Eurovision 2012: Will Loreen ensure ‘Euphoria’ for Sweden?

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.

46 comments to Eurovision 2012: Will Loreen ensure ‘Euphoria’ for Sweden?

  • Martin F.

    Leaving aside the issues concerning the performance, which will only really be resolved once the rehearsals start in Baku and we see how things lie “on the ground”, you raise one point in particular that resonates with me – namely, that of the song’s verses.

    It might seem like a trifling issue, but even if “Euphoria” remains the bookies’ fave throughout the season and, heck, even if Loreen’s national final performance accrues millions of YouTube hits prior to ESC as did Rybak’s and Lena’s before her, the crucial difference compared with those two recent examples is the lack of an instant hook.

    With Rybak, there was the violin intro and the nursery rhyme simplicity of “Years ago, when I was younger”; with Lena, you were immediately jarred by her Mockney accent, her sharp tone of voice, her descriptions of light blue underwear.

    By contrast, Loreen’s song does indeed start in a mumbled and vague way, both vocally and visually. But then it reaches the first chorus pretty quickly, and pretty much steamrollers your resistance from there onwards.

    As a punter I’m confused, because I’m normally pretty immune to the hype machine, and yet – in spite of its accurately documented flaws – I can still see Loreen beating off all competition come May. Subject to a late draw in the final, of course – and frankly, if she’s going to be a runaway favourite between now and then, I’m almost tempted to say that the mere chance of her popping up in the first 8 songs in the final is almost sufficient to have a nibble at laying her (oo-er, etc.) in the meantime.

    It might come down to something as simple as seeing where the six automatic finalists are drawn when the Heads of Delegation meeting takes place next week. If most or all are in the first half, that starts to shift things in favour of Loreen or, indeed, any semi-finalist. Whereas if they’re all on late in the final…

    (Stream of consciousness. Apologies for babbling.)

  • Panos

    Spot on Daniel, I think a decent case can be made both for and against loreen’s chances of reaching the top3.

    The upbeat nature of her song is more on the art-y/sophisticated side (i.e. more Satellite/Caroban than Popular/Dum Tek Tek), so I can envisage the juries going for it more. But I can equally see the juries punishing it like most of the upbeat songs.

    Generally, eurovision and its fans are a little lagged compared to the real world, so I would not be surprised if she had a pan-european televote appeal and europe thought she is offering both a fresh song and performance (although people with more knowledge know that’s not the case both in terms of song and performance). But I can equally see her failing to get the attention of eastern europe á la Friend In London.

    IMHO, she is only good to back (@6 some time ago) and lay (NOW!).

    On the other hand, I am finding it kinda hard to imagine of a way for serbia NOT to make the top4. If DINO can come 6th in the televote with THAT song, imagine what ZELJIKO can do to the televote with THIS song. And don’t get me started with the jury-friendliness of Nije Ljubav Stvar. Maybe if he sings #2 in the final and faints while singing?

  • Nick D

    On the subject of snow, it’s precedented – Russia’s Peter Nalitch endured light flurries in Oslo in 2010.

    • David

      Yeah, I don’t see that being a problem. Broken glass was fine, so this should be too.

      Regarding the camera work on the other hand, I really don’t think that’s all up to the delegations. I remember Sweden having huge problems with the camera work for Perelli 2008, and ending up with something far inferior to that in the MF. I think we’ll get the panorama shots here, whether Loreen/Björkman likes it or not.

      • Daniel

        Hi Nick and David, thanks for clarification on both these points. The long shots are an interesting one in that no Eurovision performance seems to escape them, and yet this will at least visually make a big difference to Loreen’s show compared to what we saw in the national final.

        • Nick D

          A possible parallel to draw there would be to watch Lithuania’s performance from 2007 – to this day, many people are absolutely convinced that they weren’t on the Eurovision stage. I can vouch that they definitely were!

          My experience is that if a delegation presents a very definite shot plan with an artistic logic behind it, it’ll probably be respected by the hosts.

          • Daniel

            Lol, just reminded myself of it now, Nick. Are you really sure it wasn’t an outside broadcast from a studio in Vilnius 😉

            Nonetheless, it shows us that an absence of long shots is possible, although no doubt it’s far easier to do with a static performance like this one.

          • Nick D

            Daniel, somewhere in the OnEurope private archive there’s a picture of that Lithuanian silhouette screen with Magdi Ruzsa’s suitcase clearly still in place behind it. The scene-shifters had a nightmare with that one! 🙂

      • Boki

        I found this Perelli camera issue strange, if I remember ESC2008 was directed by Sven Stojanovic – Swede who also directed MF so he should have given Perelli the best possible.

        Anyway, camera issues for Loreen could indeed be a headache but I also think they will manage it to look good.

  • I’ve just been reading some of the comments and I thought I’d reply to some of the concerns regarding dance acts at Eurovision.
    I’m not a fan of dance acts at Eurovision usually, knowing that they tend to score so poorly with the juries and also get forgotten once they reach the final having polled so well prior to the contest.
    When Euphoria came along I was naturally skeptical, but the more I’ve watched it and compared to other dance entries, the more convinced I am that Loreen can transcend the fate of her predecessors.
    What sets Euphoria apart is the stalking and preying drama which builds to the uplifting ‘euphoric’ chorus. This non-cheesy approach will ensure jury boxes are well and truly ticked come finals night.
    The concerns over the camera angles are well founded. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the wide-angle audience shots will be reserved for the more upbeat chorus. Any TV director with experience of this type of show will understand how this song needs framing.

    • Daniel

      Hi Gavster, I certainly agree with you that ‘Euphoria’ is a cut above previous Eurovision dance entries. The aural travesty of Finland 2009 live on stage springs to mind.

  • Tim B

    Euphoria! The top 5 market is now open on Betfair.

  • Boki

    Hmmm, Italy wisely switched to the up-tempo song. Nina is a contender in my eyes as a performer but I thought ‘Per sempre’ had less chance to win being a ballad among many this year (although a great one). I still have a difficulty to rate ‘L’amore e femmina’ but I see the odds drop underway, there is still 33/1 @ StanJames 😉
    It will of course depend on staging and slot but I have a feeling this one can go far.

  • fiveleaves

    I prefer the new Italian song, but I’m in a minority looking at the forums.

    It reminds me of a French entry that did poorly a few years back.

    The market seems to think that Italy will get a massive jury vote every year and that last year just wasn’t a welcome back ‘present’

    • Boki

      Yes, it seems people think juries will vote no matter what Italy sends and that’s of course wrong. On the other hand the new song is more televote friendly so the odds are dropping fast. The problem I have with the new song is that I don’t feel the edge just like the Serbian one (while my wife thinks that Nina is now the only challenger to Loreen).

  • fiveleaves

    Italy going uptempo strikes me as helping Spain more than it helps Italy.
    But I’m biased 😉

    • Daniel

      Hi fiveleaves, I may disagree with you about the Spanish entry, but agree with this. The initial Italian female ballad was competing against the Spanish one, both with juries and the televote. Not any more.

      • fiveleaves

        Yep, that was my point Daniel.

        As for the song the new Italian one reminds me of, it was the German song Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, not a French song.
        That’s probably a little unkind, as it’s better than that, but it has a similar retro feel.

  • fiveleaves

    btw, not much to add to the excellent Swedish debate.
    i think it would be fair to say the consensus is it’s a worthy fav but the price is too short.
    Something I’d agree with

  • Hosh

    Loreen is charting in the entire Scandinavian area while her Nordic rivals doesn’t. She’s is poised to get 12 points from all of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.

  • Tim B

    Daniel, what are your thoughts on the Slovakian entry? It’s a very strong rock song imo, so should go top 10 this year if Georgia last year is anything to go by?

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, it could be very much underrated this year, I agree. Although don’t forget Georgia had a great draw in last year’s final and could rely on plenty of regional support.

    • Nick D

      Georgia did well last year and Finland have had some limited success with “serious” rock, but there’s a trail of badly failed attempts in the last few years – the Czechs and Austria in 2007, Belarus and the Swiss in 2009, a sequence of very earnest FYR Macedonia attempts that haven’t made the final… combined with a place in the brutal semi 2 and a generally poor track record for Slovak entries, Don’t Close Your Eyes looks like an attractive option for “last in the semi”.

  • Stuart

    Daniel

    Do you see Israel as a dark horse. Is it very immediate and catchy.

    • Daniel

      Hi Stuart, personally I enjoy the song a great deal, after all it sounds like ELO covering the Abba song ‘Nina, Pretty Ballerina’. Quite how the staging will work out and what juries will think is another matter. This is one to wait on till rehearsals, for me.

      • Oe! I do so agree with you on Israël. It’s a perfect example of a song that is overlooked by fans right now. The first time I heard it I was sold and, indeed, thinking of ABBA’s ‘Nina Pretty Ballerina’ :-D. Again, also a song that is very original compared to the field of chosen entries so far.

        And well, I think this song has got that happy, sing-a-long ‘Fairytale’-like charm. IMO a contender for the TOP 10 (I think it has already qualified).

  • For me the basic rule to Win Eurovision is very simpe: You need to excell in a particular music style/genre. The total audiovisual package of what televoters and jury’s see must be engaging and must convince televoters to use their cellphones and must convince jury’s to jump of their chairs.

    ‘Euphoria’ is off course darker and less happy than ‘Fairytale’. But we also know that each year the reset button is pressed and results from the past…..well, we ‘fans’ tend to overanalyze them.

    At this stage, if I may speak for my country Holland, in which DJ Tiësto and Armin van Buuren are very popular, I see Loreen do very well in Holland. And not only in my country. This song can unite Europe enough to make all Europeans rally for this song. Just like Norway did in 1995 with a completely different song. Just like Serbia did in 2007 with a completely different song. And just like Norway did in 2009 with a completely different song.

    It is the most unique entry in the field of 37 known entries so far. It does everything right in the dance genre that many predecessors in Eurovision did wrong. The camerashots, the snow, the dark, gritty performance of Loreen, her voice, the catchy melody: They all together make this the best total package of the year so far. And thus a worthy pre-contest favourite.

    And if I know the Swedish delegation well enough, they surely do the right things for this song in Bakoe. For now I say: Sweden’s 5th victory is coming. We might very well go to the Globen Arena again in 2013 after the contest being held there in 2000.

  • Let me make a list of songs so far that I think:
    a) Excell in their own music style/genre (Leaving out your own music taste off course).
    b) Could grab lots of votes among televoters AND jury’s
    c) Are original and unique enough to not get hurt at all by other entries (that are drawn before or after them)
    d) Have already got a very good audivisual total package in place
    e) Result in a certain emotion that makes you want to vote for it: Goosebumps, sadness, happiness, craziness, ‘so bad that it is good’
    f) Will be seen as trendy enough in the current day pop music scene (From Adèle to Madonna, to name a few)
    g) Result in a ‘sympathy factor’ when taking into account the actual performer

    If I apply the points above, I would go for the following countries in alfabetical order. These are the countries to watch out for:

    – Denmark
    – Estonia
    – France
    – Germany
    – Ireland
    – Israël
    – Norway
    – Romania
    – Serbia
    – Slovenia
    – Spain
    – Sweden
    – Turkey

    Among that a possible winner :-).

  • Tim B

    I’m really looking forward to the unveiling of the Azeri, UK and (to a lesser extent) Bosnia-Herzgovina songs. I have a feeling we may not have seen the best song yet. Azerbaijan have proven to be ultra competitive and I can’t see that being any different this year despite hosting it.

    • Boki

      Azeri really wanted to win with Safura and launched big campain from the beginning but failed in the end. Last year they were much smarter – I bet they had few songs ready and wait till the last minute to select the one with most chance of winning wrt the field. They seem to repeat same formula this year, I’m also curious to hear it…

  • David

    So Daniel, what contries are up for analysis next? 🙂
    Russia? Italy perhaps?

  • Emma

    My question is, can Loreen maintain the same vocal quality she had at MF while dancing and without the backing track? She can sing, but vocals can easily fall apart as soon as the singer gets moving (case in point–Alexej Vorobjov’s ethnic wailing sounded fine, but he was vocally weak for the rest of the performance). Sweden’s always great about sending good backup singers, but (correct me if I’m wrong!) I believe the rule is that the backup singers must be onstage. Last year, a lot of acts dealt with them by incorporating them as dancers (Jedward, Saade) or tucking them in a corner (A Friend in London, Blue, Saade again), interacting with them (Getter Jaani, Ell & Nikki) or hiding them behind a prop (Alexej Vorobjov). Loreen has none of these options if she wants to preserve the stellar routine in MF. She has one male dancer whom I doubt is a trained singer (I read somewhere he is a martial artist from America). She has no props and if she tucked a few female vocalists on the edge of the stage, I see a few inevitable long shots. You’re definitely right Daniel–Melodifestivalen has a glitzier, smoother package and we never know how it will translate to the ESC stage.

    • Backing singers don’t always have to be visible on stage, I think – IIRC Scooch’s weren’t, and neither were all of Rebeka Dremelj’s in 2008 (or at least one of Maja Keuc’s backing singers this year told me she also sang backing vocals for Rebeka except she was hidden behind a curtain so you couldn’t see her).

  • Emma

    Right–Alexej Vorobjov had a *lot* of help that obviously didn’t come from the dancers and we never saw them. That feels a bit deceptive to me, but it’s not the Eurovision Ethics Contest:) But Loreen had no curtains/walls with which to hide them–as Daniel said, she might as well be in a tiny studio with no props. Of course, knowing SVT they’ll make it work–either by sacrificing vocal quality (which doesn’t seem to matter to Europe–in last year’s Top 3, Nigar was weak, Rafael was off-key, and Saade was heavily reliant on backing singers) or just finding a way to place them strategically so they don’t detract from the performace’s impact. In any case, I totally agree with this article–long shots will do her no favors. They worked for Paradise Oskar but they won’t for Queen Loreen.

  • RogerL

    Regarding backing track

    She had sore throat one of the rehearsals days. So she did not sing – but the prerecorded stuff could be heard. Reports were not consistent…

    From very little prerecorded (several sources) to most of the refrain… (one source).
    [Interesting/Unexplained: The rules of Melodifestivalen does not allow artists own voice to be prerecorded]

    So what to expect at the actual ESC performance?

    The live video below might give an indication

  • Gerard

    Loreen’s backing track with pre-recorded vocals:

  • eurovicious

    Thought this interesting today – we already know that Euphoria is a big hit across Scandivania and the Baltic countries, but it’s also now charted relatively highly in Greece and Spain:

    http://www.escdaily.com/sweden-loreen-charts-in-14-european-countries/

    I’ve also heard that in Spain, the song is apparently getting a fair bit of radio play and the video is running on mainstream music video channels.

  • Zhaneta

    It is the same as a Katie Perry song. What a shame.

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