Eurovision 2016: Semi-final allocation draw

This morning’s semi-final allocation draw is a sign of Eurovision season getting into gear. It means the qualification markets can open. It was also the moment that the artwork and theme for this year’s show was revealed – we will “Come Together” in Stockholm this May.

You can see which of the 37 semi-finalists are in which heat here. Sweden, Spain and France vote in the first heat. The UK, alongside Germany and Italy, will vote in the second semi, which is good news for the likes of Ireland, Poland, Lithuania and Australia. Still, with 18 countries in the first heat and 19 in the second, it will take more than a few friendly voting allies to qualify. Song quality is more important than ever, which brings us onto the most recent selections.

Last weekend witnessed two national finals, one in Belarus, the other in Malta. The Belarussians have a habit of giving their selection either a production makeover, as has been the case in the last two years – or switching songs altogether, which happened for different reasons from 2011-13.

Winning artist Ivan said that the makeover route was intended for ‘Help You Fly‘. His production team have a big task ahead because it’s incredibly insipid right now. Belarus’ 2014 qualifier ‘Cheesecake’ and 2015 marginal non-qualifier ‘Time’ both had more to them at this stage of proceedings – such as a hook and performances with some sense of stage presence. As it stands, Ivan’s in line for a terrible result come May.

To no one’s surprise, Ira Losco won the Maltese national final. She gave the island one of its nearly moments at Eurovision when second in the 2002 contest with ‘Seventh Wonder‘ (which was sweet at the time but feels rather dated now). Ira entered two songs into this year’s Maltese competition. It turned out, perhaps unwisely, that ‘Chameleon‘ was favoured over ‘That’s Why I Love You‘.

In its present form, I’m not a fan of ‘Chameleon’ at all: it builds to a whimper. My view is that in its current state, it’s no better than the country’s marginal non-qualifier in 2015, ‘Warrior’. Still, the rules to this year’s Maltese selection leave open the opportunity to change the song altogether whilst keeping the performer, and the winning team have already suggested there are significant changes ahead. As with Belarus, a watching brief is advised to see what’s actually submitted by the mid-March deadline.

We can be more sure that Ireland’s internal selection, Nicky Byrne’s ‘Sunlight‘, is the finished product. The Westlife alum offers us a Zelmerlow-lite, uplifting number that’s a definite improvement on the most recent Irish entries. The song is well produced and contemporary enough to get Ireland to the final for the first time since 2013, and give them their best result since ‘Lipstick’ in 2011.

Nicky was in Westlife for his looks rather than his singing ability, but the Irish team worked well enough with Jedward’s vocals in 2011. My main concern for his fortunes is that there may well be a few other male soloists faintly echoing last year’s winning song. Nicky and the Irish team will have to make sure their ‘Sunlight’ isn’t overshadowed in May.

The favourite in the Lithuanian selection, ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night‘, is one possible rival fishing in the same waters, and Donny Montell has already shown what he can do on a Eurovision stage (an homage to William Tell, cartwheel and funky air guitar – all before the tempo change kicks in). Both are competent songs but need performance and stage show to lift them from feeling too much like wallpaper. These things, as well as stellar Swedish production, elevated ‘Heroes’ last year.

Meanwhile, Belgium’s national final was won by Laura Tesoro with ‘What’s The Pressure‘. This isn’t going to set the scoreboard alight after the country’s fine fourth place in 2015. As nondescript 70s funk pastiche goes, it’s not as bad as the same country’s 2007 entry. But it suffers from extreme blandness, which is often the most effective qualification killer.

Let us know your thoughts on these points, as well as the continuing selection process, below.

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105 comments to Eurovision 2016: Semi-final allocation draw

  • I have a (slightly) higher opinion of Malta than you do. It’s not an excellent entry by any means, but I do think it’s a bit better than Warrior (especially comparing the Maltasong performances of the two). With Warrior only just missing out on qualifying, I suspect Ira should be a borderline-but-ultimately-safe qualifier, and bottom 10 in the final

    • Ben Cook

      I also think Chameleon could end up being pretty good after a remix. But of course they might just change the song.

      Didn’t she look miserable in the green room!

  • Hippo

    Some observations :
    Ireland have a very good draw with Australia and the UK.
    Greece and Cyprus together helps them a lot. Greece have a great draw with Spain, Armenia and San Marino potentially too.
    Moldova haven’t got Romania which will sting a lot.
    Armenia and Azerbaijan being together could hurt a borderline qualifier.
    Belarus and Belgium can book their flights back.
    The Czech Republic’s chances of qualifying for the first time have took a hit in a strong semi.
    Azerbaijan have a great draw too with Russia, San Marino and Malta.
    Poland’s chaces to qualify have arguably increased the most (weaker semi, uk and Germany voting, Ireland and Lithuania and maybe Israel too.
    Serhat and San Marino have missed out on Germany that I think would have been the best chance for them.
    I think all the 1st semi balkans will be out, based on what Bosnia and Montenegró plan on sending, Croatia’s not great record and strength of the semi.

    Hungary, Russia, Greece and Azerbaijan look certain to qualify from semi 1

    Denmark, Ireland and Norway should qualify from semi 2, and I’d be surprised if Ukraine doesn’t, but a lot more open.

  • Definitely a big green on Ireland to qualify with that draw. Westlife fans from the UK and Australia will see to that.

    I still think Belgium will qualify. The disco revival is still “in”. The gays will love it. The hetties will vote for it if they can sex it up a bit. I’m not saying bet the house, but stick a few quid there.

  • I’m very curious, what does everyone here actually think of Donny Montell’s entry in the Lithuanian selection?

    • Hippo

      I really liked his cheesy 2012 entry with the blindfold and one handed flip, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much at a eurovision song. If he brings the same level of fun he could qualify. However it is just cheap pop, much like Ireland and I’d argue Belgium too-who they’re in a semi with -. There’s always loads of pop but there’s already a good few better in the Scandinavian selections. Lithuania don’t have a good record either and only really have Latvia and maybe Poland who they can rely on for significant points.
      I’m sure he’ll win his selection and could reach the final, but certainly right hand side of the scoreboard at best.

    • I’m not mad about it, it’s very generic and Swedish – I think Ireland beats it handsomely on similar territory. Lithuania’s track record is also terrible, their only top 10 appearance in 16 attempts was when they entered a superbly-executed satirical entry that wouldn’t make it past the jury these days. I’m calling fanwank on it, it’s just yet more homogenous Swedish mush without a speck of originality or emotion, of the type the contest really doesn’t need anymore or we may as just all watch the fucking MTV VMAs instead. Mind you, that’s exactly what won last year, so what do I know… we have the Eurovision we deserve.

      *old man yells at cloud*

      PS. And yeah I did quite like Love Is Blind, they made the best out of it they could, and I like his old ballad NF entries like this one. (This is how much of a eurohipster I am – “I liked Donatas Montvydas BEFORE HE WENT MAINSTREAM and became Donny Montell!”)

    • It’s interesting that the unanimous response to this question from everyone I’ve asked hasn’t shared my initial enthusiasm for it. I watched the music video first, and then watched his performance in the first heat the same day. When the chorus took off, it caught me by surprise and it’s that soaring, rousing feel in the arrangement that just made me sit there wide-eyed thinking “game over already?” I felt the same way when I heard A Million Voices for the first time.

      I look for that soaring anthemic quality when I look for winners, because they are usually in there to some extent. Even Running Scared has a bit of an ethereal anthemic lift to it. Dima Bilan’s ‘Believe’ had the lyrics and arrangement that suggested aspiration. Euphoria has it in an obvious way, and Heroes to a slightly lesser extent.

      Only Fairytale and Satellite are the exceptions, and it’s because they had no such song in competition with them. The top 3 last year all being soaring, rousing, uplifting songs proves my point, so that’s my logic for Donny.

      I nibbled at those generous odds for Lithuania in the outright thinking nobody was paying attention because the selection process is percieved to be so complicated that it’s not worth paying any attention to until near the final, but hearing everyone else’s views on it, I’ve hit the brakes and I’m saving myself for when a more agreeable candidate comes along. It’s a slight disappointment though because it sounds like the sort of song that would win Melodifestivalen, and if I’m forcing myself to be objective, I suppose I can agree that the song, or perhaps the package as a whole, lacks substance. I do think it makes the right sounds though, generally speaking.

      • Ande

        I think the tune is just barely strong enough to be a winners candidate. Although it’s catchy and I don’t mind the genericness that much it does lack a proper gut punch in the last chorus. More serious issues are Donny’s singing ability (barely passable) and even more problematic Lithuania’s habit of lackluster staging (this one would need “Heroes”-level pimping). Let’s see if Donny’s excellent stage presence can make up for it. All in all I wouldn’t back Lithuania at current odds.

        Take a look at Ulrik’s “Tell the world I’m here” from Melodifestivalen 2013 for reference. Initially the bookmakers favorite, he eventually fizzled out in 3rd place on the back of lackluster staging and singing ability…

    • Montell

      I personally think Donny Montell can easily loose to Rūta.
      https://youtu.be/kbEVBKTM37g?t=58

  • Black n Blue15

    Hmm… Not bad. I think the song sounds a lot more commercially relevant than Love is blind. It has a decent hook, progresses well and won’t really offend anyone. As we know, Lithuania seem to go from sending the downright bland to the downright ridiculous with each passing year. So in that sense Donny could have the legs to go somewhere in this year’s contest. But that said, although carrying some-sort of ‘I’ve-loved-you-all-this-time’ message his followers will love, the song feels hollow and disposable in the same way that every 1D song makes an impact for the fans yet sounds like musical mushy purée to the rest of civilisation.

  • Hippo

    Meanwhile, Romania’s 2006 entrant Mihai demonstrates how to waste over £10,000 on a music video.

    Here’s a link to the baffling mess:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nItIVgNIeJE

    This will be entered to Romania’s national selection and suffice to say -Whilst he may win that and get to Eurovision -there’s no way he’s coming as high as fourth this time.

  • Can’t understand why Russia is currently the same price on Betfair Exchange as Il Volo just after they won San Remo. Nobody’s heard Sergey’s song yet and there’s every chance it’ll just be an impressive chart worthy song that isn’t suitable for winning Eurovision.

    • Hippo

      Agree completely, Russia are way too short as it stands and I really can’t see them winning it with Sergey. Russia have had mixed results sending guys and not singing about love and peace, I think Russia might not even make top 5 and finish 6-10th.

      Malta are also surprisingly short too. I’m not sure what people are going off, maybe they think it will be replaced with a better song or something but even on these grounds there’s much better value in Albania. As it stands it would be no mean feat for Malta just to make it through the semi.

      Also noticed that Ireland have drifted right back out too.

  • This is the only thing that has stood out to me in the typically bland A Dal so far – a dark, experimental slice of Romani ethno-crunk/post-dubstep that came 2nd in this weekend’s heat: http://www.mediaklikk.hu/video/masodik-elodonto-olah-gergo-gyoz-a-jo/ It’s written by a member of Compact Disco and performed by a recent X Factor winner. He needs to work on the live vocals a little, but it has a lot of potential, some of which is already on display (ie. the staging). It’s memorable, impactful and haunting, the studio version is incredible – last year I and others weren’t too sure how ESC-friendly Rhythm Inside and (especially) Love Injected were, but these doubts were happily laid to rest… anything artful and progressive stands out in modern Eurovision’s beige field, and if Kedvesem can make top 10, surely this could too if chosen…

  • The juan

    I’m going to raise this point for discussion… And the fact the odds are healthy…

    After the awful incidents in France, a sympathy based voting system and an average song could see them win.

    50/1 at least good ew value?

    • It would be the first time a song in French has won since Celine Dion. It’s worth a small stake but don’t go overboard.

    • No. A song will not win Eurovision based on sympathy for a country alone. It has to be up there among the best songs in the first place and then you can think about potential score-boosters.

    • What Ben said. By the same logic, Ukraine should have won in 2014 or Bosnia in 1994 – both countries suffered vastly bigger tragedies. Unlike commercial singing/talent contests of the Syco ilk, ESC doesn’t have a platform for sob stories other than how the commentator introduces a song (which many people don’t pay attention to) and what’s contained in the song and performance itself, so the affective economy of real-life hardships doesn’t translate to points unless the narrative is charismatically apparent in the performance itself (Babushki). I think the sob story may have helped Sjonni’s Friends qualify in 2011, as it was in the show script and thus read out by all the commentators, but again note that juries ranked the entry higher than televoters in the semi (6th vs 3rd), and it suffered a massive drop in the final (19th in both jury and televote).

    • Ande

      I’d say 1/50 is really bad value as long as France is stuck singing in French. The sympathy boost will be minimal at best.

  • The live performance of tonight’s winner in Spain: http://youtu.be/nOzML6hVTRw

    • I’m saying nay. Right-hand side of the scoreboard.

      • Hippo

        I’m feeling it’s the type of entry that gets built up quite a bit and so on but will dissapoint. Too many factors can let it down (bad lyrics, no Portugal or Andorra to help, abundance of cheap pop). Considering Edurne got just 15 points from a near perfect position last year I ain’t too optimistic.

        20th position and down my guess for now.

        • Ande

          Yeah, I’ve got great difficulty judging the possibilities for this entry. I feel it’s slightly weak but still has some redeeming qualities. My guess it will be very dependant on staging, draw and quality of surrounding entries.

    • I find it quite enjoyable and I think Barei is gorgeous and very charismatic. I know it won’t win, but I don’t think it’ll sink to the bottom. Somewhere around 14th-17th is my guess.

      Sometimes it doesn’t really matter if you’re not in it to win it. It seems most countries these days either push really hard for a win with strong entries, or they try by recruiting G:Son or something and flop because it’s cheesy, or they’re just all nationalistic and don’t really care. Seems like nobody wants to just offer up a normal, likeable song and enjoy taking part without resorting to Swedish songwriters. Spain’s done just that tonight, so I salute them for it.

    • Hippo

      Icebreaker is okay but the chorus lets it down a lot for me.
      History isn’t good at all and feel da rush is just ridiculous.
      Stand up isn’t my sort of thing at all but I’m sure many will find it as catchy as I find it irritating.
      Anyway – the sort of thing I’ve got used to Denmark sending. Not a bad effort.

      Into the Fire- decent but I don’t know if it will be credible sung by middle aged men again.
      Traces- well composed but there are better options unless Norway wants to go all Andrew Lloyd Webber.

      Anna Lee- more soppy boy band stuff. Could do well but again not my favourite.

      Laika- I think Norway’s a bit too sensible for a sort of novelty song so I’d be very surprised if it gets picked.

      Afterglow is good and the best of the bunch- not sure how high it could come at Eurovision – should easily get top 10 but top five may be pushing it a bit. If it’s a very close year it could be in the running.

      • Icebreaker is a pricktease – just listening to it now, was getting more and more excited as the genuinely excellent verse gave every indication of building up to an explosive, cathartic dance climax – then it goes MIDTEMPO. Biggest musical boner-killer ever, it’s like the anti-Bojana or anti-Someday. You’re supposed to pretend your song’s a ballad then surprise listeners with a dance break halfway through, not the other way round.

    • At risk of sounding like a biased Norwegian fangirl, but I think both Laila and Agnete could do well. People complain about Icebreaker being two songs mashed up, but I like it’s not that conventional. It’s something a bit different. And I’d like to hope they’ve got a special performance lined up, looking forward to see if it comes true!

  • Can I show some love for the band Georgia are sending? I really hope they choose this song for Stockholm. They’re playing it live here, (guitarist hits a bum note part way through, unprofessional of GPB to not do a retake,) it’s over 3 minutes long and it’s lyrically repetitive so a final, more polished version is inevitable.

    But by god it’s wonderful. Just for the love of music I hope this goes to Sweden.

    • Hippo

      I disagree.

      I much prefer Midnight Gold, the way it goes absurd halfway through is quite spectacular.
      I thought Georgia had the best shot from the countries sending rock groups but I don’t think any of the songs are particularly good and don’t compare well with Eldrine from a few years back. I don’t think Georgia will make the final this year.

      • Midnight Gold would be my second choice, but I think We Agree is the most accessible. Whichever song wins, I think will sound a lot better come mid-March when the songs are all formally submitted. These are clearly very rough. I mean think back to how Nina Sublatti was this time last year.

    • Black n Blue15

      It’s no world-beater but I think just for the sake of having a soothing, alternative, well composed melody at the contest than We Agree is the one to send.

      • I agree that these are the two best. The band is an inspired choice and We Agree would be like the most like an intervention at Eurovision. It’s credible and sonically chill in an Interpol-esque, almost anti-Eurovision way.

  • Ande

    Rumor from Melodifestivalen rehearsals is Ace might be a winners candidate for Melodifestivalen but likely no Eurovision hero.

    • Ande

      Time for a retraction. People spreading the rumour had not seen how the final performance would look. First rehearsal…

      • George

        They cut the clip right before the best part of the song, the press were raving about the performance so it must be better than that clip makes it look.

        • Hippo

          A winning song of this genre needs to be consistently good, especially if it will overcome a lot of “swede fatigue”. If it was a ballad I would be suspending judgement but I think thirty seconds is enough here, best part or not.

          Not much of note from the rest though.

          • George

            Should we be expecting a winning song from Sweden this year? I doubt they’ll want to host for a third time in five years.

  • Hippo

    The Hardkiss have released their entry:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok7ltBbjhcM

    Potential winner with good enough staging? Certainly top 6 or 7.

    • George

      I could easily see that contending for the win in Stockholm, perhaps they won’t be very kind to it in the running order though given the political situation.

      • It doesn’t strike me as a Eurovision winner, top 10 of course (it’s Ukraine), but yeah, we should definitely be on the lookout for them front-loading the running order with all the post-Soviet countries like they did in the final in 2014. Roll on the first Super Saturday tomorrow.

    • I believe this song would do well because they’re a current, well-known band in Slavic Europe. It’s powerful and lyrically poignant. The band has a reputation for flamboyant performances which goes perfectly with the Ukrainian broadcaster’s track record at ESC. In short, it’s the Lordi Effect – something that also helped Conchita and the Babushki.

      Ultimately though, I think the song is a bit morbid and the package a bit too avant-garde to win Eurovision. It’s like last year’s Czech entry but a lot more powerful and a lot less catchy/broadly appealing.

  • Ande

    Don’t Worry’s got a very strong hook. The officially released 30 second clip is probably it’s weakest part. Full dress rehearsal from Ace:

  • Jesus. Iceland’s crashed from 110 down to 18 on Betfair after Greta’s performance. Just goes to show you can stick a projection screen in front of any old shit and people will start calling you a Eurovision winner.

    • Iceland still have 33/1 odds on Totesport. Just put down a £10 flutter.

      Personally, I think it’s great. True, there’s parts of it that are clearly ripping off Mans Zelmerlow and Loreen, but there’s a good Of Monsters and Men-style tune and a nice vibe of Viking darkness. First song I’ve heard in the selections this year that left me thinking, “Hang on, that could actually win in Stockholm.”

    • Black n Blue15

      I wouldn’t be calling Raddirnar “Any old shit”. From the offset it sounded like the best song in the selection, and Greta’s performance has just compounded that sentiment. Yes, the performance does thread a similar path to Heroes, but conceptually we’re getting a very different audio-visual package and arguably a song that’s more substantive too. I’m with Phil on this. It’s the closest thing we’ve gotten to a Top 5 ESC package so far.

      • My thoughts after watching it were, “If that’s how powerful it comes across while watching it on that little stage in the Harpa, imagine how it’ll look in a major arena.”

        I’m guessing they’ll sing it in English (because they usually do), and having run the Icelandic lyrics through Google Translate, they look great. Although I’m normally someone who wishes Iceland would sing in their own language, I think the language switch will really help them.

        Switch to English, tweak the visuals a bit and maybe throw in a bit more budget, and we might – just might – be watching the show in Reykjavik in 2017.

        • Hippo

          I had backed Iceland at 150 on very small stakes but in expectation of ‘unstopable’ being switched to English and a powerful performance. I’m still not feeling raddirnar. I worry that the staging will be seen as a rip off by voters and certainly juries. Having said that, it’s a unique song and if it’s as close as I’m predicting come May, it could threaten top 5.

          • Ande

            The visuals and song is strong but in comparison with the entries it tries to emulate (Euphoria/Heroes) Greta is lacking in both timing and stage presence compared to Måns/Loreen. The production has also managed to avoid any closeups, distancing her from the audience (although this will surely be fixed in Stockholm). As of now she’s a probable top 10 and likely top 5 contender. I believe there’s some value here.

          • I agree that her timing was a little wobbly in places. Greta Salome is clearly a very talented singer-songwriter, but I do get the impression from her performance that she’s not so much of a dancer. Quite possibly this may be able to be improved on if she spends enough time in rehearsals between now and May.

    • I’m agreeing with Ben on this one.

    • I’ve been able to see it the other way. Removing the Eurofan prejudice of comparing the staging to Euphoria and Heroes, it is a pretty cool performance on its own merits.

      When I said “any old shit”, I literally meant that Iceland’s odds went over 100 when we got the songs. People knew there’s not a winner in there. Suddenly you get a projection screen and they plunge down again. I bet you could do it with a heavy metal song and one or two people would start talking about Lordi again and putting their money down.

      My problem is that Greta is maybe trying to be a bit too clever. Her two Eurovision entries are musically complex, artistic (and slightly pretentious) and difficult to connect with. I do think there is potential for Greta to do better this year than in 2012, but turning up in Stockholm with this particular staging is a mistake. She’s going to be compared to Mans, while her costume, camera angles and choreography reeks of Euphoria. You’ve also potentially got both the UK and Hungary drawing parallels with Attraction.

      As Black’n Blue said, this isn’t a cartoon stick man, this is smoke, ghosts and ravens. My response is simple – it doesn’t matter. It’s still Greta dancing in front of motion graphics one year after such a performance won Eurovision. Especially if she’s the only one trying to emulate that success, I think even the casual televoter will be smart enough to draw those parallels.

      Honestly when I first heard Greta’s song I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be very twinkly and mysterious to start and then as soon as the refrain comes in I thought we’d see people in traditional costume galloping around a maypole, or perhaps a dignified band performance. I never expected something dark and (whether its original or not) visually impressive like this.

      If I’m looking for a winning Eurovision song, it has to be a feel-good (and usually inspirational or aspirational) song. Greta could better her previous result, but I don’t think ghostly ravens and singing about hearing the voices in your head is going to make anyone point at the TV and go “that’s the winner.”

      BUT – I want to hear it in English, and see if she’ll come up with something more original for Stockholm. Long shot, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on it.

      • In the spirit of seeing things the other way, I can concede that yes, there are some bits that look very reminiscent of Heroes – particularly the parts where she interacts with the grabbyhands (the positioning of those were a little off, though that may purely be due to the fact that the stage she was on didn’t look very big. Hopefully they’ll be able to fix that by the time she reaches Stockholm.)

        That said, I also thing the song is different enough and strong enough to overcome that.

        Whether a winner needs to be inspirational or aspirational – I’m not so sure about that. After all, Only Teardrops wasn’t either of those. It certainly does need to be emotional.

        The emotions of the song are quite interesting to me, because it pulls off the tricky feature of being both dark and positive at the same time. My interpretation of it is that it’s about someone facing her inner demons, mastering them and making them her own (I have no access to Greta’s inner psyche, so have no idea whether there’s anything autobiographical there or if it’s simply poetic license).

        I think I’ll roll back slightly on my winner prediction yesterday, because we were here before last year with Goodbye To Yesterday – a strong act suddenly emerges after a succession of weak picks, and we all got over-excited. Overall, I’d agree with Ande’s assessment of probable top 10 and likely top 5. An outright win is not impossible, but we’ll need to hear the other selections first.

        • I’ve said it before, but last year’s top 3 were very telling. Heroes, A Million Voices and Grande Amore were all songs that had a rousing, swelling, uplifting, soaring feel, they had that kind of clichéd.. sort of 80s movie montage feel of success and happiness to them. It’s so difficult to describe with words because music is so subjective and fluid, and words here often taken very literally.

          Power and artistic gimmicks are not the same thing as that “winning feel”. This is why I was interested in Donny Montell’s entry at first because, putting his image and the generic lyrics aside, the instrumentation and general feel of the song is absolutely spot on and is in line with last year’s top 3, plus other recent winners, and I think that’s a very objective statement. I’m still yet to hear anything this year that has the same feel with more substance in the rest of the package.

          The reason I was siding with Australia last year, and this theory is on record right here on Sofabet, is that I suspected ‘being Australia’ would have been a strong, memorable gimmick to cause an upset, and I was also experimenting to see if the song, being a very straightforward, internationally chart-friendly, feel good, quality song, would trump cheesy uplifting stuff. It didn’t, I was wrong about that. Heroes won because it was at the crossroads of rousing/uplifting and chart-friendliness with a memorable stage performance. It’s that simple. Italy might have romped the televote, but the juries were right to push it down for a being a bland stereotype of the country that sent them.

          • eurovicious

            Ah, predicting winners, top 3, top 5, top 10… I’m honestly much more comfortable predicting semifinal qualifiers and non-qualifiers than the Saturday results because a) my track record for the semis is better b) my taste in music is such that I rarely like the top 2 in the final (2007 and 2014 being pretty much the only recent exceptions). Really, I find Heroes, A Million Voices and Grande Amore all completely boring, cloying and offputting. I’m prepared to go full Kanye and say that if Latvia chooses Heartbeat, for me, it’ll be the best Eurovision song of all time. It’s just on a plane of its own compared to everything else this season, everything in last year’s contest, everything in the history of the contest really. The vocal and performance are tremendous, it comes alive as a raw animal in a way that renders everything else irrelevant.

            Yeah, European audiences have proven time and again that they love shit like Euphoria, Alexander Rybak and Only Teardrops over decent stuff. (Yes, I’m making subjective comments about good and bad music! Any musicologists reading this can DEAL.) Right now I somehow can’t see this not cutting through the crap though. It’s just too good – in a way that exceeds recent “actual culture” entries like Birds and Igranka, CATS and Running, Rhythm Inside and Love Injected, Goodbye To Yesterday etc.

            It’s hard not to imagine juries responding to Heartbeat the way they responded to Love Injected last year, but more so. And it’s more televote-friendly.

          • Ande

            Ben Gray – I’ll agree that Australia had a better song than Sweden last year, but being an automatic qualifier featuring a worse stage performer bringing a static staging all weighed against them last year.

            eurovicious – Justs has a strong voice and might have the highest quality song in 2016 but his entry really lacks a clear direction. A horrendously staged act featuring a flavorless artist without any real USP will never win Eurovision. Latvia needs to fix that.

        • Having said all this – if we don’t get any songs with that typical “winners feel” – we’ve got a contest on our hands that will be more like 2010, where it will be wise to instead look for the most chart-friendly entry. Especially if, as most people wiser than me suspect, Donny Montell’s entry just doesn’t amount to much. As Eurovicious has pointed out below, Justs could be considered for that more ‘winner by default’ role. (sounds harsh I know.) But until we get all the songs and if nothing with the ‘feel’ I’m looking for comes along, Latvia can’t win Eurovision this year.

          • eurovicious

            Ben, what does your mum think of Justs?

          • Ha! I’ll show her the songs after they’re finalised in March. I’m sure everyone here would LOVE to hear what my Mum has to say again. 😛

          • eurovicious

            Your mum revives my soul.

          • Black n Blue

            Provided nothing with that “winner’s feel” shows up, than surely Russia has to be our default winner. You make a sound argument Ben as to what people wanted in 2010 (Hey that’s a nice little rhyme for you!), but I also believe we should be keeping 2006 and 2008 in our train of thought. I’m mentioning those years because it’s clear as day that the obvious comparison for Sergey Lazarev within a Eurovision context is with Dima Bilan, essentially, the popular, non-threatening, Russian prettyboy. If you really think about it, it took something truly spectacular, the contest had never seen the likes of before to prevent Dima from winning ten years ago. Crucially though, it was exactly the absence of that “winner’s feel” from 2008’s line-up, that gave Dima the edge he needed. And this is one of the reasons why “Believe” just doesn’t stack up compared to many other post-millennial winners, it was just good enough to do it in 2008. Anyway, I’ve digressed. My point is that Sergey the Russian-vote-sponge should have enough going for him regardless of song to feature somewhere in the top five if we’re being honest with ourselves. He is the Dima of 2016. Now that doesn’t mean monsters are required to beat him, but I strongly believe it’s going to at least take something big to go one better.

          • You may be right Black n’ Blue, but actually I do believe Believe (lol) had the winner feel but in a more subtle way. It was, as previously mentioned, aspirational.
            (Although I dislike Dima as a performer, I wouldn’t call him non-threatening, he’s a self-satisfied primadonna IMO.)

            Shady Lady was easily the best performed, most commercial alternative. I distinctly remember it got played once on Capital FM, (a London radio station which focuses exclusively on massive chart hits,) during an interview with Barry Viniker who used to run ESCtoday. 2008 is actually a year that should be enshrined as the prime example of ‘commercial does best’. The whole top 5, especially Norway sticking out like a sore western European thumb, all sent highly accessible entries but with subtle national flavours, and in an era of 100% televoting, that’s very revealing. Just Russia having such a big star to suck up those nearby countries’ points as well as having that melodic lift in his song is what gave them the edge that year.

            I’ve actually imagined a funny little test for the winner feel. Picture someone scaling to the peak of Mount Everest at sunrise with all the toiling, freezing exhaustion. Build anticipation in the final few metres. Make it look very cinematic in your head, and then imagine the climber throwing both arms up and yelling in elation as he reaches his goal as the sun glows over the horizon.

            Now set a Eurovision entry to that footage. Does it fit? Believe does, Heroes does, A Million Voices does, Euphoria does, Only Teardrops sort of does, Gravity does, Grande Amore does if the climber is an Italian ponce. That’s the winner feel. Raddinar doesn’t, (in current form,) and Heartbeat doesn’t.

            I’m naming this the Everest Test. Use it as you wish. 😀

          • Black n Blue

            Haha love it 😉

            Shady Lady was an interesting case. It was pretty much the fan, and briefly the bookies favourite pre-show, yet in the end was pipped to the post. I never really saw it as a winner, but I think Greece and Armenia successfully going for the same sort of entry stopped Ani from standing out from the pack.

          • I honestly can’t think of a better way to vividly and specifically isolate and verbally communicate “the winner feel” in a song than with the Everest Test. I think A Million Voices passes it more than any of the other examples I mentioned. The emphasis is on the feel of the song as well, not necessarily the lyrics (but they certainly help.)

            Just remember that it’s not the sole indicator of a winner. There will usually be additional factors, such as staging, (hi Mans) and sometimes exceptions.

            Anyone want to name some other songs that pass the Everest Test? 😀

          • eurovicious

            Last year I commented that an “‘overcoming darkness’/’triumph over adversity’ theme” was “arguably present in every winner since Molitva with the exception of Satellite”, which is basically describing the same thing. Satellite doesn’t pass the Everest Test unless there’s an Ann Summers at the summit. But Satellite was also one of the lowest scoring winners in what I thought was a really weak year. So yeah, triumph over adversity, winner’s feel, Everest Test, call it what you want… it’s worth bearing in mind. At the same time, I don’t know that we should overly fixate on a specific imaginary scenario. For instance, switch the Everest Test for other moments of triumph like someone running into a lover’s arms on a train platform, and I can totally imagine Heartbeat playing over it. Or remember that old UK ad where a naked woman runs uphill euphorically shouting “I’m normal!”? I can totally hear Beauty Never Lies over that. If it was Everest she’d have got a bit cold, mind.

            I should also add I don’t think the 2002-2006 winners pass this test. And there are entries that got nowhere last year that do pass it, like Malta’s Warrior and Time To Shine.

          • I think with the Everest Test I was trying to isolate a specific imaginary scenario that fits with the kind of music that I think gives off a winner’s feel. Triumph over adversity is extremely general and I don’t think the train platform scenario carries that same sense of euphoric, life-affirming, on top of the world glory, if that makes sense.

            2002-2006 doesn’t do much to help us either, but Eurovision’s a bit of a different ball game now.

            And yes you’re right about Amber, Melanie René and I’ll add in Edurne, their songs do pass Everest, but there’s other factors that brought them down such as poor presentation or performance, quality of song and commercial relevance or proximity to it at least. That’s why I said it isn’t the sole indicator, and that’s why there are holes in my theory about Donny Montell, but it’s still an essential ingredient I look for in winners.

          • Raddinar probably wouldn’t pass an Everest Test, but change it to an Emerging From Castle Dracula Having Defeated The Vampires Test, and it could pass.

            Think of it as Goth Everest.

          • Ande

            Hahaha, you’ve made my day Phil Dore.

          • eurovicious

            “I don’t think the train platform scenario carries that same sense of euphoric, life-affirming, on top of the world glory”

            It does if it’s me running into Vaidas’s arms at Vilnius Central.

  • Ande

    Melodifestivalen Semi 1 update:
    Ace’s entry fell short of expectations and is practically out of the running at this point. Instead dark horse Robin Bengtsson overshadowed his counterparts with his ‘Constellation Prize’ and handedly walked this semi. For people quick to react there’s still some value in his 15/4 to win Melodifestivalen. Surely he would place top 10 in Globen, no?
    https://sendvid.com/z4fffzbj

  • George

    Certainly looking like we could be in for an extremely open year. We’ll see if Russia, Armenia or The Netherlands can pull anything out of the bag, as well as the remaining Melfest entries.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddo85WFBYYA

    This is most likely Latvia’s entry, it just won the first heat by a landslide (39% of the vote). It’s got great potential, I’d imagine on the bigger stage SVT will give this guy a great backdrop and lightshow, I’m proper hyped!

  • What Kylie said. This is the Eurovision winner.

    • Hippo

      Bold statement. It is a very strong entry and could go a long way. I’m worried it’s potential vote could be split though if (or more like when) Ukraine send Jamala and maybe Ghost from Germany could appeal to the same voters and I’d be cautious with these landslide wins, it’s not like it was up against anything too formidable. I’d say one of three contenders from the current songs.

      On a similar note, I don’t think there’s been a better year for a big ballad in a long time. All countries seem to be going pop or rock or some sort of modern twist on a ballad. What I’m looking out for is if one country can come in with a good entry in that genre -particularly a Balkan – it could really stand out and do very well.

    • I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a good song and will probably qualify for the final, but I wouldn’t call it Eurovision winner material.

    • I agree Ghost is on similar territory. I think Jamala threatens it less; her song is less immediate and accessible, plus half of it is in Crimean Tatar and the English half is poorly understandable due to diction and awkward non-native lyrics. It’s this and Ghost for me. Both are better than anything in last year’s contest.

      What you say about ballads… Ghost and Heartbeat both kind of are ballads, just contemporary rather than old-school; Heartbeat certainly has the emotional landscape and presentation of a ballad.

      • Hippo

        Yeah, I mean an old school Zeljko Joksimovic balkan type or something similar to Russia or Italy’s efforts last year.Lyrically there obviously is a difference to Ukraine but I think you could swap the beat or backing track with Latvia and it would be hard to tell a difference

        The song that stands out -for whatever reason- is usually the one to win and I just think the contemporary field is getting rather full

      • Ben

        Jamala sounds like she’s singing about “arseholes”

        • eurovicious

          I don’t like either of Jamala’s NF entries (2011’s “Smile” and this year’s), but her albums and EPs on Spotify are great – I especially love this which I wish she’d saved for ESC:

    • George

      It’s a good song, will get Latvia another good result. But a winner? I certainly hope not. I’d say most of last year’s top 10 is better than it.

  • Hippo

    Well Greece have internally selected ‘Argo’ -(formerly ‘Europond’) an unheard-of band that mixes hip hop with traditional Greek music who’ll sing an upbeat song about the refugee and economic crisis. After hearing some previous stuff of their’s my initial reaction is that Greece are in serious, serious trouble of missing the final for the first time. There’s a chance they’ll do a Koza Mostra and bring a real fun entry that does well, but I think it’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons.

  • Hippo

    Romania have shown their hand and it’s one that should guarantee qualification (as always) but not too much more.
    There’s some decent Scandi sounding tracks in there and Mihai’s Paradisio as well as a Meatloaf meets Cezar meets James Bond number and some rubbish songs too.
    I’m guessing Ovidiu Anton with moment of silence will get the nod:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q02bzkSBKBk

    Florena with behind the shadows could come into it:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=98PpbgiW0qQ

    Whatever happens, we won’t be in Bucharest in 2017.

  • Good news for you staging experts! Barei’s team are asking for staging tips! Send them in to this email: sayyay.sugerencias@gmail.com

    They’re also asking for suggestions for a possible revamp. There’s an email for that here: ruben@estudioroyalsound.com

  • Austria’s entry:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PngYUBK9enU

    I like the song, but I don’t understand why they made her look like Princess Peach </3

    • Hippo

      France are voting in their semi and it’s not a bad attempt so I won’t back against it making the final. Still saying marginal non qualifier for now but that might change as the songs are revealed, I’m not predicting too much for the juries to sink their teeth into in this semi.

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