The Betfair win market suggests the Danish entry is the strongest one of the six songs selected so far, being available to back at 17.0 and lay at 17.5 at the time of writing. The country has selected ‘Should’ve Known Better’, sung by Soluna Samay – here’s the winning performance in the Danish national final if you haven’t seen it.
Denmark certainly merits respect from punters given their excellent recent record in the contest – fifth in 2011 and fourth in 2010. This is highly respectable given that Denmark does not have a wide range of friendly votes to rely on.
The Danes have a reputation for selecting middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly pop. This tends to divide opinion among Eurovision fans, but juries have seemed more consistently positive. Since the return to a 50/50 televoting/national jury split in 2009, Denmark has form figures of 6-7-3 with the jury vote, which is pretty impressive in a field of 25.
‘Should’ve Known Better’ fits into the mould of typical Danish entries. It’s a pleasant, mid-tempo number with a folksy touch. You can quite easily imagine hearing it on your radio. Soluna is pretty, too. But will it continue Denmark’s fine record in the contest?
First of all, we should deal with the question of qualification. Many Eurovision watchers have drawn comparisons between Samay’s song and the Swedish entry of 2010, which was a shock non-qualifier (incidentally, those who followed our X Factor 2011 coverage here on Sofabet will watch back this video with a fresh perspective – could it possibly be that red-and-black lighting has a vote-depressing effect in Eurovision?).
The comparisons come because Sweden 2010 also featured a girl with a guitar – in this case Anna Bergendahl. Will Soluna suffer the same fate? I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I think Soluna has a voice that’s easier to like. It’s purer and less niche than Anna’s.
To be fair to Bergendahl, she was rather unlucky to be badly drawn in a strong semi heavy on solo female vocalists, and still only just fell short. And this is the second reason why I think Samay will fare better – Denmark has been given a draw in the second half in what at this very early stage looks likely to be the weaker of the two semi-finals.
I’d be surprised to see it score less than the three other entries so far selected for this heat – Cyprus (Ivi Adamou with ‘La La Love’), Albania (Rona Nishliu with ‘Suus’) and Switzerland (Sinplus with ‘Unbreakable’). That leaves only 14 other entries, and some of them – such as Latvia – have revealed a weak selection of possible songs. A top ten finish in this heat looks easily possible already.
This is partly because I think Denmark’s good record with juries will continue, at least in the semi-final, and here’s why. In the heats, with a weaker and smaller selection of songs to choose from, it’s easier for competently-performed, middle-of-the-road entries to pick up decent points across the board, both from televoters and national juries. Denmark’s 2008 entry, fourth in its semi, is one example of televoters doing this.
A more recent example I would cite is Iceland’s entry last year, third with the juries and fourth overall in the weaker semi. ‘Should’ve Known Better’ is a better song than these two in my opinion, and certainly more contemporary.
I have another more speculative theory about why juries will reward Samay’s song, at least in the semi-final, and I can continue to use Iceland’s 2011 entry as a case in point. It is a generalisation, but I think juries tend to reward songs where instruments are apparently being played on stage. Ironically, any instrumentation in a Eurovision song has to be included on the backing track, so their appearance is superfluous in practical terms. But it gives a superficial impression of musicianship that juries seem to like.
Take a look at two more examples from 2011: I believe Raphael Gualazzi’s piano playing was a major factor in Italy’s runaway victory in last year’s jury vote, while Denmark’s good showing may also have also been helped by the appearance of the band with their instruments.
There are a few minor things I would alter about the way that ‘Should’ve Known Better’ was staged in the Danish final – Samay’s outfit needs to change and I’d ditch the sofa – but they got one thing crucially right. The use of the drums, cello and piano on stage was extremely effective because it reinforced the excellent use of these instruments in the arrangement of the song.
And here’s another way that Denmark 2012 may do girl-with-guitar in a more effective manner than Sweden 2010. The guitars are just props, but it was painfully obvious this was the case for Anna Bergendahl – she ditched it pretty quickly. Samay should make sure she keeps on strumming, as she did in the Danish final.
As a final contrast between the two, Bergendahl’s lyrics were rather self-congratulatory whereas Samay’s story of regret is more palatable and suitable for this kind of song.
So, I would be surprised if Samay suffers Bergendahl’s fate of non-qualification. But how do I think ‘Should’ve Known Better’ will get on in the final? It’s here the song’s shortcomings in the context of the competition may come into play. This is what I think they are.
First and foremost, among 26 finalists competing for attention, it’s a song that could easily be forgotten by televoters, especially if it happens to get an early draw. Ultimately, pleasant though the song is, I think it’s too middle-of-the-road to motivate significant numbers to vote for it in a Eurovision final.
Secondly, it’s not the kind of song that tends to travel particularly well outside western Europe, especially when there should be much else on offer that is more likely to appeal to these televoters.
In two of the last three finals Denmark’s placing with the juries has been significantly higher than with televoters. In 2009, ‘Believe Again’ was 20th with televoters and 6th with jurors, to finish 13th overall. In 2011, ‘A New Tomorrow’ was 18th with televoters, 3rd with jurors, to finish 5th overall. The exception was the classic anthemic Eurovision cheese of ‘In A Moment Like This’ in 2010, which had the added benefit of being drawn last, and came third with televoters, seventh with jurors for fourth place overall.
At this very early stage, I envisage that Samay’s result is more likely to be – as were Denmark’s 2009 and 2011 placings – rather jury-dependent. Significant jury support could see it get into the Top 10, but without it, ‘Should’ve Known Better’ will most likely fall short of that landmark. It’s not something I’ll be willing to bet on either way at this stage, despite my theory about juries responding well to instruments on stage.
What do you think of the Danish entry, and the ideas I have raised here? Agree or disagree? Do let us know in the comments section below.