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Eurovision 2019 LIVE: Madonna performs at grand final in Tel Aviv after favourites Australia and Netherlands wow fans

Roisin O'Connor

The Eurovision final is upon us, and we’re here to bring you all the latest updates, video, comment and photos from the big night in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Among the favourites to win this year are Iceland, Australia, The Netherlands, France and Sweden, with the Dutch contestant Duncan Laurence and his song “Arcade” widely believed to be in the lead.

Follow The Independent’s liveblog for the latest action:

This year’s champion is really anybody’s guess. While The Netherlands has long-been considered to be the favourite, Iceland and Sweden are close behind, and there’s a lot of interest in France’s contestant Bilal Hassani, too. You can watch all the action from 8pm on BBC One, or via the Eurovision livestream on YouTube.

Other favourites among fans include Norway’s trio KEiiNO and their song “Spirit in the Sky”, Czech Republic’s catchy number “Friend of a Friend”, and San Marino’s loveable entry Serhat with “Say Na Na Na”.

The UK is pinning its hopes on 22-year-old Michael Rice this year, who will perform the song “Bigger Than Us”. While UK Eurovision fans are used to low expectations when it comes to how we perform on the voting table, our Eurovision Correspondent Rob Holley claims he has “the best voice” out of any male artist this year and is certain we won’t come last (so that’s something, at least).

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The 26 acts of the night will take to the stage in the following order (we’ll be adding commentary as the night goes on)

1) Malta: Michela – “Chameleon”

For me, this is one of the weakest songs of the competition, although it’s quite catchy. But the vague and occasionally nonsensical lyrics aren’t helping them.

2) Albania: Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”

Albania have Jonida Maliqi singing the evocative “Ktheju tokës”. This song hasn’t been shown much love but I think it’s fantastic – a really magnetic vocal performance with dramatic staging and a superb costume. It falls somewhere between Phantom of the Opera and Star Wars. Jonida definitely has one of the best female voices in this competition. Unfortunately the so-called “Eurovision curse” (or one of them) means that no one who performed second in the final has ever won.

3) Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

This bunch are definitely underdogs, but that’s probably why people find them so endearing – they really put themselves out there and give everything they’ve got for the performance. After their semi-final appearance it was the one song I kept humming for the next few days. I STILL don’t get why they sing in Cockney accents, though.

4) Germany: S!sters – “Sister”

Germany are up now with S!sters performing, er, “Sister”. I’m not really keen on this song and I don’t think they would have got through if they weren’t in the “Big Five” of countries who make the biggest financial contributions to Eurovision (neither would the UK). Their harmonies, or lack of, aren’t great, and it’s a pretty boring track. “Meh” is my official verdict.

5) Russia: Sergey Lazarev – “Scream”

Russia are up next with “Scream” performed by a former runner-up, Sergey Lazarev. This is apparently one of the favourites but I just find it quite sinister. You imagine it’s the sort of thing a Bond villain would sing to his torture victims. But, a very impressive vocal performance and the staging is very dramatic.

6) Denmark: Leonora – “Love Is Forever”

So as my colleague Clemence points out, this kind of song was popular in the early noughties a la Lily Allen and Kate Nash, and perhaps still on the French pop charts (does anyone know why she sings in French halfway through?). But I’m not sure if it stands up among some of the biggest, bolder entries.

7) San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

What do you say about Serhat? I’m smiling so much after that performance. I mean, he won’t win, but can you imagine if he did? It’s ludicrous and catchy and from a completely different world. Like budget Pitbull staggering out of a club in Marbella.

8) North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Another one where I just don’t really get the vibe they’re going for. I mean, it’s obviously an empowerment anthem, great. But I’m not convinced by her performance or the lyrics – if you’re going to do a “girl power” thing then it’s better to do as Netta did last year: bold, brash, unapologetic. This is more of a dirge.

9) Sweden: John Lundvik – “Too Late for Love”

John Lundvik is performing “Too Late for Love” for Sweden now. This is another favourite, and I find it easier to understand why. It’s your classic upbeat love ballad, and John does a grand job of delivering it with charm and passion. He also co-wrote “Bigger Than Us” – the song being performed by the UK’s Michael Rice tonight. This one’s definitely better.

10) Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – “Sebi”

A song that has drawn comparisons to The xx thanks to its ethereal tones and the stuttering beat. I do like it and think they could do well among voters, but it’s hardly going to outdo countries like Australia or Iceland.

11) Cyprus: Tamta – “Replay”

How does Cyprus fit into those boots. Did they get painted on before the show? Anyway, this is Tamta singing “Replay”, which has a bombastic chorus but not much else. Definitely not the best singer in the competition, either.

12) The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

We’re at the favourite now, The Netherlands with Duncan Laurence performing “Arcade”. It’s a ballad a la Coldplay with incredibly simple staging – they’re definitely sticking with a minimalist vibe. Personally I still don’t get why everyone is obsessed with the song – apparently it’s had 12 million streams on Spotify. But streams do not a Eurovision winner make.

13) Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”

Katerine Duska did a really great job with this song in the semi-final and I loved the staging, which offers a bit of a twist on the traditional fairytale ballet. Gorgeous costumes, too, and tonight Katerine is really hitting those notes.

14) Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home”

Israel’s Kobi Marimi obviously getting a very warm reception with his performance of the song “Home”. They’ve kept things simple after Netta’s big, brash song “TOY”, which I think is a very smart move as opposed to trying to repeat last year’s success. It’s a moving, semi-operatic ballad, backed by a choir and with a great climax (everyone loves those sparkly waterfalls).

15) Norway: KEiiNO – “Spirit in the Sky”

The song itself is an underrated bop, in my opinion, with nice male/female harmonies that I think has been missing elsewhere in the competition. Cracking chorus, too. And you’ve got to love some traditional joik singing.

16) United Kingdom: Michael Rice – “Bigger than Us”

OK, so we got off to a wobbly start which is understandable when you have the pressure of so many failed UK entries weighing on your shoulders. But as Rob stated earlier on this evening, Michael genuinely does have one of the best male vocals of the competition and the song is simple enough that it might stick with voters after the final performance is over.

17) Iceland: Hatari – “Hatrið mun sigra”

I’ve said it so many times but this is my absolute favourite performance and song of the competition. It’s extrovert, insane, terrifying, GENIUS. Hatari have so much to say, and have put so much care and thought into this song. They deserve to win.

18) Estonia: Victor Crone – “Storm”

Here to bring down the mood is Estonia’s Victor Crone with “Storm”. I’m being a bit mean because this is actually a decent performance, but it doesn’t quite match up to the ballads from The Netherlands or even North Macedonia. Slightly more catchy than both of them, sure, but not as memorable.

19) Belarus: ZENA – “Like It”

Unfortunately ZENA has been lumped with one of the weakest songs of the competition – kind of like an Anne-Marie cast-off (it doesn’t help that ZENA looks a lot like the British pop star). Her voice is OK, kind of pitchy, but the song just isn’t landing with the audience.

20) Azerbaijan: Chingiz – “Truth”

I think Azerbaijan’s a bit of a dark horse in this competition. Chingiz’s performance of “Truth” is pretty flawless, the staging is really impressive and it’s a very catchy tune.

21) France: Bilal Hassani – “Roi”

A Eurovision fan favourite, Bilal Hassan’s song “Roi” is about refusing to conform to the expectations of others. It’s a shame the song isn’t so fantastique, but Bilal is such a magnetic presence onstage – along with his two backing performers – it’s hard not to love.

22) Italy: Mahmood – “Soldi”

Mahmood singing “Soldi” for Italy. Having spent a lot of time in Italy and Sicily over the past 10 years or so I think it’s OK for me to observe that Italian pop is not, shall we say, the greatest the genre has to offer in Europe. BUT, I am a huge fan of this song – it’s got a great beat, Mahmood is another electrifying performer and that hook on the chorus is splendid.

23) Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

We’re drawing ever-closer to the final performance of the night. Nevena Božović sings “Kruna” for Serbia, and quite beautifully might I add. This is my favourite ballad of the night after Albania’s, and I think overall the female singers have been a tad overlooked in this competition – the favourites are pretty much all male-led. Nevena’s nailing it on the delivery of this – very striking movements on stage, knowing when to hold back, and really going hell for leather on the chorus.

24) Switzerland: Luca Hänni – “She Got Me”

Song 24, and the crowd are getting excited. This was something of a sleeper-hit among Eurovision fans – Switzerland’s Luca Hänni singing “She Got Me”. Switzerland haven’t won since 1988 with Celine Dion so they obviously have high hopes this time round. I wouldn’t put it past them – Luca has a big Jonas Brothers/Shawn Mendes thing going on and the production for this number is super slick. That big brash chorus is what Malta’s contestant was going for but not quite managing. I’m also digging Luca’s black mesh top – obviously.

25) Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”

So this is Australia, with undoubtedly the most spectacular production of the competition this year – and one of the best we’ve ever seen (I think). Rob posted a video of them being wheeled on stage during rehearsals and even that was impressive to watch. The high note! The floating! Absolutely wonderful. If they don’t make the top 3 I will be shocked and appalled.

26) Spain: Miki – “La Venda”

Spain’s Miki is singing “La Venda”. This is the final performance of the night and he’s REALLY stepped up the show. The song is catchy, for sure, and the staging is vibrant and colourful, but I’m not sure if the delivery is as tight as it could be – everything feels quite breathless.