04 May 2019
After attending the Eurovision Song Contest for the past 3 years, I’m skipping Tel Aviv 2019, and it’s a good call. It’s one of the weaker years for songs, made worse by so many solo men dominating the favourites. At least the few uptempo songs and female ballads that made it are all quite nice. Then there’s the industrial BDSM grunge of Iceland, the non compos mentis from Portugal, and the screeching folk music from Poland. It will be interesting to see how those three performance in the semis.
There’s several returning artists, notably Sergey Lazarev from Russia, who was cheated in 2016 of a win with deliberate low voting by the juries. Also from 2016 is Serhat for San Marino, and there’s Joci Papai for Hungary from 2017. Tamara Todevska of North Macedonia is back after appearing in 2008, and as a backing singer in 2004 and 2014. Serbia’s Nevena Bozovic is back after appearing with the disastrously dressed Moje 3 in 2013, and a Junior Eurovision appearance in 2007.
This year’s semi finals are noted for a super strong second semi final and a weak first semi final, and one made weaker because Ukraine – which would have been a certain qualifier – withdrew from the event. So top 10 from just 17 songs in that semi final should mean no one can feel upset for not qualifying, which would even include Portugal, Poland and Iceland. Heck, if they get the poor result they deserve it’s really top 10 from 14 anyone needs to achieve. San Marino should get their second ever grand final spot, Australia shouldn’t have any problem, while Greece and Cyprus – the most obvious voting bloc in Eurovision history and finding themselves in the same semi final for the fourth straight year – will get a guaranteed 12 point head start and almost certain progression.
For a review and ranking of all the songs, check my Fab Five post.
Semi Final 1
These are my favourites to progress, and are marked as hot (red), warm (yellow) and cool (aqua). Anything unmarked I don’t want at all. With only four hot ones here, it shows the weakness of this semi final. Six warm ones make up my top 10. My hot ones at most risk are Belarus and San Marino. Belarus hasn’t gained much general attention so far while there are questions Serhat can sing disco (or anything) live, plus both suffer for being unfashionable ESC countries and without strong voting allies in the semi. Iceland is the obvious one that could take one of their places. It polarises most fans, so as long as it doesn’t alienate everyone at home, it should get enough votes to reach the top 10. Finland has the famous Darude (behind the big 2000 hit, Sandstorm) and is the most upbeat song in the semi, albeit it’s not a strong song. So much for the “instant win” that abounded the internet when he was announced as Finland’s entry. Hungary might have his fans as he did in 2017, while Slovenia could be a strong jury song.
Semi Final 2
In contrast to four hot songs in SF1, we have eight in SF2. In fact, four from this semi final – Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia and Sweden – are among the top 5 favourites in the betting, while Malta is ranked 8th. The other top 5 song is the automatic grand finalist, Italy. The two warm songs I’d take to the top 10 are Moldova and either Romania and Austria. The latter two are the other 4-star songs from my Fab Five, while I’ve become very fond of Moldova recently. Sweden has had enough success so they can miss for a year! Of course, Sweden are guaranteed to progress, so perhaps deciding between Romania and Austria is moot as Sweden will take a spot. I’ll stick with Austria, as it is a distinctive song and I can image Paenda will present it really well. Of my hot songs, Denmark is at most risk of missing. The other seven I’d suggest are guaranteed.
Here it’s just rating my favourites, and the only hot song for me is Germany. S!sters with Sister is my favourite this year. Who knows how they’ll perform. It’s not a song that ESC fans typically like, so it’s up to the general public, which is most of the voting. The jury can do anything. Most ESC fans are tied to Italy, which won the poll of all official OGAE fan clubs, just in front of Switzerland and then Netherlands.
Betting Odds & Prediction
Remember, this is a reflection of the public’s betting habits, it’s not a “bookies’ choice” that’s so commonly reported. Sergey Lazarev, after losing in 2016, even said he won’t listen to the bookies this year. In truth, it’s the betting public he won’t listen to, not that they were wrong in 2016 because he comprehensively won the televote.
The bookies are actually a computer these days, so that as more money is bet on a country, their odds reduce. Conversely, odds increase on unattractive countries to attract people to people to bet on them. The point being that these odds constantly change as people bet so that whoever wins, the betting agency hopes to retain a small percentage of the betting pool (possibly around 10%) as profit. The only times they would lose if there’s a sudden and late plunge on something at big odds, and it wins.
An example of a damaging bet $10,000 on Belarus at $251, which would mean a $2.5 million loss, and the betting agency may not even take the bet. They might take $1000 for a $250,000 loss, and then shorten Belarus’ odds to to $101 or $51, depending on the amount of money in the betting pool. Conversely, $10,000 on Netherlands at $2.50 would only be a $15,000 loss, so they’d risk that, and reduce their odds a bit further to encourage betting elsewhere.
These odds are at 2 May 2019, so before the rehearsals start. Staging will have a dramatic affect on some songs, either positively or negatively. Netherlands are the current favourites, and deservedly so, because it is such a nice song. It’s my personal third favourite of the year. The main concern is whether a really nice, sung really well, can win. Typically you need a moment or two, which could happen with the staging, if it’s as stylish and evocative as the Dutch entry in 2014, The Common Linnets, who surprisingly finished second with their understated country song. Ilse DeLange from The Common Linnets has already been working with Duncan Laurence, and with Arcade being a far superior song, he may not need to surprise as much. Arcade is even better than Portugal’s winner in 2017, Amar Pelos Dois, by Salvador Sobral, which was helped by Sobral’s unique hand gestures and appearance, and also the song being in Portuguese.
Russia in second is the one I suspect will win. Another nice song made even stronger by Sergey Lazarev being such a popular figure across the region, and there could be an “redress” situation after he lost in 2016. Dima Bilan rode a similar wave in 2008 to win with an ordinary song after he was beaten by monsters (Lordi) in 2006. Similar to Bilan, Lazarev brings a ballad for his second attempt to avoid direct comparisons with the more uptempo losing song. With the impressive staging no doubt Russia will bring, and with much of the anti-Russia bias surely expunged from the juries’ mind, it all might align for Sergey to the Eurovision win he deserved
Switzerland is a similar situation with Netherlands: nice song, unfashionable country, and will need something extra on stage. A bonus is it’s an uptempo song, complete with a latin flair, so should stand out a bit. Italy in fourth, which won the OGAE 2019 poll, is quite dull to me, and the fact it won the OGAE (Eurovision fan clubs) poll, might count against it because often their favourites come short. I suspect much of its allure is because Mahmood’s father is Egyptian, and part of the song is in Arabic, so there’s a “woke” effect at play here. If the juries detect that, watch out. In fifth is Sweden, which has surprisingly gone a bit quiet after the predictable win of John Lundvik. With Lundvik a man of colour, and with an impressive song and a highly personable performance, they should be up their again, at least with the juries, as per Austria winning the jury vote last year with Cesar Sampson.
Youtube views align much with betting, with exceptions of two songs: Malta and France. Malta likely capitalised on it strangely being advertised on Eurovision videos on Eurovision’s official channel for a time, while Bilal Hassani for France was a popular youtube personality already, so many of his views are likely from fans. At 8th and 12th respectively in the betting, neither are without hope. Malta is actually a very nice song and my fifth favourite, while France’s issue is it’s an average song hamstrung further by Bilal’s average vocals.
Iceland in 6th could do anything from win to be a semi final loser. It’s so polarising that it’s unlikely to win because you need consistent vote gathering to win, not just 12 and 10 points. Norway in 10th is one of the rare uptempo songs things year, and of sufficient quality to gain votes. Portugal in 12th is 29 spots too high. If the resentment vote against Australia continues like the last two years, Kate Miller-Heidke will have a tough time finishing higher than mid table. The grand final shouldn’t be a problem from the weak 17-song first semi final. Down the list, Armenia is one of my favourites and so impressive vocally that it could finish quite high. It’s actually a tough year because, outside the few top ones, it’s all so even.
Top 3 – Prediction: Russia, Netherlands and Sweden.
Obviously I like to see my favourites do well, with my Fab Five being Germany, Belarus, Netherlands, Armenia and Malta. Germany are typically an unfashionable country so will rely on really producing something on the night. Belarus might be too generic for most, while Malta have a habit of over-staging their songs and them becoming a mess. Each year my main criteria when cheering for a country is one that’s never won or hasn’t won in a long time. Even if all my favourites have wiped out early in the voting (usually the case), I’ll get behind one of the leaders based on their lack of success and as long as the song isn’t dreadful. Last year I was rapt Israel won, and happy for Portugal in 2017 even though I never liked the song much.
Top 3 – Hopeful: Netherlands, Germany, Belarus. Even though Armenia or Malta are more likely to be in that third spot, it would be so cool if Zena could make it.
Mr Eurovision Jury
The regular family jury couldn’t convene this year, so a quick consensus of members and a few friends have selected Russia, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Norway and Sweden as their favourite songs.
May The 4th Be With You!