THE 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest has kicked into second gear, heading into a week complete with full dress rehearsals, jury shows, two semi-finals and then ultimately the grand final held this Sunday morning Australian time.

As Europe (and Australia) inches closer to that fateful day, love and rave reviews continue to pour in for wild card entry Guy Sebastian. His song Tonight Again has been tipped to finish in the top three, perhaps even winning the competition.

SBS Eurovision co-hosts Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang said they have been amazed at how popular Sebastian’s song has become over the continent.

“I just love that Europe is falling in love with [Guy] but I have to say the rehearsal the other day, what really sprung out for me was that a lot of singers have great personalities and some never come out in the songs,” Zemiro told the Star Observer.

“Guy’s however pops out instantly so you feel that you’re getting to know him that well, it’s like a great connection that he’s having with the audience.

“The lovely thing about that connection is that audiences will think ‘he looked at me, I could hear him, I could feel him, I was in the story’, so I think that explains why so many people here have taken a likening to him and the song.

“He’s a great singer, let’s face it — and he wrote that song in 72 hours… I think people in Europe are responding really well to the fact that Australia took this wild card entry seriously with a really good effort.”

While it comes as no surprise that Australia’s effort is a personal favourite for both Zemiro and Pang, there were a few other entries that caught the eye of SBS presenters.

“I love Norway, Italy and Belgium this year in no particular order,” Zemiro said.

“I also love France but I really want Guy in there and I really enjoy Estonia, there are just so many.”

For Pang, it was all about Moldova.

“Oh, come on. Those police women. It’s hard to top Poland last year with such a great legacy they left,” he said.

“Them aside, I genuinely liked Moldova’s song, I really did.”

Zemiro then quipped: “You were really moving in the commentary box to that. I Want Your Love: it’s just your kind of song isn’t it?”

Pand replied: “No, you’re right. I have said that phrase many times in my life. I also like Guy of course and I’ve been so amazed at how well it’s been received.”

Pang added that he loved Italy’s entry, too.

“Not the song. He just wants to go there and drink wine and eat pasta,” he said.

Meanwhile, it has been raised by several commentators that the prevalence of ballads in this year’s Eurovision makes it seem like Europe missed the 60th anniversary “party” memo.

“I don’t know. Who can make these decisions? I have to admit I’m a ballad man,” Pang said.

Zemiro agreed with the lack of party sounds in this year’s contest.

“I’m hoping every upbeat number gets through,” she said.

“I repeat: every upbeat number must get through because otherwise that arena isn’t going to be able to dance to anything.”

Pang added: “I hope that every ballad gets through and we just have a quiet night celebrating the 60th anniversary with a cup of cocoa and a nice chair.”

For the fist time, Australia’s vote will count towards deciding which countries make it into the grand final on May 24.

Because of this, it was announced last night that iconic SBS news presenter Lee Lin Chin will call into the contest to deliver the results of Australia’s votes — a decision that won the praise of Zemiro.

“Lee Lin was an obvious and outstanding choice to represent Australia because the face of Australia is everyone and everything, every nation and every race,” she said.

“She’s the utmost professional and will undoubtedly wear something absolutely amazing I can’t wait.

“England has Nigella Lawson this year so we had to raise our game. It’s just going to be one of the best and most fun calls ever.

“Whether she’ll be her newsreader self or branch out a little into comedic territory… I don’t know what she’ll do though honestly, that’s the beauty of it because let’s face it, most people do what they want on those vote calls so I honestly can’t wait.”

The first semi-final airs live tomorrow morning from 5am EST on SBS.  Semi-final two will be broadcast the same time on May 22. The grand final will also be broadcast at 5am on May 24. All of the finals nights will have the usual delayed broadcast for those not willing to commit themselves to an early morning.


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