Are you for ‘Euphoria’ or against it? The Eurovision chances of the Swedish entry have polarised opinion like nothing else I can remember. Enough think it is an obvious winner to make it a red-hot favourite at just over 2-1 in the Betfair outright market, while many others are confident it’s getting nowhere near the top of the leaderboard and think it’s an outstanding lay. (At current odds, you would make a return of about 30% by laying Loreen if anybody else winds up winning).
I have more mixed feelings. I like the song and Loreen, as my Melodifestivalen final preview indicated. But for every positive aspect I can think of, I can also conjure up a negative. I really like the hooks in the chorus and especially the ‘Up, up, up, up, up, uuuuuup’ part, but then the verses are really rather mumbled. Loreen is an excellent performer and singer, but hiding herself behind her hair and the contemporary dance moves may be off-putting for many others. It feels like something that could be a commercial hit, but maybe it feels too much like something that could have been a commercial hit in 1995.
From a punting perspective, current odds imply that ‘Euphoria’ should be considered in the same sort of league as Alexander Rybak with ‘Fairytale’, who was trading at just marginally shorter odds at this stage in 2009 before his runaway victory for Norway. I think that’s much too optimistic. Visually and aurally, ‘Fairytale’ offered a very obvious Eurovision-winning package; ‘Euphoria’ does not. Here’s why:
- ‘Fairytale’ was catchy and happy-clappy; ‘Euphoria’ is not half as accessible, especially in its presentation, which is dark and arty.
- ‘Fairytale’ was helped by Rybak’s Belarussian roots and its folky nature, which furthered its appeal in the east; we can’t be so sure about the appeal of ‘Euphoria’ in this part of the continent.
- ‘Fairytale’ featured Rybak as a virtuoso violinist, which helped cement jury love for it; juries have tended to punish the (admittedly poor) examples of dance music at the contest in recent years.
- Rybak ended up with a decent draw in the final; we have no idea if Loreen will be so lucky.
- Rybak won the Norwegian final with over 75% of the popular vote against a couple of decent rivals; Loreen won hers with 32.7% of the popular vote.
There are a couple of “buts” from the above list. It must be said that the international jury response to ‘Euphoria’ in the Swedish final was highly positive. And on the final point, Loreen’s winning televote percentage was still the second biggest since these figures were first revealed in 2000 (when the record was set). The usual winning televote percentage for a Melodifestivalen winner is somewhere between 18-25%, so Loreen broke out of that range comfortably.
Perhaps the biggest “but” with this whole comparison is that Loreen doesn’t have to be a Rybak to still win the competition. We witnessed a record-breaking scale of victory in 2009, after all. Still, the comparison is useful because it helps to make clear how many question marks there are about the short-priced favourite at this stage.
Here’s another: How much will the presentation change from the Melodifestivalen stage to the Eurovision one? For reasons I explained last year in my piece on Eric Saade’s ‘Popular’, what you see in the Swedish national final can sometimes be more impressive that what ends up being shown to the Eurovision audience.
There are question marks in particular about a couple of aspects of ‘Euphoria’ that made the Melodifestivalen performance so memorable (see it here). First, no pre-recorded vocals are allowed with Eurovision performances, as they are in the Swedish final – although when I asked the EBU for clarification of this rule recently in response to a question from Sofabet commenter Rob, they confirmed to me that other vocal technologies are allowed. So the question is, are those echoey reverbs that add so much to the atmosphere of the song more likely to be reliant on the backing track or vocoder technology?
Talking of atmosphere, here’s an unusual aspect of the visual presentation in the Swedish final. There are no long shots at all after the song opens. Instead we have lots of close-ups and Loreen always remains in the foreground. Based on what you see, she might as well be performing to nobody in a small studio. Will the Swedish delegation maintain this approach in Baku even though there’s usually plenty of long shots for every Eurovision performance? If they do, might it turn viewers off or seem distinctive? If they don’t, does it make it more accessible by helping us to see the audience response or might it lessen the impact?
I can’t think of any precedent for the snow effect either. Will it be possible to approximate the effect without requiring an army of Dyson-wielding Azeris to race onto the stage as the next country’s video postcard rolls? All these questions may seem minor, but in fact they add up to a huge amount of uncertainty about how ‘Euphoria’ will come across on stage at Eurovision, and we’re going to have to wait for the rehearsal period to await the answers. Which means either backing or laying Loreen at this stage is to some degree shooting in the dark.
I have one final nagging doubt about ‘Euphoria’, and that comes from comparing Loreen’s relatively impressive vote in the Melodifestivalen final with the less stellar one in her semi-final, where she got just 26.2% from the pimp slot in the initial round of televoting. This suggests that Loreen rode a wave of hype to her victory in the final; the reaction of Swedes to hearing the song having been primed by the pre-final hype was a lot more impressive than their first reaction to hearing it without any such priming.
You can spin this either way in terms of Loreen’s Eurovision chances. On the one hand, the buzz about Loreen has clearly continued; on the other hand, is it realistic to expect that buzz to have the same impact Europe-wide as it did Sweden-wide? Or will the first reaction of European voters be more in line with the relatively lukewarm response in the Swedish semi?
All of this adds up, in my mind, to a compelling case against getting swept up in ‘Euphoria’ at such short odds at this early stage. But nor am I currently laying Loreen for a 30% return. Why is that? Partly, it’s because the above kind of detailed analysis can risk ignoring a more general visceral reaction to the song – and, clearly, plenty of people have watched ‘Euphoria’ without thinking about it too much and decided that they absolutely love it. Mainly though, I crave the greater certainties created by watching it performed in rehearsals and knowing where it will be drawn in the final.
Debate about ‘Euphoria’ has already started among Sofabet’s astute range of commenters, with both David and Justin concurring that at current prices, ‘Euphoria’ does not represent good value; although David also admits that there’s no other standout song this year, something which Boki agrees with. Tim feels that Denmark is a more likely winner despite being nearly four times the price.
How about you? Where do you stand on the chances of ‘Eurphoria’? Let us know in the comments section below.