Italy’s Eurovision contender Francesco Gabbani.
Italy’s Eurovision contender Francesco Gabbani. RAI

And the winner is ... a dancing gorilla

HE'S got the voice and performance chops, now Isaiah Firebrace needs to get his sexy on to win the votes of Eurovision fans.

Paul Clarke, the head of delegation for Australia's third tilt at the song contest said while Firebrace casts a spell with his singing, his challenge now was to bring pop star sex appeal to the Kiev competition.

As the man who has brought Australia into the Eurovision family - despite our 14,000km geographical disadvantage - Clarke has been one of the creative forces behind performances by Jessica Mauboy (as a special guest) and Guy Sebastian and Dami Im (as competitors).

And while the eyes of the world are drawn to the weird and wonderful entries in the 2017 line-up, Clarke and his team are preparing their charge to steal hearts - and votes.

"I think our job is to make him look sexy for the teenagers who want to vote for him," Clarke said ahead of the first rehearsals this week.

"When Isaiah sings, he melts hearts, he can cast a spell with his voice and that's ultimately why we went with him this year."

Isaiah Firebrace at his first Eurovision rehearsal.
Isaiah Firebrace at his first Eurovision rehearsal. SBS

Clarke need not stress too much on his charge's heart-string pulling power with the young ladies.

There was plenty of social media chatter about the teen's appeal before and after his first rehearsal last weekend and he is already getting mobbed by teen and tweens in Kyiv.

SBS and Team Isaiah are confident Australian fans of the world's biggest singing competition will get behind the 17-year-old who won enough hearts to take out the final season of The X Factor last year.

Just as we rallied behind Dami Im's campaign as her undeniable talent made her a serious contender for the title, Clarke believes Firebrace will gain more supporters as the competition rolls on.

"We are really proud he's representing Australia. I think a lot of people have stood back to see what he does," Clarkes said.

"Dami was just such a fierce competitor and maybe this time, Isaiah isn't as tested or as well-known in the Australian Zeitgeist.

"Eurovision now expects Australia to deliver something different, something big and I think Isaiah will show the depth and diversity of what's possible in our country and just how competitive we are on this stage."

Firebrace's competes in the first semi-final which SBS broadcasts on May 10 from 5am.

In the meantime, get to know the classic kitsch on off for Eurovision 2017 with an honorary mention to Sweden for their treadmill action which isn't quite as impressive as the famous OK Go clip for Here It Goes Again.


Francesco Gabbani sings Occidentali's Karma

IT'S all about the monkey (show) business, with Italy's entry capturing the Eurovision spirit. A dancing gorilla busts out some serious breakdancing moves, while the turbocharged charisma of Gabbani rocks your world. The tune is a poptastic ear worm and you WILL wave your arms in the air like you just don't dare. Gabbani did the band thing, slipped behind the scenes as a songwriter and was coaxed to enter the San Remo Music Festival, the precursor to the creation of the Eurovision Song Contest. He won two years running to now represent Italy.

A ‘gorilla’ joins Italy’s Eurovision contestant on stage.
A ‘gorilla’ joins Italy’s Eurovision contestant on stage. Supplied

He shares the stage with a spotlight-hogging simian, whose presence ties in with lyrics they loftily claim are in part inspired by the book The Naked Ape by British zoologist Desmond Morris (look it up). The video, which features some infectious Gangnam Style choreography, has already inspired parodies and broken Eurovision records with more than 100 million views.

Big Prop Moment: Ah, the dancing ape. They win.


Slavko Kalezic sings Space


Montenegro whips it real good.
Montenegro whips it real good. Supplied


THE Montenegro entry offers the most hair-raising pop moment since Willow Smith almost whipped her head off her body. Space won the attention of Eurovision enthusiasts because it's a club banger in an eisteddfod of power ballads. And the Balkan party god with the washboard abs is already one of the most popular contestants in the 2017 squad. But the voters will be zeroing in on that 1.2 metre long bro braid and the Olympic-level neck flexing which allows him to fling that thing with ninja control. His chiropractor must have some work to do after every performance. Space has the naughtiest lyrics of the 2017 entries and despite Montenegro only making the finals once before, Kalezic has confidence in spades. "I am born to win, I am your queen," he posted.

Big Prop Moment: His Rapunzel plait


Ilinca and Alex sing Yodel It!


If you do not vote for Romania’s Yodel It, they will bite you.
If you do not vote for Romania’s Yodel It, they will bite you. Supplied


Yodelling. Eurovision needs yodelling. And vampires from Romania. The contestants from Bucharest joke their rivals have been checking out their "fangs". "We are vampires in Romania, all of them," Ilinca said backstage ahead of their first rehearsal. "So if you don't vote for us, I am going to bite you at night." She hails from a family of musicians and taught herself traditional singing popular in rural Europe from YouTube videos. "When I heard yodelling for the first time I thought it was really funny," she said.

Big Prop Moment: two glitter cannons which symbolise an "explosion of love and happiness". During the first rehearsal, Alex fell off one of the cannons but sprang back to his feet and soldiered on. He needs some coaching from Cher on how to ride a cannon safely.


Dihaj sings Skeletons


If you don’t vote for Azerbaijan, you may find a horse head in your bed.
If you don’t vote for Azerbaijan, you may find a horse head in your bed. Supplied


THIS is a serious contender in the 2017 competition. Dig into the lyrics and Skeletons is your good girl loves bad boy power pop song with an electronic bent. Dihaj delivered an emphatic performance of her song at the first rehearsals last week and can really work a trench into a dance prop. But as captivating as Dihaj is with her pop star presence, you just can't help staring at the man in the horse mark standing at the top of a ladder. Why is he there? What does it all mean? It is a bit tough to figure out from the lyrics but according to Dihaj, he represents the song's bad boy protagonist. "The ladder and the mask imply a huge emotional distance between us," she said. Now you got it.

Big Prop Moment: Dihaj performs in front of a big box emblazoned with buzz words but horse head guy is the vote winner.


O. Torvald sing Time


Ukrainian band O. Torvald stop the clocks during their performance.
Ukrainian band O. Torvald stop the clocks during their performance. Supplied


THE host nation's representatives O. Torvald are a popular rock band who have been going for the past decade but only really broken through in the past couple of years. Frontman Zhenya Halych is a local heart-throb and has also starred in film. While their song with English lyrics brings a bit of a grunt to the typically pop dominated competition, the band also hope to dazzle with the digital countdown clocks which are seemingly embedded in their chests. Apparently the band also has a reputation for smashing back the beers and their name is a cheeky derivative of the Russian word "otorvatsia" which translates as party hard. Like the Big 5 - France, Germany, Italy, UK and Spain - the host country get an automatic pass into the grand final.

Big Prop Moment: The countdown chest clock. Don't be fooled into thinking the song is only 2:47 minutes long; the clock freezes for the breakdown at the one minute mark.


Sunstroke Project sing Hey Mamma


Moldova brings saxy back.
Moldova brings saxy back. Supplied


THESE lads have been here before, storming into the 2010 grand final despite being slated as non-contenders before the competition. And there is strong early mail for the trio seven years later because they are bringing saxy back. Anyone who saw British party band Madness on their recent Australian tour will appreciate just how much a grooving saxophonist can bring to a show and the Sunstroke Project's horn guy also delivers the Running Man to his performance. The jazz pop trio also feature a violinist and are renowned for their high jumps.

Big Prop Moment: The sax is the big hook but their three backing vocalists who look like brides from Beetlejuice will steal some spotlight.

* Eurovision semi-finals (featuring Australia's Isaiah Firebrace) airs from 5am, May 10 and May 12. The grand final airs May 14 on SBS.

News Corp Australia

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