If Sweden has been the superpower of Eurovision of the past 15 years or so, then their rival superpower is the country that takes the runner up spot in this countdown – Russia. It’s a country that undeniably stirs up strong emotions of all kinds, both positive and negative and once again they have put themselves strongly in the running to take a second win. At the time of writing, Russia remains the favourite in the betting to take the title this year, and they’ve been the favourites ever since the song was presented. Can the muscular Sergey take them over the winning line?

After a few years of world peace, let’s all love each schmaltz themes in their songs, this year Russia has gone all out with a big cheesy and ever so slightly raunchy uptempo number – take note in particular of the lyric “my love is rising” used in the chorus. I am sure it is Sergey! What can I say about the song? Well, it’s a heavily produced, camp, cheesy number that you could imagine being in the contest a few years ago – it’s not a fresh sound for Eurovision that is for sure. Yet, it will get a lot of votes from all across Europe as it is undeniably catchy, and Sergey is certainly easy on the ear and very easy on the eye.

Sergey is a personable fellow as well so I can’t see this being booed – well, maybe not until the voting starts. For those of you unaware, Russia tends to get booed in recent contests, though normally when votes are given out rather than directed at the artist’s performance. The booing largely stems from Russia’s gay rights stance (less so because of geopolitical issues like annexation of Crimea etc).

I do fear Eurovision going back to Russia again – as I said last year, nothing against performer or song, but while Russia isn’t alone in having a dubious record on LGBT rights, it certainly is the most outspoken when it comes to being institutionally homophobic. You half wonder whether this song has been chosen to deliberately entice/provoke gay Eurovision fans into voting for Russia. It’s a tough one, but less tough for me to make a decision about it as I don’t feel this is the best song in the competition – it will be spectacularly staged (though some watching rehearsals have called it overblown and used the phrase “kitchen sink”) but I don’t think that and especially the song take Eurovision forward so it’s for that reason I hope it doesn’t win. Happy for it to do well (and the wise boys of escxtra reckon this has 2nd place written all over it) but just not well enough to take the “Gay World Cup” back to the land of Putin…

Live at Israel Calling in Tel Aviv:

Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest:Russia Eurovision flag

First entered: 1994

Appearances (excluding this year): 19

Best result: Winner 2008

Last year’s result: 2nd