Eurovision 2013: Is Romania’s Cezar worth your tenner?

[Daniel writes: It’s a pleasure for Sofabet to welcome back eurovicious to our writing team. We like to provide a variety of opinion on the site, especially when it comes with knowledge, wit and experience. Eurovicious, who reviewed last year’s Amsterdam preview party for us, provides all three.

In my piece articulating early thoughts on the second semi, I placed Romania’s entry in the ‘unlikely to qualify’ category because I think that it’s too leftfield in its delivery for both televoters and jurors. Here eurovicious provides an alternative view on why you shouldn’t discount Cezar and his rendition of ‘It’s My Life’.]

A country that has never failed to qualify. One with high voting power. With a large diaspora in the Big 5 countries voting in its semifinal. In the pimp slot. With a highly memorable, melodic, well-structured number. Performed by an acclaimed, classically trained, multi-award-winning vocalist. What could possibly go wrong?

Watch the video here.

Here’s why I think Cezar has a fair chance of qualifying. There hasn’t been a huge number of opera and popera songs (note the difference) in Eurovision, but while opera entries have a poor track record – ‘Questa Notte’ and ‘Sognu’ faring badly – the opposite is true of popera ones.

‘La Voix’ came a high 4th in its semi in 2009 from an early starting position of 5th. Even more strikingly, Alenka Gotar came 6th in 2007’s mammoth 27-song semi, a huge achievement given the intense competition for places, no jury, Slovenia’s lack of friends, lack of diaspora and miniscule voting power, the odd and gimmicky performance, and the fact the song was in Slovenian, which would have been partly but by no means fully understood in a subset of Slavic countries and not at all in the rest of Europe. It and Maja Keuc’s ‘No One’ are still Slovenia’s only two qualifications in nine years.

Both ‘La Voix’ and ‘Cvet z juga’ are high kitsch and combine operatic vocals with a europop structure and beat, and both did very well in their semis but fared significantly worse in the final.

Another comparable recent entry? Well, the second semifinal last year also featured a widely ridiculed novelty entry performed by an acclaimed classical singer. This clip will remind you of it.

Anri opened the dire ‘I’m A Joker’ with an operatic introduction in Georgian showcasing his strong tenor voice. Towards the end of the song, he again briefly demonstrates his vocal ability while playing the piano. (The piano is also audible on the track, something that isn’t a given – looking at you, Timoteij, miming instruments that aren’t even in the song.)

The fact that everything in between these pseudo-earnest interludes was a load of shit didn’t matter; it was enough for this ostensibly ridiculous entry to come 9th in the jury vote, ahead of any number of far better-written, more credible entries performed with greater vocal skill. See what I’m getting at?

(Eurovision is to a certain degree about semiotics and sign exchange, and the fact that I’m A Joker’s operatic intro and piano bridge seem shoehorned in solely to demonstrate that Anri is a serious musician and not just an eejit is entirely the point. If Anri’s intro serves only to symbolically scream “I can sing!”, then the same is true of Cezar’s entire performance. His vocals are front and centre throughout and give the song its USP.)

“But what about ‘Illusion’?” I hear you cry. This was Bulgaria’s 2009 entry. “Another countertenor, same part of Europe, same type of song, and it did terribly!”

There are key differences. Unlike its highly successful northern neighbour, Bulgaria has only managed one qualification in eight years. Whereas Cezar has the honour of closing the semifinal, Krassimir performed in the middle of the running order and was immediately followed by the song that won the semi, ‘Is It True?’.

There was no jury in the 2009 semifinals. ‘Illusion’ was also more structurally unconventional and superficially difficult on the ears, with long sections of extended group wailing. Krassimir is less vocally able than Cezar. And, of course, he performed the song while wearing a cape and pseudo-medieval garb, accompanied by strident, bizarre-looking women and backed by two dancers swinging each other around on stilts.

Based on the performances of ‘It’s My Life’ in this year’s Romanian selection, where Sexy Angle Grinders (TM) in the semifinal were dropped in place of more conventional choreography for the final, I doubt Cezar’s Eurovision performance will feature anywhere near Krassimir’s level of visual excess.

To many ears, there’s something automatically and intrinsically ridiculous about a song like ‘It’s My Life’, yet few would react the same way to the female popera entries I mention above. If ‘It’s My Life’ was sung “normally” in a lower key by a different singer – for instance, if it were a Cascada song, which it could easily be turned into – it would be treated with much more credibility.

When we react with laughter to a man singing a dance song in a “feminine” voice, the question we to need to ask from a betting perspective is whether this reaction is universal or culturally specific, bearing in mind that Cezar won the Romanian televote (beating a second countertenor who was also popular enough to reach the final) and was in the top 3 of the jury vote. In 2009, Krassimir beat over 40 other songs to win the Bulgarian selection. Obviously there are people out there who respond positively to europop countertenors.

That’s my €0.02 on Romania. Make of it what you will. Just don’t bet your life savings on it, folks. (More than anything, think how daft you’ll feel explaining to your bank manager that you lost all your money gambling on a dubstep countertenor because a man on the Internet told you to.)

All I suggest is that you bear the above factors in mind before automatically dismissing Romania’s qualification chances based on your reaction to the song. And if Cezar does make it to the final, lay him for top 10, because he’s going nowhere.

Where do you stand on Cezar’s qualification chances? Let us know below.

27 comments to Eurovision 2013: Is Romania’s Cezar worth your tenner?

  • Desiree

    This is actually ridiculous. This song will fail in Eurovision as it’s a very bad song performed in a very bizarre way. I can’t see this qualifying even if Romania has a perfect qualification record and Cezar is going to perform last in the running order of the second semi-final.

  • Chewy Wesker

    Bet365 have romania not to qualify at 2/5, as a punter ask yourself would you be able to back at this short price? & be sitting comfortably? As Cezar with his last song draw? Singing for romania with their track record? (i’d be on the toilet) i’d feel alot better backing romania to qualify at 5/2. Bet365 have better bets at evs bulgaria not to qualify also israel evs not to qualify. Hungary are 4/7 not to qualify. Nothing is really stand out value, and laying Cezar for a place in the final won’t make you rich. It’s best not to get involved just yet. But Cezar may just make it to the final…….
    (wot price for a top ten finish?)

  • Martin F.

    Seems odd to argue that “Questa notte” did poorly and “Cvet z juga” did well, given they achieved near-identical results in both the semi-final and the final. I’m not writing off Cezar just yet, anyway – though his vocals will need to improve vs. the Romanian final if the juries are going to be suckered.

    • eurovicious

      That’s a fair point. I guess I meant in terms of relative success: at that point, Latvia had won and hosted, come 3rd in 2000 and 5th in 2005, and only failed to qualify in 2004 – plus Questa Notte had the pimp slot and much more viewer-friendly presentation. Whereas Slovenia had never come higher than 7th and had never qualified. So while Latvia’s qualification was more expected, Slovenia’s was a major relative success. I thought Cezar’s vocals were fine.

  • Boki

    No he’s not if you ask me, I found his effort grotesque from the first listen. Alenka was a serious competent entry (or at least managed to persuade people to believe so and vote) from well known esc composer while Cezar is laughable imo.

    Having said that, he’s the only entry I disagree with my better half because she believes he stand a chance for many of the reasons you mention ev. So at these odds no involvement yet and I doubt we ever will. This is also a test of the pimp slot power since only Dutch Toppers managed not to qualify from it.

  • Tim B

    Bit of a newbie question, but one I feel the need to know the answer to: If I lay, say, Austria for top 10 on Betfair and they fail to qualify, would the funds come back to me in time for the final, or would I have to wait until the full top 10 market was settled after the final?

  • Daniel

    Here’s a video of Azerbaijan’s ‘Hold Me’ sung live Sunday night at the Athens Europarty.

    • eurovicious

      Farid is competent and didn’t just win for his Dean Cain-esque looks (though I’m sure those helped a lot) – I watched the week of the Azeri heats he competed in and this was his best performance:

  • He is indeed competent, as is the song. I’d be very surprised if Azerbaijan doesn’t keep up its top 10 record with this entry. It’s a male ballad, so will stand out among all the females, has a bit of instrumental oomph in the second half. Farid is also the best looking male in the competition this year.

    • eurovicious

      Ditto. I’d tentatively call lower top 10. It’s definitely not top 5 material. For once, Azerbaijan isn’t the strongest ex-USSR entry this year – that’s Georgia. Whereas Drip Drop, Running Scared and WTMD were not just better songs but also stood out from the competition, Hold Me fishes in the same territory as most of the other ex-USSR entries this year – or maybe they’re the ones fishing in Azerbaijan’s territory. Whichever way, everyone’ll end up covered in oil, glitter and tears.

      • Ben

        Be careful using the word ‘definitely’. I still think it could win by accident. IMO it’s the strongest song Azerbaijan have sent so far.

      • Ben

        Farid sounds a lot stronger in that clip above than I remember his NF performance being. With some clever backing vocals should sound really good in Malmo.

  • Chewy Wesker

    The song is growing on me, but i can’t really put it in my top ten. Farid isn’t the pretty boy look of say Roman lob or Eric saade, his look is very masculine very much like in the Tooji’s camp. I’m sure ladies of an older age will go for him, but not sure all ladies. But Farid will be holding on to 11th place i’m sure.

  • Daniel

    A brilliant performance, a fantastic voice. I’d bet my money on him. Ave Cesar!

  • Nugg

    When I first heard Cezars song (thanks to EuroV for sending it to me on qualification night) I laughed it off….but having played it to a few people it does appear to have some appeal.i found myself listening again and again, and my friends love it. There appears to be some many similar sounding female solo efforts this year that Romanias entry does stand out, I can see this making the finals personally. It is different I give you that.
    It has become one of my personal favourites for this year, I was disappointed to read Daniels dismissal as a definate non qualifier. ESC needs stuff like this, just like it needed wolves of the sea and Lordi etc to keep it interesting and prevent blandness.
    Come on Cezar, you can do it….a qualification from semi to final will suit me fine 😉

  • Lili Grigore

    We are honoured that a great voice like Cezar The Voice with : It’s My Life,represent Romania! Good-Luck!!

  • Hi eurovicious,

    Would be really interesting to hear your take on Romania at this point, when we know more about competitors, choreography and other details!

    Cheers

    • eurovicious

      Hi squall, thanks for this comment – suffice to say, I was mortified when I saw the first pictures of the staging, and as a result of that plus the precedent of Ljubav je svuda (a country with tremendous voting power failing from the pimp slot because the song was kitsch), I fancy its chances a lot less than I did. However, it still has going for it a) the fact Cezar is vocally superb (though that didn’t help either Croatia or Serbia on Tuesday) and b) the fact it’s in English. There’s also the statistic that in all but one semi since 2008, at least 4 of the last 6 songs have gone through; this happened on Tuesday too. If we’re to assume this will happen again, which isn’t guaranteed, this either means a) Cezar is through or b) one of Hungary or Switzerland is no longer a write-off.

      • trollgirl

        I am trying to be objective, but its hard because I am infatuated with Kedvesem from the SECOND time I heard it… But I have a feeling it will go through, despite all the things working against it. (running order, language, the singer, the fact that is a grower not an instant glue…) In most fan polls its borderline and when you read between the lines in most cases its just that they dont THINK it will do well because its an oddball, not because they dont think its SHOULD. so basically many people like it its just they arent confident… crossing fingers…

      • eurovicious

        As we’ve now seen, it was b).

    • eurovicious

      Have just reread this. “I doubt Cezar’s Eurovision performance will feature anywhere near Krassimir’s level of visual excess” – famous last words…

      • Haha I laughed when I re-read that too 🙂

        Thanks for getting back to me on this, eurovicious! For me, what really makes this an excellent value lay @2.5-2.8 is the new scoring system. While not all juries will strike down on it, I’m pretty sure most will. And in those countries, it will take an excellent televote to achieve some kind of relevant point score.

  • Well done, eurovicious. This was a costly lesson for me 🙂

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