03 May 2018
After Portugal’s Salvador Sobral’s win at Kyiv 2017, the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Lisbon, is shaping up as one of the most interesting ones ever. More non-English songs, more diversity in songs, and a great variety of artists too. That can all be attributed Salvador’s Amar Pelos Dois, a heartfelt, meandering jazz song – or “music with feeling” – that has inspired more countries than usual to be more ambitious with their selections. There also is a good sprinkle of “fast food” and “fireworks” music, with the favourite of this year, Israel, epitomizing that. The irony if Netta’s Toy won in Salvador’s backyard!
There’s a good contrast in quality too. Among the exceptional songs is a few stinkers, unlike the very even year of Kyiv. Personally, you need that sort of polarization, especially to latch onto some ultra favourites for the Eurovision journey to be extra meaningful. Whereas Kyiv 2017 left us with quite a sterile feeling, the strong variety on offer, even including the fast food songs, means there’s actually some music with feeling for everyone at Lisbon 2018.
With the botched Australian release of the CD having karaoke versions on disc 2, there hasn’t been great enthusiasm to really get into listening to disc 1 so as not to prejudice half the songs. Suffice to say, most of my favourites are on disc 1, notably Estonia, Switzerland, Belgium and Azerbiajan. Only Romania I miss, and the late bloomer of FYR Macedonia. Of course, you can get the audio tracks from “other means”, of which I’ve done for the few favourites I’m missing.
With this year quite an artistic year, listening to audio alone doesn’t change much. Switzerland sounds better as you really hear the detail of Corinne’s vocals, which almost gave me goosebumps. Similar with FYR Macedonia – lovely crisp vocals and a great song. Thumping tracks like Australia and Cyprus nearly always sound better, as does the middle of the road stuff, especially Austria, and Ireland sounds a bit better too. Still stinking is Sweden, while my favourite this year, Estonia, loses a smidgen without seeing the glory of Elina Nechayeva fully driving the passion of the song with her breathtaking style.
Semi Final 1
Remember the colours? Red are my hot favourites, yellow my warm favourites, and blue my cool favourites. They show something that everyone has recognised – that SF1 is a ridiculously hot final! To look only at the first half, it’s insanely hot! Conceivably all 10 songs could go through. While I don’t have Czechia personally marked, they should comfortably progress if Mikolas Josef can perform well on stage. It’s only Iceland that is the unlikely one, with Albania touch and go. Beyond 10th in the list you still have strong fan favourites with Greece, Finland and Cyprus, plus my personal ones of FYR Macedonia and Switzerland.
Curiously Cyprus and Greece are in the same semi final again, which is an automatic 12 point start. How did this happen? Eurovision organisers have no idea how to allocate pots. They think the pots should have even numbers of about 6 countries, so Cyprus and Greece were mixed with four other nations and, as fate would have it, ended up together. Same deal with Romania and Moldova in SF2. It’s actually very simple to allocate pots to ensure alliances are kept separate. They are pots of Greece and Cyprus, Romania and Moldova, Nordic Region, Ex-USSR, and the rest. You empty one pot at a time, alternating into each semi final. It’s not rocket science!
Back to my songs. With the seven hot ones of Azerbaijan, Belgium, Lithuania, Israel, Estonia, FYR Macedonia and Switzerland, we add the 3 warm ones of Belarus, Bulgaria and Greece. That’s it! That’s my top 10. No point to delve into the cooler favourites and mediocre songs. While I don’t do predictions, I’ll say the main ones at risk of not qualifying are FYR Macedonia and Switzerland. Facts are they haven’t really captured a great deal of attention, and that’s despite their enthusiastic promotion on the pre-party circuit. In fact, the Swiss brother and sister duo have really embraced the Eurovision experience, and it would be nice if they were rewarded. As stated before, Czechia will almost certainly qualify instead of one of them, and I might say Austria for the last spot. I’ll bet against Finland or Cyprus for being too cheap. Cyprus is the unknown because we haven’t seen much of Eleni Foureira at all, while we saw Saara Aalto at her coronation show.
Semi Final 2
Only 5 hot favourites and 4 warm ones, means I delve into the cool to fill my top 10. There’s only one of those – Poland – so bang! All too easy. Since Sweden nearly always qualify, one of mine must go out, and the obvious one is San Marino. While its “trainwreck charisma” has made it very endearing to me, only the trainwreck part is likely to be observed by most. Except for Sweden’s historical likelihood, it’s difficult to make a case for any song to progress, and possibly only Romania is the other favourite of mine at risk. Again, who replaces them? The two Balkan ballads from Serbia and Montenegro, respectively, aren’t that great, while Slovenia’s Hvala Ne! has more eclectic appeal than general appeal. Can a few neighbourly votes help one of them through? I guess it can. It’s possible, though, probably unlikely. I’m beginning to sound like James Comey! Really, it confirms this semi final as the much weaker one.
The Grand Finalists
Of the pre-qualified songs, the Big 5 and the host, Portugal, Spain is the obvious stand-out. It’s a lovely song, sung so well, and has great fan support. Unfortunately, with Spain’s poor record of votes and that a similar song won last year, the voters will probably look elsewhere. France has great fan support too, while Surie has a great voice for the United Kingdom. It’s the song that is lacking a bit. If Spain again goes missing in the votes, Germany is the likely highest finisher of this group.
Who will win?
If you believe the odds, it’s Israel. Note that these odds were taken on 23 April, before the rehearsals started, so are an indication of primarily the song itself, with the national final performance, where applicable, a smaller influence. Last year, upon unimpressive rehearsals, Belgium dropped a little, only to recover and finish fourth. It’s the rehearsals that will likely have the greatest influence with Israel too. It’s an unknown, as how this quirky song will be performed, and it will influence the odds even if there’s a hint of a problem. Czechia is the other one in a similar boat.
The graph next to the songs show Israel is on the decline. Ignore this as they were crunched as soon as the song was released, and have later drifted to their more rightful spot. Same with Estonia, one of the very early song releases so were an early favourite until other songs overtook it. Consequently I’ve thrown $20 to win! Also ignore Sweden on the rise. They were high before Sweden even decided (as is often the case), and then drifted once the underwhelming Dance You Offer was announced, before recovering.
Except for something phenomenal emerging from the rehearsals (think Netherland’s The Common Linnets in 2014), the winner is likely from the top 5 or 6. I’d actually bet that Israel won’t be to the jury’s taste, and Bulgaria will finally get the prize after two strong years. It feels like a 2011 scenario when Azerbaijan won, that with such a varied group, something that will score lots of 8s and 10s will come through. Azerbaijan only scored three 12s that year. I also think the buzz Estonia once had will return, as it’s a great impact song, while something at big odds, I’ll go for Lithuania at $100 for third. Such a sweet song and should poll well from both the jury and public. Of course, if Israel win, it won’t be a surprise.
The rank outsider this year is Iceland in SF1. Forget the $500 to win, they are $15 to even make the final. Croatia are at $6 and Ireland at $5. In SF2, it’s San Marino at $11, with Georgia and Slovenia next at $4. In contrast, the top 10 favoured songs in each semi final to reach the final are at under $2, the top 5 under a $1.20, and Israel at $1.01.
Top 3 Prediction: Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania
Youtube views are often a good indicator of the televote. To many people’s surprise, Poland was heavily watched in 2016 before Eurovision, and they ended up third on televote. This year it’s Israel, Spain and Czechia consistently the people’s favourites.
Who do I hope will win?
Same as every year: a new country! From a mix of my favourites and the general favourites, why not Bulgaria? They’ve put so much effort into the past 3 years, and have suffered enough ignomy of failed semi final performances, so deserve it. Romania would be another option, while I would ordinaly say Czechia, if only they had a better song. Estonia hasn’t hosted since 2002, and I’d never snub an opportunity for a visit to that phenomenal little country. An Israeli victory would be fine too. I certainly don’t want Australia to win. It’s bad enough that there’ll be another year of “Why is Australia in Eurovision”; and then add to that “Australia is too far away and a 5am start is ridiculous”. Yes, as long as Australia are prepared to have 5am start times, they will be allowed to host in this country.
Hopeful Top 3: Romania, Estonia, Switzerland
Family Top 5
Adding my family’s top 5 to mine, we got this result:
Rank is by number of people voting for a song, then total votes. So Estonia was the clear favourite, with only Romania and Azerbaijan gaining shared love.
I arrive in Lisbon the Saturday afternoon, the day before the blue carpet, and leave the Sunday after the grand final for Porto, before heading to Spain for 5 days. It’s primarily a holiday, with the aim to see as much as Lisbon as possible, visit Sintra, and enjoy the (hopefully) sunny weather. Blogging will be the standard pattern of the past two years of an “Impressions” post, without spoilers, following the jury semi finals, and then the review after each broadcast show. All aboard!