Eurovision 2012: Will the Russian Babushki ‘Party for Everybody’ triumph?

I’m not really a big trader on Betfair, in the sense of someone who makes a bet with the intention of hedging it at an advantageously different price before the result is known. It’s a perfectly valid way of trying to make money that many manage successfully, but my bets are largely ones I want to take through to the outcome.

However, when it was officially announced that previous Eurovision winner Dima Bilan and one half of Tatu, Julia Volkova, would be duetting in the Russian national final, there was a small amount available to back Russia at 17.5 on Betfair which I took, knowing that this was the most likely Russian act and that their fame should ensure a much shorter price.

Sure enough, as the news spread, the odds came down to 7 or so. What Russia’s backers such as myself weren’t figuring before the national final was the victory of the Buranovskiye Babushki with their song ‘Party for Everybody’. So, having watched the show until the stream died and switched to Twitter to decipher the Cyrillic messages suggesting that the grannies had indeed won, I hedged my Russia bet at 9 for a small guaranteed profit either way.

Except the YouTube sensations are making headlines around Europe and are now just 6.4 in the Betfair win market. Which just goes to show, the market can make fools of us all. So just what are their chances?

There seems little doubt that this is an act which (a) many ordinary viewers all over Europe will find utterly charming, but (b) being a badly sung, completely outdated novelty entry, the juries will most likely ignore. Our shrewd set of commenters have been debating the implications of this, with eurovicious getting the ball rolling:

‘Purely theoretically, would it be possible for the Babushki to get a sufficiently high televote score that a low jury score couldn’t prevent them from winning? I’m thinking if they got between 5-8 points from most countries (so winning or being second in the televote but with a lower jury score). Can anyone answer this mathematically or does anyone have the means to work it out?’

Tpfkar showed that an average score of 5-8 points from every country would win in any ordinary year that didn’t contain a Rybak (and I’ve already explained I don’t think there’s one of those in this field).

The big ‘but’ is whether the Babushki can blitz the televote to such a degree. Remember coming first or second in either the televote or jury confers a small extra advantage by giving you two points difference over the next in line rather than just one. But if the Babushki are scoring 8s, 7s, 6s or lower from the televote, that combined with a low jury score brings overall scores down quite a bit – just how much depends on whether the juries are rewarding a similar set of other songs to televoters.

There are a few arguments to suggest eurovicious’s hypothetical scenario in the televote will not happen. Televote 12s or 10s will be harder to come by outside the bloc of ex-USSR countries (of which we have one less than usual without Armenia). To win most televoting polls means overcoming strong regional loyalties: Zeljko Joksimovic in the Balkans; Loreen, Tooji and Soluna in the Nordics. It would also mean overcoming Turkish and Greek diaspora in places like Belgium (not even Rybak managed that); the Romanians in Spain, and so on.

A look at two other recent successful entries that contained an element of novelty, both in the 100% televote era, suggests the limits to the grannies’ televote potential.  In 2007 the wonderful Verka Serduchka finished second with 230 points for the Ukraine with ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai‘. It received 10 or 12 points from just eight out of 42 countries, the only one of those not a typical ally being the Maltese dix points. In 2006, the masked Finnish rockers Lordi won with 292 points, but got 10 or 12 points from just 14 out of a possible 36 countries.

Even the non-novelty, record-breaking Rybak, who received 378 televote points in 2009, managed to only get just over half (22 out of 41) of the countries giving him a televote 10 or 12. This may still seem far from eurovicious’s theoretical scenario, but it actually represents the kind of televote amount the Babushki need to win, I think.

Rybak scored highly almost everywhere, and a rough calculation made by downgrading the Norwegian’s individual televote scores (this was the first and only time the EBU published such data in the new 50/50 jury/televote era) to take into account a very low or non-existent jury score gives me a figure of just over 250 points, which would probably be enough for victory.

So triumph for the grannies is not impossible; they just need to be as popular as Rybak.

But in my opinion this will not be the case. Although being a Russian entry means that the Babushki can rely on greater bloc voting than Rybak, Verka or Lordi could muster, these three put on a much more professional show and had much more of a song to back them up. Rybak’s landslide win was based on the merit of a near-perfect Eurovision package. Charming though the ineptitude of the grannies is, their performance is still a shambles, and this will count against them in the televote, as well as doing so much more obviously with the juries.

As a result, I don’t think they will match the televote exploits of Verka, let alone Rybak. Quite how well they will do in the public vote is hard to gauge, within what should be a comfortable top ten placing. It seems logical to think that it will be higher than last year’s seventh.

The grannies would need to be outdoing Lordi and matching Rybak in any televote to win Eurovision 2012 because of the juries. The juries were introduced for a couple of reasons, the main one being because diaspora and bloc voting had made the contest predictable and grossly unfair. But with the new 50/50 split, the organisers were also happy to hamper the chances of any future novelty success, and keep the contest credible.

In recent years, the juries have severely punished left-field entries such as Portugal last year and Lithuania in 2010, whilst tending to reward the more earnest numbers. In a word, they are killjoys, and I see no reason for them not to score the Babushki very meanly. Especially as Russia finished bottom of the jury vote last year, indicating that the juries of the former USSR nations have no interest in favouring the country.

So we could be looking at a top five placing in the televote and a bottom five placing in the jury vote. This set of circumstances wasn’t enough for Blue to finish in the top ten for the UK last year. It was a close run thing, though, and the Babushki have bloc voting on their side, and what promises to be the most memorable act of the night. That doesn’t encourage me to think that Russia will finish outside the top ten, though I wouldn’t rule it out completely. (In the still-embryonic top ten market on Betfair, Russia can currently be backed to small stakes at 1.28 and laid at 1.36.)

Ultimately, I would not be panicking if I was one of those people who had decided to max out my betting limits on ‘laying’ the grannies in the Betfair win market only to see their price continue to contract. Sure, the BBC News segments can give us the heartfelt backstory that the Babushki are hoping to rebuild the village church that Stalin had destroyed, and other press around Europe are similarly interested. But that won’t help them with the juries, and it doesn’t give them a Rybak-style Eurovision package for televoters either – which is what they need to pull off what would, admittedly, be a rather marvellous victory.

What do you think? Do let us know in the comments section below.

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36 comments to Eurovision 2012: Will the Russian Babushki ‘Party for Everybody’ triumph?

  • Nick D

    Correspondents elsewhere have floated the possibility that the Babushki could fail to get through their semi-final, where Russia is stripped of much of its usual network of supporters.

    My take is that it should be safe simply because there’s so much dull dross and inaccessible weirdness more likely to occupy the bottom 8 places, but could you imagine it being at risk of an Armenia/Turkey 2011 result?

    • Daniel

      Hi Nick, it’s a pertinent question, though Russia does have a couple of things going for it in its semi that Turkey and Armenia didn’t: charm and a good draw for starters. It’s thus getting plenty of neutral televotes in the semi – which Turkey and Armenia failed to do.

      Your point about there being enough dross and weirdness is also in their favour. Competing against the likes of Montenegro, San Marino and Latvia, for example, makes it much easier. As is the fact there are relatively few big hitters in this semi whereas 2011’s first heat was full of them.

      It should be enough, I reckon.

      • Boki

        First of all, I agree with the winner analysis completely, nothing to add. Secondly, I also believe they will qualify because of the bad semifinal so their real strength will not be tested. Having said that, I think a lot of people looking for a favorite to fall will lay Russia and Greece in semi 1.

        Daniel, can you please elaborate why you think Latvia is in the same league as Montenegro and San Marino (I got that impression from your sentence above) ?

        • Daniel

          Of course Boki. I rather enjoy latvia but it’s amateurish, poorly drawn and lacking allies. It’s not in the car crash territory of the other two I mentioned, but will probably do just as badly.

          • Boki

            Just wanted to make clear that I realize it’s a small country without friends with bad draw but you were faster, although you forgot to mention stupid lyrics 🙂

            Despite all of that, I still believe it might attract enough televote/jury votes because the tune is very pleasent and enjoyable (hopefully they don’t mess up the staging).

            And talking about amateurish, my 1st association is Belgium…

          • tpfkar

            On first listen, the Latvian song was my favourite in the whole competition – but I haven’t put a penny on as no-one else is going with it.

            I misheard a lyric first time, I thought she was saying that when she won, she’d give up drugs; it was actually jobs. The second verse is all about not having any time for Mick Jagger because she’s too busy with Paul McCartney; it’s catchy and much more interesting than most. Still on my maybe list to qualify. Its draw hasn’t helped, but there’s a load of dross straight after it.

  • stuart

    I can just imagine announcer after announcer saying and douze points to those Russian Babuski.

    • Tim B

      I agree Stuart, and it’s absolutely terrifying. As a punter, I’m leaving it well alone. The thought of it not qualifying from its semi hadn’t crossed my mind until today, but I guess that that’s a possibility.

  • Boki

    Forgot to post the link to the semi1 recap:

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

    Things are much less clear here, lot of them with a chance…

  • Martin F.

    Honestly? It’s a hunch, of course – what else could it be at this stage? – but I think a top 10 miss for Russia is entirely possible. For all the international press coverage the grannies have received, it’s still only March, and they risk being “old news” (no pun intended) in a couple of months from now.

    Add to that a messy performance of what is (let’s be honest) a pretty nothingy song, plus the jury bias Daniel mentions and the very real chance of a lousy draw in the final (I’d say anywhere in the first half of the show is bad news for Russia), and I’d definitely be sniffing around the ‘lay’ side of the top 10 market. Though maybe not until the post-semi 1 press conference…

  • lazar

    Nice site, good analysis.
    I’m missing only the heart. I think it’s the kind of perspective that seen Safura or Serduchka in the past as the winner.

    I predicted Russia as the winner. You can read my tips on bettingexpert in the German section.

  • tpfkar

    The studio version is much better; they’ve tightened up some of the chaos at the start, and the instrumental section in the middle.

    I hope the Russian choreographer knows what he’s doing, if ever an act needed a makeover between the national final and Eurovision it’s this one. And I think you could do it; promote the youngest (on the left in national final) and the shortest (3rd left) to lead singers with the others in the background and get plenty of movement in.

    But I think the analysis here is spot on; I can’t see the juries touching it, and I’ll consider laying top 3 in the semi.

  • Suzi

    Brilliant article and analysis! I honestly cannot see Russia winning, it is simply not good enough. Yes, there’s been lots of press coverage, but the song is not strong enough to beat off all the competition. I was at the 2007 ESC in Helsinki, and although Verka’s song definitely fell into the novelty category, it was one of the most professional performances of the night and you absolutely knew you were dealing with a seasoned and experienced performer. Reading the blogs on the Russian grannies, everyone seems to have fallen in love with the smallest granny on the far left at the beginning of the performance, and it’s hard not to find her sweet and endearing, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that the song is an utter shambles and if it came on the radio you’d switch over!

    Time may prove me wrong, but winning songs need to better than this, and there are much better songs in the contest. The one thing I would love to know is the demographic of the televoters, is it really the young teenage girls everyone thinks, because if so, they will surely vote for some cute guy, e.g Norway. Or perhaps in different countries, the voting demographic is also different. My mother, who was at the time in her 60s, picked up the phone and voted for Guildo in 1998 because she thought he was so entertaining, so really it’s near impossible to work out what will appeal.

    Great fun to speculate though, and very much enjoying reading everyone’s opinions!

  • Kieran

    Hi Daniel! Daniel, if both Latvia and Estonia qualify from their semis,which do you think will score best in the final? Thanks!

    • Daniel

      Estonia – it will have more jury appeal.

      • Daniel, if I may ask a question, Estonia is rated highly, and I think you see it also as a finalist. What do you like about the piano man? I think Estonia is a lay candidate.

        • lazar, do you mean lay to win or lay top4/5/10/to qualify? Personally I don’t see it winning but it’s a guaranteed qualifiers, and I can see it in the top 10 despite the language barrier. It has very good chances of being in the top 5 of the jury vote in the final, and of winning or at least being in the top 3 of the jury vote in its semi.

          • I mean lay to qualify. I do not see where the points should come from. Ex-Yugo will totally ignore this. There are only a few countries who will reward the piano man. According to my calculations it will be a maximum of 40 points for Estonia.

        • Daniel

          Hi Lazar, like eurovicious, I see Estonia as jury fodder, and it has a decent draw in its semi too. He does need to stay behind the piano and not let nerves get the better of him as he did in the Estonian final, however.

          • Ah, we wrote at the same time. Ok, i have noticed your opinions.

          • Boki

            Semi 2 is full of ballads and normally only few best ones go through. If we presume ex-yu exchanges votes with each other, Estonia need to get some friendly points too. At the end it might depend which ballad is perceived by the juries as ‘better performed on the night’.

        • Boki

          Have to correct myself a little, semi2 in 2010 was exeptionally ballad full just like this year and Azer,Georgia & Ukraine passed easily with Israel and Ireland got pushed to top10 by the juries based on quality. So everything is possible…

  • Uncle Si

    Thank you Daniel for all the analysis. I breathe a sigh of relief each time I realise we have juries, when I contemplate a Russian victory!

    At the moment I can’t see any of the favourites winning.. but someone must win, so it’s a puzzle. Sweden for me is too much of a type, Russia won’t be liked by juries, Denmark will surely not be all that popular. I’m not convinced by Serbia either, though I can see its merits.

    Things become clearer each year once rehearsals start – which is in the fortnight before the contest itself. Essentially the second half of May! The staging chosen by each country will reveal a lot.

    My favourites are Latvia and Finland at the moment but I don’t expect either to do well, if they even make it out of the semis.

  • Tim B

    I agree, Uncle Si, I struggle to see any of the favourites winning. It still depends on the draw, but now that it has been translated into English I can really see Iceland winning. That song has everything for me.

  • stuart

    If Russia comes top with televoters and midtable with juries where is it likely to end up on the night?

  • Emma

    Assuming they can do that well with the juries, one top finish and one midtable can result in a top 10 easily. Last year, the reverse happened with Denmark. Third with the juries, 18th with the televoters with just over a third of the points they’d gotten from the juries. They beat Bosnia, who got 6th with the televoters and 11th with the juries. Greece got 3rd with televoters, 14th with the juries, and they got seventh. So in your scenario, I think the Babushki would hit the lower top 10.

    Unfortunately for Russia, I can’t see the juries being that generous and they might go the way the UK did last year: 5th with the televoters with a mediocre draw and none-too-brilliant performance, 22nd with the juries to end up just outside of the top 10. Russia last year had a similar problem. 7th with the televoters, very good considering the draw and Eric Saade’s all-too-similar-but-better presence, but dead last with the juries. Alexej finished with an embarrassing 16th.

    It does worry me though: if the juries are ready to crucify a poorly performed and gimicky but catchy and commercial pop song, what are they going to do to the Babushki?

  • Johnny Roastbeef

    Have you noticed that Russia’s odds has started to drift rather quickly on Betfair as the hype has cooled down?? From 7-8.00 to 11.00 in just a few days and it will probably hit 20+ before May only to shorten back to become one of the absolute favourites again when all the press-hype (re)starts rehearsal week. Not hard to forecast in front of what country the interview line is going to be the longest. Grannies going to be in newspapers and on television all around Europe mid/end of May (How often does that happen to ESC artists and their songs??). And massive press coverage has a tendency to affect betting odds considerably. Press will “make them” favourites come May and in the 100% televote era they would probably have won easy. Now with the juries it will require quite a bit of calculations and voting simulations from us ESC-punters before we can write them off or decide to back them to glory! 😉

    But for now, grannies will drift, and quite a bit I would say! @7-8.00 where Russia’s been hovering since selection, I haven’t found it worth while to put down the work but if it gets to 20+ before May as I expect I sure will put in some effort! How about you guys? Because they sure are the closest we have come to Lordi…

  • Panos

    I find myself having an internal struggle with the grannies.

    On one hand, I can totally visualise them hitting the top5 on the night. On the other hand, when it gets down to numbers, in the last 3 years of combined jury/televote the lowest placed entry by the jury to still hit the overall top5 was 9th (Saade, Safura). The televote even had its 18th placed entry being catapulted to the overall top5 by the juries (A Friend In London). That could be partially because it may be easier for 3-4 songs to breakaway in the jury vote, whereas televoting tends to be a little more uniform.

    So, if the grannies DON’T do a rybak (which I think they won’t) but DO come top5 with the televote (which I think they will), and if the spread within the jury voting and the televoting remain similar to the last 3 years, it may be the case that they will need to come around 10th with the juries to get to the overall top5. Can they do that???

    • Panos

      Hi Daniel! Apologies for insisting, but I would greatly appreciate your opinion on my grannies’ comment above. Many thanks 🙂 .

      • Daniel

        Hi Panos, sorry for missing this one first time round. In my opinion, the grannies are coming bottom five in the jury vote. Even if they do better than expectations here, I cannot see them anywhere near the top ten with juries.

        • Hey Daniel,

          Here you can find the result of the ‘gastcolumn’, the ‘guest editorial’: http://www.esfmagazine.nl/?p=10052#comments

          By the way….it’s so funny to see how gimmicks, like Russia, are still being hyped by both fans and media. The influence of juries is still not embedded in their collective consciousness :-).

          And I like that. I am curious what your overall opinion is of bringing back the juries. I think it’s a very good step that improved the contest on a quality level.

          Also, I am curious what you think of this image: http://www.esfmagazine.nl/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Gesplitst-Resultaat-Finale-2011.jpg

          Can you, in all honesty, predict the discrepancies between jury’s and televoters for Denmark, Austria, Slovenia, Greece, Sweden, Italy, United Kingdom and Russia?

          I try to, year after year. But it’s too hard IMO :-/.

  • I’d like to say something about the 2009 Contest. When it comes to staging, catching the right atmosphere, close-up’s, camerawork and sound I found the 2009 Contest the best edition since Birmingham 1998. Each head of delegation had the advantage of great cooporation from the Russian directors. They had more or less the ‘audiovisual empathy’ that Eurovision directors should have IMO.

    Another good example of perfect staging was Estonia 2009 IMO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnoeY2HrvMo . Perfect rendition of a song that brought back the classical feel of Eurovision again (Norway 1995, to name one).

  • eurovicious

    News on the staging:

    “A large traditional stove already seen behind the grannies during Russia’s selection round for Eurovision will also be seen in Baku. Another ‘surprise’ is that the grannies will bake cake on stage with this prop during their performance.”

    http://www.escdaily.com/grannies-prepare-for-baku/

    There will be crumbs.

  • Let the excitement begin:
    http://www.ksta.de/html/artikel/1336723310778.shtml

    Last chance to get 13.0 (12/1) for the Babushki. Hurry up.

  • bush

    Its a done deal these grannies deserve every praise for what is a barn stormer of a tune, with very catchy hook. Its a perfect blend of traditional, modern and feel good motives. They are only up against Sweden and thats just too cheesy !

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