Eurovision 2012: Will Italy’s Nina Zilli be ‘Out of Love’?

Eurovision fans who pore over the national finals and changing versions of selected songs develop a speculative sideline in counterfactual history. They posit theories such as if only country X had chosen song Y instead of song Z, they would have had a much better chance in the contest. Then, was it better to keep song Z in the language of X, rather than change it into English?

You can construct a whole essay of speculative counterfactual history on the Italian selection process this year. First of all, there was the question of which performer at the San Remo Festival that broadcaster RAI should have gone with. Having selected Nina Zilli, the singer and her management initially confirmed that she would be performing ‘Per Sempre‘.

I have a soft spot for ‘Per Sempre’. I’m not sure how other televoters would have taken to it, but I could have seen it scoring very highly indeed with the juries. However, the song was subsequently ditched a few days before the deadline, in favour of a track on her new album, ‘L’Amore e Femmina’.

That wasn’t quite the end of it. A final, bi-lingual version of the new song, ‘L’Amore e Femmina (Out of Love)’ was revealed with an official video. This is what casual viewers will see performed on the big night, blithely unaware of this torturous process and the ‘what ifs’ it has produced among Eurovision anoraks.

‘L’Amore e Femmina (Out of Love)’, with its “boom boom boom” moments and fashionable retro sound, is arguably a more accessible song for televoters than ‘Per Sempre’. It has a couple of extra reasons to stick in the memory too. Firstly, it is the only song of its kind in the final. Secondly, it makes the Amy Winehouse comparison that much more pertinent. Nina doesn’t only look a bit like Amy, perform a bit like her, she’s now also singing an Amy Winehouse-style song.

Actually, I think Zilli is a star performer in her own right, one of the few in the contest who is capable of displaying some kind of artistry on stage. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into televotes, as Patricia Kaas showed in 2009 when managing only 17th with this constituency from a terrible third slot in the running order. Zilli herself is not brilliantly drawn, at number 10 in the first half, just after the French entry. Which is why a Winehouse analogy may be a useful shortcut for viewers sifting through 26 songs on Saturday May 26th.

A more useful comparison than Kaas may be the Italian entry last year, ‘Madness of Love’. Raphael Gualazzi showed plenty of artistry and had a memorable schtick of his own: some virtuoso piano-playing for a standout jazzy number. However, hampered by a similar draw in 12, that was still only enough to manage eleventh among televoters, being helped up to second place overall by running away with the jury vote.

Gualazzi’s song was, like Zilli’s, a mixture of Italian and English. There’s an argument that Zilli’s diction isnt great and the translation doesnt really add anything to ‘L’Amore e Femmina (Out of Love)’ – the title itself is evidence of some degree of clumsiness. When previewing the chances of the Hungarian entry last year, I explained that switching languages can be a bad idea in these circumstances. However, in this case I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference to televoters. Most importantly for them, it is perfectly clear when she is switching between the two languages.

This is a song we are yet to see presented on stage, and the rehearsal period will give us a much more useful sense of its relative merits for the TV audience. But that’s true for all of them to some degree and if forced to predict, taking into account the advantage of Zilli’s charisma and the disadvantage of its draw, I can see a similar televote result for Italy this time around to last year.

If that’s the case, how much Italy can climb up the higher echelons may be dependent once again on the juries. They have proved a little bit of a law unto themselves, but I can envisage them being impressed by Zilli’s class in a genre that allows her to express herself more than others have the opportunity or ability to. I see ‘L’Amore e Femmina (Out of Love)’ performing very highly among this constituency, though maybe not quite as magnificently as ‘Madness of Love’ in what is a more competitive year.

This all adds up to a pretty reasonable case for Nina Zilli doing well, though at odds of just 12.5 in the Betfair win market, this has already been factored into her price. Does this represent a realistic assessment of her chances? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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15 comments to Eurovision 2012: Will Italy’s Nina Zilli be ‘Out of Love’?

  • Nick D

    I have to say, I won’t be touching Italy with a ten-foot pole in *any* markets – neither to succeed nor to fail nor to be somewhere in the middle – though it should at least be an obvious lay in “To finish last”…

    There are so many plausible reasons why Gualazzi was a palpable hit with the juries last year – visible musicality? Welcome back Italy? A one-off quirk in the taste of the 2011 juries? Genuine quality in an unexpected way? Equally, I can only speculate why televoters were so lukewarm – was it the draw or was it the song?

    For me, there’s far too little evidence and form on any aspect of the package for me to make a considered judgement. So it’s just watch and enjoy for this one!

    • Daniel

      Hi Nick, have to agree with you here that there are just too many imponderables for me to be playing with the odds around Italy’s chances at present.

  • justin

    Nina Zilli ouses class and charisma but in the win market there is little value in the price considering Italy’s draw and lack of natural voting allies. Its also pitted against the inferior but better drawn Spain in match bets so like Nick D I can’t see an angle in betting this one either way.

    For me, at this stage, even the top 10 market is looking a bit crowded too with lots of candidates – the remaining five big hitters, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Norway all serious contenders and several more given a good draw in the final.

    So, in summary this is a tough one to call. I will almost certainly be sitting Italy out

  • My X, Y & Z moment centered around Erica Mou. I could marry her tomorrow if only she’d accept. I reckon she would… I’m dreaming again.
    I wasn’t at all keen on Per Sempre and was relieved to learn that the selection committee wielded the axe. L’Amore e Femmina is a far superior song and is primed for some jury loving. Having backed Italy at 29.0, I wouldn’t accept today’s odds – they’re far too low.
    To attract the same level of ‘love,’ they need to replicate the classy live instruments on stage, and that baritone sax is the perfect medium to register a genuine jury money shot.

  • Boki

    The draw was not kind to her and for that reason I turned my early backings (30-40) to free bets. Still, evidence or not, I have a feeling she will do good and that’s enough for me. Looking forward to H2H with Spain 🙂

  • Donald

    Hi Daniel, Andrew and all,

    Good to read through Eurovision, I watched all songs yesterday( not all of all though)

    Programmers have been busy! Hard to know, few at front of betting not convinced.
    Russia obviously unique I did watch twice.

    If Malta got the staging right with the dancers as in the video could be interesting.
    Ukraine had instant kick not sure about the dubstep bit though.
    Germany song jury’s will like I think but they may as well have got The Fray!

    As for Sweden is it better than France?

    And if it a ballad winning should be Spain by a mile. Well put together and peformed song, serious vocals in fairness.
    And I do like Italy but one song that would make radio playlist instantly is Belgium. That’s 8 on my initial listen.
    Long way to go.
    Still a start made.
    Be interested in what you think D.

  • justin

    In terms of qualification markets my biggest head scratcher is the various male-lead bands. I’m thinking Switzerland, Belarus, Hungary and Israel. To me all are quite appealing pop without the potential to equal Denmark last year.

    Hungary stands out as having the best draw of the four and if they can pull it off live I think they can qualify at a nice price. My view is that it is the most Eurovision friendly of the four. The only problems are that they sing after Russia (which could bring the house down and completely overshadow the following act) and have proved to be pretty rough singing live, oh and no voting allies. Saying that they have already drifted to a nice price to qualify.

    Switzerland do not have such a kind draw, no allies and though the song has a hint of U2 about it is perhaps a little forgettable from such an early slot.

    Belarus appear to be the most telegenic and should pick up decent points from allies like Ukraine and Georgia and it follows two of the weakest songs in their semi. The negative are that this is a tougher semi and draw 5 is very early and the majority of entries have voting allies in this semi.

    Israel is the most quirky (Elvis Costello meets Brit pop) and their video is on the wacky side for Eurovision so it will be interesting to see what their staging is like. For me its the weakest of the male-lead songs.

    Daniel and anyone else have any views on these?

  • I have major reservations regarding Israel at present. It’s an infectious song, but one with Marmite properties that’ll divide the Eurovision audience 50/50. You use the word telegenic to describe Belarus, having seen a few live videos of Izabo, their lead singer is far from telegenic and does little to interact with the camera.
    Israel struggle for support at the best of times and rely heavily on the jury. This song will either enthrall or irritate the jury. It’ll be a close call!

  • Boki

    Already lays Belarus a little, it’s a crazy price imo. I will wait for the rehearsals for the rest and try to catch the wrong odds at that point. All of them have no allies and slightly wrong staging/performance could be the end for them. Israel as least telegenic and quirky would be my other lay choice. In other words, it’s easier to predict the NQ on these than who will scrape through imo.

  • I agree Boki, I was surprised at Belarus’s present odds. Might make a good (small, cautious) lay. Israel is later in the running, typically picks up a better mix of votes from east/west and will likely do slightly better with juries. Also not a definite qualifier though, though I kind of think it will.

  • Chris

    I see Italy as a surefire winner. This song really stands out from the all the others. Nina Zilli has the backing of the biggest company in the music industry (which won’t hurt) and I think that Eurovision has an interest in keeping Italy in the competition. In fact, I think many people will be pleased to see Italy as the venue for next year. The only thing speaking against Italy (in my opinion) is the poor draw but since the televote is ongoing I don’t think that this will be that much of a factor.

    • Daniel

      Hi Chris, many thanks for your post. I have my fingers crossed that Nina will do well myself but they have changed the rules as to when televoting lines open. It will no longer be from the first song, but at the end, when all 26 songs have been performed.

  • Chris

    Thanks for that, Daniel! As far as I’m concerned this song ticks all the boxes (except the draw). Obviously it will boil down to the live performance. The big question then becomes what the impact of the draw will be on the vote.

  • David

    Official video here:
    http://video.gazzetta.it/anteprima-video-cantante-piacentina-che-rappresentera-italia-eurofestival-/bc38cc32-9827-11e1-91a8-ea4a026c0a83

    As much as I like the song, I’ve now hedged my inital e/w bet by laying it on Betfair. Honestly, who the F directed/choreographed this? The Montenegrian ESC team? Please drop those dancers, and spare us humiliation.

    (The looks good in orange hair though!)

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