Eurovision Betting Analysis: How ‘Popular’ will Sweden be at Eurovision 2011?

In the most volatile early betting market I can ever remember, Sweden became the latest country to challenge for Eurovision favouritism in the run-up to their National Final, better known as Melodifestivalen.

The land of Abba and Diggy-loo diggy-lei has long been considered Eurovision royalty, but they’ve rather fallen from grace in recent years, culminating in last year’s shock semi-final exit.

In 2011 they rely on Eric Saade who will sing ‘Popular’ in Dusseldorf, but just how popular will it be with the televoters and juries?

Here is an upbeat song, recognisably Swedish with a heart-throb performer and killer dance routine. You’ll watch the Youtube clip and may be impressed by the show put on.

There’s a good gimmick, a very recognisable lyric and a general familiarity about it. For example, it has that Eurovision staple, the key change. Many people think this is just the kind of thing that does well in the contest.

But be careful. One of the reasons Sweden has continued to be near the top of the betting market during these lean years is that the production values and rules of Melodifestivalen make an act appear more impressive there than they will ultimately look on the Eurovision stage.

Firstly, vocals on a backing track are allowed in MF, they are not in Eurovision. Saade will not have had to rely on his weak voice until he gets to Dusseldorf.

Secondly, there are no more than six people allowed on stage in Eurovision, so Saade is already going to have to lose a backing dancer even before we take into account the need for backing vocalists, who have to be on the stage with him.

Thirdly, the camerawork and production quality of MF is better than you will get at Eurovision. This was one of the reasons Charlotte Perrelli flopped in 2008, despite her song topping fan polls.

Another reason she failed was that her song, ‘Hero’ was a Swedish-sounding schlager (for a rough explanation of what this is, read this article). These don’t really score any more, beyond Scandinavian and British voters.

Denmark managed to overcome it last year because their schlager tune channeled 80s classics from the likes of The Police and Tina Turner, it had a fantastic draw and one of the lead singers was a well-known Russian pop star.

‘Popular’ is not on the same level. As a song, it’s on a par with ‘Hero’ (this is not surprising, as it’s written by the same songwriter – Fredrik Kempe, who also penned the 2009 Swedish entry, ‘La Voix’, which flopped). And Saade is definitely not as accomplished a vocalist as Perrelli.

The beauty of ‘Popular’ is in its staging and the dance routine. This however is not something that I think is going to impress the national juries, who in their short recent history have shown a distinct aversion to songs that are all style and no substance.

Saade is going to have plenty of competition in the pretty boy department. Not only Blue and Amaury Vassili but also Russian entrant Alex Vorobyov. Arguably each one has a stronger song than ‘Popular’.

So I think Saade is going to go the way of not just Perrelli, but other Swedish entrants with inflated expectations (and consequent prominent position in the betting market) such as The Ark in 2007 and Anna Bergandahl in 2010, all of whom flattered to deceive.

Eric and his routine might look like the kind of thing that is popular in Eurovision, but the rest of Europe and those juries have seen this kind of act before and thumbed their noses at it.

8 comments to Eurovision Betting Analysis: How ‘Popular’ will Sweden be at Eurovision 2011?

  • David

    Agree with most of your views above (though I guess he should qualify, at least). I even noticed that Saade pulled away the mic everytime he was to hit a high note – makes me a bit suspicious. Also, the only time you could hear his voice alone (at the break of the glass), it’s simply not convincing.

    Out of curiosity, which song from MF do you think would have stood the best chance in ESC? And how did your MF betting go? 🙂 As for me, I had a pretty big bet on Bengtzing below 54.5p – she scored 58p, after a jury support that really surprised me. International juries rewarding run-of-the-mill Swedish schlager (and pretty lousy schlager at that)?

  • James

    I think Popular has a few things going for it. For a start, it comes across as a lot more modern than Hero did. I liked that song at the time, but in retrospect I think it was the worst choice they could possibly have made.

    Also, Sweden do have a knack for producing near-flawless backing vocals. I think a delegation that managed to reproduce La Voix’s choir-esque chorus with only 5 backing singers shouldn’t have any problems with a song like Popular.

    Finally, I think you may be forgetting the reason stated for changing the MF rules in the first place. The whole point of that move was to make it so that the winning entry would have to be changed, performance-wise, so they wouldn’t reproduce the MF performance to the letter like Charlotte Perrelli and Martin Stenmark did.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he has a hope of winning, but I do think he has a good chance of bringing Sweden their best result since 2006.

    Also out of curiosity, how do you think The Moniker would have done if he had gone to DD? My thought was that the song was happy and quirky enough to do extremely well. There’s cerainly nothing else like it this year, after all.

    • Daniel

      Hi David and James,
      To answer David’s points first: I did have a small bet at long odds backing Sanna for victory. I have to admit I did not feel Eric was nailed on to win it as the international juries could have done anything. I don’t think anything from MF was going to threaten the top of the Eurovision scoreboard, but if the choice had been mine, I’d have taken a chance on Swingfly or The Moniker as something a bit different.
      James, I think you make some good points on Sweden’s ability to create good backing vocals at Eurovision. Ultimately, it will be best to wait until rehearsals to see how the performance, staging and vocals have changed, and how effective they remain. The article was intended to warn those not so au fait with the differences between MF and Eurovision not to pile in early at 8-1 on the basis of a fantastic stage show last night. For what it’s worth, I rather enjoyed it, and the song does at least boast a great opening riff/beat.

  • David

    I’ve pondered a bit more on this one. Which songs in the past are you drawing parallells to when predicting juries and voters will turn it down? Greece 2009 comes to mind for me, which admittedly failed to meet expectations, but hardly crashed either.

    “Popular” seems very popular among fans voting in polls. That can’t very well be attributed to the “fan-taste” that probably boosted schlager-type songs like “Hero” in fan polls. Some of it is probably due to the slick production that you mention, though.

    But with the new juries in MF (from around Europe, all giving decent to excellent scores to this song), one could argue that Saade has already passed that test as well. Or were there simply too few real competitors?

    Looking forward to your input 🙂

  • Daniel

    Hi David, I’m in agreement with the way you question your own points: Greece 2009 also springs to mind, and its 93 jury points (with some of those from guaranteed friends such as Cyprus) doesn’t bode that well. I think both slick production and fan-taste are playing a part in fan polls, which in certain cases can prove very wide of the mark anyway. And given the lack of inspiring competitors against it in MF, I’m not especially encouraged that ‘Popular’ just managed to win the international jury vote there.
    Again, rehearsals will tell us more, but at this moment in time I definitely wouldn’t be backing it for a Top 10 finish.

  • David

    Thanks for replying, Daniel. It’s funny how Sweden seems to be so chronically overrated before the contests. I guess part of it can be explainde by the different conditions at MF, but perhaps there’s more as well? Past glory, maybe… who knows.

    Speaking of which: what’s your take on Anna Bergendahl not qualifying last year? I had backed her to Q at odds around 1.35, and must admit I thought I’d made a bargain. After performing, her odds to Q were 1.10 – still she failed. And with just two background singers and a modest stageing (arguably better at ESC actually – with the lightsticks), it’s hard to say that the performance at ESC was a negative surprise. Still both televoters and juries (whom I thought would favor the song type) turned it down. I haven’t really been able to figure out why.

    …oh, and if I’m straying too far from the article subjects, feel free to direct me elsewhere 🙂

  • Daniel

    No worries, David. Actually, I felt Anna was rather unlucky last year. Despite a poor draw, she was reasonably ahead of three eventual quailifiers (Cyprus, Israel and Ireland) in the televote, and whilst not disgraced in the jury vote, all three of those managed to pull past her as a result. She was the main victim of the tough semi. I thought she would qualify too but avoided the short odds given how tricky the heat was, concentrating on Turkey and Georgia who both had a great draw and lots of friends in that semi. Croatia’s ‘shock’ failure in that semi, on the other hand, was no surprise to me at all.

  • geoff

    my first big bet of eurovision is on sweden
    this was the only entry that had me really glued to the screen and is a joy to watch,
    i think the choreography is some of the best ive seen at eurovision the song is instant and catchy and saade should also have the girls voting in droves.
    personally i think this could top the televote main worry for me is will the juries score it high enough or pick on his voice.

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