Eurovision 2024: Your guide to all 37 songs

Olly Alexander during rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmö Arena in Sweden
Olly Alexander during rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmö Arena in Sweden [Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU]

Olly Alexander is trapped in a post-apocalyptic boxing gym, aboard a spaceship hurtling towards earth in 1985.

A “goth gremlin goblin witch” is holding a candlelit séance and summoning the spirit of a minotaur.

Nemo (the singer, not the fish) has skinned a muppet and is cavorting around in its skin, while singing Mozart’s Queen Of The Night.

It can only be the Eurovision Song Contest.

Sometimes I think the competition is out of surprises, an echo chamber of its former glories, then along comes a year like 2024 to prove that (a) Eurovision is as magical and moving and weird and emotional as it’s ever been and (b) I’m an idiot.

After weeks of intensive rehearsals, the action kicks off in Malmö, Sweden, this Tuesday with the first of two semi-finals.

The winner will be decided on Saturday, 11 May. To help you prepare, here’s a guide to all 37 songs in the contest – which I’ve sorted into barely-coherent musical categories, because everyone needs a system.

Zany songs (with serious undertones)

Performers rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest
L-R: Baby Lasagna, Joost Klein and Windows95Man [Sarah Lousie Bennett / Alma Bengtsson / EBU]

The success of Käärijä’s mutant rave-rap anthem Cha Cha Cha at last year’s contest has unlocked something potent.

Everywhere you look in Malmö, there’s a sense of musical experimentation and outré risqué performance.

Top of the heap is Croatia’s Baby Lasagna, whose ridiculously catchy Rim Tim Tagi Dim is currently the bookmakers' favourite to win.

Loud and aggressive and memorable and fun, it blends elements of rock and techno to tell the story of a farm boy saying goodbye to his milking stool and setting out for the big city.

According to singer Marko Purišić, the lyrics are a reference to the brain drain that’s affecting Croatia’s economy.

Another strong contender Switzerland’s Nemo, whose song The Code is a hare-brained hybrid of pop, opera and electro.

Inspired by Nemo’s childhood experience as an opera singer, it uses elements of Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s The Magic Flute to explain how they came to terms with their non-binary identity. It’s surprisingly intense.

Finland’s Windows95Man, on the other hand, is trying too hard to stand out, emerging from a giant egg and dancing around in his underpants. But all the antics aren’t enough to distract from the fatally generic Europop of his song, No Rules.

I’m much more enamoured by Joost Klein from the Netherlands who takes a whistle-stop, happy hardcore tour of Europe in the infectiously silly Europapa.

Performed in high-rise shoulderpads, while LED screens project images of currywurst and paella, the song is nonetheless rooted in tragedy.

Joost lost his parents at a young age, and the song reflects that no matter how far he travels, he can’t outrun his grief.

Certified bops

Pull on your dancing trousers, because Eurovision is ready to party.

There are a ton of uptempo dance-pop numbers this year, led (gasp) by the UK’s entrant, Olly Alexander.

Formerly of the pop band Years and Years, his bubbling synthpop anthem, Dizzy, recalls Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive by way of The Pet Shop Boys.

Instantly memorable, if a little undercooked, the song has risen to 10th place in the odds after rehearsal footage was released this week, showcasing some memorable choreography and a revamped ending to the song.

But he faces stiff competition, as pop fans are spoilt for choice this year.

Cypriot entrant Silia Kapsis, for example, channels Janet and Britney with her infectiously bombastic song, Liar. Her lyrics could do with some work (“The only problem in this room is about you”) but the breath-taking dance routine will be popular with voters.

Not to be outdone on the choreography, Malta’s Sarah Bonnici does the splits and a somersault during her performance. But her song, Loop, is paper-thin, and languishes in last place with bookmakers.

By contrast, Spanish duo Nebulossa have already had a viral hit with their song, Zorra. The title translates as both “vixen” and “bitch” and the lyrics are a commentary on the double standards women face. It’s a shimmering piece of 80s candy-pop that’s good enough to eat.

Meanwhile, five-time Eurovision winners Luxembourg are back in the competition for the first time in 31 years, represented by Tali Golergant.

She punches above her weight with Fighter, a vibey, syncopated pop slammer whose chorus sticks in your head like a sausage on a fork.

Looming over the competition like a pop Godzilla is Albanian diva Besa. Her song, Titan, has an appropriately gargantuan hook and a thrilling tempo-switch at the end.

Her bright blue bodysuit seems to have been inspired by Steps' video for Deeper Shade of Blue. And why not? It's a classic.

Rounding out the field are Iceland’s Hera Björk with Scared Of Heights and Polish singer Luna with The Tower.

Both songs are both perfectly accessible, radio-friendly pop – but I suspect they’ll struggle to survive the semi-finals.

Brooding ballads

Eurovision wouldn’t be Eurovision without a raven-haired diva over-emoting about her personal struggles, and this year is no exception.

Israel’s Eden Golan has the best of the bunch – a stirringly emotional piano ballad called Hurricane, in which a woman mourns the end of a love affair.

Originally called October Rain, the song was rewritten at the request of organisers. The initial lyrics were thought to reference the Hamas attacks of 7 October and were rejected for breaking rules on political neutrality.

Golan’s participation is causing controversy, however, amid the Israel-Gaza war, and there are pro-Palestinian marches planned in Malmö throughout Eurovision week.

The singer has reportedly been confined to her hotel room outside of rehearsals. Could that affect her performance? Maybe.

Serbia’s song, Ramonda, is another strong contender, with war references of its own. The title refers to the flower that people wear in remembrance of Serbia’s soldiers in World War One, and singer Teya Dora delivers the sorrowful lyrics with a beautifully understated delivery.

Dialling up the histrionics is Slovenian contestant Raiven, whose song Veronika is a bit too piercing for my tastes.

I prefer In The Middle, by Moldova’s Natalia Barbu. It boasts a catchy Arabian-style post-chorus - but it doesn’t feel like a finalist, either.

Elsewhere, Portugal’s iolanda has submitted the pretty, melodic ballad Grito, which opens with an arresting a capella, but loses direction towards the end.

Rave throwbacks

I don’t know why, but several of this year’s contestants are in thrall to the sounds of Ibiza, circa 1992. Squelchy acid synths and brutally aggressive kick drums are all the rage.

And why not? Eurovision is only one night, but the acts tour the club circuit for the rest of the year. Having a guaranteed floor-filler in your setlist makes good business sense.

Taking it all incredibly literally is Austria’s Kaleen, and her unequivocally titled We Will Rave. With shades of Madonna’s Hung Up and the wordless “roma-ah-ah” hooks of Bad Romance, it’s a pulse-quickening banger.

Defending Eurovision champions Sweden are sending chart-topping pop twins Marcus & Martinus to Malmö with a squonking, bass-heavy track called Unforgettable.

Their staging is incredible – full of pulsing LED screens and body-popping choreography – making them credible contenders.

Another fan favourite is Silvester Belt, whose simmering house track Luktelk (Wait) went straight to number one on Lithuania’s Spotify chart.

A more subdued and moody track, it’s all about someone who appears happy and functional in public while struggling in private. His early rehearsals don’t seem too promising, but the song already has lots of fans.

Ethnomusical fusion

There’s a refreshing trend this year of countries using ancient musical traditions for inspiration – producing many of my favourite songs in the line-up.

Top billing goes to Greek singer Marina Satti, whose avant-garde sound collage Zari mixes traditional Greek melodies with tabla drums, a reggaeton beat, broken vocal samples and a solo on an ancient Persian pipe called the Zurna.

I’m gonna do it my way,” she declares, in the year’s most on-the-nose lyric.

Armenian band Ladaniva are just as ambitious, blending the ethnic music of Armenia, India and the Balkans with a Western “kick ass and take down names later” attitude.

Their song, Jako, is the shortest in the competition but they make it count, putting on one of the most joyous, spirited performances on the Malmö stage.

Norwegian folk act Gåte go in the opposite direction, with a dark and gruesome tale of revenge that’s ripped from the pages of the country’s folklore.

The lyrics of Ulveham tell the story of a “fair and sightly maiden” whose evil stepmother banishes her to the forest and curses her with “skin like a grey wolf”. By the end of the song, she’s gone feral - tearing out her stepmother’s heart and drinking her brothers’ blood.

Remind me never to take a picnic in the Norwegian woods.

A less successful hybrid is the combination of didgeridoo and banging house beats on One Milkali by Australian act Electric Fields – although the song deserves merit for including lyrics in the indigenous language of Yankunytjatjara, the first time a dialect of Australia’s First People will feature at Eurovision.

Azerbaijan’s Fahree also branches out, including traditional Azeri mugham vocals from singer Ilkin Dovlatov on their entry, Özünlə Apar, but the song has little else to recommend it.

Estonia have more fun, submitting two bands for the price of one, with 5MIINUST x Puuluup.

The latter is a nu-folk act, famous for their skills on the Talharpa, a rare wooden lyre from northern Europe. The former is a hip-hop group, who deliver dense, humorous lyrics about a drugs bust on the song with the longest-ever title at Eurovision: “We (really) don’t know anything about (these) drugs”.

Finally, we have Italian iconoclast Angelina Mango , who serves up a delectable mix of reggaeton, cumbia and Latin soul on her song La Noia.

The title actually translates as “boredom” but, with its curlicued guitar lines and restlessly evolving melodies, you'd have to be stony of heart to find it less than invigorating.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Rock surprises

Lordi and Måneskin proved that rock has a place at Eurovision, and the tradition continues this year, with three acts clinging onto distortion pedals for dear life.

Most memorable is Ireland’s Bambie Thug, the only singer who’s bringing a screaming coach to Sweden.

The musician describes their sound as “Ouija-pop” and, for the uninitiated, that means a blend of gothic electro, angst-ridden pop and screamcore, which has unsettled some conservative critics in their homeland.

Fittingly, their song, Doomsday Blue, is about having your potential overlooked, and the marginalisation of the queer community. It’s an acquired taste, but is the boldest song on this year’s line-up.

San Marino’s Megara bravely match Bambie for intensity, with the stomping electro-rock of their entry 11:11.

Reminiscent of Republica’s Ready To Go, the song is inspired by the knock-backs and rejections the band have suffered on the road to fame.

In the post-chorus, they spell out the phrase M-E-L-A-P-E-L-A (“I don’t care”), adding: “If you don't love me/ Other people will love me.” Enough said.

And if it's pop-punk you’re after, Czech singer Aiko has you covered. Her track, Pedestal, was co-written by Steve Ansell of the Brighton band Blood Red Shoes, which explains it’s debt to British indie.

Phoenix Rising Anthems

Triumph over adversity is the biggest cliché in the Eurovision lyric book – but in the right hands, it can be surprisingly effective.

France’s Slimane, for example, sounds on the verge of tears as he begs his lover to come back to Paris on the «chanson dramatique» Mon Amour.

Over the border in Belgium, Mustii confronts his anxieties with genuine conviction on the rabble-rousing Before The Party’s Over.

Ukraine, meanwhile, continue their Eurovision hot streak with the powerful and solemn ballad Teresa and Maria.

Performed by Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil, the lyrics are a plea for protection, addressed to the Christian saints Mother Theresa and Virgin Mary.

Written while Russian missiles fall on Ukraine, it’s hard not to read the lyrics as a reference to the war – and the two performers (a kindergarten teacher-turned-rapper and a famous YouTube singer) have no trouble conveying the urgency and desperation of their situation.

Hoping to reverse Germany’s last-place finish in 2023 is gravel-voiced singer-songwriter Isaak.

He sings about overcoming his demons on the propulsive Always On The Run – whose galloping beats and gospel overtones make him sound like a German Rag N’ Bone Man (Lumpenhändler Mann?)

Bringing up the rear, we have Danish singer Saba and Latvia’s Dons, employing well-worn metaphors about “crying rivers” and “breathing underwater” on their tracks Sand and Hollow. You won’t need to worry about them beyond the semi-finals.

And last of all, there’s Georgia’s magnificently-named Nutsa Buzaladze, whose song Firefighter opens with a peal of thunder and recycles a bunch of Eurovision lyrics about rising from the ashes like a phoenix.

She’s hard to discount, though. A contestant on last year’s American Idol – where she performed with Kylie Minogue – Nutsa has stage presence to spare and Shakira-level choreography.

It should be just enough to transcend the limitations of her song and rise (like a phoenix!) to the finals.

See you in Malmö.