Eurovision 2015: Mar 21 Update

Caution is a watchword in many of our articles. Perhaps it’s the stirring of Spring, but I feel like being unusually optimistic about some of the last entries selected for Eurovision 2015. Punters agree: in the Betfair outright market, which is the best place to measure current sentiment, five of the breakaway top nine came to light in the frenzy of the deadline weekend.

Sweden top the market after Mans Zelmerlow’s landslide Melodifestivalen victory. Based on song clip, I was initially sceptical of ‘Heroes’, with its Avicii-esque country-verse-meets-EDM-chorus. But on watching the whole package including performance and staging, I think it ticks more boxes than anything else, and deserves its place at the top of bookmakers’ lists – where it seems likely to stay.

I take Mans’ 35.1% audience share in the Swedish final – more than Loreen in 2012 – seriously. A valid counter-argument is he had less competition, but runner-up Jon Henrik Fjallgren was thought likely to be a televote magnet after winning his semi-final, and could barely manage half the ‘Heroes’ vote. Zelmerlow’s song is contemporary and highly accessible; whilst it’s no masterpiece, that’s well hidden by its presentation. I’m staying on the right side of it in the run-up to rehearsals.

My feelings for Norway’s selection, ‘A Monster Like Me’, have to some degree had the opposite journey. I thought the studio version powerful and captivating, whilst vocalists Morland and Debrah Scarlett promised plenty. I liked the way it was staged and initially enjoyed the live performance, but further watching showed that Debrah’s nerves rather got to her and affected the harmonies in the crucial final minute.

A close-run televote with Tooji MkII also rang alarm bells. As stated, I take such metrics seriously in the right circumstances. Not all the time: sometimes a domestic audience has different tastes and priorities than a Eurovision one. To take one random example, Roman Lob scraped through a German two-horse final before a much more solid showing with European televoters. But a tormented ballad such as ‘A Monster Like Me’ seemed ideal for its Norwegian audience, and they weren’t resoundingly impressed.

I won’t write it off yet: ‘A Monster Like Me’ remains one of the best compositions in the contest. Tighter staging and a more confident performance from Debrah could yet bring all its promising elements together in Vienna. But they didn’t come together convincingly in Oslo, and that means a waiting brief until rehearsals.

The contest got tougher the following day when Russia and Azerbaijan came up with two of the best songs in the competition. Russia’s ‘A Million Voices’ is well structured, anthemic and accessible, if a little familiar in a Eurovision context. Carried by confident vocalist Polina Gagarina, it has obvious potential to best the many female ballads in this year’s competition.

A hot topic in our comments section has been the impact of current politics on the nation’s votes in the West, with some pointing out that their 2014 seventh was managed with eastern points only. It’s worth pointing out that ‘A Million Voices’ is a much stronger composition than ‘Shine’ and indeed their 2013 fifth-place ‘What If’. A likely strong Russian showing in this year’s competition adds a certain frisson to it.

I like Azerbaijan’s ‘Hour of The Wolf’ too, with a chorus echoing Queen’s ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’. Vocalist Elnur Huseynov has experience of the Eurovision stage, as part of the duo that performed the country’s inaugural song in 2008. Arguably, ‘Hour of The Wolf’ has more depth but is slightly less accessible than ‘A Million Voices’. Both have to be respected going into rehearsals.

As indeed does Australia’s ‘Tonight Again’ from another experienced vocalist, Guy Sebastian. Deciding against taking something from his current album, the singer and his team spent 72 hours cunningly coming up with something distinctive for this year’s contest: a contemporary, funky, R&B number.

‘Tonight Again’ would have plenty of life in the charts separate to its Eurovision existence. Indeed, it sounds more like a worldwide hit than anything else in the competition, though that comment partly reflects the more American sound of its genre. Taking into account the strength of the artist too, I think Australia will distinguish itself in its supposedly one-off participation.

Best of the rest among the last entries to be revealed came from Albania’s Elhaida Dani. This decent vocalist, a winner of Italy’s ‘The Voice’, sings ‘I’m Alive’, a mid-tempo empowerment belter. It holds out promise of a decent jury result, which allied with a strong televote in certain countries, may see a very respectable finish on the scoreboard.

It goes downhill at this point. Montenegro have employed the services of serial Eurovision success story Zeljko Joksimovic to pen their entry ‘Adio’. But he’s re-hashing his typical sound with diminishing returns here, and it’s in the hands of 90s Balkan throwback Knez. It turns out San Marino’s ‘Chain of Lights’ has once again been penned for the country by 70s Eurovision throwback Ralph Siegel, and it’s one of his most hopeless efforts yet.

The running order for the semi-finals should be revealed later in the week. In the meantime, keep the conversation going below.

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56 comments to Eurovision 2015: Mar 21 Update

  • Daniel

    Hat-tip to TimB for pointing out that FYROM have a new, English-language version of their song. Some have felt it represents a big improvement, though it’s still missing a third chorus for me.

    http://youtu.be/t8QCt6CJCHc

  • Tom Ato

    Australia are where the value is right now, they could take the night by storm. I imagine they’ll put on a big celebratory production, and Guy Sebastian will not disappoint vocally.

  • Spot on as always. Think Azerbaijan and Russia race will be interesting to watch, will all the former Soviets side behind Mother Russia or will they flock to one of their fellow breakaways? Sweden is one to watch, if only for HIM, and personally I still think it could be Slovenia’s to lose.

  • Chatterbox5200

    Apologies if it has already been mentioned by someone else (I couldn’t see such a comment), but does anyone else think there is a considerable similarity between Sweden’s entry and last year’s David Guetta hit “Lovers on the Sun”?

    I’m sure that those with true musical knowledge and/or ability will point out the distinct differences, but to my ears, it does sound very similar. This article refers to the similarity and has videos of both songs, so that you can make your own judgement.

    http://oikotimes.com/2015/03/08/talks-in-sweden-about-mans-song-conflict-gear-up/

    Does anyone think that accusations of plagiarism (especially in light of the recent Robin Thicke/Pharrell vs Marvin Gaye court case) will harm it’s chances in May?

    Also, props to Nugg for pointing out that the creativity for the staging also looks borrowed from a video called “The Alchemy of Light” from the artist A Dandy Punk, even down to the pointy hat and umbrella.

    • Chris Bellis

      You asked if plagiarism allegations would hurt the chances of this song – well, it’s Eurovision, so the answer is no. There are too many examples to list of songs which have done well which are dead copies of other songs.

      • Tom Ato

        I disagree, Sweden is a high profile country in Eurovision and this song is favourite to win. If a lot of fuss is made about plagerism then of course it can become big news. Depending on how far it goes it definitely has the potential to deter people from voting for it.

        • Tom Ato

          Having said that I don’t think there is strong enough evidence in this case for any allegations to be taken seriously.

          • The song is a Euphoria/Glorious situation – not a direct plagiarism, but certainly “inspired by”. Musicologists wouldn’t call it plagiarism, but they wouldn’t have called the Thicke-Gaye (met far too many of those in my lifetime) similarities plagiarism either, even though the jury of non-experts did. The animation/choreo, however, is clear plagiarism from the video above.

  • Seronie

    Russia vs. Azerbaijan is an interesting one. Russia’s is more immediate, Azerbaijan’s has more depth. However ‘Start a fire’ sounded fine in the studio, and was a nasal misfire on the night. I favour Russia here.

    Sweden and Italy are tied for me. If Italy stage well they could make just as much an impression as Mans. I may wait til the semi-rehearsals and hope that the staging-hype for the semi-finalists push Italy’s odds outwards a bit (then pounce).

    And sorry, but I think Slovenia is this year’s fanw*nk. As are Norway. They won’t have the broad appeal we expect.Maraya’s voice is marmite and Norway, like last year, will seem a snooze on the night.

  • Montell

    Daniel, do you know which day semi finals running order will be announced? I’m really looking forward to it.

  • dicksbits

    There’s more depth to the Italian entry than the Swedish song. I can see the possibility of Sweden ending up 6th. Belgium hasn’t had much light in this thread. It definitely strikes me as fresh and contemporary, but maybe a little too left field for Eurovision. I definitely think it will qualify. Whether it could make the top 4 is another question, and I think unlikely that the juries would go for this in enough numbers to make it a contender. Odds of 33/1 are attractive though, and could shorten if rehearsals are positive.

    • Chris

      Sure there is more depth to Italy than Sweden but that does not necessarily mean it will do better among televoters or juries. I think Sweden is probably more accessible to the typical listener. Belgium is probably too leftfield as is Latvia which could also come across as shouty. I agree with Slovenia being f@nw@nk. I also doubt they will get the staging right just as they didn’t with Maja Keuc. Estonia is also overrated in my opinion. I still think that Iceland is seriously underrated.

    • Dash Berlin

      I would be cautious about Belgium, being 3rd to perform is not going to help the song. It’s not really a catchy number for people to really remember either. I did put some money on it, but deeply regret that now.
      Belgium are a country that doesn’t get any allied help in the voting either, apart from the Netherlands – so at least they are in the same semi. I would lay Belgium to qualify anything under Evens

      • dicksbits

        I agree about Belgium’s spot in the running order – it’s very early and without much neighbourly support it might struggle unless the staging is exceptional.

      • I agree with Dash here regarding Belgium, as well as with his other comment about the final 4/6 entries being strong candidates for qualification no matter how bad they are (as we saw last year).

      • Seronie

        Belgium will benefit from being the first good song, and an uptempo one at that. I think they’ll make it if he’s good on the night.

        • Dash Berlin

          I’m not sure Belgium would be classed as uptempo. I wouldn’t write off their chances and would wait to see it live/staging before getting involved myself (in laying it that is to Q)

  • john kef

    Eurovision 2015 countdown has officially started! After hearing and watching all the songs my first thoughts are that Sweden will battle for the win with Russia, Australia and maybe Italy.

    This is a very strong year for the contest, with many quality songs, but also with so many ballads. That’s why i think Sweden will win the contest.

    My early Top-10:

    1. Sweden
    2-5 Russia, Australia, Estonia, Italy
    6-10 Belgium, Norway, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Albania

    many things are going to change but the first impression does count .

  • Regarding Latvia,
    yesterday I made my initial lists of qualifiers from both semis and I realized that Latvia is very possible NQ. There’s too much competition for it. My first impression about Love Injected was positive but when I listened to the song more times I realized that it may be too weird for average viewer. I especially don’t like the part “Your love revives my soul”. It doesn’t sound nice.
    I also think that Czech Republic will qualify. The ballad is pretty good. If it was sung by Russia or Azerbaijan no one would argue about its qualification chances. Anyway I think Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta make good duet. Their vocals are decent and sound in harmony. They should get some from the jury.
    I don’t have strong opinion about Israel but I just believe they should qualify this year. The song is very likable but we don’t have a clue how it will sound look live on stage. Anyway, the second half of the semi should help Israel get more votes than usually.

    At this stage my Semi 2 NQ are:
    Ireland
    Malta
    Montenegro
    Portugal
    San Marino
    Latvia
    Poland

  • I’ve gone with Australia so far, simply because I feel they’ll pick up the novelty vote. And just for the hell of it I stuck a tenner on the UK. It’s a few hundred notes if it idoes.

    • Tom Ato

      Good for you. I’ve also backed Australia from the start. They’ve got the song and vocals covered, if they put on a great show then who knows what could happen.

    • Dash Berlin

      I think Australia will do well, not embarrass itself (like the UK will), but I can’t see much/any of Eastern Europe voting for it.

      It’s a good song, I personally quite like it, but objectively I don’t see it winning.

  • Montell

    Hi, eurovicious. Why don’t you bet on Eurovision anymore? It’s a lot of fun 🙂

    • Hi Montell, multiple reasons – because I enjoy Eurovision much more without it, because I don’t need to financially, because I’m good at semis but not good at the final, because I’m not good at the financial/mathematical/book-balancing side of it, because I get overconfident, and because I ruined Eurovision 2013 (or the last 24 hours of it) for myself by making a hash of the final and losing a ton after having done really well on the two semis. I’ve just emotionally moved on from the whole thing.

  • Dash Berlin

    I thought that the auto-qualifiers were going to be performed in the Semi’s this year. Did I imagine that?

    As for the running order, don’t sleep on the last 4 spots – regardless of what you think about them musically

  • Why the sudden move on Sweden in the outright? Surely it can’t be the running order (no one can seriously have doubted their qualification)?

    Not saying the current odds are off, it’s just the suddenness of the move that surprises me.

    • Boki

      My post below was not a reply to your question since we typed in the same time – don’t know why so suddenly. Is it because they got decent running order after the break meaning:
      – they were not stuffed with a bad one
      – a break will allow to mount any prop if necessary so the props will be allowed ?

      • My post was paused for moderation, hence the delayed publishing.

        I’m actually not sure the shortening had much to do with the running order at all (if so, I feel far too much is being read into it), but who knows…

  • Boki

    Sweden is still shortening like crazy, it seems more and more people realize Mans is the one to beat, he is now also prominent in polls (despite added recently comparing to Est, Ita) – this fully looks like Euphoria path, maybe even stronger.

    • Tim B

      …and to think that more than one person told me I shouldn’t be backing when they were as high as 14.0! Whatever happens, I’ve got a fantastic trade on my hands now.

      May I ask which polls you’ve been looking at, Boki? I’m not very reliant on them though, I normally just wait for the results of the OGAYs.

  • Dash Berlin

    Its caused everything else to drift out a lot

  • I wonder to what extent the running orders were left to ORF to decide and how involved the EBU was; last year it certainly seemed the SF running orders were designed to allow countries that rarely qualify a chance to do so (the final 6 in each semi, with Slovenia/San Marino/Portugal/Netherlands/Montenegro etc) and thereby discourage them from dropping out, whereas this year I can’t make out that kind of pattern. I’d provisionally reckon we’re looking at 5 out of the last 6 qualifying in SF2 (all but Iceland).

    • Tim B

      There is definitely a bit of that this year as well; FYR Macedonia is the last song in the first half of SF1, Portugal and Czech Republic are the last two songs in the first half of SF2. The last three songs in SF2 are from ones that barely ever qualify; Cyprus, Slovenia and Poland…..I wonder if they’ll be given a helping hand with ideas for staging gimmicks as well.

      San Marino and Montenegro both qualified last year, and both of their songs are weaker this year and so they have been buried so that Portugal and Czech Republic get a chance to qualify instead, at least in theory.

    • dicksbits

      Indeed. Poland being in last slot smacks of assisting them due to high number of ballads…

      • Dash Berlin

        Poland did OK last year, but Portugal are 7th, don’t see that as enough of a help for them. Portugal would be my bet to finish last in the SF

        • Tim B

          Of course it isn’t enough, but they had to do something to help them. Or at least to make it seem like they’re helping them. There’s only so much they can do when they were drawn into the first half.

          • Alen

            Israel coming after sooo many ballads is surely som ehelp from EBU to make up for last year(s) too.

          • Ron

            Alen: More likely that ORF are just using the few upbeat songs in that semi to break up the glut of ballads.

  • Oh my god. Sweden is 2.56-2.78 now 😀

  • mark Dowd

    I’d disagree slightly with the vocal analysis of Deborah Scarlett in the Oslo final….I think she sounded more nervous and less convincing on her initial entry than in the final minute when, perhaps shielded by her singing partner (who absolutely nailed it in his performance), she was more confident and accurate. if they don’t improve they will end up 8th to 10th I’d reckon. But if they get the staging sorted and the vocals, it could finish anywhere in the Top 5…..a real dark horse. Ballads aplenty there may be, but musically this is the best. And the juries will love it.

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