Eurovision Betting Analysis: Can the Netherlands reverse their fortunes?

In this series so far I’ve tended to deal with countries which have a strong track record in Eurovision. When a Dutch Eurovision magazine asked me if I would like to write an article on the chances for the Netherlands this year, it was an opportunity to write instead about the country which has the worst record in recent Eurovision history.

The Netherlands has failed to reach the Top 12 since the turn of the millennium, and their only qualification since the semi-final system began was in 2004. They have often seemed trapped in a Eurovision timewarp, as their terribly dated and cheesy last two offerings showed. Have the Dutch learnt from their mistakes in sending 3JS with ’Never Alone’?

First, the good news. ‘Never Alone’ is a decent number by Eurovision standards. It’s a radio-friendly, midtempo song with plenty of nice little hooks. The lead singer has an interesting voice with an effective, plaintive tone in the high notes that suits the composition. You can watch a live rendition here.

The country’s sole semi qualifier, Re-Union’s ‘Without You’ in 2004, was a similarly gentle number.

‘Never Alone’ also has the great good fortune of being in the second semi-final, which has plenty of dross. To qualify it has to beat nine songs, and there’s no doubt there are nine worse songs in this heat.

The lack of big hitters in this semi is similarly good news for nations such as The Netherlands which are relatively friendless in televoting terms. The country has just the one ally – Belgium – and this time around they don’t have to compete with the likes of Armenia and Greece, who hoovered up the Belgian 12 and 10 in the 2008 semi.

That year was the last time The Netherlands sent a credible entry. Hind’s ‘Your Heart Belongs To Me’ was an enthnopop song that was compared, often favourably, to the Armenian entry that year. But it fared much worse, and here’s where the bad news starts for 3JS’s chances in 2011.

In part, what did for Hind was bad staging, and this seems to be something of a pattern for The Netherlands. Repeating their mistake from 2007 – Edsilia Rombley’s ‘On Top of the World’ – pointless and poor backing dancers distracted from the song (although Hind’s failure to use the stage or find the camera counted even more).

The staging in 2009 and 2010 also seemed to hinder rather than help, so it has to be a worry what the Netherlands team will come up with for this year – even though ‘Never Alone’ isn’t the kind of song that needs any theatrics. The comparable ‘Without You’ qualified in 2004 with just two blokes with stools and guitars. But even if this lesson is learnt and the staging is an improvement on recent years, a bigger problem lies in wait.

Re-Union were drawn last in that 2004 semi-final. Always helpful, it is especially crucial for a song like ‘Without You’ – as demonstrated by its disastrous showing in the final when it had an early draw.

3JS also have a terrible draw (three) in their semi and, sadly, I think this could prove fatal. Because while ‘Never Alone’ is competent and pleasant, it’s also easily forgettable. 3JS are hardly telegenic, either. Who, apart from the Belgians, is going to remember this inoffensive number by the end of the show?

If the Netherlands are to scrape into the final, therefore, I think they will have to rely on a high jury score. This isn’t impossible – as I say, there are certainly nine worse songs in this heat – but at the same time, I struggle to see the juries going for it in a sufficiently big way. It’s just too bland, and bland is about as damning an adjective as you can apply to a Eurovision song.

So, much as it would be nice to see the Netherlands reverse their disastrous run of recent results by qualifying for the big one, and a fair result as it would be in this semi-final, ultimately I fear it’s not going to happen.

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6 comments to Eurovision Betting Analysis: Can the Netherlands reverse their fortunes?

  • N Baker

    The more I listen to the songs, the more I get a sneaky feeling Slovenia could surprise with a very high finishing place. I’d be interested to hear what you think on this 🙂

  • Daniel

    Hi there, I know of people whose opinions I respect who feel the same way about Slovenia. It has plenty going for it. My fear, apart from this being another relatively friendless nation in Eurovision terms, is that the song is hard to define. It’s not quite a power ballad, but has rocky elements; it’s a little bit Balkan but not much. That is part of its charm, but I’m not sure televoters watching for the first time are necessarily going to get it, though Maja is telegenic, which will help.

    I think if you backed Slovenia in the overall market either to win or each-way, an early draw in the final would be damaging. In the circumstances, I reckon its fans would be more sensible in backing it for qualification from the semi, where it has a relatively good draw in a weak heat. And if you were very keen on it and wanted a speculative bet at a bigger price, an each-way bet to be placed in that semi-final would be wiser too.

    Good luck whatever you decide.

  • Panos

    I totally agree Daniel. Plus, it has no hook. The 2nd chorus is not defined at all, it’s full of too-early-on Mariah Carey-esque oooh’s and aaah’s! i’m sensing a bit of Portugal 2010: comfortably through the semi and mid-table in the final.

  • David

    As you say Panos, it’s quite impossible to remember after a while. I must have listened to it 5-10 times, and I can still only hum a very limited part of it. That doesn’t bode well.

    Still, I think it will qualify, but not comfortably. Perhaps 8th-9th somewhere.

  • David

    Speaking of songs that are perhaps on the verge of qualifying, I’d love to hear you guys’ opinion on Moldova’s chances! They seem to be parked at the bottom of most fan-polls, yet their odds to qualify indicate they should make it.

    It’s certainly a non-traditional song. Moldova has done reasonably well with those before, though – most recently, they qualified last year with an eighties-inspired, gimmick-filled act. What’s more, the very same band performing this year (Zdob şi Zdub) finished 6th in the finals of Eurovision 2005 (2nd in the semi), sporting a song pretty similar in style to this year’s. Watch it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7hRSUmufuw

    Zdob şi Zdub is popular in many ex-Soviet states (having toured in among other contries Russia and Urkraine), and have such a following in Romania I’d say that they are virtually guaranteed a 12 there. Israel, Belarus, FYROM, Ukraine and Latvia are other plausible sources of televoting points.

    So what are the negatives? Well, to start with, I doubt they would have finished 6th in 2005 if juries would have accounted for half the impact – as they do today. Chances are, they would have viewed the gimmicky appearance unfavourably. The same could be said this year, especially if they stick to the NF staging.

    Secondly, this song is arguably weaker than the 2005 effort. It never picks up the same energy, and the “So lucky”-shouts aren’t all that catchy. The slow parts add variety, but at the same time makes the song less coherent. You can make your own opinion of the song here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aNK0L3XiYw

    Third, performing 7th out of 19 entries in the semi doesn’t help in any way – although it could be argued that a song that sticks out as much as this one does it less hampered by an early draw. Also, the contenders in the semi are weak.

    In all, I’d say that Moldova’s qualification is uncertain. Likely finishing positions range around 7th to 13th. Do you guys agree – or am I way off?

  • Daniel

    Hi David, can’t disagree with anything here. I think this is much weaker than their 2005 effort, and its lowly position in the fan polls is merited. The important positives, however, are the band’s committed followed in the ex-Soviet states and a semi with plenty of allies (including that likely 12 from Romania). This may be enough to allow them to crawl over the qualification line in this weak heat.

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