This year - just like the EBU - I'm doing things a little differently, and sharing my take on the three-minute midget gems coming your way in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in the form of a preview party.
Play along with me. Listen to the songs, read my words and then tell me how wrong I am. And let's all have a go at predicting the qualifiers.
Semi final one - Part the first
I just don't get the hype. There! I've typed it. I found the 2020 song borderline creepy, and this year - for my ears (and eyes) anyway - it's much the same. The huge advantage for me is that 'Discoteque' is over and done with swiftly - though I fully expect to hear this again come Saturday. It sounds like it's trying to evoke the 80s Pet Shop Boys vibe, but has ended up more like 70s trash techno chiefs Sparks.
My vote: 3/10 Will it qualify: Yes
One thing this has going for it is that Ana's got a decent set of pipes on her, and the song is a builder - allbeit a late starter. The gospel-tinged final chorus comes way too late to save it. Flame me if you like, but this strikes me as an old fashioned Eurovision-by-numbers entry. The sort of thing the BBC used to think would pass as a decent entry in the early 80s. It only adds to my feeling that Slovenia (or RTVSLO) just doesn't get Eurovision. It's a non qualifier, but it's nowhere near the bottom of the table.
My vote: 4/10 Will it qualify: No
I used to love it when the Russian song was released. It was often provocative, but always interesting and they deserved to score well. After a few sulks, they seemed to have Eurovision sorted last year with the throwaway pop of Little Big. Instead, they've gone with something very different. It's interesting, ever so slightly provocative (if you're a Russian dinosaur bloke). There are flashes of inspiration here, but overall, unless friendly voting rules the day, this isn't a finalist.
My vote: 6/10 Will it qualify: Possibly
If the BBC had handed this to Suri and told her to get the Eurolines bus to Rotterdam, fandom would be calling 'Voices' dated, half-arsed and a mishmash of Eurovision cliche. Given it's Sweden, it'll likely make the final. Standards have slipped to a new low in the self-proclaimed home of Eurovision. One of those songs written for the Contest - though ignoring the fact the Contest has moved on. 'Voices' should have no life outside Eurovision - and this is what SVT needs to address or risk becoming the next BBC - completely out of touch with what the Contest they once ruled has become. This is so bland, I've forgotten it before it ends.
My vote: 2/10 Will it qualify: Yes
Montaigne is back with new hair and a new sound. One that reminds me of early Marina and the Diamonds. It's a lively enough number and it suits her (sometimes shrill) delivery, but as a package the whole thing comes across as incredibly cheap and a touch too dated. The Sydney Pride performance gives a fair impression of how she'll cope live (and you can't help but think she could have given herself something easier to tackle). With (hopefully) bigger staging, 'Technicolor' may catch the voter's eye, and I imagine it'll scrape through, but this isn't one of those years where Australia covers itself in glory.
My vote: 4/10 Will it qualify: Yes
This is pure musical theatre that might have a shot at the pink vote, given he's cute as a button with a strong voice. Sadly the song is an absolute snooze, but as a package, it makes me think that after years in the wilderness, North Macedonia are coming to terms with what works at Eurovision. Watch this space in years to come.
My vote: 6/10 Will it qualify: No
Of the few entries I downloaded from 2020, only one really stood the test of time. That was 'Story of my life'. This year, it's a modern, commercial pop song in much the same vein, though a little more designed for Eurovision. The ending is one note short of wailing wheezing pipes. Personally, I adore 'Maps', and I'm certain it's going to scrape through - but she needs to stop that rock-chick twitching thing she does with her hand. Recent reports of using the staging team that propelled Mans to victory have me thinking this could either fly or crash badly.
My vote: 9/10 Will it qualify: Yes
If I were to stick my neck out and predict an early winner, this would have been it on first listen. 'El Diablo' got old fast, but the voters of European Telly Land don't have to hear it more than a few times. I appreciate it's basically 'in the style of' Lady Gaga, but it's a solid 'banger' with elements of drama and cascading supporting vocals. One that's going to benefit from the pre-recorded backing track vocals rule.
My vote: 8/10 Will it qualify: Yes
Image Credits: Katie's blonde ambition.