It’s May. To most people that means looking forward to better weather, longer nights, and an increased optimism about life in general that is tied to no particular tangible thing. To the rest of us – it means Eurovision!

Two weeks from now and we’ll already be deep into ESC 2019 week, with the first of the semi finals taking place on May 14th, the second on May 16th, and the grand final happening on May 18th.

This year’s contest has 41 entrants. That’s 41 countries showcasing 41 musical offerings. All of the songs are already out there, and some of us have been scrutinising them for months now, simultaneously falling in and out of love with many of them.

If, however, you’ve yet to brace yourself and take on the full 41, we’ve got something for you. Our annual pre-contest guide to the absolute best of the bunch. The ones that you should start with to ease yourself in gently. The songs that, even if you can’t face all 41 ahead of the contest, you simply can’t miss out upon.

The 15 songs of Eurovision Song Contest 2019 that you absolutely must hear;

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ICELAND
Hatari: Hatrið Mun Sigra
(Hatari)

The unlikely posterboys of Eurovision 2019. After far too many years stuck in the semi finals (often deserved, but mostly not), Iceland are coming out screaming (literally) to this year’s contest, and they’re already making a hell of a lot more noise than pretty much all of the other competing nations. Half of their fans love them because they’re harness and mask-wearing, angry, anti-capitalists who simulate BDSM on stage while warning us all that hatred will prevail, while the other half of their fans love them because they’re nothing of the sort. Either way though, that already adds up to a hell of a lot of fans. And if they make the final and get a late enough draw (late enough so that Europe will have had time to sink enough beverages), then they’re a particularly frightening looking threat to that leaderboard.

CYPRUS
Tamta: Replay
(Alex Papaconstantinou, Teddy Sky, Viktor Svensson, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark)

It’s difficult to talk about Cyprus without mentioning last year’s Cypriot entry – not least because they’ve made damn-well sure we can’t forget about it. Hoping that lightning will strike twice (albeit in a slightly more advantageous place this time), Cyrpus has gone and hired not only the same Swedish songwriters who penned ‘Fuego’, but also the same Swedish choreographer who brought it to life on stage, to take the reins with this year’s entry also. Cynics may eye-roll, but credit where it’s due, we’re once again thanking the nation for providing one of the best entries of the year. ‘Replay’ (no tittering at the back) by Tamta is the type of balls-out-AND-to-the-wall pop song that we’ve all been looking to Eurovision for, for decades.

ESTONIA
Victor Crone: Storm
(Stig Rästa, Vallo Kikas, Victor Crone, Sebastian Lestapier, Fred Krieger)

Many of the entries to this year’s contest are elaborate, well-crafted compositions of pop music that require, at most, a finely tuned ear or, at least, a few listens, before they can be fully appreciated for the beautiful gems that they are. This isn’t one of those songs. Taking no chances with the ‘you’ve got three minutes to perform your song once’ element of the Eurovision Song Contest, Estonia’s entry crams its allotted time with humongous pop melodies that build and soar to key changes, backed by a radio-friendly, Spotify-chart-topping production. This might be derided by some as being a little basic, but we maintain that there is nothing basic about being able to master the art of perfecting a universally hummable pop tune that can be enjoyed by every generation across all corners of Europe later this month.

SPAIN
Miki: La Venda
(Adrià Salas)

An undeniably infectious party-starter, ‘La Venda’ is an almost surefire bet to rouse the whole of Europe into falling in love with it. We say almost because Spain have had an uphill struggle this decade when getting the rest of Europe to vote for them. However, this style of Spanish pop song has already crossed-over into other European charts via the likes of Alvaro Soler, so hopefully that bodes well for the enthusiastically hyper ‘La Venda’ too. The left side of the leaderboard would be a much less joyous place without it.

GREECE
Katerine Duska: Better Love
(Katerine Duska, Leon of Athens, David Sneddon, Phil Cook)

A contemporary pop ballad that builds and, quite bravely, waits until just before the final minute to really let rip. It’s worth the wait, however. Although with a strategy like that, she’d better have an incredible staging up that chiffon sleeve of hers.

SAN MARINO
Serhat: Say Na Na Na
(Serhat, Mary Susan Applegate)

The rich dentist is back for another shot at taking San Marino to the elusive Eurovision Song Contest final, and no doubt footing most of the bill, too. He returns with a timeless disco number (and by that we mean it wouldn’t have sounded out of place at ESC 1999) and probably the year’s anthem for not taking the whole thing so seriously and just enjoying a super-fun, up-tempo number when it’s put in front of you. We love ‘Say Na Na Na’ because we are not yet dead inside. And for that reassuring realisation, we tip our hat to you, Serhat.

SLOVENIA
Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl: Sebi
(Zala Kralj, Gašper Šantl)

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Slovenia have turned in a minimalist masterpiece of sparse synthpop. ‘Sebi’ is the sound of a nation proudly sending what is amongst the best music that they have to offer the rest of the Europe, in the hope that we like it. If it turns out that we don’t, though – it’s really our loss.

AZERBAIJAN
Chingiz: Truth
(Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Bo J, Pablo Dinero, Hostess, Chingiz)

A front-runner entry that comes to the contest meaning business, but then doesn’t Azerbaijan always? This will undoubtedly be prime jury fodder, and we’d be surprised with anything other than a high televote result too. We’d have preferred the Middle Eastern influences that you hear at the start of the track to have been turned up throughout the rest of it, but they’re clearly going for a more universal approach in 2019. To all those nations who do the absolute minimum when selecting an artist and song to represent them at Eurovision and then moan about consistently bad results, this is the sound of a country on an absolute mission.

UNITED KINGDOM
Michael Rice: Bigger Than Us
(Laurell Barker, Anna-Klara Folin, John Lundvik, Jonas Thander)

Less of a UK entry than a rejected Swedish entry (literally), but that says more about both nations’ different approaches to Eurovision, than it does about the song. When all is said and done, ‘Bigger Than Us’ is an undeniable ballad-banger, however it ended up here. A traditional ballad that’s been bumped up to epic status via a modern production, an explosive final minute or so, and an awesome choir.

DENMARK
Leonora: Love Is Forever
(Lise Cabble, Melanie Wehbe, Emil Lei)

We have loved this song since we first heard it. An understated delivery of a simple message that always bears repeating, hammered home by the catchiest of melodies, and translated into multiple languages for those at the back who weren’t paying enough attention. It could be called twee, and might have trouble existing outside of the context of this song contest, but we find it to bring a lot of joy via its bags of charm. It’s undeniably subtle though, and so we’d recommend that the Danes change not-a-single-thing about this excellent performance that the song won with at their Melodi Grand Prix final;

MALTA
Michela – ‘Chameleon’
(Joacim Perrson, Paula Winger, Borislav Milanov, Johan Alkenäs)

More so than any other song in this year’s contest, Michela’s ‘Chameleon’ sounds like it could have been plucked from the Global Spotify Top 50 chart on any given day in 2019. And it’s bloody good too. For that, Malta deserve their best result in years. And a hit outside of the contest wouldn’t go amiss or be horribly undeserved either, thank you very much.

NORWAY
KEiiNO: Spirit In The Sky
(Alexander Olsson, Tom Hugo, Fred Buljo, Alexandra Rotan, Henrik Tala, Rüdiger Schramm)
A Scandinavian-style dancepop number with a nod to schlager, a heavy injection of joik (madonna_look_it_up.gif) and a tribute to finding peace by looking above to the northern lights. Is it any wonder this romped home to clear victory in the Norwegian national final? How the rest of Europe views it will be another matter entirely, of course. But whatever happens later this month, KEiiNO have provided us with not just one of the best songs of the contest, but with one of the best songs of the year. And you probably won’t hear anything else like it. Ever. Again.

SWEDEN
John Lundvik: Too Late For Love
(John Lundvik, Anderz Wrehov, Andreas Stone Johansson)

An otherwise fairly standard pop song that’s been lifted up (by evangelical proportions) by a gospel edge that’s both endearing and engaging. It won in Sweden by a landslide, which is no mean feat when you consider their national selection process. And that was largely thanks to the undeniable fact that both the song and performance exudes such a joy and warmth to anyone who watches it. We’d be very surprised if Europe failed to fall similarly under its charm.

SWITZERLAND
Luca Hänni: She Got Me
(Laurell Barker, Mac Frazer, Luca Hänni, Jon Hällgren, Lukas Hällgren)

We can’t remember the last time we thought about Switzerland in Eurovision context, but these last few weeks we’ve been thinking of little else. Another entry heavily influenced by last year’s runner-up, and all the better for it. For the first time in a very long time, Switzerland are going to be one of the ones to watch at Eurovision. And based on the heat of their song, it’s gonna be a thrilling watch.

ITALY
Mahmood: Soldi
(Dardust, Mahmood, Charlie Charles)

An utterly majestic track that commands full attention within the first 30 seconds, and keeps focus all the way until the end. Objectively, this might well be the best song to have been entered into Eurovision this year, and wittingly or not, pushes the contest towards being at the forefront of contemporary music discovery. If, in 2019, you’re still bleeting on about Eurovision being naff and a bit of a laughing stock, when songs like this are being showcased, then you’ve been laughing long enough for the joke to have well and truly turned around on you.

Want more?…

Ok then. We’re also quite digging the deliriously poppy Belarus, the bookies’ favourite The Netherlands, the fraught-with-drama Armenia, the epic ballad of North Macedonia, the beautifully-crafted Romania, and the slightly ridiculous Croatia.

And you can check out the full line-up and listen to all songs over on the official Eurovision website.

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