s silk blindfolds and naked accordion playing, and instead included Teo man-clones doing simple synchronized dance moves. Small victories. odds: 73-5 —LW


Twin Twin’s Moustache is in French—except for the part about wanting a moustache—which dramatically reduces its odds of winning, but it’s a fun, catchy club song. “Moustache” is probably a slang term for something inappropriate, but based on the English lyrics, this is a song about a guy who has everything he could ever want except a decent patch of upper-lip hair. What might really do this song in is the accusation that Twin Twin plagiarized Belgian artist Stromae. Belgium will not be awarding 12 points to France this year. odds: 14-1 —AJ


Hungary got an American ringer for their entry this year and they nailed it. Andras Kallay-Saunders was born in New York, but he’s part of some noble Hungarian noble family so he counts! Running is very serious and dark but it has a chorus that moves, and a bunch of falsetto portions, which usually kill at Eurovision. He’s a handsome fellow, this Andras, and that won’t hurt much neither. odds: 3-1 —DS


No Prejudice is a perfect Eurovision song, in the sense that it’s about bringing people together. In every other sense, it’s a pretty bad song. The lyrics sound like something you’d sing to kindergarteners to keep them from becoming racists and fat shamers—”Let’s do away with prejudice/don’t discriminate, tolerance is bliss … Even if you’re taller/ Or someone who is smaller/ Or perhaps you’re thinner/ Or one who loves his dinner” — which makes sense, since Pollapönk’s lead singer was a preschool teacher. It’s catchy and memorable, but making it past the semi-finals was probably the best Iceland could hope for this year. odds: 12-1 —AJ


Calm After The Storm doesn’t sound like a Eurovision song, and that’s precisely why it has a good shot at winning. It’s pure Americana from the Netherlands, performed by two beautiful Dutch people, with zero camp and zero irony. All that stands in their way is their genuine coolness: they look and sound like they got lost on their way to a music festival, not Eurovision. odds: 9-2 —LW


Russia’s Tolmachevy Sisters, the human version of the Gemini sign, are the perfect, and blonde, antidote to Russia’s ongoing spate of negative press. The enormity of Europe’s Russian-speaking diaspora, and the desire by former satellite countries to pay homage to the motherland, means that Russia usually does well in Eurovision, but as predicted, the 17-year-old twins were booed when it was announced they’d advance to the final. As The Washington Post points out, lyrics to their song Shine include: “Living on the edge/Closer to the crime/Cross the line a step at a time.” Might want to think it through a bit more next time. odds: 60-1 —LW

San Marino

I love a good underdog story, and micro-nation San Marino are the ultimate underdogs. They’ve only been participating in Eurovision since 2008, and since then they’ve failed to qualify four times and withdrawn for financial reasons twice. This year, they finally made it to the big show with homegrown singer Valentina Monetta, who has submitted three entries for the country and declared this year her swan song. As for the song itself, Maybe is a totally pleasant plaintive ballad, with a music video shot on a beach. It’s a perfect Eurovision entry! odds: 11-1 —DS


My experience with Eurovision has been that boring power ballad type songs do well, and that’s pretty much Sanna Nielsen’s Undo in a nutshell. Nielsen competed seven times in Sweden’s Melodifestivalen for the honor of representing her country before finally winning this year, and bookies have her as the second most likely to win, right after Armenia. It also helps that all the Scandinavian countries tend to vote for each other. odds: 3-1 —AJ


They may not have a pair of warbling blonde twins like rival Russia, but Tick Tock is actually a very catchy song. Ukraine have a continent’s worth of sympathy on their side, as well as a man dressed like a waiter doing some tricks and flips in an enormous hamster wheel. They might win based on the protest vote alone, which will likely be substantial, as the Russians were booed during the semi-final. odds: 7-2 —LW

United Kingdom

For the first time in the while, my home country has a real shot to win, with Children of the Universe by Molly Smitten-Downes (just call her Molly). There’s a choir singing “power to the people” and a bunch of vague, universal lyrics about how we’re all united as people. The chorus is very catchy and easy to remember. This is the kind of acceptable, broad-appeal power-pop balladry that can easily sweep to victory at Eurovision. odds: 5-2 —DS

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