Eurovision 2014: Will Romania need a ‘Miracle’?

We’ve had five more entries confirmed this weekend, including those from Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania and France. There’s a growing sense that this year’s contest may lack strength in depth, which makes me more cautious betting against countries managing a top ten placing.

Of the recent selections, flying highest in the Betfair market is Romania’s entry, ‘Miracle’ from Ovi and Paula Seling. The duo already has a Eurovision following, having come third in 2010 with the poptastic ‘Playing With Fire’. This time around they’ve gone for a dance anthem, and the combination of genre and previous form will likely see the pairing remain towards the top of bookmakers’ lists.

I like a dance track as much as the next disco shape-thrower, but I’m not feeling ‘Miracle’ at all. Ultimately, a more important question is: will jurors and televoters agree with that assessment?

Firstly, let’s deal with my antipathy to the song. I can locate exactly when it starts: at 0.44 seconds when the generic dance beat kicks in for the chorus. The pair shout, “It’s A Miracle!” just as I’m thinking the opposite. Paula and Ovi are trapped within the beat whenever it’s there, and both melody and any sense of originality are sacrificed.

For me, it doesn’t hold a candle to ‘Playing With Fire’, which had an earworm of a chorus and happy sense of its own absurdity. As a case in point, Paula’s operatic middle eight in the latter doesn’t outstay its welcome, but in ‘Miracle’, her 18-second money note just has me begging it to stop.

Will Eurovision constituencies be more impressed than me? As a rule, dance tracks don’t have a good record in the contest. ‘Euphoria’ proved the exception to the rule, but last year’s German entry, ‘Glorious’ saw the trend return.

With hindsight, however, ‘Glorious’ had a number of things going against it: comparisons with the previous winning entry; the way the song was cut to get down below three minutes; and a few below-par performances when it really mattered. You’d at least have faith that Ovi and Paula, who have proved themselves in the heat of battle, would acquit themselves well on the big night.

Paula and Ovi also got their staging right last time, and it’s good for them there’s an awareness of how important it is to play to the camera (in hindsight, another flaw with ‘Glorious’ last year). On the basis of the national final, Ovi is remaining faithful to the polycarbonate piano and pyrotechnics. Whether it’s as effective this time around remains to be seen, but ‘Miracle’ could be lifted by its staging.

Romania can also rely on plenty of televoting allies, given its diaspora in places like Spain and Italy. That’ll be boosted to a small degree by the return of Portugal and offset to an even smaller extent by the withdrawal of Cyprus.

The country’s performance on the scoreboard has been instructively similar in the last two years, although the change in system has to be taken into account, given that we know jury and televote points in 2012, but their average rankings in 2013.

Still, in both cases, Romania managed seventh in the televote with a memorable performance, a showing that was dragged down by a bottom seven finish among jurors. The new system emphasised this process slightly more: ‘It’s My Life’ managing 13th in 2013 with 65 points, whereas ‘Zaleilah’ managed 12th in 2012 with 71 points.

The extra powers of five-person juries to negatively impact televote strength within their borders, affected Romania’s points with the likes of Spain last year, as explained here. National panels will decide if this happens again this year.

Whether Paula’s virtuoso vocals can overcome juries’ traditional antipathy to generic dance tracks performed generically will have a big impact on its points tally, and thus ability to get into the top ten.

I don’t think it’s a strong enough song to aim higher, although neither do I see a danger to Romania’s 100% qualification record in the two-semi era, performing in the second half of the smaller second heat.

If greater strength in depth can be found among the remaining 20 entries, I’ll be more confident about laying Romania in the newly-formed top ten market on Betfair. At the moment I feel safer merely saying that I can’t see ‘Miracle’ equalling the heights of ‘Playing With Fire’.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts on the Romanian entry and other Eurovision matters below.

14 comments to Eurovision 2014: Will Romania need a ‘Miracle’?

  • Ben Cook

    Not sure yet. I thought their last entry had more charm and more widespread appeal than this. This does seem to be influenced a bit by Avicii’s hits, but it’s a lot cheesier. The staging isn’t very good and the vocals were dreadful in places.

    There’s something to work with here, but I don’t see them getting anywhere near as high as last time.

    Incredibly it’s just 2 weeks until the deadline now, and we’ve still got around 20 songs to hear. It looks like the UK’s entry which was premiered tonight in a secret location in London has had a very positive reaction from those who were there. Seems like the artist is Molly Smitten-Downes, who has previously done a lot of commercial dance music (scoring a top 10 hit in 2008 as the vocalist on Sash!’s “Raindrops”), but she’s now re-invented herself as a singer-songwriter.

  • eurovicious

    Agree. Sloppy seconds. Ovi & Paula fandom within the fan community will not translate to viewers, and the overwhelming majority won’t remember them from 2010 either. As far as I’m concerned, Ovi & Paula simply aren’t a “thing” – much of the fandom may perceive them as an established act, but I don’t and I think that perception is misleading. They were both established artists before they joined up for Eurovision (I remember watching them both as soloists in Cerbul de Aur 2009), and Ovi’s Playing With Fire was originally intended as a duet with someone else, not Paula, I believe. Since Eurovision 2010, they’ve continued their separate careers as solo artists. They’re not a duet – they work well together, but they’re just as put-together as Iceland 2012, Georgia 2013 or Romania 2008. (Vlad and Nico were great but the exact same argument applies to them.)

    The biggest problem is the song – as I tweeted during the show (which was boring and a step down from Romania’s previous NFs, which I’ve been watching since 2007), “the problem with Miracle is it could be by anyone, it has no identity; it’s a David Guetta/Avicii song with a tokenistic stab at a piano”. It doesn’t play to their strengths or have a USP – it doesn’t say “Paula and Ovi” at all. It’s yet another factory produced Scandinavian dial-a-song. I don’t mind Paula’s long note so much, but Miracle totally lacks the flirtatiousness and humour of its predecessor, which is a really important point when you consider Eurovision as a personality contest and as a competition between a series of 3-minute audiovisual/cultural memes.

    I agree with your 0.44 comment because I felt the same watching the NF. The verse does build well and create interest, but then it goes all MEGA CHORUS too soon, then just repeats ad nauseum. I said the same about Only Teardrops last year, but it was a lot more distinctive than this, which is saying something.

    The jury thing is hard to call, it depends on juries’ desire to offset diaspora televote. I’d err on the side of it performing strongly among juries as a whole, even if Spain and Italy are less kind.

    Apropos Glorious, I think “Amazing” can be forgotten. Lithuania is a racket – unlike many fans, I normally like their entries, which tend to be idiosyncratic in a good way, but this is just awful. I like My Slowianie but it’s the sort of thing juries hate and it faces a double language barrier of a) being in Polish b) the English bit being in terrible English. Ireland’s is another incredibly cynical factory-written Swedish song we’ve all heard before, but it could still do comparatively well. Macedonia is still doomed – the song starts well but never finds the hook or power chorus it needs, it’s underwhelming and lazy for a Balkan pop song of its type. I don’t expect France to get anywhere, that song is strictly “domestic audience only” – it’s no Allez Ola Ole. Azerbaijan has selected a very strong singer and is buying in another Swedish song from their usual supplier, I understand, so from what we’ve heard so far (around half of the entries), it’s Hungary’s or theirs to lose right now. Spain is soporific – if Pastora can’t do better than 10th, she certainly can’t, even in English.

  • Justin

    I do agree that Paula and Ovi are treading on very dangerous ground. They have crossed the line from uptempo, family friendly Saturday night TV fare over to an outright dance track.

    However, I personally don’t find the song objectionable at all, in fact I find it as uplifting and feel-good as the next dance track. I also find it far less synthetic than ‘Glorious’. The fact that its a cheesy love song performed by a credible duo softens the blow of the generic dance beat and from what we have seen of them in the past, I believe Paula and Ovi can improve on their vocals from the national final.

    There’s no denying that dance has generally not gone down well on the Eurovision stage. But when dance was actually outstandingly performed and staged, it won.

    I don’t imagine the televote to be a big problem for this entry. If Romania can reach 7th with Cesar and Zelilah then surely the diaspora will pick the phone up for a recognised national pop star, TV host and X-Factor mentor who did them so proud four years ago. I would.

    The juries are more likely to drag it down as they often do with uptempo numbers. Paula and Ovi need to keep the piano and even briefly sit down and play a note or two to scrape out the morsels of musicality that lie within ‘Miracle’.

    Overall, given Romania’s televote record, the possibility of expanding Romanian diaspora around Europe, that Paula and Ovi are consummate professionals capable of creating a highly commendable overall impression and the current serious lack of credible opposition I think its highly unlikely I will be laying this for top 10.

    • chewy wesker

      Justin you could be right, to lay top ten at this early stage, is potentially very risky! However I think most will be agreed that Romania will QF only to end the night on the righthand side of the scoreboard. Which is a shame and annoyance because the two verses have such great melody, and “Miracle” had a chance to become a real front runner only for the chorus to be a real let down. A top ten lay for me will depend on price anything around the 1.7 mark is a value lay. Wealthy punters should lay the 17.5 in the win market available at time of writing, as I expect price to drift to somewhere near the 40 mark.

  • annie

    so… are we children of the universe?

    • I think it is a decent effort for the UK and much better than recent efforts (not hard), but I don’t think it can win. It defo has top10 potential and potential for a good enough jury score. It’s one of those entries I can imagine making the top10 but also floating on the right hand side à la Compact Disco, in equal probability of occurrence. It can be perceived both as contemporary and cliché/cheesy depending through which lens it is looked at. Remember, not all ‘better’ UK efforts at being contemporary work (see Javine 2005), but of course the jury will lift this one.

      • annie

        yes, (after listening to it quite a few times since it came out) I feel the same. It doesnt really scream winner but if all the stars align it can do well. I think it would rank well of juries regardless, but coming after the series of lazy and lousy entries form the UK I feel some extra will be added for the effort. The televote will depend so much on running order (which is again a bit up to the producers…) and how they will manage the staging. The venue where they presented the song was spot on, helping a lot to be so positively received. Im not very keen on her styling, I think they need to soften her up a bit for televoters.
        Overall I dont expect it will do as bad as compact disco, but my safest tips would be somewhere 5-15, depending on running order and stageing,

    • eurovicious

      I think it can and (barring owt else with broader appeal) will win.
      It’s exactly the sort of thing the UK should be sending to Eurovision, and exactly the sort of British music that continental Europeans love. This will get 12 from Germany, mark my words, and will score extremely highly from Westernised countries in general, by which I don’t just mean Western Europe but any country where you mostly hear Anglo-American commercial music on the radio (such as Poland and Slovakia) as opposed to countries that proritise domestic and regional music (the Slovenia-to-Bulgaria belt, RU/UA/BY, and to a certain extent France/Spain/Italy).

      I “know” it’s going to win because I have the same visceral dislike of it as a twee, mainstream, utterly cloying and unchallenging product that I did with Fairytale and Only Teardrops, and I find her more irritating than Emmelie albeit less so than Lena (who remains the benchmark for privileged, entitled, oh-so-quirky manic pixie dream girls in Eurovision who think they’re the shit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manic_Pixie_Dream_Girl) Sorry, I know I sound like curmudgeon corner (I am), I just can’t stand this sickly pop. But I’m not the target audience. People lap up this Ellie Goulding Paloma Faith Eliza Doolittle shit.

      It’s Ljubav Shine A Light for the clicktivism era.

      I want Hungary to win. The UK song is everything that Hungary’s isn’t – safe to its edgy, pseudo-progressive to its genuinely progressive, Western to its Eastern, white to its black. It will win. It’s a magnet of the “oh, this is nice, what a nice girl” vote.

      Skelmersdale 2015 here we come.

      • annie

        Haha 🙂 I always enjoy reading your comments, they usually make sense to me and there are a lot of times I agree and nod cheerfully along. In light of this its so funny : Lena is my all time fav eurovision winner, I started really following the show again after many years of casually catching it on telly because she won. I still think that her win is one of the best things that happened to the competetition, because I think its thanks to that songs and performers that can be valid outside the eurovision bubble appeared since 2010. Or at least that is my perception.
        And I always have a soft spot for Hungary and want them to do really well, but this year I really hope they will remain just outside the top 10 for the (crazy) reason that I have this crazy protectivness for ByeAlex, he was terribly bullied last year after he won the competition by media, by celebrities, and ofcourse after he got one of the best results for hungary everyone loves him, So I dont want his achievment to be overruled just yet, especially by such a calculated and overthought effort.

        • eurovicious

          Hi Annie, thanks. Certainly her win completely turned around perceptions of the contest in Germany and made record labels take interest in Eurovision and the German NF as a platform. Lena and Roman gave it credibility and relevance again among young people. When you compare the German NF now with 15 years ago (warning, this is my favourite bad NF entry of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts2fGtRIysk) or even just 5 years ago with today, it’s a different world.

          Although, TBH, I’d sacrifice all the hard-won credibility if we could get stuff like this back in the NF again… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFPQbnraeVg

  • Curtis

    It’s clear that some homework was done on this uk entry – a female in the correct age bracket was chosen, in an attempt to emulate recent winners. The problem is the song does not hold a candle to Euphoria, or even Only Teardrops or Satellite, nor does it emulate their catchy pop manner, preferring to go for a more rock chick vibe. Could be top 10, but certainly doesn’t look like a winner to me in the way that the 3 aforementioned songs definitely did.

  • eurovicious

    Her voice is excellent, and there’s a Florencey element to the arrangement and writing. It’s anthemic and credible. I think the verse is underwritten and the chorus is over-repeated, but the middle-eight is excellent. The chorus is catchy, but the song has no meat to it. Perfect for our style-over-substance era. What do the lyrics mean? Answers on a postcard.

  • I find the UK song quite disjointed, although it doesn’t annoy me too much. I mainly have two conceptual problems with that entry:
    1. I don’t get the new official stretegical approach by BBC to manufacture songs specifically for Eurovision, and especially how fans seem to approve. I thought we’ve been calling for more original, artistic songs that do not sound “typical Eurovision”. What happened to that all of a sudden?
    2. Just because it’s the first decent UK entry in years doesn’t mean it has to be rewarded a victory. That’s very lazy. UK can do much better, let them try more.

    • Valid questions, AlexanderS. But I believe that we have gotten exactly what we’ve been asking for. Most fans, particularly in the UK, just keep throwing names around that populate our own top 40 charts, and I was willing to ride that dream, because the area of British musicians Molly comes from is one I thought the BBC would never explore because they thought it would be totally inappropriate for the stereotype of Eurovision. Guy Freeman has a lot of my sincere gratitude for proving me wrong there. I find a lot of our commercial music (with some exceptions) either insipid or skull-shatteringly banal, but as I said before, I’m willing to join in with calling for one of our top-drawer popstars.

      What the BBC have actually done is bypass all that and go straight for the good stuff. Real people writing much more sophisticated music. That’s what I like.

      As for your second question, I get where you’re coming from, but I believe you’re missing the point. The question is not “should we work for it more?” but “can another country beat it?” This is a song contest, not a “deserves it” contest.

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