In a highly unusual step, last year’s winning singer, Lena, tries to repeat the feat for the host nation in 2011. The song selected by the German public is ‘Taken By A Stranger’.
Lena is the first winner to attempt back-to-back wins in the modern era (the winners of the first two Eurovision Song Contests in 1956 and 1957, Lys Assia and Corry Brokken, returned to defend their crowns, placing second-last and last respectively).
Other former winners – such as Johnny Logan, Carola, Charlotte Perelli and Niamh Kavanagh – waited several years to return, and only Logan has taken the title twice as a singer.
Can Lena buck the trend?
You won’t get great odds on it. Unsurprisingly, given her winning form and the lack of a credible alternative at this preliminary stage, Lena is the early-doors favourite at around 4-1 on Betfair. She was a similar price before the final in 2010.
I didn’t jump on the bandwagon last year because I wasn’t convinced that her mockney accent and way of performing would translate into votes across Europe. I was wrong. She swept to victory with an immediate, catchy, hook-laden song in ‘Satellite’.
This year’s effort is different.
‘Taken By A Stranger’ is an interesting, well-produced song with a dark, jazzy feel. It sounds like something The Cure might have recorded.
But it is not as instant as ‘Satellite’, not by a long way. In fact it almost seems designed, as hosts’ songs often do, to perform respectably without actually winning. (Organising Eurovision, although prestigious, is a considerable headache for the national broadcaster concerned.)
So I won’t be backing Lena to win at such short odds. I’m tempted to bet against her (that is, lay her on the Betfair markets), but only if her odds on winning shorten further. I am cautious as I almost gave in to the temptation to bet against Lena last year, and that would have been very costly.
One reason for my caution is that I think juries are going to like it. One of the criteria they have to vote on is the “commercial” potential of the song involved. ‘Satellite’ was already a number one hit in several European countries before last year’s contest, so it was a no-brainer that it met this criteria.
Given her fame, Lena’s new album – which includes this song – has also been a big central European hit. So once again, it’s a safe choice for national juries, and also a fair one given that it is a quality song by Eurovision standards.
But televoters are unlikely to be so keen to reward her with yet another victory. And let’s not forget that Germany has to overcome a general lack of Eurovision allies anyway.
There are further reasons for thinking that the voting public, who went in droves for ‘Satellite’, are unlikely to feel quite so enamoured with ‘Taken By A Stranger’. Not only was ‘Satellite’ far more melodic, it had a few other things going for it with the TV audience.
One of those was a perfect draw at 22 out of 25, followed by two dull ballads. The draw is important in Eurovision, and we won’t know where Lena will be in the running order until March 14th.
There was also a lack of an obvious alternative in 2010. That is why just 34 points separated the next eight songs behind Germany – headed by Turkey, my own each-way selection before the final, which was helped as ever by diaspora voting.
It has to be said, though, that the field of potential obvious alternatives is not looking too crowded this time around either. Admittedly, just over a quarter of the entries have been chosen, but none of what has been selected so far screams “strong contender for victory” to me – nor, more worryingly, does anything I have yet heard among the potential songs on offer in the countries yet to choose.
So at this stage I find it’s hard to say just how well Lena will do. I have to rely on my Eurovision instinct, which tells me that in a normal year I would expect this to be on the fringes of the Top 10. As more of the opposition is revealed, I will revise that very early and speculative prediction accordingly.
The beauty of Eurovision for punters is that there are many other ways to make money than being right about the overall winner. That means you only have to take a strong position on certain songs, and can leave others you are uncertain about.
Fortunately, I chose to do that about Lena in 2010, and it looks more than likely that I will do the same in 2011. Only an even shorter price for success will see me start ‘laying’ Lena.