From a punting point of view, Turkey is my favourite Eurovision nation. My first four-figure bet in the contest came when I’d worked out in 2006 that its plethora of diaspora votes virtually guaranteed it qualification from the semi-final that year.
Come 2010, it was the same story, except the amounts I was wagering on Turkey’s qualification had grown exponentially – I managed to get just over £90,000 matched on Betfair (as I wrote the morning before, if I could have got a six-figure sum on, I would have) for a profit of over 6%. I also saw a return at 40-1 on maNga winning that semi-final and at 14-1 each-way in the final.
The group had already shown they were popular enough across the continent by winning the previous year’s MTV Best European Act award, and I was a fan of the song, ‘We Could Be The Same’. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same way about their 2011 entry, ‘Live It Up’ by the lesser-known rock outfit Yuksek Sadakat.
Will I be deserting Turkey this year as a result?
My main problem with the song is that I find it bland and forgettable – which in Eurovision terms is one of the worst things you can say about an entry. ‘Live It Up’ sounds like it could be a Bon Jovi album filler from the 1980s. For a country that has recently given us some excellent, contemporary-sounding, harder-than-pop entries – in 2004 and 2008 as well as 2010 – this one pales in comparison.
‘Live It Up’ also sounds very American. This is surprising as the country’s broadcaster, TRT, is usually keen for its entry to have some local flavour, however superficial. In the past they alternated rock entries with ethnopop numbers which included Turkish elements (Terry Wogan would usually make a joke about the belly dancing on stage), ensuring the songs were accessible yet easy to locate.
But there’s nothing that makes ‘Live It Up’ recognisably Turkish. And as well as being dated and workmanlike, the group are the opposite of telegenic. I can’t see neutral televoters showing much interest in it at all. See what you think by watching it here.
Not only is the song inferior to last year’s, the path to the final is tougher. In 2010, Turkey had everything going for it in its semi-final: a total of ten televoting allies and a great draw – 17 of 17. This time around, there are only four televoting allies (Azerbaijan, the UK, Albania, and Switzerland) in its heat, and Yuksek Sadakat is drawn five of 19.
So, any chance of Turkey not even qualifying? Moreso than ever before since the two-semi system started, but I still think it’s highly unlikely. Firstly, one of those allies – Azerbaijan – gives Turkey a guaranteed twelve points, and by my calculations it can still rely on a minimum of fortysomething televote points in all.
Secondly, for all my criticism of the song, I have to admit that it’s competently composed and performed. I think juries are going to be perfectly happy with it (and there’s not an awful lot in the first semi-final I can say that about), just as they were with Bosnia’s ponderous rock effort in last year’s weak first heat.
Assuming it does get through to the final, Turkey can then rely on all those other televote allies that make it one of the contest’s perennial big hitters, with a high floor to its vote. How high is Turkey’s floor? The nation’s 2008 entry ‘Deli’ may give us a clue. Much as I liked it personally, it was sung in Turkish and didn’t seem to interest anybody beyond the core vote – but that was still enough for a seventh-placed finish with 138 points.
Interestingly, ‘Deli’ had also finished seventh in its semi-final, when – like this year – more of its friendliest allies were voting in the other heat. The advantage gained by those allies then being able to vote for Turkey in the final saw the song beat all but one of the six that had finished above it in the semi.
Add the return in 2011 of one of those friendly nations, Austria – who have not participated in the contest since 2007 – and a similar televote result for Turkey in this year’s final looks likely.
But whilst its televote score looks likely to improve, relatively speaking, from the semi-final, the opposite could be argued for its popularity with the juries. This may well slip significantly against stronger opposition in the final.
Therefore, a Top 10 finish isn’t guaranteed. However, I’d still be surprised to see them drop below this mark. And ultimately, I could never lay Turkey in any Eurovision Top 10 market. No matter what I feel about the song.