This series of articles has tended to look at the leaders in the betting market. But there are just as many opportunities further down the list.
Take for example the return of Israel’s 1998 winner Dana International, who became the most famous transsexual in the world following her victory with ‘Diva’. She represents Israel once again this year, with an uptempo number called ‘Ding Dong’.
She is a general 66-1 with High Street bookmakers to win the contest, although you can get far more generous odds on Betfair. More interestingly, she is a best-priced 1-6 with those bookmakers to qualify from the second semi-final. That puts her sixth best in qualification betting, suggesting she should easily reach the top ten finish required.
I don’t share that confidence. ‘Ding Dong’ has a very traditional Eurovision sound that died out in the late 1990s (with ‘Diva’ as a swansong, ironically) – and the official version, released only recently, has production values to match. It falls into a category I have labelled ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’.
That may sound gratuitously harsh, but in terms of my Eurovision betting it is actually a very significant title. Whenever I have put a song in this category in the past, I have ended up winning a lot of money backing against it.
The most recent Song You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar was Iceland’s ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ in 2010. It was my standout bet to lay in the Top 10 market in last year’s final. It ended up 19th, with 41 points.
In my opinion ‘Ding Dong’ is not even as good as ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’, which at least had the advantage of a stronger lead vocalist. Dana International has a distinctly average voice, and managed victory in 1998 despite rather than because of her abilities in this department.
‘Ding Dong’ is more on a level with another classic of the genre, from 2007 – Denmark’s ‘Drama Queen’, which also offered the novelty of man as woman, albeit in a very different way. ‘Drama Queen’ was sung by a drag queen called DQ. It came 19th in the semi-final with 45 points, and I had heavily invested in its failure to qualify.
There are still a few people who think songs like this have a place in Eurovision. Many of them are clearly in the UK, judging by the seven points my home nation awarded DQ in 2007, and its choice to send Scooch’s ‘Flying the Flag’ that same year.
Malta is a nation with similarly questionable taste, judging by the six points it gave to both Hera Bjork in 2010 and DQ in 2007 (when it also awarded its 12 points to Scooch). Fortunately, these nations are far from typical of most of Europe.
Equally fortunately, a love of gambling is just as ingrained in British culture as a love of camp, which meant I got much better odds than I was expecting on the failure of these songs. The short odds British bookmakers are offering on Israel to qualify suggests some habits die hard, and I will be investing in ‘Ding Dong’ to fail to qualify for the final.
There is a nagging doubt, though. The second semi-final in Dusseldorf, whilst it involves three of the more prominent contenders and a few others of note, also contains a huge amount of rubbish. And the big hitters who would qualify on friendly voting alone if they were in this weak field are all in the first semi-final instead.
In 2010, Iceland was also in a weak semi – the weakest the contest has ever witnessed. And it had the advantage of being drawn last. As a result, it not only managed to qualify, but even took third place.
‘Ding Dong’ doesn’t have the advantage of such a winning draw. Dana International sings 12th, and has the drawback of being followed immediately by Slovenia’s much stronger female vocalist.
What’s more, the two campest sets of televoters – the UK and Malta – won’t be able to help. Both are slated to vote in the first semi-final. So is Albania, arguably the country which is next most inclined to show similarly dated taste in its allocation of points.
That means Dana International will be relying on Israel’s main voting ally, France, and on fans supporting her out of nostalgia. As I commented to Justin just yesterday, though, I don’t think the fan constituency holds much power. Nor do I think the juries will come to her rescue.
All of this means I have filed ‘Ding Dong’ away as one of the ten songs in this semi-final that are “far too bad to qualify”. Unfortunately, with 19 contenders, only nine songs are destined to fail. At least one of my “far too bad to qualify” songs is going to qualify.
That undeserving qualifier could, theoretically, be ‘Ding Dong’. If it is, I will just have to double down by backing against a Top 10 finish in the final. Either way, the bell tolls for ‘Ding Dong’.