IT is the most bonkers night in music – packed with all sorts of wacky acts, from Norway’s singing wolves to Ukraine’s dancing carpet.
After two consecutive last-place finishes — including nul points for James Newman last year — 32-year-old Sam Ryder is expected to be Britain’s saviour when he goes up against 24 other finalists, including Spain’s sizzling Chanel.
And he is hoping his belting ballad Space Man — which appears 22nd in the night’s running order — will banish the nation’s demons over the annual song contest and make us fall in love with it all over again.
The Essex-born singer-songwriter became a viral sensation during lockdown when videos of him in action attracted 12million followers on TikTok — and now he is turning his attention to winning over Europe, too.
In an exclusive interview, Sam said: “In the UK we become victims of a self-perpetuating and a negative narrative.
“This stigma that we’re not liked . . . my experience has been totally the opposite.
“I really hope that above all else, we carry ourselves with a buzzy energy of positivity going into this.
“Get together with your friends and family, make some food, watch Eurovision and have a blast.
“It’s one night of the year and it’s such a joy.”
‘Brakes didn’t work’
But one unexpected hurdle he has faced since arriving in host country Italy last week is avoiding Rylan Clark, who commentated on the semi-finals earlier this week.
The TV host said he was aiming to get our entry drunk on a night out, but Sam is keeping off the sauce before he takes to the stage at Turin’s Pala Olimpico arena.
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He admitted: “I told him it’s not happening. Otherwise it will be Rylan’s fault when I can’t sing.
“I know it might sound boring but there are a lot of fans in the UK and we all want to do the best job we possibly can.”
The hangover from hell would be the last thing Sam needs, after a nasty crash last month which could have led him to pull out of the contest altogether.
He was in Madrid promoting his song when he had an accident on a scooter and had to be rushed to hospital.
Sam recalled: “The brakes just didn’t work. I was going down a hill on a tight corner. I went straight into a metal bollard — and I properly hit it because it bent.
“It hit me across the neck and chest. I got stitches in my knee which have just come out.
“If it had got my jaw, I wouldn’t be doing Eurovision because it would be wired shut. I was pretty lucky.”
With Graham Norton hosting for the UK, Sam has promising odds of 6/1 and is expected to secure our first top-five finish on the Eurovision leaderboard since 2009, when Jade Ewen came fourth with It’s My Time.
This year also marks 25 years since the UK last won, with Love Shine A Light by Katrina And The Waves.
But Sam is keeping thoughts of victory out of his mind — which could be a good idea as Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra are the favourites to win by a country mile.
Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs will also provide stiff competition, while Strictly’s AJ Odudu will be on hand to dole out the UK’s points to other countries.
Sam said: “Putting all of your energy into being competitive, for me, that’s not what songwriting is about.
“I want to go there, live it and rinse every bit of joy from the moment I’m so lucky to be involved in. I won’t worry about the scoreboard and things I can’t control. I’ll just be singing my head off.”
And the former construction worker will not complain about the long day. He explained: “Any time that I start thinking to myself, ‘This is hard’, it’s not. My poor dad worked his hands to the bone. I was doing groundwork construction with him in the rain.”
Sam went on to become a wedding singer, which he said gave him his “10,000 hours of practice”.
“It was just my big red face singing into the phone and it changed everything for me,” he said, “and I’m really grateful for that.”
All of that hard work has led to tonight — and he just hopes he can pull off a good performance.
He added: “The fans want someone to do them proud.
“I really, really hope that beyond anything else, I can do that.”