It’s finally here. By the end of the evening, the contest, if not quite the fuss will be over.
I’ve been trying to find an alternative to Sweden’s ‘Euphoria’ for the last two weeks. I’ve expressed a few times now that I wouldn’t want to take short odds about an entry that offers something different to your typical Eurovision winner. But I felt the same way about Germany’s Lena in 2010 and look what happened there.
‘Euphoria’ offers something distinctive and it comes at a good time in the show: 17 in the running order. Yesterday’s rehearsals showed both that and the lack of a credible enough challenger. The competition seems to have fallen by the wayside as Loreen’s rehearsals have become more polished, rogue snowflake aside. Other than the literal hiccup, she was brilliant last night.
So I think we’re off to Stockholm next year. Should you back it at such a short price? It’s not my tip. I’ll offer you an each-way suggestion for a place at a much more interesting price. That will come later on.
Let’s look at the countries considered Sweden’s main challengers first. Whilst giving it much respect, Serbia is what it always has been: a vote magnet for neighbours and diaspora. I don’t think it’s quite universal enough beyond that, no matter how much Zeljko Joksimovic smoulders into the camera at number 24 in the running order. Having said which, if Loreen fails to fly with the voting public, he seems the most obvious default winner.
A week or so ago, some momentum seemed to gather around the belief that Romania could do it. But I was disappointed that the staging of ‘Zaleilah’ played down its happy summer feel for something less bouncy and too static. In the last few days, Spain’s Pastora and Estonia’s Ott have been wowing even a sceptic of their songs like myself, and I have no doubt about their jury appeal. I don’t think that’s enough in itself.
Ukraine’s Gaitana has been a pleasure to watch and can create a big moment in the penultimate slot. But I tried to watch ‘Be My Guest’ through the eyes of the juries last night for the rehearsal they voted in, and it just came across as a rather poor song being wonderfully delivered. Italy’s Nina Zilli has not hit the kind of heights I thought her capable of in the last week. Azerbaijan’s Sabina Babayeva has flattered to deceive and didn’t deliver for the jury rehearsal.
The fly is the ointment is in the form of the Russian Babushki. When I wrote about their chances a few months ago, I reckoned that a Rybak-esque landslide in the televote could possible overcome even a very poor jury score. Friends from the UK have been texting me, asking me that surely they are going to win. I remain obstinate that the juries will want little to do with them and a Rybak-style televote won’t happen.
Elsewhere, Jedward and Tooji seem to offer something less than they did in Dusseldorf and Oslo respectively. Roman Lob and Soluna Samay were in good voice for their pleasant songs at the jury rehearsal but I can’t see either inspiring the kind of mass televotes required for victory.
So it’s time to move on to my speculative little each-way bet at a big price. It’s Greece. If your immediate reaction is a little incredulous, I will remind you not to underestimate the popularity of ethnopop in the contest, of which this sticks straight to the formula and offers the only example tonight.
Eleftheria Eleftheriou and her team have come in for plenty of stick for their staging. By the time I watched the semi-final, it had become a well-oiled routine, with adequate enough vocals. Of course, Greece has the added bonus of its huge voting power, which saw it manage third among the European public even with the less universal appeal of Loukas Yiorkas last year. Now they’re better drawn with something more obvious.
There is an argument that in the era of juries, it’s harder for ultra-disposable stuff like ‘Aphrodisiac’ to reach the heights. There is some truth in that, but it’s still possible. In 2009, there was room for cheap enthnopop on the podium, with Azerbaijan managing third.
‘Always’ is not significantly better as a song than ‘Aphrodisiac’. Part of its package was what viewers are very happy to see: a very pretty girl in a little dress bouncing around to a catchy ditty. It’s not rocket science, it’s Saturday night entertainment that the whole of Europe can understand.
Eleftheria offered juries a very slick performance of ‘Aphrodisiac’ last night, every bit as competent as in the semi-final. Ironically given the criticism the Greek team has come in for, they raised their game just as some of their competition faltered.
Sure, juries will not be going overboard, but they didn’t for ‘Popular’ and that could still manage third. One of our commenters Emma wrote a few months ago: ‘I’m trying to figure out this year’s Popular, the song most people don’t take seriously until the voting’s half over and it’s in the lead.’ At the time, she thought it might be ‘Zaleilah’. At odds of 50-1 with Paddy Power who go quarter the odds first four, I’m happy to take the chance that it will be ‘Aphrodisiac’.
I think many of you will feel that I am too optimistic here, and I would have some sympathy with that. But if you feel partly won over, you can always back Greece in the Top 10 market, where it is currently 1.82 on Betfair.
So, the Sofabet podium prediction for tonight is as follows:
I will end by saying what a pleasure it has been to interact with the commenters on this site who have added so much to the experience over the last few months of Eurovision season. The constructive nature of your opinion, in either agreement or disagreement, is what helps keep Sofabet going. To be honest, I wouldn’t do it if it was any different.
Do check back here after the show when I will post a link to the full results of the semi-finals and finals when published, and we can discuss these. Whoever you are backing, I wish you all the best of luck tonight. Do keep your brilliant comments going below.