Eurovision 2014 semi-final one: Five acts to watch from Aram MP3 to Sanna Nielsen

The Eurovision Song Contest is about to kick off in Copenhagen

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The Independent Culture

Tonight marks the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, when 16 countries will enter ferocious vocal battle for a place in Saturday's final.

Set in Copenhagen, Denmark, the nations taking part are: Armenia, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Albania, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, San Marino, Portugal, The Netherlands, Montenegro and Hungary.

Six acts will be eliminated with those remaining going through. The second semi-final on Thursday will feature another 15 countries, with five being sent home.

The semi-final and final explained

Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK are guaranteed a place so will not perform in the semi-finals.

All of the countries are in with a shot at the 2014 title, but below are the five acts the bookies are backing in the first semi-final.

Armenia

Aram Sargsyan, known as Aram MP3, is the runaway favourite for this year's contest with his empowering dubstep ballad "Not Alone".

Armenia's best result came in 2008 when Sirusho placed fourth. Aram MP3, who will be dressed all in black, is hoping to beat the record.

Despite his positive feedback so far, Aram MP3 sparked controversy in March when he made homophobic remarks about Austria's transvestite entry Conchita Wurst. The pair have since reconciled.

Sweden

This is Sanna Nielsen's seventh attempt to crack Eurovision. Her song has all the classic ingredients for a Copenhagen success story, from a gentle piano accompaniment to cheesy lyrics and a big chorus.

Some have compared this to Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball", minus the naked swinging part. Expect lots of warbling and arm waving.

Ukraine

"Tick Tock" from Mariya Yaremchuk is a catchy pop song and not much more. But catchy does well at Eurovision (these people like to dance) and she has something Rihanna-esque about her.

Mariya wrote this track herself and she has the voice to give it the energy it needs. Oh and her performance features a giant hamster wheel.

Hungary

Andras Kallay-Saunders' "Running" is probably the bleakest track this year, despite its fast-paced chorus.

The lyrics are about child abuse suffered by his friend and the style is not dissimilar to Aram MP3's song. Think ballad mixed with drum'n'bass plus a heavy dose of deep and meaningful.

Azerbaijan

Dilara Kazimova certainly has looks in her favour, but her Azeri folk music and Freddie Mercury-influenced "Start A Fire" showcases her musical talent first and foremost.

Some may find this traditional ballad dull, but it's one of the better ones for 2014, so don't rule this 29-year-old out just yet.

The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place on Saturday 10 May. Viewers can watch on BBC One from 8pm to 11.25pm.

It's time to dig out your Union Jacks to support the UK's entry Molly Smitten Downes, who will be performing her own song "Children of the Universe".

Read more: Meet all the Eurovision 2014 contestants
Eurovision voting: Why is it so political?
When is Eurovision 2014? Everything you need to know

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