Following yesterday’s release of the full French song, ‘Sognu’, and Amaury Vassili’s performance of it on French TV, punters decided to make this the latest market plunge for Eurovision 2011. Having earlier been traded as high as 250 on Betfair, today France has traded as low as 8 and is challenging to become the latest favourite in a febrile market.
Clearly there are plenty of people who agreed with Sofabet reader James, who commented, ‘It screamed “winner” to me the first time I heard it.’
My initial reaction on the release of the song was not so sure. So how do I feel now, following Vassili’s TV performance and the extremely enthusiastic market reaction?
To start with the positives, there is no doubt that it will earn a niche for itself in the 25-strong field on May 14. There is a general shortage of quality ballads competing this year, and certainly nothing else in the popopera genre.
The suggestion is that juries are going to rate ’Sognu’ highly, and nothing of what I have written about what national juries vote for contradicts this idea. It is worthy and should be well performed.
Concerning televoters, I can at least see that Vassili’s boyish good looks are going to play to his advantage with a certain demographic. A killer smile at the end of his rendition on French TV last night was a vote-grabber in itself.
My first negative is that it’s even more difficult to shoehorn a ‘classical pop’ tune into three minutes than a mainstream pop song, which itself is ideally around 3m30s long. In this case, a ‘Bolero’ beat requires a slow build up, and the songwriters must have feared that things would just be starting to get going when they had to stop.
To overcome this problem, as I mentioned in my initial comment yesterday, songwriters decided to create a crescendo halfway through the song. The trouble is, this is not when listeners are expecting it. You have to earn the right to a crescendo, and ‘Sognu’ doesn’t at such an early stage.
Thereafter, we repeat what has gone before at a greater pitch, until two more big moments – at 2m25s and 2m40s – precede an instrumental fade-out. These, however, are always a poor idea in Eurovision, as everyone assumes when the singing stops, so has the song.
So I think that structurally the song is not ideal at all. There are dramatic moments, but the melodic line could be stronger – and it probably won’t help that it’s sung in Corsican. However, a strong vocal performance – which Vassili can achieve – could render all this theorising obsolete, if people get carried away by the emotion he conveys.
But that still leaves my second negative, which is that this whole genre remains niche territory. Popopera is a very lucrative and popular market, but it isn’t necessarily going to appeal broadly enough at Eurovision.
Previous examples with operatic elements in the contest, such as Latvia and Slovenia in 2007 and Sweden 2009, are far too different to make comparison worthwhile. So we’re leaping in the dark here. It might work, but it might not.
From a personal punting point of view, I was happy to see the dramatic plunge on France. I’d thought there was a chance that some buzz would develop when the song was released, and I managed to get a small bet matched at 200 on Betfair with that in mind.
I shall be looking to lay that off soon for a modest but nonetheless satisfying guaranteed profit – a reminder that with Eurovision punting, you can sometimes make money by anticipating which way the market will move, regardless of how the song ultimately fares.
I’ll be closely watching where ‘Sognu’ figures in the draw, next Tuesday. As one of the Big 5 countries (Italy, UK, France, Germany and Spain) which doesn’t have to get through a semi-final, we will know next week where Amaury Vassili will perform in the running order of the final.
A late draw could really reinforce the way it stands alone as the only song of its type – especially if it is preceded by a couple of forgettable upbeat numbers, which of course we won’t know until the draw is completed after the semi-finals.
An early draw, however, and televoters could forget it all too quickly as that muzak near the start of the show.
Interestingly, one of the Big 5 has traditionally been offered a wildcard which allows them to choose where they go in the running order. If the head of the French delegation wins that right, and he chooses an ideal late draw, you can expect it to cement the position of ‘Sognu’ at or near the head of the market.
Watch Vassili’s rendition of ‘Sognu’ on French TV. What do you think?