Eurovision 2011: How did our pre-rehearsal analysis fare?

Tomorrow, this year’s Eurovision semi-finalists will be allocated to one of the two qualifying heats. We’ll offer an initial reaction on Sofabet, representing the start of our 2012 coverage. In the meantime, we take this opportunity to look back on the 2011 contest.

Before rehearsals began in Dusseldorf, we gave preliminary thoughts on some of the entries as they were selected, starting with Jedward’s ‘Lipstick’ for Ireland. Before repeating the exercise this year, we thought that a return to those articles, comparing what we said about their chances with what happened in the contest would be an interesting exercise.

The articles remind us not to be too hasty in jumping to conclusions. So much that is crucial on the night is unknown during the pre-rehearsal phase, including performance in the demanding Eurovision arena, staging and draw. Indeed, the songs themselves can be altered right up until a mid-March deadline. That is why the articles are often highly equivocal.

Still, it’s worth seeing which opinions stood the test of time and which didn’t. We may be able to learn some lessons for 2012 as well as wallow in nostalgia for 2011.

Azerbaijan ‘Running Scared’ Ell and Nikki

Finishing Position: Winner

Money quote: “All in all, in a year where most of the big hitters have delivered underwhelming songs, I think this is perhaps the only entry that has the potential to deliver a strong diaspora vote allied to universally high televote and jury scores.”

With hindsight: As pointed out, Azerbaijan ticked more boxes than any other country going into the contest. The big unknown was the doubts surrounding the singing ability of female vocalist Nikki, and these were effectively handled in the presentation of the song.

Sweden ‘Popular’ Eric Saade

Finishing Position: 3rd

Money quote: “So I think Saade is going to go the way of not just Perrelli, but other Swedish entrants with inflated expectations (and consequent prominent position in the betting market) such as The Ark in 2007 and Anna Bergandahl in 2010, all of whom flattered to deceive.”

With hindsight: ‘Popular’ proved my biggest blind spot in these preview articles. I felt it was wise to warn punters that a killer production in the Swedish national final may not have been so effective on the Eurovision stage. It turned out that ‘Popular’ had plenty going for it, as was left to Sofabet commenter James to point out in response to the article.

Denmark ‘A New Tomorrow’ A Friend In London

Finishing Position: 5th

Money quote: “It is arguably the most coherent three minutes of pop in a contest not long on songs with this quality. Especially with a good draw this should be popular with televoters and it seems likely that juries are not going to find it difficult to score this simple song and presentation well.”

With hindsight: Suggested at this early stage as a reasonable 13-2 bet to win its semi where drawn last, ‘A New Tomorrow’ was beaten only by Sweden. Terribly drawn at three in the final, Denmark’s high finish was largely due to being placed third by the juries.

Bosnia ‘Love In Rewind’ Dino Merlin

Finishing Position: 6th

Money quote: “Bosnia is not without allies and Merlin’s fame in that part of the world should mean plenty of points from neighbours and diaspora…I am yet to be convinced that this song will appeal beyond its natural constituency.”

With hindsight: Bosnia overcame a terrible draw in the final more effectively with televoters due to Dino’s many fans around Europe, although juries generally weren’t as impressed. It’s fair to say that its points came largely from neighbours and diaspora.

Greece ‘Watch My Dance’ Loukas Yiorkas

Finishing Position: 7th

Money quote: “It’s a dark, powerful number that was ably performed if terribly staged in the national final…’Watch My Dance’ will be popular among Greece’s friends and diaspora around Europe, it may also fare better with the juries than either of Greece’s last two efforts.”

With hindsight: Half right here. Greece did indeed do very well with allies, coming third in the televote. However, it did less well with juries even than its 2010 and 2009 efforts.

Ireland ‘Lipstick’ Jedward

Finishing Position: 8th

Money quote: “Firstly, it is not a jury song…Juries tend to favour ballads and/or simple presentations…The televoters could go either way. There’s no doubt that the twins are visually memorable and that’s important in Eurovision.”

With hindsight: I was always rather flummoxed by what would happen to Jedward, but national juries seemed equally confused. The twins only managed eighth in their semi with the pimp slot, yet managed the same position in the final from a much worse draw. It did better with televoters than juries in the semi, placed sixth and tenth respectively, but those positions were exactly reversed in the final. Go figure.

Germany ‘Taken By A Stranger’ Lena

Finishing Position: 10th

Money quote: “It seems designed, as hosts’ songs often do, to perform respectably without actually winning…I have to rely on my Eurovision instinct, which tells me that in a normal year, I would expect this to finish on the fringes of the Top 10.”

With hindsight: This was a reasonably prescient preview. ‘Taken By A Stranger’ was well staged and just managed to squeak into the top 10. It actually did marginally better with televoters than juries, however, despite me thinking otherwise.

UK ‘I Can’ Blue

Finishing Position: 11th

Money quote: “I Can is a slick, shrewd song which I can see scoring well. It ticks plenty of Eurovision boxes…Now for the but….more than two people provising lead vocals and harmonising does not have a good record in recent Eurovisions.”

With hindsight: Blue’s very poor performance in the rehearsal that juries vote on put them in the bottom five with that constituency. Their better showing for the TV audience saw them reach the top five with televoters. It seems safe to say that had they nailed the vocals for the juries, a top 10 finish would have been assured – but they didn’t.

France ‘Sognu’ Amaury Vassili

Finishing Position: 15th

Money quote: “I think that structurally the song is not ideal at all. There are dramatic moments, but the melodic line could be stronger…However, a strong vocal performance – which Vassili can achieve – could render all this theorising obsolete.”

With hindsight: I should have read my initial thoughts again when being over-impressed by early rehearsals and staging in Dusseldorf. However, whatever the merits of classical pop in Eurovision, Vassili’s weak performance on the night doomed ‘Sognu’.

Russia ‘Get You’ Alexey Vorobyov

Finishing Position: 16th

Money quote: “A decent Top Ten finish in the final with televoters seems highly likely…’Get You’ does not strike me as particularly jury friendly – although they may see it as serviceable, modern, commercial pop.”

With hindsight: ‘Get You’ managed seventh with televoters. However, a poor performance in the jury rehearsal saw it finish plum last with this constituency, sending Russia much lower down the scoreboard than I had expected at the pre-rehearsal stage.

Hungary ‘What About My Dreams’ Kati Wolf

Finishing Position: 22nd

Money quote: “Fan favourites can and do fail every year…Those who have been supporting or backing Kati Wolf better hope that the news from the rehearsal blogs is positive because there is the potential for ‘What About My Dreams’ to turn into a nightmare when live on stage.”

With hindsight: Phew. Unimpressed by the staging and vocals during rehearsals, betting that this wouldn’t reach the Top 10 was easily my biggest punt of the contest. Juries put it bottom five and it didn’t do that much better with televoters.

Estonia ‘Rockefeller Street’ Getter Jaani

Finishing Position: 24th

Money quote: “As composition goes, it’s cute, modern and clever, but in Eurovision terms a more regularly-paced song or one that builds is usually more effective in pleasing an audience who only have three minutes to assimilate it.”

With hindsight: A valuable reminder not to get carried away by a song’s chances based on personal taste, as the article stated. ‘Rockefeller Street’ was my favourite song in the contest, but I didn’t touch it either way because I had no idea how the rest of Europe would take to it; they didn’t.

Turkey ‘Live It Up’ Yuksek Sadakat

Finishing Position: Did Not Qualify

Money quote: “My main problem with the song is that I find it bland and forgettable…for all my criticism of the song…it’s competently composed and performed. I think juries are going to be perfectly happy about it.”

With hindsight: I may not have liked the song at all, but I was as surprised as anyone when Turkey didn’t qualify. Tenth with televoters and 12th with juries, it just fell short.

Norway ‘Haba Haba’ Stella Mwangi

Finishing Position: Did Not Qualify

Money Quote: “It will put a smile on audience’s faces, but the juries will crucify it.”

With hindsight: The early favourite to win the whole contest fell at the first hurdle in the semi-final. It came ninth with televoters there, enough alone for qualification, but juries condemned it by placing it just 17th of 19.

Israel ‘Ding Dong’ Dana International

Finishing Position: Did Not Qualify

Money Quote: “It falls into a category I have labelled ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’….I will be investing in ‘Ding Dong’ to fail to qualify for the final.”

With hindsight: As a song, this was always too weak even to make it out of the semi-final stage, which is really saying something.

Netherlands ‘Never Alone’ 3JS

Finishing Position: Did Not Qualify

Money Quote: “3JS have a terrible draw in their semi and, sadly, I think this could prove fatal. Because while ‘Never Alone’ is competent and pleasant, it’s also easily forgettable.”

With hindsight: The country’s terrible recent record in the contest continued. ‘Never Alone’ was plum last in its semi.

Overall then, we were sometimes on the mark and occasionally way off. What strikes me most about going through these preview articles is how hard it was to predict the jury reaction to each song, despite my attempt to analyse what juries had favoured in the previous two years since the 50/50 system was reintroduced.

As always, pre-rehearsal betting on the contest is about weighing up the benefit of getting any early value with the unknown of what will change on the Eurovision stage. 2011 was an open year in which early season hype surrounding the likes of Norway saw some lay opportunities. But every year is different.

How are you intending to approach pre-rehearsal betting on the contest and what lessons did you draw from your efforts last year? Let us know in the comments section below.

4 comments to Eurovision 2011: How did our pre-rehearsal analysis fare?

  • Rob

    A timely and worthwhile recap of ESC 2011, Dan. Tomorrow’s semi-final allocation should prove insightful. Your personal fave last year was Rockefeller Street (24th); mine was ‘What About My Dreams’ (22nd)!!! Absolutely right – be careful not to be swayed too much by personal taste 🙂 Staging, live performance, and position in semi-final/final running order are all pivotal – how bad must Blue have been singing in front of the juries on the Friday night!!?? – but pre-rehearsal, in my view it is still worthwhile taking some market positions based purely on value grounds. Another big lesson was staging – I think great staging of Jedward’s song covered up a multitude of sins and somehow even persuaded jurors of its merits. Looking forward to reading your preview pieces this year. The EntertainmentOdds 2011 post-show analysis below, I hope your readers might find informative also:

  • justin

    Daniel, great reminder of excellent articles from last year – and good work from Rob too.

    For me Italy’s return last year was interesting, with very few predicting the success of their entry (albeit perhaps with the assistance of a directive).

    Another interesting aspect to their return is how the Italians voted. Romania were awarded 12 in the final; Moldova 8 and Ukaraine 7. It was similar in the semi where we can add Bulgaria to the list of those scoring well. Do you have any views on this? Just a coincidence or can we add this to our list of strong diaspora voting for this block of nations?

    • Daniel

      Hi Justin, excellent point on how Italy voted last year. I do have a view on this: I’m adding it to the list of strong diaspora voting for this block of nations.

  • David

    Great with a review like this, Daniel! After all, it’s analysis (of both successful and less successful bets) that makes one more skilled for future events.

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