Eurovision 2012: Will Iceland’s Greta and Jonsi have a contest to ‘Never Forget’?

The best backed song in recent days has been Iceland’s entry – see the video here. ‘Never Forget’ is now down to 22 in the Betfair win market, seventh best in the 42-runner field. Kudos to Nick D for seeing this coming a few weeks ago because he felt the song was likely to be a fan favourite.

Indeed, a consensus has formed that this is some kind of contender. Sofabet commenter Tim B reckons, “now that it has been translated into English, I can really see Iceland winning”. It has been given a highly positive review by ESCBet and tipped up as an each-way selection by Entertainmentodds. Likewise, plenty of influential judges on the ESCNation messageboard have it in their top 5 prediction lists.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. I think Iceland’s chances of winning are minimal, as are its top 4 prospects. If it gets into the top 10, it will be a struggle and thanks only to the juries. Why? Because it’s the kind of song that Eurovision fans respond to in a way that casual viewers don’t. Whilst the former dominate current discussions, it’s the latter who will form the huge majority of the televotes on the big night.

Let’s start with the reasons why fans like it. “It has everything,” Tim B explains. Indeed, it seems to tick a lot of boxes. We have two telegenic singers, just like last year’s winner, one of them fiddles on a violin occasionally, just like the 2009 winner, and it’s a powerful plea about a love that refuses to die, as was the 2007 winner.

No surprise then that it looks and sounds very Eurovision-y. The male / female duo emoting at each other is a reliable old trope in the contest – I’ll offer Norway 1994 as one I remember from the sands of time. The four backing singers moving forwards as the song reaches a crescendo, likewise. There are little hints of the exotic, both lyrically and with the violin riff, giving it the faintest whiff of ethnicity. And it’s as earnest as the Balkan ballads that have become a feature of the competition since 2004.

So why might Iceland fail to deliver the high placing achieved by many of those Balkan songs and the winners I have compared it to? Well, for a start, this is Iceland we’re talking about. Recent results show a normal televoting range of 40-65 points for the country even when well drawn (2011), a fan favourite (2010) or extremely well performed (2008).

The one year I have missed out here is Yohanna’s excellent second in 2009 with ‘Is It True’ (fourth in the televote), but that at least sounded like it could have a separate life away from the contest and on your radio, which – damningly – you could never say of ‘Never Forget’.

There are plenty of reasons to think it will be hard for Iceland to break out of this televoting range this year. For a start it’s probably only fourth in the televote pecking order even in the Nordic region, behind Sweden, Denmark and Norway. When Iceland goes eurodisco, as in 2008, it can also rely on the UK, but this year’s entry is not the kind of thing that British viewers respond to at all. Looking further afield, why would the Balkans or former USSR bloc televoters notice ‘Never Forget’ over their own?

Of course, an amazing draw could see it break out of this points range with the public poll, though even then another comparison that comes to mind is Norway’s ‘Hold On Be Strong’, which got the pimp slot in 2008 and still managed only fifth. And this was another song you would far more likely find on your radio – I think Greta and Jonsi’s song has much more limited appeal.

Why? To the casual viewer, ‘Never Forget’ takes a long time to get going, and when it does, risks coming across as overblown and fails to provide a decent hook. Also, this is not a duet like Azerbaijan’s last year, when the performers sweetly call out to each other. By comparison, ‘Never Forget’ is rather shouty at the big moments.

Though the video is lovely, the live performance in a competitive Icelandic final – where incidentally, it didn’t even win the televote – was satisfactory enough but less powerful. Jonsi is slightly weak in the verses, and the overall effect is curiously unmoving.

Talking of Jonsi, presumably those talking up Iceland’s chances have put out of mind his previous appearance on the Eurovision stage back in 2004. It was not a glorious moment, despite plenty of fanboy hype beforehand, and even with a decent draw he managed just 16 points in the final. Admittedly he will have far more vocal and physical support this time, and the routine doesn’t allow for as much cringeworthy overacting, but anyone hoping for flawless vocals on the big night should beware.

It’s a slightly unfair comparison given that ‘Never Forget’ is a superior song with more going for it, but I’m slightly reminded of the consensus that put Croatia’s 2010 entry in many pre-rehearsal top five lists that year because fans felt it was “powerful” and “haunting” whereas the act in question, Femminem, had far from wowed in their previous Eurovision appearance back in 2005. ‘Lako je Sve’ failed to qualify for the final despite an excellent draw, because neutral televoters ignored its emotional bombast.

Iceland is drawn badly in second position of the first semi-final. Yet despite being rather dismissive of its chances in the final, I think it will get there with ease. How come? Despite my arguments about its limited televote appeal, I still recognise that ‘Never Forget’ is jury fodder – as eurovicious summed up so well, ‘the juries vote for earnestness’.

In the first semi-final that is a commodity in short supply. Only Denmark (usefully, Iceland’s closest televoting ally) will overshadow it here, in my opinion. In this left-field heat, a three-digit jury score for ‘Never Forget’ looks very achievable, and that would comfortably see Jonsi and Greta through.

The pair will be hoping that juries will be as generous in the final. Here, though, ‘Never Forget’ will come up against much stronger competition; there’s plenty of jury fodder among the automatic qualifiers and within the second heat. Quite how far juries will reward Iceland amongst these stronger rivals is harder to predict. In its favour, there’s hardly any duo or singing violinist among the acts, so ‘Never Forget’ has that as a way of standing out against the plethora of other earnest stuff.

The problem is that I think it will require a significant jury score to lift Iceland into any kind of half-decent position, and that’s far from guaranteed. My expectations for its chances in May thus remain significantly lower than those of most punters, with the usual caveats of seeing how it shapes up at the rehearsal phase.

Do you agree, or can you convince me that casual viewers will not forget ‘Never Forget’? Let us know in the comments section below.

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43 comments to Eurovision 2012: Will Iceland’s Greta and Jonsi have a contest to ‘Never Forget’?

  • tpfkar

    Yes, agree. I’ve even been looking at the odds for not qualifying from the semi. 2nd is a lousy draw and I can easily make a case for 10 other songs.

    But sorry to go off topic on the first post, the one I’m struggling with is Romania. Bad draw, dull song, not a lot of allies as far as I can see, yet the markets have it as a near certain qualifier – can someone tell me what I am missing? Thank you.

  • Nick D

    I still don’t see Iceland as a contender, I think it’s very uptight and pompous and doesn’t really carry any emotional kick with it. As you indicate, it’s one of many songs that have set a laser-like focus on dominating the jury vote this year… I can see it being in jury top 6s, but crucially perhaps not top 3s.

    Wish I’d taken my own advice instead of sitting on my hands, really!

    As for tpfkar’s question about Romania – I think the key point is form… TVR haven’t missed a final since 2001, and their only close call was The Balkan Girls in 2009 – that still came 9th in a semi where they were drawn away from their best buddies Moldova, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Russia; all five of those are present and correct this time. I don’t see them having a problem qualifying.

  • I’m now also going to play devil’s advocate by challenging some of your points and providing a counter-argument:

    First off, I’m not sure how much weight arguments based on a country’s “normal televoting range” carry. After all, while the victories of Russia, Serbia and Azerbaijan were aided by regional and diaspora voting, Finland, Germany and Norway all won the contest with a very comfortable margin in recent years (in the latter two cases, in the current 50%-jury era). As a resident of Germany, I was one of those who didn’t think the country could win in 2010 because, well, it’s Germany – no diaspora, no regional voting partners apart from a few usually mid-table votes from Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, historical bad feeling in many voting countries (the UK, Benelux, Poland and Eastern Europe, Israel), and a poor recent history with a very poor string of results (mirroring the UK’s) in the decade before Lena’s win. It still won, easily.

    I’m also not sure that “why would the Balkans or former USSR bloc televoters notice ‘Never Forget’ over their own” is an applicable argument either. Obviously they’re pretty much always going to award their top score and even their top two or three scores to regional/domestic acts, but that doesn’t mean they ignore others. Again, you could extend this argument and say “why would Balkan or ex-Soviet countries notice Lena over their own?” (for instance – again, something that I didn’t think would happen in 2010). Given a good draw and strong, dramatic staging (which I think are the crucial factors here – the latter is almost certainly a given, the former unknown), I can see Iceland appealing to people across the board and picking up a lot of votes, many of which will be mid-table but which will be enough to see it perform strongly. Though I re-emphasise that this depends significantly on the right draw and staging.

    Not sure that parallels can be drawn to “Lako je sve” – it had the disadvantage of not being in English, was isolated from its voting partners apart from Slovenia, and moreover was kitschily performed, lacking any of the gravitas that ballads need to do well, especially in the 50%-jury era. Also not sure that Jonsi’s staggering (literally) 2004 performance can be read as a “warning sign” that Never Forget may not necessarily be well-performed on the night – he had to do something to fill that big empty stage on his own, bless his cotton socks, whereas this year’s entry will have a fuller stage (the two of them plus backing singers) and more built-in drama. With someone to interact with and bounce off, I don’t foresee a problem. Similarly, imperfect vocals shouldn’t be a significant issue (see Lena, Ell/Nikki, Rybak…) – visually and vocally, he clearly communicates that he’s a competent professional singer, so an off-moment shouldn’t make any real difference as long as the overall vocal and package are in place.

    Where I do entirely agree with you is that it has a lot of jury competition in the final. Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Denmark and even the UK, Bosnia and Albania (which, incidentally, I think is a guaranteed qualifier) will fight with Iceland for jury attention in what is a year of strong ballads. I agree that the duo and violin aspects (as well as it being in English) will help it stand out and broaden its appeal. I also agree regarding its chances in the semis (as SF1 is so weak, Iceland is likely to be towards the top of the table behind Denmark). Also agree with you on the song’s strengths. Hera and Euroband didn’t do well because they were dance-pop, and because Euroband’s tremendous performance was pre-jury.

    On a similar note, Hold On Be Strong would have done even better in the jury era. Coming 5th in 2008 on televote alone is a real achievement; with 50% jury, it’d have come 2nd or 3rd (but then with 50% jury, Bilan probably wouldn’t have won either and places 2-4 certainly wouldn’t have been occupied by dance-pop).

    I also don’t think too much can be read into the fact that Mundu Eftir Mer didn’t win the domestic televote in the national final – I think Blar Opal basically reel in the teen girl vote, so I’m almost inclined to extrapolate that no-one competing against them would have won the televote. That said though, Mundu Eftir Mer did suffer from being one ballad among many in the Icelandic final – a problem it will also face in the ESC final – while Stattu Opp benefitted from being almost the only upbeat song in the field.

    Agree with you on the lack of a hook, but I find it hard to judge whether and how much this will be an issue. It’s not as radio-friendly and MOR as Johanna, Hold On Be Strong and most recent ESC winners, but again, I find it hard to judge how much this will factor into its potential success (or lack of). I don’t see it as just a “fan favourite” though – I think the song and performance could and will have broad, mainstream appeal, both musically, visually and in terms of its on-stage dramaturgy.

    Summing up: I’d pretty much written off this year’s Icelandic song until it was translated so effectively into English. Now, I think it’s a real contender. Will it win? I don’t know. I’m far from convinced it will. But will it do well? Let’s just say it has good if not very good chances at this stage compared to an awful lot of the rest of the field.

    • Daniel

      Hi eurovicious, I think you have very effectively produced the counter-argument here. My analogy with Croatia was indeed rather harsh, and you have pointed out the problems with that one, although the analogy was a reminder that what fans think will do well and what in fact does well, can be two very different things, and I think that is very relevant in Iceland’s case. Fans like it therefore they think plenty of others will.

      Our main point of difference is that I can’t see Iceland appealing to people across the board. I, like Nick, think that casual viewers will find it doesn’t impact them much at all among the many songs they have to sift through.

      We have five big hitters likely to be in the televote top ten: Serbia, Russia, Greece, Azerbaijan and Turkey. There are plenty of other songs that I think casual televoters will prefer to make up the televote top ten, over Iceland: songs with hooks; fun, upbeat entries; gentler ballads. I think this is not poppy enough for western tastes and not of particular interest to eastern ears.

      It falls between too many stools, a bit like Slovenia last year, to use another slightly random analogy. Slovenia didn’t deserve to be bottom five in the televote last year, but without friends and without a decent hook, even a decent draw and performance didn’t save it.

  • Bexley

    Well Daniel you finally made me contribute to the site comments after a year or more of ‘lurking’

    Why? well to defend the song and point out what I see as flaws in your argument.
    You have Iceland categorised with a low televote due to comparisons to 2008 as well performed and 2010 a fan favourite and 2011 as well drawn.
    This is all wrong to me – I could easily categorise these as 2008 dreadful song, 2010 wrong type of song and 2011 dull as dishwater with the unique selling point of a recently deceased songwriter. I’m sure Germany in 2010 would have failed this quick ‘litmus test’ also though I’m not comparing the songs in any way.

    You dismiss Yohanna’s result by saying “but that at least sounded like it could have a separate life away from the contest and on your radio, which – damningly – you could never say of ‘Never Forget”
    Your impartiality/balance seems to have been lost here – if you think its a poor song just say so at the start and forget the rest of the analysis 🙂

    I disagree strongly and obviously many others do judging by its 2nd on the ESC forum elimination game and 3rd on the Kolumbus pre-chart.
    When you have a fan favourite which has also jury appeal then you have a genuine contender. Yes I’d like a diasporo vote to back it up but this year with perhaps Serbia’s exception, none have presented a good enough song.

    Past performance and reliable diasporo seems to matter less each year from my analysis of the results. To dismiss Iceland so readily seems very much mistaken to me.

    • Daniel

      Hi Bexley and welcome to Sofabet. By managing to coax thoughtful readers into commenting, perhaps I should write more articles like this one 🙂

      I should say I don’t think ‘Never Forget’ is a poor song. Actually I really liked it when I first heard it in studio. Live it wasn’t quite as impactful for me, I have to admit. However, I recognise that, by Eurovision standards, it’s a decent number.

      But I don’t think there’s any denying that ‘Never Forget’ is a rather typical Eurovision-y song from the noughties, and I notice you don’t try to. It is a fan favourite that has potential jury appeal, but fan favourites can and do fail to perform in the televote virtually every year, and as eurovicious said, there is a lot of competition for the jury vote this year.

      We will get our answer at the end of May, but I do understand your points. I just wonder if it will translate into something meaningful on the scoreboard.

    • In whatever genre/type of music you perform, you need to excell in that genre/type of music. You need to create an emotional response that make both judges and televoters jump off their seats and say: “Wow, impressive.”

      It’s as simple as that.

      Polls? I believe to a certain extent in them, because they gave you a look in what songs fans like most. And fans are still partially representing a larger pool of televoters and judges. The problem is, polls don’t give away live performances.

      The total package is what counts. That can be a slow-tempo song that gives you goosebumps, like Ireland 1993, United Kingdom 1997, Serbia-Montenegro 2004, Serbia 2007, Iceland 2009, Azerbaijan 2011 and perhaps Germany 2012.

      But it can also be those simple, perhaps not-that-very-good mid-/up-tempo songs that makes you smile and very happy, like Netherlands 1998, Iceland 1999, Denmark 2000, Estonia 2001, Latvia 2002, Norway 2009, Germany 2010 and perhaps Romania 2012

      And once in a while it can be such an unforgettable, but good show that makes you really jump up and vote for it, like Sweden 1974, Finland 2006, Ukraine 2007, Turkey 2010 and Sweden 2012

      Bottomline: In order to win you need to EXCELL in whatever genre/type of music. Sometimes there is a difference between the opinion of judges and televoters, but that difference is always small enough to make them end in the TOP 3 as well.

      That’s why I say: Bucharest 2013, Berlin 2013 or Stockholm 2012.

  • Bexley

    A good counter analysis produced by Eurovicious whilst I was completing my rather lacklustre effort by comparison.

    Not that its important but just for accuracy Iceland was second in ESC forums latest ranking game not elimination game.

    Fans get over protective of their chosen ones. Perhaps I’m falling into this trap but I can’t see any comparison to Croatia or Slovenia or any other you have used to try and convey your opinion so far. Its a completely different specimen from those in my opinion.
    Some were doing well in fan polls which I guess was your point but as high as second or third?, I think not.

    I’m not saying Iceland will win. I’m finding it very hard to put forward a convincing case for any song this year. I may also be using double standards as I don’t rate Spain’s chances even though its another with both fan and jury appeal for one reason you apply to Iceland – that its too slow to get going.

    I think all I’m saying is that in a weak year it has genuine chances. After all it is only seventh favourite or so – I think that’s reasonable.

    • Daniel

      Hi Bexley, you’re right that I am stretching some of my analogies rather thinly, though I’m trying to think of a comparatively successful recent Eurovision entry to compare ‘Never Forget’ with and that is difficult too.

      I agree with many of your points here – on Spain, and on it being an open year. The draw will matter, as eurovicious rightly said. But I will say that songs which come top in fan polls do fail, Sweden 2008 being a notorious example.

  • Justin

    Dan completely with you on this one. Genuinely thought I had missed something when I saw this near the top of fan polls and surging in the betting markets.

    You have said it all really but for me its the lack of hook and lack of charisma in the song or the singers. I take your point about juries carrying it over the line to qualification but from stall 2 I doubt that it will be particularly comfortable.

    Unless they get a fantastic draw in the final I agree this will get swallowed up by songs with more friends and which are both more jury and televote friendly.

    Its the lay button for me.

    ps anyone going to Shadow Lounge preview Party on 29 April – Slovenia, Lithuania, France and San Marino (!) already booked to be on stage…

    • Tim B

      Justin, I think you are underestimating Iceland’s place in the draw. Yes 2nd is statistically unfavourable, but following the dreadful Montenegro you could argue it will get off to a flying start in that semi as it will be hugely appreciated after that non-starter of a ‘song’.

  • I haven’t seen any of the fan polls people are talking about so was unaware that Iceland was so highly rated by them. This is why I’ve never viewed the song through the prism of “fan favourite”, which to my partial surprise it actually seems to be. Fundamentally, I can’t even begin to group it together with previous fan favourites that have failed (Sweden 2008, Slovakia 2010, Hungary 2011) – they were all of a particular style that appeals to a certain fan block, but I didn’t like any of them and didn’t think they had much musical merit (with the exception of the poetic Slovak lyrics). With this in mind, I just don’t think Never Forget can be so clearly rubber-stamped as a fan favourite and fan favourite only – that role seems to be occupied by Euphoria this year (which I also don’t like). And let’s not forget – Azerbaijan came 2nd in the Oikotimes poll and 3rd in the esctoday poll last year (source: http://www.escbet.com/2011/10/25/polls-are-a-waste-of-time/). As someone who pays little attention to fan polls, I agree they’re of relatively little use and even dangerous when it comes to betting, but I feel that predicting a song will do badly simply because it’s placed highly in fan polls is misguided, as the Azerbaijan example demonstrates.

  • I’d also add that “Is It True?”, bizarrely, topped a retrospective fan poll to find the best ESC song of the 2000s.

    http://www.esctoday.com/news/read/14383

    This, I think, illustrates that while fan tastes and public tastes may only partially overlap, they’re not diametrically opposed either.

  • Bexley

    Eurovicious I watch the various ESC sites for indications of ‘fan favs’ as I trade the Betfair market on the Eurovision winners market.
    Whilst they are generally a very poor guide to finding the winner they are a better predictor of where the early money is going to go.

    Partly why I have to give Iceland and Spain serious consideration this year is that they don’t fall into the category of typical ‘fan favs’. By this I mean they tend to be high energy/dance music – I’ll use Cyprus as a very good example of this for 2012 (or Hungary 2011, Iceland 2010)

    I don’t want to start discussion about Sweden but for me it’s far more a typical fan favourite with the associated question marks for me.

    Thats a very broad generalisation but when songs appear in these fan lists which I am certain will appeal to juries then I start paying attention.

  • Panos

    I also thought ‘POTENTIAL!’ as soon as I heard the english version. I see where you are coming from Daniel, but I’m sensing a top6 placement with the juries (if not more) and a televote enough to push it to the top10. Having said that, this is defo dependent on draw and MOST IMPORTANTLY a Yohanna-like re-invention of their stage presentation. Top3 in that weak semi also probable (see: iceland 2010 and *almost* iceland 2011). I feel the Harel Skaat result might be reserved for Spain. Iceland is not that user-unfriendly for the televoters, but my other main concern in addition to staging is that scandinavia as a whole rocks this year…we can’t really have a top10 with 4 scandis…can we?!

    • Emma

      Panos, you took the words right out of my mouth. I think Finland doesn’t need to worry about Helsinki 2013 but the rest of Scandinavia have top-notch songs this year. Euphoria could go the way of Rybak or it could go the way of Sognu, but it’s been the favorite for some time and it’s a good blend of televote and jury-friendly. Tooji will probably sponge up plenty of points from Saade’s native Sweden and girls will love him–and since he looks more mature than Saade, it won’t just be preteens. And Denmark…well, I don’t see it winning (it sounds like something I’d listen to in my car) but it’s still a strog song and Denmark always puts in a good showing so I’m sure it will end up on the left side of the scoreboard.

      In 2009, Norway and Iceland got the top 2 spots, but that was helped by Iceland getting a little boost from the juries, Finland and Denmark flopping with the televote and Sweden hitting midtable. And if Alexander Rybak had been Aleksander Rasmussen with a western-style song, the televotes probably wouldn’t have come pouring in for Norway. 2010, only Denmark hit the top 10, but they had the pimp draw, Sweden and Finland were out of it, Iceland was the mandatory fan favoriite that flopped and Norway’s unfortunately-performed ballad was swallowed by a terrible draw. Last year, we had Sweden and Denmark in the top 5 but again, that was greatly aided by Denmark’s jury boost.

      So no, I don’t think there’s room for four Scandis in the final–someone’s got to give. Finland, I think, can be forgotten about, Sweden quite possibly CAN hit the top 10, and probably either Norway or Denmark will sneak in. I find Denmark overrated (again–it’s the song you listen to as you drive to Eurovision, not the song you drive to Eurovision for) and Norway underrated (more mature Saade clone with more jury appeal) so I guess we’ll see. And I just don’t see room for Iceland. Never Forget, to me, is harsh and melodramatic. I like it fine, though that could be because I like the video, but it’s not as sexy and fluid as Running Scared. In 2010, the two M/F duets that did well (Romania, Denmark) were both extremely catchy. I didn’t even *like* Romania’s and I think there’s a great hook. Never Forget just doesn’t have that. So I agree–I think it’s a bit overrated and wil probably get lost midtable.

  • Well Daniel, you’ve certainly put the cat among the pigeons with this post. I take my hat off to you, haha!
    I have to say I agree with much of it, but there are parts where our opinions take different paths.
    The Femminem comparison wasn’t really valid. Whilst their song was dramatic, it was underdeveloped and matched their national final performance to the last detail. It possessed no onstage instrumentation, dramatic bearded backing singers or fiddling girls.
    I have another comparable for you – Estonia 2009. Much closer to ‘Never Forget’ but in my opinion, overachieved with 6th place. Never Forget evokes far more drama than Randajad and trumps it further, being performed both as a duet – and in English. Their national final performance was bland by ESC standards, but the Icelandic national final always looks like an early 90s eastern European broadcast. On the big stage in Baku, I’m sure it’ll blow people away and attract some serious votes.
    I’m curious, why do people think that Denmark will pip Iceland in the semi-final? I find Denmark quite forgettable. Apart from the running order, I see no reason why a bland soft-pop song should beat a dramatic box ticker. I have Iceland topping the jury vote.
    Lasty, I don’t remember tipping Iceland to win on escbet – I think I mentioned they were good value at 51.0 e/w (which they were at the time). I certainly wouldn’t touch them at today’s prices!
    And those trying to follow the link that eurovicious kindly posted… here’s the unbroken version: http://www.escbet.com/2011/10/25/polls-are-a-waste-of-time/

    • Daniel

      Hi Gavster, first of all apologies for thinking it was a formal tip for Iceland you provided, that’s remiss of me. I will slightly amend the article accordingly.

      I was looking for someone to provide a positive comparison and I have to admit you have done that with Estonia 2009. I did love her voice and the rather more mysterious vibe of that one, and watching this year’s Icelandic final again, Greta and Jonsi still seem a little bit, well, shouty in comparison. But you do pinpoint its advantages over Randajad.

      My article on Denmark explains why I think it’s ideal jury fodder, as indeed their entries seem to be year after year, but I do see Soluna and the Icelandic duo as the 1-2 in the first semi jury vote.

  • Boki

    Polarized opinions here, I’m with eurovicious on this one, excellent analysis (again). We all agree about draw importance and me thinks G&J could go very high with favorable draw based on performance, chemistry and uniqueness of their entry. Chanée & N’evergreen ended 3rd in kolumbus chart and 4th in ESC2010 (while Romanian duo was 3rd) – male/female duets still seem to be appreciated by the televoters. Of course, song types are different but there is something in duets that attracts the people to vote.

    And what’s a definiton of a fan favorite? Sweden is leading by far on the kolumbus chart, followed by Spain, Iceland, Serbia and then Italy, Norway, Cyprus. So all of these are fan favorites based on the high chart positions. I agree with Bexley that Iceland this year is not a typical ff, it’s just a typical ESC entry and that’s a big difference. It’s not a dance track like Kati Wolf/Perrelli or a tragic Harel Skaat ballad, it has to do better than those imo.

    If I had to choose which of the mentioned will fail this year I would also go for Cyprus (obviously) and Spain (my neck on the line with this one).

    • Nick D

      One thing that almost guarantees an entrant a head-start in fan polls is to be a name from the past. Lena, Dana International, Feminnem, Niamh Kavanagh, Sakis Rouvas, Charlotte Perelli, Chiara, Evridiki, Edsilia… all had poll ratings substantially above their eventual contest placings, while Dima Bilan, Dino Merlin and Erik Hawk were only a little below. Zdob si Zdub strongly bucked the trend last year, but then it was fairly easy to recognise So Lucky as a song that most fans wouldn’t appreciate.

      I’m making a working assumption that Jonsi’s familiarity is a factor inflating Iceland’s poll ratings in similar vein, but the discussion here shows that it’s not the only factor – perhaps not even a major one.

  • Tim B

    To add to what Boki has just said, for whatever reason strong male/female duets have resonated with voters extremely well particularly in the last few years; Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2011, Denmark and Romania in 2010. I’m hoping this can make it to the top 4 also as I strongly believe in it. Just praying for an impressive stage show and draw in the final to help it get there.

    • Nick D

      I was about to go “Ah yes, but!” and provide a long list of counter-examples… and I find that I can’t. There’s really only Slovakia 2009 (the dreadful Let’tmou) and, to an extent, Romania 2008 (Pe-o Margine De Lume, unluckily drawn 1st in the final) amongst male-female ballads that have had even vaguely poor results in the last few years – though it’s a surprisingly rare format to be used.

    • Boki

      I didn’t mention Azer in 2009 and 2011 on purpose because their success was partially based on strong diaspora support. What was in common to all is a great chemistry between male and female – that’s the reason imo beside the obvious fact that with only 1 or 2 duets they have to stand out.
      Rg the staging, I have full confidence they will not mess up, they never do.

  • I am curious Daniel who you think at this moment has the best cards for the victory. After seeing this performance from Roman Lob during the Echo Awards, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZD382YZxDw , I think Germany can do an upset victory.

    I just can’t see Germany doing bad. All elements of this entry add up to again a near perfect audiovisual total package, just like in 2010:
    – Very charming, goosebumpy, modern pop-ballad, bit reminiscent of previous low-tempo TOP 2 placed songs from Serbia (2007), Iceland (2009) and Azerbaijan (2011).
    – Very effective climax, that rolls in another even more effective climax.
    – Very well sung by Roman Lob, I am really surprised.
    – A very good start grid right after Spain who I think will not eat off votes from Germany.
    – Very cute boy that knows how to find the camera.
    – Very good close-up shots from the camerateam from ARD.

    This will do TOP 5 among teenage televoters who simply get weak from Roman’s looks AND TOP 5 among jury’s who know that Jamie Cullum did a perfect job with this composition.

    • Boki

      This time I agree with Gert. Roman is in my small ‘can do upset victory’ group. He has even a small advantage on others since he’s not hampered by the draw.

      • tpfkar

        My (German) wife is enthusiastic about their chances this year. I didn’t listen to her in 2010. Won’t make the same mistake twice!

    • Emma

      Good points…I was in Berlin during the show and supported Roman, though I didn’t see *any* of the contenders as potential winters. But Roman and Standing Still (almost called it SS, whoops) have grown on me and I think this song has mass appeal. Roman mumbles a bit but his English (pronunciation AND lyrics) won’t turn people off like a lot of other entries who might be fishing in the same voting waters (central to East pop/rock inc Switz and Slovak and Belarus) and of the more relaxed pop/rock coming out of the north-western corner of Europe (including Denmark, Netherlands), Roman is the most credible with no bizarre headgear, nonsensical and potentially offensive costumes (Neth) or bad grammar like Denmark (seen many complains about “like Sahara miss the rain” and honestly, the lyrics are pretty hit and miss). Roman’s in my personal top 5 and though another German win so soon seems a little unlikely, I can see him overcoming Germany’s lack of allies for a respectable finish, plausibly besting Lena’s 2011 result.

  • Substanshell

    This discussion about Iceland strikes me as particularly interesting and I will try to add another dimension.

    All of you seem to agree that Iceland must have wide jury appeal because of its composition. But is it really that simple? I would like to challenge this assumption, an assupmtion that I find is generally made too often about a number of entries, not only Iceland but other ballads like Estonia etc., that are widely considered “jury-friendly”.
    To be fair, I think we have collected enough evidence by now that juries slightly favor more sophisticated compositions over simple pop tunes or novelty acts, so I’ll give you that. But let’s also keep in mind that we are still working with a rather small sample size and we have already seen a number of entries that had all our requirements of being “jury-friendly” but still bombed with the actual jury score finishing behind entries that didn’t seem to have any jury appeal at all. So what do we tend to do with these underachieving cases? We justify their poor results by pointing at bad vocal performances. But what about Lena? Uptempo/mediocre vocals at best and still a jury winner. Jedward surprisingly did better with juries than televote. Did anyone see that coming?
    My point is, that I think we need a much more multilayered analysis when it comes to predicting jury votes, rather than an approach of “they love ballads/artistic compositions” and “they hate upbeat, dance and funny stuff”.
    My suggestion would be to center our attention less around the song and more around the actual performer/s. Gualazzi comes to mind. I think he made very clear that Madness of Love was HIS song and I couldn’t imagine anyone performing this piece with more authenticity than Gualazzi himself. Lena didn’t fit into the category of singer/songwriter but still she made Satellite her own “thing”. I couldn’t imagine Safura, for example, winning the jury votes with Satellite, as she would have failed to deliver the same amount of quirkyness/joyfulness that was so pivotal for Lena’s success. I could continue with other examples but what I really want to emphasize is that whenever I try to determine a song’s chances with the juries from now on I would like to ask myself: Do the performers appear to be uniquely fitting with their song or do they seem a bit interchangeable?
    In the case of Iceland’s Never Forget I would argue that you could put Didrik Solli-Tangen in the place of Jónsi and hardly sense a difference. But maybe I’m being a bit harsh. I also don’t think that the often mentioned “atmosphere” of Never Forget will have strong jury appeal. In most cases we are dealing with professionals that have some connection with the music/entertainment industry and I would argue that most of them are able to decipher which elements are installed to create a certain emotional response rather than being overwhelmed by the song’s intensity/atmosphere. My impression is that they don’t have any preferences about what is done but how it is done by whom.
    I will go as far as saying that in comparison with other entries from Iceland’s semi-final I think that Finland’s Pernilla Karlsson with När Jag Blundar’s playfulness has more jury appeal than Iceland.
    Yes. I said it. I think Finland will have a higher jury score than Iceland.
    Now I’m fully prepared to deal with angry Iceland backers trying to convince me that no one in the world would be able to deliver Never Forget as well as Gréta and Jónsi.
    I’ll admit that my performer-centred model seems very vague and rather subjective but all I’m trying to do here is offering a different perspective on what “jury-friendly” could mean.

    • I do agree with you mostly. It is all about performers ‘owning’ their song and the other way around. As I said multiple times: It’s about the total audiovisual package. Televoters slightly prefer the happiness and ‘bad humour’ of these total packages, judges prefer a slichtly more professional, serious ‘feel’ of these total packages.

      Well, there it is. I have said it yes :-). I think this is the reason.

      Concerning Finland……..I think Belgium could do an upset too. I mean, they will qualify IMO.

  • Boki

    You have a very good general point there, we were dealing with 1st approximation of juries tastes (ballade lovers, uptempo haters) and each year we learn something new. Perfect song-performer match is important and Lena was widely recognized as such. I think we all follow that performer-centred model ffor example with Italy or Spain this year but it’s indeed very subjective.

    Another extra dimension is singer/songwriter category which tend to do good, maybe because you write stuff that really suits yourself. Pernilla Karlsson’s song is written by some Jonas Karlsson (any relation there?) but it feels like a good fit indeed. Gréta wrote ‘Never again’ so she’s the center in that one. Said that, I can’t imagine anyone else but Rambo performing his own ‘Euro neuro’ – is he also entitled for high jury score ? 🙂

    • Substanshell

      Wikipedia says Jonas is Pernilla’s brother.

      Regarding Euro neuro’s high jury score :D. At least some crazy person over at bwin must have thought exactly that when they offered Montenegro not to qualify at 1.8 last week. It has been taken down now, of course, but that must have been the most ridiculous line I have ever seen.
      No ambition for competition, different mission.

      • Boki

        Stupid me, next time I will click on Svenska or Suomi wiki page, that brother-sister makes perfect sense.

        Haha was Rambo that high? The moment I saw it @1.6 I maxed out.

    • Substanshell

      If we try to define a set of rules for jury appeal we might have to dismiss any entries that don’t take Eurovision seriously.
      This should apply to Euro Neuro as well as Portugal 2011 and perhaps San Marino 2012, though I’m not entirely sure about latter one. 🙂
      Jedward, on the other hand, take it very seriously. Honestly I can’t imagine what they’d do without it.

  • fiveleaves

    “It has everything,” Tim B explains.

    I was going to reply to Tim’s post except any hook or obvious melody.
    So I’m with you on this one Dan.
    I struggle to see voters rushing to their phones to vote for this song that has no immediate impact for me.

    I doubt I’ll agree with any Spanish article though which hooks me in from start with the repetitive paino line which is then superceded by Pastora’s constant refrain of ‘Quédate conmigo’.
    She repeats it almost as much as Eric did Popular last year 🙂

    Repetition is key when most viewers will be hearing these songs for the 1st time.

    • Panos

      It’s funny how we can disagree even on the hook, which i would expect to be a lil more black & white haha 🙂 . I actually think iceland has one and spain lacks it.

      • fiveleaves

        It just shows how subjective music is 🙂

        Apart from a touch of Greensleeves about it, that holds my interest for about 30 seconds, I can’t wait for Iceland to end, whenever I listen to it.
        Basically it starts slowly and goes downhill from there 🙂

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