Ukraine and the UK are favorites as the final countdown begins for tonight’s annual Eurovision extravaganza, which takes place in Italy.
Hundreds of millions are ready 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 is representing the UK and must be sure to avoid the unfair zero point failure of James Newman’s entry last year.
His song, Space Man, put him among the favorites and he’s headed for fourth place – which is normally a good thing.
Ryder also hopes that some of his 12 million followers will participate in the public vote.
The Essex singer-songwriter – who is a 6/1 second favorite at Ladbrokes – said the song was written 18 months ago and was never intended to be used in the contest.
He is also not worried about his position in the Eurovision Among the best.
“I can sing in a room and connect with people and not think about where I’m at on the scoreboard,” he told Sky News.
“It’s for the love and the joy of singing. This is something that celebrates inclusion, expression, love, peace, joy, togetherness…” added the singer.
Ryder faces an entry into Ukraine that could very well go on to win in a show of support for the war-torn country – with the odds that they will rack up the big points.
Hip hop band Kalush Orchestra performs 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, vocalist Oleg Psyuk told Sky News that the group felt “a great responsibility” and was “speaking on behalf of our country and being heard on behalf of our country”.
The contest’s Ukrainian TV commentator, Timur Miroshnychenko, was also forced to broadcast from an air raid shelter during the semifinals.
If the country wins, the suggestion is that the UK would be the preferred candidate to host next year – if the war is still going on.
Other notable contenders include Serbian artist Konstrakta, whose quirky song references Meghan Markle and begins with the lyrics (translated into English): “What could the secret to Meghan Markle’s healthy hair be?
“What could it be? I think it’s all about deep hydration.”
Eurovision fans looking for a weirder, more wonderful Europop should also look out for Subwoolfer Norway’s “alien” yellow heads and their song Give That Wolf A Banana.
Others nominated to do well include Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs and reigning Eurovision champions Italy.
The home nation is pinning its hopes on two of its most popular young stars, Mahmood and Blanco.
Mahmood of the Italian X Factor ranked second on Eurovision three years ago, while singer and rapper Blanco topped the charts for eight weeks last year.
Spain could also finish first in the rankings, courtesy of Chanel Terrero, a Cuban-born dancer and actress who plays the Shakira-style 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 starts on BBC One on Saturday at 8pm.