Mikolas Josef from the Czech Republic performs the song Lie To Me — complete with backpack.
Mikolas Josef from the Czech Republic performs the song Lie To Me — complete with backpack. Armando Franca/AP

Eurovision’s first finalists revealed

THE world's Eurovision contest is under way and 10 countries have managed to successfully secure a spot in the grand final this weekend.

The first ten countries going through to the grand final are Austria, Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Israel, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Finland and Ireland.

There are 26 countries in the final, and another 10 spots are up for grabs later this week on Friday when the second semi-final takes place.

The host country Portugal and the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy automatically get a place in the grand final.

Australia's Jessica Mauboy will compete on Friday. Her biggest threat is seen as Norway's Alexander Rybak.

Countries who didn't make it were Azerbaijan, Iceland, Belgium, Belarus, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Croatia, Greece, Armenia and Switzerland.

Unlike those other televised talent quests which pretend to be about voices when they are really about the coaches, this marathon singing Olympics is all about the spectacle.

The made-for-big-screen, epic budget extravaganza with an audience of more than 180 million is what every awards show or reality contest wants to be.

Jessica Mauboy has made a strong impression in Portugal with fellow contestants.
Jessica Mauboy has made a strong impression in Portugal with fellow contestants.

It's entertaining in its performances, dazzling in its staging and lighting and packed with more WTF moments than any scripted reality series from MAFS to MKR.

While fast-paced, Eurovision is a marathon. The first semi-final has 19 countries competing for 10 places in the grand final. The second semi has 18 countries including Australia vying for their 10 finalists.

And six countries automatically gain entry to the grand final including hosts Portugal and the big five Portugal, Spain, UK, France and Germany.

Here is a handful of countries you might want to check out during the SBS telecasts this week.

Eleni Foureira brings out the dramatic hair-whip choreography.
Eleni Foureira brings out the dramatic hair-whip choreography.

Australia

Jessica Mauboy has made a strong impression in Portugal with fellow contestants, their minders and organisers loving her song We Got Love and her positive vibes. Her production is bravely minimalistic, with the lighting designed to keep focus on her powerful pipes and contemporary choreography, a real first for Mauboy as a performer. Expect to see plenty of close-ups to counter our pocket Tina Turner getting lost on the massive stage.

Cyprus

Eleni Foureira has smashed into the top rankings since landing in Lisbon and owning the rehearsals with Fuego. Flanked by four ponytailed dancers, Foureira brings one of the sexier pop moments in the 2018 competition both in costume and performance. And she rivals our Jess for this year's most dramatic hair-whip choreography.

Israel’s Netta brings her quirky style to Eurovision.
Israel’s Netta brings her quirky style to Eurovision.

Israel

The short odds have been on Netta to win since her girl power song Toy was revealed. She is quirky as hell, using a looping station to build her vocals against a certified banger and backed by one of the strongest dance ensembles of the 2018 contest. It's still undecided whether that chicken clucking in the chorus, mocking the "stupid boy" who inspired the song, is genius or nuts.

Norwegian singer Alexander Rybak hasn’t aged a day since 2009.
Norwegian singer Alexander Rybak hasn’t aged a day since 2009.

Norway

Alexander Rybak won Eurovision in 2009. He must have a Dorian Gray picture in his attic because this prodigiously talented pop cutie hasn't aged a day in nine years. He may be highly rated in the 2018 field but his That's How You Write A Song entry has already won for the cheesiest lyrics of this year's compositions. Plus there's his fiddle choreography. Move over Nigel Kennedy.

France

Madame Monsieur lead the pack of contestants this year bringing social politics to the Eurovision stage. Their stirring Mercy was inspired by the story of a refugee baby plucked from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean and spotlights the current immigration crisis gripping the world.

France’s  Madame Monsieur provide pop with a political  conscience.
France’s Madame Monsieur provide pop with a political conscience.

The Netherlands

Waylon, who last performed in 2014 with the Common Linnets brings Americana to the stage with Outlaw In 'Em. Yep, a Dutchman performing country rock at Eurovision. Complete with four dudes who start off as miming guitarists and drummer before ditching their instruments to bust out moves as far away from line dancing as you could imagine. It's completely WTF.

 

Dutch singer Waylon offers the requisite WTF moment.
Dutch singer Waylon offers the requisite WTF moment.

 

Special mentions go to:

Denmark's Rasmussen, the Viking barista with a particularly emphatic and earnest delivery of his catchy Higher Ground.

Czech Republic's Mikolas Josef and his infectious saxy hook-laden Lie To Me. Josef had to cut a backflip out of his choreography after he

stacked it in rehearsal and landed in hospital.

Estonia's Elena Nechayeva brings the popera to the 2018 contest and while her voice soars, it's the projections on the dress which steal attention.

SBS broadcast the first semi-final at 7.30pm tonight, second semi final at 5am and 7.30pm on Friday and grand final on Sunday at 5am and 7.30pm.

Kathy McCabe travelled as the guest of SBS



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