Tomorrow preparations for Eurovision 2013 will step up a gear with the semi-final allocation draw, a reaction to which you will find here as usual on Sofabet. The rest of our coverage leading up to Malmo will continue to follow last year’s template.
From late January to early May, we will post a series of articles giving a preliminary analysis of selected entries. These offer a chance to speculate on the pros and cons of each act, fully aware that things can and do change between their selection and chances on the night in question.
As we did last year, we thought we’d return to the previous year’s pre-rehearsal analysis articles, comparing what we said about the chances of the entries in question with what happened in the contest. It’s always worth seeing where one’s early opinions have been proved right or wrong as a way of taking on board lessons for next time.
Sweden – ‘Euphoria’, Loreen
Finishing position: Winner
Money quote: “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.”
With hindsight: I stayed on the fence for as long as possible on ‘Euphoria’, and felt comfortable doing so at short odds. But with a decent draw, its superior visual and aural impact was clear in the jury rehearsal the night before the final, whilst any possible alternatives had failed to up their game.
Russia – ‘Party for Everybody’, Buranovskiye Babushki
Finishing position: 2nd
Money quote: “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…I don’t think they will match the televote exploits of Verka, let alone Rybak…we could be looking at a top five placing in the televote and a bottom five placing in the jury vote.”
With hindsight: I underestimated the appeal of the grannies, both in the televote and with the juries. Their televote second comfortably surpassed Verka, whilst a jury eleventh-place was also much higher than I had anticipated. As a one-off act, it’s hard to know what to take forward from this except to say I was glad to leave it alone in the markets, as I often do with one-off acts.
Serbia – ‘Nije Ljubav Stvar’, Zeljko Joksimovic
Finishing position: 3rd
Money quote: “I think the biggest imponderable we’re left with is the western juries. If they show it respect, I think ‘Nije Ljubav Stvar’ would look set for somewhere in the top 5, and then it would depend on how the other contenders pan out for its position within that bracket.”
With hindsight: One of the easier ones to call. An overall second place in the jury vote helped this to the bronze medal, the kind of position many commenters had envisaged for it.
Azerbaijan – ‘When The Music Dies’, Sabina Babayeva
Finishing position: 4th
Money quote: “Offers a respectable entrant for the host nation but almost seems designed not to push too many buttons. I don’t want to overdo this line of thought given the country’s fine record in the contest and the strength of the song and singer. It ticks too many boxes not to take seriously, and remains a big price at 75 in the Betfair win market given this. Another top ten finish looks highly likely at this stage.”
With hindsight: Frustratingly, I traded out of a reasonably big top 10 position after a poor jury rehearsal showing. But that hasn’t stopped Azerbaijan before, and those shrewdies who took value each-way prices about a place were duly rewarded.
Turkey – ‘Love Me Back’, Can Bonomo
Finishing position: 7th
Money quote: “If this were 2008 and the televoters still had the total say, I would most probably be punting heavily on a top 10 finish for ‘Love Me Back’, especially if we do end up without Armenia. It’s still eminently possible, but those Sofabet commenters who have wisely felt that Can Bonomo has been rather overlooked need to be wary of exclaiming, Scooby-Doo style, when the full results are revealed: ‘If it wasn’t for those pesky juries…’.”
With hindsight: Thanks to some excellent staging and a decent enough draw, I did end up punting quite heavily on a Turkey top 10 finish. It was managed after coming fourth with televoters and 22nd with juries. Thus a healthy televote overcame those pesky juries.
Germany – ‘Standing Still’, Roman Lob
Finishing position: 8th
Money quote: “There’s a part of me that thinks it’s relevant and has plenty of selling points, but I can see how it would bore some viewers too. And whilst that sounds like classic fence-sitting, I think it’s one of those entries that treads a fine line between capturing some imaginations and forgettable oblivion.”
With hindsight: Lob did manage to capture imaginations with a highly respectable sixth place in the televote, whilst also squeezing into the jury top ten. As I remarked during rehearsals in a few emails back to the UK, it was a Danish-sounding song which got a Danish-style respectable result.
Italy – ‘L’Amore E Femmina (Out of Love)’, Nina Zilli
Finishing position: 9th
Money quote: “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.”
With hindsight: Nina did manage an excellent jury result of fourth place, but her performance never really took off in Baku the way one might have hoped and televoters were unmoved, putting her in 17th. Still, it was enough for a top ten finish.
Spain – ‘Quedate Conmigo’, Pastora Soler
Finishing position: 10th
Money quote: “She’s much better than this very dated Eurovision-y ballad…not even a decent jury score may get it into the top ten.”
With hindsight: A divisive song among our commenters, though supporters and detractors could both take something from the final result. A jury fifth place was enough to get it into the top ten but it was largely ignored by televoters who had it down in 18th.
Romania – ‘Zaleilah’, Mandingo
Finishing position: 12th
Money quote: “The five remaining big hitters in the contest – Serbia, Greece, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia – look set for the televote top ten. At this early pre-rehearsal stage, with all the caveats over draw and staging that implies, I see Romania as likely to join them for the reasons stated above…I’m not so confident that the juries won’t punish the song.”
With hindsight: Seventh with televoters, juries did indeed punish the song, placing it down in 20th. The staging was less chaotic than in the national final but those panels of music ‘experts’ still weren’t having it.
Cyprus – ‘La La Love’, Ivi Adamou
Finishing position: 16th
Money quote: “I think that ‘La La Love’ and its fans will be reliant on highly effective staging if they want to see it in the final, and even if it gets there, it will die a death that condemns it to fanwankdom.”
With hindsight: This conclusion ended up being far too harsh on ‘La La Love’ which qualified comfortably despite my opposition. I was just relieved that my huge liabilities against it in the top 10 market, which would have wiped out most of my Saturday profits, held up.
Greece – ‘Aphrodisiac’, Eleftheria Eleftheriou
Finishing position: 17th
Money quote: “My early hunch is that Greece will confound the doubters once more and find itself in the top 10 again.”
With hindsight: Oh dear. I got this one completely wrong against many sceptical commenters who were proved right. A jury position of 18th was less surprising than 89 televote points, a significant low for Greece in the modern Eurovision era. Props to those who pointed out this was a cheap song, cheaply sung with cheap staging. Even the Greeks across Europe tended to ignore it.
Ireland – ‘Waterline’, Jedward
Finishing position: 19th
Money quote: “Managing a top ten place among these 18 [in the semi] should be within Jedward’s compass, as long as ‘Waterline’ is not a disaster in Baku. But without the knowledge of just how effective it will be on stage, I think it’s too early to say how well Jedward might do in the final.”
With hindsight: Jedward generated nothing like the buzz at the contest second time around, nor did their staging and vocals come across so well as in 2011. Hence their much lower showing on the scoreboard.
Iceland – ‘Never Forget’, Greta and Jonsi
Finishing position: 20th
Money quote: “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.”
With hindsight: Greece was my most disastrously wrong preview; Iceland’s was my most successfully correct. Actually I had talked of a spread of 40-65 televote points (it got 39) and thought it would do better with juries. But poorly drawn in both semi and final, it made relatively little impact on the scoreboard.
Denmark – ‘Should’ve Known Better’, Soluna Samay
Finishing position: 23rd
Money quote: “I envisage that Samay’s result is more likely to be – as were Denmark’s 2009 and 2011 placings – rather jury-dependent. Significant jury support could see it get into the Top 10, but without it, ‘Should’ve Known Better’ will most likely fall short of that landmark.”
With hindsight: I liked the song but was unsure how other televoters would react. They didn’t go for it; more surprisingly for me, neither did jurors. To be fair to her, it turned out Soluna was under the weather throughout her time in Baku.
UK – ‘Love Will Set You Free’, Engelbert Humperdinck
Finishing position: 25th
Money quote: “I believe that the draw destroys any chances of ‘Love Will Set You Free’ having any impact with televoters. Of course, juries should theoretically be less swayed by the draw, and what Humperdinck’s song offers is a strong, slow song that could score well with this constituency… However, it looks like there will be plenty of competition for the jury vote.”
With hindsight: Engelbert’s raspy performance during the jury rehearsal saw him finish even lower with them than with televoters. Subsequently, on the morning of the final the odds being offered on the UK to do badly in any which way were the best value to be had.
Norway – ‘Stay’, Tooji
Finishing position: 26th
Money quote: “The comparisons between this punchy, uptempo number and last year’s Swedish entry, Eric Saade’s third-placed ‘Popular’, are inevitable… will ‘Stay’ be as popular as ‘Popular’? My initial inclination at this ridiculously early stage is that it won’t, but with such a performance-reliant song (there won’t be any pre-recorded vocals on the backing track as there were in the Norwegian final), the rehearsal period will tell us far more.”
With hindsight: It became clearer during rehearsals that Tooji wouldn’t do a Saade, but I wasn’t quite expecting to see ‘Stay’ do so badly. It just goes to show that performance-reliant songs such as these can go either way.
What are my own personal lessons for 2013? There are plenty of examples of the need for a wait-and-see policy. I still have much to learn in this respect. By far my biggest liabilities coming into the contests in 2012 and 2011 were having laid Cyprus and Hungary respectively for a top ten finish. Yet I watched these fan favourites continue to shorten, up to and during the event itself. These turned out to be inefficient (and, yes, stressful) long-term bets, though eventually successful.
Yet this caution has to be weighed up against finding other, better long-range value. A piece of advice I will offer here is that it’s worth remembering just how slick some national finals (Sweden, Norway and Denmark for example ) are compared to others. Admittedly, that hasn’t stopped Sweden getting a podium finish for two years on the trot. But on the flip side, the likes of Hungary and Moldova were immeasurably better on stage in May than they appeared back in March from studios not as fit for purpose. Do bear this in mind over the next few months.
Now I turn it over to you, our commenters. What did you feel you got most right and most wrong in the pre-rehearsal run-up to Eurovision 2012? What did you learn as a result and in general? Do share your thoughts below.