Eurovision 2018: The French national final, and early state of play

The road to Lisbon really kicks into gear with the French national final tonight. A decent field of eight is, according to the Betfair market, a two-horse race between the semi-final winners, Lisandro Cuxi with ‘Eva‘ and Madame Monsieur with ‘Mercy‘. The former is marginal favourite at the time of going to press.

The Voice champion Lisandro is a decent performer, but ‘Eva’ is rather bland in a Eurovision context, and I think France would be wiser to pick Madame Monsieur with their minimalist electro number about a refugee child. It has top ten potential come May. The decision is half in the hands of French televoters, and half decided by a panel of international jurors. If you don’t get France 2 on your cable package, their Facebook feed will live stream the event from 7.55pm tonight.

It’s not the first national final of the season – Albania’s over the Christmas period yielded a win for Eugent Bushpepa with ‘Mall‘, which will undergo the traditional revamp. But selection season quickens from this point onwards, and Monday’s semi-final allocation draw for the 37 countries looking to qualify for Saturday night will bring the big event one step closer.

Also on Monday, Spain chooses its song from the Operacion Triunfo saga. Combining Big Brother elements in a talent show format has focused viewers on the burgeoning romance between contestants Alfred and Amaia. As a result, their duet is the most likely to go to Lisbon. The chemistry between them and obvious backstory has seen the country receive concerted support in the Betfair outright market.

Correlation is being made between the stripped back nature of ‘Tu Cancion‘, and last year’s Portuguese winner ‘Amar Pelois Dois’. Salvador Sobral’s defiant avowal of “real music” over its “fast-food” equivalent seems to be in punters’ minds, with a search for “authenticity”.

In the process, the standout song of the Czech selection, Mikolas Josef’s ‘Lie To Me‘ has taken a while to catch the imagination on Betfair, despite sounding like something that could live in today’s charts. We’ll also find out if it goes to Lisbon on Monday.

Overall, the market suggests that no obvious frontrunner has yet been heard. As usual, Sweden are the default favourites, and we’ll start hearing snippets from their Melodifestivalen entrants next week in the build-up to Saturday’s first heat. Mariette heads early MF betting, in a line-up shorter on big names than usual.

Default second-favourites Russia drifted on yesterday’s news that Yulia Samoilova would represent them this year, as intended last year before withdrawal. Bulgaria are prominent in the market, and have chosen their song – something “risky” in building upon their recent impressive record. Unfortunately, it will be one of the last choices to be made public. Estonia are also under 20 in the Betfair outright, presumably on the basis of opera number ‘La Forza‘, which is leading the Eest Laul betting.

There are some exciting names involved in other countries. The Netherlands rely on Waylon, the male half of 2014 runners-up The Common Linnets. British followers will be following the Finnish selection with unusual interest, as X Factor alumni Saara Aalto puts forward three songs that her compatriots will choose between in early March. Cyprus have just revealed they’ll be represented by Greek star Eleni Foureira with ‘Fuego’. Australia by 2014 interval act Jessica Mauboy.

The Norwegian national final features previous Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak, plus other former representatives Stella Mwangi and Aleksander Walmann. The songs can be heard here. United Kingdom’s You Decide format has some lesser-known names but the six songs are an adequate bunch, arguably led by ‘Legends’ based on the studio versions. However, live performances may make all the difference on February 7.

We’ll be returning with a round-up before then. In the meantime, do let us know your early thoughts on the world’s greatest musical extravaganza.

39 comments to Eurovision 2018: The French national final, and early state of play

  • Chris Bellis

    So, the UK is finally taking it seriously. I had wondered whether last year was just a one-off – half decent song sung well – and we’d return to the Josh Dubovie years, but seemingly not so. Couple of good ones in there this year that could see us in the top half. Of course France is taking it even more seriously. Perhaps they won’t mess up the staging this year and get the result they deserve. Spain, not so much. This year I vow not to go with the early favourite, just because I like it. If it hadn’t been for my non gambling partner, who loved Portugal and detested Italy, plus last minute tips from this site, I would have been crucified last year. Good luck all you sofabetters.

    • It’s baby steps for the UK. I think if you look at the car crash in Vienna, we’ve come a long way in three years. The hiring of Mans Zelmerlow as a co-host and Edward Af Sillen as a scriptwriter (latter two of course involved in the amazing Stockholm show) also suggests a statement of intent that the BBC wants to cut ties with its “Boom-bang-a-puppet” baggage. This won’t be our year – the six songs are good, but none are good enough to go for gold in Lisbon – but I think if we stay on course we will be witnessing a UK win before 2025.

      And of the day, Lucie got a 10th on juries. It was the public wot f**ked us. If we’d got a top ten overall I’d have been pissed for a week.

      • There’s other little subtle things too. The BBC let the UK viewers watch the interval acts in the semis last year (sadly they were shite, nobody wanted to see Ruslana and Jamala warbling. I wish they’d kept the interval acts in Stockholm instead but hey ho) and trimmed back the opt outs, only dropping the usually boring green room stuff, although we did miss out on Jana getting proposed to. Realistically though I don’t expect the BBC team to have known that was happening.

        But yeah, shows a bit of respect I feel.

  • Something “risky” from Bulgaria is great news. Fingers crossed for Gery-Nikol feat. Krisko and Azis, or something along those lines.

    It’s a great Eesti Laul selection, the best in years, and I like La Forza (it’s way better than La voix or Opera Skaala) but don’t want it to win, there are several other songs that are edgier and more interesting.

    French selection pretty weak IMO. I like Nassi’s “Rêves de gamin” best, followed by Lisandro, who’d be a good choice.

    Love the Albanian entry, and Eleni Foureira (= Entela Fureraj) is a great choice for Cyprus (should have been Greece). She’s of Albanian heritage so that’s potentially one set of 12 points in the bag…

    The Sevdahbaby entry for Beovizija is played in full 2 minutes into this stream:

    • Becile

      All the rumours I heard from Bulgaria is that they are sending a ballad. Sounds much better than some trashy pop song from Gery-Nikol.

      Estonia should send either Stig or Etnopatsy.

      France obviously need to send Mercy.

      • Chris Bellis

        Re:France – agreed, and so it turns out. Lisandro shrieked a bit on the high notes, which is a no-no for Eurovision. “Mercy” grows on you quite quickly. I hope they stage it better than they did last year. The swirling Paris landscape was vomit inducing, and lost the impact of the highly photogenic performer.

        • Didn’t help that last year’s stage was shockingly badly designed. A lone girl and a massive LED wall don’t mix. Really, Alma should have used the satellite stage – the impact would have been better.

          And yes… she was fit.

          • Chris Bellis

            I’m glad you agree. She was a lovely girl with a decent song and it deserved better staging. Different act this year, but still quality – I wonder whether they will get the staging right though?

  • Bulgaria definitely look like the country that’s got the most ambition so far. Expectations are high based on their 2-year good run and social media teasings, so I definitely wouldn’t expect them to go anywhere near Balkan pop with a barge pole at this point – it’ll be something more international with a tokenistic ethno-flourish in the arrangement instead. It will be interesting to see exactly what they mean by “risky” and “insane” but my expectations remain on the side of accessible international music.

    Sweden and Russia are default favourites as the current big guns, with Australia having faltered somewhat in their charge for a win ASAP to secure permanent participation. I mean, Jessica Mauboy? I can’t believe they’re struggling so much to attract interest after Dami’s show-stopping vocal. Jess wasn’t even competing but her nerves completely got the better of her vocal.

    Russia obviously are hungry for another win but there’s always that feeling that it’s out of bullish governmental pride than anything else. With Yulia Samoilova dressed as some kind of Maleficent-like fantasy creature as has been suggested by the lady herself, they haven’t really got much to go on other than a narrative and hopefully a better song than last year. I still wouldn’t be surprised if the broadcaster ends up ditching her at the last minute though.

    Sweden – or more accurately, Christer, is still trying to match Ireland’s win record and I would expect that to happen before his planned retirement from Melfest in 2021. Whether its this year or not comes down to the snippets over the weeks to come.

    I’m not writing off Poland, Finland, Italy or Belgium either at the moment. Just ‘feeling’ at this stage.

    • We will be going back to Sweden before 2021, I have no doubt. Doesn’t bother me personally, because SVT can be trusted to deliver the following year. Even if we won, I don’t think even the BBC could do as good a job, as much as I’d like them to have the chance to blow SVT out the water and completely out-do Stockholm.

      That said, tickets aside RTP have delivered so far. Yes, they’ve got the Swedes in to help out but who cares? They’ve had their house in order far better than the Ukranians did.

  • Hi all. Is it that time of year again? A few initial thoughts from me.

    France – I liked it before I heard what it was about. Once I did know what it was about I absolutely loved it. It could do very well, particularly if it builds up a media narrative in much the same way Jamala did in 2016. It also appears to be annoying all the right people (looks sideways at a certain *other* Eurovision betting blogger).

    Albania – Also good. I always think Festival i Kenges has a great and special sound that has an unfortunate habit of not translating across to the Eurovision setting. Maybe this will be the year they can break that particular curse? I certainly hope so.

    UK – honestly, I find it hard to get excited about our shortlist. They all sound like they’ve been knocked together by the same producer. None of them are particularly bad, but they’re also not particularly memorable either. Unless the UK pulls off something impressive with the staging, whatever we pick could run a risk of failing to stand out. Then again, we did a good job with the staging last year.

  • EYD: Still not understanding the hype for Legends. It’s got the words “Molly II” and “Fanwank” written all over it. I fail to see how juries, let alone televoters, will go for it in Lisbon. Goldstone and Raya offer much more.

    With Saara Aalto and Jessica Mauboy confirmed, and the high possibility of a return for the mighty Rybak, the field could potentially be extremely strong. It’s already confirmed that X Factor choreo Brian Friedman is on YLE’s team, and I think the consensus of those of us who followed that series on here at the time was that he was a massive champion of Aalto behind the scenes.

    Russia… will Julia’s return be a big deal? Flame Is Burning was a pile of gash, but the opportunity to win and host again exactly ten years on must be too good not to capitalise upon, either inside the two broadcasters or, indeed, the Kremlin.

    Sweden… default favourites again, but Bjorkman wants to equal Ireland’s record before he retires. Not sure if this is going to be his year, but I imagine SVT are shoring up the slush fund. If there’s a market for it, I’d bet my house on Bjorkman delivering.

  • Durhamborn

    The big one for me is tonight.Iv been backing Spain heavily since 60s on the strength of Amaia Romero.Iv watched the whole series (i never thought id say that) and i find her a huge talent.Not much makes this miners son cry,but seeing her and Alfred perform Tu canción just gets me somewhere deep inside.The staging potential at ESC is huge and i just pray the Spanish people send them and dont make a massive mistake.The violins during the epic bridge sweep you away into a beautiful place.I just imagine a vocal and emotion explosion during the ESC staging at that point.
    IF they win tonight and IF Spain stage it right they have a really great shot at the top places and just maybe even the win.The country that sent Do it for your lover has really delivered this year,one small step left Spain,dont cock it up.

    • Seeing her and Alfred perform Tu cancion gets me somewhere deep inside too. The bile duct.

    • Chris Bellis

      The usual sceptics speak! I rather like it in an appallingly schmaltzy way, but I will test it on my partner, who picked the top ones last year, and report back. The girl’s vocals aren’t so good, and I’ve lost a few quid in previous years betting on Spain when the live vocals weren’t up to the right standard. Everybody talks about their chemistry, but there’s plenty of time for them to fall out.

      • Chris Bellis

        Just thinking, if they did fall out, it would take some of the sickliness out of the performance, which is too Donny and Marie for my taste. Actually, Donny and Marie are edgy compared with this Spanish couple. Shame, as the song is fairly good.

  • oakie1979

    It was about time for the Eurovision season to start. I stick to my every year strategy not to pay any attention to any of the national finals and just hear the songs that will represent a country.

    I haven’t heard the Albanian entry waiting for its final version so no comment on that.

    France has a decent song with a strong message but it’s very repetitive and lacks any kind of originality. It will land somewhere in between the 16-25 area

  • Hippo

    I’d say it’s a fairly slow start to the season.
    So far I haven’t heard much that I feel could make a top 10- Qami in Armenia stood out to me on first listen more than anything else, and I understand the argument for Tu Cancion in Spain- though it feels too similar to last year for a shot at the title.

    Norway and Estonia are disappointing in particular. Everything Norway have just sounds quite cheap and uninspired, whilst, much like last year with Kerli, I don’t get the support for the Eesti Laul favourite. It will probably win through there as there’s not much else but I can’t see it doing well in Portugal.

    Albania will struggle to qualify as per- but have a fairly nice draw despite first half- Fyr Macedonia and diaspora in Greece, Switzerland.

    France doesn’t do much for me. It’s a fair effort but no more than that. It feels destined for a lower mid finish.

    For the UK, it’s an overall improvement with only one complete dud (that astronaut one) but I do think Legends could be an unvotable trainwreck on stage. Goldstone look good value as an alternative but whatever is sent isn’t getting near the top 10.
    From the internal selections, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Cyprus look like they’re showing some ambition. Netherlands and Belgium are sticking to their formulas which have been fairly successful. Yle seem intent on a good result, and should have managed to find at least one good song for Saara. Cyprus are showing alot more ambition with Foureira than just buying a G:son filler track for a nf loser. An overly sexualised performance a concern though.

    Hard to say with Russia how much they are going for it. I don’t think they can win it with Julya anyway. The narrative of mean Ukraine isn’t there now- she’s just another participant this year- albeit one with Russia’s voting power. Top ten naturally but not much more unless the song is great.

    Anyway, as early pre song favourites, Sweden and Bulgaria are obvious threats given their form and motivation. The country’s really going for a win are becoming fewer and fewer every year. A lot more uncertainty in where the strong efforts are going to show up from in the last few years.

  • UK to vote in SF1, which is a massive boost for Ireland and of course, Finland.

  • Anyone here going to Lisbon? I’m there at least for the semis this year. Sofabet meet-up? And how do you do your betting at the show with British bookies blocked abroad? I could always leave my PC on at home and TeamViewer in but is there a better way?

  • MGP – still a while to go, but if Rybak returns in Lisbon, what’s the general consensus of his chances?

    Personally, I’m loving “That’s How You Write A Song” – it’s a total 180 from Fairytale in style, but is extremely catchy, with a thumping disco beat. It certainly has echoes of “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake and “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, and a very Nile Rodgers influenced guitar track.

    Staging will be everything.

    Meanwhile with EYD – The BBC Eurovision’s Insta account has released some short snippets of the artists rehearsing. Not only is it my first Eurovision “on the ground” this is my first live NF, and with Mans and Edward’s contributions I’m pretty excited. Still very little value in Asanda who remains runaway favourite.
    My tip would be to bet on Raya, I think she could cause an upset, but Jaz Ellington could also hit the mark if he nails his song live, very much in the way Amar Pelos Dois moved people last year.

  • Will Hill have reportedly stopped taking bets on Asanda over £50.

    Methinks somebody knows something. All we know if the public vote is combined with the professional jury but we know not how the scoring system works nor the weighting, although there’s rumours we are getting a Melfest style scoreboard – if so, they’ll have to be more transparent then they’ve been the last two years.

    Or there’s just a ridiculous amount of money going on her. Still think it’s a fanwank.

    • Chris Bellis

      The prices really seem crazy to me, which incidentally is the title of the one that stands a slight chance (Raya). Legends, well I just don’t see it doing anything – talented performer, but a mess of a song. As you say James, fanwank. If we go with that one, I’ll be doing my usual bets for the full Eurovision, depending on the Melfest winner.

  • Alan

    Asanda’s song is decent until you get to the chorus and realise that there isn’t any. Everything about it screams bottom 5. I’m seemingly completely on my own, but I still think Astronaut would be the UK’s best shot, I think there’s terrific staging potential.

    • Chris Bellis

      Alan – you’re not on your own. Astronaut is ok. The man can sing well. Asanda’s song is a mess and stands little chance.

      • Alan, you’re not alone. I just don’t get why everybody is going crazy for Asanda. It’s three minutes of thump-thump, yet it’s making the hype for Molly four years ago seem positively tame in comparison. People are genuinely having serious debates about where the BBC will host the 2019 Eurovision when – *when FFS!* – Asanda takes the gold in Lisbon: and they’re *meaning* it.

        If it wins, *I’LL* be the one showing my bits and pieces to Europe on a stage invasion!

        Raya all the way for me. Legends is going to be a car crash on stage on Wednesday. TBH I’ll be making more noise in the venue rather than on the market.

        • Hippo

          I’m with all of you here. It’s not a cohesive song at all and perfectly fits the bill as an “Omg how did that not win, she slayed, they should have internally selected her, public can’t be trusted” etc etc. I can only assume it is a pile of fan money going on this as the price is way too low: sure it’s got a chance, it’s a one shot, average standard national final filled with unknown artists, but at current odds there’s good value in laying this.

    • ‘Legends’ “baa”s like a current goat, but it don’t produce the milk.

      That’s the weirdest analogy I’ll make this week.

      I don’t mind if Asanda is picked but I do expect her to suffer the same fate as Javine for similar reasons. If Goldstone’s vocals don’t exceed the studio version I’ll be hoping for Jaz, personally.

      I’m just glad to have more than one ‘OK’ option, frankly.

      • I’m trying to be careful as she’s only 16, but the last two 16 year olds we sent (1990/2001) both died on stage. It’s a song that could become a car crash on stage. Even Electro Velvet sounded OK on the studio version, but at Vienna it was just awful.

        Great analogy though. Love the bants here.

  • Phil

    Freedom Hearts was fanwank last year but didn’t get selected. I think Jaz might come out of nowhere.

  • Did anyone watch Mello at the weekend? I’m addicted to Dance You Off and it’s another “wow” SVT staging – even without an LED screen, they made it look like a music video. Obviously it got the pimp slot in a weak field, but I’m getting hooked on it.

    • Chris Bellis

      James – you can bank on SVT for staging. That means you have to be extra careful, but the man is clearly very talented. Not that good a field this year, as you say. I’m keeping my powder dry until the final selection.

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