02 May 2017
Keep The Faith was the title of the very first song to be released for Eurovision 2017 and how apt it proved to be. Georgia’s entry was the reminder that the organisational woes plaguing the contest could be surmounted. From the several aborted announcements to name a host city, the mass resignation last December of the management team, the shambolic ticketing process for Eurovision fan clubs, and the haphazard and embarrassing process involving Russia’s non-appearance, it’s been an adventure. The songs, after a slow start, and after a slow romance, have redeemed the contest, as usual.
As mentioned in the Fab Five a month ago, Eurovision 2017 is a good, solid collection of songs without anything really standing out. That’s been reinforced following a few days of listening on the CD. They are a very listenable collection. The only one I skip is Spain. There really is no redeeming qualities to it, and I didn’t even copy it to the phone. Songs I never really liked before, especially Hungary, are far more enjoyable without the distraction of a stage performance or elaborate preview video. Georgia, which I always liked from the start, revitalised itself. Similar with Malta. Italy is a great listen, while France is the other that improved most. Israel I appreciate much better too.
Australia, Sweden and San Marino, songs I found a bit shallow and boring, still feel that way, while Slovenia’s “Disney style” revamp is peculiar. It’s a song to showcase vocals, so to wrap in such an unnecessarily heavy arrangement destroys much of its soul. If the change is to tie-in with some grand presentation, maybe it will work. It’s the second year Slovenia have updated their song – a ploy obviously to chase votes. Although, ManuElla’s Blue And Red was only a mild change compared to Omar Naber’s On My Way. Personally it’s best to repeat the song and performance that won your national final. It resonated with your own people then, so trust it can do the same with Europe.
Semi Final 1
These are my preferred qualifiers, with Red marking hot, Yellow marking warm and Blue marking cool. I’ve grown to appreciate Portugal more, so have bumped Salvador into the Yellow category since initially making my selections. That makes it an even 10 to promote. Belgium, Azerbaijan, Greece, Iceland and Czechia are my “must” qualifiers, and for any to fail will see me have a tantrum. I’m convinced the shy and unsure Blanche will present a memorable and haunting rendition of her song for Belgium, while I expect Czechia to also deliver an intimate performance. Otherwise, both would be candidates to miss out with (obviously) Sweden and Armenia the main dangers. Armenia is probably the closest in copycat to the style of last year’s winner, Jamala, with her wailing tones, except Artsvik is far more pleasant to the ear.
Azerbaijan I expect will be one to really wow on the stage. It’s a song ripe for a killer performance, and Azerbaijan generally present very well. Greece is the interesting one. A song by a pedigreed team and by a country with typically pedigreed and memorable performances, it’s surprising it’s well off the radar. So are compatriots, Cyprus. It’s a quality and interesting song, and with both Greece and Cyprus in the same semi final, that’s a 12 point head start for both.
Should I mention Australia? They are in this semi. The song peters out so it’s hit or miss whether Isaiah qualifies. I’m hoping for a miss. Sorry, Eurovision for me is about supporting songs, not countries. If Isaiah is somehow in the mix to win the competition then, yes, that’s when my loyalty will arrive. Otherwise, I want my favourite songs in the final.
Semi Final 2
Six hot and four warm songs for another even 10 to the final. I’m not really sure if there’s any dangers to my preferred 10 either. Hungary could be one, as it has many supporters, while Norway is one of few up-tempo songs this year and will have an “interesting” stage presentation, to say the least. Israel is another up-tempo song that can grab a finals spot if it can present well. Belarus is similar to Hungary with it being a home language song, although the fan appeal is at a lesser level. Malta is probably the danger to miss out.
The big interest in this semi is Romania and Croatia. Both are novelty songs of sorts, one with a yodeller and the other a dual voice, or a duelling voice! I’m more confident with Romania because it will be mostly a reprise from its successful and adorable national final performance. Croatia is much different, being one man with two voices, and they overlap in the preview video, so there will be compromises somewhere. Visually they’ll want the mirage of two people performing too, so that will be another challenge. Austria, ostensibly a boring song, could do well if it connects with the audience. Finally, our other Australian, our Australian with a really good song, Anja Nissen for Denmark. I expect her to breeze through thanks to those powerful vocals that finish off the song.
Other than the horror show from Spain, all are listenable. UK will be the most interesting considering Lucie Jones’ voice was so nauseating in their national final. A quality revamp of the song might allow her to alter her pitch a little, at least in places. France is one I hope can deliver on stage. Often they don’t. If Alma does, I could become really besotted. I’m already halfway there because Alma is so beautiful, and quite funny too. I’m expecting Germany to bore Europe as usual, even though I really like the song, while Ukraine – again a song I really like – will likely get more fans rocking in the arena than it will earn points. No point talking about Italy until the next section.
Who will win?
Italy! That’s if you believe the odds, and the fans. It’s not so much that they are hot favourites, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious challenger to them. There’s no rational argument to offer against them winning either, and the only way they won’t win is if the Eurovision audience doesn’t feel it on the night. In essence, they will win easily or bomb out.
These odds were taken 29 April – before the rehearsals started – and are an average of about 10 betting agencies. I’m only showing two so excuse that the figures don’t exactly match with the position of the country on the table. Rehearsals would have changed these odds already, not that that I’ve watched any. I avoid them and plan to keep it that way! I like hitting Eurovision fresh to get the full face-melting experience. Before I checked the odds, I would have said Bulgaria are the main danger to Italy. That’s because Kristian is young, teeny bopper cute, and his infectious song is one of few solo male ballads in the entire field. While it doesn’t quite reach the potential it initially promises, that can be overcome with an engaging performance. Remember, in Eurovision, you need a combination of song and performance to do really well. Portugal is an interesting one in fourth. The juries should love Salvador; the televote, who knows. If they feel it on the night, I can easily see this winning. Yes, Portugal winning Eurovision.
With money bet on Sweden even before Melodifestivalen starts, they are perennially in the top 5, so it’s often difficult to gauge their true position. Fans are not rabid about their song like other years so it suggests I Can’t Go On is artificially high and more likely just in the top 10. Azerbaijan is one a bit lower down with the potential to do really well. Great song and there’s the ever omnipresent Turkish diaspora throughout Europe to pile on the votes. Estonia seem very low in the odds. I apportion that to the ever increasing unfashionable status of these small Baltic countries. Plus, Estonia had a disastrous past few years. Even 2015 with Goodbye To Yesterday, seventh place did not live up to the hype, nor the superb presentation of a great song. Verona is a song capable enough for top 5. Koit & Laura need a bit of fine-tuning, particularly integrating the graphics better and not to look so awkward when on stage together as they did at Eesti Laul.
Romania at about 10th pick is encouraging. My perception of Yodel It is common with many other people: recoil at the first yodel and then end up loving the song. It’s obviously different to anything else this year, and there’s a great feel-good aspect to it. It reminds me so much of Michal Szpak and Color Of Your Life last year for Poland. He managed to charm the audience, and if Ilinca and Alex can do likewise, they will do well. Appealing to the jury is the unknown. They are hit and miss with eclectic songs. Poland was a miss last year, so let’s hope this year Romania is a hit!
Top 3 Prediction: Italy, Azerbaijan, Romania.
Who do I hope will win?
Even though I have Belgium and Estonia in front as preferred songs, I’m hoping Romania. It would simply be the most wonderful story if this unusual yet so quintessential Eurovision song should win. Both Ilinca and Alex also exude that typical Eurovision vibe of fun, self-expression and dreaming big, and that’s something we need – to get us back to the Eurovision ideals – after the politicised chaos of the past year.
Typically I hope to see a new country win, so Bulgaria would be a great result, as too would a shock result like Croatia. Belgium, and even the Netherlands, would be a great win too. It’s been ages since either won – having struggled since Eurovision expanded into eastern Europe – and are due. Despite concerns about Blanche delivering on the big stage, her live studio performances show this kind of song and voice can translate to Eurovision. The key is to turn the stage into a small, intimate setting. I’d even put the entire arena in darkness so it’s just Blanche and the dancing city lights, and finish the song in complete darkness.
Hopeful Top 3: Romania, Estonia, Belgium.
It’s a very different year than Stockholm 2016. Whereas then I was so anxious about getting Grand Final tickets, this year I would not have cared had I missed out. 2016 being the first year was obviously the key difference, as too is the music itself. Eurovision is an oddball event when it comes to concerts. Normally it’s a favourite artist you see with entirely their library of songs, whereas Eurovision it’s individual songs from a library of artists. Typically it’s only a handful of songs you really care about, and about 10 or 15 others of reasonable interest. The rest, after seeing them once or twice, you don’t care anymore. That’s magnified this year by not being emotionally invested in any one song. There’s no Blue And Red scenario of being totally seduced, enchanted and subsumed. There’s no favourite artist to even cheer on either. No doubt, once seeing the live rehearsal shows and semi finals, that will change. Hopefully Romania repeats their simple, charming and engaging national final performance, because then I can really get emotionally invested.