Russia is a heavyweight in Eurovision terms – one of the big hitters I wrote about last month. Diaspora voting in the ex-CIS states means that it always has to be taken seriously. It followed two placed efforts in 2006-7 with victory in 2008. And even with two ESC-unfriendly songs in 2009’s ‘Mamo’ and 2010’s ‘Lost and Forgotten’, it still managed eleventh position overall on both occasions.
This year, Russia’s internal selection suggests they are taking the contest seriously themselves. The songwriting team behind ‘Get You’ is RedOne, who have penned hits for Lady Gaga among others. ‘Get You’ will be performed by heart-throb Alexey Vorobyov, a highly telegenic lead vocalist. The last time Russia sent one of those, it was Dima Bilan and he took the prize.
So, what is Russia doing at over 43-1 on Betfair for Eurovision 2011 at the time of going to press?
Well, the song – a straightforward, contemporary, uptempo pop tune – has its detractors. Sophisticated it ain’t, but whilst ‘Get You’ is certainly not RedOne’s finest hour, the chorus has an easy familiarity and catchiness. It’s the kind of thing that works perfectly well at Eurovision.
What may not have helped the perception of Russia’s chances was the addition of a new introduction to the official version of ‘Get You’ that we will see in Dusseldorf. It can be heard here. There are thirty-plus seconds of ethnic wailing before the very western-sounding verse kicks in.
Firstly, this introduction doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the song. Secondly, it goes on for too long. You should be getting going by bringing in the verse within the first 20 seconds or you risk losing the audience’s interest. Alexey only starts singing the first verse proper when nearly 40 seconds have passed.
Before passing judgement, though, we have to bear in mind that the Russian team may have something in mind for the stage performance. Long instrumental segments often allow for visual effects or gimmicks. My reckoning is that the introduction has been added with this in mind. Otherwise, I just don’t see the point of it.
If that is the case, another strong showing seems likely. The 107 points, 11th-place televote finish of last year’s ‘Lost and Forgotten’ must be about the lowest Russia can go with the voting public. I expect ‘Get You’ to comfortably best that total, and most probably also the 118 points (eighth place) ‘Mamo’ gleaned in 2009. A decent Top Ten finish in the final with televoters seems highly likely and Top Five seems well within reach.
What about the juries? In both 2010 and 2009, the jury scores were lower for Russia, and there’s every reason to think this will be the case again in 2011. Plastic poppy tunes, pretty faces and visual gimmicks (if there is one during that introduction) have not impressed them so far, and ‘Get You’ does not strike me as particularly jury friendly – although they may see it as serviceable, modern, commercial pop.
All this assumes that Russia gets to the final. Qualification from the semi is normally considered an academic exercise for Russia, given its numerous allies, but the draw has conspired to be as bad as possible this time around.
As I commented last month, if you look at the points they were awarded in 2010, only 20 out of 90 came from countries voting in this semi-final. Being drawn seven doesn’t particularly help either, coming after the upbeat Serbian entry and before a Swiss song that could provide a contrasting charm to this rather calculating effort.
Having said all this, I still expect Russia to qualify with ease. But it’s not something I would stake a lot of money on at short odds, especially in this pre-rehearsal phase with the mystery of what’s going to happen on stage during that introduction.
This will also help decide just how high Russia can finish if they’re in the final – along with a few other unknown variables at this point, such as the draw.
But be warned, whatever you think of the song, history suggests Russia will be in the top half of the leaderboard no matter what if they do go through, and ‘Get You’ has plenty more going for it than that.
Moreso than Eric Saade’s ‘Popular’ for Sweden and at nearly four times the price on Betfair.