Eurovision 2018: The German national final, and recent selections

Eurovision selection season now steps up a gear, though who knows when we’ll get clarity on the leading contenders. At the time of going to press, five countries vie for favouritism in the Betfair outright market – no clear-cut frontrunner has emerged.

Finland is one of those five, and tomorrow we’ll hear the last of Saara Aalto’s three options, ‘Queens’. Sweden is another one, and earlier in the day we’ll get snippets of the remaining songs entered in Melodifestivalen. Thursday’s programme also includes the second Armenian semi-final, and the German final – which can be an entertaining affair.

After two last places in a row, followed by second-last, the German broadcaster has gone through an exhaustive process to give us six adequate songs. The front-runner appears to be Michael Schulte who is getting some Roman Lob comparisons for a song about his dead father, ‘You Let Me Walk Alone‘.

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Eurovision 2018: The UK national final, and recent selections

Tonight’s UK final takes place at the Brighton Dome, venue of Abba’s Eurovision triumph in 1974. The BBC have put together six adequate songs, arguably a better collection than last year’s. My one general criticism is they feel too safe, as if written for and approved by committee.

The most distinctive in studio form is Asanda’s ‘Legends’. The 16-year-old was last seen on TV screens as a precocious finalist in 2013’s Britain’s Got Talent. She’ll need that experience, as one problem with the martial, high-energy ‘Legends’ is it doesn’t give her a chance to draw breath. Rumours are this is the preferred BBC choice, but live performance will make or break it, and short prices don’t appeal as a result.

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Eurovision 2018: The French national final, and early state of play

The road to Lisbon really kicks into gear with the French national final tonight. A decent field of eight is, according to the Betfair market, a two-horse race between the semi-final winners, Lisandro Cuxi with ‘Eva‘ and Madame Monsieur with ‘Mercy‘. The former is marginal favourite at the time of going to press.

The Voice champion Lisandro is a decent performer, but ‘Eva’ is rather bland in a Eurovision context, and I think France would be wiser to pick Madame Monsieur with their minimalist electro number about a refugee child. It has top ten potential come May. The decision is half in the hands of French televoters, and half decided by a panel of international jurors. If you don’t get France 2 on your cable package, their Facebook feed will live stream the event from 7.55pm tonight.

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X Factor 2017: Coming Up Roses

What a difference a year makes. After last year’s final, we were scratching our heads about what exactly producers had been trying to achieve. There was no such uncertainty this year, and we have to doff our caps again to producers for what they’ve managed to pull off. It’s pretty amazing that we had a final Sunday involving two acts each performing two original numbers, rather than belting out ‘Proud Mary’ or ‘Feelin’ Good’ for the zillionth time. Will it be enough to revitalise the franchise? Let’s hope so – we’ll see next year.

Rak-Su won comfortably in the end, though the voting statistics showed why producers weren’t taking any chances: they’d beaten Grace by only 1.3 percentage points in the semi-final Sunday, admittedly from second slot in the running order with Grace performing last. They were ahead in the final by 41.7% to Grace’s 35.4% at the vote freeze for Kevin’s elimination, and widened their gap when the vote re-opened. By our calculations, the split was 54/46 while Kevin was still in it, and 57/43 when it was head-to-head.

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Rak-Su win X Factor 2017

Manband Rak-Su became the second group to win X Factor. The Watford quartet beat Grace Davies on the final night after a weekend of programmes in which their victory was clearly preferred. When Nicole said, “For me, it’s Rak-Su to win”, the writing was on the wall.

For those wanting to get a sense of the work that went into their journey, this article is an excellent primer. Reading it will help pass the time before we get the hotly-anticipated voting stats for the whole series. Do let us know your continued thoughts below.

X Factor 2017 Final Update: Rak on Track?

Producers couldn’t have set out their stall any more clearly last night for a Rak-Su victory, even if it didn’t look like every last moment had been meticulously planned – the duet staging for ‘Dimelo’ was a hot mess, with the never-introduced-on-stage Naughty Boy looking like a random bloke tapping out an email.

Still, while it may have been confusing, at least the addition of Naughty Boy and Wyclef Jean wasn’t to the detriment of the song. The same can’t be said for Grace’s duet: the introduction of Paloma Faith had the effect of thoroughly undercutting the intimate appeal of ‘Roots’. Perhaps that was the intention.

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X Factor 2017 Final Preview: Rak Pact

An enjoyable series comes to a climax this weekend with the final it deserves. Rak-Su and Grace have been the big names since the very first audition show, often singing their own songs, and have had a noticeable impact on the iTunes charts. Kevin Davy White, whose musicality brings something different to proceedings, is the surprise package.

We completely missed Kevin in our just-for-fun pre-lives prediction six weeks ago, but plumped for Rak-Su to win and nothing that’s happened since has changed our minds. The manband have had most momentum in the lives, and we took it as a sign of confidence that producers put them on second in the running order for the double elimination semi-final. ‘I’m Feeling You’ duly gave them another #1 on iTunes. They return to their hits from weeks 1 and 2 tonight – ‘Mamacita’ and ‘Dimelo’ – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

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X Factor 2017 Series Review: The Housemate’s Tale

We were intrigued to discover, as the screening of Grace’s first-week audition established her as the early betting favourite, that she’s a housemate of Janet Devlin. She must have discussed with Janet whether or not to go on the show. And after Janet’s experience in 2011, it would be astonishing if Janet hadn’t offered some words of caution. We’d love to know how producers managed to convince Grace that the housemate’s tale would be a different one.

Last week we discussed a Music Week interview in which Simon Cowell mused that acts must go through a “mental process” of “do we trust the show enough”. They must indeed: when you sign up, you effectively give up control of your identity for the purposes of the show. It’s not quite a matter of donning anonymising clothes and changing your name to Ofsharon, but the power of the edit suite is such that you can be made to come across pretty much however producers wish.

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