The Eurovision season seemed to start promisingly enough. We got decent songs from Denmark and Norway, for example. But the standard of the entries revealed over the last week have failed to inspire me to pen another pre-rehearsal analysis, which I like to do for any act considered a contender.
Whilst many fans still seem optimistic this is a strong year comparatively, the betting market tells a different story. The top three in the Betfair win market – Sweden, Russia and Serbia – haven’t even selected their songs yet.
Admittedly, it seems pretty certain Sweden will send one of two entries we’ve already seen (Loreen with ‘Euphoria’ or Danny Saucedo’s ‘Amazing’). However, the top known song in bookmakers’ lists is the aforementioned Danish one, which I initially felt was a pretty guaranteed finalist, but reliant on strong jury support to come anywhere near matching the country’s top five finishes in the last two runnings.
This may be partly why Sofabet’s shrewd panel of commenters showed some kind of consensus late last week that the Turkish entry – ‘Love Me Back’ by Can Bonomo – deserved to be taken seriously. In that spirit, here’s my assessment of its chances.
Turkey, of course, always has something going for it in the contest: it’s plethora of friendly votes from diaspora around Europe. This had been enough to see it in the Top 13 every year since 2003 – until last year. Then the uninspired ‘Live It Up’ by Yuksek Sadakat, stuck in a semi with only four voting allies, remained stuck in that semi by failing to qualify for the final.
The draw has been much kinder to Turkey this year, our number three point in an initial reaction piece to the semi-final allocation procedure. Eight allies and a song that isn’t terrible in a field where some of them are – that should be enough to see it in the final. A more difficult question is, what happens when it gets there?
Our Sofabet commenters have made a number of positive noises. Justin reckoned: ‘It has the ethnic appeal that seems likely to do well everywhere where Jedward do not and it’s just a little hypnotic.’ It is also in English, as was the case with all five of Turkey’s top five finishes since 2003. That’s not a record to be sniffed at.
Boki agreed with Justin, stating, ‘I also…have high hopes for Turkish entry….the question remains though if the western countries notice it.’ To my western ears, the song starts off very promisingly indeed, with some excellent string and wind riffs, leading into a catchy verse. It’s all very ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. The chorus feels less melodic, however, and the focus on it in a meandering final third lessens the song’s impact for me and I think others outside Turkey’s normal constituency.
However, Panos makes the following excellent point: ‘I’m not even sure if western countries need to notice it for a top 5 placing.’ He rightly points to Loucas Yiorkas managing third place for Greece in the televote last year with an ethnic song that played to that nation’s diaspora. This was part of my argument for backing Greece for a top 10 finish last year, and it can be applied to Turkey’s chances of a top 10 finish this year.
Much as Greece got a small additional boost from a final that lacked Turkey or Armenia, the distinct possibility that Armenia may still withdraw from this year’s contest would also be a net plus for Turkey, with whom they traditionally compete for the French, Dutch and Belgian televote 12.
Panos goes on to consider how the juries, who put Greece down in 14th last year, will react to ‘Love Me Back’: ‘The question is if Turkey 2012 can do better than that with the juries.’ Indeed it is. Panos thinks Can Bonomo will do better with the juries. I’m just not sure, having thought that they would treat Greece better than they ended up doing last year.
Bonomo’s performing style and vocals definitely come under the definition of ‘quirky’ and something ethnic and quirky runs the risk of going either way with the juries, who have seemed to favour more mainstream entries. The best example I can think of to illustrate my fears in this respect is Serbia’s 2010 entry, the uptempo, quirky, ethnic ‘Ovo je Balkan’ by Milan Stankovic. The juries hated it, putting it near the bottom of the pile with just 37 points in the final.
Juries did reward the uptempo quirkiness of Jedward last year, but that was with more of a mainstream pop song. We did have one uptempo, quirky, ethnic number last year too, in the shape of Bosnia’s Dino Merlin. He liked to dance around in a rather jokey, alternative manner as well. His renown, particularly within the Balkans, still only helped him to 90 points with the juries, significantly below his televote total of 151 points and rather less than I expected. It was enough for a top ten finish overall, however.
The worst case scenario for this Turkish entry is likely to be a Russia 2011-style result: seventh in the televote and last with the juries for 16th place overall. I don’t think ‘Love Me Back’ will be treated as badly as that by the juries, but my uncertainty about how they will react to Can Bonomo’s antics on stage (of which the rehearsal period will tell us more) does give me pause for thought about Turkey’s chances for a top ten finish or something higher.
If this were 2008 and the televoters still had the total say, I would most probably be punting heavily on a top 10 finish for ‘Love Me Back’, especially if we do end up without Armenia. It’s still eminently possible, but those Sofabet commenters who have wisely felt that Can Bonomo has been rather overlooked need to be wary of exclaiming, Scooby-Doo style, when the full results are revealed: “If it wasn’t for those pesky juries…”.