Brace yourself for a stunning start to Eurovision tonight

Brace yourself for a stunning start to Eurovision tonight

By Karl Fradgley - Cork Man, Eurovision Fan, Front Row Tickets.

So it is finally here. Eurovision 2016 steamrolls its fabulous way onto our screens this evening.

Semi Final One comes live from The Globen Arena in Stockholm and our man in Sweden is ready to give his verdict.

What to expect .....

The Swedes have literally gone all out this year. The stage is stunning and the visual effects some of the acts are using will have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief - pointing at you Russia!

The last time Sweden hosted in 2013, Petra Mede presented the show. She was so popular that she is back to do it again this year.

Last year's winner, Mans Zelmerlow, will be joining her.

Who is in the running .....?

18 countries are battling it out for 10 spots in Saturday's final.

More than 10 of these songs, which you can see in the video towards the bottom of the page, are worthy finalists which means a few good entries are going to be disappointed tonight.

Are they any good .....?

Finland - Opens the show. Sandjha performs disco track "Sing it all away" with gusto in a blue reindeer skin jumpsuit. Retro and fun this is a good start to the show but this has no real shot at the final.

Greece - One of the few countries with a 100% qualification record. Nice ethnic feel to this one "Utopian Land", the kind of thing you expect to hear in Eurovision. I initially wrote this off as a non-qualifier but having seen it live I think they will make it. It is refreshing.

Moldova - "Falling Stars". This is the first song this year that sounds like a typical Eurovision entry. Generic with a capital G and the appearance of an astronaut on stage with singer Lidia Isaac will just make viewers scoff.

Hungary - Is being represented by gravel voiced, ex-dentist and permanent hunk Freddie. "Pioneer" is a fan favourite but to my ear its boring as hell. Again another potential non qualifier unless of course people just vote for his looks.

Croatia - On to the first good song of the year. The Voice of Croatia winner Nina Kraljic is a big star in her country. Her song "Lighthouse" channels Ellie Goulding and even The Cranberries with a good hook and great production. It lacks the killer something to make it a contender for the title but should see Croatia back in the final.

Netherlands - Cheeky chappy, Douwe Bob sings for the Dutch. His song "Slow Down" is about taking a breath and focusing on the important stuff in life. Country tinges here and Douwe is a well established artist with a massive ego. There is something masculine about this one and in among all the sparkles and confetti cannons I suspect viewers will love this. Definite qualifier and possible dark horse for the title.

Armenia - "Love Wave" is boombastic and very current. Big beats with a terrific live vocal on this will ensure it qualifies. Iveta Mukuychan is pretty much a mega star in Armenia and her live performance includes holographic versions of herself! One to watch.

San Marino - "I Didn't Know". There are some songs that are just not meant for human ears and San Marino is one of them. One reviewer described this as "Traumatising" .... and that's what I am going with. The fact that he sounds like he is saying "I am a dick tit" mid verse is it's only saving grace!

Russia - The smoking hot favourite and it is easy to see why. Biggest selling artist, most successful songrwiters, world renowned choreographers and a burning desire to win. Throw it all together and you get "You're The Only One" by Sergey Lazarev. Visuals on stage are a technical triumph. It just remains to be seen if it people will think it is just too much .... or if they got it just right. #winneralert

Czech Republic - Ireland's defacto entry in this semi - Aidan O Connor from Limerick wrote this and we are all cheering him on. Classic Eurovision stuff here. Gabriella Guncikvoa's "I Stand". Big song - Czech, Big voice - Czech, Big key change- Czech and hopefully an even bigger dress! Boxes being ticked all over the gaff here. They deserve the final and Czechia have never qualified before.

Cyprus - "Alter Ego" by Cypriot band Minus One. A refreshing injection of rock. It's a bit too generic to do really well but it may stand out enough to make it to Saturday. Personally I think it's rubbish.

Austria - Dittylicious and fun, "Loin D'ici" makes me smile from start to finish. I just love the peaches and cream feel to this. I really hope it makes the final and that it's charm lands Austria in the top ten on Saturday night. Go Zoe!

Estonia - Perhaps inspired by the James Bond feel of Conchita Wurst's "Rise Like A Phoenix", Estonia have gone for casino chic. "Play" is a bit of a weird one. It kind of feels like it is pretending to be very good but is just not really! Missing out on the final I reckon.

Azerbaijan - Former winners seem to have taken the foot off the pedal with a string of recent mid-table finishes. Samra's entry "Miracle" is actually a great track, channelling 80's Madonna and Gloria Estefan. One of my favourites on the playlist but live it is just horrendous. Samra is just not able to sing. Bless!

Montenegro - or as Eurofans call them - the great experimenters, each year trying something a bit left of field .... rapping astronauts anyone? Montenegro snatched their best result ever last year finishing 12th in final. They won't match that this year but their entry "The Real Thing" is actually great. Emo rock at its best but I fear it won't pick up enough votes to qualify.

Iceland - Now if I were Greta Salome I would be throwing an almighty Icelandic strop! Russia stole their idea ..... and the fact that Iceland is on after Russia sorta makes it look like it was the other way around. The fact that both of them stole it from last years winner is not on the agenda though! "Hear Them Calling" is a perky entry from Iceland but it's not much without the visuals to be honest.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - back after two years. Not exactly back with a bang though. "Lubav Je" is a bit overworked. There are too many singers, the female singer Dalal should be singing this on her own. Lots of fans hate the random rapping bit, I actually quite like it and it is great to hear a song not in English - something that is seriously lacking this year. Borderline qualifier at best.

Malta - finish the first semi with "Walk On Water". Drum and bass for Malta and a singer who has already come second in Eurovision. This is 5th favourite to win which seems a bit of an exaggeration to me considering it is just .... grand! There is lots of stuff like this in the running so I don't see how it can stand out. Should be in the final though.

So then, who qualifies tonight? It is a tough one to predict. There are a couple of dead certs. Russia, Armenia and I would also say Malta.

I am fairly sure Greece, Austria and Netherlands are in too. The Czech Republic deserve it as do Bosnia so who gets the last two spots? I am going to say Iceland and Croatia with fan favourites Cyprus and Hungary missing out.

Needless to say I will probably be alllll wrong.

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