Eurovision is now just a heartbeat away with 26 countries set to compete in the Eurovision 2016 final at the Globe Arena in Stockholm on Saturday.
Of course, here at The Local we'll be cheering for Frans Jeppsson Wall. But here are a few words on some of the most performers who are already starting to grab global headlines.
Russia and Ukraine duelling for the top spot
Bookmakers are closely watching the Russian-Ukrainian duel between Sergei Lazarev, who will sing “You are the only one”, and Ukraine's Jamala, who will sing “1944”, a song inspired by her great-grandmother's stories. Jamala's song recounts the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin. Political leaders in Moscow and Crimea protested against this song choice for, they say, bashing Russia for its annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
the 10 favs to win #Eurovision based on odds
— Karl Compton (@KarlJCompton) May 8, 2016
Belarus getting (sort of) naked with wolves
Belarusian competitor Ivan, tall and thin with long blond hair, was forced to put his clothes on after rehearsing naked while flanked by a wolf named Shakira. Eurovision, which prohibits the presence of animals on stage and requires contestants to be clothed, has forbidden him from appearing naked. Ivan has agreed to always wear his clothes and he has also agreed to use a holographic image instead of a real wolf.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 7, 2016
France singing in English. What?
French-Israeli performer Amir Haddad has also been given favourable odds for his song 'J'ai cherché' (I searched), which despite the title will be partly in English, a move which is highly unusual for Francophone entrants. With a range and tone often compared with Enrique Iglesias, Amir was a 2014 finalist in the French version of The Voice, the international television singing competition. Amir, 31, could become the first French performer to win the Eurovision contest since 1977. He's got great teeth too, being a dentist and all in his day job.
— Eurovision France (@EurovisionF2) May 10, 2016
Glitter and lace from Austria. In French. Quoi?
Set to appear in a lace gown and a floral tiara, 19-year-old Austrian Zoe Straub, a former student at the French school in Vienna, will be singing 'Loin d'ici' (Far from here), in French. Her song choice should delight Andre Vallini, France's minister of Francophonie, who protested against Amir Haddad's decision to sing a small part of his song in English. By the way the national language in Austria is German. Go figure.
Let me get this straight. Austria is singing in French but France is singing in English? This is too much #Eurovision
— Matt Wells (@MatthewWells) May 10, 2016
Singing from down under
Australia will participate as a special guest for the second year running. Competitor Dami Im was born in South Korea, and moved to Brisbane, Australia, with her family when she was nine. A classically trained pianist, she learned how to speak English by listening to pop songs. Dami entered the spotlight in 2013, when she took the Australia X-Factor crown. Her astonishing voice and transformation into a fully-fledged pop performer has won the hearts of the Australian public and press.
— Shannon Molloy (@sleemol) May 10, 2016