Eurovision 2016: Latvia’s ‘Heartbeat’ among the weekly round-up

There’s been no let-up in Eurovision selections over the last week. We started with Germany on Thursday, where Jamie-Lee Kriewitz justified favouritism with ‘Ghost‘. It’s a lovely, haunting song, one of the best chosen so far. But I fear after watching the German final, it’s in danger of being better suited to the radio than the Eurovision stage.


Quite how much that’s to do with the song itself, or what we saw in the German final is open to question – the latter can be worked on for Stockholm. What’s likely to stay is Jamie’s taste for incongruous Japanese fashion; the rest of the cold, static staging looked like an X Factor hatchet job, and is worth a rethink.

On Friday, the U.K. public showed their penchant for the pimp slot, a song you can tap your toes to, and unthreatening good looks by choosing Joe and Jake’s ‘You’re Not Alone‘. There wasn’t any insight gleaned from being at the venue with its terrible acoustics. Watching the show back, it was a decent enough choice given what was on offer. The main problem for the boys is that there’s already plenty of male midtempo stuff in the competition, from the likes of Denmark, Ireland and others. ‘You’re Not Alone’ may get lost among them.

Hungary also falls into this category, albeit with a slightly rockier edge, having chosen Freddie with ‘Pioneer‘. I can’t help but draw comparisons between this and the same country’s 2012 entry ‘Sound of Our Hearts’. I wasn’t overly impressed by Freddie’s vocals in the national final, but the Hungarian studio can be an unforgiving place, and Compact Disco improved a great deal from it. At the moment, I envisage ‘Pioneer’ most likely qualifying without causing too much damage in the final.

Norway has qualified for the last four years, and should do so again with Agnete’s ‘Icebreaker‘. The well-produced song comfortably won a competitive enough national final. I’m not alone in being frustrated by how the chorus pulls back a gear after the EDM verse promises a banger. I’ve long reckoned that unexpected changes in tempo don’t go down well with the Eurovision audience – Iceland 2005 and Estonia 2011 spring to mind – and that may limit how high ‘Icebreaker’ scores on Saturday night.

Slovenia chose something less polished, but there’s a certain amateurish charm to ManuElla’s country-tinged ‘Red and Blue‘, both in the yodelling-plus-guitar nature of the song, and the Bucks Fizz style costume change. Like Norway, it’s drawn in the second half of the second semi, a section that includes songs from Georgia and Belgium. As such, I won’t rule out qualification.

Moldova has a more difficult job in the first half of the first semi, without best friend Romania to help. Lydia Isac won their national final last Saturday with ‘Falling Stars‘. With its tinny eurobeat and obvious melody, it’s a rather dated and generic dance track. Still, Finland is in the same section, and Sandjha’s ‘Sing It Away‘ feels like it was buried in an even older time capsule which similarly should never have been reopened.

A far bigger talking point was Latvia’s choice of Justs Sirmais’ ‘Heartbeat‘ on Sunday. Some fans are calling it a winner whilst others feel underwhelmed given the hype. Written by last year’s overall sixth-placer Aminata, with similar electro touches to ‘Love Injected’, I think it’s the best song chosen so far. It’s credible and well sung in a way that’s likely to appeal greatly to juries, who placed Aminata second last year.

The bigger question is how televoters take to it. ‘Heartbeat’ feels a little more accessible and coherent than ‘Love Injected’, which managed only 100 points from this constituency. But Aminata had great presence and staging which Justs has yet to prove on the Stockholm stage. My concern is that kept as it is, the overall effect of ‘Heartbeat’ may be a little too underpowered.

I have it at the top of the pile so far – but I felt the same way about Hungary’s ‘Running’ at this stage in 2014 and Estonia’s ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’ at this stage in 2015. Then as now, we’re waiting for some of the biggest contenders to show their potential aces, in this case Russia, Poland and Sweden, not to mention Australia and the Netherlands.

The impatient wait can create a febrile atmosphere in the Betfair market. France came down to around 16s in the outright once it was confirmed that Amir Haddad would be singing ‘J’ai Cherche‘. It’s a pleasant, upbeat radio number, and I enjoy the syncopated beat in particular. But at the moment, my feeling is it’s a little too beige and easily forgotten to challenge the top end of the scoreboard.

Armenia revealed its ‘LoveWave‘ by Iveta Mukuchyan yesterday. Positive opinion seemed to feel it offered something interesting and different with staging potential. The danger is there are too many disparate elements included. Aside from the usual verse and chorus, we have a spoken word opening, an intense instrumental before the first chorus, and an ethnic bridge. It’s a confusing mish-mash that will need inspired staging to win over neutral voters.

The pace of selections don’t let up over the next few days. Israel has its national final tonight, whilst Montenegro and the Netherlands reveal their songs tomorrow. This Saturday is most keenly anticipated of all, given that it involves two of the three current favourites, Poland and Russia, not to mention Estonia’s ever-enjoyable national final. Romania holds its final on Sunday, and Kaliopi presents FYROM’s song on Monday. Do keep your insightful thoughts coming below during this exciting period.

133 comments to Eurovision 2016: Latvia’s ‘Heartbeat’ among the weekly round-up

  • A Latvian friend of mine just shared this with me:

    For those who don’t understand Latvian: Justs’ staging will be changed in Stockholm, also the same team behind Aminata’s staging will be on board

    • eurovicious

      My biggest hope is they don’t over-egg the pudding. Aminata’s staging was pretty simple last year, they got that right. The same needs to be the case for Justs – less is more, the focus needs to be on him and the song. I was very happy with the simple yet smart staging in the national final. Like Love Injected but more so, it’s a song and performance that through its disarming sparseness and one-to-one feel creates true intimacy. On this front, and given some recent comments, I totally allow for it being one of those “you either get it or you don’t songs” – like Latvia last year, like Norway 2013 or Germany 2011, or even like NL 2014. But juries and televoters got Love Injected, and this is more accessible and has a stronger musical narrative from start to finish (it’s less repetitive and grows and changes more) – his vocal is incredible – plus he’s a non-threatening boy yet slightly craggy in a very Instagram way while being less fey than Loic Nottet. I showed it to a casual-fan friend whose favourites last year were Belgium, Latvia, Georgia, Australia and Serbia, and she loves it (and him) and says “it’s better than what won last year”…

  • Interesting article (thanks, Google Translate!) I’ve been one of the skeptics about Justs’ chances, but if they can pull off something impressive with the staging I may revise that opinion.

  • Hippo

    Netherlands and Douwe Bob with ‘Slow Down ‘

    I can see it coming top 10, I can see it failing to qualify. May be a bit too uptempo to stage intimately and it could look a mess if they pretend to play the guitar with the beer bottle on stage. I won’t write off the win, but I’d be very surprised if it did.

  • eurovicious

    Netherlands is really decent and I LOVE Israel. Yay!

    • Israel’s entry is by a mile the most generic so far. Don’t tell me you love it just because the geezer looks like Boy George and Jay Leno’s lovechild?

      • eurovicious

        Different people have different tastes Ben, please allow for the possibility that I see things in it you don’t. Picking “the most generic” song out of a raft of very generic songs is near-impossible, certainly objectively impossible (plus not worth the time), but for me, Israel absolutely isn’t it. There’s darkness, intensity, passion and edge there, something absent from the vast majority of the field this and every year. I hope you’re not suggesting “you must like it because he’s a poof”… that said, the conversation with the audience that takes place in the 3 minutes of a eurosong does depend on the performer’s identity, so the same song can indeed take on a different meaning and message when performed by a queer vs. non-queer performer (compare a female version of Rise Like A Phoenix with the Conchita version, or the Eric Segerstedt/Tone Damli version of “Hello Goodbye” versus the Erik Segerstedt/Mattias Andreasson version).

  • PurpleKylie

    Poland watchers, here’s a clip of Margaret’s rehearsal:

    Having suggestive dancing like that is basically asking for the ESC juries to trash it

    • Hippo

      Knew they’d go raunchy, but what else can you do with those lyrics to make it coherent? Poland really haven’t learned from 2014.

      How this is the favourite I’ve no idea, it’s an average singer badly performing a Rihanna album filler.

    • The biases spurted out by you two aren’t worthy of this site.

      Underwhelming routine, nothing to get excited about, must do better. But was she trying anyway? It didn’t look like she was fully involved in the dance rehearsal part to me.

      However, nothing “suggestive” and good strong vocals. And it’s better than anything Rihanna has come up with in the last couple of years. Not that the comparison is a negative anyway. If only more ESC songs reminded us of very popular current stars.

      Overall a positive direction from her last live performance.

      BTW I’d love it to have been worse and the price to drift again. But let’s just see things as they are, the good and bad.

      • PurpleKylie

        I’m not being biased, I actually like the song, I’m just saying that the favourite status is completely unwarranted from a punters perspective.

        Here we have a girl singing “you can’t cool me down” shaking around, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what they’re implying. Moldova last year and Poland’s own entry in 2014 are proof that anything remotely sexual is an instant jury turn off.

        Excuse me for trying to make a reasonable analysis.

        • Well lyrics are one thing. And it could just mean it’s a very sunny day 😉 Anyway “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it”.

          But, seriously, from what we’ve seen of Margaret’s production so far it’s not remotely as sexual as the two you mentioned. So, not very reasonable analysis.

          Poland does have a massive negative and that is that Margaret hasn’t even been selected yet. And is up against an icon who may get pimp slot.

          • Hippo

            No bias on my part, even if I liked the song I still wouldn’t be saying it’s a winner, and to be clear as a backer of Poland before I heard the entries if she did win it wouldn’t be the worst thing for me.

            We’ve seen few performances but those we have seen (that admittedly don’t count towards much) have been poor. I guess we’ll see if she can deliver it well soon enough but until then I can’t justify this being in single figures as she just doesn’t seem to fit the song.
            The diaspora is there and it’s contemporary and has chart potential and I think barring a disaster it would come televote top 5 but it is hardly going to sweep the jury vote- it’s repetitive (22 times I count “cool me down”)and completely unoriginal.

            Let’s look at a portion of the lyrics:

            Da-da-da, no, water can’t cool me
            Da-da-da, no, water can’t cool me

            Da-da-da, no, water can’t cool me
            Da-da-da, no, water can’t cool me


            How many jury points is that going to get seriously? even if you don’t think the lyrics matter that much, surely this is pushing it.

            Also when have aggressive lyrics (I’m your goddess, on your knees etc) ever gone well? Lordi and Serebro is all I can think of and that was pre-jury.

            The staging isn’t milk maid standard sexual but it will still get punished.

            Juries like to see a song that is enhanced by the live performance and I see no way of that happening here and regardless of the voting change she’ll need to come high with the juries to win, which I can’t see happening.

          • I must have a very innocent mind because I just interpreted “hot” as sexy or cool, superior etc. in Margaret’s lyrics.

            I do respect that the song is perfectly decent from a commercial perspective and if Edyta doesn’t win the Polish NF then Margaret will be a very worthy and strong entry given Poland’s recent history, but Kylie is 100% right in saying that the market favouritism is not justified because this song is not going to win Eurovision. Period. It should be blindingly obvious just from listening to it. Looking at the current landscape of the market, I’d have it out at high 30s at least.

          • eurovicious

            I’m with Hippo and Kylie on Cool Me Down, it’s gubbins. I swear there’s stuff like this in the Moldovan auditions and selection most years but no-one pays any attention to it…

        • Well, I’d say Moldova last year was more proof that a poor man’s Vanilla Ice (who would have thought such a thing was possible? is an instant jury turn-off.

  • Black n Blue

    Douwe Bob’s song is very middle of the road. May achieve mild success, but it’s no winner. And on the topic of winners, geez when are we going to get one! I think as it stands, we’ve probably got a 4th place finisher in Justs, and likely top ten placers in Frans, Jamala, and Greta. Unless Russia drops the bomb tomorrow and blows the competition to smithereens, than I’ll happily have anyone here drill a hole through my head, because it’ll be less agonising than trying to figure out who’ll win.

  • Has anyone heard anything about Azerbaijan?

  • peterrehberg

    I think Poland’s position so far is completely justified. The catchiest of all the entries yet and don’t understand the criticism about the simplicity of the song. That’s an argument for a win, not against it (Heroes, Running Scared…). One of the criteria of the juries is the marketability of a song, not necessarily the vocal talent. Remember Heroes got the jury vote not Grande Amore. Also to my ears and eyes Margaret is doing fine with the rehearsal and TV appearances. Dancing and singing is quite alright, and if she adds some more energy to it, its an effective package. Not so much my cup of tea, but the best chance of winning from everything we have listened to yet. About Latvia: I don’t believe in that song, its moderately original and over the course of the 3 minutes he proves that he is a competent singer, yes, still, there is something awkward about his performance and his styling which for me doesn’t translate into charming but into…uncomfortable. The musical minimalism, especially in the beginning, doesn’t work with his somewhat random eclectic middle-of-the-roadish fashionable masculinity. Holland: maybe top 10, not much more, disappointingly generic. A question mark is for me still behind the German entry. As a pop composition its for me the strongest entry so far but there are a couple of problems not just with the performance and staging but also with the speed of the song – they should use one of the faster remix versions. It depends on how much effort they put into its packaging for the Eurovision stage – and given the German record, they unfortunately wont do much here – how well it will do.

  • Russia’s song has been leaked to the Internet.

    Well, there’s clearly been a lot of money thrown both at the production and the video, but all that is really just dressing up a fairly average, and frankly emotionless, pop song.

    I’m calling it. Russia is NOT the winner of Eurovision 2016.

    • Black n Blue

      Hmmm…It doesn’t strike me as winner either. But the big question is whether anything this year will ‘sound’ like a winner or not. “Fairly average,and frankly emotionless” is exactly how I’d put it too.

    • eurovicious

      It’s not the winner. But it is awesome. And that projection and choreo looks like the finished package, a lot of thought has gone into it. It should be right up there. But yes, I agree it’s not emotive or contemporary/anodyne/radio-pop enough to win. I love it.

    • I knew it wasn’t the winner as soon as I heard the major keychange. Since 2000, ESC winners don’t have a major keychange, they only ones that do (2000, 2001, 2007) have minor keychanges.

  • Ron H

    It will be very interesting to see how the predominantly gay male audience around the stage in Stockholm will react to this Russian entry with a goodlooking and apparently gay singer in a stereotypical heterosexual act. Cheering or booing? I’m expecting the last.

  • Hippo

    I wasn’t expecting a winner from Russia and I don’t think this is. No lower than seventh though.

    • Ande

      Top seven sounds about right although I wouldn’t completely rule out a win. Russia’s staging could make the difference in a multi-horse race. What’re your opinions about laying Russia in the current winners and Top-5 markets?

      • Hippo

        I definitely want Russia in the green on the win market. Sounds weird considering the fact I said it could come seventh and the relatively low odds but it has the strongest case as a default winner. With each song reveal the default win becomes more and more likely.

        Laying top 5 at low odds might not be the worst thing though as Ukraine and Armenia both have a case and it would be hard for all three to get there.

        • eurovicious

          I agree – it’s too dangerous to have Russia red. The song, package and overall attempt are reminiscent of Sakis Rouvas’s 2009 (failed) attempt at victory, yet stronger in every way and with less competition and the benefit of major technological advancement and new possibilities. I don’t think You Are The Only One would have won in 2009 and I don’t think it will win in 2016, but if they’re bringing that projection and routine to Stockholm, it’s more dangerous and professional than almost anything else. Yet without that organic, relatable, intimate feel I think you need to win these days, that even Mans had (mainly in the extreme close-ups towards the end, as he flirts with the viewer before launching into the final chorus repeat). I can see it in 2nd place.

          • According to ESCKAZ on Twitter on the day the Russian entry was revealed – the music video should not be taken as any indication of the stage performance. Sergey said it will be “totally different.”

            Still good, I’m sure, but I’m not convinced it will win, or even come 2nd.

          • eurovicious

            This might be one of those typical Russian double-bluffs like “we do not have forces in Ukraine”.

          • They’ve got that Fokas guy on board, so I’m 500% sure it’ll be him on some stupid giant prop

        • Ande

          Thanks eurovicious and Hippo for your thoughts. Nevertheless I’ve stuck to my guns and laid some Russia top 5, no huge stakes but still. I’m contemplating the winners market but haven’t made up my mind yet.

          My main concern with Russia is that I struggle to see how they will garner enough jury support. My gut feeling is juries will mark Sergey down based on the limited hit potential as well as his over reliance on backing vocals and stage gimmicks.

          Sergey is a potential televote magnet if Russia blows out the competition with awesome staging and late draw. Otherwise Nicky will give him competition for the gay and western votes while Donny Montell should do well with the young girls. If everything goes according to plan he might do a Saade 2011. If it doesn’t his target demographics are likely to be split leaving him outside the top 5.

          What do you guys think of my reasoning?

  • peterrehberg

    Another thought: we have way to many entries trying to repeat Mans’ formula from last year, Russia does this in the most obvious way. I don’t think a song organized around straight male heroism will win again this year.

  • Black n Blue

    I haven’t spoken about Poland as of now, and I think what Margaret has on her hands is very dangerous. Until we get a full, televised performance in the Polish NF tonight, I wouldn’t write this off achieving any sort of high placement.

    Firstly, what needs to be said, is that it’s considerably the most commercial, radio friendly, relevant what ever you call it thing that’s been released this season. Cool me down, could slot into the Billboard Hot 100 tomorrow, and no one would bat an eyelid. As for the Rihanna comparison, I’m not so sure. It sounds better than anything she’s recently released, to my ears CMD is more in line with Zara Larsson’s output and the infectious, summery-lets-get-drunk-to-this-in-Ibiza-Lush Life, which is currently number two on itunes in the UK having already taken to the charts on the continent last year.

    Regarding the message of this, call me dumb, but I saw it in the same light as Ben. Just as a young attractive lady, singing about how cool and superior she is. Crucially, what differentiates this from My Slowanie is that the sexual nature referenced in some of the lyrics is more implicit than explicit. What Cleo and Donatan brought to Copenhagen was an unashamed, derogatory, degradation of women to a catchy beat, with milk maids partaking in domestic duties while shoving their breasts in the camera. One is clearly demonstrating an inferiority complex, juxtaposed with that of superiority, ‘coolness’, and an empowering “you can’t boss me around” mantra of Margaret. De facto, Cool me down is exact the antithesis to My Slowanie.

    Another criticism that frankly doesn’t hold up, is jury partiality against this “trashy” and “sexual” songs. Again, the partiality is derivative in the cases of Poland 2014 and Moldova 2015, of explicitness and a severe lack of quality respectively. Nothing indicates that Cool me down is of a lascivious nature, or this is anything more than just a peripheral element, rather than a central theme or motif. With that in mind, small plankton-sized sexual elements simply won’t override jury appeal. Try think of it along the same thread as “Love Injected” and “Rhythm Inside”, both of which could easily be titles for blue movies, but had the quality and message to prove any such thought irrelevant and win over support en masse.

    Remember also, that the juries are probably the biggest fanboys of all. We’ve seen from 2015 that they’re very susceptible to anything remotely hyped and chart worthy, with testament to that being their combined top five sounding very radio, and a lot of the more cheesy rousing, Eurovisiony stuff from Italy, Spain, Serbia, and Azerbaijan getting filtered out. It would be naive to think that with Margaret’s song likely having millions of Youtube views, spotify streams and plenty of promo behind it, and a high chart position after it’s semi-final, that any juror would dare rank it down, especially with the competition turning out to be crap.

    For those reasons alone, I see Poland as justified market leader. Latvia and Russia may offer more value come rehearsals, but as of now, Poland has to be considered as one of the few entries that may win, and also one that could have a fruitful life beyond the contest.This is the way the contest is arching itself more towards. What a song can do aside from the three minutes on a Saturday night stage.

    • Ron H.

      Totally agree with all your arguments Black n Blue. Have Poland high(est) on my own list at this moment and I’m very curious to see what the life performance and Polish voting tonight will bring.
      I would like to add to your arguments the effect of the new voting system. My Slowanie ended at 5th place in the voter ranking, 23d among juries. This resulted in 14th place in the final. Under the new system however the song would have finished 8th with 185 points. What more could one wish for but a good contemporary popsong (which Margaret most definitely has) combined with sexual attractiveness?

  • Ben Cook

    Poland, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?! I cannot believe they have thrown away their one chance to win ESC. She could’ve given a bit more fierce but there was nothing wrong vocally, and the simple staging worked. With a bit of work that could’ve won.

  • Hippo


    Well we can all agree Poland aren’t winning now. Qualification isn’t even certain.
    I could have seen Edyta nicking it but Szpak came from out of nowhere.

  • Black n Blue

    Oh dear. There’s me writing a big argument as to how Margaret could win, and then we get this result. To quote a line I wrote above, “call me dumb”.

    • No Black n Blue, you most certainly are not dumb. This was an absolutely freak result, whatever people felt about Margaret’s chances in May almost nobody saw this coming.

      • eurovicious

        I dunno Donal, pretty sure myself and Kylie and a couple of others warned it might not even win its NF… and this Polish eurofan tweeted a few days ago that Poland would probably go for Szpak: Tim and I sat and watched the Youtube clip of her performance on Pytanie na śniadanie last Saturday and came to the conclusion it wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t a freak result, Szpak’s performance was much better and he won by a significant margin. If Cool Me Down had been better performed, it would have had a better chance at winning.

        • Yes you are correct, the word ‘freak’ implies that I have as issue with Michał Szpak winning and I don’t at all. I’m only greatly surprised that Margaret’s legion of kids couldn’t get her over the line regardless of her performance. This view was shared by the betfair market last night Michał was 15/1 and Edyta 3/1, Margaret was the hottest of favorites.
          Personally I doubted Margaret’s ability to win in May and was maximum red on Poland but in truth I was very uncomfortable with this situation.
          As an aging rocker, Michał is a lot closer to my ear and I’m glad he won. I also wonder if the market has overreacted, Colour of My Life will have its own followers.

    • Black n Blue

      Cheers Donal!

  • I literally cannot stop laughing right now.

    Golden rule of good betting: never bet on a country winning ESC when they haven’t even picked their song.

    • I love it when the fanwank doesn’t even make it to the contest!

    • johnkef

      Couldn’t agree more!!! happy Eurovision season guys!!! This is my first comment for this year so the season for me starts now!!! One of the most basic rules is you never know exactly who’s voting and what’s the thinking and the likes of the voters in each country so try to avoid NFs. This is the reason why i never watch any of the national finals even in my own country (Greece).

      It’s plain data noise. I don’t have to estimate 200-300 songs or even more but just those who are going to participate.

      The other golden rule:
      a. Never bet for a winner until all the songs are reveiled. Some countries have internal selection and we don’t know anything about their songs until they ‘re presented.

      Be patient. We have 2 whole months for the show. Plenty of time to evaluate the situation and find some value.

      We are still missing 11 songs, 1/4 to have the whole picture. Having heard the 32 songs i can’t say that the winning song has been already heard…

      Russia is a big maybe. Definitely Top3, very prosessional, Russia is going after its second win and they have the money to host the show ( always check who’s willing to host the contest), but the song lacks that something special that has Winner written all over it. In betting terms i can’t find value in the present odds. Last year i was bying Polina like crazy each way in this time of year but it’s so different getting paid 5-6 times your money for a Top4 instead of getting paid 4-5 times your money for the Winner…

      I cannot understand the enthusiasm about Latvia. It’s definitely Top10 but its ceiling is Top3- Top 4 at most. Aminaata’s song was way better.

      The real dark horse till now could be France. They have an awful record but this year they are realy trying and i believe that EBU would definitely want the wake of a sleepy giant…The song is fresh, radio friendly and has lots of positive vibes.

      Armenia, Albania, Cyprus and Ukraine are the other Top10 quality songs that i’ve tracked so far.

      My eyes and ears are focused on Sweden, Italy, Australia and Azerbaijan all of them eager to host the contest

  • Hippo

    Margaret was around 1.2 to win yesterday and 3/1 to win eurovision itself yet was resoundly beaten. Justs was around 1.1 in Latvia but would have lost without the internet vote. Lighthouse X have sent Denmark from under 30/1 to 400 /1. Greta Salome barely scraped through Iceland’s national final.
    In terms of odds and market reaction alone, Joe and Jake (Uk) Jamala (Ukraine), Hovi Star (Israel), Laura Tesoro (Belgium), Agnete (Norway) and Sandjha (Finland) were all also the wrong choice.

    This is turning into a really bad year for National Final favourites which has to be a massive warning sign to anyone backing Sweden as low as nearly 2/1 right now, especially as on paper Frans has the harder job given the International Juries and higher MF standard compared to other finals. It would not surprise me one bit after all that’s already happened if Frans looses out to any other act.

    • PurpleKylie

      Jamala and Agnete were the favourites in both their respective NFs but I get what you mean. Also in terms of shock results, no-one saw the winner in Slovenia coming.

      Next week we have out last NFs which is Lithuania and MF. It would not surprise me if one or both end up not choosing the big fan favourites. Frans doesn’t not convince me as the type of song that would win the int. jury at MF, and if it does happen then I’d expect their odds to drift even if he does win. Also Lithuania’s results have been flip flopping all over the shop: just tonight Erica won the semi (both jury and televote) and for a time Ruta looked set to win a few weeks back, the potential outcome is far from certain.

      • Ande

        In theory I’d agree with this principle but would Sweden really be that much worse off sending Robin instead of Frans?

        • PurpleKylie

          I personally think Robin would make a nice host entry, juries would like it, it fits the whole “catchy pop song with big hook” template that the MF juries like

      • John G

        I would love it if Frans was undone next week. Knowing my luck it’ll avoid the curse of the favourite though. The lads singing is do affected I just can’t like it. Swedes worst since Las Vegas in my opinion.

        MF has a habit of picking the Presumptive though so just watch. It’ll make it. Much rather Oscar or Wiktoria, but honestly Frans stands out amongst the shlager. Pity as last year Sweden has as many as 5 great songs to pick from.

    • I really like this perspective. I’m not sure if I entirely agree but I certainly want it to be true.

  • According to a good friend of mine who’s close to SVT, these are the int. juries:

    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    The Netherlands

  • Happy Mothers Day to all the UK and Irish Sofabet mums and mums of Sofabetters. I’ve got a gift for you all. Frans gets subjected to the family test.

  • Emre

    Poland dropped from 60 to 23, any ideas? Maybe Poland may decide to send Margaret instead of Spazk guy? There’s a very big popular crowd action towards Margaret now.

    • It’s just butthurt fanboys throwing their toys out of the pram. TVP would never cave in and change the entry, it would be a really bad PR move on their part, those petitions will just fall on deaf ears.

  • Margaret wasn’t just a fanwank it was a posh fanwank, so posh it was done for you by a happy-ending masseuse.

  • Estonia – I would have preferred Mick Pedaja, but I guess he may have been a little too leftfield for the voting public (and some of the jurors.) Even so, Juri Bond is a good pick. I had a cheeky thought that this song is basically Stig Rasta’s rebound after Elina. As in, “Yeah, I broke up with my ex. It was a very messy split and I have some issues that I need to work through. So let’s get really, REALLY dirty!” Probably not a win, but it should be at least top 20.

  • Poland – Oh my sides! I must guiltily admit to laughing like a drain as the likes of Wiwibloggs exploded in outrage. Margaret was always an overrated act, so it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that she lost out to Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride (“hello, my name is Michal Szpak, you killed my father. Prepare to die.”) Also, on second listen, it’s not that a bad a song anyway.

    Romania – I guess the Romanians didn’t get the memo about how weird and silly acts are a thing of the past in Eurovision. Quite possibly this one may go down a similar route to Cezar – an act that didn’t win, but is still being remembered, even among some of the casual Saturday night viewers (“Oh yeah, him! The Transylvanian Opera Vampire!”) It won’t trouble the betting odds, but it is entertainment, and there is value to that.

    Overall, this weekend hasn’t identified any winners, but it’s added some variety to the show, and thank God for that.

  • Mr Wolf

    Does Melfest jury instructions differ somehow from Eurovision last year’s instructions? And are this year’s Eurovision jury instructions the same as last year or when are they announcing that?

    • Ande

      The explicit instructions hasn’t been made public but the IJ is there to give a pointer as to what will work in Eurovision. It should therefore be very similar criterias to the Eurovision juries, perhaps with added focus on what should do well in May. The public can vote until 5 minutes after all the juries have placed their votes.

  • Mr Wolf

    Does anyone know what were the SVT poll figures for Loreen and Mans (and for runner-ups)?

    • Ande

      Mans won the poll with a 23% margin, but the the national final was much weaker last year with only two winner candidates.

      Take away Frans and there would be six acts competing for the win in 2016.

      • Mr Wolf

        Yeah, and they have so many jury-friendly acts as well. I would say even more than the Eurovision Final Contest has seen so far this year haha.

        • Ande

          Me too! Wiktoria, Molly, Robin, Ace, David, Lisa, Oscar and Boris is all relatively IJ-friendly acts.

          How successful do Frans need to be with juries on Saturday to also be competitive come May?

          • PurpleKylie

            I would say he would need to be top 2

          • Mr Wolf

            Well, if Frans would win Jury vote on Saturday, then it would be hard to see anyone beating him in May, but I think 4-5th place with Juries wouldn’t rule out Frans winning in May. The context is really different, I think juries would rather go with it on 14th, it’s gonna be one of the few contemporary songs with “hit potential”. In Melfest we have many good pop songs, very strong competition, some of them are from critical point of view rather more tasteful.

          • PurpleKylie

            It’s worth pointing out that the only two times that a MF winner was not in the int. jury’s top 3 (both 2009 and 2010) ended up flopping in ESC

          • Ande

            True, Bergendahl and Ernman had been thrown in the gutter had it been up to the IJ.

            I don’t relly know about placements but I’d say Frans needs at least 70 points and be within 20 points of the jury winner to be competetive come May.

        • Mr Wolf

          I think we haven’t seen so weak competition from..since 2010-2011?
          I haven’t examined all songs so far, but as much as I have seen (I haven’t viewed only songs which haven’t gain any positive feedback) there aren’t many potential candidates for the win, even when they’re staging would improve.
          We have Frans..Sergey…?
          Other songs:
          1) “Heartbeat”. Very strong jury appeal, but I really can’t see this doing very well in televoting. I personally like it very much, but I think even with improved staging it’s not comparable with Loic. It just lacks something crucial for avarage viewer and it doesn’t even have as strong niche as Aminata had.
          2) “1944”. I think it’s rather undervalued and is really strong, but rather not that strong to win. But it has good potential.
          3) “Ghost”. Has really strong potential and would definately compete for the win, but it really didn’t work on the stage. They should completely change the song, staging, stage image/outfit etc, to have really strong impact on Eurovision context. At the moment, it’s rather last year’s Maraaya with great song and following, cover versions, but not standing out in Eurovision context. But if they could work it all out, it would be a probable winner, with very high jury and televoting appeal both. If it would be Russia, there would be better hope they would improve and do everything to win, but considering Germans past records..
          Btw, one good cover version of the song Jamie-Lee herself shared yesterday:

          Who else? I really-really like ” J’ai cherché” and this is the kind of music I personally prefer, but I don’t think this really has the winning potential. It may end up in TOP10 like Nina Zilli, but it’s really hard to see this one to be a threat for the win. It’s not the kind of song which would stand out enough on stage with 20 other songs.

      • John G

        I rather thought the standard was good last year. Don’t Stop Believing, Jar a frig, Don’t Stop all were rather good.

        It seems this year it’s professional pop vs. guitar ballad. I think Frans will be helped by being unique in the MF final.

        I still cannot stand it however.

  • We have an a capella snippet of Serbia’s song:

    Sounds like it’s going to be uptempo

    • Hippo

      Awfully shouty in that snippet but the balkans and females haven’t really turned up yet so I’ll be interested to hear the full thing.

  • Has someone just randomly loaded up on the Czech Republic or… what’s going on? Currently at 60 on Betfair Exchange.

    • Hippo

      Same scenario with the Dutch last week I think- running out of songs, no certain contender, worth a small go at the odds etc. Croatia have also come down considerably in the last day or so.
      I was taking a small bite at the Czech Republic last week and a bit earlier at the temptingly high 300 and 400/1 odds on the off chance they sent something half good. There wasn’t much liquidity on it at all so it’s probably barely took anything to make it move.
      Anyway the Rumour seems to be that it’s Gabrielle Guncikova but no song mentioned as far as I know.

  • I’d defo be looking at Russia Top 5. The markets are really behind Sweden already for a home win – I don’t think we’ll see an Ireland-type streak though. Betting on any country before a song is picked is just dumb. Not the way to make money.

  • Black n Blue

    I’m just writing this to update where I stand with this year’s line-up before we get all 43 entries. I made a list over the weekend pretty much ranking all the countries on winning potential from 1-5 (1=no chance, 5=likely contender). To be blunt, I’ve done this for the past few years and never have I recorded so many 1’s and 2’s before. (My count equates to 25 out of 43 this year). Granted I’m judging a few countries without a song, and a couple where we know nothing about the entry, yet I could tell you in an instant that Serhat won’t blow us away, and that the Czech Republic reaching Saturday night would be a victory of its own.
    Having refreshed my rankings again today, I’ve scribbled down Germany, Ukraine, Latvia, and Iceland into the 4 bracket. Each of whom all seem to have some of the common attributes needed to feature inside the top ten. Germany and Latvia for sounding contemporary, catchy, and accessible, yet both arguably being too alternative to win, the Belgium and Latvia of 2015 you could say. I rate Ukraine has being somewhat undervalued. With them you have a very capable singer, a commanding stage presence, performing a dramatic, substantive, atmospheric song from a country that should receive a strong diaspora vote. Probably too ethno-leaning and weighty in terms of subject matter to trouble the sharp end of the leader-board. Iceland’s an interesting one. They’ve sent a good song, have an ambitious stage plan, and a singer with a wealth of experience, yet the home crowd never got completely behind it according to the split results of the nf. Keeping that in mind, something with the current package clearly isn’t clicking. I don’t envision it winning the contest, but I could make a case for 5th-6th place if Greta’s team tidy things up a bit, improve the lighting, camera-work, and just try to make the entry as accessible as possible.

    Only Russia and Sweden have warranted a 5 in my book, and even now I’m starting to doubt whether the former is worthy of a victory after hearing the song. So lets start with Sweden then. Although arguable, I believe with Frans, not only could Sweden have a winner on their hands, but also if the juries put all their love on him this Saturday (a la Boris René), then perhaps there’d be a runaway victory on the cards too at Eurovision. It’s not inconceivable, but their are obstacles to overcome for Sweden. Main one of course being the running order. A randomly decided draw could easily blunt their chances because quite frankly, if they draw the 2 slot, then they’re out. Host-nation voting lag is another. It’s tough to explain why it happens, but I’d like to think it’s only been prevalent due to a noticeable lack of quality in host entries. Aside from that, its only just dawned on me that there’s little if nothing at all to detract from Fran’s effort. A lot of boxes are being ticked so lets wait and see what happens in the final this weekend.

    • eurovicious

      Hey, this sounds sensible to me. I can make a case for Iceland top 10 given the weakness of the field; I can’t make a case for Iceland top 5. I can make a case for Ukraine top 3 dead easy; I can’t make a case for Ukraine winning. I can make a case for Russia winning, though I think it’s more likely not to. As to Frans, I’ll wait till I see it again this weekend. Germany is one of the 2-3 best songs chosen so far, but the staging and lack of expressiveness lets it down a little. Justs is my horse – for me it ticks every box. To me at least, Heartbeat and Ghost are much more mainstream and less leftfield than Rhythm Inside and Love Injected last year – I didn’t click with those until I saw them staged, whereas I loved Ghost on first listen and Heartbeat the first time I saw it in Supernova. I find it incredibly powerful, intimate and head and shoulders above everything else. He doesn’t feel like a performer singing his song, he feels like a person telling you something, something personal. This is why Frans is standing out in a crap MF too.

  • Hippo

    Interesting points Black n Blue and EV,
    at the moment it’s between Russia and Latvia I feel, though neither convince me.

    I can make the biggest argument for Russia but something just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s the fact that the team behind Sergey – whilst impressive – have always been also rans and runners up. Is this their year or will history repeat itself? Latvia are a sort of Jack of all trades, Heartbeat has a lot going for it but every other country beats it in some area whether it’s bloc, televote friendliness, jury friendliness and so on. Still with no stand out winner it’s a strong package overall that should be in contention.

    From the longer odds Germany and Armenia can have a run in my opinion.

    Germany are contemporary and have a good performer and definitely have more of a chance than implied by the odds. That is, if she is forced to stop dressing like a weirdo or comes to her senses. The song is there, the rest… Not so much, but there’s time.

    Armenia have the diaspora of course as well as bloc support. The staging potential is huge also and if the juries go for originality and a performance that improves upon the studio version as they seem to, they could win the jury vote. Of course, leftfield doesn’t begin to describe it and the enunciation needs to be tightened up but I still have them in the running. It’s memorable, will get everything thrown at it and should work a lot better live and during the reprise.

    Sweden and Ukraine are probably capped to third or fourth at best.

    Non-Ukrainians will not get 1944, even if told by commentators the meaning of it. It’s too sad, depressing and a bit of a shriek fest for Saturday night entertainment. Eastern juries and televoters will lap it up, as will the diaspora, but it will get too many 0s from the West to trouble the very top.

    Sweden have host voting lag, and running order uncertainty as pointed out and I’m still unsure of the jury and Balkan/East appeal of it. If Frans wins MF by a landslide it will have a case, but I can’t help feeling it’s in a weak field in comparison to other years and quite simply that Sweden will not win twice in a row. Do Sweden want to? The argument in 2013 was that Robin’s entry was staged that way to make certain they wouldn’t and I can’t see what’s changed
    Does the EBU want them to? I don’t think the dominance of one country is great for the competition and must be cautious of being seen as favouritism after last years split vote scenario. There are simply too many ifs over Frans at the moment for me.

    • “Non-Ukrainians will not get 1944, even if told by commentators the meaning of it. It’s too sad, depressing and a bit of a shriek fest for Saturday night entertainment. Eastern juries and televoters will lap it up, as will the diaspora, but it will get too many 0s from the West to trouble the very top.”

      *clap clap clap* Couldn’t have put it better myself. 1944 absolutely will not win and that is exactly why. Eurovision’s an international TV party and the general televoter or juror is not going to see a trip-hop ethnic tearjerker and think “winner!”

      Someone said to me 1944 could be “Suus on steroids.”
      Make no mistake, Albania’s one and only reason for their score in 2012 was Rona Nishliu holding those gobsmacking notes in the chorus. That’s it. Nothing else.

      Back to 1944, it should do well because Jamala will touch hearts in certain corners of the continent, but anyone thinking 1944 is our winner has gotten too close to the details to see the big picture.

      Diaspora and bloc advantages should not, in principle, be considered as a primary reason for considering anyone as a winner. That’s 2000’s thinking. A Eurovision winner will (and should) attract the entire continent unto it.

      • eurovicious

        Agreed, with both of you – with the addition that Suus was a much stronger song and more cohesive package than 1944. It was art, 1944 is a mess.

        Russia is great, but too 2009. It’s too calculated and guns-blazing, like Sakis in 2009. To win these days in the jury era you need to be a little bit more laid back/approachable and have more natural charm. Sergey’s song is every inch the super-slick europop banger and as such not quite safe, twee and Instagram enough for Western audiences, I think.

      • Black n Blue

        Suus, I’m not sure is the best comparison for 1944. When I first heard Jamala, I was thinking more along the lines of Mika Newton. Something a bit strange, and dead looking that somehow pulls itself together on the night.

    • eurovicious

      Update, I ran Russia by my young student friend who I think is a good judge of how general audiences perceive entries, and she found it “alright” but “a bit too dramatic” and said “it has such a schlager vibe to it”. This confirms my feelings iterated above about the 2009-ness of the entry and how a win-at-all-costs schlager banger isn’t what wins in 2016. (cf. also what Kylie said about songs with key changes.)

    • Ande

      Yes, Bjorkman has stated many times that he intends to win and tie Irelands record. Being an automatic qualifier and getting a randomzed draw is obvious disadvantages but other than that I haven’t seen any signs of host voting lag. Where is the evidence?

      About Russia I think they will be very strong in the east but weak in the west. They really need to come up with an eye-popping gimmick to keep western audiences from discounting them entirely.

  • eurovicious

    Croatia is out. Very atypical for the country, and a serious contender. Like a much better Only Teardrops via The Cranberries/Enya/Jamie-Lee Kriewitz. Strong stuff and very contest-friendly, accessible and commercial, with a strong identity.

    • I agree, I think we’ve finally found our female act that could upset the sausage party of contenders we have so far. She’s won The Voice of Croatia so we know she’ll deliver live, and as someone with mild synesthesia it’s a very “white” song, by that I mean lots of white in the staging/outfits.

      • Ande

        I agree its a contender but have little faith in Croatias staging ability. I’d also hoped to hear a stronger hook but maybe that’s not as important for a jury friendly act?

    • Hippo

      Agree too. The only Balkan challenger too which has to count for something. Glad I was buying at 130-140 now, it’s come crashing into the 30s and no surprise. Always nice to see a new challenger, Sweden with Russia close behind is getting quite tedious every year. Zagreb 2017 can be added to the list of possibilities.

      • Black n Blue

        Hippo, Zagreb would be a lovely place to go next year, but I can assure you it won’t be happening.

        • Hippo

          I didn’t say I’ve booked my tickets, but by my count every other Balkan could fail to qualify, there is a good vocal, the song is accessible yet stands out and it’s jury friendly. Ignoring those we haven’t heard from, there are five, maybe six countries I feel could win and Croatia is one of them for now.

    • Everest Test. Tick.

      Just really disappointed that it doesn’t make nearly enough use of the “your li-i-ghthouse” hook in the chorus. The first, quieter chorus is my favourite part, beautiful instrumentation there with a Norwegian folk-pop feel to it. I don’t mean to sound impertinent with that remark, the song doesn’t say “Croatia”, but I don’t really care.

      I just want more of that hook because the chorus isn’t consistent across the song with her vocal, the instrumentation or the hook, so there’s a considerable gap across the middle of the song before you hear something you recognise again. The key change, although slight, feels disappointingly lazy and unnecessary as well. Great song suddenly feels like it lost its self-esteem and dove into the trite Eurovision box of tricks.

      In the mix for now, but I don’t know if I feel much urgency to keep backing at current prices compared to the small stakes at 150s that I have.

  • Hippo

    Mixed results for the internal selections today.
    From contender to win in Croatia, to This…

    It is just so bad, and an injustice that only one of San Marino and Montenegro can come last in the semi.

  • Okay, we can all close the betting odds now. It’s clearly going to be San Marino winning this year.

  • Mr Wolf

    Is there any specific reason why Frans is drifting now on Melfest winner market?

  • Donal

    Thank you Kylie, I appreciate the early info…

  • Dan

    This year must be bad if people are looking at Croatia as a contender for the win. Are you mad? Song is a complete non-event. Nice but instantly forgettable.

  • eurovicious

    Here’s this year’s Azeri representative, Samra Rahimli. performing Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” in their 2012 preselection. Enjoy.

  • eurovicious

    Australia, now that it’s out in full: I guess they’ll do about as well as they did last year, possibly not quite as good a result – they stood out last year; this year the entry doesn’t feel as engaging and as dramatically different from the rest of the field.

    • For me it’s up there with Switzerland as being one of the most painfully generic, toothless, anonymous songs this year, the only difference being that the Aussie girl can actually sing. I can’t see it doing nearly as well as last year.

    • The way I see it, Dami’s song is what Rykka was trying to do. Be interesting to see if Swiss producers have managed to rescue it for the EBU submission.

      I agree that Dami’s song is particularly bland though. I wouldn’t call it anonymous because it packs a punch and will do well, but even just a bit of Dami playing piano or some strings to make it swell a bit more would give it some class and interest. It doesn’t feel like they’re using everything in their arsenal to create a compelling package. Maybe Dami is quite literally just taking her new single to Stockholm without much consideration for what works at ESC. Its full length being 3 mins 20 secs certainly backs me up on that, not to mention her saying on more than one occasion, she only got the invitation to participate about a week before the announcement. Might Plan A have fallen through for SBS?

      It surprises me because Dami has a distinctive look (both natural and applied) and it feels like her record label aren’t using that to give her a bit more of a marketable identity as an artist. Her Eurovision entry feels quite cold, like Euphoria without the mystique, and it peaks in the first chorus, leaving no room for further progression other than Dami just belting it. In that sense it’s quite like Trintje’s entry last year.

    • Hippo

      Hard to tell from a snippet but sounds good enough to qualify maybe, not good enough to win, they’re down to around 30/1 on betfair which is ridiculous.

    • Sounds interesting to me. Gabriela’s a fantastic singer too… if she’s good enough for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (!!!..seriously look them up) then she’s something special. The song is by the same team as Brooke’s Golden in MaltaESC 2016. 30s on Betfair might not be ridiculous IMO.

      • Ben Cook

        I’m so bored of all these women singing barely mid-tempo dirges with stupid lyrics and no melodic hook. Why have there been so many of them in the last couple of years?

        • Ande

          Blame Zlata, Conchita, Sanna and Polina.

          If you aren’t able construct a good hook you end up with a bland mess, on the other end of the spectrum it could become too tacky.

        • eurovicious

          Because juries made competent inoffensive balladry the highest virtue and systematically punished anything fun.

          Also broadcasters and audience choose/vote for beneficient, beautiful non-threatening women as symbols of nationhood – think back to how nations used to be represented as women like Britannia, Germania, Mother Russia etc… and why broadcasters have since the introduction of in-vision voting overwhelmingly chosen young, conventionally beautiful woman as the face of their nation to read out the points.

  • Mr Wolf

    Australia’s snippet was such a good luck yesterday, got a chance to load tons of Russia and Sweden with good price.
    After seeing the snippet I was ready to load as much Australia as possible, because the beginning of the song was really-really promising, but the funny thing was that if you were careful enough, you could already find 1-minute version with whole chorus from Youtube hours before anyone mentioned it anywhere and at the same time Australia traded hours around 6 on Betfair in anticipation of the entire song.

    If somebody is looking value in Sweden right now, then I would ask, why to bet Sweden on 3.3, when you could buy Frans around 1.5? Makes no sense to me. Is anybody expecting Sweden to drop below 2 after Frans win in Melodifestivalen to make betting the other way more lucrative? If Frans doesn’t win, I would expect Sweden to drift around 7-8 at least..
    It’s more reasonable to bet on Frans even if he’s gonna win with good margin, not to mention if he’s overall win is not gonna be that convicing.

    It would be really interesting to see how juries vote tomorrow.
    One fact, what could rouse little concern about jury’s reaction, was yesterday’s Wiwi Jury ranking.
    If you can read between the lines, then Wiwi Jury rankings reflect pretty good information about the potential jury appeal and possible perception.


    There can be a little bias about Frans in Wiwi team, but still, there haven’t been a song with very positive jury score, with less than 7 points in Wiwi rankings.
    “If I Were Sorry” is very trendy and radio-friendly song with hit song elements, but I don’t think it would be very fair Frans to get more jury love than Il Volo had. His song is very simple and it doesn’t have much quality from art point of view.

    But I wouldn’t rule out that even juries are gonna adore him very much. He’s still charming guy with very trendy song, which has very outstanding emotion. We’ll see tomorrow how universal his appeal is.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Fresh to this Eurovision season, and just watched videos for Semi 1, with only a couple catching ear and eye.

    And laughed with extreme pleasure at the Telly Savalas impersonator’s take on Eric Cantona with a token, random Blofeld styling. Priceless if that one makes the Saturday Final. Can’t wait.

    There’s a lot of hum-drum songs and performers about this Eurovision?

    Hopefully Semi 2’s lot, the Big 5 and the defending champ’s provide an upgrade.

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