Eurovision 2014: Esctips’ latest podcast

Thanks to Esctips’ Andy and Gav, who invited myself and Finland’s Tobias Larsson to guest on their last podcast before rehearsals get underway. In it, we discuss the chances of the six automatic qualifiers: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and Denmark.

At the end, we are asked to give a top five and then narrow that down to our suggested winner at this stage. It’s thus a revealing podcast with plenty of differing opinions. You can listen to it here.

I arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday and will post at the weekend offering further advice on following rehearsal blogs, before the excitement begins on Monday – with Armenia.

46 comments to Eurovision 2014: Esctips’ latest podcast

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    My (current!) Top 5:
    1: UK (16/1 – Lads)
    2: Armenia (2/1 – Boyle’s)
    3: Belgium (70/1 – bf)
    4: Denmark (52/5 – bf)
    5: Azerbaijan (39/1 – bf)
    (Alternative 5th place finisher – Ukraine (78/5 – bf)

    I flip a coin when it comes to the UK vs Armenia, but at the respective odds, I have to plump for the UK to pip it. The Armenian song does turn v aggressive through the dubstep (which personally sends my triceps into goosebump hyperdrive) and that may just open the door for a friendlier, anthemic, more traditionally structured song…

    Amazed myself with my placing of Belgium in 3rd (though you always have to throw one curveball in, one volte-face re-evulation – right?) But on one particular re-listen (accidental! – I was meaning to treat myself to another guffaw at the Deans of Magic) to it, it struck that the song has a strong touch of Farid’s ‘Hold Me’ (which I loved) about it, a straight-forward old-fashioned emotional appeal to its lyrics. Also in 2013, Cezar’s operatic vocals proved a surprise hit. I hope the Belgian production lose the scattered lighting and in particular that creepy old woman (the titular representation) from the staging, who looked like a ghostly widow agonising at an invisible Wailing Wall. Gave me the freakin’ creeps, she did (Lol), and seemed to unintentionally mock, and distract from, the vocal sincerity of Axel. The Belgian song and singer act as a kind of natural compare and contrast to Norway’s song and singer. (Although ‘Silent Storm’ is the superior quality song, imo.) Axel’s no pretty boy but at least he’s not R.A.F. (pardon my French); and is an arms-outstretched, giving performer rather than an emotionally-closed introvert.

    Simultaneously hate and love the Danish production – like seeing Scrappy Doo and Scooby Doo share screen time. But the staging and that draw are slayers. Imagine this coming out top musher of the Nordic pack.

    Azer for an over-achieving 5th – because that’s what they do. Their song’s nearly as boring as the Netherland’s coma-fest. But Azer’s form figures at the ESC are exceptional. They always really want it and put their money where their mouth is.

    Minor Surprise Top 10 finisher: Malta (11/4 – bf)
    Major Surprise Top 10 finisher: Switzerland (19/2 – bf)
    Biggest Surprise OUTSIDE Top 15 finisher: Romania
    Top Big 5: UK (11/8 – Boyle’s)
    Top Scandinavian: Denmark (Evens – bf)
    Semi Final 1 winner: Armenia (5/4 – Boyle’s)
    Semi Final 1 EW: Azerbaijan (9/1 – Corals)
    Semi Final 2 EWs:
    Greece (7/1 – bet365)
    Malta (18/1 – Corals)
    Switzerland (66/1 – Corals)

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      ‘COTU’ looks to be one of those tunes which will prove to be a remix magnet, with each different version emphasising the quality of the original track.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      On listening to the podcast, reading Ben Gray’s updated write-ups and eurovicious’s link to Laura’s annual review, reading other commentators’ thoughts, and finally, rereading my own thoughts, I see that I could easily change my top 5.

      I’m wondering how I managed to fill the 3rd, 4th and 5th places with songs I don’t really like! (My own write-up even says so!)

      Back to my own core decisions and feelings…

      My actual bets on the outright have been (in order):

      Hungary EW at about 12s or 14s, as best as I remember.
      UK EW at 22s and 16s.
      Ukraine EW at 16s.
      UK EW at 14s.

      The one I still return to with the fewest doubts is the UK.

      I think there’s 3 potential goosebumps songs in the contest:

      Armenia
      Norway
      UK

      My 3 favourite songs to listen to are:

      UK
      Malta
      Armenia

      The 4 songs that make me smile during a listen-watch:

      Malta
      Switzerland
      Belarus
      Latvia

      I think Norway may have moved from hugely over-rated to a bit overlooked. The problem with predictions as to Norway is that they are all performer-and-performance-on-the-night dependent.

      Imagine the effect on viewers if Carl begins crying while singing what is already a highly-charged emotional and confessional song?

      The simplicity of the staging will magnify the emotion through the roof and through the camera. No distractions.

      It’s all on the live performance, with Carl and Norway.

      Hungary’s subject matter and story-line staging are I imagine the definition of jury bait? What song can possibly be deemed more worthy of jury support than one that takes a stand against child abuse and focuses on the actions and feelings of the victim? It’s a fantastic song too, which carries no baggage from accusations of being a copy or rip-off of some sort or the other.

      Greece is a mixed bag. I enjoy the song (though not as much as France’s), but find the performers loutish yobs.

      As ever, I predictably settle for having another bet on the UK!

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        Oh! The other song performance to make me smile during a listen-watch is Ukraine’s. If it wasn’t for that bloody ‘Tick -Tock’ lyric, Maria would win me over completely.

        And I must add the 4 songs which make me (nearly) emit a F**k Off:

        Denmark
        Sweden
        Romania
        The Netherlands

  • Boki

    I still stand by my top4 from month ago.
    http://sofabet.com/2014/03/21/eurovision-2014-will-denmarks-cliche-love-song-win-enough-hearts/#comment-36581

    It seems we have the same top4 Daniel, it’s encouraging because not many people have Hungary so high in the list.

  • Henry VIII

    Hi Daniel, in the podcast (great podcast btw) you said that Elaiza failed to win any round of “Unser Song für Dänemark“ before the final (round 3). I’d like to see how they all fared in the early rounds but can only find percentages for the wildcard round and the final (links below). Do you have any link for rounds 1 and 2 percentages?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest_2014
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unser_Song_f%C3%BCr_D%C3%A4nemark
    http://www.esckaz.com/2014/ger.htm#in50-table7

    • Daniel

      Hi Henry, I don’t have evidence to hand, I’m afraid. A reliable (German) source on the escnation messageboard said it had been reported that a different act won each round of the final (causing speculation that it had been Santiano in round 1 and Unheilig in round 2). If anyone could confirm or not otherwise, that would be a great help.

      • Henry VIII

        Thanks.

        I agree with the general consensus on the podcast that the song’s not that special but I had to back it a little at these high prices. I personally love the performance (even though it lacks the originality of Satellite).

        • Henry VIII

          I laughed reading my 4.52pm post as it seems contradictory. I think I often state the case against my book to stay open minded and counter confirmation bias.

          Anyway “Is It Right” is no “Satellite” but it should stand out a bit having 3 girl musicians and the lead singer is half Polish half Ukrainian.

      • CC

        Hi, Thomas Schreiber indeed communicated this on a press conference after the final on 13 March. Exact places and percentages for voting rounds other than the Super Final have never been publicly disclosed by the NDR (in order to avert further damage to the losing artists, who, however, get informed individually).
        I could not find the video nor an article about it on the official site but it is referred to in other forums and newspapers:

        „[…]In den jeweiligen Abstimmungsrunden hätten jeweils andere Teilnehmer vorn gelegen, so Schreiber weiter.“

        http://www.rp-online.de/kultur/musik/eurovision/eurovision-song-contest-elaiza-siegt-beim-televoting-eindeutig-aid-1.4105229 (4th paragraph, last sentence)

  • eurovicious

    Worth a read: Laura’s (@europecrazy) annual review of the entrants, including qualification predictions: http://europecrazy.blogspot.co.uk/

  • She’s omitted Estonia completely, and has Latvia down as qualifying despite explaining why it won’t.

    • eurovicious

      Always start with a negative. No-one’s asking for perfection – I really enjoy her writing and opinions, and it’s not written from a betting perspective.

  • Does anyone know is there is a standing pit for the fans in the arena this year? The reason I ask is because I reckon uptempo entries like Italy and France may be boosted on TV if fans are seen jumping around to them in the mosh pit.

  • eurovicious

    Given the makeup, they should call the fan pit the “cockpit”. “Lol”

  • Montell

    I wonder why Montenegro qualification prices are so low. To me it’s like Croatia 2013 with less support but better draw. I mean there aren’t any Balkan countries that could vote for this type of song. Anyway, if there were any, I think this song is only appealing to older generations.

    • Boki

      Montenegro is borderline for qualification but the odds are low this year overall. We have 11/12 entries below evens in semi1/semi2. Bookies are tightening the odds each year and that fact we have only 16/15 entries in a semi doesn’t help either. On a bright side, if you think Montenegro will not qualify…

    • eurovicious

      It’s worth laying. It has about as many friends in that semi as a turd in a swimming pool.

  • George

    Sweden are suddenly starting to shorten a lot again. With Armenia drifting they’ll be favourites soon. Completely baffling to me.

  • I’ve updated my write-ups for each semi final + voting finalists with better formatting and more importantly, some pre-rehearsal questions for each country that I would like answers to at some point over the next 2 weeks before the respective live shows. These questions are deliberately specific and I am mostly looking for straight yes or no answers to many of them with a little elaboration if necessary.

    This is a measure to avoid getting carried away, confused or doing loads of U-turns and second guessing my instincts.

    I would advise everyone planning on scrutinising the rehearsals, especially those going to Copenhagen, to get into a “clean slate” mindset, stay objective, trust your gut, and don’t forget your first thoughts from the NF season. 🙂

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/3010319/2014-SF1-thoughts.rtf

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/3010319/2014-SF2-thoughts.rtf

    And to Daniel and anyone else from here with the privilege to see the TV feed before the rest of the world, the questions I’ve written down can be taken as some suggestions as to what to focus on in your own reports. It’s the information I would find most helpful.

    However, please do not let my questions give you any pre-conceptions about the performances and how you should perceive them, and do not let them lead you into any confirmation bias as I wouldn’t want to corrupt your own expert analysis.

    Let me know if you guys think I’ve missed anything in the above documents. 🙂

    • Montell

      Very good material, Ben. I can see you’re taking your job seriously 🙂 Those pre-rehearsal questions is a very good guide of what to look at during the rehearsals.

    • SirMills

      I really enjoy reading your notes Ben. It’s very professional and accessible. I’m very much agreeing on your take on the songs.

      My pockets are praying for Latvia to be the antifanwank which they easily could if their presentation is not too silly. Despite being nr. 2 in the running order, they are actually nice placed coming after Armenia. By coincident I played Latvia today right after Armenia and I thought it sounded better than usual when I play it and it made me wonder why that was. The genuine happiness and simplicity of the song will come as a breath of fresh air after Armenia’s tasteful, dark, and heavy effort. It will stand out nicely, and if the presentation is a little less foolish than in their nf I think they have a real potential to qualify.

      • Takk SirMills, it’s an exhausting discipline writing these notes and making sure I haven’t missed anything out. Latvia (and Lithuania) qualifying would be very good for me, but that’s only half the battle. I then need their odds to shorten enough to make a dent in my liabilities. Keeping my fingers crossed!

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Hi Ben, your methodology this ESC process has been illuminating. I’m reminded of that old Stephen King quote: ‘I’ve seen the future…and his name is Clive Barker’.

          My own R&D (!!) evaluation systems seem amateurish, piecemeal and slapdash in comparison.

          Systematic working methods can create fertile ground for intuition and sudden insight.

          I tip my hat to you.

          Bravo.

  • Montell

    Some thoughts about Conchita.

    When I first saw her I was like what the f**k is that. I’ve never seen a freak like this before. It took me a very long time to get used to her and I still don’t like her although now I can look at her without feeling uncomfortable:). Well, maybe I’m too conservative but I think most Eurovision voters are. Thus, I expect similar reactions from people who will see her for the first time on Thursday semi final 2. Whe she sings I expect people discussing Conchita’s appearance with their family members instead of listening to the song. There’s no way Conchita will be forgotten when the voting starts. However, if people vote for her, I think they will vote for the artist instead of the song and I don’t see many people voting for a girl with a beard. What I meant to say is that I see value in laying Austria because IMO it’s a bad novelty artist+song combination. I could see Austria finish 9th or 10th in the semi but not more.

    • Rob4

      hi Montell. i think your assessment of the conservatism of your post is correct, but also valuable for being that as the question does have to be asked from a betting angle. However, I’m not sure (and the views of others would be welcome) that your assertion that most EV voters are conservative? By its very nature the contest is a liberal endeavour – the bringing together of various cultures to celebrate their togetherness in friendly competition. It attracts people who buy into this ideal and would therefore have a natural bias to go even further and embrace inclusiveness in terms of gender, sexuality, etc, etc.

      But you are right in terms that it will be a talking point and maybe distracting from the song and delivery of the song. However, by the time of Conchita’s appearance most people are going to aware of what they are about to see and therefore more likely to give the singer and song a fair listen

  • eurovicious

    A couple of thoughts about people “voting for the brand”:

    – if an unknown singer and first-time MF entrant had sung “Undo”, no way would it have won. People were voting for the Sanna brand – if, say, Ellen Benediktsson (<3) had had Undo, it wouldn't have won.
    – an analogous argument arguably applies to Paula/Ovi and "Miracle"
    – going back to 2013, the level of hype and fervour surrounding the Swiss branch of the Salvation Army entering their country's NF was such that they could have sung pretty much anything and still won.

    When NFs are won on the basis of the singer's brand, this success can't readily carry over to a European audience if said brand is domestic-only. This doesn't augur well for Sweden and Romania.

  • eurovicious

    Hi Montell, what’s the issue with Conchita? It’s just a drag queen, like Verka or Sestre. The only difference are the signifiers (the attributes that tell you “this is a drag queen”) – Verka and Sestre are “old-school” drag (OTT dress, hat etc), Conchita is a more modern naturalistic style (the beard is the only signifier). Drag queens are common in entertainment. I hope Verka/DQ/Sestre didn’t make you uncomfortable too…

    http://www.eurovisionista.com/articles/euroviciouss-great-big-eurovision-drag-revue.aspx

    • My initial experience with Conchita is simply that – it’s not clear that she is a drag queen because it’s not like any drag queen I’ve ever seen before. Once I’m told, then I’m fine.

    • Montell

      I agree with Ben here. I liked Verka, he was fun and his song was appropriate for him but Conchita is trying to be serious. That’s why her appearance is not good for the song. IMO she would do better if she either changed the song or lost the beard. I wonder if there’s an interview or an article where she explains why shes has the beard. Well, since she’s an artist it’s all for getting more attention, I guess. IMO Austria’s fate is as unknown as Romania’s was in 2013. We shall see.

      • eurovicious

        The beard is the brand – people would just think she was a woman without it, which is why it’s there. It’s also to make people stop and think – why should someone who isn’t immediately identifable as one gender or the other, who has attributes of both genders, be treated any differently? It’s about the person. For a more literal rendering of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy9tYIRAS6o

  • Tim B

    People are backing Austria for Top 10 despite it being a highly controversial performer, an old-fashioned song and a country with no friends. Yes it’s well-performed but it is much much more likely not to be Top 10. If The Secret Is Love couldn’t get anywhere near in 2011, then this won’t either. After she gets through the Semi-Final the lay value will be good.

  • eurovicious

    Who from the comments section is coming to Copenhagen? Any of yous?

  • I’ve just got bets on Denmark and UK so far. I will probably now wait until the running order for the final is released to make a couple more EW bets.

    I’m predicting

    1. Denmark – still the most instant song of the lot, with a charismatic singer, nice staging (if they keep it similar to NF) and dream draw. It’s going to be so interesting to see which of the other contenders get a late draw. If none of them do it’s game over IMO.

    2. United Kingdom – however, I’ve started to allow myself to dream that the UK somehow could win. I think it can only do it from a late draw, Molly needs to work on her stage presence and we’ve just got to hope it has that something extra visually, but it really sounds like a winning song.

    3. Armenia – I’ve always been rather luke-warm on it but have to concede it’s different enough to get close. But I’m pretty convinced it’s not accessible enough to win.

    Other contenders for the podium for me include Malta, Austria and Belgium, all of which could do really well or completely bomb. Never been that impressed with Hungary but keeping an open mind. It’s been quite amusing to see the extreme reactions provoked by Sweden. I’m kind of somewhere in the middle. It is a good song and I think it’s going to look spectacular on the CPH stage. Could do really well, but could fall down with televoters not keen on ballads.

    Excited to hear everything from the bloggers over the next two weeks. Thanks for your work! I’d recommend ESCInsight.com’s daily chat shows for more intelligent analysis on the rehearsals.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I’m a big fan of the Armenian song and singer package, but have never liked its price. Never felt able to justify having a bet on it. Am looking at the 15/8 still available for it and wondering if I should have an EW on it. If the stage show hits it could go odds on. Sweden is a weak looking (and close in the betting) 2nd fap.

      Agree about Malta and Belgium. They’re dangerous possibilities. I think Malta is a v strong contender and that Belgium is the more unpredictable, the true boom or bust package.

      You’re probably right about Sweden. Yours sounds a measured view. I enjoy slagging it off too much. It’s not that awful – the market price for it is though!

  • In terms of contenders, Hungary at 29.0 – 32.0 on Betfair is just too good to resist. I know they’ve been absent from preview concerts, but does anyone know why their price has gone so high?

  • Dash Berlin

    Overall betting – I think most of us agree that this year’s contest is pretty open, with no clear certain winner.
    Therefore I am finding it hard to invest too much money in the Final market at the moment, due to the draw. Any country drawn in the first half will stand no chance of winning and it will severely affect their ability to place high.

    Also, anything I feel that the juries won’t like in the semis I will lay to qualify – especially Poland. Look at last years results, unless you were winning the televote, if the jury didn’t like it, it didn’t qualify

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