Eurovision 2013: Can ‘L’essenziale’ continue Italy’s good run?

Italy was one of the last countries to announce which song they would send to Malmo. We knew the artist in question was Marco Mengoni, an announcement made after he won the Italian singing festival, Sanremo.

Turns out that one of his winning songs there, ‘L’essenziale’ will be what he performs on May 18. Just like last year, I personally preferred the main alternative, ‘Bellissimo’. You can watch the official video here. Yes, it’s another ballad in a year heavy on them already.

Still, Italy have performed very creditably since returning to the contest in 2011, following up a silver medal there with ninth place last year. What are Marco’s chances of keeping up their spot in the top ten?

Both Raphael Gualazzi and Nina Zilli both did appreciably better in the jury vote than the televote – overall placed first and fourth respectively by the national panels as opposed to eleventh and seventeenth with viewers.

It seems highly likely that a significantly higher jury placing awaits ‘L’essenziale’ too. It’s a perfectly pleasant Italian ballad – piano, strings and all – that’s generally well sung by Marco. I recommend he brings his piano to the stage in Malmo, as that’s the kind of thing that juries tend to reward.

However, the song doesn’t quite give him the artistic licence that Raphael Gualazzi was able to show from behind the piano or Nina Zilli could display with the microphone. He’ll have to try to avoid the occasional pitchy note towards the end that was evident at Sanremo too.

In short, whilst I see it in the jury top ten, I’m not sure we can guarantee it will hit the heights that Nina and Raphael did. In terms of artistry, someone like Anouk may well have an edge with a song that allows her to display it in ‘Birds’.

Marco’s a telegenic chap, but there must be a big danger of this song passing viewers by, especially if drawn early. Raphael and Nina had poor, early-to-middling draws and didn’t hit the televote top ten despite efforts that were arguably more distinctive and televote-friendly.

This year Italy comes up against a plethora of ballads, and may not even be the only song in Italian in the final if San Marino are able to qualify with what could prove a far more memorable number. Once again, a piano will help Marco here, but I don’t think that will save him with televoters if he’s drawn in the first half.

In the circumstances, a price of 20 in the win market on Betfair looks plenty short enough. It is more a reflection of Italy’s decent record in the last two years than anything else, and doesn’t seem to offer decent value this time around.

As for a top ten place, it may be achievable only with a good draw, as without it he could be completely forgotten by televoters – and under the new system for working out how points are allocated (see our analysis of it in the Netherlands piece if you haven’t already), that could be highly damaging.

Agree or disagree? Let us know below.

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34 comments to Eurovision 2013: Can ‘L’essenziale’ continue Italy’s good run?

  • Boki

    Oh how I agree with all of this 🙂
    I was pleasantly surprised with previous 2 entries because I expected a classic Italian style boring ballad but this year finally got it. Ok, maybe is not so boring as it could be but not exciting either, just like Marco itself. Since Italy don’t use sand artists as a boost (which was the only reason of 2011 Ukraine success btw) he only has a great draw left in order to hope for a narrow top10 (but I doubt it this time since Nina was on the edge already).

  • Hey Daniel,

    I have been thoroughly analyzing the new system. And for me personally, for the sake of the quality of the contest, this new system does filter out huge discrepancies. Which from my point of view is the right thing to do. If it damages Italy and/or Netherlands? Could be. But as I told you I am used to the worst possible result in any case :-).

    Anyway, the same goes for televoting friendly songs -or for that sake songs that can depend on huge demographical support, like Turkey or Russia- that are judged very poorly by juries. Just think of the Turkish entry from last year. Loved by televoters (4th), hated by juries (22nd). In fact, I think for the absent Turkey this new system is bitter news for future appearances in the contest.

    So the new system works in both ways: It filters out huge discrepeancies, a situation where a song enjoys excessive (sympathy) jury support + excessive televoting backlash, but also a situation where a song enjoys excessive (demographical) televoting support + excessive jury backlash.

    Actually, I’m curious Daniel if you can spot an entry from this year’s contest that could be a pure televoting smasher, that at the same time will not enjoy enough jury support :-). Greece perhaps?

    • I have been looking at the split results from last year’s grand final (100% televote, 100% jury and the final 50%/50% combined end result). You can find it here in a very easy-to-read image I made: http://www.esfmagazine.nl/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Gesplitst-Resultaat-Grote-Finale-2012.jpg .

      Now let’s say the 100% jury outcome and the 100% televoting outcome are actually the Dutch results, where the 100% jury results are the result of the 5 Dutch jurors and the 100% televoting results are the total amount of Dutch televotes casted for each country in the grand final.

      In the old system (only combining the TOP 10 televote point totals with the TOP 10 jury point totals) the combined results from The Netherlands would look like this (In case of ex aequo, televote goes first):
      12 POINTS: Sweden
      10 POINTS: Serbia
      08 POINTS: Albania
      07 POINTS: Russia
      06 POINTS: Azerbaijan
      05 POINTS: Turkey
      04 POINTS: Italy
      03 POINTS: Germany
      02 POINTS: Spain
      01 POINT..: Estonia

      In the new system, the actual TOP 26 ranking of the total of the 5 jurors PLUS the entire TOP 26 ranking of the entire Dutch televote will be combined, where the lowest combined ranking total will represent the 1st place from the combined Dutch jury/televote (In case of ex aequo, televote goes first). In this case, the Dutch spokesperson would announce this:
      12 POINTS: Sweden
      10 POINTS: Serbia
      08 POINTS: Albania
      07 POINTS: Russia
      06 POINTS: Azerbaijan
      With the lower points, you will see the change:
      05 POINTS: Germany (+2 points compared to old system)
      04 POINTS: Estonia (+3 points compared to old system)
      03 POINTS: Italy (-1 point compared to old system)
      02 POINTS: Moldova (*NEW* compared to old system)
      01 POINT..: Spain (-1 point compared to old system)

      As you can see, the more or less ‘stable’ scoring Moldova (9th jury, 13th televoting) enters the TOP 10 in the final Dutch results.

      Turkey however (22nd jury, 4th televoting) gets a blow in its face. From 5 points with the old system, it now gets nothing.

      Off course this is just an example. And the actual influence IMO has got only a slight effect in the final standings of the countries placed between -let’s say- 7th and 15th place. And remember, besides the Dutch votes, 38 countries will vote in the same way. But it clearly shows that it’s not wise anymore to send a song to Eurovision that can depend on high (sympathy, Italy) jury support vs. low televote support or low jury support vs. high (demographic, Turkey) televote support.

      The example you mentioned Daniel, about a country constantly ending 11th with both televote and jury, is a very extreme example that most likely will not happen. The new system also makes sure that it is slightly more difficult for die hard predictors of Eurovision standings -borderline qualifiers and the ones that sneek into the TOP 10 just barely- to place bets on mid table standings (8th to 16th).

  • Be careful here. I actually won a prediction contest last year on Estonia, Albania, Spain, as I was dead certain those three countries would all end up in the TOP 10. With the new jury/televote system ballads always have a better chance to do well. One can also think of qualifiers Portugal 2010 and Lithuania 2011.

    The secret to a good ballad is………well, look at Estonia and Albania :-). I truly believe Italy is in that field too. Never underestimate these ‘boring ballads’ like so many other Eurovision betters did :-). We live in 2013, not in 2006. The days of pure cheesiness and camp are over. In return we get a much fairer produced TV concept, where ‘songs’ and not just ‘acts’ need to score.

    • Boki

      Well, you can say a lot about Estonia and Albania from last year: very different, powerfull voice, atmospheric, dramatic with great dynamics etc. Neither of those applies to Marco imo.

      • Well, judge yourself: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xxhimj_marco-mengoni-l-essenziale-sanremo-2013_music 🙂

        If you had to choose between Netherlands or Italy, which one would you choose?

        • That’s a great singing performance, imo – although as for him being telegenic, I don’t agree. Maybe that’s more of a live performance though, and he’s not really trying to play the camera, but still… what’s with the weird facial expressions?
          I would also be curious which you would back in an even money match bet, Daniel! Italy or the Netherlands. Me, I’d take Italy (at least judging by the songs only).

          • Daniel

            Hi Squall and welcome back. Marco is better vocally there than I have given him credit for, but agree with you on the off-putting facial expressions.

            In terms of Italy v Netherlands, I’d head towards the latter before seeing them in rehearsals. I think there is a chance that ‘Birds’ could catch on with the wider public and I can’t really see that happening with the Italian song. It’s more distinctive and in English, which is also to its advantage.

          • pimpin4rizeal

            Like I said over at escbet hes got a bit of dima bilan about his performance style,facial expressions included.i dont really think its a bad thing I think it kind of adds to his charisma,and makes it look like hes feeling the music and emotion of the song

          • Thanks for the input, Daniel. As you touch on, rehearsals should be able to give us further guiding here.

  • I really like this song, I think it’s really classy,
    It should go down a treat with the juries,
    Judging by the forums Marco seems like he’s going to be the hearthrob of this year, that could Really boost his televote

  • I also have another theory here. I constantly hear that the huge amount of low-tempo songs (at least 20 ballads in this year’s contest) is a disadvantage for all ballad-esque songs, thus turning a country like Norway into a runaway winner.

    I do agree with Norway having the best chances of becoming a runaway winner. But regarding the huge amount of ballads, I think this can also be a strength. TV viewers are slightly more encouraged to write certain things down, as there aren’t any big standouts. The field of songs in play becomes more alike.

    I can recall years like 2005 or 2006, when actually no ballad or just one low-tempo song made the TOP 10. But recent years have been also more ballad-heavy when solely looking at the TOP 10. For instance 2009, with ‘ballads’ from Iceland, United Kingdom, Estonia, France and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Or 2012, when ‘ballads’ like Serbia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Estonia, Germany and also Spain made it into the TOP 10. That’s SIX ballads in a TOP 10. Times are really changing :-).

    I do agree with Boki that it needs to have a certain X-Factor, like the presence of one hell of a belting voice, perfect intimate staging, or one hell of a cute guy/girl. Germany 2012 fell a bit in this category. And I think Marco Mengoni and his ‘L’Essenziale’ is the perfect mix of Norway 2003 and Germany 2012: Both too cute and charming to ignore.

  • Chewy Wesker

    When I compare Marco Mengoni with italy’s last two entries, i find his song, although very slick and stylish, it lacks the catchy up beat mood like Nina Zilli’s song. Even if Marco brings his piano with him, will he be able to play it or ROCK IT! like Raphael Gualazli. I don’t think so, this year there are plenty songs that will be scoring higher jury points, so a 4th placed jury vote like Nina’s won’t be on the cards, and for a forgettable song such as “L’Essenziale” a televote won’t save it.

  • Kelly Ann

    Do you really believe San Marino have a chance to qualify?

    • Daniel

      Hi Kelly Ann and welcome to Sofabet. There are 3-4 no-hopers in a semi-final of 17 and I don’t think it’s a no-hoper, so I do think they have a chance.

  • Justin

    I agree with that list Daniel though have to admit a bit of a soft spot for the Hungarian entry but agree that its not exactly a televote or jury magnet. I’m also not convinced by Bulgaria either but guess it could attract some jury love for its authenticity/originality.

    As for Italy (sorry for late view) I think it’s sophisticated, charming and Marco, facial expressions and all, is a highly telegenic and convincing performer. For me, the song and singer blow the likes of the dated, tired Russian and Georgian entries away. The question is whether its too high-brow for the Eurovision Saturday night audience (it probably is) but I still think it will be a massive hit with the juries. It will inevitably be pulled down by the televote possibly to the extent that it will be a victim of the new voting rankings rule. A late draw will help prevent this.

    • I fully agree with your take on the Italian entry, Justin. I must say I’m having trouble coming up with five entries with decent chances to score higher than Italy with the juries (Denmark, Norway, Netherlands – am I missing some obvious ones here?). I believe the jurors mare a clear distinction between modern/classy ballads and dated/cheesy ones, probably more so than viewers.

      As you point out, the draw will be a crucial factor in determining just how far down in the scoreboard the televote will pull it.

  • Chewy Wesker

    Denmark is shorting up in the outright market, 5/2 with most high street bookmakers. This crys out lay to me, but could “teardrops” be backed into 5/4 fav come day of final? or is this just “fanwank”? Sweden to my mind on drift at 15 betfair with a 16th placed draw, looks a danger to me.

    • Boki

      Denmark is topping many polls and people need a favorite. Winning of the fan favorite last year might also influence this. There is plenty of time to go to evens especially if certain bloggers start to scream “WE HAVE A WINNER” just like they did with flopped Frenchman. Said that, people might wake up and realize it’s not exactly so good but that will not happen before the rehearsals.

  • Henry VIII

    Let’s hope they wank some more. There are some very keen backers.

  • tpfkar

    Random thought of the day: how much does politics matter? Ive felt it matters for a while, with the volcano ash hurting Iceland in 2010 and 2011, and financial issues being part responsible for Greece and Spain underwhelming last time. Where am I going with this? I’m suggesting adding Cyprus to the list of no-hopers this year, without any reference to their song.

  • Tim B

    I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here and argue what Romania has going for it in this semi. It’s lacking some of its biggest friends but they still have Spain, Israel, Azerbaijan, Greece and Hungary. The song is the closest thing to novelty in this year’s contest and is hilarious, so I think a better-than-expected televote here could be on the cards. Songs that are shockingly awful are more likely to score more votes than mediocre, forgettable ones (Hungary and Switzerland spring to mind) and I would have it in the televote top 10. Juries are likely to slaughter it, but an ok-ish score here cant be entirely ruled out either. The Russian grannies showed that novelty can do quite well with the juries, and at least Cezar has a decent vocal and the song is quite original. Don’t get me wrong, I think Romania will still not qualify but I think this entry will make things harder for the likes of San Marino (uh oh oh). Think it may be worth a tiny qualification punt, depending on how high the odds get – I would be certainly more inclined to back than lay at 8.0 for example.

    • Chewy Wesker

      Hi Tim, yeah i think your right romania could well qualify. I much like cezar to last years mandinga. It’ll be interesting to see the betfair market on semi final 2 near the time, as punters had it spot on, all be it malta that made it last year. 8.0 is unlikely to get matched, but you could stick up maybe 4.5 someone may take it. It reminds me of the old Kit Kat advert “he looks awful, he sounds terrible, he’ll go along way” goodluck i hope your matched.

    • Boki

      Yes, it’s so awful and I didn’t realize it was a novelty, the guy is dead serious 🙂 I expect 1.1x for not to Q so backing at 8 might be achievable.
      Tim, where is eurovicious btw? I thought he reincarnated as Durham guy on the other site but it seems I was wrong…

      • eurovicious

        Dobro jutro Boki, I’m here but I’m (very infrequently) lurking. I stopped gambling for a number of reasons:

        – completely screwed up on X Factor last year and lost a ton of money. Yes it was a difficult year, but others managed to do well out of it, I got in too deep (see below). It wasn’t even because of backing Chris or something like that, it was mostly various too-large lays placed at an early stage that went wrong (like laying Tulisa to be the first to lose all her acts), then just digging a deeper hole for myself.
        – decided/realised that there was a compulsive element to my gambling so blocked all the betting sites (including this one) in my browser in December
        – which didn’t matter, because due to new gambling legislation in Germany (which I approve of), most of them deleted my account anyway by the end of 2012 (including Betfair)
        – since being self-employed, I realised part of the problem was feeling that I “had to” gamble, so I was betting on things outside my area of expertise (which is Eurovision and Eurovision only. I’m no good at trying to read X Factor manipulations and I actively dislike trying to do so, it puts a really bad taste in my mouth and I find myself thinking over-conspiratorially. After their treatment of Chris this year and Janet and Misha last, I’ve sworn never to watch it again.)
        – by the end of the year, particularly during X Factor, my pursuit of gambling as a partial source of income was leading to me to focus on it more than my actual client work, so when I could have been earning, I was instead losing more and more money. Since January, I’m happy to say this has been the other way round – my work has really taken off, I’m enjoying it and I prefer it this way. And this being the case, I no longer feel I “need” to gamble, which is actually a mental relief
        – visiting the UK a number of times last year, I couldn’t overlook the way betting shops have proliferated in the poorest areas. Also saw the Panorama episode on fixed-odds betting machines etc. Yes, gambling is a transaction like any other, so in theory it’s fair and we all know what we’re doing, and someone betting on TV entertainment is perhaps less likely to be a problem gambler than in other areas, but having myself developed a mindset of feeling I “had to” gamble as a partial source of income once out of salaried employment (a mindset that I never saw as a problem because it was ego-syntonic), I can’t overlook the fact that that’s true of others too. (There was a piece just this weekend in the Guardian about a student in financial difficulties who killed himself after gambling and losing £10K on his mother’s credit card: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/mar/23/student-suicide-depression-debt-recession) I can’t provide these organisations which prey on the vulnerable with turnover.
        – I’m not going to Amsterdam or Malmö because I think this year’s songs are atrocious apart from about 5, so I’ve no desire to spend my hard-earned money to go somewhere expensive that I don’t like to listen to music I don’t like and socialise with people I mostly don’t like either. As to gambling on this year’s Eurovision, I’m glad I’m out of it because I have no idea. I think it may well play out like 2010 though – low overall quality and no standout song leading to a “default” winner with a low winning margin, plus the rare scenario of no ex-Yu country in the top 10 (due to low quality/jury unfriendliness). 2011 is also comparable in terms. I will say this, I think Netherlands is massively overvalued and I don’t think Norway will do as well as a lot of people think in the televote. I looked on Oddschecker this week for the first time in months, and qualification value in the semis seems scant given 2013’s unpredictability.

        BTW, I saw JK (yes that JK) in concert on Saturday – it was amazing!!!

        • Boki

          Wow! Thanks for such a detailed and brutally honest post, I had no idea what was happening.
          ‘Sorry to hear you stopped’ was my first thought but actually if that’s better for you (and you know best) than I’m glad you did. Hope that bitterness will fade away with time.

          Your story looks similar to mine: got burned on last X as well (luckily could afford it due to great esc year), there is for sure a compulsive element in my gambling also (this year I did CBB,Splash,SCD and DOI for the first time, smaller stakes) but I’m trying to live with it / keep it under control. Recently started with a new job after a break so finally I can actually think about my betting strategies without kids jumping on my head 🙂
          Anyway, entertainment betting can be dangerous as any especially if you think you know what you are doing (damned Melanie :)).

          See you around you infrequent lurker (which needed only 2 hours to reply to my post lol), whether you bet or not we miss your over-analyzing comments. I guess you’ll be back when Serbia decides to win again and sends the one and only JK to grab the title hahaha!

          • eurovicious

            I’m not bitter! Tim told me you’d asked about me, hence the prompt reply. All the best 🙂

  • Boki

    Was kidding lurker, knew Tim was a connection to you 🙂
    About bitterness: great if not, just got the wrong impression from your post, sorry.

  • Boki

    Btw, Marco Mengoni has passed 10 million hit on youtube, do we need to worry about that? Lot of Italians probably involved (I miss those regional stats) but still 10 times more than Raphael Gualazzi.

  • Hey guys, any1 know anything about Italy’s 3min esc version? Thnx.

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