Who Are the Favorites to Win Eurovision?

On Saturday, acts representing 25 countries will compete at the Eurovision Song Contest, the high-camp competition that is also world’s most watched cultural event. The winner is chosen by a combination of votes from music industry juries in participating countries and viewers watching at home. Sometimes, they reflect the strength of individual performances; other times, politics comes into play.

Who is most likely to triumph at this year’s event in Malmo, Sweden?

It won’t be Joost Klein, a madcap musician representing the Netherlands. On Saturday morning, Swedish police said in a statement that they were investigating a man “suspected of unlawful threats” toward a Eurovision employee, and that officers had passed on a file to prosecutors. A few hours later, Eurovision organizers said in a statement that it was Klein under investigation, and that “it would not be appropriate” for him to compete while a legal process was underway.

Here are the five acts who may have the best chance at winning, based on European bookmakers’ odds and online chatter.

The bookmakers’ favorite is Baby Lasagna, representing Croatia, with “Rim Tim Tagi Dim” — a madcap three-minute mixture of heavy metal and dance music.

The song begins with Baby Lasagna — real name Marko Purisic — singing to his mother that he’s a “big boy now” and wants to leave his family’s village for the city. “I’m going away and I sold my cow,” he sings, before calling for the villagers to join him one last time in a local folk dance.

In a recent interview, Purisic said that although the song may seem a little ridiculous, it was also a serious attempt to draw attention to Croatia’s ongoing problem with youth emigration.

Purisic said that winning the song contest wasn’t his aim. After a long career as a rock songwriter for hire, he said, last year he considered changing tack, and applied for a stable job in Croatia’s tourism industry. But with the success of “Rim Tim Tagi Dim” — which has had millions of views on YouTube — he now hoped to build a career as Baby Lasagna, he said. “If I do that,” he added, “then I win.”

By Saturday morning in Malmo, Israel’s representative, Eden Golan, had risen in European bookmakers’ rankings to be second mostly likely to win, according to Oddschecker, a betting aggregator.

This comes after months of campaigning from pro-Palestinian groups and some Eurovision fans to get the contest’s organizers, the European Broadcasting Union, to ban Golan from taking part because of Israel’s war in Gaza.

These tensions were clear at Golan’s semifinal performance on Thursday, when some audience members booed, while others tried to drown them out with cheers.

Golan’s song was initially called “October Rain,” an apparent reference to last year’s Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The European Broadcasting Union, which runs Eurovision, objected that the title and some of the song’s lyrics were overly political, and asked Israel to change them. Golan tweaked the song, which is now called “Hurricane.”

Representing Israel on the world stage “has such huge significance and meaning, because of what we’re going through,” Golan said in a recent interview. “I won’t let anything break me, or move me off track.”

Read The Times’s profile of Golan.

In recent weeks, the dark spectacle of Bambie Thug’s track “Doomsday Blue” has won the Irish entrant fans on social media — as has the singer’s outspoken pro-Palestinian stance and criticism of Israel’s involvement in Eurovision.

Eurovision organizers ban artists from making political comments on its stages, saying the competition is meant to unite, not divide. But the Irish entry — real name Bambie Ray Robinson — has tested those rules. At a Tuesday news conference, Bambie Thug, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, said that Eurovision had demanded they remove pro-Palestinian slogans from their outfit. On Thursday, Bambie Thug wrote on Instagram that “my heart and prayers are with the people of Palestine.”

At one point during Bambie Thug’s semifinal performance on Tuesday, the singer stood in the middle of a pentagram, encircled by burning candles. Then they danced seductively with a man dressed like a demon. As the track ended, the phrase “Crown the Witch” appeared on huge screens at the back of the stage.

Switzerland’s entrant, Nemo, has an absurdly catchy track called “The Code,” in which they sing rap and sing operatically about their journey to realizing they were nonbinary.

“I went to hell and back / To get myself on track,” Nemo sings in the chorus: “Now, I found paradise / I broke the code.”

Throughout its 68 year history, Eurovision has often featured L.G.B.T.Q. performers, with past winners including Dana International, a transgender woman, and Conchita Wurst, a drag act. Yet this year is the first time Eurovision has prominently featured nonbinary acts like Nemo and Bambie Thug.

In a recent video interview, Nemo, 24, said they were “amazed” that Eurovision fans were connecting with their “deeply personal” track. “I think the message behind the song is quite universal,” Nemo said: “We all know that feeling of wanting to break free from something — everyone has a code to break.”

In 2022, months after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine won Eurovision with Kalush Orchestra’s track “Stefania.” This year, Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil, a rapper and singer representing the country, are among the favorites to win.

They are competing with “Teresa and Maria,” an emotional song referencing Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary.

In a recent interview, Heil — real name Yana Oleksandrivna Shemaieva — said that Eurovision was a vital opportunity to focus attention on the country’s plight. “We need to show the world that we still need their help,” she said.

As much as the pair want to win Saturday’s final, Heil said it would be a bigger victory if Eurovision fans would start listening to Ukrainian pop year-round. “That is the only way we can be visible every day,” Heil said, rather than “from Eurovision to Eurovision.”

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