15 May 2015
Finally, after such a long lull since the final candidates’ songs were announced, the Eurovision Song Contest of 2015 is here. It’s been over two months, which, in a positive sense, has provided more time to become familiar with all the songs. It’s been a time of reflection, and realisation, that the initial impressions of so many apparent ballads, is not quite true. Mostly it’s the year of serious or artistic songs. They, by their nature, are mid-tempo, and often starting slowly. Then again, so do many up-tempo songs. The pure ballads number between 8 and 12 – depending on your interpretation. Looking at all songs, as a group, overall they make a dramatic collection. Watching every preview video in one session, it was emotionally draining.
The pure ballads would be Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Poland, while you might include Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Spain and Norway. The up-tempo songs would include Australia, Denmark, Georgia, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia and UK. If you’re talking fast enough to be high energy dance songs, then it’s probably only Israel, Moldova and Serbia. With the middle 20 to 25 songs being classic mid-tempo, you see that this year’s Eurovision Song contest is very much true to its name of being a song contest. Because we do have a mix of televoting combined with jury voting, that also means the songs presented are contemporary. Add the awesome stage design in Vienna, this Eurovision will exceed our expectations by so much that no one will remember their concerns during the nomination phase. If you want proof, just think back to last year’s Eurovision. It was supposed to be the worst ESC ever; it proved one of the best, if not the best.
The Betting Odds
Sometimes they tell us something interesting, often they tell us the obvious, in reality they tell us where the money is going. Most rabid fans have very skewed tastes towards faster or glamorous songs in ESC that rarely reflects the actual broad appeal and variety of the songs on offer, or the broad tastes of the viewers, or now even the sometimes strange tastes of the jury. Sweden is always well supported, while UK gets extra support by virtue of the endemic betting culture in UK society and the huge array of betting agencies operating there. Betting agencies can also use statistical information, like number of views on youtube, which just reflects general popularity, not popularity of those that will actually watch the broadcast and vote.
Analysing the top 10, it’s no surprise Sweden is favourite. It’s a surprise they are such a hot favourite at a ridiculous $2, which is approaching the level of Alexander Rybak in 2009 at $1.40. Such a short price is probably explained more by the fanatical support Mans Zelmerlow had in winning Melodifestivalen. That support was based more on his personal fanbase going bonkers and the song being a stand-out in a very poor year. His song overall is so average that I could not see it getting close to winning any recent MF. Part of the song’s appeal is also the fancy graphics involved. So it’s favourite based on the broad package of the song and artist, and the pedigree of the nation at Eurovision. I’d be staggered if it got top 10, and a semi-final exit would not surprise.
Italy at $3 has a fantastic song and deserves to be second favourite. The big question is can a boy band win ESC? They just don’t, unless you include Finland’s Lordi in 2006. Also, of the the few operatic-pop songs that have entered in the past, none have excelled. Australia at $7 might have a bit of sympathy money, not to mention half the country lives in the UK on their strange obsession of a working holiday in a “foreign” country and have probably swamped the betting agencies with money. Still, Guy Sebastian is a great performer, has a quality song and a great voice. The song is different to all others entered, so might stand out a bit there.
Estonia has been near the top, and even at the top, of the betting odds since the song was first nominated for their national final. The weight of money it has held over a long time is probably keeping it up there against, say, Norway, which has a similar profile to Estonia, only that it was released much later to the public. Estonia has drifted to $12 from as low as $5.50, while Norway is ninth at $33. Both should be similar odds, and probably are if you exclude the circumstantial influences.
Russia at $12 is a big jump up the charts and is probably the “momentum song” of this year’s ESC (like Netherlands were in 2014). At $12, it’s great value. Polina is a phenomenal performer and reports are her presentation will be stratospheric. The song is also brilliant and highly dramatic. It’s been my big improver too. Finland has drifted from $6 to $20 – reflecting the rubbish nature of the song. The early money was based more on sentiment. Since winning Finland’s final, there’s been very little publicity about the mental disabilities of the artists, meaning they seem likely to be judged predominantly on song alone. That’s probably the approach they would welcome too.
At $33 with Azerbaijan and Norway is my personal and sentimental favourite, Slovenia. In fact, Slovenia is one of the big fan favourites this year. It’s difficult to predict the result of this song. It’s unique, interesting and easily good enough to make the final. Some of its quirkiness might also harm it. Fingers crossed viewers notice it for the right reasons and fall in love, just like so many others have. At $33, maybe I might try my very first ever bet on Eurovision.
At long odds there’s some surprises, notably Denmark at $200, Romania at $150 and possibly Spain at $66. Spain’s unfashionable status is probably against them. They’ve had a succession of quality songs recently that stubbornly are never rewarded in the voting. Denmark and Romania are songs that I can easily imagine as ESC winners. A twitter follower reminded me that these of generic sort of bands, especially soft rock, don’t really win. That’s true. Again, you probably need to go back to Lordi for victory by any band. Bands can do well with something exceptional, and a great presentation, like Turkey’s Manga second in 2010 to Germany’s Lena. Romania’s song message is about parents needing to work overseas while leaving their children at home, so this sentiment I feel in the song is unlikely to be known by many watching ESC without prior knowledge, or without their broadcast commentators mentioning it, so I can understand that maybe it has low hope of a good result.
It’s out of Estonia, Norway and Russia, with my heart 100% for Slovenia. I could cope with Estonia winning, because it’s been a while for them and I love the country. It could mean my first ever Eurovision live in person. Romania or Spain to win would be really nice. Like I said, Denmark would not surprise.
My dream top 5 would be: Slovenia, Estonia, Russia, Spain and Romania.
Semi Final 1
FYR Macedonia +
Everything marked is my personal top 10 to qualify. I initially marked 11, so dropped Serbia. Sorry! Those in my top 10 at risk of missing out are Netherlands, FYRM and Georgia. The likely replacements will come from Armenia, Belgium and Finland. Certainties to qualify are Estonia, Hungary, Russia, Denmark and Albania. Certainties not to qualify are Moldova and Belarus. Of course, these views are predicated on preview videos and listening to the CD.
Presentation and a superb performance can transform a song. Most notorious for me is Belgium’s Roberto Bellarosa with “Love Kills” in 2013. It was one of my worst leading into ESC that year and then became one of my favourites. Belgium might be on a repeat this year. While there’s no way Loic Nottet’s “Rhythm Inside” could ever appeal to me, it does have broad appeal, especially among younger fans, and plenty of stage potential.
Greece will also be interesting. A power ballad is unusual for them, and Maria-Elena has promised a dignified performance. I guess that means no trampoline this year. Not that Maria-Elena needs any gimmick. She’s brilliant, is my favourite voice this year, and has an epic song. Yiamas!
Semi Final 2
Czech Rep +4
As I went through the list the first time, I only marked 6 songs, not 11 like in SF1. Those six (+1) were Montenegro, Norway, Malta, Iceland, Slovenia and Poland. Suffice to say, if any of those miss the final, especially Norway, Slovenia and Poland, I won’t be happy. Second run through the list I only added Ireland (+2). Run three I added Lithuania, and even that was difficult. Who gets the final slot? The Czechs. They deserve their first final. Cyprus was the other contender. I’ve really grown to like it while listening to the CD, and I predict it will make the final.
Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland are most vulnerable, with Sweden and Azerbaijan the two with Cyprus to be the likely replacements. I can’t see San Marino, Portugal or Switzerland reach the final, while I’ll be really nervous for Poland. One of my favourites, Monika has such a beautiful voice, a lovely song and an interesting story. I’m also intrigued by the possible presentation. Will Monika be sitting on the floor like her video, or maybe on a piano? I’d be surprised if its her regular “seat” to ensure her condition becomes irrelevant.
Certainties to qualify are only Norway, Azerbaijan and Latvia. Expect especially a really strong showing from Latvia after six years in the doldrums. Even being the slowest song this year, Aminata’s “Love Injected” is so unique that it typifies beautifully the breadth of artistic display on show at this year’s contest.
Battle of the Warriors
I have both Georgia and Malta making the final from their respective semi finals. Their songs, both called “Warrior”, stand at one win a piece in Mr Eurovision’s “Battle of the Warriors”. Georgia won on first impression while Malta won on enduring appeal. As a warrior at heart, this has been a fascinating duel and now the decider will be on the ESC stage.