Eurovision 2017: The search for a second favourite

There’s no doubting Italy’s hold at the top of the market, and we now have the Eurovision edit, which cuts the first verse in half and omits the second. Beyond ‘Occidentali’s Karma‘, the outright market has been trying on different second favourites for size. Betfair was briefly blinded by Belgium’s ‘City Lights’, with Bulgaria’s ‘Beautiful Mess’ the most recent challenger to emerge.

But the mantle is currently held by Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson, who won Melodifestivalen with ‘I Can’t Go On‘. It’s a slick pop effort in the Timberlake mould, well sold by its good-looking protagonist. There’s not much to the song beyond the hook and beat behind the refrain, but the travelators make the most of it.

In comparison with Francesco Gabbani and his gorilla, I think the sight of Bengtsson and his banker-clad gym chums lack charm; but then Eric Saade almost won a weak 2011 contest with a sexy glint-in-the-eye, a refrain, and a smashing show. Sweden may currently be ante-post second favourites by default (much as Sanna was in 2014), but a good finish seems likely again.

Five of the clear top seven in the betting are male soloists. Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov sings ‘Beautiful Mess‘, competing with Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace among those frontrunners as a balladeering pretty boy. It’s a song that’s grown on me since first listen, relying on good production and atmosphere more than immediate hook.

It’s probably best to wait and see at rehearsals if Isaiah or Kristian come across better, but using 2014 as a touchstone again, there’s room for both ballads in the top five should they be effective enough.

In the same genre, Ireland’s Brenadan Murray offers us something a little more obvious, key change and all, with ‘Dying To Try‘. Perhaps my brain has been re-wired by years of Westlife, but there’s something very comforting in its predictability. I’d be hopeful of qualification from the weaker second semi.

Another crowded genre is the electropop offered by FYROM, Serbia and Azerbaijan (the first two share a co-writer, and all of them include Swedes on the production team). Jana Burceska’s ‘Dance Alone‘ is the catchiest and most accessible of the three, although Macedonia rivals Ireland for the worst staging decisions of late, so waiting to see how this looks in rehearsals is probably wise.

Serbia’s ‘In Too Deep‘ from Tijana Bogicevic has a contemporary sound, but is blander, and lacks identity. Like Cyprus, it has to convince me there’s more to it than just modern production. Azerbaijan’s ‘Skeletons‘ is more interesting as a song, but feels like the least accessible of the three. It’s missing a hook, and singer Dihaj doesn’t come across as very votable.

The same can be said for Iceland’s Svala with the much-heralded synthpop ‘Paper‘. Everything is wrong about the way this was staged in its national final, from the general darkness to Svala’s outfit, plus her indifference in engaging with the audience. Repeat those mistakes in Kiev, and I think it will struggle to qualify.

On the other hand, I’m slightly surprised by the very lukewarm reaction to Israel’s ‘I Feel Alive‘. It’s an ethnopop bop sung by the nice-looking Imri, who has good experience of the Eurovision stage. It’s not the best example of the genre, but it’s the kind of thing viewers expect at the contest, and I feel that the Israelis can qualify if they repeat the staging template of ‘Golden Boy’.

Israeli songwriters are behind Russia’s ‘Flame Is Burning‘. Perhaps that’s why it reminds me of ‘Light A Candle’ in all its cheesiness. Whether Julia Samoylova will end up competing in Kiev is still open to question, and you won’t find me touching this song in the markets right now beyond laying in the outright.

There was some hope that Armenia’s late reveal would find us a new second favourite, but Artsvik’s ‘Fly With Me‘ has drifted on release. It’s ethnic, contemporary and in English, which makes it distinctive; as does a building structure, not unlike the same team’s 2014 effort, ‘You’re Not Alone’. I think it has good chances of being the highest-placed entry from the ex-USSR, which is to say it can easily achieve another top ten placing for the nation. But it doesn’t feel like a contest winner.

The other recent selections – Norway, San Marino and Lithuania – are considered no-hopers in the market, and not even particularly fancied to qualify from the weaker second heat. Norway’s JOWST with ‘Grab The Moment‘ is the most likeable and modern of this bunch, and I think it has the best chance of sneaking into the final.

San Marino’s Valentina Monetta returns, this time with Jimmie Wilson, and three key changes. If this is the ‘Spirit of the Night‘, I’d rather go to bed early. Lithuania’s Fusedmarc give us ‘Rain of Revolution‘, an anonymous song that is relying on diaspora votes to get through. Meanwhile, Albania’s revamp of ‘World‘ has an uphill task to qualify from the first half of the first semi.

The market confusion behind Italy may only be clarified during rehearsals, whilst the upcoming London and Amsterdam events could be slightly more enlightening than usual. Let us know your continued thoughts below.

240 comments to Eurovision 2017: The search for a second favourite

  • Be keen to know your thoughts Daniel on the Italy “edit” as we all know they were over length in the San Remo winning version…my own view is that it is certainly inferior to what they had and it jars somewhat,

    BUT on the night, will 90% of Europe care about what they haven’t heard since February??. I can see this 3rd/4th with juries and then scorching the popular vote…..and I am not sure that this edit makes a huge amount of difference……

    struggling to make a case for any other song to seriously threaten it….barring some amazingly imaginative staging and goose-bump provoking vocals….à la Jamala “Tree” 2016……

  • Cathal

    Im sick of all this talk of Sweden being a contender, if “I Cant go on” was the Irish entry we would be calling it a potential NQ yet because its Sweden’s song we automatically think its a contender.

    • Chris Bellis

      I agree. It’s amazingly over-rated, and I’m normally very pro-Sweden.

      • Ande

        If “I Cant go on” was the Irish entry it would’ve been sung by the cute washed up black sheep of Westlife and instead of the travelators have a lumpish fake band not even pretending to have fun on stage. Of course it wouldn’t have been a contender.

    • beckettfitz

      Is it a good or bad that they’re comparing Robin to Justin Timberlake?

      • Lia

        It would be a good thing, if the comparisons were merited. For me, JT comes off as much more warm and friendly, whereas with Robin I just get the overwhelming urge to punch him in the face.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I too would like to punch Robin in the face! “Pow!” “Bam!” Save a place in the queue for me!
      (There’s a scene from Airplane coming to mind, now.)

      My experience watching the Swedish package.

      The first minute is exciting and promises a slick, tailored, thrill ride. But like the protagonists’ travelator experience the song has nothing to offer from thereon, apart from repeating the same pubescent-angst lyrics as though on a tedious rolling news loop.

      The choreographers probably imagine themselves smart for the idea of the travelator visual of literally just not being able to go on. And indeed it is a cracking idea or certainly an excellent fit. This is combined with Robin wearing a smart suit (avoiding the mistake of costumes that are tacky fitness or sportswear gear).

      Trouble is he’s a bit smug, the song is superficial, weak, monotone and ultimately boring, Which left this viewer with the impression of Robin being a cocky, flash investment banker type, who wrote a song on a power 5 minute cocaine break, hired an auditorium, paid for the audience, and chose the travelator shtick to advertise that he both “plays hard and works hard.” There’s a throwback suited, greedy, uber-slick 80s Wall Street feel to the overall visual concept. Sort of an ill-fit with the prevailing times, perhaps?

      The lyrical banality is one thing but the lyrical repetitiveness is freaking ridiculous. How many times does he say “I (just) can’t can’t go on,” “look this freaking beautiful”? He can’t go on but there doesn’t seem to be a stop button on that travelator. Handily, my remote control does have such a feature…

      I love the old SAW 80s hit factory output but this is like a sub par rehash.

      Sweden doesn’t have an ESC divine right to be in the Top 10 and this effort doesn’t really deserve to be placed there.

      My experience of watching the Georgian audiovisual package also builds violent feelings in me. I like the look and initial sound of the singer; it all looks very promising, as I settle to enjoy an epic MJ Bond-esque experience (hints of Skyfall and Earth Song in the build up etc). After near 3 minutes of her sometimes-wailing and imploring to keep the fucking faith, and near 3 minutes of accompanying cheesy bullshit propaganda visuals on the enormous screen behind her, I’m genuinely feeling hateful and am wishing Jamala would stride on the stage and punch that singer in the face.

      The Georgian entry doesn’t deserve to qualify.

      • Dana

        Have to agree.about Sweden. The whole performance is irritating to watch. The juries should mark the song down but as it is Sweden they probably won’t.

      • Lia

        Time to compile the list of Punchable Eurovision Singers 2017?

        • PurpleKylie

          Let me try 😀

          -Manel from Spain
          -Robin from Sweden (although to me he’s more of a “hate-f**k” if you get my drift, followed swiftly by a punch in the face before leaving)
          -Jacques from Croatia
          -Imri from Israel
          -The bloke from San Marino who’s not Valentina

          • Lia

            I would change Imri to the “hate-f**k”, rather than Robin, and I’d also add Omar from Slovenia 😛

          • Can we possibly talk about entries being smug (Sweden), banal (Georgia) or otherwise not very good without lowering the tone to commenting on which singers we’d like to hate-fuck or punch in the face?

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        I must admit to being swayed by the comments on this site in favour of Robin and Sweden. On a rewatch, I do better see the appeal. I still think much of my initial detailed reaction is valid but I now see better how and why “I Can’t Go On” will prove popular.

        My point about how alienating and patronising the rich and successful lead guy pushing the “works hard, plays hard” advertisement is a point that is mostly irrelevant.

        Even in prevailing difficult financial times, people still thrill to lives of the rich and successful. The tall, rich, sharp-suited, handsome business magnate, Christian Grey, has proved pretty popular, hasn’t he, Guildo?!

        And the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon (which it is) prospers absolutely no matter the deluge of critical mauling both the books and the films receive.

        I think it’s commentator, Chris Bellis, who often finds it lucrative to trade on his recognition of a bias that undervalues Swedish Eurovision entries (and of a bias that overvalues UK Eurovision entries).

        Am thinking now I’ve been walking into the same trap again this year. I was considering placing my first “lay” bet on Sweden not making the Top 3. That idea is definitely on pause.

        Think, though, I would happily lay it for the outright win.

        • I think there’s a bias in both directions – the fan bubble generally overvalues Sweden, so some of us cynics on here generally are (much) more critical of Sweden in response, whereas the truth is somewhere in between. Sweden does consistently do well and its pop packages do generally have broad appeal. I’ll still be v surprised if Robin bests Frans though, who was younger, more appealing, less overproduced/more authentic, had a big hit with his song (which charted internationally and notched up millions of streams well before the contest), and still “only” came 5th.

  • PurpleKylie

    It’s nice to know that you also agree on Israel being slightly underrated here.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a winner by any stretch, but if they do as good a job in staging this as they did with Golden Boy, a top 10 looks like a decent bet.

    • Cathal

      Im not sure it has enough as a song to be a top 10 but I think its a pretty safe qualifier, and in such a meh field I think there are quite a few spots in the top 10 up for grabs if countries play there cards right.

  • I think Italy is so far in front they can still “lose 50 televote points” because of the edit and still be well ahead……

  • John

    There really are more questions than answers at the moment aren’t there? Not least your analysis sits many at polar opposite to my own, which can shake a punter I tell you.

    The electropop trio – I actually find Macedonia to be the weakest of the three, it’s kinda forgettable, while Serbia has a bit more ebb and flow, a little more hook and grab in its rhythmns.

    I don’t think either compare to Azerbaijan honestly, which is a tricky prospect for me, as it’s my clear favourite choon this year and I always burn my wallet based on a bias. LoveWave, Dancing in the Rain…ugh. If they can stage it right (i.e. lose the wolf dancers) and if Dihaj sounds like that live, then I think it could run the other former Soviets close.

    Which of course brings up the big question – who is the front runner out of that massive voting bloc? Is it Russia, an entry which will be seen as competent and sympathetic to their friendly neighbours? Russia may pull off a clever staging where Poland failed a couple of years ago. Is it the Armenian oddness, with its moody ethnic beats? It’s alright but I think it doesn’t really get going until it’s too late, and then it’s finished. Or is it Azerbaijan managing something contemporary and cool after their old fashioned shenangians? I lean to the latter, but certainly can’t recall a year since all the former Soviets turned up that they all managed to finish outside the top 4. It makes the each way quandry a big one.

    As for the three ‘I’s Iceland, Ireland and Israel have all put themselves in contention to qualify with engaging examples of their respective genres. Cardboard cut-out jock Imri annoys me with his inability to smile with his eyes but it is indeed the type of song people look for at the Eurovision, and if it has a plum draw instead of being an obligatory opener then it probably will qualify on televote potential. Ireland have sent something well structured and I understand he can sing well (key change pending) so with the usual goodwill for decent Irish entries and jury love we can back them. Iceland probably have it toughest – the difficult verses and anthemic chorus about a weird metaphor reminds me of Icebreaker last year. That didn’t make it.

    The question of qualifiers sees Semi 1 looking a lot easier to predict (Swe, Bel, Aze, Aust, Arm, Gre, Port and say Fin, Ice and Pol). I still need to believe it comes down to the tune damnit, so I’m laying Moldova, Albania and Georgia.

    Semi 2 is Rom, Bul, Rus, Ire, Isr and then man alive an almighty race to the bottom. So many generic and fine but flawed songs in that one. (Serb, Ned, Cro, Est and go on Queen Monetta)??

    What I will agree with Daniel on though, is Bulgaria looks very strong. I think it’s the second favourite, not Belgium. It all kinda feel like speculation until we get draws and staging.

  • Dicksbits

    Astonished by all the hype over Italy. Clearly we don’t know yet how much he’ll sing in English or Italian but even so the translation is far too deep for a Saturday night crowd. He looks much older than 34 too. Sorry I don’t see this or Sweden lifting the trophy.

    • Ron

      Gabbani has confirmed the song will be performed entirely in Italian for Eurovision. Not that it matters. As we’re seeing in Italy, the song is a hit because people like the gorilla, the fun dance and the bit where everyone shouts “allez!”.

      The social commentary is an (ironic) easter egg for those who want to dig deeper.

    • Milton

      ‘He looks much older than 34’

      Apart from the fact that I disagree with you, this is an awful reason for dismissing an entry. Also I don’t think whether you understand the lyrics or not is of any relevance, who understood the lyrics of Jamala last year? I take more interest in ESC than any casual viewer and still don’t know what the chorus meant.

      Clearly some people don’t get Italy’s song this year, but to dismiss it because its not to your personal taste is dangerous, as those who do get it think its very special indeed. See Guildo’s posts for a far better articulation of this than I could ever manage. There’s no other song this year that inspires anything approaching that level of passion.

      • Chris Bellis

        Correct. “Volare” remains very popular, yet no-one bothers or ever did bother about the words. I saw the Gypsy Kings at the Apollo, and all their songs were in Italian, Spanish or French, yet the whole house was up on their feet clapping and dancing.

      • PurpleKylie

        You do realise that 1944 had verses in English with opening lyrics about strangers coming to take you away to be exiled to some remote Siberian tundra?

        I’m pretty damn sure that people more than understood the song last year.

        • Milton

          There’s nothing about Siberian Tundra in the lyrics. The only reason people had any understanding of the song was because of the accompanying media storm which explained what the song was about.

          • PurpleKylie

            I’m pretty sure than a lot of ex Soviet folks didn’t need the media storm to get what it meant, having been to a popular museum dedicated to the Soviet occupation in Riga it’s a very Eastern issue and I think you’re being dismissive

        • Milton

          Its hard enough to get the lyrics on first listening as an English speaker. The majority of the audience wouldn’t speak English and those that have some English as a 2nd or 3rd language would do well to pick out more than the odd word, if they were even bothering to try.

      • The meaning and context of Jamala’s song was communicated very clearly in those 3 minutes, especially to the half of the continent that was dominated by Russia in one form or another for a lot of the past century, for whom the song is relevant to their historical experience. The English lyrics are a bit dodgy and facile, for sure, which was always my main bone with it, but all audiences really needed to understand was “they kill you all” and her anguished, mournful vocals in the context of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine situation.

        Gabbani does look older than his age, and what Ron says is correct (“the song is a hit because people like the gorilla, the fun dance and the bit where everyone shouts ‘allez!’. The social commentary is an (ironic) easter egg for those who want to dig deeper.”)

  • alscott67

    I think the Portuguese entry may surprise everyone. It’s the most unique entry I’ve heard in a while and I’m a bit in love with it. I hope it does really well (but, let’s face it, Occidentali’s Karma is awesome).

  • Phil

    I think the other thing to consider with Italy (which I absolutely love btw) is that he absolutely nails the live performance. He’s engaging, has a good but distinctive voice, and the song is bloody brilliant, even if you’ve no idea what he’s going on about.

    Isn’t it almost always the case that the entry that gets the most attention beforehand tends to be what wins? Thinking Jamala, Conchita, Loreen amongst others – someone mentioned a while back that it’s those who break through the Eurovision bubble that go on to win. Do Italy meet that criteria this year? For all the talk of Belgium and others maybe being a surprise winner – they don’t appear to be cutting through, at least not yet.

    Can’t see beyond Italy winning.

  • Montell

    About Sweden. The song contains pre-recorded vocals. You can hear it in the chorus. How Sweden is going to solve this problem? There are 5 people on stage so they can have only one back vocal. Is that going to be enough? Another option is to let the dancers sing. But can they sing?

    • PurpleKylie

      Sweden are usually really good at working out how to fit backing singers in their act after MF.

      There’s 5 guys on stage in total so that leaves room for one hidden backing singer. I’d assume they’d also replace the two guys on the far left and far right treadmills with backing singers who can also dance (which is what they did in 2013), so that would leave you with 3 backing singers supporting the main artist.

      • Montell

        I agree that they will figure it out but if they remove two dancers I’m not sure the show will be as good as with four dancers. I will be looking forward to see the rehearsals.

    • Tim B

      They will have a secret backing singer for sure, and I think they’ll replace as many of the backing dancers as necessary to ones who can definitely sing and dance at the same time.

      I love Sweden this year, but the elephant in the room has got to be the Fleur East backstage intro. I don’t think it will be allowed. He can’t go on like that, surely?

  • I just did a mom test with three songs from Eurovision. She listened to these songs in this order:
    1. Moldova (national final performance)
    2. Sweden (national final performance)
    3. Italy (3 minute music video)

    Apart from Italy she didn’t know which song was from which country. She said none of the songs sounded like Eurovision winners. She said Swedish song matches Eurovision standards best. She said Italian song is a little bit old-fashioned and she had some complaints about his voice. I asked her to rank the songs and she said she liked all three but she gave 1st place to Sweden, 2nd to Moldova and 3rd to Italy.

  • Chris Bellis

    I only just realised that Kristian Kostov was born in Moscow and was a finalist in the Russian version of The Voice. Could this be the Russians going for a sneaky Rybak moment? Bulgaria is the most pro-Russian EU country.

  • Chris Bellis

    I think all this talk of “punchable faces” is 1) a joke and 2) a good guide as to votability. If an artist prompts a hostile reaction, there’s a good chance they will lose out in the televote, and probably in the jury vote as well. Just a thought.

    • PurpleKylie

      Yeah, what’s wrong with the occasional light-hearted chat in what’s normally a very serious discussion thread?

      • Lia

        Exactly. It’s also the same mindset Saturday night viewers will have. They won’t be analysing things or poring over details like we do here, they’ll just be voting for the countries they like, and while it’s obviously important to consider weaknesses in the song and staging, there’s no greater turn-off to a voter than an artist they can’t stand.

        • Agreed up to a point – talking about someone having a “punchable face” is a common phrase and very obviously rhetorical, when we say that of someone we just mean they come over as smug/irritating or whatever. But the talk above of wanting to hate-fuck Imri Ziv/Robin Bengtsson then punch them in the face afterwards takes things a level further. If a straight guy came on this forum and said he’d like to hate-fuck Blanche then punch her in the face afterwards, he’d get run out of town and rightly so.

  • Ande

    Review of Sweden 2017:
    Daniel’s palallel to Sanna 2014 is spot on. Although it wouldn’t even be in contention bare the slick box-ticking package that in itself could be enough to put it over the top if the competition is very weak visually.

    Production’s done its very best to hide his nervousness and lack of charisma and the performance it’s on the right side of cocky after the change of lyrics. At least Robin’s target audience won’t perceive Robin as smug.

    I also predict that the Timberlake vibe will give it an appeal beyond the pubescent devotees Saade and Frans were mainly relying on. This in turn will help immensely with juries. However, the song itself is weaker than the aforementioned two and Robin isn’t the most endearing of performers. I’d therefore suppose ‘I Can’t Go On’ will end up in the lower reaches of top 10.

    • I agree on the likely placing – it’s hollow and anodyne, but slick and memorable enough to still have broad appeal. Wouldn’t be surprised if juries ranked it higher than televoters. I don’t think it’s emotive or personable enough to reach Undo’s heights.

      • Ande

        Right, but that issue could be solved if Robin actually makes an effort and starts taking acting lessons. Right now he’s being outshone by his backing dancers which makes it a necessity to visually focus less on his persona and more on choreo.

  • As on oddsmaker, it’s been an interesting build up so far.

    Pricing up the Eurovision outrights has always been a challenge in the early stages and in previous years, bookies have always been happy to err on the side of caution and simply offer token prices on UK and Ireland. Pressure from the fierce competition in a quite saturated market, along with wanting to keep punters away from exchanges has forced operators to play their hands early in the last few years.

    Normally, around this time of year we’d expect to see several entries backed in from big prices, or even just appear “out of nowhere” into the betting at short prices. This year has been a little different, with the price on Italy contracting, two bars into the first hearing of the latest “no-hoper” to be revealed.

    Belgium was the first real entry to buck the trend and bookies ducked for cover as the punters finally found a genuine contender at a big price. With the song leak and subsequent gamble coming fairly late on a tuesday evening, there will be plenty of “copy/paste” bookies with lopsided books on the first few in the betting. You snooze, you lose. I’m a punter too, and happy to pick the pockets of lazy bookies (non-clients of course)!

    I would put Bulgaria’s entry, which turned up 5 or 6 days later in a similar bracket to Belgium, in that it bucked the trend of weak female ballads, and gave punters another angle in which to oppose the gorilla. Whilst never available to bet at big prices, the fact that layers weren’t falling over each other to oppose tells its own story. That it sounds, to these ears, as something that James Arthur might produce after “finding himself” during a 2 week holiday in Sunny Beach would be my punting head speaking. My bookie head says to treat with caution, regardless.

    As bookies, we always have to be cautious. There is well known story within the industry of an oddsmaker/trader nipping out for a blazing row with his missus on the phone, whilst money piled in on a gamble. He returned to his desk to see a huge red number, and a few hours later, his P45. Whilst I, and many others, might not rate Sweden’s effort for example, we know enough now to know that there is no need to dangle big prices on it. People will back it, and questions will be asked by the powers that be if such an “obvious” winner ends up cleaning you out.

  • I must say, 2017 has become a very competitive field, especially when it comes down to song quality. And that’s exciting, because some of the best songs are very much….similar. And we all know a few of those do better than others.

    Take for instance these ballad entries, all sung by male teenagers:
    –> Australia
    –> Bulgaria
    –> Ireland

    Or what about these contemporary pop entries. All sang by female soloists:
    –> F.Y.R.Macedonia
    –> Iceland
    –> Serbia
    –> Azerbaijan

    I think betters now also need to look past these 7 entries. To look for an entry that could do well unexpectedly. And I am still flabbergasted how the, mostly British punters, fail to mention the UK. The thing with Sweden is, that its slick stage act is actually the thing that made me smile.’I had a feeling like “Wow, that’s pretty damn fantastic what you did there!” :-). So at this stage:

    01. Sweden
    02. Italy
    03. Spain
    04. Estonia
    05. Finland
    06. Armenia
    07. Australia
    08. United Kingdom
    09. F.Y.R. Macedonia
    10. Ireland
    11. Belgium
    12. Bulgaria
    13. Hungary
    14. Netherlands

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I too think the UK entry is fantastic but I carry too much baggage re female vocalists representing the UK, so I will not consider backing it or commenting on it any further than this.

      But I am glad to hear you like it.

    • KeyserSoze

      Damn, Gert, I know you like to make some out of the box predictions and I can respect that, but SPAIN 3RD? What is your reasoning behind this? I can’t imagine from where could Spain get 400+ points.
      Also, in a year where the East has really stepped it up, there is a big lack of eastern countries in your top 14.

      • PurpleKylie

        Spain would be lucky to get 40 points this year, let alone 400

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Austria for 3rd would be a wild out of the box prediction (thinking of a simple song fronted by a young male singer) but at least there’s a chance of constructing an argument for that charming and catchy entry…whereas Spain…!

          Italy in the Top 2, I agree with.

      • I can give my reasoning behind it. But what does it matter :-). I remember that last year people within the betting community -and really, it’s becoming a 2nd kind of ‘fan’ bubble’ at times as well if you ask me- called me a weirdo for placing Austria in my TOP 10. At least the televote was a big help for this bubble-gum entry. People on their sofa’s loved it obviously.

        I think to a bigger extend Spain is unfairly judged. Mainly becomes a bunch of radical gay fans fuck it up in the audience for this boy. Like him or not, he CAN sing and he certainly IS charming when he performs. In my honest opinion I think he even sings better than Frans (Sweden 2016).

        The song isn’t that bad either. Amidst all those male ballads (Ireland, Bulgaria, Australia, which are very similar) and the many Robyn rip-offs and Janelle copies (Serbia, Macedonia, Iceland), the Spanish entry has this honest hapiness, summery Barcelona vibe and pure simplicity that many other entries this year don’t have.

        Some professional betters already ridiculed Hans Pannecoucke for taking the invitation from TVE to do the staging. I can say in all honesty that Hans feels better in staging a song like this, than the creative implosion from Trijntje.

        Spain will be the biggest surprise of this year’s contest. Ooowh, and are there actually some people who in all earnesty judged this wonderful live performance? I’m happy I backed this song.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Wow! An entry that is regularly trading at 1000/1 is one that you currently predict as finishing outright 3rd!

          I love that you don’t play it “safe” with your predictions.

          Forever-bragging-rights for you if it finishes in the top 3.

          Best of luck 🙂

        • KeyserSoze

          I do remember that you were one of few who said Austria is a qualifier, that is why I asked for your reasoning behind Spain. I personally do expect a relatively decent televote result for it (for Spain’s standards), but can’t see many jurors ranking it in their top 10. Especially with other similar but stronger entries there.

  • kingston

    i like sweden… it makes me smile how slick the production is and then there’s robin at the centre who looks dorky at times, esp during the dance interlude… it’s quite endearing (to me at least lolz…)

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I’m probably underestimating Sweden 2017 via comparison with their 2015 ESC package. “Heroes” was also fronted by a tall good-looking guy in his late 20s, featured slick choreography, memorable visuals, was expensive-looking etc.

      But I feel “I Can’t Go On” is inferior in every respect. Mans is more telegenic than Robin; “Heroes” is a better, catchier, more distinctive and more memorable song; and obviously “Heroes’s” visual show (and the intricate choreography) is vastly superior.

      But I forget that Heroes came out on top of what was a stellar year at the top end of that Grand Final leaderboard. That year’s top 6 finishers were all awesome and any one of those entries, I would speculate, could win a moderately strong ESC.

      At this stage of perception, this year’s ESC competition does not look as top-end spectacular, so it could likely be that I Can’t Go On doesn’t have to be too close to Heroes in quality terms to achieve a high-end finishing position.

      Still, myself, I think there’s too many issues and limitations for it to overcome, for it to finish, to put a limit on it, in the Top 3.

      I probably am underestimating it, no matter what I think, so allowing for that as best I can, I’ll guess it finishes 4th or 5th.

      • markovs

        Just to add to your comment about the top 6 in 2015 all being potential winners in other contests as it was such a strong year. I totally agree but surely it was a brilliant top 7!! Goodbye to Yesterday was good enough to win many contests, last year being one of them, certainly 2011, 2008 as well. …..and even Norway in 8th was pretty amazing!!!

        • Yes, when you watch Goodbye To Yesterday, Love Injected or Rhythm Inside back now, it’s amazing to think they were beaten to the trophy by a clinical psychopath performing a plagiarised song in front of a cartoon that only finished 3rd in the televote, but that’s Eurovision for you…

    • Black n Blue

      Sweden is a bit of a headwrecker for me this year. I just don’t like this entry. It did nothing for me in Melfest, and when it seemed like there were much better options on the table they still opted for Robin. I then went “right, there’s one less country capable of challenging Italy”, and that was that.

      However, I got in touch recently with a couple of friends who watch and enjoy the contest, but I wouldn’t consider them hardcore fans. I listed the top 10 songs in the betting odds, and asked them to report back to me which one was their favourite. Both said Sweden, and one wrote back in their text “this has to win!”. Interestingly, neither were too stirred by Italy.

      It’s since had me thinking whether or not my dislike of the song is blinding me from considering it to be a strong contender. With Mans in 2015 I was in the same quandary, in letting my own taste rule him out of contention, since as many of us have said, it was a cold, clinically choreographed to within an inch of his life sort of performance. There was no human element, and in many respects those remarks can easily be said of Robin’s entry too. It’s going through the motions, he has the backing dancer button his suit at a precise point, he looks down this camera after he says that lyric, he changes direction on the treadmills at set points in the song, etc, etc.

      My teenage sister also loves it too.
      What am I missing here? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • PurpleKylie

        I understand your headache. On one hand I listen to the song and think “god this is so freaking stupid”, on the other hand I watch the visuals and have a begrudging admiration for how slick it all looks.

        I have a theory about Sweden this year: it’s the kind of act that most straight women and gay men would take one look at it and swoon. Most straight men however would look at it and think “what an absolute prat”. I have a female asexual panromantic friend and even she had to admit “dammit, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed” upon seeing it.

        • If she “wouldn’t kick him out of bed” it means she’s not “asexual”. (“Asexual” and “panromantic” could also be argued to be mutually exclusive concepts).

          • PurpleKylie

            If you actually did your research on the concept of asexuality and romantic orientation, you’d realise what you said was horribly ignorant

          • I found your friend fascinating and I did google everything but I confess that just a few seconds on wiki can certainly create a feeling of knowledge but a reality of horrible ignorance.

          • Without wishing to steer the conversation too far off the rails of Eurovision (given it’s already going that way), I think the bottom line is that asexuality vs sexuality is a spectrum, and most asexual people I’ve met (trust me – I attended a convention of 30 German asexuals a few years ago, which was about as much fun as it sounds) have a different experience of it or understood something different by it. I’ve met self-identified asexuals who regularly watch porn yet others who can’t stand nudity, some who find men/women attractive but others who aren’t attracted to people at all, and some (probably the majority) who enjoy physical intimacy but others who don’t like being touched (which to me isn’t asexuality but something different that shouldn’t necessarily be conflated with it). Personally most asexuals I know are fine with kissing and intimacy, and even fine with having sex, they just don’t experience a drive to have it. Kinda like my relationship with watching Channel 5 – I enjoy it when I do but it wouldn’t necessarily occur to me.

            I’d 100% kick Robin out of bed for the sole reason his song last year was called CONSTELLATION PRIZE.

      • This is a very interesting report and I think everyone should be doing the friends and family test (assuming you have either) with Italy and Sweden, I’m concerned there’s a real bubble effect going on with Italy. You’re not missing anything regarding Sweden – it’s a slick pop package from the Bruno Mars/Olly Murs stable, it’s what people have been trained to like. It has a strong musical hook and strong visual hook. I don’t think it’s in any danger of winning, or even necessarily doing better than Frans (which was a big hit, remember, as well as having human connection and the NTB factor), and I do think Italy is perfectly capable of winning the televote. But the fact that practically everyone who’s remotely a contest fan loves Italy, myself included, is giving me cause for concern – I don’t think there was even this much consensus about Euphoria. The Italian entry harks back to classic Eurovision in some ways – people have referenced Volare, I’ve referenced La revolucion sexual in relation to it… we like it because it’s fun and a good tune but also because it’s genuinely Italian and reminds us of Eurovision of yore and what the contest’s all about, in that it sounds like warm, interesting foreign pop music that you’d never hear on Capital FM. The question is: we know what we as fans (especially older fans) want from Eurovision and like about Eurovision, namely the diversity and foreignness – but what does the non-fan general public (99% of voters on the night) want from Eurovision these days? Do viewers want something foreign or a globalised pop product? What about juries? If Italy winning the 2015 televote is anything to go by, Italian nation branding sells well – but that was 3 young NTBs with powerful vocals singing about love, in the well-established popera genre that sells very well internationally despite its non-English lyrics, whereas this is an older bloke singing about… well, people won’t even be sure. When a song’s called Grande Amore you don’t really have to translate it. What about a song called Occidentali’s Karma – what’s the take-home message for audiences?

      • Black n Blue

        The foreign versus globalised pop product is a really good way of putting it. If the last two years have shown us anything it’s that the public have rejected the globalised pop products (Mans, Dami), whereas the juries have perpetuated them.

        My initial take on the Italy appeal contrasts with what you’ve said (although I agree on the Italian aura/Eurovision of yore comments). As soon as Gabbani won Sanremo, I thought “the fans are going to despise this but joe public will love it”, when in fact, we’ve seen since that the fans have taken to it like a duck to water but the non-fans I’ve spoken to don’t share the same enthusiasm. One of my friends I quoted above said about Italy that he “recognised the appeal/could see why people like it” but wasn’t pressed to feel the same way himself. Arguably, those of us championing Italy this year are sort of banking on this sort of preconceived notion of “normal” people getting it, and EV, I think you’re onto something when you say “this is an older bloke singing about… well, people won’t even be sure”. Everything about Occidentali’s Karma from composition, to lyrics, to the performance is vastly superior to Sweden in my book, but the latter seems more palatable for the masses, it’s an easier song to get into, and perhaps that’s where my over-analysis is letting me down. What will viewers like more: A cool guy on a treadmill, or a slightly older bloke and his pet gorilla?

        • “a slightly older bloke and his pet gorilla”

          Best. Threesome. Ever.

        • Elainovision

          Have to report the same with Italy, by the way, while testing friends. Will test family this week, but when playing the ESC cut of Italy, my friend wrote it off as “another song that just repeats its chorus because it’s run out of ideas”.

          I’ve seen a lot of people say we’re judging the Italian Cut harsher than others because we know what we’re missing. What if we’re actually judging the whole entry post-cut more favourably because we know what we’re missing? We’re still playing that second verse in our heads while audiences hearing it the first time will hear the pre-chorus again and assume this is another Latvia or Moldova or even Spain?

          FWIW Macedonia is winning my friends’ poll so far.

          • Black n Blue

            FYI (For Your Information) Macedonia as I like to call them are one of my favourites this year. It’s a britpop banger, the sort you’d want the BBC to send. It’d be good to see this one in the final.

      • John

        To have a go at the Italy vs. Sweden question here, what I will say is that there’s a lot of ‘buts’.

        Sweden is slick, polished and has an entertaining stage show. But, Robin did not win his own televote in a relatively weak Melfest year. He is good looking, but while the song is catchy, it does lack the usual stuff we like here – the ‘climbing everest’ moment, the ‘uplifting message’ (instead, it’s a bit pervy, complete with ‘you look a-ok’ finger signals), and it does play it’s hand in the first minute. There aren’t any surprises after that. The whole thing is maybe a bit clinical and precise.

        Italy on the other hand, has a more potent catchy chorus. There’s a nice flow and structure to lyrics that will get toes tapping. This is complimented by rather joyous music to lift the parts where he’s not even singing. And I’m quite sure, as all favourites have been recently, it will be well drawn to enhance its potential. Italys effort holds surprises throughout the song, a daft gorilla, a Namaste! followed by a guitar solo and cheeky bopping about. Something about it, with its on the nose spiritual quirks and accessible gimmicks feels inclusive and engaging.

        It’s kinda family friendly in a way, and the on-the-nose spiritual elements, even if they’re being sent up, are easy for non-Italian speakers to get their heads round. Even if it’s a critical message, he has cleverly sold it to look upbeat and daft/fun.

        It lacks English yes but we’ve seen enough countries max the televote in another language to know it’s not a deal-breaker. Italy was one of them. His vocal is good enough.

        Sweden may make people think ‘Oh hey this is catchy, this is more like it’, but I think Italy still wins a straight run-off between the two in an ‘either-or’ matchup. Italy is the most fun song this year by a mile, Croatia’s bonkers potential aside.

      • I actually completely agree with you Black n Blue. I think we underestimate Sweden for the very fact that it still is a damn good and slick production. And sometimes that slickness actually brings such a song to great Heights on the scoreboard. Just look at that little sucker Eric Saade. If he had a better draw in 2011, he could have been a much tougher threat to Azerbaijan.

        To a certain extend we had the same thing with Mans and his ‘Heroes’. The Swedes look at the total package and know how to charm both televoters and juries alike with some very cocky stars with big balls.

        And that’s why I have Sweden at no# 1 for the moment. It’s simply insanely joyful to watch those 3 minutes. And I know this is a song contest, but Sweden wins the gold medal this year for the best (dance) choreography in the past 5 years. Or did we forget that a dance choreography can in fact be a huge asset? Yes, I think most of us, except you and me, forgot that :-).

        Regarding Portugal…….I love the song. It could be a wonderful theme song to an Italian movie. Just like Italy 2011 and Netherlands 2013. But to me Salvador’s physical, motorical ticks while performing the song are a bit off-putting. At least Anouk was performing ‘Birds’ in a believable, shy and charming way. Raphael Gualazzi sat behind a piano and had a much happier song. So I just don’t ‘get’ the song from Salvador when he’s acting like the hunchback of Notre Dame. It simply doesn’t work that way for a televoter, no matter how much backstory you can throw out. And believe me, I know a bit about Salvador’s backstory.

        But in all honesty, I think the backstory of the Dutch entry works much better to that extend. I think the Portuguese entry has a slim chance of ending 9th or 10th…..but TOP 3? Come on dear colleagues. No need to exaggerate.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    What’s your favourite, kingston, this year (if not Sweden), by the way?

    • kingston

      my personal favourite is portugal but even i agree that it can be divisive as in those who are not willing to actually listen to the song will probably get bored by it…

      i like sweden’s fun factor and slick production but are those really enough to gloss over its main limitation– i.e. its lack of deeper meaning– to snag the top prize? (so yeah, Top 4 or 5 maybe.)

      atm i’d go for italy… it’s just so catchy and instant, and it’s that type of song wherein you don’t need to know the actual lyrics to get it, to connect with it… you just sense that it has a meaning somewhere (if you care to research more and dig deeper)– you just know that it’s some sort of fun satire just by listening to it and watching the singer’s antics (and his gorilla)… as someone said, it’s like “Volare”… or “Macarena”– don’t know what they’re singing about but imma join that parteyy…

  • markovs

    Currently, pre live performances and staging, it’s difficult to pick out decent bets as the field seems so close between so many songs.
    Italy for the winner seems most likely at the moment as we’ve seen the whole package and in my opinion it’s the strongest of those songs (eg Sweden). Only around 3.4 at best but those odds will plummet unless someone steps up performance wise.
    I like the UK at around 5.0 for a top 10. The revamp had lifted it and she can certainly sing live and imo is the best of the female traditional ballads with the most memorable hook.
    Australia seems well overpriced at 24.0ish as again we know he can sing and the staging is likely to be quality.
    Random Outsiders at big odds for top 10 are Netherlands, Austria and Belarus which all offer something different and stand out. If they get the staging right they could cause a surprise.
    I was a lucky one who got Belgium at 100-1, laid when it plummeted to 5s but still kept an interest in it, as I love it!!
    …and I won’t be backing Spain as I think Austria is far superior!!!

    • Hey Markov. Have you watched this live performance from O’G3NE already?

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AsH2mKbeA2c

      Do you think their voices are as much as an asset/USP as they were with Il Volo for Italy in 2015?

      Personally I’m not a big fan of the song. And like Italy in 2015 I found the song pretty much dated (not so contemporary popera vs. 1990’s girlband sound).

      Curious what you think. Regards, Gert

      • My opinion about O’G3NE is that only jury may like them. I like their way of singing but there’s no tune in the song. The girls are in the first of half of semi final with 19 songs. You can beat countries like San Marino, Croatia and maybe a few other but beating 9 countries seems impossible.

      • Yeah, in terms of their voices etc. I think the point needs to be made that they’re light years better than No Angels and other put-together girl groups who are more about the image than the vocals, and thus O’G3NE don’t run the same risk of not harmonising well on the night – being sisters, they’ve grown up singing together and are clearly expert in using their voices in perfect harmony with each other, as evidenced by the great performance Gert posted above as well as their Voice audition below. That said, I’m inclined to agree with Montell – I hope the jury rewards them, but because the song is somewhat underwhelming and audiences generally won’t realise they’re sisters (it’s up to the commentator to convey this info, insofar as people at home are even listening and not using the gap between songs to talk amongst themselves) I currently don’t see it getting through on the televote.

        • The song on the radio on first listen to me was indeed a bit underwhelming. It has too many key changes and abrupt modulations that doesn’t do the melody and/or tune any favors. It’s a song that’s tailored entirely on the capabilities of the three vocalists.

          Yet, I mentioned Il Volo to that extend. And although the songs are entirely different -‘Il Grande Amore’ vs. ‘Lights And Shadows’-, they both share a certain lack of being contemporary enough. Not to mention being memorable enough if the actual singers weren’t performing it.

          But let’s have a look at semi final #2 then. And I really start to think that this could be the weakest semi final in years. It could very well be that only 2 or 3 qualifiers from this semi will enter the TOP 10 in the final:

          NON-QUALIFIERS:

          –> AUSTRIA: Personally I love this gentle singer-songwriter entry. I don’t understand why people compare it with Spain, but that’s beside the point. The problem with this entry is, that it lacks the “oomph” that Douwe Bob had. verdict: NQ

          –> MALTA: I’m not going to make any of my comments dirty on this….thing. verdict: NQ

          –> RUSSIA: Well, there’s a diplomatic war going on between Russia and Ukraine. Said about all this. But even if Julia can perform via satellite, I then think Russia has already destroyed all its chances. verdict: NQ

          –> ISRAEL: It’s a nice pop tune, has a big disco beat. But in that same genre I find Serbia and especially Macedonia way more superior. And this isn’t as fresh, Original and uplifting as Israel 2015. verdict: NQ

          –> CROATIA: This country used to be so good in the 1990’s. What happened to them :-(. I feel very sorry about them. verdict: NQ

          –> LITHUANIA: Nicely done, it is at least Original. But the song itself doesn’t really go anywhere. It tries to be so alternative, new age and fresh, but fails completely by trying. verdict: NQ

          –> SAN MARINO: I think it’s time for new EBU rules to not let certain artists and composers return year-after-year based on some kind of long-term contract, thus leading to huge payslips to Ralph Siegel and Valentina. I am against this. Then be like Monaco and Andorra and don’t join. verdict: NQ

          BORDERLINE QUALIFIERS:

          –> SWITZERLAND: Nice song…nice enough. But the leadsinger isn’t the best singer. And after 2 mins the song starts to bore me a bit. It slightly has a fanwank status if you ask me. verdict: BORDERLINE (OUT)

          –> NORWAY: It’s a real nice attempt to do funk at Eurovision. But I think Groove Armada is better. As if I listen to a more accessible, but not better Aphex Twins or Gorillaz. verdict: BORDERLINE (IN)

          –> ROMANIA: It becomes a bit tiresome that Romania can only send these kind of cheap songs. I think juries will grill it, but televoters love it. verdict: BORDERLINE (IN)

          –> DENMARK: Really? People really have this dull pop schlager as a certified qualifier? I think it will struggle similarly to Iceland in 2015. Anja isn’t the best singer either (she screeches way too much. verdict: BORDERLINE (OUT)

          –> BULGARIA: Contemporary pop ballad, but I don’t think it’s memorable on first listen. This is more dependent on staging than last year’s Bulgarian entry. verdict: BORDERLINE (IN)

          –> BELARUS: I think the Belarussians have the best chance to enter the final since 2014’s ‘Cheesecake’. Yet after two minutes the happy folk changes into too much repetition. verdict: BORDERLINE (IN)

          Despite the borderliners, these are…
          MY QUALIFIERS ATM:

          01. ESTONIA (this has an audience all across Europe)
          02. F.Y.R. MACEDONIA (I’m surprised myself!)
          03. HUNGARY (wonderful ethnic folk song)
          04. THE NETHERLANDS (this could be a dark horse)
          05. IRELAND (underestimated ballad, sticks better)
          06. SERBIA (good, not as good as Macedonia)
          07. ROMANIA (tacky, but still fun)
          08. BELARUS (fun happy folk thingie)
          09. BULGARIA (goes through, but with difficulty)
          10. NORWAY (lacks the fun Romania and Belarushave)

          • PurpleKylie

            I only agree with half of your NQ list. My Semi 2 bracket looks like this:

            Likely NQ:
            -Lithuania (not even diaspora is going to help this mess of a “song”)
            -San Marino (fourth time unlucky Valentina)
            -Malta (will bomb in the televote, the overinflated jury score won’t be enough to compensate)
            -Switzerland (too anonymous)

            Borderline:
            -Austria (if he puts in a lot of charm and personality into his performance)
            -Denmark (if Russia pull out I can see their chances of Q increasing)
            -Netherlands (if they use those light up texts like in the video, pop up lyrics on stage doesn’t hurt you)
            -Ireland (depends on how marmite his squeaky vocals are)
            -Hungary (depends how much the jury dislike them)
            -Macedonia (depends on how much they screw up the staging)
            -Croatia (the reason why I don’t have this in the NQ section is because some friends have told me “a friend/family member who doesn’t like Eurovision loved it”, which simultaneously amuses and scares me)

            I have Romania, Bulgaria and Russia (if they still take part) as the only safe qualifiers so far. Everyone else has a decent shot pretty much.

  • Of interest/relevance: https://thankyoueurope.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/stats-corner-2017-semi-final-draw/

    Most interesting bit for me: “Romania is this year’s biggest loser. Their most reliable points-givers – not just Moldova, but Slovenia, Cyprus and Poland as well – are all in semi 1. This could be a test of their perfect qualification record.” However this is just based on past points-giving, not any particular relationships or diaspora between Romania and said countries (apart from Moldova).

  • Hippo

    I’ll just go through the countries I think can win at this point. I’m ignoring Italy, not because I think it has no chance at winning, just because I’m tired of discussing it and the more enthusiastic on it can make a much better case than me. For me it’s one of several contenders rather than *tl he* one to beat. A lot of hands left to be played yet.
    Sweden is intentionally ignored, it’s top ten and no more. Always score better than they deserve to with the juries but the public will have this lower. It’s inferior in every way to the last three they’ve sent and whilst this year isn’t strong, it ain’t that bad for Bengtsson to come 1st.

    In order of odds:

    Bulgaria – I’m not convinced by this one at all. The production is excellent and his vocal is very impressive but is there much of a song behind it? I’m worried it’s quite forgettable and I feel Australia beats it at its own game. Regardless of whether it beats it or not though, surely the presence of two such similar entries will lead to some almighty vote splitting. I also feel if it draws the same half as Australia it will be given the earlier slot unless this pulls well ahead in the odds. Honestly, I don’t expect his age or more to the point, the age that he looks to help him or hinder him particularly. I think he looses older teen and twenty something girls who could see him as being too young for them, but will make up for it with mum and younger girl votes. Being one of the few top 10 worthy entries in semi 2, it could generate some momentum and possibly win the semi but I don’t think this has the gas for a full run for the win, unless it gets very lucky with the running order, and Australia mess up. Contender, but too short to consider backing imo.

    Belgium – like every entry this year, there’s more going against it than for it as a potential winner. The positives are its probably the most modern of all the entries, stands out and the reaction upon release was one of the most positive I’ve seen. Whether that’s because of the low expectations for Blanche and a far from overwhelming national final season rather than the song itself is debatable. There’s a path for Belgium to win but I do worry about the staging for this. Can they present this in a votable way live? Something like Nano’s extreme close ups might work, but I don’t know if this can hold attention for the full three minutes. As some have already said, it lacks that ‘moment’ that the last 5 winning songs have had, that bit that will obviously be in the recap. It’s hard to discount from anything other than a high finish and whilst I have reservations they’ll be able to stage this into a winning performance, the song alone will carry this easily into the top 10.

    Portugal –
    In may last year on this site I made a note to myself to “back the song that emotionally connects”. Whilst I wouldn’t go that far with it, I don’t think anything has really this year and this is one of the few performances from any NF this year that I wasn’t already making predictions, checking odds or how long is left to play. I just watched it. This, *if* Portugal get the staging right should be the jury winner. The televote is much harder, but this can gather the narrative and momentum and dropped in in 23rd position after the loud rock of Ukraine I wouldn’t write it off from winning the public vote too or at least coming close.

    Australia –
    I rated this fairly highly but like I’ve already said above, Bulgaria has thrown a spanner in the works. I think its very good for a top 5. Juries will likely have this very high, but like last year the televote might let it down again. It also has a poor draw, being a ballad in the first half of the slower and stronger semi final might derail it slightly. I trust Australia to do a fairly good job on staging compared to some of the other contenders too and I don’t think this is hard to stage. I’d rather be backing this at 22s than Bulgaria at 9s and out of the leading pack this is the best value and in my opinion best satisfies both sides of the equation.

    And finally as a darkish horse- Azerbaijan –
    I think this is a shoe in for top former soviet. Ukraine I think everyone agrees don’t have a chance, Russia are relying purely on diaspora and allies and Armenia have entered a song that will struggle for wide support too with a mix of elements that have just been placed together rather than blended. It’s less coherent, more niche and less impactfull than both ‘Not Alone’ and ‘LoveWave’ and I can only see it doing worse.
    With that in mind, since 2006 at least one the main former soviets has made the top 4 in all but one of those years and even then in 2010 Azerbaijan were just 4 points of Denmark despite performing 1st compared to last.

    In other words, one is going to do very well this year and most likely place each way and I think that has to be Azerbaijan, who I think got forgotten about and overlooked due to the time of release.

    What we have is contemporary and chart friendly with a solid singer. A song that unlike Russia and Armenia, can pick up votes outside of the diaspora and East. Juries should like it and the traditional structure with clear verses and chorus are always a help with the public. There’s a clear staging concept if they go with some sort of partial skeletal overlay like the video or a holo-gauze effect and Azerbaijan can afford to spend on staging alone what other countries would set aside for the whole delegation. They’re not going aggressively for the win as the 2009- 13 period and on the whole are playing by the book but they clearly want to do well and hosting would not be an issue.

    My main concern is (I’m sounding a broken record) the staging which will make or break its chances. They have gone too far into the arty and interpretive before and could easily do so again, especially considering the subject matter. If Dihaj turns up like in some of her promo pics and from other videos heavily made up with daft hair and pouting she won’t be very voteable either. However, in this aspect the video showed her much more ‘normal’ and restrained and I’m optimistic they won’t go too far with her look. Diction might also need some work.
    Was fantastic value around 40s after the Russian release and especially after Armenia. I’ll take my chances Azerbaijan will get things right and if they do they will come into contention.

    I have a few other countries green, namely Israel, Serbia and the Uk but mainly in hope of a shortening in odds rather than a belief they can win.

    Overall, there are a lot of good songs this year, but sadly much like last year, no great ones. I also think running order will decide the winner. There’s nothing impactfull or memorable enough to win the televote from the first half (maybe Italy at a huge push if everything else dissapoints live) and nothing that should be anywhere near 100 points clear in the jury so it should be a fairly close year too.

    With the usual caveats, and if, buts and maybes, this is the top 10 final standings as I see it atm.

    1. Portugal
    2. Azerbaijan
    3. Belgium
    4. Australia
    5. Italy
    6. Bulgaria
    7. Sweden
    8. Serbia
    9. Greece
    10. Romania

    I’m confident on the top 5 at this stage, but it could really be in any order.

    • PurpleKylie

      I really don’t see the potential in Azerbaijan like lots of people do. The song itself lacks an instant hook so it’s going to live or die on its staging, and given this sort of song it would be very easy to make a staging that looks a bit too harsh and inaccessible.

      In terms of Top Ex-Soviet, I would sooner back Belarus or even Russia (don’t laugh)

  • PurpleKylie

    BTW, if anyone’s interested, ESC Bubble are doing their daily “public reacts to…” series again for this year: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2LDLGOBj00TdK2d5o0jmJA

    So far they’ve done Georgia, Finland, Cyprus, and Latvia, and so far none of the reactions have surprised me (Georgia is seen as very diva-ish, Finland is divisive between “this is beautiful” vs “this is boring”, Cyprus doesn’t inspire much reaction, and Latvia’s song is well-liked but people aren’t sure about the styling).

    • These are interesting, thanks. They give you a Gogglebox-style flavour of how “the common people” react to different entries, though I’m not sure how representative they are as at least 40% of them look gay. Their reactions to Finland a) demonstrate why humanity deserves to go extinct, and b) make me wonder even more if Finland is a fan-bubble thing too. It was interesting seeing them compare it to Adele, I’ve been making that comparison too, but most of them react along the lines of “boring/too depressing”. Though perhaps that’s an issue with being filmed – they’re so busy “reacting” that they’re barely listening to the song. Not that viewers on the night will either, mind.

    • John

      Oh cool, I shall mine last years to see if it was prescient.

      Being thirtysomething the whole ‘reacts to’ fad confuses and frightens me, but it could be useful for Eurovision (while risking the ‘straw poll of one’ danger.

      Not surprised by any of those reactions mind you, Cyprus is indeed completely uninspired. I can’t see any of those, save Finland qualifying, and I fear Norma may depend on a good draw. Finland need to get imaginative with their staging. It’s a particularly weak year so some Love Injected type theatrics could lift her chances. She doesn’t quite have Anouks stage presence to get away with standing and singing by herself, maybe.

      • “Being thirtysomething the whole ‘reacts to’ fad confuses and frightens me” – funny and relatable. I’m 33 and every now and then I get messages from eurofans I know as young as 22 saying that they’ve started to find the online fandom too young(!) for them, they don’t like how everything these days is gifs and memes and hot takes, and that the tone and level of discussion has changed on sites like Twitter/Tumblr etc. (Plus all the silly ranking videos on Youtube – this year a bunch of people even posted ranking videos of their “Top 1” after Albania had chosen its song in December.) I find it quite shocking that people ten years younger than me are saying this, although maybe I shouldn’t – at least it’s somewhat reassuring that it’s not just you and me being old fogeys. Part of the reason I left Facebook in 2013 was I’d seen it go from primarily a written medium to primarily a visual one, and the march of gifs and memes on Twitter has been similar. They’re becoming post-literate media and encourage conformity (ie. everyone using the same gif to convey a thought or reaction, and being rewarded for it, whereas before they’d have written their own opinion, without the same guarantee of positive feedback and with the inherent risk of it not aligning with the mainstream view). Will Self wrote this about the twilight of the Gutenberg mind (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction) and I think it has resonance.

        • John

          I like Will Self, but an easy read he is not. Funny on Shooting Stars mind. (Again with the age-showing).

          You get a real sense of how young the fandom (or perhaps just your average internet goer is) when you go on youtube and man alive, the comments. ‘The dancing gorilla gives me life’, ‘I can’t with Armenia right now’, ‘That awkward moment when you feel like Valentina slays Eurovision…’

          One day someone pointed out to me everyone ‘feels like’ rather than ‘thinks’ when they give an opinion. They were right. I sound like Abe Simpson but whatever. At least we can all string a sentence together on here.

          But anyway, the ‘reacts to’ stuff is entertaining (I mean, a bit, can’t watch Gogglebox myself) – but it’s still kind of a straw poll of one reasoning.

  • Dana

    I think I’m one of very few who think Portugal will fail to qualify. The first time the Portuguese heard it, he finished 3rd in the televote in a very weak field. He then got a lot of online hype afterwards, but still failed to win the vote in the final. This suggests to me it isn’t very televote friendly and that a lot of the online buzz about it may not reflect how well it will go down.

    I’m also not sure the juries will vote for it en masse instead of the entries from Sweden, Belgium, Finland, the Czech ballad, Albania’s money note etc. I also have no faith in the Portuguese delegation- previous contestants have complained about how disinterested and useless they are.

    If everything goes right, the juries might go for it, but I’m not 100% convinced- especially not in that semi- lots of potential jury bait there.

    • PurpleKylie

      I really don’t think Albania will get the jury vote, AFAIK the typical screamy female FiK ballads don’t tend to translate into jury votes in Eurovision. Albania has got bottom three in the semi on lock with Montenegro and Slovenia.

    • John

      Portugal seems overrated to me, and popular in the markets because it stands out. However it lacks a melody and what may seem quaint and charming in a national final, without any obvious hook, will get utterly swallowed up in a final, let alone a semi. Portugal is a massive red herring for me.

    • PurpleKylie

      Ok, just to defend Portugal, here I bring you last year’s Junior Eurovision winner from Georgia: https://youtu.be/6ZqcUxZvc4A

      To be fair, what works in Junior doesn’t necessarily work for the adult contest and vice versa, but the Georgian song was also a very “old fashioned” 50’s style chanson competing in a very even field filled with more contemporary songs, and it came out of nowhere to win.

  • This is the first year for me where nothing hits me on first listen.
    Let us wait and see,
    For staging will be key.

  • Ande

    Am I one of the few who doesn’t “love” ‘Occidentali’s Karma’?

    Feel free to …. whatever…

    • PurpleKylie

      Personally I’d only give the song a 6 or 7 out of 10, depending on my mood. I find it a bit too cleanly produced, but that’s my own personal taste.

    • I dislike it. Typical of a dull strain of Italian music. Let’s hope it goes odds-on soon.

      Has anybody worked out what it means? Supposedly influenced by Desmond Morris (I read “The Naked Ape” as a teenager and was impressed by it) and Shakespeare (?)

      • zat

        As I see it, it has two conflicting ideas:
        1. Modern Westerners like commercialized Eastern spirituallity
        -> Nirvana, Karma, etc
        2. Modern Westerners like to get rid of civilisation from time to time -> dancing with ape (that’s actually rather S. Freud than Desmond Morris, read the wikipedia article about “Civilization and Its Discontents”).

        The visual representation shows an Italian in Eastern outfit / showing Eastern gestures dancing with a guy in an ape costume.
        Which makes no sense at all.

        But they say it’s funny and as good and catchy as “Volare”.
        (Lena could sing Volare when she was 4 years old. I guess everyone could at the time.)

    • Milton

      Not at all Ande, there’s a few smattering of sceptics, but its probably fair to say that they are outweighed by fans, and its definitely fair to say that it evokes more passion amongst those who do like it than fans of any other song this year.

      Looking at esctracker, by the time of the finals its on course to have achieved more youtube views in 3 months than the entire top 10 viewed ESC videos from 2016 collectively achieved in over a year.

      • meridian_child

        Fiorella’s song got 18million views, Ermal Meta’s song also got 18 million views, Fabrizio Moro got 15million, Sergio Sylvestre and Michele Bravi got 12million and so on. I dont think the views of Eurovision songs can be compared to the ones of San Remo.
        Since weeks ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ is the daily/weekly most watched video on Youtube Italy. But why did the Italians go crazy about this song so late and not in the beginning of San Remo?

        (By the way: On Amir’s Youtube Account ‘J’ai cherché’ got 56million views)

        • Milton

          I take your point, but this is on a different level to previous Italian entries. 120m which is the least its heading for equates to every man woman and child in Italy watching it at twice. Whatever happens these figures will ensure that it gets all the hype and attention in May.

          Also don’t forget it also made the itunes charts of some 15 countries in the days after San Remo. OK it doesn’t take much to get into the lower reaches of the itunes charts but nothing else this year has come close to that.

  • PurpleKylie

    In the Bulgaria vs Australia debate, I have a new theory which I might have just pulled out of my backside here…

    So I just heard a review of some of the songs with a couple of American music industry types, and their reaction to Australia’s song really shocked me. Their reaction pretty much summed up as: “the emotion is really fake and that kid looks terrible, is he really the best they could get out of The X Factor down under?”

    So it got me thinking, and I really don’t want to open a can of worms and spark off an uncomfortable racism discussion, but given that the Australian kid is Aborigine and thus looking “unconventional” to the European audience, and the Bulgarian kid is essentially a typical-looking Balkan kid, will that play a part in which song does better, given that we’ve already had a lengthy discussion about looks and voteability?

    Also, thinking about it, both boys are 17, and to me Bulgaria sounds more like something a 17 year-old pop star would sing, while Australia’s song is about 10 years too old for him, if that makes any sense.

    • markovs

      Just to point out that Dami last year was probably ‘unconventional’ but it didn’t seem to matter

    • zat

      There is a contrast between the unconventional look of the Australian boy and the rather conventional old fashioned song. As I understand it, that contrast is intended, that’s what makes the package interesting. They are playing against the Aborigine stereotype. In my opinion it works. But still — it doesn’t touch me.

      • eurovicious

        I think both entries are decent, but Australia has the better chances – I like Bulgaria but can never remember anything about it (even the tiniest chorus fragment) after listening to it, it’s reliant on mood much more than on tune. By contrast Australia has a strong hook. In terms of their looks I had no idea Isaiah was (part-)aboriginal so audiences won’t either… given Kristian Kostov looks very young and elfin for his age I think Isaiah looks the more typical of the two. He’s strong-featured but in the same sort of way that Alexander Rybak or the Klitschko bros. are.

    • Milton

      I didn’t realise that Isaiah was 17. Totally agree Kylie, this song is plain wrong for someone so young.

      ‘I used to move in fast to erase my past’

      So what does that mean? When he was 15 he used move in fast to erase something that happened when he was 13?

    • This is just Oikotimes (and the Russian newspaper the story is sourced from) stirring the pot… Ukraine doesn’t have any rules against people saying stuff as far as I’m aware, and Artsvik hasn’t been anywhere near occupied Crimea. So I highly doubt this.

  • For me. at this moment, only one song stands out and that is Bulgaria. But until rehearsals begin nothing is for certain. Sweden, Belgium, Italy and Cyprus are other songs that sound well but not well enough… Italy, Belgium and I will dare to Say Cyprus are top-10 contenders, Sweden no-way. And there are other two songs that I have to admit that I am very fond of but I don’t think that they will reach top-10: Moldova and Hungary

  • Michiel

    As a passive follower of this blog, I shared last year that Bulgaria’s Poli was hardly getting the attention I felt it deserved here.

    This year, I feel that Serbia and Bulgaria are getting a lot more value than I can see. In contrast, Norway and Austria are getting a lot less than I see.

    Norway has a smooth, catchy vibe, and is a solid, modern production, something Belgium is lauded for profusely, yet Norway gets little more than a field of crickets.

    After the crestfallen winning entry from Jamala last year, I would imagine people are going to be looking for something a little lighter, a little more airy, this time around. I can’t see Bulgaria really hitting that spot.

    Sure, Austria and Norway may not be top contenders, but I am wondering if maybe across this board, the optimistic, light, airy, “nice” bracket is brushed a bit too carelessly under the rug, when it actually contains some very well produced songs with some very sympathetic artists, and people may be a lot more open to this after last year.

    Lastly, between Azerbaijan, Switzerland, FYROM, and Serbia, I am at a complete loss figuring out why Serbia transcends the others in any way. I’m pretty sure I like all three others better.

    /2cents.

  • I’m shocked (though I really shouldn’t be) at how naive the EBU statement is: “We have to respect the local laws of the host country, however we are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the Contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values.” It’s incredibly venal, chastises Ukraine for simply maintaining its laws which exist for a reason and were put in place long before it got the job of hosting Eurovision, plays right into Russia’s hands in terms of the desired outcome (Ukraine looking bad and being chastised) and is a galling example of Western privilege that betrays zero understanding of the fact that Ukraine is the target of a hybrid war (including a major, sophisticated media war) by a much more powerful neighbor. It really demonstrates how Russia is able to recruit Western organisations and media channels into acting as proxies for its propaganda war without them even necessarily realising it. As a friend just messaged me: “The EBU is in a bind: driven by greed, they took everyone on and just had this simplistic worldview that Eurovision would make everyone hold hands and be friends, ‘la la la’. Now they lost their €150,000 participation fee on top of all their other headaches this year.”

    Thread: http://twitter.com/christogrozev/status/839967148890062849

    The EBU is a fine one to talk about Ukraine not showing “inclusivity” towards Russia given that Russia has “included” 10% of Ukraine’s territory in itself since 2014. Now that’s what I call an active inclusion policy.

    • Black n Blue

      Agreed. The EBU are spineless. What we’re seeing here is power play from Russia; using the contest as a tool for influencing, what you’ve rightly said is a propaganda war against the west. This is what happens when you let a major organisation kick the can down the road for too long, without actually tackling issues such as conflict between participating countries, political subject matter in songs, along the pushing for scripted political messages in the interval acts (think Smorgasbord 2013, or the refugee interval act last year), that are designed to kick certain eastern countries and their policies in the teeth.

      That flimsy statement about “inclusivity” shows just how out of touch the EBU are with the sensitive political climate in Ukraine. The laws around Crimea and those who’ve performed there, aren’t there only to stop Julia. It’s a security measure and the Russians know full well she wouldn’t have been eligible. Their choice of performer is clearly a means of provoking Ukraine and the EBU, and it explains a lot as to why the the entry is complete shite.

      However this isn’t Russia’s fault per se. They’re exploiting a loophole to their advantage (by sending someone who performed in Crimea to ESC), one that the EBU should have closed up by saying “Comply with the laws or withdraw from the contest”, but instead they’re panicking for fear of upsetting Russia, (here’s a satellite love, perform to us through this). It’s the same situation with political songs. They ought to be banned. I respect 1944’s victory because under the the rules it was eligible within a historical context, but that said, it wouldn’t have even been entered if the EBU had taken action and closed the loophole somehow allowing a song about the Armenian Genocide to compete the year before. Their indecision and incompetence is exactly why we’re in this situation now where neither Ukraine or Russia want to play ball.

  • Chris Bellis

    So Ukraine has banned Russia’s entry on some pretext, according to the news just now on Radio 4. That’s what happens, Message to TPTB in Eurovision, when you allow entry to a blatantly political song, you may end up holding the contest in a country in a virtual civil war. I knew this would happen when I read the long list of Russian and allied performers who were banned from appearing in Kyiv. I posted the list here at the time (a couple of months ago). By the way, it’s a PR win for Russia.

    • PurpleKylie

      It was ALWAYS going to be a PR win for Russia with that selection. As much as they are devious, they are far from stupid. They knew that selecting the artist they did would force the Ukrainians into a corner where one false move would make them look extremely bad and feed the Putin propaganda machine.

    • Absolutely. You can’t strip politics out of an event like Eurovision completely, but the allowal of coded political entries like 1944 and Face The Shadow laid the groundwork for situations like this, and it’s coming back to bite everyone. The EBU are so naive. Don’t Deny showed to other countries that you could get a political song accepted with only minor changes if you framed it in the context of the past, so that was the approach 1944 took the following year – framing a present grievance in the context of the past in a way that everyone understood what it was really about – and now here we are.

      • Have you actually looked into some older Eurovision entries? You’ll be surprised how many songs are full of coded ‘political’ messages. Think about ‘Si’, Italy 1974 (that created quite some turmoil, since in Italy during a referendum that year it was seen as a blatant support). Or even ‘Waterloo’ in 1974. Yes, lyrics-wise it was merely a mirror of our own ‘military battles’. And then there are numerous entries from the early 1990’s that focused heavily on European unity (‘Keine Mauern Mehr’, ‘Insieme: 1990’). Yes they were positive spirited entries, but very well bordering messages with a political nature.

        I think lyrics usually aren’t the real problem here. I think the biggest problem is the fact that the contest has become an Olympic sized event, whereas in 1974 more or less ‘similar’ cultures were represented in a maximum of 20 finalists, That’s the biggest difference if you ask me. And in a contest with 43 nations one has to be more aware of the diversity of cultures.

        And another big problem is the way Europe has changed since the 1990’s. From a prosperous, positive-spirited, unified continent into a psychologically broken, dissatisfied continent in which ultra-nationalism is on the rise again. In such an environment, every song becomes sensitive and a potential destroyer of diplomatic relationships. The EBU can be naive, but we should not immediately fingerpoint at the EBU since these problems are way way more complex and ‘grey’.

        Therefore, I think it’s too easy to simply reduce the freedom of expression with some stricter rules. Songs are also a form of expression, even lyrically. But to simply prohibit ‘political lyrics’ is easier said than done. Because ‘1944’ in essence wasn’t that much about politics. It was also very much a historical message. Are we going to prohibit historical messages? In hindsight, should Italy not have won the contest in 1990?

        • PurpleKylie

          That’s a fair point you bring up, where does one draw the line in regards to what is “overtly” political or not.

          You mention the 1974 Italian entry, RAI actually had to delay the initial broadcast of that year’s contest for about a week or two because people complained that the song would influence the result of their referendum on whether to legalise divorce (the final chorus went “I said yes to love and I would say yes to you every night”, yeah…).

          Another poltically charged entry from the past was Norway 1980 (the one with the joiking Sami guy), which was actually a protest song against a dam being built in the north of the country (the Sami people are very big on nature and the preservation of it).

        • I fucking wish Italy hadn’t won in 1990, we wouldn’t have had the dogshit production from RAI the following year. I’m already having nightmares about that fucking gorilla winning.

          • PurpleKylie

            The evil part of me would find it hilarious to see all the gorilla-backers complain about a shambolic RAI production.

            I know some of the Italian delegation and they individually genuinely care and put the effort in, but I suspect the higher-ups at RAI wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about having to run the show as say SVT have been. Case in point: RAI were given first refusal to host Junior Eurovision after winning it in 2014 and turned it down (the Bulgarians offered to host instead and did a great job btw).

          • eurovicious

            It wasn’t that bad, Eurovision is supposed to be a bit naff…

        • eurovicious

          OK, so the rule should be that entries can’t invoke a grievance (historical or present) against a fellow participating country. (All the more so if it’s a country they’re at war with.) That would be extremely sensible from a contest-organising perspective as well as in terms of content/freedom of speech – it would leave room for entries that reference internal issues (Si, Samiid Aednan, Portugal 2011), pro-European unity entries (Brandenburger Tor, Insieme, Keine Mauern Mehr) and even Face The Shadow given that Turkey wasn’t participating by that point.

  • Chris Bellis

    Just to add, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in both Russia and Ukraine, and in my experience there’s not much to choose between them. Both are gangster run bureaucracies, with not much more than a semblance of democracy. EBU should never have allowed such a blatantly politically divisive song to be entered. Idiots.

    • PurpleKylie

      Yeah, they’ve kind of sewn the seeds of their own turmoil, so to speak.

      For those who believe in the “Eurovision Dark Arts”, I’d expect TPTB will now be working much harder to get their chosen one over the line this year to avoid another situation like this. It was obvious they wanted the 2017 contest to be an SBS co-production and it backfired spectacularly.

  • John

    Er, guys, do Betfair Exchange do a non runner no bet?

    Russia, obviously. I presume I’ll have to wait until the decision is formalised?

  • Avitas

    I cant’t believe France isn’t mentioned once in 120 comments…. not even as a top 10 contender…?

    • Dana

      France is a tough one. I actually wouldn’t rule out a solid Loin D’ici style televote score for it- if not higher. I think it is the same team that were responsible for the last French entry, so they may have learned some lessons about staging since last year.

      It certainly has a strong following online, though that is not always an indication of much.

    • Chris Bellis

      I mentioned it early on and I have money on it. IMO it’s a good value bet – I was gambling on the English version making it more approachable, which I believe it does, although I preferred the original. The price has stayed more or less the same though, as bookies have ignored it, despite the number of sites that rate it highly. I didn’t comment again as others here didn’t see to have any interest in it.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        I’d consider that bettors are cagier nowadays about alerting others to potential value bets in markets, particularly when it’s relatively early days into the ESC season – at which time just one substantial bet can effect rapid changes in market odds.

        I’m backing rather than laying and I’m finding that I’d rather share on here, at this time, my thoughts about which ones I dislike rather than like.

        I will say that France is one that I’ve nearly backed oh so many times but that when it actually comes to pulling the trigger…

        Well, I haven’t yet.

        • Chris Bellis

          Guildo – I have sympathy with your sentiments. I have a weakness for French and Belgian pop so I have to be careful. I held back from “Loins D’ici” last year (yes I know it was Austria but she went to a French college) because of that, and lost out. On a more positive note I did back Amir for a top ten. I would be surprised if Alma didn’t equal that. She is very appealing, as was/is Amir. We won’t know until the rehearsals whether she can carry it off, but at current prices, it’s worth a punt, in my opinion.

    • I’m on the other side of the fence re: France – while it’s a good piece of pop that was well-received when revealed, I feel it’s not connecting emotionally and probably won’t in terms of the performance. A lot of Amir’s appeal, as well as the good song, was his perceived personality and charisma. The fact no-one is really talking about France this year despite the relative quality of the song tells us something, I think.

  • markovs

    …and what about Poland for top 10? If the diaspora can get last year’s utter tripe into the top 10 then why not this year’s marginally better effort?

    • Hippo

      Running order pending, Poland will do well to make it out the semi. We shouldn’t expect Poland to get a similar televote to last year. With hindsight, him beating Margaret and Edyta in the national final showed how much appeal that song had for Poles (and others too- that was not just diaspora). Last year was an oddity but an explainable one. If she does make the final, Kasia will get very much the base diaspora who will vote for anything (50 points ish) and not much else from public or juries.

    • Dana

      It’s taken a long time, but I’ve come to the grudging conclusion that people genuinely loved the Polish entry last year. It scored consistently highly everywhere

      It has made me wary of outright dismissing any entry though! Who will the Szpak fans vote for this year?

      • eurovicious

        Agreed with Hippo and Dana, not only do Poles really like Michal Szpak but lots of non-Poles really liked that entry and voted for it too, so I similarly don’t expect the effect to be repeated this year.

  • PurpleKylie

    Two questions: if this ban sticks and Russia are forced to withdraw this year, 1) who’s going to qualify in 10th in Semi 2, and 2) which Eastern country will benefit the most from all the free votes that would normally go to Russia?

    • Hippo

      1- Croatia might get enough novelty votes to sneak in depending of course on how funny it looks on the night. I also had Netherlands and Hungary fairly close to qualifying too so it’s a hard one to call

      2- Belarus. The most Russian song, the most pro Russian country. They were probably going to get high points from Russia itself though so its not all good for them.

    • Actually Malta is a smart bet for qualifying in lieu of Russia, given Malta always gets a disproportionately high jury score in its semi. Malta has qualified 4 of the past 5 years and would have qualified in 2015 too instead of Azerbaijan under the new voting system.

  • Emrico

    Russians are very clever. They specially sent this nominee to create a scandal. Rules are rules. She has ban and still they sendher. Ah those russians. They always want to make mess and create political scandal. Of course, they dont want to participate eurovision in ukraine.

    About bulgaria, I dont understand why it’s so much favourite. His voice is good yes but song is BORING. I’m tired of boring ballads. ITALY song rocks! I’m expecting Italy to win. This song feels like, smells like winner. other songs not.

    • eurovicious

      Agreed. The Bulgarian entry’s totally unmemorable and the country as a whole shouldn’t be overrated just because they did unexpectedly well last year.

      • Chris Bellis

        If BG did do well again it would give the last laugh to Russia, as the singer is Russian. After Belarus, Bulgaria always was the most pro-Russian of USSR countries. However, I can’t see the song doing that well even though the lad is a good singer. Too many similar acts.

        • PurpleKylie

          I feel like the Sofabet faithful are being more than a little dismissive of Bulgaria because they don’t seem to “get” the song. I’m usually not a fan of this Bieber-esque downbeat pop style and even I like it.

          Bear in mind, when BNT called for submissions this year, they requested pretty much a whole dossier including info on the song, act etc… and, here’s a key thing: staging concept. I suspect that they may have something up their sleeve for Kyiv, I just can’t think of what.

          Personally I respect Bulgaria’s chances of winning a lot more than Italy’s or Sweden’s.

          • Milton

            Just because they made staging part of the submission process doesn’t mean that something brilliant has been submitted. What are the chances of the best song AND the best staging concept coming from the same team? Someone else might have had a great staging concept but with an inferior song, in which case a choice has to be made.

            Their selection process has come up with a solid credible contender and fair play to them, but as EV suggests they are unlikely to have been transformed into seasoned Eurovision over-achievers by one shock result and a decision to take it seriously.

            I don’t think its a case of us ‘not getting it’, I totally see why people enjoy it and its certainly in my personal top 10, but its not something that I could begin to get passionate about and I see little evidence of that elsewhere. Even you who are making a case for it are only admitting that you like to your surprise and against your better instincts. Hardly a ringing endorsement for a song that has the enormously tough task of rising above 42 other songs to actually win this.

          • I do think people underestimated Bulgaria last year, especially in relation to the staging. Part of its success was the level of agreement between the jury vote and televote – it came 5th in the televote and 7th in the jury vote, pushing it up to 4th overall. Certainly BNT knows what it’s doing now insofar as I found last year’s staging very intelligent, and their statement on this year’s entry (which I’m not sure whether it has been discussed here yet) is eye-opening: http://eurovision.bg/en/the-project/

            I already knew of Kristian Kostov from his Virginia Records material, and indeed Virginia Records are producing this entry – though for my money it’s not of the calibre of their usual more uptempo output. Virginia Records also aren’t just on a mission to improve Bulgarian pop music but to develop artists and songs that can be successful internationally too – which is why the last singles by Kristian Kostov and Dara were both released in an English version (and in Kristian’s case a Russian one too). They have some really good producers on board and are branching out in terms of their collaborations – as well as them doing Bulgaria’s Eurovision entry this year, one of their top producers (Vasko Ivanov AKA Dexter) produced the latest Galin single (my favourite song of the year so far – the last 90 seconds is a sexy, glitchy mess: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQMijiRvAyk).

            As a song I think Australia is much more memorable and appealing, and thus more suited to the Eurovision context, but I absolutely don’t rule out Bulgaria pulling off a CATS with its emotive, very low-key entry. Can I see it winning? I doubt it – I don’t think the song is strong enough.

          • Chris Bellis

            I get the BG song and I like it, especially with the excellent singer. But it is very similar to other songs which are also good. That’s bound to dilute the support. Last year BG had a unique offering – I liked it but dismissed it too early on, when they hadn’t got the staging quite right and the whole thing seemed a bit naff. Even the Bulgarians I know weren’t too hopeful. All credit to the managers, they got their act together and improved it. This year there will be more competition for this specific genre, however well staged and performed it is. They could of course ask for Russian support for what is after all a Russian singer and that could make a difference.

  • Hippo

    Ebu offering Russia the chance to compete via satellite. If I was the delegation I’d bite their hand off. You get to make the point about the nasty Ukrainians on the night itself and stand a great chance at doing well. I tend to give televoters more credit than to fall for easy sympathy cards like Sjonni’s friends or Poland 2015 (her name eludes me) but this is a totally different ball park.

    • And it removes the locus of control – they can do anything they want in those 3 minutes, at least in the final. Not sure whether they’ll accept the EBU’s offer though, they might prefer just to pull out.

    • PurpleKylie

      I don’t know whether to find that funny or facepalm-worthy.

      Reminds me of Top Of The Pops around the turn of the century where American acts who couldn’t be arsed to get a transatlantic flight would film a cheap pre-recorded live performance in a blackened set instead.

    • Chris Bellis

      If they allow Russia to compete via satellite, why not allow other countries the same option? Saves going to Kyiv which I’ve always found to be a bit of a s***hole, whatever the tourist sites say. As it is the EBU is having to bale out Kyiv to an undisclosed but probably huge sum of money or it will be a disaster. Some chickens coming home to roost, especially after the shoddy way they treated Romania.

  • PurpleKylie

    Although I hate using Spotify as a means to predict Eurovision results, for those who like to keep track of such things, City Lights has just cracked the Spotify viral top 50 charts in France: https://twitter.com/lelabelpias/status/844942657533198339

    You know, the same France who could rival the UK for having the population that least gives a crap about Eurovision.

  • Rivo

    I almost got sucked into the thought process that the Russians had messed up with their entry this yeah. This may be perceived as inappropriate to bring up, but could they have sent her with the plan b of if she actually got in to Ukraine, she would be difficult to accommodate re staging access, walk-ons for intros at the start of the show etc.

    • eurovicious

      I really don’t think they picked her to make Kyiv look bad for not having enough ramps, lol. Including a wheelchair participant isn’t that difficult, Vienna managed OK in 2015.

      An additional context did occur to me though, which is that Western media/politics has an unfortunate tendency to use gay rights as a stick to beat less developed countries with. Like, of all the awful things about Putin’s Russia, which fill books, somehow the ‘gay propaganda’ law gets the most Western media attention even though there are something like 80 countries where homosexuality is illegal and Russia isn’t one of them. In the UK/US we attack countries as backwards and reprehensible simply for not having reached the gay rights situation we reached just a few decades ago ourselves. (This neoliberal leveraging of LGBT rights as a virtue-signalling political tool to establish a contrast to a barbarian Other is known as homonationalism.) So is it any wonder when Russia decides to cynically use a minority rights issue to make an enemy country look bad along the lines of “Look at how Ukraine and Europe are treating this disabled girl, when they claim to be progressive and ‘celebrate diversity'”?

      • Chris Bellis

        True about Russia, as anybody who’s been to the big cities will testify. Yes, the gopniki are homophobic – bit like Millwall supporters – but there are loads of gay bars in St P and Moscow. Remember we had an equivalent law under Margaret Thatcher. I’m not condoning it, but it’s a bit of hypocrisy that’s easy for the Russian media to laugh at. In my experience, most of Eastern Europe is as bad, if not worse.

  • Milton

    http://www.euronews.com/2017/03/24/russia-ukraine-eurovision-row-rumbles-on-after-olive-branch-rejected

    “We find it strange the offer to participate remotely and we refuse because it goes against the essence of the event,” said Pervyi Kanal, according to AFP.

    “One of the rules (of Eurovision) is that the song must be interpreted live on stage.

    “We think the EBU should not invent new rules for the Russian candidate in 2017.”

    • While the EBU’s Ukraine-chastising statement was very naive, at least they (even if inadvertently) called Russia’s bluff by offering them this workaround as a pragmatic compromise – and Russia has thrown it straight back in their face by not being prepared to meet them halfway. Will the EBU wake up and realise it’s being played now?

  • John

    Pervy Kanal? Im sure there’s one of those in Manchester.

  • PurpleKylie

    The official ESC YouTube channel uploaded this video on what a Head Of Delegation does. What really interested me was that the French HoD said that they are planning something “impressive” for their staging which will be “different from last year’s”: https://youtu.be/Cp088n4a_Gs

    I also get the impression that the French HoD REALLY cares about Eurovision and wants to make an effort to do well.

    • Good video. Dream job innit. I got to know a few of the HODs the Düsseldorf year. The vast majority are different now (most countries change HOD every few years) but there are one or two who’ve been doing it for over a decade.

      • Chris Bellis

        France has been making an effort for a few years now. Last year they seemed to click with the voters. I’m hoping this year will deliver. Lost faith in UK many many years ago.

        • Tim B

          France’s song is really good this year, possibly Top 10 if everything comes together, but surely Alma herself is the huge problem with this entry? She’s completely lacking in charisma when she performs.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Alma completely lacking in charisma? The camera loves the girl and her naturalism and honesty is compelling. I see a huge positive with her rather than a huge problem.

          • Chris Bellis

            I agree with Guildo here. Alma has that typically French natural charm and sex appeal, Francesco has that typically Italian charm . Again I wonder whether some posters here live with supermodels or Hollywood film stars. I have read here that Amir is a charmless twerp, that Blanche is so plain she stands no chance, and many others have been dismissed as not good looking enough. A couple of years ago even Mans was dismissed as lacking in charisma. Luckily I paid no attention then, any more than I take such comments seriously now. Each to his own, I suppose, but for betting purposes, I think we should be wary of dismissing performers as not good looking enough.

          • PurpleKylie

            I agree that Alma does have that French charm, I just find it more of a “girl next door vibe” as opposed to “superstar”. Same with Amir, it was more of a subtle “smiley guy you’d bring home to your mum” kind of charm.

            Måns and Sergey to me give off a “superstar” vibe (even without the projections). Like you can’t imagine them doing anything else than sing big pop songs and other celebrity stuff for a living.

            I did find it kinda offensive that a shy-looking 17 year-old girl was described as “smackable” on these parts. No wonder so many young girls have image problems.

          • I believe the original comment was that she had a face like a smacked arse, ie. looked sour-faced, rather than having a “smackable” face per se.

    • Good spot Kylie. It seems the Italian and French HODs have some passion where the UK one sees it as just an administrative role.

      Alma has enough charisma for me and she looks the part. Shame the song isn’t entirely in English, but 55 LPM Last Price Matched will look large if they bring it with the staging.

      • dicksbits

        The song is generic to the max – I can’t see this lighting up the scoreboard. Down the memory hole more like.

        • Chris Bellis

          But considerably less generic than much of the rest of the field. The song is good, and the performer is appealing. We’ll see what happens in rehearsals. At the moment the price is attractive, considering how many fan sites have rated it highly. Yes, I know: fan bubble and all that….

        • What’s The Pressure was insanely generic and ended up sneaking into the top 10 on the basis of jurors voting for bubbly Laura’s girl-next-door Sparkle Motion shtick and rewarding the globalised Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson sound and presentation. (Televoters placed it 16th, which seemed about right to me.) I think Alma’s Reqiuem is a little bit too generic, yes, but vastly better than the aforementioned entry. Which probably means it’ll do worse – because it feels like good, distinctly Francophone pop that takes its cues from acts like Mylene Farmer and Stromae rather than aping current Anglo-American sounds. It’s obvious the French head of delegation really cares, is proactive and knows what he’s doing, and as such it’s reasonable to expect decent staging and presentation. In terms of the fan bubble I do think there’s an issue of the predominantly gay male fanbase not picking up on her particular charms, which the straight male voting audience will on the night. I think Amir’s result is its absolute ceiling, I’d expect it to come in somewhat below this (quite a lot, to be honest), as it’s a less globalised song and I think audiences and jurors give female singers less leeway with this kind of non-Anglophone upbeat entry than they give male ones, plus the part-English revamp has harmed it somewhat. It’s a good song, but it needs to have relevance and connection to do well, and at present I’m not sure it does.

          • Chris Bellis

            EV – you’ve got me worried with the reference to Mylene Farmer, the French version of Madonna. I love Mylene, but if you look at her audiences on youtube, you can see which demographic she appeals to. Mostly not straight people. BTW thanks for the info about “What’s The Pressure”. I won money on that one, but I was so pleased with myself I didn’t check the voting. I assumed it was a televote thing and the juries would have voted it down. I should pay more attention.

          • No problem, Daniel touched on it in his 2016 post-analysis: http://sofabet.com/2016/05/19/eurovision-2016-post-mortem/

            This is a general thing with juries that punters really need to watch, because it’s counterintuitive – certain “anodyne radio pop” entries that one might be forgiven for thinking televoters would prefer to juries instead score poorly with televoters (because they don’t stand out) but are greatly rewarded by juries because they sound like inoffensive Anglo-American radio pop, ie. are perceived to have “hit potential” (even though they actually don’t because they did terribly in the televote). As well as the fact juries have to remember and rank all songs and voters at home don’t, I think it also has a lot to do with cultural cringe, rewarding the countries who’ve emulated the Western pop template best. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_cringe

            Examples:

            – Juries ranked Trijntje’s Walk Along above Goodbye To Yesterday in the 2015 semi
            – Juries ranked Natalia Kelly’s Shine above Anouk’s Birds in the 2013 semi
            – Juries ranked Krista’s Marry Me (objectively poorly sung) higher than loads of better stuff in the other 2013 semi
            – Juries ranked What’s The Pressure higher than Hovi Star, Douwe Bob, Iveta, Justs, Donny, Poli etc etc.
            – Juries ranked Amir 3rd, televoters ranked him 9th

            (Note: I like Natalia Kelly’s Shine and am not averse to J’ai cherche.)

          • PurpleKylie

            Not to mention that the juries ranked one of the most generic songs in the entire 2016 lineup in first place.

            I’m amazed that 1944 came second with the juries at all, but I think that was mainly down to Eastern juries (especially the Baltics) having a strong emotional reaction to it.

          • Yeah, agreed on both counts – I obviously could have cited Heroes and Sound Of Silence, which both won the jury vote with a massive margin of over 100 points, but “only” came 3rd and 4th respectively in the televote, with viewers at home preferring Grande Amore, A Million Voices, You Are The Only One, 1944 and Color Of Your Life (4 out of 5 of which aren’t typical Anglo-American contemporary radio hit fare). At least with Dami her vocal was genuinely phenomenal.

            1944’s jury success was absolutely about eastern European juries standing with Ukraine, as well as the excellent vocal.

          • Boki

            Arguably both Belgium/NL last year went down on televote in the final due to the early draw.

          • PurpleKylie

            True, I think a similar thing happened to Denmark in 2011, I think they would’ve done better in the televote had they not been 3rd in the running order after two other midtempos.

            I know that the producer-led running order isn’t very popular amongst these circles but I think the finals of 2011 and 2012 are fairly good arguments in favour of it.

  • markovs

    Even the mention of ‘color of your life’ makes me cringe. Genuinely one of my worst Eurovision songs of all time.

    • Chris Bellis

      I know what you mean markovs. There were much more credible songs they could have chosen, but they went with that, probably because of the performer being able to sing. However, it was playing seemingly on a loop in my local LIDL, and loads of my friends and acquaintances liked it, not just the Polish ones. Sometimes Eurovision baffles me.

    • Color Of Your Life was a huge guilty pleasure for me and many others last year. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the equivalent song for me this year is Croatia’s My Friend.

      • PurpleKylie

        A common remark I’ve heard from people I know is “I’ve played My Friend to relatives/friends who don’t follow/like Eurovision, and they legitimately loved it”, which makes me simultaneously amused and scared.

        It’s why I’ve got Croatia as an amber in my Q list rather than a red like everyone else does.

  • PurpleKylie

    Public reaction to the UK entry, which ranged from lukewarm at best and “boring” at worst: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=167_ALQ-udU&t=0s

  • johnkef

    My thoughts so far about the Winner market and the semifinals.

    Italy: they are deservedly ahead of the pack but i totally disagree with the current price. If he wins it’s not gonna be Sweden ’12-’15, Norway ’09, Denmark ’13 way. Apart from that , i tried to immagine this song competing in the previous years and i could not picture it being a Top3 but this is a strange year.

    After Italy there is a group of countries that depend on their staging and can finish anywhere between 1-5. These countries in my opinion are Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Australia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia capable of sneaking in Top 4-5. For the moment it looks like a Tour de France etap. one leader and a group of cyclists behind him in close distance just before the final 4-5 km. Anything can happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if any of these countries win the contest.

    Regarding the semi finals:

    Semi final 1

    Certain qualifiers

    Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Armenia, Greece

    Border lines

    Iceland – Q, Cyprus – Q, Poland – Q
    Finland – NQ, Albania – NQ, Moldova – NQ

    Doomed

    Georgia, Montenegro, Czech Rep., Latvia, Slovenia

    Semi final 2

    Certain qualifiers

    Denmark, Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Israel

    Border lines

    Russia – Q, Netherlands – Q, Romania – Q
    Austria – NQ, Ireland – NQ, Malta – NQ, Estonia – NQ, Norway – NQ, Switzerland – NQ

    Doomed

    Croatia, Lithuania, San Marino

    • markovs

      Further to your thoughts of the Italy song in previous years. Going back 10 years, I could imagine it winning last year, 2014, definitely 2011, 2010 and 2008.

      Wouldn’t have even been top 5 (7?) in 2015, which was a very strong year. It’s all about the competition against it. I see this year as similar to 2013, where one song was solid favourite through all the national final season and it was up to the rehearsals and staging to see if there were going to be any competitors. As it happened none surfaced in 2013 and Denmark won comfortably.

      For me, Italy looks the only obvious winner at the moment but could be challenged if a strong performance emerges, as it’s not a ‘cert’ (like 2009 and 2012). Italy have set the standard and now we wait to see if anyone can step up to the plate. Belgium, Australia and maybe Azerbaijan seem the likeliest for me at the moment.

      Oh and I have to disagree with Denmark being a cert to qualify. Unless she can improve her screech, nearly screams vocals, I can see it as a NQ. Not impressed with the live vocal at all

      • PurpleKylie

        Australia last year proved that screaming for three minutes gets you jury votes.

      • Hippo

        Italy wins in ’10 and ’11 for me, maybe ’07. Not top 4 in any other year apart from last year.
        Denmark is through for me. I think its one that makes it fairly comfortably and then absolutely crashes bottom five in the final.

        • PurpleKylie

          “The gorilla could’ve beaten Lena” has to be up there alongside “the gorilla will do a Rybak” in the Most Facepalm-Worthy Deluded Gorilla-Fanboy Statements stakes, lord give me strength…

          • Hippo

            I’m not a gorilla fanboy and am one of the most sceptical of its chances on this site -after you of course ;).
            However Lena gets 430 points under current scoring, from one of the best running order slots, in one of the weakest years. Hardly an unbeatable score.

        • “The gorilla could’ve beaten Lena”, aside from being something I might conceivably watch on pay-per-view, is not unimaginable, I think – she won with a low total in a weak year.

    • Black n Blue

      I wouldn’t call Italy an obvious winner. For now, I have them as default winners but as always, there should be one or two entries that’ll spring from the pack come rehearsals. Sweden are on my radar too, but more so because of the positive feedback I’ve gotten from friends, not because I like the song. Something to keep in mind, is that both Italy and Sweden have played their hand stage wise; they’ve plateaued and shouldn’t have much more to offer than what we’ve seen up to now.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about Austria recently (Not the ski resorts-the song!). They’ve barely gotten a mention on here, but Running on Air sounds pleasant on the ear, it’s an easy song to get into, Nathan’s a nice looking bloke, and I think think he brings a lot of charm to this. Ok, in drink terms it’s a bud-lite, and it might sound slightly too insubstantial to win, yet there’s something telling me it’ll be a sleeper hit.

      • PurpleKylie

        In regards to Austria, EV’s “juries love generic Anglophone songs” rant made me think that maybe the juries voting in Semi 2 will really like Austria’s song. I’m not saying that it’s a potential winner but he he really sells the song and performs it with a good chunk of personality, they might have a decent chance of qualifying.

        I’m not trying to diss it personally, I enjoy the song, it’s just that I get the criticisms that others have of it.

  • PurpleKylie

    Public reaction to Italy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u0Zr7aXBV8

    I get the impression that some of these people were laughing AT him, rather than WITH him

    • Sin

      Not what I got from the video
      – Italian charm – working (not just on 40-something gays)
      – brings smile to faces – check
      – people waving along the mini dance – check
      – “Ooh the monkey” – eye catching / entertaining – check
      – Few English keywords catching attention – check
      – “Finally a change from all the ballads” – checkitty check

      Eurovision casuals were never gonna take it too seriously. If anything – these reactions are a good sign for Francesco

    • I’d say very positive, makes me take Italy more seriously. (But these are fans not casuals).

    • meridian_child

      I would also say this reaction is rather positive. But those are just some random people. I doubt there is much information you can gather from their reactions.

      Last year they seemed to like France the most. They had mixed reactions about Australia and Russia. They didnt seem to like Ukraine and Sweden.

  • markovs

    I generally bore my ‘casual Esc’ friends to death during this period, trying to get ‘first hear’ opinions. None of them big Eurovision fans. It was not even close, Italy and Belgium miles ahead with virtually everyone.
    Italy was perceived as a really positive, fun song and memorable for more than the Gorilla. Belgium was viewed as the ‘class’ song and too good for ESC.
    Nobody had a single other song as a potential winner. Australia and Macedonia got good approval and Sweden was pretty unpopular.
    Didn’t work for last year but Mans, Loreen and Emmelie were very popular in previous years.

    • PurpleKylie

      That reminds me, I’ve done my “mum reacts to the recap” test that I’ll upload soon. Those who know me on Facebook also know that I sent my dad in NZ links to all the videos and posted his opinions.

      What I will say is that while they mostly disagreed on a lot of the songs (they have wildly different music tastes, so it doesn’t surprise me), there are a couple of songs that they both had the same opinion (positive and negative) which I found interesting…

  • Jack

    How come a lot of people think Georgia won’t qualify? She looks great, she sings very well and Georgia usually can come up with a good act. Georgia only failed when they sent atrocious songs like in 2012 and 2014. They have a decent amount of friends in the semifinal and I see this qualifying pretty easily because of a good basic televote score and jury love. I would be more worried about Cyprus or Portugal for that matter. I think Georgia is more memorable than no hopers Czech Republic, Slovenia, Finland and Albania. Or even Poland.

    • PurpleKylie

      Personally I have Georgia red-bordering-on-amber, and my reasoning is a) it and Albania will cancel each other out, both are screamy peace ballads thus they’re fishing in the same pond, b) didn’t win the televote in its NF, c) it’s in the more competitive semi, it would’ve stood a better chance in Semi 2 IMO, and d) people don’t like it when countries try to copy last year’s winning formula, and I consider Georgia to be the biggest 1944-copycat of the lot.

    • meridian_child

      who is among this decent amount of friends? Armenia.. and who else?

    • Hippo

      Strength of semi and in particular first half of semi. Azerbaijan, Belgium, Sweden, Australia, Portugal, Finland stronger on both jury and public. Greece and Armenia safe and its not going to be an 8-2 split so Georgia have to go.

      I made the same argument as you regarding Georgia’s qualification record when it was selected but the fact is this semi has turned out stronger than expected and this will be used as filler in the running order.

      • Jack

        I can understand your view on the fact the first half of semi 1 is packed with good songs. But I am not too sure about Finland or Portugal. Georgia is more accessible and can rely on a bit more televote support when looking at voting in previous contests. It’s a Jamala type of song but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t see it as a copycat. It’s way different in style and message. I am sure their visuals won’t be the ones from the semifinal. The message is strong: Keeping the faith. People won’t understand what Portugal is singing about and Finland really sounds depressing. I don’t think Albania and Georgia will cancel each other out. To me Albania is a certain non-qualifier and if people were to choose between Albania and Georgia I think it’s an obvious choice. If Georgia could get a decent jury vote in 2012 I don’t think they will be forgotten by the jury this year.

        • Yeah, Finland is depressing. So’s Adele. So was Suus. It’s an open question. I agree on the poor qualification prospects of Czech Republic, Slovenia, Cyprus, Albania, and potentially also Poland (even though I really like Slovenia – I seem to be the only person). Tako can sing very well, looks good, and Georgia has a good staging record. What stands against this is how competitive the semi is combined with the low quality of the song – most people, myself included, seem to think it’s one of the worst of the year. I have it down as NQ, but I don’t rule out it sneaking through if juries reward her voice and if it gets enough televote from its “friends”.

          When it comes to more arthouse entries that are non-English and non-Eurovisiony, whether Kedvesem or Kuula, as long as they’re jury-friendly (as those were, and as Portugal is this year), I’d much rather back them than not back them. Why? Iceland last year is the perfect counterpoint example – virtually everyone treated it as a nailed-on qualifier and some even talked it up as a potential contest winner, but in reality it wasn’t even close to qualifying either in the jury vote or televote, making it the poster boy for fanwank. It hit all the bubble’s buttons: Scandinavian (✓) older female (✓) returning artist (✓) who did worse than expected last time (✓) with cheesy (✓) upbeat (✓) repetitive (✓) song in simple English (✓) with projection choreography (✓). May tick eurofan boxes, but in terms of ability to stand out and for ordinary viewers to actually respond to and care about an entry on the night, I’d take the opposite of that anyday (ie. the non-English arthouse/leftfield entry that fans are more likely to overlook).

        • meridian_child

          Here is a summary of all the countries, that are allowed to vote in Semi 1 this year, sorted by the position they put Georgia 2016 on Televote (to see who is going to vote for the country no matter what they send)

          Armenia 3rd
          Italy 8th
          Latvia 9th
          Azerbaijan 10th
          Greece 12th
          Poland 13th
          Rest 19th or worse
          (Rest consists of 13 countries: Albania, Australia, Belgium, Finland, Montenegro, Sweden, Iceland, Moldova, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Spain, UK)

          On first view, it seems Georgia got 1 voting ally and 5 voting ‘friends’ in this semi. Now looking at the jury scores from 2016 and 2015 of these friends/allies to see how reliable they are:

          Armenia 2nd (2016) and 1st (2015)
          Italy 8th and 18th (and 5th in 2014 Semi 2)
          Latvia 11th and 17th
          Azerbaijan 24th and 2nd
          Greece 6th and 13th
          Poland 3rd and 12th (and 11th in 2014 Semi 2)

          Again you can see, that Armenia can be considered as a voting ally. The others dont seem to have such a strong connection to Georgia (Azerbaijan is a bit weird here).

          No idea why the juries were giving Georgia 62 points in the 2012 Semi. They were either drunk or trying to troll around. But I’m pretty sure it did not have THAT much to do with the fact, that it was Georgia.

          Looking at this year, Georgia got one the weaker songs of Semi 1. I just cant see how they are supposed get 100 points overall or more. I’m not saying that its impossible, but the value for me right now is laying Georgia (especially considering its starting first half). In my opinion juries are more likely to award the songs from Portugal, Finland or Poland..

          • I’m on board with all this. Martin’s stats also show that Georgia is poorly placed in terms of allies: https://thankyoueurope.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/stats-corner-2017-semi-final-draw/

          • Jack

            While another analysis puts Georgia ahead of Portugal, Finland, Poland etc.: https://adriankavanagh.com/2017/01/31/will-ireland-make-it-to-the-eurovision-song-contest-2017-final-predictions-for-the-semi-final-contests-based-on-past-voting-histories/

            I can understand people think the Georgian song is pretty weak. But I just don’t understand the love for Finland, Portugal or Poland. They feel very niche. At least Georgia has a song people can expect of a Eurovision song. To me the qualifiers in Eurovision are usually songs that are not too in your face or left field. Portugal’s song is in Portugese, the singer doesn’t look very attractive or boy next door. And sex sells. Italy in 2013 to me had a similar type of song. But the singer was attractive and you could expect more televote support.

            I have asked a couple of friends independently what they thought of the songs of semifinal 1. While they thought Georgia was ‘okay’ they clearly expressed they hated the songs from Finland, Portugal and Poland. As a matter of fact, even Azerbaijan was not favored. They also did not like the song from Armenia and Greece. The songs they liked were: Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Cyprus and Czech Republic (her voice). So countries with at least some basic support (based on historical voting patterns) have an advantage in their chance to qualify. So that’s why I still think Georgia has a better chance.

          • markovs

            I understand all the reasons why Georgia could qualify, but purely on a song basis this should be nowhere near the final. It’s a Bond-esqe dirge and there are so many better songs 8n this semi it would be criminal if it went through at the expense of ,say, Portugal or Finland . I really really hope this misses out bur being Georgia it will probably slip through.

  • PurpleKylie

    Here’s my mum’s reaction to the recap of this year’s songs, sorry there’s no visuals this time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ySxU-a0oDI

    • Jack

      Wow to her The Netherlands and Austria really stood out 🙂 What surprised me is that she thinks Serbia is an ok song but she doesn’t like Macedonia. Also Norway got a positive response and also Cyprus. The favorite Italy was not her cup of tea haha. Surprised she immediately liked Sweden. Portugal probably will not be as popular as people think it will be when I hear her reaction. Though she liked Bulgaria, Australia and Belgium.

  • Does anyone know then the semi-final running orders are expected?

  • Jack

    LOL I got an email from Zumo about their new collection. Their email was titled: Spring Drop 4 Sahara Shades. Which song and artist name did I see in this email title which made me realize I am obsessed with Eurovision? 😛

  • New version of Georgia. I think it’s working better.

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