Eurovision 2017: The search for a second favourite

There’s no doubting Italy’s hold at the top of the market, and we now have the Eurovision edit, which cuts the first verse in half and omits the second. Beyond ‘Occidentali’s Karma‘, the outright market has been trying on different second favourites for size. Betfair was briefly blinded by Belgium’s ‘City Lights’, with Bulgaria’s ‘Beautiful Mess’ the most recent challenger to emerge.

But the mantle is currently held by Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson, who won Melodifestivalen with ‘I Can’t Go On‘. It’s a slick pop effort in the Timberlake mould, well sold by its good-looking protagonist. There’s not much to the song beyond the hook and beat behind the refrain, but the travelators make the most of it.

In comparison with Francesco Gabbani and his gorilla, I think the sight of Bengtsson and his banker-clad gym chums lack charm; but then Eric Saade almost won a weak 2011 contest with a sexy glint-in-the-eye, a refrain, and a smashing show. Sweden may currently be ante-post second favourites by default (much as Sanna was in 2014), but a good finish seems likely again.

Continue reading Eurovision 2017: The search for a second favourite

Eurovision 2017: Belgium’s Blanche and other recent selections

As we hurtle towards the mid-March submission deadline, we have one Super Saturday of national finals left – featuring northern luminaries Iceland, Sweden, Lithuania and Norway.

Each is its own conundrum: Iceland’s event seems more open than anticipated after hot favourite Svala was a visual let-down in her heat and some of her rivals stepped up appealingly; Norway’s contest is hard to call, with no standout song nor live performances to gage; Lithuania is its usual labyrinthine affair; while it’s hard to separate the most favoured spawn of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Daddy of all national finals.

In the meantime, this year’s selections came alive in the last week by providing a wide variety of songs, including this year’s market steamer from Belgium.

Continue reading Eurovision 2017: Belgium’s Blanche and other recent selections

Eurovision 2017: Eesti Laul and recent selections

Eurovision season is in full swing. The pace of selections has quickened, even if many songs have maintained a slowish tempo. There will barely be a day between now and mid-March without a reveal: tomorrow brings ‘Gravity’ from Cyprus, and among next Saturday’s finals is an intriguing Eesti Laul.

None of the recent selections are remotely challenging Italy’s hold at the top of the market. Furthermore, the predominance of slow songs and female performers seem to be playing into Francesco Gabbani’s hands.

Continue reading Eurovision 2017: Eesti Laul and recent selections

Eurovision 2017: The Big 5 decide

Hot on the heels of an exceptionally early UK selection, the rest of the Big 5 – the largest financial contributors, granted a free pass to the final – followed suit in the last week or so. As did Switzerland.

This time last week, the earliest known entries hadn’t excited the betting market. (That’s often the case, and can lead to hype building around a half-baked contender, such as Croatia last year, or Slovenia in 2015). But the conclusion of Italy’s Sanremo Festival late on Saturday brought a surprise result and a new favourite for Eurovision, in the shape of Francesco Gabbani and his dancing gorilla.

At the time of writing, punters are queuing to back Italy at under 5-1 on Betfair. Is the market just monkeying around?

Continue reading Eurovision 2017: The Big 5 decide

Eurovision 2017 Semi-Final Allocation Draw

The draw dividing the semi-final participants into heats of 18 and 19 has just taken place. You can see the results here. From the six automatic qualifiers, Italy, UK and Spain will vote in the first heat on May 9; Ukraine, Germany and France in the second on May 11. Hopefully, Betfair qualification markets will be with us shortly.

In the meantime, we have had four further songs chosen to represent various countries, and they deserve some early analysis. I don’t feel particularly enamoured with any of them, though I may be unduly worried that four of the five chosen so far are rather downbeat (and coincidentally, female).

Continue reading Eurovision 2017 Semi-Final Allocation Draw

UK Eurovision National Final 2017

This morning, BBC Radio 2 revealed the six British Eurovision hopefuls going forward to Friday’s national final. You can play the songs here.

The BBC have gone to greater lengths to find a good entry this year. As well as having another national final, they preceded it with a songwriting camp in Copenhagen. Hopes were raised when it was announced the final was to be held on BBC2 rather than BBC4, and as early as late January.

On first listen, the finalists (all of whom are X Factor alumni) offer up pretty generic material from what seems like a Eurovision song factory. Musically, there’s little that’s distinctive; lyrically, a lot of it is pretty close to “Love, Love, Peace, Peace“. My initial reaction was disappointment.

At this stage I would favour Lucie Jones with ‘Never Give Up On You’, which has staging potential, and is the most distinctive song. But we don’t yet fully know how Friday’s vote will work (there is a panel, and a 50/50 split between a jury and televote). Meanwhile the BBC is well versed in the dark arts of talent shows, knowing just how much the British public love a pimp slot and respond to “expert” opinion.

Let us know your thoughts below.

Eurovision 2017 Introduction

Eurovision on-season has begun. Albania kicked proceedings off choosing Lindita and ‘Bote’ – as always, we can expect a significant revamp. There may not be any more chosen songs to hand, but plenty of artists have already been internally selected. 43 countries take part, one more than last year. Portugal and Romania return, whilst Bosnia withdraw.

Today’s rumour, reported all over the Greek media, is that their national final will feature just one artist, Demy, singing three Kontopoulos compositions. The latter is the songwriter behind Eurovision podium finishers ‘You Are The Only One’ (Russia 2016), ‘Hold Me’ (Azerbaijan 2013), and ‘Shady Lady’ (Ukraine 2008).

It was thus no surprise to see Greece nibbled on the Betfair outright market today. Reassuringly, there is decent early betting activity. The next national finals are just over a week away – Gerogia and Belarus on January 20 – followed by an uncharacteristically early UK national final on January 27.

That gives us plenty to talk about already. You can expect the usual weekly round-ups, then coverage of pre-Eurorivison gigs, followed by rehearsals in Kiev leading up to the Grand Final on May 13. Do let us know your early thoughts below.

The Voice 2017 Discussion Thread

The Voice starts its new life on ITV at 8pm tonight, after five largely underwhelming outings on the BBC. When it was announced in November 2015 that ITV had acquired the rights to the show, there was speculation that it could replace the X Factor – but it’s since been confirmed that the X Factor will stagger on until at least 2019. To what extent sharing a channel will affect the evolution of either franchise remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Beeb are launching Let It Shine, a Graham Norton-fronted show featuring XF alums Gary Barlow and Dannii Minogue in casting a musical based on the songs of Take That. It’s currently unclear (reportedly including to Cowell’s lawyers) how exactly the format will work – but there are apparently live shows, so there might be something for bookmakers to price up.

If you’re watching either or both, do let us know what you reckon below.