Eurovision 2018: Five points to consider

A few weeks ago, I offered my thoughts on the contenders according to bookmakers’ odds. But there are plenty of other markets out there, and it’s worth looking beyond “who’s going to win?” to find new angles in those other markets. Here are four such questions to help consider different perspectives, before some final thoughts on searching for emotional resonance.

You can also hear me discussing this year’s entries on the following Eurobliss podcast on Mixcloud.

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Eurovision in Concert 2018

The Eurovision market on Betfair has the jitters. It feels like there’s a swift reaction to every bit of news or concert footage. Market leader Israel traded as short as 2.6 as Netta took to the stage in Tel Aviv. After an understandably nervous and excitable first live performance of ‘Toy’, the price drifted to over 3.0, and it’s currently 3.5. Belgium’s Sennek became friendless on Betfair the same night, after straining badly in the chorus.

Yet in their polar opposite ways, these songs will be completely different in Lisbon: Netta will have three female backing dancers and various camera angles that will presumably get us closer to a sense of the official video; Sennek will be able to create intimacy on stage that’s impossible at a fan concert. And vocal issues have plenty of time to be worked on – both were already more secure on Saturday, although Sennek could do with dialling back further on the crucial “before it all” line.

I won’t go through every Amsterdam performance – I’d seen plenty of the acts in London and learned nothing new about them in the Netherlands. You can check them all out for yourselves at the wiwibloggs or esckaz YouTube channels.
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London Eurovision Party 2018

We’re in the middle of Eurovision preview party season: Riga, London and Moscow last week will be followed by Tel Aviv tomorrow, then Amsterdam on Saturday and finally Madrid. A reminder that what transpires on a tiny stage in a small venue in front of excitable fans often has little bearing on the main event. The use of playback is reasonably prevalent in London, and this year was no exception. Judge for yourselves with the YouTube videos of the event organisers.

If there was a standout vocal performance, it came from Austria’s Cesar Sampson. Like the other acts singing without too much playback, he started off getting the sound mix right with engineers, but his rich voice was totally secure throughout. On this basis, he should be getting plenty of jury support with the radio-friendly ‘Nobody But You’ in that tricky first semi-final.

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Eurovision 2018: Running order for the semi-finals

Eagerly anticipated by the betting community and fans in general, the official website has just published the running order for both semi-finals, found here. Azerbaijan open the first heat, which we round off with Cyprus. Meanwhile, the first dish of the second heat is Norway, where we finish with Ukraine.

A reminder that song strength is by far the most important criteria in qualification. That won’t stop us speculating about how today’s news impacts various chances, especially in the unusually good first semi. Do let us know your thoughts below. I’ll return with a review of the London Eurovision Party later this week, though it may be delayed a few days due to travel plans.

Eurovision 2018: Summary of the market leaders

With the semi-final draw published next week, and the London Eurovision Party on that Thursday, now seems a good time to take stock and assess the top of the outright market. I consider there to be some red herrings among them, though an open mind has to be kept at the pre-rehearsal stage.

I think Israel is a deserving if rather short-priced favourite, though may well trade shorter with a month of OGAE and Eurojury barometers ahead that will probably favour Netta. She has the potential to be this year’s Conchita or Salvador, the iconic figure that everyone remembers. Staging will be incredibly important though: in showing her to be likeable rather than too aggressive; and in making the song seem credible rather than novelty, especially with the national juries in mind.

I really like the chances of the Czech song too, though as another upbeat number, staging decisions have many potential wrong directions. My mole at the Latvia pre-party, where Mikolas Josef performed last weekend, was impressed with his vocals. You could also argue this is something that could perform strongly across the board: with televoters and jurors; across eastern and western Europe. That can’t be guaranteed for all the market leaders.

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Eurovision 2018: Netta Barzilai’s ‘Toy’ and other recent selections

When Netta Barzilai dropped her ‘Toy‘, all hell broke loose in the outright market and our comments section. There’s actually light and shade in the Israeli song, and as Eurovicious pointed out, a useful 30-second intro that welcomes us to the looper. But the danger with televoters is an initial reaction of ‘WTF’ based on the clucking. Still, if you think the viral reaction is big now, imagine what might follow after the Tuesday semi-final, which could help its cause with viewers.

Catchy and divisive, iconic and aggressive, a bigger problem may come from jurors who are able to weight each song from 1st to 26th. But this issue could be overstated given Netta brings something original, chart-worthy, recognisably her own and rooted in where she comes from (ergo, authentic). Viewing past performances on Israeli TV suggests she’ll be able to bring vocals and charisma to the party, but staging will have to ensure that credibility isn’t lost alongside the fun.

Do I think Israel can win? Yes. Do its current odds represent value? No. Still, as Tim B pointed out, we have another month of it being at the top or thereabouts of fan and OGAE polls. The only analogy I want to make with Francesco Gabbani last year (because each case is so different), is that one shouldn’t underestimate how low in the odds a pre-rehearsal favourite can go. The first day of run-throughs in Lisbon promises to be a belter.

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Eurovision 2018: Melfest, and recent selections

Happy Melfest day! Since 2016, app voting in the final (indicated by the beating heart on TV screens) has had the effect of levelling off televoting scores (Swedish viewers can give up to five app votes for each act), allowing the international juries to wield huge power with their more differentiated points.

There’s been a small attempt to counteract this in 2018, though it’s worth mentioning it wouldn’t have changed the result in the last few years, and perhaps just as crucially, the sequencing remains the same: televoting lines will remain open as the jury results are announced, and viewers will be motivated to get behind one of the few acts still in with a chance.

International juries have tended to favour contemporary, well-staged packages, and Benjamin Ingrosso’s ‘Dance You Off’ certainly falls into that category. During the heats, he also managed the longest flaming heart graphic, indicating the strength of app voting during his routine. All this plus the betting market suggests it’s his to lose, though expect a few curveballs from those juries along the way.

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Eurovision 2018: Eesti Laul, and recent selections

The are five national finals tonight, though the betting community will also have eyes for Melodifestivalen’s Second Chance round. It’ll be interesting to see how the outright market reacts to Eesti Laul and the presumed coronation of Elina Nechayeva’s ‘La Forza‘. Her success in Estonia has become something of a foregone conclusion.

On this day last year, ‘Verona’ drifted in the betting despite being reasonably ahead in the most important online poll – from the newspaper Postimees. This year’s poll has the opera singer massively ahead of her rivals, reiterating what the odds suggest. The format remains the same: a first round based on 50/50 jury/televote; followed by a superfinal of three with the winner crowned by televote alone.

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