Eurovision 2015: Year of Bloke and Bird

[Daniel writes: it's great to welcome back eurovicious with his thoughts on the 2015 contest. This is the first of a few thematic articles he is penning for us on this year's entries.]

National final season: it’s like your weird foreign friend who turns up on your doorstep in December with nowhere to go and ends up sleeping on your sofa for 4 months. At first you enjoy reconnecting with them and have a few good evenings in together, but before long, you grow increasingly weary of their company and start to realise just how inconsistent and frequently disappointing they are. Just as well that by Easter, they’ve gone again – rewarding your hospitality with a few nice thank-you gifts and keepsakes, but also forgetting to take their rubbish with them and leaving a bad smell in the bathroom.

That’s right, another underwhelming year has left us with another underwhelming line-up: like the last two years but even more so, we have a flood of songs that are well-produced and -arranged and will in almost all cases be well-sung and -performed in May, but which are unmemorable, extremely safe and with fewer hooks than Abu Hamza. This year’s vintage is one heavy on overly conventional ballads that don’t seem to aim for victory or even a high placing, let alone originality or sincerity (unlike 2012’s diamond crop), and as such, it’s perhaps a modern equivalent of the notoriously ballad-heavy Eurovision 1994.

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Eurovision 2015: Mar 21 Update

Caution is a watchword in many of our articles. Perhaps it’s the stirring of Spring, but I feel like being unusually optimistic about some of the last entries selected for Eurovision 2015. Punters agree: in the Betfair outright market, which is the best place to measure current sentiment, five of the breakaway top nine came to light in the frenzy of the deadline weekend.

Sweden top the market after Mans Zelmerlow’s landslide Melodifestivalen victory. Based on song clip, I was initially sceptical of ‘Heroes’, with its Avicii-esque country-verse-meets-EDM-chorus. But on watching the whole package including performance and staging, I think it ticks more boxes than anything else, and deserves its place at the top of bookmakers’ lists – where it seems likely to stay.

I take Mans’ 35.1% audience share in the Swedish final – more than Loreen in 2012 – seriously. A valid counter-argument is he had less competition, but runner-up Jon Henrik Fjallgren was thought likely to be a televote magnet after winning his semi-final, and could barely manage half the ‘Heroes’ vote. Zelmerlow’s song is contemporary and highly accessible; whilst it’s no masterpiece, that’s well hidden by its presentation. I’m staying on the right side of it in the run-up to rehearsals.

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Eurovision 2015: Mar 14 Update

If the bookmakers and pundits are right, tonight’s Swedish final will be an evening-long coronation for Mans Zelmerlow. I can’t argue with the polls and stats which suggest as much. ‘Heroes‘ promises to be a fan favourite and box-ticking front-runner in Vienna if selected, and Sweden’s Betfair odds have been contracting significantly this week as a result. I doubt there’ll be any significant difference from the utterly professional and polished routine we saw in the semi-final.

In the circumstances, it should be far more informative to focus on the Norwegian final tonight, whose songs we haven’t yet seen performed live. Current favourites Morland & Debrah Scarlett with the classy ‘A Monster Like Me‘ have fallen a little under the radar since the initial excitement of the song reveal. It’ll be interesting to see if a decent performance and possible victory tonight will change that.

The winning televote percentages in both events are something I’ll be looking out for after the results are called. Both shows should offer some slick entertainment; take your pick of the usually reliable webcasts from Sweden at 19:00GMT or Norway at 19:25GMT.

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Eurovision 2015: Mar 7 Update

There’s a slight lull in national finals tonight – just the Portuguese decider and the Swedish second chance round – oh, and the UK reveal on the red button service at 21.30GMT. But we’ve got plenty to mull over from the past week with the Finnish and German results creating news beyond the fan sites.

Let’s start with Finland, where punk rockers with learning disabilities Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat scored a convincing win in the televote. Initially backed down to under 7.0 on the back of mainstream media headlines, some punters have built big liabilities laying those prices, pushing it back out to 11.0.

I am one of them. I echo eurovicious’ initial comments that the Finnish entry offers neither aurally nor visually a winning experience, and doesn’t match the appeal of other headline-grabbing acts such as Conchita or the Russian grannies, for example. Meanwhile, even if not completely punished by juries, the new system introduced two years ago, whereby full rankings from first to last are taken into account, will also work against them, as it would’ve done the Babushki.

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Eurovision 2015: Feb 28 Update

It’s another busy night for Eurovision watchers with finals in Moldova, Finland, Slovenia and Hungary. Sweden also holds the fourth and last heat of Melodifestivalen. Odds are available for the Finnish and Swedish events. It’s the former that throws up most interest, although how it plays out is anybody’s guess.

Easily leading online polls and heading bookmakers’ lists are punk rockers with intellectual disabilities, Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat. According to the odds, their only significant rivals are boyband Satin Circus. But those polls have proved unreliable before in indicating who will actually pay to pick up their phone and vote, whilst Satin Circus, who have the best song, didn’t impress with their performance in the semi.

This leaves the result potentially wider open in a varied field that includes the vocal acrobatics of Opera Skaala and infectious joy of Shava’s bhangra effort. The running order for tonight’s show is unknown, and televotes count for 90% of the points total. You won’t find a national final with a more different set of possible outcomes, and it’s worth watching for this fact alone.

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The Voice 2015: Battle Rounds

With the conclusion of the Blind Auditions on Saturday we now know the line-up of acts aiming for a place in the live shows. Ahead of the Battle Rounds which start this weekend we’re taking a look at some of this year’s leading contenders.

The format is similar to last year, with the teams of twelve being reduced by half during the Battle Rounds. Each coach gets two steals to make up a new team of eight. In the Knockouts which follow, each coach will be choosing three acts to take through to the live shows.

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Eurovision 2015: Feb 21 Update

It’s time to bathe in Baltic waters this weekend. Estonia and Lithuania hold their deciding shows on Saturday, Latvia on Sunday. Elsewhere, there are further heats in Sweden, Finland and Hungary.

It’s usually unwise for Eurovision punters to count their chickens with regards any national final. Nonetheless, given how far ahead ‘Goodbye To Yesterday‘ is in Estonian polls, it would be a major shock if it’s somehow scuppered tonight. A superfinal of three rather than previous Eesti Laul head-to-heads should calm the nerves of those who very early jumped on Elina and Stig to take the big prize in Vienna.

We know the song already in Lithuania, what’s to be decided is who will perform it in May. All the signs suggest Monica and Vaidas will duet on ‘This Time‘ in Vienna. That leaves Latvia offering the most intrigue this weekend, in an above-average event that pits semifinal televote winners MNTHA and Aminata against each other, though ElektroFolk and Markus Riva do more than make up the numbers.

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Eurovision 2015: Feb 14 Update

I took an afternoon nap last Tuesday and awoke to the news that Australia would be competing in this year’s Eurovision final. I had to check I hadn’t slept till April 1st, and still do a double take when I see the country towards the top of the Betfair outright market. In our comments section, James Martin asked the question: backer or layer? I’m waiting for the song – we’re promised it by early March.

This weekend is a big one for Eurovision watchers: Saturday features programmes from the other four countries making up the top five in that outright market. Topping it are Estonia, and the 1.10 shots to win Eesti Laul, Stig Rasta and Eliona Born, perform in its second heat with ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’. Thanks to Henry VIII, who posted a short clip of their performance in amongst the other prerecorded ones here.

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