Eurovision 2017: Belgium’s Blanche and other recent selections

As we hurtle towards the mid-March submission deadline, we have one Super Saturday of national finals left – featuring northern luminaries Iceland, Sweden, Lithuania and Norway.

Each is its own conundrum: Iceland’s event seems more open than anticipated after hot favourite Svala was a visual let-down in her heat and some of her rivals stepped up appealingly; Norway’s contest is hard to call, with no standout song nor live performances to gage; Lithuania is its usual labyrinthine affair; while it’s hard to separate the most favoured spawn of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Daddy of all national finals.

In the meantime, this year’s selections came alive in the last week by providing a wide variety of songs, including this year’s market steamer from Belgium.

Croatia goes into the so-bad-it’s-going-to-be-amazing category. Jacques Houdek uses two wildly different voices side-by-side in ‘My Friend‘, for a Disney-meets-Pavarotti mashup heavy on the cheese. Let’s hope producers give him the pimp slot in the second semi-final so he can Cezar his way into the final. Saturday night needs him – and his friend.

I’m finding it hard to summon as much enthusiasm for the Dutch entry, OG3NE’s ‘Lights and Shadows‘. I like Wilson Phillips as much as the next child-of-the-80s, but single-sex groups performing vocal harmonies haven’t been relevant this millennium. The Spice Girls moved the world onto big pop hooks, and even Eurovision recognised it long ago – compare Russia’s Serebro with Germany’s No Angels. On a related note, this kind of thing tends to be more interesting on radio than TV.

Cyprus’s ‘Gravity‘ at least tries to be up-to-date, with a beat similar to Rag n Bone Man’s ‘Human’. It’ll be up to Hovig and the staging to make sure there’s more than just modern production to this entry, and I’ll be waiting on rehearsals for that.

Last weekend brought some pleasing results. Laura and Koit Toome convincingly won Eesti Laul with ‘Verona‘. Sven Lohmus is the Estonian Captain Hook of songwriting, and I enjoy this as much as his most recent efforts in 2009 and 2011. How well it does in Kiev may depend on Laura improving her opening solo, and toning down the telenovela visuals. We should also bear in mind that despite being as well-preserved as the song, a combined 31 years have passed since the duo’s previous separate appearances on the Eurovision stage.

Sunday provided us with two market springers, from Romania and Portugal. Romania’s Ilinca ft Alex Florea combines yodel and rap. While I love Eurovision’s ability to go musically where others fear to tread, ‘Yodel It‘ feels like proof why it hasn’t been done before. That won’t stop the song getting a big phone vote, of course. However, mixing the two genres together screams “jury nemesis”.

Portugal’s Salvador Sobral takes us back in time for the charming ballad ‘Amar Pelos Dois‘. There are lots of USPs here, not least Salvador’s tics and humble appearance. I can see this having an audience among certain jurors and televoters. Just how high it goes will depend on how niche those fans prove; I don’t think it’s as universal in its appeal as the Italian favourite.

I reckon Greece had a better option in ‘When The Morning Comes Around’, but instead relies on ‘This Is Love‘. The song builds very promisingly until the EDM refrain lets it down. Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that staging svengali Fokas Evangelinos got ‘This Is Our Night’ and ‘Shine’ to unmerited seventh places. Between him and household name Demy, something similar may happen in Kiev.

Australia’s attempt at a third top five relies on their recent X Factor winner Isaiah with ‘Don’t Come Easy‘. The song follows the Sam Smith template in a way that should see it score respectably on the final scoreboard, even if I personally find it rather dull. The Czechs take dullness to greater heights with Martina Barta’s ‘My Turn‘, which will likely struggle to get out of the more competitive first semi-final.

The most recent reveal – Belgium’s Blanche with ‘City Lights‘ – had a massive impact on the outright market, moving rapidly from triple-digit odds to second favourite. The synthpop composition is moody, current and well produced. It went on repeat like few others this season. My worry is that ‘City Lights’ overly repeats the initial melodic line, and is too subtle in developing – it might be better to listen to than watch. Live performances will tell us more, and I wouldn’t be interested in single-figure prices until then. It’s definitely an intriguing addition to the line-up, though.

Do let us know your thoughts below, as the last pieces of the jigsaw come to light.

245 comments to Eurovision 2017: Belgium’s Blanche and other recent selections

  • Bogdan

    Wilson Phillips! Haha so I’m not the only one who thought of them.

  • PurpleKylie

    If Croatia gets the pimp slot I will cry with laughter just to see the reaction from everyone. Judging by snippets however, I suspect that Israel will end up getting the Semi Two pimp slot instead.

    To be fair to the Dutch girls, Germany’s live performance in 2008 was criminally out of tune. I doubt they’ll be THAT bad.

    And to be fair to Iceland, they tend to radically revamp their visuals in May.

    Finally, as the resident Norway lover: if they go for that disgusting male ballad it’ll just be the icing on the poop cake for how awful this national final season has been this year. I’ll be cheering for the joik with both them and Sweden.

  • iberbcn

    Happy with Belgium’s entry. It’s Tanita Tikaram meets Adele meets The XX. Just for fun I had a bet of 10 eur at 101 on Betfair Sportsbook, now at 6. I could not believe that after such a good track record lately this country could be at 101.Hope it wins because we do not have in Spain Betfair Exchange, otherwise I would lay it and get guaranteed profits.

  • John

    Still no each-way / top 10 odds?

    The bookies are such tarts.

    Belgium reminds me of Armenia 2/3 years ago. Not enough build and pay off.

    Italy, Finland are the too most interesting for me right now. And Croatia, for the lols.

  • dicksbits

    I agree that Belgium will probably get the same result as Armenia 2014: 4th in the final. It sounds similar in some ways: modern, contemporary feel but repetitive.

  • PurpleKylie

    Cough, Israel leak, cough:

    That’s a certain top ten right there

    • Hippo

      Pleasantly surprised. Up to Israel to now go and stage it well if they want a really good result.

      • I think there’s important nuance in Daniel’s piece on a number of fronts, one being that while everyone is trashing Greece and saying how cheap it is, really it’s only the chorus that lets it down; the build-up is effective and the song’s far from the disaster or outright junk that people are claiming, there’s nothing wrong with it that a better, less generic chorus wouldn’t have solved. I say this here because the latest EDM song to have dropped – Israel – is almost as generic as Greece to my ears. For sure, I think it’s slightly better, but only slightly; it’s landfill EDM without the personality of Golden Boy (which was kinda marmite for me but worked great on stage). And the “nation marketing” of the video, full of lots of happy healthy white people (and one token black guy) dancing in a glamorous and developed setting, is offputtingly disingenious colonial fare, they may as well be holding signs saying “Pala-what?” But of course it won’t stop gay tourists flocking to Tel Aviv in summer as usual…

        I normally enjoy Israeli entries and they have a strong track record, but my reaction to this is – bring back Hovi, Moran Mazor, Boaz Mauda, Teapacks, Ping Pong, and the great Israeli winners and entrants of the past… this is anodyne globalised EDM by comparison with no sense of it coming from an actual culture apart from the brief ethnic instrumentation in the final minute.

        • John

          It’s funny, whenever the word Israel pops up in an online comments section, I always think ‘235 replies, 4 bannings’ but in this case you’re right. There is a curious subtext to the video, down to the I heart Tel Aviv t-shirt.

          It could just be that EDM has the whole ‘party like you just don’t care’ ethos with assorted pretty people and all the other bland shtuff anyway, but with any art form, tough to separate the teller from the tale. It does look like a promo piece for tourism. Normally we leave that to the hosts!

          I think it does lose something against Golden Boy, that lack of personality and cheekiness. It’s more lad than boyish. Imris smile doesn’t reach his eyes either. Might be buried against the other EDM this year.

  • PurpleKylie

    According to a friend, the Irish entry will be premiered on 2FM at around 11.50 GMT this morning, just thought I’d give you guys a heads up.

    • PurpleKylie

      Just heard it, Ireland’s song is well done but he sounds really squeaky from the keychange onwards. Kinda waltz-y I guess, I think juries will like it.

    • Well well well… it’s marvellous until the key change. A mix of things to like (the first minute and the overall sound and approach, which for me is superior to Belgium on similar territory) and dislike (the populist chorus, which only just manages to get away with its outright Westlife cheesiness, until the unsubtle key change takes the whole thing over the edge and places us in Millennium Of Love/The Miracle Is Mine territory… in fact I just realised that the waltz rhythm, tempo and elements of the structure are identical to the latter song, which was Father Dick Byrne’s NF entry in the Eurovision episode of Father Ted)

      It’s a mix of populist and credible that, given the quality of the production, the contemporariness of the sound, and the appealing young NTB performer, can have broad appeal, I think. The structural issues and overwroughtness are its downsides and will dampen its chances.

  • Montenegro: needs work on the diction, I can’t tell what he’s saying half the time, and when I can, it’s a sci-fi innuendo about taking it up the arse (“Come into me from within, we can be as one in the sin. The spaceship is ready to blow. Drunken love, I’m gonna explode. […] I got my suit on. […] Let’s all do the Milky Way…” – possibly the worst lyrics in the history of recorded popular music…

    It’s basically that dreadful Vengaboys comeback single Rocket To Uranus filtered through Mark Ronson, it’s pretty western-sounding… the synth-oriented first minute is similar to Slavko’s previous work but then it goes full-on disco. Anyway, I prefer my Balkan pop sexuality presented in a way that’s sensual, intense and gets under the skin, not tacky and full of puns. It’s fun, I’d say it’s about my 10th favourite of what we’ve had so far, but it will all depend on the performance, which (like the video) is being directed by gay turbofolk veteran Dejan Milicevic, who is generally good at presenting sexuality in an artistic and non-tawdry way.

  • The heavily anticpated revamp of the UK entry is being unveiled at 19:00 UTC Saturday.

    Stand by for Social Media to lose its’ collective shit.

  • Hippo

    Montenegro has to be the gayest song entered in a long time. It’s so not for me but I appreciate it bringing some fun to the contest. Won’t come close to qualifying and somehow the final will be worse off without it.

    Ireland does nothing at all for me and will also struggle alot to make the final. Starts ok but it does all go downhill from the keychange. Doubt the live will be great either.

    Fyr Macedonia is the best of today’s and could get to Saturday. It’s competent and credible enough to do Ok and squeak through depending on what else shows up in semi 2. Of course they are probably the worst country at staging entries which doesn’t fill me with hope but the song itself isn’t bad.

  • Wow. Ireland is BACK with a BANG! ‘Dying To Try’ is perhaps the best Irish entry since the 1990’s. The slow pace, combined with the boy-ish vocals of Brendan and a very contemporary production, will throw Ireland back in the TOP 10 since 2011. It builds wonderfully and slowly towards a rousing climax. In fact, this is very Irish, but completely updated to today’s pop music standards. In my honest opinion this is a contender for TOP 3. IF a ballad will win a medal, than this one will do that. This screams for Hans Pannecoucke, but the Spanish already have him!

  • PurpleKylie


    Major letdown, severely lacking a hook, already forgotten how it goes, might actually struggle this year given how Semi One is

    • eurovicious

      It’s amazeballs. Even better than Dihaj’s previous songs and an audacious choice. It’ll be right up there. If Macedonia is better than Belgium, this is better than Macedonia.

      • Chris Bellis

        Agree EV. Stands out amongst the other songs of that genre this year. Of course it needs to, because of the memory hole effect.

    • John

      It’s very radio friendly, but kind of trips along pleasantly without having a big moment. I like it, but I’m not even sure of top 10 at this point, what with their recent performances. Not hearing winner, shame for them as it’s wide open this year.

    • Black n Blue

      I like it a lot. This isn’t just another Swedish imported song. They’ve clearly crafted something to fit Dihaj as an artist, and it works well. The chorus is unique compared to other entries.

  • Chris Bellis

    Amir seems to have improved since last year. All the practice from his tour. 33/1 for France doesn’t look too bad if you think the revamped version, partly in English, will have wider appeal. Just waitng for the top ten odds to be listed.

  • After seeing all the performances so far, Italy has everything to be a winner.

    1. The start catches your attention, and makes you wait for a change of Rythm.

    2. He opens his eyes and hey, he is cute and charming

    3. The chorus are good, and he makes that funny dance

    4. The gorilla appears, wtf!

    5. By the third time you listen to the chorus you and the rest of your friends watching the show can sing along the song and you find yourself dancing the gorilla dance

    I think this is how many people will experience Francesco’s performance. We have a winner

    • Chris Bellis

      Yes, it’s important not to overthink these things. It’s catchy and it’s a very likeable performance. You know he can repeat it. One of my favourites from the start. Barring unforeseen events, it is very likely to win. But for betting purposes there is no value in it.

  • Hippo

    Serbia certain top 10. The drift is very harsh. Should be no more than 30-1

    • eurovicious

      I dunno. It’s very MOR, it sounds like something Australia would send but not as good. It’s almost Maltese levels of bland. I think this confirms the rumour that Macedonia and Bulgaria turned down this song because they had something better up their sleeve, so the writers shopped it round to Serbia who said yes. We have a lot of decent, progressive, contemporary female upbeat entries this year, and this really doesn’t stand out among them. It’s the underwhelming Purgatory to Emeli Sandé’s Heaven and Serbia can do so much better but RTS is so unambitious these days. It shouldn’t be a choice between Balkan ballads or globalised junk

  • Rivo

    Just seen the Melo result. Sure there will be plenty who disagree, but Sweden picked the wrong song in Robin Bengtsson – I Can’t Go On … pretty confident it will top 10 but not sure its a winner…. It might just be me, but this doesn’t feel like a great year quality wise. I normally can pick 5 or 6 I can listen to over and over and not get bored of for a while. This year I can only say that about Alma

  • Shai

    And this is the official version of the U.K.

    I think they gave it a bit volume but not overdoing it. They also gave a a bit of dreamy sound.The new arrangement is not overshadowing Lucie’s voice and give her enough space to show her vocals abilities.

    The only downside, it’s ending a bit abruptly.Like they wouldn’t mind having an extra 30 seconds to play this.

  • Dicksbits

    Robin Bengtsson’s victory in Stockholm tonight is the biggest surprise to me since Malena Ernman won with La Voix in 2009…

    • John

      Funny thing is she was the favourite, but about fifth after the juries. Was such a dramatic final. Narrowly beat Mans too because he had an unexpectedly poor televote.

      I still maintain hype plays as big a part in the Swedish televote as actually performances and songs on the night.

      This songs too bland for me.

      • The Swedish televote was pretty fair and as to be expected, with Nano and Wiktoria top. The international juries shouldn’t have been afforded so much power to overturn it. It should have been Nano’s tonight – I prefer Robin’s song (though I prefer Wiktoria’s to both), but it was his. A song that only came 3rd in the televote winning because “international juries” preferred it is a bit rich, just as it was in Vienna but even more so given it’s a domestic event. Wiktoria finishing 6th despite coming 2nd in the televote is ridiculous. This was and should have been Nano’s and Wiktoria’s night.

        • Ben Cook

          I don’t have a problem with the song coming 3rd in televotes winning, when the numbers between the top 3 were as close as they were. But on the other hand, with the stupid way they use the app and how they convert the televotes to points, the televote is almost pointless now. It doesn’t feel right that it’s now basically up to the international jury to pick the winner.

          • PurpleKylie

            27 points between first and last is an utter pisstake, SVT seriously need to take a long hard look at how the app voting works. Make it like the X Factor app and just give each person five votes total per night. That’s it.

  • Lithuania has decided. Fusedmarc – Rain of Revolution

  • dicksbits

    The only songs that are any good this year are Azerbaijan, Australia, FYR Macedonia….then Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, Estonia.

  • beckettfitz

    So I guess it’s between Italy, Belgium, and Portugal for the win? Unless Russia, Armenia, pull something out of the bag.

  • Sweden: No.
    Norway: No.
    Iceland: Yes.
    Lithuania: OK.

    But, Iceland is saying NQ to me at present. The song is decent, but Svala’s performance style (as an edgy 40-year-old indie-electro artist with her own idiosyncratic outfits and moves) isn’t translating well I think.

  • Okay, after last night’s (frankly, rather weak) set of results, I’m feeling ready to put down some green.

    To win: £10 each on Italy and Belgium, plus a £5 outside bet on Romania, for the LOLZ, innit.

    To qualify: £10 on Macedonia.

    This definitely seems to be a year where the usual big hitters aren’t delivering. It’s probably Italy’s to lose, but there’s probably some truth to the criticisms some commenters have made that it’s only a very clever and witty song if you happen to speak Italian.

    I definitely think there’s a chance Belgium could nick it. It’s ploughing the same cool, credible but danceable furrow as Loic Nottet, but in a year with weaker competition.

    Part of me likes the idea of the yodellers being a surprise win. The amusement of this would be compounded by the thought of the EBU managers, still gibbering from the chaos of Ukraine’s hosting, suddenly discovering they’ve got to go to Romania next year.

    • Chris Bellis

      Having been to Romania a few times, that’s no hardship. Bucharest is run down, yes, but the people are friendly and it’s very cheap. Much nicer than Kyiv. Romania outside Bucharest is delightful.

      • Oh I have no issue with Romania as a country to visit. I’m just thinking of the TV station’s well-documented financial difficulties.

        • Chris Bellis

          Sorry Phil – I misunderstood you. You are dead right about financial difficulties, but that goes for most things in Bucharest. If it weren’t for the diaspora sending money back, and the Dracula tourism, it would be third world status.

  • Chris Bellis

    For a few years I’ve mentioned the formula of “Sweden top five, UK bottom five”, which has served me well. Should anyone be daft enough to follow this formula, please desist for this year. The UK’s entry is too good and Sweden’s too bad.

    • Hippo

      In a head to head, I’d still back Sweden at this moment but you’re right. Uk does have the potential to catch Sweden this year which is a rarity.

      I’m honestly shocked people think Bengtsson is a definite top 5 and possible winner.
      I’m always wary of the market over-rating Sweden’s chances after all the attention MF gets and this looks, and this looks to be the case.
      At the moment I have Sweden as low as 5th in the semi – though it could be winning semi two as stands- and a low top ten to lhs of the scoreboard.
      Uk should do well with the juries but I fear a low public vote unless it’s in a great running order position. Might be second out of the big five and top 10 isn’t impossible *if* the BBC get things right.

    • Surely Robin will do significantly better with the juries this year than Frans did last year? The jury stats from Melodifestivalen are encouraging for that side of the equation.

      • John

        True, but it’s a different field of competition. I’m trying to get my head around whether it will stand out for its polish and aesthetic singer, or if its blandness will render it forgettable. The juries will probably like its polish at the very least.

        Still not convinced by the UK, I think Lucie sings too flat and pitchy. She’s like Denmark in that she keeps hitting the same note over and over, though they have at least given the song some structural flow.

        Still fancy Swe over UK in a straight versus, not least because of their neighbourly friends.

        • PurpleKylie

          Knowing my mother (who’s a X Factor addict in her 60s that used to torture me with Simply Red CDs in my early childhood back in the mid 90s), she will absolutely LOVE Sweden. I can imagine her saying that it’s a fun song with a really cool stage show.

          I remember when I came home from Stockholm last year, she told me she enjoyed Russia the most

      • Sagand

        Do you think it has more jury appeal than ‘Popular’? (That came 9th in juries same as Frans) Eurovision juries are less likely to go for a gimmick than at Melfest. The jury members still rank all the songs 1-26 before being combined into one jury score, so one bad score still hurts a lot and I think it’ll be a pretty marmite song.

        Frans, even with the flatten televote, put a bigger margin over second place than Robin put over 12th place. (Frans won the televote by 23 points whereas Robin lost by 7.) The song is slick but not likable. I see it overall 6th -12th, probably the lower end depending on what everybody else brings in terms of stage show.

        • Absolutely. I think it has as much jury appeal as ‘What’s The Pressure’ and ‘You Are The Only One’ did last year, which were joint 5th with the juries in the Grand Final, if I remember correctly.

          And ‘Popular’ was sung appallingly by Eric Saade, whereas I don’t think Robin Bengtsson will have any such problems.

          • Sagand

            Well the difference between 5th and 9th was only 8 points, so that’s certainly possible.

            I maintain whatever he gains on the juries compared to Frans he’ll lose more on the televote.

  • eurovicious

    Disco Monetta > Belgium. That is all.

  • Just seen the reactions to Disco Monetta on Twitter. I think we may have the fanwank to end all fanwanks. The fangasm may be visible from the International Space Station.

    • Elainovision

      I guess I do feel vaguely protective of San Marino after they listened to me last year. But yeah it’s not the greatest song. They *may* still reach the final because of being in the second half of the weaker semi and having an earworm chorus but they’d be just scraping in if they did. The Valentina brand recognition doesn’t extend beyond the bubble, after all.

  • Hippo

    Ok, well Russia aren’t winning. Not top 5, not top 10. I don’t even think its a safe qualifier without them making a few ‘friends’.

  • Dicksbits

    I just can’t believe no one is talking about Australia, at least each way at 16/1. Many ballads are generic, but when they’re sung with such a strong voice, as in this case, it cuts through the crap. Top 4/5 I’d say.

    • Hippo

      Agree. I think Australia is underestimated. Imo its a stronger composition and more votable singer than last year. Ebu can surely not push it as hard but it will be right up there.

  • Dana

    I’m not convinced Sweden will do all that well in the televoting. Songs that have to rely on jury support to win their NFs never do that well at the contest. You would expect an act like Robin to easily topple the likes of Wiktoria and Nano with the app voting demographic, yet he lost to both. Top 10 at best.

  • James Martin

    Russia will qualify. Trust me it will qualify.

    If it was anyone else it wouldn’t of course.

    Bet NQ with caution.

    • PurpleKylie

      Agreed. Especially with the added free PR they’ll get from a girl in a wheelchair facing a hostile Ukrainian crowd, I believe the Russian diaspora will be motivated to vote for her. I expect in Russian-language media throughout the East, the whole thing will be played out as “the sweet girl in a wheelchair who’s brave enough to stand up to those mean Ukrainians”.

      We should know by now that Russia are far from stupid, they know exactly what they’re doing with this selection. Whatever outcome in May, the Russian media have us all on puppet strings. She doesn’t get booed: “our singer was accepted and look how wonderful she is”. She gets booed: “our singer is being bullied”. She does badly: “those evil Westerners are punishing a poor disabled girl just because she’s Russian”. It’s win-win for them.

  • markovs

    So it’s off to Italy next year then. Do we have a Rybak here? The rest of the top 4 will be interesting, once the live performances start coming in it may make it a bit clearer, as per France last year when it was time to lay big once we heard him live. Australia look the dark horses for me, still at a good price. And UK still around 3s for top 10.

    • PurpleKylie

      Do you know what? I’m getting really tired of having to argue with everyone over a stupid gorilla so I’m going to say one last piece before I leave it to rest and prepare the worlds biggest “I told you so” event.

      Do a Fairytale? Are you freaking kidding me?! You do realise juries have to vote, right?

      I was in the crowd for MGP this weekend, and when they played that short segment of “entries selected so far”, the crowd reaction was something like this – Moldova: tumbleweed. Romania: tumbleweed. Italy: outside of a few hardcore fans behind me who got up and started dancing, you could hear the tumbleweed throughout the rest of the arena.

      • Milton

        The market gives you a 66% chance of being right and Italy not winning, so it wouldn’t really be the world’s biggest ever told you so.

        You said a couple of weeks ago that you thought the winner was yet to be seen. Have you seen it yet, or are you holding out for Armenia and Bulgaria?

        Interesting about the MGP. Which song got the biggest cheer?

      • Elainovision

        Yeah, I’m seeing this as a 2014 rather than a 2009 – some act we’re currently seeing as an also-run might well have the staging just fall into place and blow us all over, but we won’t (all) see it coming until rehearsals.

        Not that it won’t be Turin 2018 but there’s too much certainty that it will be.

        • Milton

          Based on what Elainovision? Why should this be a 2014? Of course it could happen, but to say that’s how you see it panning out without any evidence seems brave.

          • PurpleKylie

            Just to defend one of my best friends, I have the exact same feeling towards this year as I did at this stage in 2014: a pre-contest favourite that I just did not get and every single entry having major question marks attached to them.

            I’m pretty sure rehearsals will sort the wheat from the chaff just like 3 years ago.

          • Elainovision

            The fact that there are so many ‘good-to-mediocre’ and so few ‘great’ out of the whole field. This means staging can make or break entries moreso than when there’s a clearer hierarchy. A great staging could push a song we’re currently collectively overlooking past Italy because there’s less in the way to leapfrog.

            Granted, Francesco has more of a lead than Carl or Aram did around this time, but he’s not got the easy clearance of Alexander, not outside of the fan bubble.

      • Ben Cook

        Have some humility, Kylie. Not long ago you were calling everyone “deluded” believing Francesco even had a chance of winning Sanremo.

  • The Russian song is not to my taste, and yes, there probably is some cynical exec at Channel One thinking, “Good, they won’t boo this.” Even so, I’m going to climb onto my soapbox about the behaviour of certain fans on Twitter these last 24 hours.

    There’s various people tweeting that Julia is “being used by Channel One and the Putin regime” to stop the booing. First point: You know what? YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BOO THE ARTISTS! Whether it’s Julia, Sergey, Polina or whoever, none of these artists are responsible for the actions of the Putin regime.

    Second point: Even if she is a distraction, those people screaming about it now didn’t seem to mind when the exact same approach was used last year. “Oh no! They’re trying to stop us booing with Sergey……sexy…..delicious….Sergey….”

    Third point. No artists from any other country are being expected to be responsible for the actions of their political leaders. Nobody is expecting Lucie Jones to justify Brexit, or asking Navi Band to explain why Belarus is Europe’s last dictatorship. “Benjamin who?” “What’s an Aliyev?”

    Fourth point, as Elainovision said on Twitter, by referring to people with disabilities as “being used” it denies them agency and recognition as legitimate artists. Julia has made it perfectly clear that she very much wants to represent her country, as did Sergey before her, and both of them have every right to do so.

    In summary, the reactions on Twitter have shown that a hefty segment of the fandom really aren’t interested in celebrating diversity outside their own particular demographic.

    Okay, I will climb back off my soapbox now.

    • PurpleKylie


    • Elainovision

      Hear hear.

      It’s almost been a perfect eurofandom storm blend of ableist sentiment and that surface-level anti-Russia sentiment. I really hope that dies down in the next two months but I fear we’ll be seeing this erupt again in May. Provided Russia don’t withdraw before then, of course.

  • markovs

    Who do you currently fancy for the win, Kylie?

  • markovs

    ….and has anyone any idea why Bulgaria have just plummeted to 5.1 on Betfair?? Anything going on there??

  • Jimmy

    i expect Azerbaijan to take the title here…. everyone seems to overlook this one massively… with the right staging this is one to watch!

  • PurpleKylie

    Ukraine have just drawn 22nd in the final:

    Only real rock song in the entire line-up, plus a late draw? They might have just avoided the bottom 5 now.

  • PurpleKylie

    Bulgaria is out:

    I think they’re looking at another good result this year, very well-produced.

    • Good contemporary ballad, kinda what people were expecting from Australia but better.

    • Hippo

      Slap bang in between Australia and Ireland in the young guy sings ballad category. Australia much stronger imo, but this is better than Ireland – hurts its qualification chances a bit too.
      We have now heard the semi 2 winner which is just scary. Anyone want a guess at who it is? Romania would be my guess, maybe Serbia,whoever it is might be the weakest semi final winner ever.

      • PurpleKylie

        Winning Semi 2 this year is basically saying “well done on being the best of a bad bunch, don’t get your hopes up for winning on the Saturday night though…”

        Televote winner could be Romania/Russia, jury winner could be Bulgaria/Belarus IMO.

  • PurpleKylie

    So now that we know all the songs in Semi 2, this is my attempt at channeling my inner Björkman with the running order:

    1) Austria
    2) Hungary
    3) Malta
    4) Denmark
    5) Romania
    –ad break–
    6) Ireland
    7) The Netherlands
    8) FYR Macedonia
    9) Russia
    10) Serbia
    11) Bulgaria
    12) San Marino
    13) Belarus
    –ad break–
    14) Lithuania
    15) Croatia
    16) Norway
    17) Switzerland
    18) Estonia
    19) Israel

    Feel free to tell me how terrible I am at making/predicting running orders.

    • Hippo

      Not bad.
      My guess :

      1. Fyr Macedonia
      2. Hungary
      3. Austria
      4. Netherlands
      5. Serbia
      6. Ireland
      7. Russia
      8. Denmark
      9. Romania
      10. Malta
      11. Norway
      12. Lithuania
      13. Bulgaria
      14. San Marino
      15. Switzerland
      16. Israel
      17. Belarus
      18. Croatia
      19. Estonia

  • Now that we have basically all the songs apart from Artsvik…

    – both SFs have weak second halves. Last year we saw the 4/6 rule broken for the first time in a while, when only 2 of the final 6 in SF1 got through. However, looking at the second half of that semi as a whole, 5 of the final 9 did still get through. This should be borne in mind.
    – yeah, SF1 is stronger, especially the first half.

    My off-the-bat Q/NQ predictions for the two semis (before we see how they look, of course, which can make a very big difference):
    SF1: Q – Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Sweden, Armenia, Greece, Latvia, Moldova
    (NQ – Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Czech Rep, Iceland, Poland, Slovenia)
    SF2: Q – Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel, Switzerland
    (NQ – Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Croatia, Lithuania, Norway, San Marino)

    • Hippo

      I agree with 9/10 in both.
      I think Cyprus are through at Moldova’s expense and Denmark over Hungary.

      • Lindita NQ, despite her being amazeballs, is one of the most reliable bets at this stage, I think. Not only are Albania’s main diaspora countries (Macedonia, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia) in the other semi, she’s also on in the first half surrounded by big hitters (Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Sweden, and for the purposes of this year Portugal), with only Greece and Montenegro for voting support. Slavko NQ would seem nailed-on as well – same lack of support as Albania magnified greatly by the fact he’s a somewhat unreliable live singer performing a jury anathema song that is absolutely not going to “do a Cezar”, as it were.

      • I agree with Hippo but then would also swap Latvia with Poland. I think Moldova’s more likely to qualify than Latvia, but both could easily miss out.

        • PurpleKylie

          Thing is that with one song to go, I suspect that Latvia will get the pimp slot, which will give them an advantage.

          And yes I am fully aware that this post will look hilarious in about 2 weeks time when the running order comes out. I have a terrible track record at predicting who will get the pimp slot.

    • Ben Cook

      We’ve still never had more than 5 from top half of a semi, after 22 semis! But if it’s ever going to happen then it may well do this year.

    • I think Croatia could qualify on the strength of the performance and memorability, most likely in place of something like Switzerland (which I had down as Q but is pretty borderline).

      Last year we had two true fanwank songs in Greta’s Hear Them Calling and Barei’s Say Yay, both of which were extremely popular among fans (most especially the former) but which did disastrously. Any nominations for this year’s fanwank(s)? Is Yodel It genuinely popular or will it bomb also? Is the fact that everyone loves Occidentali’s Karma a warning sign? I can’t remember this much consensus around a favourite in ages… in past years there were plenty of people who didn’t like Euphoria, Only Teardrops, Satellite, Fairytale or Heroes (myself included on all counts) plus plenty of people who were lukewarm on false favourites like Not Alone, Sognu and Drip Drop (ditto). Selection season is over, Italy is still favourite, and not only am I not used to the favourite being something I like, I’m not used to everyone else liking it too. Is there too much of a eurofan bubble going on re: Italy or will its popularity extend to the general public and the juries despite the factors working against it on those fronts?

  • 360

    Interesting discussion! I’m considering actually betting this year on Eurovision, so… at risk of sounding a complete fool, what’s it called again where you put a bet on something *not* winning?

    I feel very certain that some of the big favourites actually won’t win – although perhaps that’s also under consideration of last year’s results.

  • Jack

    My early prediction:

    SF1: Q – Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Georgia, Portugal, Sweden, Armenia, Greece, Cyprus, Moldova
    (NQ – Albania, Finland, Montenegro, Latvia, Czech Rep, Iceland, Poland, Slovenia)
    SF2: Q – Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Norway, Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel, Netherlands
    (NQ – Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Switzerland, Croatia, Lithuania, Belarus, San Marino)

    • PurpleKylie

      That Semi 2 prediction is fair enough but I’d swap Hungary for Belarus, there’s enough countries in that semi that would really appreciate a song in Belarusian (Russia and Ukraine spring to mind)

      • Jack

        I think that if Belarus qualify, it will be together with Hungary so another country will not qualify. I am not too sure about Norway. In my prediction there are already 6 qualifiers from the first half of semi 2. Denmark seems very likely to qualify but a first half draw and big hitters like Romania, Serbia and Russia will damage it’s chances I think. So there should be some western countries in the top 10. I think Norway and Netherlands could make it. I think Estonia could be a surprise non-qualifier. The song doest not have a logical structure and it sounds very dated to me. So if I had to put in Belarus, I think Estonia are out.

        • PurpleKylie

          I personally think Hungary is going to struggle. It will probably get televote points from the Roma diaspora in Bulgaria and Romania, but being a very “ethnic” song with a rap bridge is a recipe for a low jury score.

          • I hope, because it’s decent/credible ethno rather than kitschy ethno (Supergipsy, Samo Shampioni), that it’ll stand out in a positive way. I wouldn’t expect any real Roma vote though, I don’t think there’s that much solidarity or connection between ordinary Roma in different countries and regions – even within individual countries like Slovakia, the Roma groups are very disparate from each other. That’s not to say people generally in southeast Europe won’t like Hungary’s entry because I think they will.

  • Chris Bellis

    Eurovicious is right about the “gypsy” (tsigani) vote. In reality, although gypsies suffer discrimination in most central and eastern European states, I have never been to a wedding in the Balkans that doesn’t feature some form of tsigani music. The intelligentsia deride it, then after a few vodkas, get up and dance to it. For “Roma diaspora” read “Balkan diaspora” and you will get closer to who is going to vote for this type of music. As ev says, Roma are disparate – they take the language religion and culture from wherever they are located. Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim or whatever. Better to think of Balkan sounds getting the Balkan diaspora vote.

  • James

    The betting seems all over the place this year. Right now two of the top five in the Betfair outright (Sweden and Portugal) didn’t manage to win the televote in their own country. I’ve gone back and I can only find one example of such an entry making the top 10 since juries were reintroduced (Gianluca for Malta if you’re wondering). It just doesn’t seem credible that either of them could be contenders to win.

    • PurpleKylie

      I think both of them are fair enough because they could potentially get very high jury scores, but yeah, I don’t think either of them will have enough televote traction to win.

    • meridian_child

      Can’t similar things be said about Francesco? He didn’t win the televote on night 2, he didn’t win it on night 4. He won it on night 5. In terms of Eurovision wouldn’t it be more important to be first when the people see the song for the first time than the third time?

      • PurpleKylie

        Oh really? Now that I know that, it’s a very good question. It’s not like Il Volo where they were crushing the Sanremo televote right from the get go. Plus being a Big Five country, Italy will already be on the back foot as any contender who emerges will have had two or four days worth of buzz.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Started catching up with Eurovision season only yesterday evening, in-between finalising more bets on the tennis, golf, footy etc. I think there’s an advantage to be had from coming in with fresh eyes to analyse an established Eurovision market, post most of the National Finals’s culminations. It was much easier for me to swim against the tide of opinions last year for that reason, I feel.

    My starting point was oddschecker where I was initially delighted to find that there was a cramped odds favourite for the EV crown. Played and found the video for that Occidentali’s Karma, for my delight to drain to resigned annoyance as I became progressively more charmed and engaged by that package. I chuffing love everything about it :S

    Last year I loved France and Belgium and was a twisting kaleidoscope of obsession re Ukraine. This year I note I’m obsessed by the 7/4 jolly! I wouldn’t back a 7/4 favourite for Eurovision in the ides of March…but nor would I happily lay it. If an entrant does finish higher than (Francesco’s) OK this year then that would I feel comprise the top 2 finishers.

    Worked my way through the other entrants (so far), finding there are maybe 5 or 6 other entrants which I consider are potentially offering value, though I expect I’ll be backing them in the likes of the top 10 markets. By the way, where are those bloody markets! (So need to be involved on the bf exchange.)

    Am not experiencing a similar level of obsession with select entrants this year compared to recent years. Even the ones I really like I’m aware of my reservations about them. This might mean that a place in the top 5, for example, could be within the reach of a current outsider for which everything comes together (staging!)? Or might mean that there’s a seeming lack of entrants this year that appeal to my tastes.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Advice, please.

      Had to smile at myself just now as I finally got round to seeking to register a betfair exchange account. I entered my email address…only for a pop-up to inform me that that email address was already in use. I smiled as it slowly dawned on me that as I have a betfair sportsbook account I’ve always had an exchange account!

      The advice I ask for is regards the various sub markets. I have about 6 or 7 countries I’m interested in backing on various sub markets. I’ve been holding fire yet I’m noticing a possible correlation between a consensus building around a particular country on this site and a dip in the betfair odds. I would assume that members and readers of the consensus then set to backing the judgement and as the betfair pots are still relatively small (is that right?) even relatively small stakes provoke large shifts in the odds.

      Is it best to wait for a new consensus flavour of the week to catch fire, allowing time for recently constricting odds to slowly enlarge, or is it best to jump in and grab whatever’s left?

      Annoyingly, I notice that the trad bookies are yet to offer virtually any other prices but for those on the main outright market. Are they waiting to hear the Armenian entry?! Or are the trad bookies’s traders waiting for the weight of money from informed punters to set the correct prices (at this stage of proceedings) on the betfair exchange before using these as a starting point for the odds they themselves will be offering? In this sense, are bookies’s entertainment traders using betfair punters’ decisions to help shape an accurate market for the bookies’s markets to come?

      So in value terms I’m unsure as to whether to wait for betfair prices I’m interested in to slip back towards a previous point; or whether I should wait for the trad bookies offers.

      Or should I be framing betting decisions in another way.

      Also, can anyone recall around what date last year the trad bookies got around to offering a wider range of ESC markets?

      Am confused.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        As the traders are offering a range of odds on the outright markets, and as the runners are now declared and known (with Armenia finally showing its hand), I’ve had my first bet of the season on Oz at 16/1 EW (1/4 of the odds a place the first 4).

        It’s not my personal favourite but I feel it’s the leading candidate for the entrant that you at a point down the line exclaim to yourself “What on earth was it doing trading at that price?” when you recall the market odds as it / they stood circa now.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Within a few days of my bet on Australia I was regretting my move. I understand why I did what I did but I’ve specifically been regretting the timing of my wager. There was no advantage to be had from taking a price so early in this ESC season. Plus: as I’ve said Australia is not one of my personal favourites this year, and I do hold a significant reservation about this entrant (while still mindful of its appeals and potential appealing qualities).

          On Grand Final outright finishing positions I will make these two predictions:

          Italy to finish in the Top 2.

          Bulgaria to finish in the Top 3.

          I do concur with the consensus of the betting markets on the Top 2. It’s just that I’ve never seen what I consider a backable price about either of them. I definitely see Bulgaria as a potential winner.

          I suppose an implication of this, in combination with the weaknesses I see in the Swedish package (which I consider to be trading at cramped odds), means I should (and will) be placing a lay bet on Sweden in the Top 3 market. My logic is that I currently see only 1 place available in the Top 3 market (for other than Italy, and Bulgaria) and I can easily imagine at least a couple of other entrants proving more popular than Sweden. The short lay price incurs a relatively small liability and thus offers value, in my opinion.

          Have to admit I’m learning as I go along with the betfair exchange! I need to work on my timing!

          Do find it a bit tedious that the bookmakers with a high street presence are yet still to offer odds on the range of sub markets. It’s nearly April, for crying out loud!

          • A friend sent me this article yesterday (it’s in Greek, so you’ll need to hit the Translate button in Google Chrome) which looks at the pre-rehearsal betting odds for the past 10 years:

            Interesting takeaways:
            – In eight of the past ten years, 3 of the top 5 in the pre-rehearsal betting odds were top 5 on the night. (So taking this as a guide, I’d suggest Italy, Belgium and Bulgaria will be top 5 this year, but not Sweden or necessarily Portugal)
            – the odds are often (far) too short for returning artists and for famous artists
            – Sweden was overvalued 7 of the past 10 years, and is overvalued even when it does well

            It’s really worth a look, and I think it totally backs up the bets Guildo outlines above.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Fascinating. Thanks, Eurovicious.

            The 2011 Dusseldorf results table is incredible, a year in which I took virtually no interest, and one I now feel motivated to take a closer look at.

            Specifically, I’m referring to the actual final standings of the first 4 in the betting – which finished a combined average placing of 18th!!

            I’m a little unclear from which point prior to an ESC is the outright betting market snapshot plucked (I wish there were exact dates provided) but understand that 8 weeks prior to the Grand Final is the suggestion. Am also wondering from which archive these betting snapshots were resourced. Would love to know.

            If I had to guess the Final finishing positions of the (at this point) first 4 in the betting – namely Italy, Bulgaria, Sweden, Belgium – for this ESC, I’d respectively go for something like 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th.

            Random golf mention. As a release from Eurovision study (!), have had a bet on this week’s PGA Tour event. Surprised to see Bryson barely rate a mention on the main tipping sites. One of the most interesting people in all of sport, he first caught my interest at last year’s Masters.

            His performance last week again caught the eye, in particular his puts on the 70th and 72nd holes. Even so, I was hoping for better odds than 66/1 at this PGA tour event for a player rated 107th in the world. Still, hopped on EW and will hope for a clear top 7 finish.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Again re the lack of traditional trader sub markets (ESC Semi Final odds, for example), I see now (or predict now) that this noticeable absence will remain at the very earliest until Monday 3rd April.

            I notice the annual London Eurovision party will be happening this Sunday (2nd April) at the Cafe de Paris, Leicester Square, with a plethora of fancied acts performing and thus being subject to motivated, highly-informed live-performance scrutiny. Obviously, the trad traders have decided on an entry point offering their opening subs positions at a time when there are somewhat-solidified consensus opinions prevailing,

            They can monitor the informed betfair reaction ebbs and flows for a few days, see where the new lines of consensus have settled and then enter the fray on say Wednesday 5th April?

            Yet more still cautious trad traders could be set on waiting until a settled betfair-odds aftermath following the Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam on Saturday April 8th.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Prior to the London Eurovision party, here’s the three entrants I’ve played this time round more than any others.

            Guildo’s 2017 obsessions: Italy, Finland and Albania. I’m absolutely crazy for these 3 entries.

            Guildo’s 2017 near-obsessions: France, Macedonia, and The Netherlands. Love them but not quite head over heels with these 3 entries.

            Pre-party I predict Bulgaria’s Kristian will make a splash and to a lesser extent so will Macedonia’a Jana. Bulgaria’s my idea of a contender to Italy. Macedonia is under-rated and overpriced in my opinion.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Am still learning lessons as the BF Top 10 market but here’s the best of the “odds” I’ve taken on the four countries I’ve so far backed:

      Albania: @26
      Netherlands: @14.5
      Finland: @7.2
      France @2.94

      Am feeling that the @14.5 for The Netherlands was a particularly generous offering.

      My heaviest bets have been on Finland.
      My biggest profit would proceed from Albania.

      Have been following the discussions around this year’s Polish entry in contrast to last year’s Polish entry. Am not following the line of argument that retrospectively elevates last year’s entry to the detriment of the prospects of this year’s entry.

      I wonder if in March 2018 there will be discussions wherein the 2017 Polish entry is retrospectively elevated?

      Personally, I think it’s got a lot going for it.

      My only uncertainty is exactly when to place my Top 10 bet(s) on it.

      I’m finding I lack a feel (a lack of accumulated knowledge and betting history on betfair on the ESC Top 10, early in the season) for knowing what is a value price.

      One of my feelings on the UK’s chances is that the Brexit factor can’t really be to its advantage. Imo, it can only result in a net loss of support for the UK. I would be factoring that in, as best as possible, re the UK’s odds.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Virtually every day since placing my first ESC wager, an EW on Australia, I’ve been checking back into that account hoping to see there’s a cash-out available! But no such luck!

      I quickly realised I’d probably made a mistake, especially since I’ve always had faith that Bulgaria would be a major player.

      Isiah doesn’t particularly appeal to me…but in the “Don’t Come Easy” video he was so reminiscent of a young Raphael Nadal that I felt I had to place a bet! Haha!

      Within the opening 5 seconds of the song video I thought that if Nadal had a teenage son, this would be how he looks just subsequent to his dad losing this year’s Australian Open tennis final to Federer!

      I do think it’s an underrated song, I do rate Isiah’s vocal ability, and I do have faith that Oz will create winning staging, but…Isiah is a bit of a limp lettuce (I do get an unfortunate Latvian “Justs” vibe) and I was aware going into the bet that it is well known that he can have a tendency to forget the lyrics and freeze.

      Have just backed Portugal to win its Semi. There was just £16 available @ 5.3(1) so I grabbed that.

      I was thinking through the counter-argument to Poland landing a Top 10 finish…and ended up realising that Portugal could easily transpire to be the wide-margin winner of what looks a Semi containing flawed favourites.

      Although by some distance it’s the videos of Italy, Finland, Albania and France that I’ve obsessed over, I do acknowledge that the Portuguese entry is something else. I once presented a jazz show and I recognise that perversely this could diminish my enthusiasm for watch-listening to Portugal.

      Top 3 Grand Final prediction: Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal.

      But as it’s a wee bit silly to rave in detail about entries you will likely be backing again, I just want to chuck in a mention that the problem with Serbia’s “In Too Deep” is that it always reminds me of Ira’s “Walk on Water” from last year’s contest.

      Random extra: Am chuffed to be in a play next month…of which I am the author! Not the biggest budget nor venue in the world but still.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        Last night I took (what was probably) the last of the 80s EW about The Netherlands on the outright. Had been checking my BF Top 10 selections and noticed that as well as the @ 14.5 and @ 14 I also had a smidgen on at @ 15. Those prices look excellent value, especially in light of the terrible odds the first trad books offers are showing.

        Have found myself humming the Aussie song throughout the day. Something similar happened last year, but I let both my doubts about Dami Im’s expressiveness and appeal, and my feeling that the odds were plenty stingy over-rule me.

        Surprised myself by having a tenner at @ 15 for it to win its Semi.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          I’d say that the 3 best songs of this year’s ESC are Occidental Karma, Blackbird, and Amar Pelos Dois. They’re masterpieces, I feel, in their different ways.

          City Lights, Beautiful Mess, Skeletons, and Requiem are all fabulous songs, too.

          The song and singer package that has done nothing for me this year is the Irish entry. I manage about 10 seconds of the video before switching out of bored irritation to anything else.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Have managed to bet myself into an perverse position re Australia. Backed it again the other day EW at 25s. Now, I think there is value in OZ landing a place at that price; value that wasn’t there in the 16s EW I took a month or so ago.

            Yet, yes, here I am with outright EW bets on a selection upon which I would put a ceiling finishing position of 3rd.

            A song which I think is an excellent fit for its singer, a singer who will vocally impress, singing a consistently under-rated song (probably with the benefit of excellent staging); but I consider Isiah way behind fellow teenager Kristian in potential appeal.

            I’m on the beta teenager, hoping to scrape a place!

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Bit the bullet and took 11/2 EW on Bulgaria. I’ve always favoured Kristian of Bulgaria but I just never liked the odds on offer. I’m only building familiarity with the betfair exchange this season. All I ever seem to recall was a top price of 8s EW for Kristian. I guess vastly better (win) odds would have been available and taken, for a brief period (?), by shrewdies who’ve played this game before.

          I was a little annoyed at the speed with which the market cottoned on to Bulgaria’s chances. Obviously, the ESC markets have developed a razor-edged bettor-ship which pounces on value at the drop of a rabbit. Gotta be prepared and quick on the draw, I guess.

          In the Beautiful Mess video Kristian’s character reminds me of Bran from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Kristian, apparently destined to become the first performer born in the 21st century to take centre stage at an ESC, has an array of factors flowing in his favour.

          Italy is round abouts evens odds-wise. That feels skinny; it’s always felt skinny. If there is one contender who could take down Francesco perhaps it is Kristian. I’ve been imagining Bulgaria no lower than a 3rd place finish, so I’ve eventually taken the view that an EW at anything on or over 4/1 might be like having a free bet at the win.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Having a mosey around on Rob’s site today, and came across one of his archived ESC articles, dated March 28th 2013.

            He was providing a betting preview and tips on 2013’s 1st Semi, referencing EW prices available at that time with Boylesports and SportingBet.

            The 1st Semi that year took place on 14th May, so major firms were offering Semi-Final EW odds at least 47 days prior.

            How times have changed.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            A couple of things with the betfair exchange: A) the art of timing the bet placement(s); B) the knowledge that instead of facing off against the old enemy, I’m betting against individuals / people I may like, perhaps people from this site.

            It’s a new and slightly disconcerting feeling.

            Have placed a welter of smallish bets recently, on prices I (fingers crossed) don’t expect to see reached again.

            I used to be very involved in betting on political markets but value there is proving harder and harder to come by. All non-mainstream betting markets are heading along a narrowing road. That’s just the inevitable way of it, in the internet / tap tap boom / twitterati age.

            Am struggling with bet timings, now, as there are certain bets I’m keen to strike, but I’ve been holding off, all the while the general price directions have been contracting. Have been delaying, as I’m nervous of taking odds that I feel trad bookies may soon be trumping.

            However, is that a prospect that is based on wishful thinking? If a host of bookies’s opening shows appeared tomorrow on a host of ESC markets how likely would I be to find superior value betting opportunities, at this stage of the ESC season?


          • “… the knowledge that instead of facing off against the old enemy, I’m betting against individuals / people I may like, perhaps people from this site.”

            Don’t worry about it, thousands of people across Europe bet on ESC and in the unlikely event that you’re against someone here then you’re helping them (by matching what they want matched).

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Thanks, Henry.

            I hadn’t thought of that way, and that’s a really helpful way to look at it.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            There are 2 Eurovision participants carrying the majority of my money and hopes. I had refrained from discussing, or joining in a discussion, on this site’s chat boards re either of these challengers as it felt potentially counter-productive to do so, especially in consideration of the knowledge and experiences I have been accumulating from exchange betting.

            As I mentioned at the top of this mini-thread within a thread, the Finnish entry has long been a magnet for my bets.

            After my first experience of the Blackbird entry, I felt that I had watched a simple masterpiece. I was reminded of my first experience of watching Animata’s Love Injected. (I also placed bets at similar odds on Love Injected) There’s a structural connection (in terms of both staging and song), but more than that there was the repeated sense of having experienced a near unimprovable finished package. A National Final winning performance triumph which could be transferred straight to the Eurovision stage.

            During my first watch of Norma John’s Blackbird I was left repeatedly stunned by the singer’s voice, specifically on the explosions that happen during the stretched-out “You sang…” refrains. Leena may be the first singer whose voice has ever put me in mind of the great Eva Cassidy, specifically of that platinum vocalist’s rendition of Sting’s Field’s of Gold. Leena, in her performance, reminded me of both Eva Cassidy and Adele. I think Leena also is an introvert, who radiates a beautiful melancholy that commands your attention and perception, as a viewer, or perhaps involved onlooker, or someone who is being irresistibly stirred into feeling what the performer is felling, is going through, is working out.

            The whole performance is the definition of a showstopper. It silenced me. Something that has a silencing effect on you can set your mind and body to an unforced receptiveness, to an attitude which optimises your capacity to listen and absorb.

            Maybe it is desirable for everything to have a mini-story arc (the brain is hardwired to be predisposed to seek story as meaning and meaning as story) but not everything has to have a story arc played out in fullness. The gold standard for me of songs that successfully attempt to invoke a mood in the listener and that do so by successfully trying to capture and relay a specific (melancholy) emotion remains Radiohead’s OK Computer. Adele, I suppose, would be the current reigning Queen of glorious melancholy.

            The Blackbird story could be perceived as triggering incident plus result, or back-story plus present circumstances, or then versus now. Leena stands there rooted to the dead centre, a bitter Miss Havisham relating and repeating an invocation to an unwelcome intruder to stop triggering a desperately painful madeleine moment. Bitterness fuelled by a grief for what might have been, for what was never fully had.

            The ambiguities of the Blackbird presentation are I think part of what captures and haunts the attention. A grieving woman dressed in an elaborate widow’s costume from yesteryear angrily pleading for a blackbird to stop sonically marking its territory. Yet where is the blackbird to which she is singing? You, the viewer, cannot help, nor does your lack of potential help feel relevant or part of the equation. Leena is singing her pleading orders to the blackbird, yet looking down the camera lens, often in close-up shots. Then there’s the pain, anguish and (passionate) anger in Leena’s voice, facial expressions and demeanour, all the while she sings (beautifully) a repeated message to another to not (beautifully) sing. It was only after many, many re-watches of Norma John’s Blackbird that I realised I had been watching a calculated and unique answer / response song. I’m slow to understand things but then many, many people and viewers are and will be. It also took me a long time to realise why a close-up of a widow staring down the camera lens while repeating a command to not sing could be having a silencing effect on me, a viewer.

            Another powerful moment for me happened when the pianist’s riff unexpectedly interrupts the tirade of telling off with its cascading, soaring beauty. Every time I hear that piano take flight I am pleasingly put in mind of ABBA. The rapid cascade of keys registers at some metaphorical level as symbolising the blackbird wings fluttering. I suppose as the camera homes in on the pianist it could be said that this is closest the viewer comes to seeing a blackbird representation. Yet it seems the blackbird’s flight has either been a full circle finished with a resounding, landing thump or that in any case the widow for denied grief at the centre will remain rooted to the spot, frozen and will remain unable to let go.

            I suspect that many of the younger generation may find this package boring and that they will be unmoved by the Blackbird experience. I have read criticisms of Leena’s performance (many of which I believe are unfair and guilty of completely missing the point of the performance, the song and so on) but I do agree there are a few more colours and tones of expression she could draw upon. Still, I completely believe her, completely accept the validity of her pain and anger – which is critical to whether the whole package flies. Seems facile to mention that I don’t like her hair styling – but I don’t like it. The disconnection that occurs with the camera switch of focus when the pianist’s section interrupts also feels improvable. The smoke filled ground-scape, the swirling, unsettled (mental), unfurling, cloudy patterns on the backdrop projections , the pulsing flashes of growling red, the whole passionate Gothic novel film-scape of it all – these elements are probably perfect.

            I think this will finish in the lower end of the top ten in the Grand Final. I feel it is too darn good to finish outside the top ten, but that it is true that Blackbird is a song story that leads nowhere. I would argue that this is necessarily so. Personally, I respect that quality and choice but it is true and valid that there is the absence of an uplifting ending, no beacon of hope twinkling at song’s end, no situational transformation, no narrative or atmosphere upswing. Too good, too moving, too shows-topping to finish outside the top ten; too lacking in its absence of an uplifting atmosphere or resolution, too static and stuck to breach the upper reach of the top ten.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Last time it was musing on the Top 10 prospects of Poland that led me to backing Portugal to win its Semi; this time I just finish composing a long piece relating my reasons for my bet history on a particular participant, only to find myself concluding with a paragraph in praise of Portugal! Which I then jump on EW for its Semi.


        • Guildo Horn Forever

          A quick add-on note to mention that I am fairly pleased and relieved to read the feedback to Finland’s 1st rehearsal show. This package needed to be perceived as a strong contender from first response as this is a protagonist with less scope for improvement than probably any other participant. The marked contraction of its betfair Top 10 odds has fed my wishes hope.

          The other package carrying my money and hopes this season’s ESC is The Netherlands, with OG3NE and Lights and Shadows. I think I easily have more cash down on more markets on this participant than on any other.

          The Netherland’s entry boasts multiple factors in its favour and multiple USPs. Although I have a limited and potted knowledge of ESC history, I feel that there is no truly comparable act to trace that can be classed with the OG3NE sisters.

          It’s comforting to know that the girls are ex Junior Eurovision Song Contest participants in addition to being winners of their country’s version of The Voice franchise. It’s stunning to know that these girls can smash an outdoor live performance, with virtually no quality loss compared to any of their studio work.

          OG3NE is the only girl group competing in this year’s contest. These girls are not an act formed or contrived from disparate parts; they are sisters, two of whom, Amy and Shelley, shared the same womb. To some degree this shared origin will have contributed to the brilliance of this vocal harmony group. Little Mix proudly consider themselves a vocal harmony group and have shown by their win of The UK X Factor and their mega success in the US market the depth of attraction and popularity a brilliant all-girl vocal harmony group can secure.
          Individually, the OG3NE sisters each seem to be stunning vocalists (there is no weak link); together their voices blend angelically. Their combined soaring sweep of golden sound seems to touch the euphonic God-spot in my brain. God, the pure beauty of their sound!

          Before commenting on their song, I should add I find it fascinating that it was written (and thus customised) by their father (along with one of the sister’s boy-friends) in honour of their seriously ill mother. That feels like the USP of USPs right there! It’s a family affair, this one.

          The staple of the family has always been a strong selling point. It’s often commented that one of central draws of The Soprano, besides other draws, was that it explored strong family networks. It was once questioned whether the US version of Shameless would prove a hit in the American market, but once again it has been noted that there is always a massive viewership for quality programming centred on family life, no matter the level of dysfunctionality of a particular family network.

          The wholesomeness and trustworthiness and strong family values of the OG3NE sisters, and their narrative, remind me of an episode of The Waltons or of The Little House on the Prairie. A nostalgic transportation to purer, kinder days when extended families were the norm, implying values of honour and selflessness were to the community fore. The Vol sisters are very attractive ladies, classy girl-next-door types – who happen to be able to melt the brain with the pure beauty of their intricate world-class harmonies. They perform the exceptionally difficult with ease. They have a definite homely appeal and definite girl-next-door approachability appeal, yet it is obvious that these girls can be whoever they want to be.

          I have read many comments that criticise Lights and Shadows for being average and boring. Personally, I think it is an under-rated sleeper, a good-to-very-good song. Perhaps a B- grade for composition. I believe it has been overlooked that the purpose of this song is two-fold: it is an inspirational lyrical love letter to a seriously ill wife and mother; and it is has been designed to suit the sisters’ many vocal strengths. Does it succeed in meeting its dual purposes? I would say yes and yes.

          The marvellous Songfestivalwerk! revealed a while ago that the story behind the song composition and performance, the story dominating the lives of the Vol sisters, was set to be made explicit via the Netherlands staging for Lights and Shadows. I was along aware of the song backstory and thus the staging potential but I treated Gert’s shared knowledge as akin to inside information!
          I have read criticism of this as equating this move to bringing cheap X Factor style tactics to this year’s ESC. I believe that the watching public will not see The Netherlands’s staging as being a negative X factor style method.

          One of the troubles with X Factor contestants’ sob stories is that the majority of those tales of woe paraded are transparently irrelevant. The vast majority relate to minor troubles which happened in the past. The relating of such stories seems a cynical move because: the contestants are obviously cynically drawing upon them; the troubling incidents are comparatively minor (and part of a time-worn confidence-journey trope); and because their chronological distance from the performer’s present conforms the sob tales’ irrelevance.

          The performance of Lights and Shadows will translate as three sisters here and now trying to inspire their mum to not succumb to a deadly disease; or either as a deeply felt and loving goodbye to a loss that is inevitable. Do the sisters feel as though they are part of a close-knot family? Absolutely and clearly they do. And such is the shining brilliance of their talent: this will remove any lingering shadow of a doubt that the girls are in any way trading on the story so as to disguise or compensate for any vocal inadequacies, as is the actual case with legion, ropey TV singing contest participants down the years.

          I do like the song itself. It starts slowly but builds and rebuilds, even includes a funky burst of an electric guitar riff, and swells to include a clap-along audience participation moment! It packs a lot of variety into its three minute run time – and in a good way, I should say, it feels longer. The number of false-dawn builds, I agree, is perhaps a problem. This song is criticised as being cheesy but I fail to see how these girls singing a song, which purposely includes the word “Shadows”, with all its connotations, in its title, for the potential life-inspiring benefit of their mother, who is suffering from Cancer, will be perceived as cheesy, come live performance time(s). The hushed delivery of the final lyric I read as a bedside whisper.

          I foresee OG3NE drawing an excellent tele-vote: the potential receptive classifications and demographics are legion: sibling, sister, twin, daughter, mother, father, boyfriend, single guy, grand-parent and so on. Then add to this far-reaching range of vote-catchability the estimation that one in two adults will be touched by Cancer… But I foresee a better yet jury score. I know a number of professional and semi-professional singers, plus a musical director or two. Every single one of them has a world of respect for the work, time and (perhaps natural) talent it takes for beautiful lock-step harmonies to be perfected. I believe these girls can bear favourable comparison with any vocal group.

          I have high hopes for OG3NE and have backed accordingly. I like to imagine this as breaking the Top Ten and indeed perhaps breaching the upper reaches of the Top Ten, such as breaking the Top Five.

          I could be wildly wrong, of course. The song review for Lights and Shadows over on ESC Tips concludes with the prediction that if Lights and Shadows does somehow limp into the Final it will be the deserved favourite for last place. That prediction from that highly-respected site did give me long, reflective pause for thought. Lights and Shadows probably does fail The Old Grey Whistle Test. I agree that the song can be perceived as dated and derivative, but I don’t necessarily consider a perceived datedness as being an insurmountable obstacle, nor necessarily as a definite negative. I’m aware that perhaps I am glossing over the deficiencies of Lights and Shadows, for in a post above in this mini-thread I didn’t rank it as being within the best seven songs of this season ESC, nor did or do I consider as it even being in the conversation for top tier song status ranking. I digress to remark on Portugal’s Salvador, who could prove a potential fly in the ointment to my theorising, come to think of it. He has his own ill health narrative and he possesses one of the sweetest and swoonsome voices you ever could hear, singing a song that sounds like a new, old standard. Another influencing factor that’s occurred to me could be that I am so sweet on The Netherland’s chances as I’m trying to bury the ghost of my (initial) contempt and dismissal of the chances of ESC Netherland predecessors, The Common Linnets, from a few years ago.

          I could be downbeat about the prospects of my Netherland’s bet portfolio come later today, as well as cringing with embarrassment about this post! OG3NE’s 1st rehearsal is scheduled for 14:20 today.

          Still, I haven’t rattled on for weeks the way I know I am capable of doing, so if I’ve gone OTT with this post I’ve only done so at the last minute by submitting it now.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Looking over (and combining) the Press Poll tables for Semi Final 2, I think it is fair to rank The Netherlands currently at 4th in this standing (I acknowledge there may be a p.o.v. that would demote them to 5th, below Croatia).

            I strongly suspect that The Netherlands will rate in the Top 3 for actual jury points in this Semi. If there were such a market, I personally would feel it reasonable to install this entry as marginal favourite in a w/o Bulgaria Semi 2 Jury Points market.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Feel gutted and v surprised at Finland’s non-qualification. Even if it had sneaked into the Final, it clearly had no chance of finishing Top 10. It all seemed to be going so well…but it was never actually at the races. My painful and costly misjudgement.

            Need the Netherlands to come to the rescue…a top 10 finish (assuming qualification!) and everything is excellent. Portugal winning that Semi would be a bit of a help, too.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Looks like Portugal has a ton of passion and momentum behind it and come Saturday may even be vying for favouritism.

            I find it strange and unsettling that I haven’t backed Portugal to the amounts I should have.

            I say this as a commentator who has in this thread-within-a-thread acknowledged that the song is one of the three songs I consider to be a masterpiece this ESC, predicted its finishing position as third and commented that Salvador “possesses one of the sweetest and swoonsome voices you ever could hear, singing a song that sounds like a new, old standard” and realised and acknowledged that the one reason I wasn’t more enthusiastic about this package was connected to my experience of presenting a jazz show.

            Magical masterpiece song? Tick. Crazily charismatic singer? Tick. Unbelievably beautiful, emotional voice. Tick.

            In retrospect, It wasn’t difficult, was it?!

            I was put off it a bit by one passing negative comment I happened to read.

            Additionally, many of my bets have been on somewhat long-shots so perhaps it felt comforting to take the smaller odds on offer with supplementary backing on the likes of “safer bets” such as Australia and Bulgaria rather than back another potentially hit-or-miss selection such as Portugal.

            Ultimately, though, for a reason I still don’t understand, I personally haven’t been moved by it. I’ve suspected for a while that this lack of effect on me says a lot more about me than it does about the emotional power of this Portuguese creation.

            I feel genuinely deeply sad about that. I really do.

            A reaction which also perhaps explains the power of the Finnish entry to hold me spellbound…

            Still shocked by that NQ, though.

            Just a honest reaction post.

            Need the Dutch to cheer me up!

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            After seeing that The Netherlands have landed a bloody 1st half draw, and then clocking Portugal’s running order position (amongst the grand scheme) I decided to go on a cash-out splurge (on a variety of mainly mid-range golf and tennis bets) on my PP account to release funds to put on Portugal on the nose. I’ve over £600 and can bet the max (£605.72) to win. I just need to hit the bet-now button. Oddschecker was showing 3s but by the time I got to my PP account I was already looking at 2.1/1, which caused me pause. All very impulsive behaviour, on my part, and although I feel certain I am missing out on (just over) tripling my money, I feel I would be best served now to exercise control and slow right down, even at the cost of missing out on a winner. By Saturday, it seems clear Portugal will be near even money, I think.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Yep, has to be no bet. I didn’t see Semi 2 this evening (back in from a late rehearsal) so I have no personal take as to Bulgaria’s impact. Still, at first appraisal it seems clear the finishing 4 quality log-jam entrants (I’ve always highly rated Alma) will all serve to mutually dilute each other’s impact. Given the respective 1st and 2nd half draws I think this running order is perfectly designed to maximise Portugal’s potential. It has favoured son status?

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Well, it couldn’t have all worked out more painfully for me if I had sado-masochistically plotted it so.

            Shit! 🙁

            For anyone who has been reading this mini-blog and would like me to analyse what went astray and why, I will return with my reflections at a future date. I genuinely am very busy at the moment and really just don’t feel like forcing myself to process all of this and spew out my hard won lessons.

            I do have something potentially interesting to say and even have a useful paradigm / theory / hypothesis or two of what to back at future events.

            In fact I suspect everyone has realised what to look for in future.

            I do need to learn to think differently.

            And for next year’s ESC I will approach the contest earlier and take a systematic approach.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Oh: if anyone has any comments to add or anything they want to put to me then please absolutely feel free to do so. It will probably do me good.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            A cursory look at the jury results for the UK suggests to me that the Brexit decision snub did have a dampening effect on the points the UK received.

            It is immediately noticeable that the one country’s jury to award the UK 12 points was Australia! Coincidentally, the one ESC country who could actually feel flattered by the UK’s EU June 2016 (post the 2016 ESC) referendum decision would be the Commonwealth of Australia.

            Reinforcing this stat, I see that in 2016 the Australian jury offered us zero points, and that in 2015 Australia awarded us zero points.

            It’s also immediately noticeable that Ireland’s jury offered us zero points this year, compared to last year (pre the EU referendum result) when Ireland’s jury awarded the UK 7 points.

            In 2017, the UK and Lucie Jones pick up a total of 99 jury points, of which neighbour’s Ireland contributed nothing.

            In 2016, the UK and Joe and Jake (how forgettable are they!) pick up a total of 62 points of which neighbour’s Ireland contributed 7 points.

            The there’s Malta.

            Malta, a Southern European Island Country, member country of the EU, and part of the Eurozone; yet the George Cross features on the National Flag, English is an official language and it remains a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations.

            It’s often been noted that Malta’s strong historical links to the UK seem to translate into a ESC special relationship of sorts!

            In 2015, Electro Velvet attracted for the UK a total of 5 points. 1 of these points (20%) came from Malta (incidentally, another 20% of the total came from the 1 point Ireland awarded us.)

            In 2016, Joe and Jake accumulated 54 jury points, of which 12 of these points came from Malta.

            In 2017, Lucie Jones accumulated 99 jury points, of which Malta awarded nul points.

            Ireland, Malta and Australia could be considered the indicative or bellweather ESC countries re the impact of the UK’s EU referendum decision on the UK’s ESC jury results (especially).

            The ESC ripples from the UK-initiated divorce proceedings seem clear, defined and emphatic.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Have been monitoring Betfair’s Ballon D’or market and have been baffled by the non-inclusion or non-listing of Dani Alves. I’ve just had the maximum Skybet would allow me, £15 win, on him at 25/1. Should the Old Lady (marginal current 2nd favourites at 19/10, on bf) triumph over Real in Cardiff next month and if Alves produces yet another star turn, there are a wealth of reasons (including the backing of Barca’s publicity machine) as to why Alves will be the main challenger to the current, heavy odds-on favourite, CR7 (as low as 1/3).

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Skybet won’t let me place another bet on him. He’s in to 20s, but as imo he is the sole potential spoiler to the Ronaldo coronation party, the only other candidate for whom there is a winning pathway (plus, in many respects, he’s the perfect anti-Ronaldo candidate, too; and he’s gaining serious traction for GOAT right-back status), then that 20/1 still looks unreflective of his chances.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Europa League final tonight. Have switched back and forth between arguments for betting on Ajax and reasons for favouring the Manchester club. There’s a myriad of interpretations re the impact of outside influencing factors. I hold no reticence about chewing over taboo subjects or influencing factors but on this occasion I’ll keep those perhaps distasteful deliberations to myself.

            Ajax did interest me at near the 4/1 mark earlier in the week but that odds range has gone now.

            I think I’m holding fire until the FA cup final, where Arsenal look absolutely there for the taking and Chelsea look an ideal team to perform that taking.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Added Buffon at 4s and 7/2 for the Ballon. Realised that there is the potential for him to be handed the trophy as part of a playing-legend, career achievement award.

            European football competition finals have the potential to go to a penalty shoot-out, too, and its often remarked that the stage is then set for a goalkeeper to become the night’s hero.

            Won’t be backing this guy:

          • “Well, it couldn’t have all worked out more painfully for me if I had sado-masochistically plotted it so. Shit! […] Oh: if anyone has any comments to add or anything they want to put to me then please absolutely feel free to do so. It will probably do me good.”

            Been meaning to reply. Don’t sweat it. Most important thing is don’t feel like you’re under any pressure to bet. Only do what you’re comfortable with and don’t get carried away. If you’re just doing it for fun as a hobby with smallish amounts, well, you don’t have to continue if it stops being fun. If you’re doing it with larger amounts and it’s also not going well, all the more reason not to. I ruined Eurovision 2013 for myself on the last day by screwing up my bets on the final and thought “well, I don’t need to do this, and it’s causing me a lot of stress, so why do it?” I had to realise that as much as I enjoyed the analysis side of things, I wasn’t good with the numbers/financial/book-balancing side. Enjoy the football match!

  • Black n Blue

    With the selection season over, I thought I’d give some views on a few outsiders who could achieve a surprise top 10 finish.

    Austria hasn’t been talked about much here, but it’s actually one of the songs I’ve listened to the most. Nathan has a youthful charm about him, and his personality comes across really well in the official clip. As for the song, Running on Air is pretty easy to get into, and unlike many other entries this year, I was able to remember the refrain and hum a bit of it after one listen. Now and again those “Hey now’s” sing themselves in my head when I’m working, or when I’m sticking the kettle on to make coffee so the song does something right anyway! I think as a package, this one works quite well, and I always appreciate it when the singer writes and composes the entry at a time when it’s become commonplace for a song to be effectively shipped around Europe until somebody says yes (looking at you Azerbaijan). Semi two doesn’t have any true standout, and I reckon if Austria keep it simple onstage, Nathan’s charisma and his easy to singalong number will shine through. Last year showed us again that Austria can do well with televoters if the package comes together on the night, only I wouldn’t expect the juries to slate Nathan nearly as much as Zoe. Top 10 could be in reach.

    Naviband are another act to watch. Again, it’s the personality factor. When it comes to Eurovision, I see the act as the main vehicle for selling the song, and the pair do that brilliantly. One of the early takeaways I had, was the repetitiveness of the song. The first version released had them pretty much singing the same lyrics on a loop for the last 1:20 or so, but they seem to have found a way around that with the final version.
    When I’ve watch them onstage I can’t stop smiling, and I think a part of that impression comes from the duo enjoying being on the stage themselves, they sort of have that busker vibe in showing such a great love for performing, and I’ve always found the ESC entries that stick with me the most are the one’s that give you a tinge of sadness in the final few seconds knowing the performance is about to end, and I definitely get that with Naviband. The underachieving of the east this year, should play into their hands when it comes to diaspora votes, and I think should it all come together, the west might catch on with it too. I could imagine this being a drinking song on finals night in many households.

    OG3NE were dismissed entirely on the outright market after the song reveal, which surprised me, because what I had heard was an uplifting, if slightly dated lady-ballad which appealed to me and seemed to have a lot more dimension to it with the harmonies than Switzerland, Albania, Georgia, Malta, Germany et al. I can understand the initial disappointment due to the expectations for the Netherlands to challenge being quashed fairly quickly, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see more people come around to Lights and Shadows when the preview shows get up and running. The girls’ dad who wrote it clearly had their harmonies in mind, which is why I don’t think it would work that well if you gave the song to any run-of the mill autotune abusing girl group. OG3NE are like an old style girl group, and live I think there’s an opportunity to really lift this to another level and standout. Trintje aside, the Dutch have a good track record at sending songs that are geared more towards the live performance so I wouldn’t discount them yet.

    What other outsiders do we think could do Top 10?

    • Hippo

      I agree with you on Belarus. Got a good little niche going and as you say all their neighbours are below form. Top 10 may be just beyond them as I don’t know how keen juries will be but are definitely on for a great upper mid table.

      Making a current top 10 in no particular order I have :
      And I’d expect Armenia to make it too.

      Don’t think any of them can be considered outsiders though.
      From real outsiders Malta could possibly do it. We know juries love them and they usually get a good running order. Might do ok with older voters to supplement the jury vote too. Their main problem is making it out the semi.

    • Good review Black n Blue (also, nice avatar picture you have there 😀 ). I think Nathan Trent could be this year’s Douwe Bob. He’s utterly charming on stage, has a pure, little up-tempo song that doesn’t seem too overproduced like Macedonia and Serbia. I actually even start to wonder if Nathan could make it difficult for both Serbia and FYROM.

      Regarding The Netherlands, I spoke on the phone a bit with Rolf Meter, the Dutch stage director, for my blog Songfestivalwerk. He is a very nice bloke and I was quite surprised about his remarks to my piece about ‘Staging Tips’. But apparently, I’m not far off. The Dutch delegation has been pretty much in contact with the Swedish/Ukrainian producers/directors during the entire month of April. Mr Meter made a a whole script for the staging. And the things he mentioned (with lyrics/family pictures on the walls, a slow build from dark lighting until a ‘light bomb’ near the end a la Olsen Brothers, and ingenious camera angles/close up shots) made me think that Netherlands could again be one of those ‘a-hole’ countries coming to life only during rehearsals ;-).

      What I love about Belarus is the fact that these two singers are entirely charismatic, have wonderful Chemistry together and can bring the public in a good mood. And all that with a sincere song, that isn’t too overproduced(Russia? Paying attention here??)

  • Ben Cook

    This has got to be the most difficult to predict ESC in memory. I couldn’t even attempt to do a top 5 prediction at the moment. Reluctantly coming round to the idea that Italy probably is the front-runner (though still got reservations). Who will join them at the top I’ve not got a clue. More than ever performance and staging is going to be key.

  • Black n Blue

    Agreed. The only country I could nail down as being a certain top 5 is Italy. There’s a few others (Portugal, Belgium, Oz) who have what it takes but have a way to go yet, whereas Italy’s already got its staging package perfected to a ‘t imo.

  • beckettfitz

    Someone on twitter was doing a poll on if Francesco does win, would he win in a rout like Rybak or like Mans?

    • Elainovision

      That would have been me 🙂

      Was curious to gauge the general feel of the community there, given there’s a broad (if not complete) acceptance that Italy are the deserved favourite.

      ((Though as noted repeatedly, we know in all likelihood the full package Francesco will be bringing. We don’t for most of the other considered contenders for top 10, barring Robin’s travellator shtick, given they were either through internal selections (like Belgium or Oz) or less intricate NFs (Portugal, Romania). So I’m not holding much stock on the result of that poll, other than to see what others are thinking))

  • I have Belgium down as winning. It made a major impact when it came out and everyone seemed/seems to love it – it combines the repetitive accessibility of Undo with Lena’s cool and Emmelie’s ethereal dreamgirl vibe, plus a John-Lewis-ad contemporary credibility. The hook is warm and stays in your head after just one listen (as it’s repeated so often). You don’t need much of a song to win – Running Scared, 1944, Only Teardrops and Satellite are hardly musical masterworks, though all slightly more sophisticated than Belgium I’d argue. But I think it’s got the package, the youth, the language, the accessibility, the meme factor etc., and right now before we’ve seen what it will look like and how she’ll come over as a personality, I think it beats (the superior) Francesco when it comes to juries and televotes. To my ears, the other female indie-electro entries (Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Iceland, Latvia, all of which I prefer) are more sophisticated than Belgium but in a way that makes them more niche, whereas I think Belgium is John Lewisy enough to appeal to a very broad range of people.

    • I am a bit puzzled as to why Belgium made such an impact when it came out. I mean I like the song, but I’m not convinced there’s a winning package there. The staging needs to elevate it to create that ‘moment’ on TV, and there’s room for Blanche to experiment with her vocal on it too. I mean it sounds like a totally different person singing in the bridge, so it’s one to watch in that respect.

      My top concern with Belgium though is that Blanche does suffer from, to use its Latin name, Facius Arsius Smackius.

      • PurpleKylie

        There’s obviously something about the song that has a wide appeal, the video has only been out for a week and it’s already cracked 1 million views.

        I do think it has great staging potential, if going by the video there’s a great opportunity to recreate the light streaks coming from the floor if the stage has an LED floor.

        And come on, Marija looked like a Harry Potter cosplayer and still won.

        • I’m not sure Marija Serifovic is comparable to Blanche. They’re very different types of performer, song and overall package competing under different voting systems. I’m not saying that’s the sole reason Belgium wouldn’t win either, I have some respect for its chances, but there’s questions about whether the final package can come together.

          Also – an offhand response to how the MGP crowd reacted to the entries picked so far – you could plainly interpret what you wrote as “Italy was the only one that got a reaction”. And even then, I’m not the least bit surprised there were no cheers from Norway’s Joe Publikk for any of the entries. Nobody beyond the fan circles has seen any of the other countries songs yet. All we know is that Occidentalis Karma unexpectedly won San Remo and went on to top the Italian charts for 3 weeks and creep into the charts of some neighbouring countries – so people like both the performance and the song. Disregarding that fact would be a blatant display of confirmation bias. Italy is the rightful market leader.

          • PurpleKylie

            –you could plainly interpret what you wrote as “Italy was the only one that got a reaction”–

            Wow, that’s really stretching things to fit your own thinking process if I ever saw it. The five or so guys who did get up and dance to it were clearly foreigners who already knew the song. The Norwegians I sat next to didn’t even laugh, or gasp or anything. They just sat there in stony silence.

            You need to remember that first viewing is important and that MOST people watching will not have heard any of the songs before, and personally, judging by that reaction, it’s humour appears to be a very regional type of humour that might not translate north or east.

          • I addressed the reason why Norwegians wouldn’t have reacted, and as you said they didn’t react to any of them, I’m not stretching things at all. The fact is that some fans got up and danced when Italy came on and nobody reacted to any of the others, so was Italy the only one that got a reaction – yes or no?

            Arguing that maybe the song is too southern European in its appeal to win is a much more valid stance, although difficult to analyse. I think it might struggle a bit in the Nordics for sure, and the preview shows up there will be a good indicator for Scandinavia, certainly not for the rest of Europe though.

            My top concern for Italy is how the 3 minute edit turns out. If they can’t rework it to retain a traditional 2 verse 3 chorus structure, that’s going to throw a spanner in the works. They can either cut little bits out like I did, or they can go from the 2nd verse straight into the pre-climax bridge which brings the song to 2:55.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            I was prejudiced against OK on the basis of its prohibitive betting market odds. It’s rare for me to back a short priced favourite and I aim to take profit and pleasure in identifying false favourites.

            Yet in the course of my first watch of OK i was completely won over. It amuses me, entertains me, engages me, surprises me, interests me – it’s got a bit of everything and the whole shebang works an absolute treat.

            I’m unsure what story is being told / what point is being made but what I do know is that the performance is confidently delivered and so I accept whatever internal logic is driving it. Anyways, the whole thing makes me smile throughout. Though this reflection perhaps fails to acknowledge just how smart this Italian entry is. It’s a kind of perfect.

            It does (or should?) seem odd that a song without English lyrics should be the ESC favourite and I keep looking for weaknesses in it, but so far I haven’t spotted any nor have I read any comments that have developed significant doubts or opened up a fault-line.

            I really do hope someone will analyse and reveal it actually to be a false or weak favourite. although in saying that it would be sad to have my fondness for it dimmed.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Good point, Ben, about the 3 minute edit possibly being a challenge. That hadn’t crossed my mind.

          • The 3 minute edit is a big challenge. I and some others have had a go at it with Audacity. There’s very little fluff in the song, everything you cut makes it lose something, and the package continuously delivers new surprises and elements from beginning to end, which puts into perspective some Eurovision songs that have played their hand by the first chorus and lazily resort to a key change to feign progression, (hi Slovenia).

            It’s important to look past the gorilla and acknowledge that it’s not a one-dimensional act – it’s a brilliant craft of good songwriting, and that’s why it’s so damn hard to cut down. It could affect its winning potential. I always try to see the strengths and weaknesses in the songs I like, whether or not the market agrees.

            I’m glad you liked it without understanding it though Guildo. It proves something and reminds me of my first viewing. I almost want to ask you not to learn about it, because the whole meaning behind it is clever, but it almost dims the enjoyment of it. Even though it was only 4 or 5 weeks ago, my first watching seems like forever ago and I miss that state of mind, haha.

          • Another question will be if he is allowed to use the “Chanel” part.

          • That’s not going to affect his score at all, though.

  • markovs

    Is no one considering the UK as a top 10 contender? The revamp really brings out the end and whilst it has lost some character I think that will come out when she sings it live. She is a great singer and a pretty girl and I think it has a lot going for it. For me it’s the best of the female ballads this year and the best melody hook.
    Managed to get 4.4 for top 10 on BF just after the revamp and think a 2nd half draw and hopefully decent staging could see it sneak in ahead of the likes of Greece and Serbia. Despite their diaspora, I think their songs are forgettable. What do you think?

    • Sin

      Bottom 5 as it always was. There will be no momentum for her bland ballad coming to Saturday eve.

    • PurpleKylie

      I don’t trust the BBC to even stage a solo ballad well, which is the easiest type of song to stage :/

      I also think Björkman would not be terribly fond of it and use it as filler between bigger songs :/

      • Sjee, you sound like the Dutch back in 2013/2014. Have a little faith PurpleKylie. Moreover, if the song is good, then usually the inspiration and creativity of the particular song will unconsciously also be translated to the stage.

        Look to Anouk in 2013. It was kept simple. Trust me. UK, will be TOP 10 this year :-).

        • Elainovision

          I’m getting déjà vu from 2014 with this British optimism. I always hold to being extra cautious over your own country’s entry to counter the ‘Spanish effect’ (which the Dutch seem to be having a lot of this year).

          Not saying Lucie is going to crash and burn but I’m yet to see anything to convince me this is any more Top 10 than its ballady competitors like Finland or Poland (the latter of whom have a diaspora the UK does not). Admittedly, the revamp was a step in the right direction, but it all depends on how that translates on stage.

          It’s mid-table for me right now.

  • markovs

    I think I am working on the fact that Lucie is a really good live singer and will hopefully bring out the song. Will need a good staging, as didnt happen with Molly, which along with her flat performance killed the UK in 2014. I think this song is actually a bit better but will need everything to go right to sneak top 10, but I think it has a chance.

  • dicksbits

    The UK ballad is so generic…even with a good singer I cannot see this top 10. They’ve remixed it and made more of a mess. I think we’ll have to see the staging for some of the runners and riders to see who might come out on top.

  • 360

    Interesting competition…so having heard semi 1’s songs, I would call as qualifiers:

    Poland *or Iceland
    + either Georgia or Montenegro as a wildcard

    Montenegro has a lot of youtube dislikes, but is really Kylie-camp and should go down a storm with the crowd.

    Finland was the only track that struck me as a definite NQ.
    Portugal as a likely NQ, Slovenia as a likely NQ, Armenia as lacking diction and a good song, and the Czech Republic being on the fence, but a weaker wildcard possibility than either Montenegro or Georgia.

    I reckon Lativa will go down a storm with the crowd out of that group and do better than expected, like Poli Genova did last year, and Bojana the year before.

    *I forgot about Iceland when I was doing my listen. I reckon the voting for the bottom four acts on my Q list will wildly vary, any of them could come top. I think Iceland and Poland are probably the closest to be fishing in the same pool.

    Of course, a lot may depend on political voting too. I don’t think Sweden or Australia are that strong but they should get through on name brand alone at this stage.

    • PurpleKylie

      Montenegro may go down well in the arena, but it has the major problem of only catering to a VERY specific demographic, which yes, make up the vast majority of the Eurofandom but not the average Eurovision viewer. It’s got bottom 3 in the semi written all over it.

      Georgia has the “copying last year’s winning formula” problem (throw in Albania in that category too), unless you’re a Russian megastar, people watching at home tend to roll their eyes when they see something they perceive to be “like last year’s winner”.

      • eurovicious

        Agreed. And Slavko knows all about “bottom 3”. I’m a fan, but his vocal is likely to be one of the weaker of the night. It’s not family-friendly really.

        Most rankings I’ve seen place Georgia near the bottom. I don’t think it will do well at all. It’s cowritten by Anri Jokhadze,

    • I quite like Montenegro’s song myself, it’s funky, although the incomplete chorus really bugs me.

      I think one reason he’s not in high regard with the fans is – well, forgive me for speaking for a group of which I’m not part – I don’t think gay guys generally go for other gay guys doing camp stuff. I mean look how much the fandom gravitates towards female divas, and look how poorly acts like Rylan, Bratavio and Diva Fever do on X Factor. Kind of breaks the illusion for men who idolise female divas when they see how crap others doing the same thing are.

      The remaining support just comes from women who might see a gay BFF in the act, which I think is what got Rylan further than others like him, and why he presents virtually everything on TV that has a significant housewife demographic.

      It’s difficult to say who Slavko is catering for, other than himself, really. The whole thing about a “this is me” package is making others give a shit. And if you add a “I don’t care what you think” element to your “this is me” package, then, well, what are you doing competing for votes? Just bugger off, be you and leave us alone, (hi Lisa Ajax.)

      • John

        Campery has a funny history at Eurovision. Drama Queen failed, so did Mr Nobody. In The Disco was a lot more successful. Slavko seems to have that ‘fierce queen’ vibe which might put people off. And yeah, if you add in an ‘I don’t care what you think’ vibe then I’m fairly certain Montenegro won’t make the grade.

  • Shai

    It seems that the Russian singer is also a political statement:

  • Rivo

    Any further thoughts on Albania folks ? The song has really grown on me, although I have worries over the live vocal, and I get the concerns over neighbours voting in the other semi, I just think if you listen to the song a few times, it may be strong enough to get over those hurdles. Please…feel free to tell me why I am wrong…Tough to call the comp this year, which makes it so much more interesting at this stage…I think there are plenty of entries whose strength has been overrated, and one or two going under the radar

    • eurovicious

      I have no doubts as to her live vocal – she’s a powerhouse – but you illustrate the point yourself: “if you listen to the song a few times”, “the song has really grown on me”. Same here, but viewers only have one exposure to it. The new English lyrics also don’t scan well.

  • Sin

    Pardon if I offend anyone but is it controversial to say someone doesn’t have the LOOKS to win?
    Re: Belgium (as well as UK) – Both singers are lacking in the face department to pass for Eurovision Winner in the “young lass group” in my opinion.

    • There’s always the risk of someone taking comments like that to heart, Sin, but you’re right to factor this in to your analysis – and I completely agree Blanche looks quite miserable. Molly from the UK had this issue at times too.

      • Chris Bellis

        Blanche says that the director made her look miserable for the video. She says the hardest thing was not to laugh. She could have done it like the Belarussian couple and jumped about shouting with insane glee all over the place, but it might not have suited the mood of the song. If you are laughing the zone isn’t so dangerous.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          That’s an odd piece of directorial instruction for her to receive. Being in the midst of a (virtual) scene of danger wouldn’t necessarily signal to me that a performer should broadcast that via a sense of personal misery. “To unnerve”, “to enliven”, “to warn”, “to thrill” would be more apt and useful actions, imo. Certainly “to dull”, and “to dampen” are less beneficial intentions.

          Either the director’s vision or expression of that idea to their performer is questionable or the performer’s interpretation is awry.

          • Chris Bellis

            The interview was in French so excuse me if I didn’t put it over correctly. I only posted my comment because people are saying she’s got a smackable face and is too serious etc. WTF? She looks pretty ok to me – the posters on here must all have models as partners. She smiles quite a lot in interview, and I think the director asked her to convey the impression in the video that she was “in the danger zone”, which would demand that she looked at the very least serious, and not falling about laughing. So I don’t think the directorial advice is all that odd. It’s a long time ago, but when I directed amateur dramatics, it was a constant hassle to stop actors from playing the fool when they were supposed to be serious. I’m not putting myself in that league, but I have some sympathy with the director. She’s in danger, so at least look apprehensive.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Yeah, could be that’s she’s a natural jester and attempting to tone that down results in an unfortunate straitjacketing effect.

            Looking again, I see the song lyrics and video suggest she is the guide, you just need to put your trust in her, your hand in hers.

            Maybe she’s aiming for a knowing-mystical-emotional-princess-guide look but I think it’s fair to say she falls short of that.

            There’s a flatness in the song key and structure that she needs to rise above. Instead, she appears to me to not believe what she’s saying (which of course is fatal). Also, she could just be one of those singers who lacks variety in her lower register and this also encourages a lack of facial expression fluidity and variety.

          • PurpleKylie

            Jeez guys, she’s a 17 year-old kid, not an Oscar winner.

            Personally I interpreted the song as a having a bit of vulnerability to it, she’s constantly asking questions, so having a bit of an unrefined youthful innocence would actually work to it’s advantage

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Whatever the age of the performer representing their country in an international competition that performer will need to bring all their skills to bear, and on a discussion site such as this analysis and / or over-analysis is a regular feature.

            If the aim is an air of youthful innocence then I don’t think I’ve been catching that vibe, yet.

          • PurpleKylie

            Granted I might have been projecting a lot of the feelings I got from listening to it, because it kind of fits in with a personal situation I’m in right now, but whatever, people can different interpretations of the same song I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            I wouldn’t know about any projected personal feelings. All adds to the analysis.

    • zat

      That’s the special appeal of Belgium’s song for me. It doesn’t try to convince me of big feelings, it just creates a very muted, maybe bleak, but very interesting atmosphere. Blanche is very static in her movements, and so is her face — she never laughs or smiles. Her deep voice reminds me of Nico. When I heard the song for the first time I thought I heared the voice of a boy — a little bit androgynity can’t be wrong at ESC, right? She’s anything but a cute laughing sunshine girl, but those usually come from Belarus and don’t win, right?

      There’s now a plagiarism accusation from oikotimes, and I admit there’s more to it than with the German song (only the beginning like Titanium). The overly repeated melodic line, not just the beginning, is exactly like the overly repeated melodic line in Éclat from Alexe Geaudreault.
      But the atmosphere of City of Lights is superior, and I find Blanche’s muted appearance much more interesting and appealing than Alexe’s more emotional and common appearance.

      • Chris Bellis

        Zat – agreed. I think Belgium submitted an uptempo piece last year with a brilliant performer and it came tenth. So this year they are submitting a moody and mysterious number. The Prisoner style video emphasizes this. The main reservation is whether it will transfer to live staging. As for those posters here who say that she has a “smackable face”, please concentrate your efforts on Manel Navarro. He’s the spitting image of a bloke I know who works in a scooter hire place in Ibiza. He’s a narcissistic arrogant twat too.

      • Chris Bellis

        They do have a point though. But Eurovision has never bothered about plagiarism.before.

  • markovs

    Would so have to disagree concerning Lucie! I think she is really hot!! Much prettier than Jamala for instance, and certainly Maria Serifovic. Loreen wasn’t exactly a babe either. Looks seem to be more important for the men

    • Chris Bellis

      The Russian grannies did it for me, then Cezar. Mustn’t forget Verka Serduchka. I think Lucie is a nice looking woman, and gracious with it. Also a good singer. The song is not so good, but better than most we have submitted in the last 20 years. Good luck to her. I normally go for UK bottom five, but that would be risky this year, unless the BBC cock it up, which is the fly in the ointment of my argument.

  • PurpleKylie

    A live video of Belgium is out on the interwebs:

    The video quality is rubbish and you can hardly hear her at times, but she seems to be carrying the song fairly well. We’ll see in London in a couple of weeks.

    • Chris Bellis

      Thanks Kylie Terrible phone video as you say, but you can tell that the performance is good enough to judge that she’ll be ok live. Belgium has had good stage management skills for the last few years – does anybody know if they will have the same production crew this year?

  • Dana

    Am I alone in thinking Finland has the potential to do rather well? It seems to be doing very well in fan polls despite not being an obvious fan favourite song or country. Also the sort of entry juries could potentially be very drawn to. It also managed to top both the televoting and jury at it’s National Final unlike most/any of the contenders this year.

    • PurpleKylie

      I think Finland has the potential for a Norway 2015-style result in the final, the thing that worries me the most is actually getting to the final in a very competitive semi. I would like to hope that it will get enough jury support to qualify, otherwise I will be very upset.

    • Yeah. Birds, Unsubstantial Blues, Silent Storm and A Monster Like Me all finished 8th-9th, I’d sensibly peg that for Blackbird too. And yeah, it does seem to be broadly popular.

      • Chris Bellis

        Correct. All classy songs that have had a life after Eurovision. The 8th to 12th position is where they end up, as we’ve been saying for a few years now. Look at the number of Youtube views of A Monster Like Me.

    • John

      Finland really rather stands out this year, and she can bring it live. It’s suffered odds wise due to a competitive semi, more hyped entries taking its place, and a slightly curious structure (it sort of repeats three times).

      If it can ride the jury vote through the semi, and avoid being dumped at the start by a crap draw, it’s got neat value as a top 10 / qualifier bet. That piano interlude is frankly, beautiful, and it’s one of the richest songs this year. We’ve seen recently from Love Injected and the ones EV mentioned that ‘difficult’ songs can ride a lot of support by just not being bland.

    • zat

      I liked it a lot at first because it really stands out and the beautiful melody stuck with me. But I see its problems much clearer now. Somehow the slow intro makes me believe that there must be some change at the end. And the showy intermezzo confirms that. But instead the same part is repeated, only a little bit more intense. The light becomes red and fakes a change, but that feels insincere — the song starts in dark mood and ends in the same dark mood. The black bird sings beautiful and may be free to go elsewhere, but the song feels trapped.

    • Elainovision

      It was obvious they’d need to cut a lot, and the length of time they’ve taken in releasing the cut had me thinking they were being surgical about it, as Ben G did here

      Nope, that’s a hatchet job.

      I’m aware it will *always* sound jarring if you’re used to the original, but the sudden ‘ah ah ah’ lacks the smooth transition that the extremely polished original had. I’d argue if you told someone who had never heard the original before where the cut was, they’d find it (albeit not the more subtle one in the first verse).

      I do however expect Francesco to do a good job at smoothing the jump on the stage. He is a professional.

      I think it’s plainly made Italy worse, but the big question is, how much does that matter, and how much that matters depends on how much of a lead (or not) you felt Italy already had.

      • Yeah… I knew this would make Italy’s odds lengthen a bit. I can live with the cut as I think it won’t be so bad on stage, but I wish they’d left a bit more of the first verse in at least. Still the important thing is that it still has 3 choruses. All the important stuff is there, including the scraps of English, it’s just more about the hooks and memes and less about the message now. Wise. Disappointing, but wise.

        • Hippo

          It’s not a terrible cut but yours was definitely stronger.

          • Wow, indeed, just listened to Ben’s and it’s massively better, I barely noticed the joins (and obviously not just saying that). Ben’s is essentially seamless and judiciously makes minor cuts in smart places that can afford it, the “official” version takes a chunk out that harms the overall flow. I’m surprised they’ve gone with it. Lisbon 2018 mofos?

        • Grazie a tutti, but mine was making lyrical cuts that might not have worked in Italian (?) and also cutting throughout. The official version at least gets all its cuts out the way early. *Shrug*

          A 3.15 limit would have been enough though. 3.30 would cost us too many qualification spots in the final show.

    • As someone who likes it a lot but maybe hasn’t listened to it up and down as much as other people – the minor cut to the first verse I didn’t even notice, but the cut of the second verse at 70 seconds in is really jarring. It just sounds bad, there’s no transition – we go from the first chorus straight to the second pre-chorus. The last minute remains great, but that cut does structural damage and means we spend a full 80 seconds of the song (0:37-1:57) in a loop of pre-chorus, chorus, pre-chorus, chorus.

      Eurovision needs to move to a 3:30 song limit.

      • It was going to do structural damage however you put it. Once you think of it as a “performance edit” you realise they’ve made the right decision. It’s not ideal for listening, which is a shame because this what’s going on the Eurovision album.

      • Black n Blue

        I don’t think meddling with the song-time limit is really the way to go. Ben proved that there was a better way of going about this edit. It’s not like the Italians couldn’t make a seamless edit, they just chose not to.

        Although an increased time limit would help Italy’s cause each year, I imagine most nations would just use the added time as instrumental scruff at the beginning or end of their songs.

        • I feel like others love my edit more than I do. XD

          And yeah, an extra 15 seconds would probably be filled with performance or instrumental fluff for the first year or two because the same tiny crop of songwriters we get year after year would need to learn some new tricks, but gradually, one hopes it would start to attract new talent. There’s a healthy rule suggestion – songwriters can’t compete for more than one country in the same year, nor can they compete at all for two years in a row. Thomas Cheese:Son will have to find some other event to milk.

    • John

      Personal opinion – lawks he irritates me. I’m getting an ‘Italy’s Robbie Williams’ vibe off him, all smug eye brows and furious mugging. That is of course broadly appealing, he’s charmed half of this forum, but it will irk me as a winner I have to say. Lyrically, its the equivalent of a finger wagging lecture from The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins about cultural appropriation.

      Despite that, it’s still the mostly catchy and immediate entry this year among all the difficult/contemporary numbers and ballads, and I can still see a good draw for this, and lots of inebriated toes tapping (and subsequent votes). I think the juries will go easy on it, but I can’t know that for sure.

      The structural change didn’t bother me, I have to say. So still the favourite I guess.

      • Chris Bellis

        Tune in to radionorba – wall to wall Francesco clones. Or just go to any Italian venue where they play background music. “Italy’s Robbie Williams” – well, Robbie is very big in Italy. Francesco is a sort of younger generation Zucchero. He’s even attracted the sort of headlines Robbie and Zucchero would be familiar with – along the lines of “Is Francesco gay?” Congratulations to him for sticking to his own genre.

  • James

    Can someone explain to me why Bulgaria is joint second favourite at the moment? Australia craps all over it in the same genre to these ears.

    • Dana

      I don’t get it either. It is well produced, but the melody isn’t that strong or memorable.

      Then again, other than Italy and Belgium, most of the “frontrunners” at the moment baffle me.

    • Hippo

      I agree with both of you although it does seem that Bulgaria has got the better reception, both drifting on release but Bulgaria being the one people are going for since.
      I think people are seeing things in the Bulgarian entry that are close to irrelevant (His Russian heritage) and overestimating some sort of “aww he looks twelve!” vote.
      Australia have the stronger song with a better build and hook, have shown they get how to stage a ballad and will be on the end of more jury and producer support. I don’t mind Bulgaria as a contender, but should be higher than Australia in the odds.
      As for joint second favourite, its much more worthy than Sweden. It wouldn’t have even won its national final with a sensible voting system and doesn’t come across as likeable at all.

      • eurovicious

        On the Australia vs. Bulgaria issue, while I (slightly) prefer Bulgaria, I’m coming down on the side of Australia for the reasons that Hippo and Black n Blue outline (I think “should” is a typo for “it shouldn’t” in Hippo’s comment above).

    • John

      Unless I’m leaving someone out, Bulgaria’s USP sits similar to that of Ireland and Australia for the young male ballad (maudlin pixie dream lad) genre. It has a number of advantages.

      It’s contemporary, where Ireland is old fashioned.
      His voice is very strong and distinct, while Ireland and Australia have good singers there’s just a little more richness to that of Bulgaria.
      What’s that sound during Bulgarias interludes? It’s a sort of Eastern-vibe, I don’t know the instrument but it automatically makes you think of Eastern/Southern Europe and the music they listen to. Crucially it sounds authentic and goes with the song and I think this one will bridge the east/west divide with its contemporary sound. So there we have televote, and jury catnip with the vocals.

      Optics wise, it’s a three way draw really, though I do wonder if the Australian lads voice sits akwardly with his big haired lippy appearance. It probably won’t matter.

      Seems destined for the top 10 in my opinion.

    • Black n Blue

      I was surprised when Australia drifted out after the release. To my ears, they’ve got one of the best constructed songs in the contest. For a ballad it gets to the chorus remarkably quick at around the 20 second mark, and from there it builds well to the climax. Again, I think Australia have sent something that’s for the stage, and Isaiah is a very strong live performer who has potential to lift this song.

    • zat

      What’s the message of the package?
      A wild looking boy with very good manners sings that love doesn’t come easy. Will he hold a red rose? Some ladies might melt away but there are other good looking boys around the corner.
      Bulgaria’s message is much clearer: this world is a mess now, but it is a beautiful mess because we still have our love. That’s only a cheap escapist message but exactly how many people feel today. The inclusion of Bulgarian folklore as an electronic distorted bit of decoration is also cheap, but it is easily digestibel. If love doesn’t come easy, maybe an ESC win does?

      • PurpleKylie

        That’s a great point you’ve made on both songs. Also worth pointing out the framing between the songs: Australia comes across as a bit apprehensive and reluctant (I’m a delicate soul who’s love don’t come easy etc etc), while Bulgaria comes across as more inclusive and hopeful (our love is untouchable and we’ve got nothing to lose etc etc).

        • Chris Bellis

          Kylie – Agreed. But as you yourself said recently, let’s wait for the rehearsals. Australia will be polished from the start, but Bulgaria will be up and down, and keep us on tenterhooks. Last year I dismissed BG on the basis of early rehearsals, even though I rather liked it. Graham Norton announced it as a potential winner and I laughed, based on my prejudice. Reviewing last year’s contest last night (yes, that’s how sad I am) I see Graham Norton was right. Hardly any of us on this forum got it, but Graham Norton did. We should all be ashamed.

          • PurpleKylie

            I was in press and my first impression of Bulgaria’s first rehearsal last year was that it was a dark horse, despite Daniel et al complaining about how awful it looked, which I never understood why they thought that…

          • It was the close focus on Poli as a personality that helped it do so well (plus the contemporary, catchy song) – they presented her as an established artist not a newcomer. If she’d had dancers throughout, been dressed in a more sexualised manner, or they hadn’t used close-ups of her smiling face at the start, it wouldn’t have done as well. It came over exactly as they wanted it to. Her “friends” joining her at the very end communicated the message that while she doesn’t need support, they’re more than happy to provide it.

  • Dana

    I have Australia ending up between 8-12th. Dami and Guy finished 4th and 6th in the televote with better songs imo and they are both more accomplished performers,so I can’t see him beating either in televote or jury. The Australian delegation definitely know what they are doing though and seem to have lots of cash to throw around so may pull some amazing staging out of the bag.

    • Chris Bellis

      Dana- that’s about right I think. Australia will continue to get a good position in the running order I would guess. I’m assuming they will easily qualify. Howver I wouldn’t under-estimate this performer. He is more likeable than Dami and on a par with Guy for performance. Also there’s less competition this year.

  • Milton

    “What I’d really like to listen to now is ‘It don’t come easy'”

    Can any of you honestly ever imagine saying that? You might be able to respect it, construct an argument for why it is technically a good, solid, well constructed song etc, but does anyone really enjoy listening to it or look forward it coming up on the ESC playlist? Can anyone imagine out of all the songs on offer thinking, ‘that’s my favourite, that’s what I’m voting for.’ I think the song is a waste of space and find the singer a needy doe-eyed drip. To me its nowhere near as good as their previous two songs, but people are arguing it can do better and actually win. I really struggle to see that.

  • Hippo

    Armenia out of the running. Should qualify but not a cert and can’t see a top 10.
    Azerbaijan looking good for top former soviet which usually means a very high position.

  • At the moment, I’m thinking Italy will win the ESC televote. I attribute the time taken to build momentum in San Remo to the facts that San Remo and Eurovision are totally different kettles of fish and that he was up against big national stars in San Remo whereas Eurovision is full of unknowns.

    That being said, I’d like to pose a straightforward question to everyone:

    Why won’t Italy win the ESC jury vote?

    And in the interests of challenging for open-mindedness, I want answers from Italy supporters and naysayers please.

    You don’t have to supply an alternative jury winner, because it’s like comparing unassembled flat pack furniture to a solid bookcase. I’m trying to change the argument.
    Just – why won’t Italy win the ESC jury vote?

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I adore everything about the Italian entry. It’s the bee’s flipping knees but: is Francesco a great singer? I’m none the wiser for having watched OK umpteen times. Has he earnt the right to top the jury vote standings?

    • – It’s not Anglo-American radio pop in English, which juries have shown a noted bias towards
      – he’s not a great vocalist per se, he’s a perfectly adequate blokey singer; it’s not vocally driven
      – it loops pre-chorus and chorus for 80 seconds(!)
      – he has a dancing gorilla, which (regardless of it being right for the song) in terms of perceived sophistication as a visual hook is several notches below Dani Im’s augmented reality, Mans’s (or even Sergej’s) projection, or Loreen’s contemporary dance in a windstorm
      – he looks like a spiv
      – it’s proudly, joyously old-fashioned in both its unashamed tunefulness (not slickly cool in a commercialized way, but like a great Italian pop song that just happens to have fallen into the ESC context) and its countercultural lyrics, which acerbically decry Western culture’s spiral into a navel-gazing social-media-enabled circle jerk. Neither of these things (old-fashioned joyful tunefulness in place of Teflon cool, and countercultural lyrics in forren) are things I associate with an ESC jury winner. By taking this humorous countercultural song to Eurovision, he’s taking it into the belly of the beast, just as his spiritual predecessors Telex and Schmetterlinge did before him. More than just being socially critical, it also exists in a post-Trump context which I think the Italian audience may have picked up on but international ones won’t. It’s an Emperor’s New Clothes song and Francesco’s the jester.
      – The latter being the case… if he puts a Trump wig on the gorilla, it’ll win.

    • Black n Blue

      -I’m playing devils advocate here, but I think the Gorilla, without knowing the context of the song makes it very easy for a juror to dismiss Italy as a novelty act. Obviously, it’s their job to inform themselves of the lyrical context but then again anything at Eurovision that’s mildly provocative (even if it’s brilliant) tends to elicit a polarized response.
      -The language barrier is an issue. It shouldn’t be, especially with a tongue as pavlovian as Italian, but when was the last time a fully non English song made the jury top 3? Zeljko?
      -Although this isn’t written down as part of the criteria, it’s evident that hit potential is what juries have been looking for the past few years or so in a winner. As EV says, they’ll always prioritize the best commercial sounding Anglo-pop tune (or the closest thing to it). Raphael, Conchita and Emmelie all won the jury vote without sounding particularly commercial, although I think the juries will have strong commercial sounding options to choose from this year, and my hunch is that they’re going to love Belgium (Although ESC tracker will tell us if it’s a proper hit in the making or not).
      -The performance of Francesco on the SR jury vote doesn’t suggest he’ll be the ESC jury winner. Granted, we’re judging apples with oranges and it’s clear both contest juries look for different things, but considering all the talk for these lyrics being clever and witty, the Italian jurors (who would fully understand them) weren’t swayed too much (so how will jurors who don’t understand the lyrics be swayed by their clever meaning?)
      -There are other faults and inconveniences that could stop him winning the jury vote. The live vocal might falter, (as it did slightly on SR final night), the production might look messy if they’re not careful. Also, what happens if Belgium, Bulgaria, or perhaps Portugal were to show up with a brilliant stage production (as well as a top live performance) and just blow everyone away, a la Netherlands 2014 or Latvia/Belgium 2015? Will they dismiss Italy as the best if this scenario comes into fruition?

      I agree Italy are likely televote winners, and can definitely win the jury vote, but we can’t get carried away at this stage of the season before rehearsals.

      • PurpleKylie

        Belgium have already cracked the Flemish charts, which is pretty good going for a Walloon entry, and also is made more impressive by the fact that I was reliably told that Loïc didn’t start charting in either of the Belgian charts until AFTER Eurovision.

      • Dana

        RE: The language issue with the juries- last year the only 3 songs that contained no English were Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. All 3 did a lot worse with the juries than the public.

        • Lia

          Austria was a gimmicky Disney entry though, while B&H was a mess and Macedonia was extremely dated. All of those are valid reasons for jurors to mark songs down, but none of those factors apply to Italy, so I think we’d need a better example to measure Occidentali’s Karma to.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    “…because it’s like comparing unassembled flat pack furniture to a solid bookcase.”

    Loving that, btw.

  • PurpleKylie

    My attempt at the Semi 1 running order (I’m likely to be hilariously wrong):

    1) Azerbaijan
    2) Albania
    3) Finland
    4) Georgia
    5) Sweden
    –ad break–
    6) Portugal
    7) Belgium
    8) Australia
    9) Montenegro
    10) Armenia
    11) Slovenia
    12) Iceland
    13) Greece
    –ad break–
    14) Czech Republic
    15) Moldova
    16) Poland
    17) Cyprus
    18) Latvia

    • Hippo

      I’ll play along, I like this game 🙂

      1. Sweden
      2. Georgia
      3. Montenegro
      4. Albania
      5. Australia
      6. Finland
      7. Azerbaijan
      8. Portugal
      9. Belgium
      10. Slovenia
      11. Armenia
      12. Latvia
      13. Poland
      14. Cyprus
      15. Czech Republic
      16. Moldova
      17. Iceland
      18. Greece

    • A quicky then:

      01 – Sweden
      02 – Finland
      03 – Iceland
      04 – Armenia
      05 – Azerbaijan
      06 – Australia
      07 – Greece
      08 – Belgium
      09 – Moldova
      10 – Latvia
      11 – Portugal
      12 – Cyprus
      13 – Slovenia
      14 – Georgia
      15 – Czech Republic
      16 – Albania
      17 – Poland
      18 – Montenegro

      Can I say something? What an fff-ing good semi final! My God, big record labels are gonna be interested in this semi-final-show. Basically, all of the songs stand out, are very contemporary. Also, so many MANY good vocals in this semi final. I do think with so much ‘violence’ in this show, I’m starting to fear that Belgium and Portugal might get a hard time.

      Scandinavia in this semi-final is top notch again. Iceland 3rd? Duhh!! If you really want a fresh 1980’s vibe mixed with a Robyn-esque sound to Eurovision, then THIS is how you stage it! I know, this is not Loreen, but I think people will completely buy this arty 1980’s performance. Every element, including Svala’s fashion choice and the laser lights, enhance this total package. Great vocals from Svala AND her backings too

  • Boki

    Great find ev. So we have 0111011010X. What will X be, 0 or 1?

    (should have been up there after ev’s Greek post)

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