03 May 2014
We’re almost there. The first semi final is just 3 days away, or 6 days away for those in Australia relying on their broadcaster. The build-up has been quite steady this year, with no real peaks of excitement. Maybe that’s just the Danish way – being a staid and deliberate people. More so, it’s the songs. Nothing has really popped out. No major names. No controversy. No tantrums. No fusses. Even the annual “Eurovision in Concert” in the Netherlands was a dud. Maybe it’s just in this internet age where everyone can see everything, so there’s room for far fewer surprises.
The official website of eurovision.tv has really evolved into such a comprehensive device that there’s little reason to go anywhere else. It’s a big change from just a few years ago where it paid scant attention all year, only to come alive during the 2 weeks of Eurovision itself. Videos, photos and articles were presented beforehand were ad hoc, and only for a few countries, that there was little choice to go elsewhere. Now it’s a veritable library and very quick to post presentation videos after a nation’s candidate and song is finalised.
Back to the songs, the evolution of their familiarity often sees real momentum gather. It did last year. They were all a tired and depressing bunch of songs that bloomed into life when examined as a collection, and especially at the contest itself. This year, it’s almost status quo from the initial time heard. That could also be partly because there was a real rush of releases towards the end of the deadline, whereas previous years it was spread out quite evenly from early January, so you could devote more time to each one until waiting for the next. Now, the bunch release, it’s been a blur.
No surprises that my favourites have not changed at all. My Fab Five of Russia, Estonia, Italy, Spain and Sweden still remain. So does my feelings for all songs almost right throughout, whether they be good or bad, or a total disaster like Georgia. Probably that is unusual as well, as normally there’s a handful of songs despised. This year just the one.
SEMI FINAL 1 – TOP 10
ESC starts with a bang with 3 songs – Russia, Estonia and Sweden – from the Fab 5 in the first half of this semi final. They are my clear favourites from the semi and would cause a minor outrage in this realm of the ESC universe if any missed out. San Marino sits on its own, with the next 5 about equal. Albania was borderline to miss out, while Portugal is clearly the worst. Other than Portugal, any of these songs in the final would satisfy me.
SEMI FINAL 2 – TOP 10
A much more even semi and not as good quality. None of these are part of my Fab 5 and it was difficult to separate the first six. Lithuania is the only song that has gained any momentum over the weeks, mostly because Vilija performs it so well, so it takes the final top 10 spot. Otherwise it would have been Switzerland or Belarus scraping in. Georgia is clearly the worst excuse for a “song” this year, and perhaps almost any year. It’s random noise.
THE BIG FIVE AND DENMARK
It could be the best bunch of pre-qualifiers ever. Only Germany disappoints. Italy and Spain are part of my Fab 5, with UK and France close behind. France need a top performance to convey the fun of its song, otherwise it will appear as cheap and quite limp. UK will rely on the solid crescendo and the intriguing Molly to power it high. Denmark has a good start so will have instant attention. It doesn’t go on with much after that. Spain is just superb vocally and in tone, as long as Ruth doesn’t get carried away and scream too much. Italy rarely disappoints since their return – always sending a quality artist and song. Rock doesn’t typically do well in ESC, unless you’re in a latex monster suit, so a top 10 overall would be a great achievement.
OVERALL TOP 10
Surely San Marino will not just make the finals, they will surprise with a decent result? Here’s hoping. Slovenia is one of those songs that keeps bopping around in my mind. FYRM is the most polished of the pop songs this year, and I’m hoping it does well, not just for Tijana, also for the other Balkans that stepped aside this year. They say it was costs. More likely a bit of a tantrum after none qualified for the finals last year. Same with Turkey, who’ve admitted exactly that as a reason for staying away now for the second year, that it’s a protest against the return of the juries. In reality, the juries have done wonders in diversifying the contest. It wasn’t just to stop Turkey always steamrolling into the finals (even if that is a worthy result).
Forget personal sentiment, what does the head say? These are the predictions based on analysis – and with maybe a touch of sentiment thrown in. It’s difficult to shut it completely out.
Sweden – This will be performed so well, and Sanna Neilson is such a great singer. It will register.
Romania – Third in 2010, and this song is better, Paula and Ovi have good chemistry, and has the vibe of a winner.
Estonia – Huge instant appeal, being so catchy and the great choreography. Tanja will want to hope that the stupidity of claims that her song is similar to Loreen’s Euphoria of 2012 will not make an impact on voting intentions.
Spain – Much like Sweden, except it’s Spain, so if they can finally overcome that stigma… Spain just doesn’t get votes for some reason. This song, being “less Spanish” than most years, especially with much of it in English, might help people forget.
Armenia – Really strong vocals, the performance will match, and a well established artist.
Austria – Will gain “politically correct” votes, especially if performed well, and it’s a really strong song. Of all human gender variations, transexual/transvestite also have the best strike rate in Eurovision with one win in four attempts, according to this humble memory. Dana International won for Israel in 1998, with only Dana in 2011, Denmark’s DQ in 2007 and Slovenia’s Sestre in 2002 being the only “flops”.
UK – After a slow start, this song really leaves you with a positive feeling.
Italy – Top notch rock song, instantly likeable, and Italy have achieved good results since their return.
Latvia – Very catchy and best of the folk/guitar songs.
Montenegro – A top ballad, and could stand out with few other Balkans competing.
FYRM – A strong enough song, along with top performer and singer.
San Marino – After two rejections, could Valentina go the other extreme? A very appealing song, with glorious music, hints of ABBA in the harmonies, and she may gain some sympathy vote, especially the shocking rejection last year of Crisalide
Russia – The twin sisters won Junior ESC 8 years ago and have a quality song (by the same team that produced 2nd placed “Hold Me” for Azerbaijan last year), and they look and sound great together. Will the troubles in the Ukraine affect the voting? If they fail to reach the final, that will be seen as a reason. Russia have been cheeky sending the now 17 year old girls, complete with innocent adoring eyes and a fluffy song. They’re telling all the world to share some love, so share some in return. Come on, what’s not to like?
Songs like Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland and Netherlands all have something distinctive about them that could make them grab votes. Stranger things have happened, like Belgium’s Urban Trad in 2003, who would have won without the bloc voting for Turkey.
Georgia – Easily the worst song this year, and one of the worst ever.
It’s out of Armenia and Sweden. Both are similar songs that build and will rely on a power presentation, vocals and a pounding finale. Armenia’s short price is a surprise, returning as low as a $2.50 on a $1 bet, $3 at the most. Sweden ranges a return of between $3.50 and $4.30 for a $1 bet, then the odds blow out to $8 for Denmark, with a group next around $15 that includes UK, Ukraine, Norway and Hungary. No doubt the bloc vote is a factor with the odds of Armenia, Denmark and Norway being so low.
Sweden is part of my Fab Five and already has been firming in my mind as the likely winner. Sanna will leave the viewers mesmerised, and Sweden are a country that innately gather huge votes when their songs are good. Of the others in my Fab Five, Russia, Spain and Italy are at $50 or just over, with Estonia $80. Romania, who I predict will do well, are given a reasonable chance at $35.
At the other end, Georgia is rightfully the rank outsider. No surprise Portugal is there in company. FYRM is a surprise at being so poorly ranked (probably the lack of Balkan bloc has an effect here) while poor old San Marino is being hammered by their history, especially Valentina failing the last two years.
Indeed, the odds are often influenced by the fashionable status of a country and the weight of money already bet. Countries of Nordic, ex-Soviet, Balkan and the Turkish diaspora are fashionable when assessing a strong chance, especially if the song impresses instantly well. With most betting agencies in Britain, weight of money already bet makes the UK and Ireland are always shorter, along with anything popular among the clubbing community.
Whatever the outcome, remember that the Eurovision Song Contest is about the songs and the shows. Whoever wins, it’s a 5 minute celebration at the end and only gives them the rights for hosting rights the following year. It doesn’t mean much tangibly, so the obsession with winners and losers is so misplaced. Enjoy the shows and performances and let’s hope it’s a great one.