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Eurovision 2016: Pre-Amsterdam Rundown

As we approach Saturday’s concert in Amsterdam, I thought I‘d chuck a few thoughts together describing the utter confusion that exists among those trying to find a victor from the 43 entries striving to win this year’s Mediocre Song contest.

The ups and downs in this year’s betting markets have mirrored the confusion, with punters veering from one favourite to another like a defective supermarket trolley. So far the trolley has clattered into the delicatessen counter inadvertently dislodging some German sausage – the brightly coloured packaging looked odd, so that was swiftly returned to the shelf and can now be found in the bargain basket.

The trolley continued on its trail of destruction; crashing into the French cheese counter, but that just didn’t smell right. Venturing into the spirits aisle, Polish vodka was on the shopping list, but they had totally the wrong brand, so the choice is Swedish Absolut: classy, expensive looking and certainly 33eb2a52-0597-11e4-8b94-00144feab7defashionable, or cheap Russian vodka with retro appeal that’s sure to give everyone a hangover. The market appears to have opted for a heavy dose of Anadin.

So to fix these defective trollies careering through Europe’s borders, let’s run through a few of the top-5 contenders and long shots while highlighting a few false favourites in the typical, non-fence-sitting ESCtips way.

Heading the market sees a rerun of last year’s winner and runner-up and a battle of Eurovision past vs Eurovision future. I’m sure Sakis Rouvas was flattered by Sergey’s homage to him, but whereas Sakis finished 7th in 2009 (11th with the juries), Russia is hoping to win in Stockholm.

As I argued in the Russia review, Lazerev is expected to do well on the televote, but his place at the top of the market is highly suspect given he needs to improve on Sakis’ and Erik Saade’s jury scores – the latter finished 9th. One could argue that Russia is the best of a bad bunch in this year’s lineup, so by rights Sergey could be top-5 with the juries. At the moment I can place about five songs ahead of Russia, but that’s because I’m still unsure how some nations will look and sound in Stockholm. With a slick Fokas staging concept, Russia is expected to be eye-catching, but there are rumours circulating that at least three countries are dabbling with hi-tech concepts, therefore any sort of Måns-impact could be greatly diminished.

It’s also worth flagging up the apparent YouTube and Betfair popularity given it’s very easy to influence both platforms. The Russian release of Sergey’s song has clocked up over six million views in just four weeks. The official Eurovision video published three weeks ago has nearly 900,000 views. When you scrutinise the number of likes and comments for each video, the official Eurovision release has double the ratio of interactions. It’s no smoking gun, but it implies the Russian video generating the ‘breaking the six-million barrier’ headlines may have been manipulated for PR.

I know of at least one country influencing this year’s betting markets, which I will obviously not divulge. Prior to knowing about that country, I had already commented about the strange pattern of movements affecting Russia’s price, especially given the initial negative market reaction to Sergey’s song and also 2016_03_17_15-24-06-Fransaccounting for the possible manipulation of YouTube views. Before the release of You Are The Only One, the market kept shortening to 6/1 every weekend. Since the release, there has been a relentless driving down of the price to just above 2/1 – now as low as 9/5. Some of that activity might be innocent trading; however, I’m not the only commentator thinking there’s some sponsored influencing involved.

Despite breaking all sorts of Spotify records – a feat that would normally result in favourite status – there has been plenty of debate about Frans winning consecutive victories for Sweden. Frans’ Melfest winning margin has also drawn widespread criticism in spite of the voting app’s levelling effect and a much stronger field for the juries to reward. As argued in the Sweden review, Frans’ victory would have been more commanding had he been judged under the old, pre-app system.

An obvious negative for Sweden is being drawn 9th in the running order, but with Conchita winning from 11th and Mans from 10th, I’m less concerned given there should be a record-equalling win narrative around Sweden, which should partially negate the undesirable slot if pushed by national commentators during the final. Plus, it’s clear SVT want to win for this very reason.

It’s still worth recognising that If I Were Sorry is commercial and contemporary enough to make it on to most mainstream radio playlists. It’s already gone double platinum in Sweden having spent five weeks at the top of the Sverigetopplistan. What’s more, it’s the only ESC entry in the Spotify global top-100. In recent years, it’s chartable music that has been recognised by the juries, and in this year’s ESC lineup, Sweden towers over the majority of songs. Then for TV viewers the staging has that Lena charm with the faux-improvisation concept and the endearing boy-next-door lead in Frans. It’s one of the few complete packages, though I’m certain rehearsals will reveal a slew of other challengers.

As alluded to above, the market has struggled to find alternatives to Russia and Sweden with various nations yo-yoing in and out of top-4 or 5 status. Croatia was favoured until last week’s live performance on Serbian TV where Nina’s anarchist blue hair and lifeless, dead battery performance saw the Balkan nation’s odds drift out to over thumbnail-bd662b5f37a15323edf96d74a970d3cd_view_article40/1. Nina was vocally competent, but sounded susceptible to jury-rehearsal nerves. It’ll be intriguing to see how she interacts with the Amsterdam audience. At present though, we have a song that takes nearly two minutes to get going performed by a woman who appears less votable than Trijntje Oosterhuis.

Australia are holding steady despite drifting when the Sound of Silence was presented. The plodding chorus is disappointing, but Dami Im does deliver a rousing climax and is one of a few vocally reliable artists in this year’s lineup. Whether certain parts of Europe get behind someone of Asian heritage is debatable – personally I prefer Azerbaijan’s song and I think Samra will draw more support from her regional allies along with Armenia’s Iveta. Interestingly, Australia aren’t taking part in any of the pre-rehearsal concerts, and with Dami Im reportedly not Australia’s first choice artist, can we be sure they’re going all out to win? Having said that, of all the Sia-inspired ballads this year, Australia’s has the biggest climax, which could see her pull ahead of her eastern and nordic rivals.

The big mover over the last few weeks is France, and rather bizarrely, Amir’s J’ai Cherché is pushing Sweden for second favourite status. I get the whole Scandie sound and foot-tapping qualities of the song, but based on the live performances published so far, I’ve seen nothing from Amir that resembles anything close to a top-5 Eurovision entry. Genuine charisma involves much more than just smiling at the camera and pacing around the stage. In current form, Amir lacks the dynamism and X-Factor you’d expect from an act attracting this level of money. I think fans and some gamblers mistakenly use French language songs as a barometer of class. In Patricia Kaas’ case that was correct, but since her 8th place in 2009, France has returned to its customary position in the bottom five. There’s no denying J’ai Cherché is an uplifting radio friendly song, but is it a top-5 jury song? I don’t think so, and accounting for France’s nonexistent televote, can justsanyone make a convincing case for them being higher than the likes of Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Latvia and Serbia to name just five potential vote magnets? If given a late draw, I think a Jesse Matador type result is within reach if Amir’s staging and camera interaction improves, but in all likelihood, 15th-22th is a more realistic range. Worryingly, the official video hints at an Olympic theme, which didn’t work out well for Anggun in 2012.

Like Frans, Latvia’s Justs has received his share of unfair criticism ranging from his song, Heartbeat, being too edgy or that his performance lacks charisma. That word again! Not every performance has to be rainbows and butterflies. In Justs’ case, there’s an air of mystery that is topped with raw passion and the awesome power of his vocal. As Aminata and Loïc Nottet demonstrated last year, a modern, unique song with excellent vocals will earn strong support from the juries. Heartbeat has all the qualities of a top-5 jury song, in addition to having wider televote appeal than the somewhat left field Love Injected. Another positive is that Latvia have signed up last year’s staging gurus and we’ve been told to expect a totally different concept to that used at Supernova. It really is an insult to music to see France is shorter than Latvia on Betfair. #JeNeSuisPasDésolé

Ukraine are another country that has shortened from a 50/1 high to as low as 19/1 over the last 10 days or so. This was accompanied by an aggressive shortening on the high street, which always makes me suspicious given the recent history of nations organising this sort of activity for PR purposes. And these aren’t the ravings of a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist – it does happen.

The problem with Ukraine being considered as potential winners is that 1944 doesn’t fit the typical Eurovision winner mould. It’s not a feel good song and nor does it entertain like the past seven Eurovision winners since the reintroduction of the national juries. Jamala does bare her heart in telling a story of suffering, but the optics and general feel of gloom doesn’t scream vote winner. The closest comparable is Rona Nishlu’s Suus, but I don’t think 1944 is in the same league, and whereas Rona delivered a captivating,630_360_1456153538-3459 virtuoso performance, Jamala appears rather unhinged. I think Anastasia Prikhodko’s Mamo is a closer visual match in terms of someone with an equally esoteric style. Mix Anastasia with Rona and I think we’ve got a 6th-9th place finish on the cards with at least one of the more positive sounding pop-ballads ahead.

Raising the tempo a touch, Malta and Bulgaria are two of the more contemporary upbeat songs, or at least two that could score well and encroach on the top-10. Malta boasts soulful handbag house with great vocals and a rumoured hi-tech staging concept. Bulgaria, at nearly double the price, benefits from a simple, infectious hook that should play to the Saturday night crowd. Both gave below par performances at the Latvia pre-concert, but both are capable of causing an upset in Stockholm with the right staging. While Malta threaten to advance the technological arms race, Bulgaria could muster more support with a simple dance routine and sharp camera angles. However, given Molly Pettersson-Hammar cowrote Ira’s song, it’s worth factoring in some favourable running order treatment from Björkman.

Rounding off the rest of the field we have the Czech Republic, Netherlands and Germany at odds of over 70/1.

It’s seems every interview with Jamie-Lee Kriewitz is prefaced with her love for Japanese fashion. Had she been able to leave her childish manga fashions in the dress up box, Germany’s price may have been around the 30/1 mark. But with Jamie-Lee taking to the Stockholm stage dressed like she was set upon by a gang of unruly 4-year olds armed with pritt sticks and jumble sale shit, there’s no chance she’ll be taken Jamie-Lee_Kriewitz_2016seriously by televoters. A polite word from the head of delegation explaining this is a serious contest, not some preschool fancy dress party may have helped secure a much stronger result. In national final form, top-10 is probably the best Germany can hope for.

Douwe Bob’s country folk blend is a real wildcard in this year’s Contest. Prior to its release, fans were hoping for The Common Linnets mark II and were quickly disappointed. The market shifted from a low of 11/1 and punters have since been matched at over 100/1. However, with rehearsals nearing, The Netherlands’ price has started to contract as gamblers rightly recognise the quality writing and catchy slow down hook. If Pannecoucke gets his act together this year the current 80/1 might offer a great trade in May.

The Czech Republic are fast becoming one of May’s most anticipated rehearsals. Gabriela Gunčíková’s atmospheric Game of Thrones meets The Gladiator type ballad has all the qualities of a potential sleeper that could come alive in Stockholm. If the delegation produces an equally spellbinding staging concept, the Czechs could threaten the higher echelons of the scoreboard in the final. Let’s face it, Gunčíková has the strongest vocal in this year’s Contest judging by the various YouTube videos, so could earn significant recognition from the juries. At 70/1+ the Czechs are a great price.

Lastly, Cyprus and Norway have reached backable prices on Betfair, and given their modern production, they could trade much lower in Stockholm. Cyprus are currently 90/1 and their energetic, radio friendly pop-rock sound will stand out in the final. Norway have a much greater task ahead of them, but minor tweaks to the staging could add life to what was a soulless national final performance.

This weekend I’ll be in Amsterdam reporting on Eurovision’s biggest pre-concert where 28 of this year’s acts will perform their songs. Given the semi-final running order has been delayed until Friday, qualification analysis will follow after the weekend with our annual series of preview podcasts starting from Wednesday.

Until then, continue to share your comments and theories below…

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About Gavster

Owner & Chief Editor   I’m a qualified designer and the official geek in the crew, dedicating most of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.

58 comments

  1. “However, given Molly Pettersson-Hammar cowrote Ira’s song, it’s worth factoring in some favourable running order treatment from Björkman.”

    I wonder how much this will be true. It might work that way, or Björkman might not want to see a Swedish-written song beating Sweden at its own game! (The same goes for the other Swedish-written songs, like Azerbaijan)

  2. Nice to see Gav putting head above parapet as usual rather than dancing around maybe etc.
    Firstly i think Russia is very very dated.I simply cant see it doing anything with the jury.Given the jury go first i expect the price to be far higher in play (unless its won and fiddling is going on).There is a default winner chance in a poor year,but i will take that risk thankyou.

    France is all very nice and sanitized,but thats about it.Nothing for the jury for me,and not enough televote for a country with few friends.Polls including OGAE will favour it though.Lightweight.

    Croatia have a good song and good singer who simply looks all wrong.No chance against other Balkan nations.Serbia and Bulgaria will slaughter Croatia i expect.Bulgaria could be a challenger if it works on stage,but that is far from certain.Rehearsals needed to see if it comes together.At 50s i didnt wait to find out and have it already.
    Serbia has a fantastic singer and very strong song.It needs a Željko staging and less threatening delivery though.Done right its jury bait and could secure a good televote.

    Sweden have a great song/package and the price is far too high now.Challenger,would be 6s favourite at best without oligarch money against it.

    Malta have an ear worm of a song,not out of it,but maybe too forced.Im green,but more for a staging induced shortening.

    Germany need to pull in the look to do a good song more merit.Jamie shouldnt be calling the shots,at that age id of gone on stage wearing a Smiths T shirt.Elder advice needed.

    Italy are under the radar,but getting the staging right for once might see them do better than many expect.Top 5 jury isnt out of the question for me.

    Ukraine should have fantastic staging,but the song is pants.Nobody cares about the story behind the song.Jury might side with it though as it has emotion.

    The one i have backed quite heavily at bigger prices is Armenia.The song is disjointed yes,and it could easily go both ways.Iveta is a class act though and has huge staging potential.She needs to be more ethnic than diva to get none diaspora televote on board,but if she does i see a shock top eastern,semi winner/top 3,top 4 final challenger perhaps.Marmite,but i sniff quality and followed my nose.

    Rehearsals are the key,and for me the value lies in some outside of Russia,Australia,France.

    • “without oligarch money against it” = wild and baseless, but fun of course, speculation I presume?

      • Speculation,but based on Betfair volumes.There is a bot running that keeps cashing out im pretty sure of that as money keeps forcing Russia in.Im not convinced its all genuine punters on that back side.Could be simply delegation money similar to Ukraine a few years ago.

  3. You say that Australia not appearing at contest pre-concerts is a negative for them, but is this not the case for Sweden also? Last year, Måns was promoting all over the place, including London, Amsterdam, The Voice of Finland and X Factor Adria. It was really clear that they were going all out to win. This year, they’ve said they want to win but if that really is the case, where are the promotional appearances? I suspect it could be all mouth and no trouser.

    Also, you mentioned that 9th in the running order isn’t necessarily a negative for Frans given that Mans won from 10th and Conchita from 11th. What you didn’t mention is that Mans was only a narrow third in the televote and, as we all know, it took a *Bearded lady* who hogged ALL of the pre-contest mainstream media coverage to win the televote for Austria from 11th in 2014.

    ‘If I Were Sorry’ not winning the Melodifestivalen jury vote in a field of 12 is also a huge red flag, given that he’ll have to do about as well, if not better with the juries in a field of 26, where the final packages are likely to be a lot stronger than what he faced in MF.

    • Frans is still studying hence the lack of tour appearances, though that isn’t holding back the success of his song. It’s being streamed as much outside Sweden as inside.

      I’m not sure whether performing at fan concerts really helps given the fan media and their readership accounts for just a tiny proportion of the eventual Eurovision viewership, however appearing on big TV franchises does benefit. Guy Sebastian did the fan concerts but also appeared on chat shows. Dami Im isn’t doing anything. Back in December I was hearing positive noises from Australia, so the last minute nature of Dami Im’s selection doesn’t look promising. However, that’s not to say Australia won’t do well, but she does lack a USP.

      The effect of the running order is relative, but my main point is that we’ve had two recent winners from the first half, so Frans winning isn’t impossible. Doing well on the televote can’t be ruled out given the chart success so far. As for the jury, in this year’s Melfest final, there were four professional looking jury bait songs, so it’s hardly surprising to see the points evenly distributed. Interestingly, Henry VIII posted this last week: “if you take out just those 2 [nil points] results Frans’ average jury score is almost the same as Loreen’s and just a point behind Mans’.”

      Lastly, the fact Sweden can match Ireland’s win record this year will generate headlines. How big those headlines are is anyone’s guess, but we’ll soon find out. I just don’t think it pays to be so certain about one of this year’s most chartable songs not winning.

      But feel free to share your theories.

      • Spot on Gav! Agree with every word

      • “I just don’t think it pays to be so certain about one of this year’s most chartable songs not winning.”

        This was part of my stance with Australia last year. On Sofabet, I said something along the lines of Lena’s victory in 2010 representing no solid competition that was emotive and uplifting, and the vote fell back onto the most commercial option instead. Until 2015, we’d not had a field where straightforward chart friendly music was going up against cheesier, uplifting songs (that still had some musical relevance of course) and I implied that it would direct the way for the future to see which generally is first in the pecking order. I got my answer to that.

        I’ve mentioned numerous times that successful songs usually tick at least one of the three boxes… something commercially relevant, something timeless or high calibre in style, or an accessible novelty. This stands shoulder to shoulder with rousing, uplifting songs VS straightforward chart-friendly songs. Last year proved rather conclusively that songs which pass the “Everest Test” (they made up the entire top three) come before straightforward chartable songs.

        Frans will be top 10, of that I’m sure, but I don’t see him as a contender, because **pending their final execution,** (must emphasise that) he is second in the pecking order to more uplifting, catchy entries from Malta, Croatia, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

        Again I have to stress, I’m not saying all those countries will beat Sweden, I’m just saying their songs are more emotive and exciting. It’s not exactly hard to be more rousing and uplifting than If I Were Sorry, after all.

        • “he is second in the pecking order to more uplifting, catchy entries from Malta, Croatia, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.”

          I can’t believe you think any of those are catchier than If I Were Sorry. I thought it being as catchy as it is is why the fans are finding it so annoying.

          • I really don’t get the general obsession about the Maltese song. It starts strongly but when it hits the chorus the viewer is left thinking: hmmm, is that it? Falls rather flat I think. At the end you’re left with that feeling when something you’ve eaten doesn’t quite deliver what you thought it would… It may well qualify, but challenge for top 3? I doubt it.

      • You have misunderstood me. What I was doing is pointing out Sweden’s potential drawbacks at Eurovision, which this article failed to do.

        Frankly though, that argument “If you take away Frans’ two sets of nul points then his jury score beats Loreen and almost matches Måns’…” is a bit ridiculous. Those zero scores were there for a reason – as good and modern as the song is etc., it simply isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When juries at Eurovision have 25 songs to mark in the final, it’s pretty safe to say that Sweden will be receiving at least several sets of nul points from the juries.

        It’d be just like me saying, “If you give Oscar Zia two more sets of 12 points then his jury score beats Loreen’s”. It didn’t happen, so there’s not much point in saying it.

        • So I take it you’re not in camp Sweden this year, Tim?

          I agree with the score analysis, but the two nil-points were outliers compared to the other results and were like the WTF marks awarded by Simon Proctor to both Loreen and Mans.

          How this plays out in May is still clearly debatable and it seems we’re on different pages.

          But feel free to share your theories.

    • I have to agree with Gavster on Sweden though. Yes, I do see its flaws. But saying that Frans struggled in the jury vote is a bit over-the-top if you ask me. Yes, he did do bad with the juries of Australia and Belarus. But Oscar Zia in return did bad with countries like Netherlands and France. Ace Wilder did do bad with the jury vote of Cyprus and France. And then there’s Wiktoria who perhaps struggled even more: ‘zippo’ from the Estonia jury, 1 point from Cyprus, and 2 points from the juries of Bosnia and Italy.

      My point. You always have to assess the entire field. And perhaps the overall jury results showed us how competitive the field was. And always be careful with statistics. There was only one Eastern-European state in the juries of Melodifestivalen. You really have to see a bigger pool of Eastern-European states to give a proper judgement on the possibly jury appeal, or lack thereof, of Frans. Russia for instance always seemed a bit more ‘independent’ with their jury votes as opposed to Azerbaijan, Ukraine or Belarus.

      Lastly, having seen Netherlands scoring points from Eastern Europe and the Balkan in 2014, one should not immediately disqualify Sweden. On top of that, there’s no bearded lady this year.

      The only thing that perhaps works against Frans’ chances is its running order. Loreen and Mans were simply invincible from whatever running order (Mans would have win the televote, if the first half of the final in 2015 wasn’t so densely packed with contenders. It was a true ‘blooth bad’). And Frans could prove a bit less straight-in-your-face as Loreen and Mans.

      But even then, you have to take into account the countries that are going to perform before or after Frans. Just look at Mans last year. He had to compete in the first half with Israel, Estonia, Norway, Belgium, Australia.

      Having said all this, I still think Sweden has got similar chances of winning Eurovision as Russia. It’s a contender, and not a dark horse.

      • I agree with Gert on the point of the Melfest jury vote. If what he says is true about Oscar, Ace and Wiktoria, then what he is essentially saying is that whoever had won Melfest this year would have had the same red flag of jury support laid at them. This is something that can’t be blamed on the app vote though, it’s simply down to the quality and competitiveness of the field, and I don’t think there’s any way of saying objectively whether this year’s Melfest final was competitively high quality or if they were all a bit shit.

        Objectiveness aside though, I know what I’d say. 😛

        • Yes, it can be blamed on the app because of the way it is used. You don’t vote for your favourite song at the end, you vote for all the songs you like throughout the show. And that people seemed to like them all, and that more of them went on to be bigger hits on Spotify/iTunes demonstrates that this year was a strong selection – or at the very least, that they were more popular than usual.

  4. I agree with 98% of what you said. Personally I feel like this is going to be like 2014, where we have some false favourites and then someone under the radar completely blows everyone away in rehearsals and off they march on to an easy victory.

    Re France, as the OGAY polls have started to come in, they seem to be getting a lot of early support in that poll, so that might be worth a good price at laying both top 5 and top 10 if the polls have them top 3.

    You mention “Sweden want to beat Ireland’s record” narrative, don’t you think that could have an adverse effect on them? Viewers might think “oh they’ve just won last year, why should they win again this year?!”.

    Also it’s worth pointing out: I was chatting with friends about this year’s songs, we played Sweden’s song and a mutual friend who’s not a fan like us went “hang on, I’ve had this on my Spotify playlist!”, then we asked him if he thinks it could win Eurovision and he immediately said “No chance! It’s a nice song but it’s not a Eurovision song”.

    Finally, if Latvia’s song was representing Sweden or Russia, they’d be market leaders right now, I’ll leave it at that.

  5. I’m with Durhamborn on Armenia, there’s a lot of potential in that one. Staging, bloc, diaspora, unique, good vocals and jury appeal.

    I’ve wrote Australia off completely it’s just so bland and predictable that I don’t think juries will even have it as high as expected- great vocals or not.

    France have a nice song and I’d like them to do well, my head says however that if there’s one delegation (barring the UK) who are going to mess up its the French. I highly doubt Amir can hit some of the higher notes too which is probably the worst thing for jurors.

    Sweden could win but only if it’s already a europe wide hit which probably won’t be the case.
    I think from 9th with the challengers all probably coming after it, it will just get forgotten. Eastern juries will probably have it towards the bottom of their rankings too.

    Serbia and Ukraine can do well but will not win. Both will struggle in the West with non diaspora.

    Nina Kraljic and Jamie Lee Kriewitz are both not votable enough to do very well either. It’s a shame.

    If Azerbaijan are playing by the book they’ll be closer to nq than top 10. Samra isn’t great live and it’s all a little formulate. It reminds me a little of Iceland last year.

    My original reaction with Malta was that they wouldn’t win and I’ll stick with that. It feels a little overproduced, a bombardment of sound more than anything else.

    Bulgaria feels a bit cheap for top 10 and I can’t see it working live. The Czech Republic look a good prospect for top 10 however. Gabrielle knows what she’s doing and should deliver live. It feels a bit more ‘one last breath ‘ rather than ‘a million voices’ to get higher than that though.

    Latvia feel closer to rythm inside than love Injected. What it looses on the jury side, it more than makes up for with televoters. Should win semi 2 so can gain some real momentum for the final. Have a good shot at the win.

    Which leaves us with Russia. I’ve backed this at 8 ish but have no intention of backing it further at such a low price, I’ll make sure it stays green until rehearsals but nothing more. It just feels too dated, cheap and cheesy to go anywhere in the West and I agree I can’t see it doing well enough with the juries.

    There are two or three – maybe four entries that have the potential to beat Russia and I have to feel at least one of them will do so.

    • Hippo I agree with pretty much all of your negative points. That leaves me with Russia. But they’re not backable imo at this price at only 5 April. So who are your entries that have the potential to beat Russia?

      • Well the main two that *could* beat Russia for me are Latvia and Armenia but both share the problem of being a little leftfield or divisive. Still that didn’t stop Belgium doing very well last year and Loic would probably win in this year’s field.

        Third in line is Sweden. I’ve been critical of Frans’ chances and have him red for now because there are a lot of obstacles to overcome (draw, host voting lag, questionable jury appeal, questionable Eastern appeal) but I’m not oblivious to the fact a lot of people like this sort of thing. I won’t completely write Frans off until it’s clear he isn’t going to be charting in top 20s or so all over Europe before the contest.

        The fourth one is Malta. I discarded the idea on the first listen, in fact on the first five listens or so. But some people clearly found it really catchy straight from the off. Will enough televoters have it in their head after one or two listens is the question. If they do it is a threat.
        A great and memorable staging concept could help to overcome the lack of a strong hook (to my ears) but it needs to be more than just Led water on the stage floor a la Knez. I’m partly including Malta too as they clearly want it and will try hard to get it which in an uncertain year has to count for something.

  6. Thanks for the informative, comprehensive analysis Gav.

    Well unlike Gabby Gun, I’m not sure where I stand with this year’s competition. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and not rule out an entry off the back of a weak live/or voting history. It’s very possible like Kiley touched on, for an entry to materialise itself as an obvious winner during the rehearsal period, provided the staging can elevate it. Here’s my serious challengers:

    Russia: You Are The Only One is banal. But I can acknowledge the threat that comes from a package like this. The performance with the Fokas treatment should make it memorable, the question is will it make it credible? Both the song and the stage designer don’t belong in this decade of the contest and we’re still dependent on the juries recognising that. A bit like yourself Hippo, I’m waiting for a stronger package to show up in Stockholm; as I’m certain this song can be topped.

    Sweden: I’m hesitant to say they can win. In my book they have a Top 3 televote sort of song, and Frans oozes appeal, in as you’ve said Gav, the Lena-esque way. It’s again the juries I’m unsure of. Talking over a melody is fairly prominent in Pop music nowadays, especially from Bieber’s What Do You Mean and Love Yourself, problem is that this style hasn’t been perfected at Eurovision before. Inevitably, some jurors will see the relevance of the song, and others will see a shortcoming in vocal display, and then it becomes a matter of who can outweigh the other.

    As for the rest, I’ve come around to admire the sheer drama of LoveWave,and I was impressed by her performance at Moscow. I don’t sniff a winner, but I could imagine Iveta slotting into that 4-7 bracket on a good night. Ditto Latvia. Wouldn’t shock me to see Australia bomb on the Saturday, the song isn’t good enough and I’m puzzled that the superior balladry from the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Italy are all priced higher in the outright market.

    • Oh and another outside shot I’ll be keeping an eye on is Israel. Hovi can really belt this one out, and without the shackles of performing in Hebrew there might be something on for them. I think the crescendo is excellent. It’s just about making the first 100 seconds or so during the build look interesting on camera.

      Now you can call this a flimsy tangent of mine, but I have gotten a slight Conchita vibe from Hovi. With him, you have an overtly non heterosexual looking performer with a big voice singing an uplifting ballad about individuality and acceptance of others etc. I’m not nailing my colours down yet, but it’s definitely one to look out for, if we think the winner might unearth itself from mid-pack.

  7. Sergey channel

    6,236,541 views
    67,514 likes
    2,018 comments

    ESC channel

    881,029 views
    15,009 likes
    5,002 comments

    The Russian Views could have well been manipulated. Based on the fact that manipulators don’t bother, or are unable, to manipulate related metrics, and without being able to estimate the effect of cultural differences between channels:

    We should be expecting 106,244 likes and not 67,514 on Sergey’s channel, and more significantly 35,408 comments, not just 2,018.

    So thanks for being generally forthright Gav and sharing that theory.

    • Cheers Henry. As Durham pointed out, I do like to put my head above the parapet and give an opinion.

      I didn’t know about acquiring YouTube hits until last year, when someone told me a Eurovision blog was using the tactic to boost credibility. I guess it’s similar to buying twitter followers too.

    • Hey guys! Long time lurker here, just coming out from hiding because I want to disprove the idea that Russia has been viewbotting on YouTube.

      Certainly it does look suspect if you only compare the two official videos, but none of the traffic on Sergey’s channel looks particularly suspect. If you look at the daily views, you’ll notice that it’s nearly a pretty standard looking exponential curve: https://i.gyazo.com/f75021b7472ee82606549c12efea03a2.png
      If there was any significant spikes or inconsistencies it would be pretty easy to claim that the video has been viewbotted, much like this video: https://i.gyazo.com/5b65a02455f950b140d2dd6a7165f573.png

      As far as the likes go, they are actually higher than normal if you compare to a video on the official ESC channel. Videos in the 6.0-6.5m view range on that channel (Israel 2015, Italy 2015, Romania 2013, the winners reprise of Sweden 2015) all have around 40k likes. I think the reason for the abnormally high likes on the ESC channel’s video is probably because the top search result for “Sergey lazarev You are the only one”, “Russia 2016 Eurovision” etc is the video on Sergey’s channel. Casual fans and first time listeners are much more likely to find it, while to even find the video on the ESC official channel you need to care more deeply about the contest or Sergey.

      Comments on Sergey’s channel are disproportionately low by any measure. But, if you sort by “newest first” you’ll notice that all of the comments are overwhelmingly positive and there haven’t been any new ones in 5 days. They are holding all comments for review and removing anything negative, neutral, replies to other comments and, for the most part, comments not in English. Which is pretty hilarious and desperate, but not proof of viewbotting.

      Could they be manipulating the stats? Sure, it’s impossible to tell if they hired a click farm that’s putting out 50k views a day consistently. I think it’s unlikely though. Frans has an easy 6 million views across all videos, Margaret even has a legit looking 10 million views. Sergey is a popular artist and Russia is a populous country that’s generated a good amount of hype. I don’t see any reason to suspect that 6 million views is too much. Not to mention that view bots aren’t cheap if you fake millions of views. I hope no one in the Russian delegation believes that the news of the video hitting 6 million views is worth a few thousand dollars!

  8. Very interesting read Gav, loving your forthrightness. Obviously the concern for Sweden is whether enough jurors will back a singer in a song contest who doesn’t really sing therefore making it hard to rate him highly on vocal performance? Do the MF jurors judge on exactly the same criteria as the ESC jurors?

    What are your thoughts on Spain? One of the most intriguing packages this year is Armenia that has provoked much discussion elsewhere, yet you have pretty much skipped it above. How do you rate it?

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and join in the debate, Amazona.

      Eurovision juries are asked to award points based on the following criteria:

      Vocal capacity
      Stage performance
      Composition and originality
      Overall impression by the act

      I suspect Melfest’s international jury are asked to follow similar rules.

      Spain’s song is ok, but I don’t think it’s a great match for the juries and televote. Despite being a step forward for Spain, I reckon they’ll still finish 20-26th again.

      As for Armenia, I want to hear her perform live before deciding either way. There’s a lot of female pop-ballads this year and I don’t think Armenia is the strongest, or the easiest to like. Also, Eurovision doesn’t take very well to strong females. My opinion might change after this weekend’s concert.

      • Thanks for the reply Gav, that’s a typically brave call on Spain, fair play. I think its a wonderful uplifting tune with an engaging singer and a nice little gimmick. I struggle to find anything in the past that would serve as a useful comparison. To me top 10 feels far more likely than bottom 7, but its all about opinions. Enjoy Amsterdam, I look forward to reading your reviews.

  9. I’m honestly very surprised/annoyed that Hungary, Iceland and Spain weren’t mentioned at all in this entire article. They’re three of the strongest songs this year, and Greta, Freddie and Barei have proven they can deliver their songs live. I think all three should receive enough jury support. Amongst all the entries, Spain sounds the most ‘chartable’- it honestly sounds like a song I would hear on the radio. It’s got an amazing beat and as stated before Barei can deliver live. I know it’s Spain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do well in the televote.

    Hungary has an Imagine Dragons feel and is my favorite song this year. I’m really surprised fans aren’t that receptive to the song. In fact, I’ve been reading comments its ‘nice but forgettable’. I find that hard to believe as the composition, along with Ukraine’s, stands out a lot amongst all the Europop and ballads. Freddie is very charismatic and his voice is amazing- he does need to work on enunciation though. This is one of the quality entries this year- Russia can’t even compare with this. However I am afraid its going to get overshadowed. I can see this finishing like Norway 2013, Armenia 2014 and Belgium 2015- more edgy songs that take a risk. The same goes for Iceland this year.

    If you ask me, Russia is this year’s fanwank. Sergey does seem like a nice guy and he does have a good voice, but that song is not winning material. Its outdated and cheesy. I just hope the juries have an ear for musical quality and don’t rank it too highly.

  10. Loved the comparison of the supermarket trolley and the market’s reactions. Interesting that apart from Russia, Malta and Bulgaria are also going to surprise us in stage in May. So far, so good for Lazarev, seems to have all the package to win for him even if the song is outdated the core fans love it. I expect the staging to make the difference once again though. Therefore if Malta is making something extraordinary I would consider them as contenders. Not feeling the same with Bulgaria as the last time Poli participated she did not even make it to the finals so I assume it cannot win with another song. From the rest I would fear more Serbia because the singer is one of a kind. Vucic seems really comfortable to deliver a quality performance and in combination with strong support from the Balkan countries, I think that she might be the black horse of the contest. Last but not least, I salute your thoughts about Czech Republic to qualify which encourage my initial prediction to back my country (Greece) to disqualify when we get the odds.

    • If Russia wins, and I hope everyone in here agrees with me, then it will be one of the worst winners since……..Russia 2008?? Just compare this year’s Russian entry with:
      –> Norway 2009 (9,0/10)
      –> Germany 2010 (9,5/10)
      –> Sweden 2012 (9,0/10)
      –> Denmark 2013 (8,0/10)
      –> Austria 2014 (8,5/10)
      –> Sweden 2015 (9,0/10)

      And I am very sorry, but I even found Azerbaijan 2011 (7,5/10) a much better entry than this year’s Russian entry. Obviously the Russians will again do marvelous things with staging. And it will even result in a very voter-friendly, coherent audio-visual total package. TOP 3 even!

      But for me the Russians entries seem to miss a certain amount of….emotional purity, heart-felt emotional depth and charming sincerity. And that bit of ‘real sincere emotion’ is the hardest thing to predict. It is pivotal for the final points that make a difference between a victory and the rest of the TOP 5. And with the current Russian approach to Eurovision, it as an aspect that they simply can not generate or ‘buy’ with expensive choreographers and Mr Kirkorov.

      Don’t get me wrong, I loved Polina last year. But the gasping for air…..was a bit too much for some more pragmatic/calvanistic Western countries. They need a ‘different’ kind of emotion.

      For me, singers like Justs, Amir, Dami Im and Frans have a more sincere charm to their performances.

      • That’s your opinion and I respect it. However I see value at Russia because I am sure they are going to win the televoting and will be high in the jury. You can judge the russian song as cheesy, old-fashioned or whatever but where is the originality of Azerbaijan when this country is always sending a Swedish-written song trying to make Top10? About the last winners it is also subjective. Personally I did not like at all Austria and Germany but they won. Just because I do not like a song that does not mean that it cannot win.

  11. I don’t think the view’s are the be all and end al as Poland’s entry this year is showing.

  12. With Croatia’s dip in the past few day’s or so I’m wondering if Serbia could swoop in and be a dark horse, with that vocal I’d say one of the most jury friendly entries we have this year which could potentially lead to a good tele vote as well.

  13. Are the Czech Republic doing any preview concerts? Just seen some live performances of Gabriela on YouTube. Her voice is phenomenal.

    • Yes some really strong female singers this year arent there.Gabriela is one and could surprise during rehearsals.
      Iveta Mukuchyan has amazing range,i see LoveWave being far better live than studio due to that and could provide big goosebump moments.Sanja Vučić is also a real old school vocalist.Hugely talented singer.She can take on a really powerful melody and still deliver over it easily.Make that delivery authentic and you have a class act.
      Although in lots of ways its a weak year,in others its very good to see countries taking huge leaps forward.
      Its these reasons i see the likes of Spain doing badly,at least pre-rehearsals.

    • My PREDICTION:
      1.Sweden/Malta
      These are by far the 2 most original songs in the contest with an immediate memorable hook. Malta is gonna have a surely superb staging as that professional dancer is gonna be on stage so expect an incredible performance.
      3.Russia
      Expecting some very good staging and a nice overall impression by viewers (including jurors)
      4.Australia/Bulgaria
      6.France
      7.Israel
      A very touching entry.
      8.Armenia
      9.Estonia
      A standout voice.
      10. Latvia
      A standout voice but not hooking.

      Croatia Spain and even Serbia would probably flop.

    • from the article:
      “The problem with Ukraine being considered as potential winners is that 1944 doesn’t fit the typical Eurovision winner mould. It’s not a feel good song and nor does it entertain like the past seven Eurovision winners since the reintroduction of the national juries. ”

      I would disagree that the last seven winners are all “Feel good songs”. I would definitely not compare this one to suus, nor would I to mamo. I don’t think comparisons in general are smart, but if I had to I would say Conchita. Conchita was able to deliver the wow moment of the night. It was emotional and beautiful which made people feel something. I nearly cried (OK, might have actually shed a tear) watching it. I dont know if this can deliver the same kind of wow effect as Conchita did, but it can do something similar. That is what makes people vote, and that is why my biggest green is on Ukraine at the moment.

      “Lastly, the fact Sweden can match Ireland’s win record this year will generate headlines. How big those headlines are is anyone’s guess, but we’ll soon find out.”

      Do people think this will help Sweden? Because I would say it’s exactly the opposite. People in general don’t care who has most wins in eurovision. That is not the reason anyone votes. Why would they want Sweden to match Ireland’s wins? My feeling is that people are fed up with Sweden and do not want them to win. People root for the underdogs, not the juggernauts.

      In general things like “Ukraine will get sympathy votes” and “Sweden will get headlines because they could match Ireland” have close to no effect in the end results. I rarely bother to take these into consideration when making my bets. If we look at the results from last year for example, I would say the top8 are the 8 best songs of the year (Israel @ 9th messing this up). That’s what matters, the quality of the song and performance, not external factors.

      • My biggest green is Armenia Archi, so i guess we both arent seeing Russia top Eastern even.My book is tilted Armenia top eastern,Serbia top Balkan with Bulgaria in reach with staging,Sweden top Scandi, and the outright along the same lines.I understand the Ukraine appeal,i just think Armenia will slay the eastern jury votes and will get more in the West.Im prepared to move during rehearsals though as its still fluid.

      • I think Ukraine will do OK with the juries, but I just can’t see wide enough appeal for what is a left field song.

        As for uplifting songs winning…

        2015 – Heroes – feel good pop
        2014 – Rise Like A Phoenix – uplifting operatic-pop
        2013 – Only Teardrops – uplifting pop-folk
        2012 – Euphoria – feel good dance/trance
        2011 – Running Scared – uplifting love story chemistry
        2010 – Satellite – feel good pop song and performer
        2009 – Fairytale – uplifting pop-folk

        People will generally vote for the song that makes them feel best, so I accept your point about Sweden. However, I must stand by my point that Ukraine isn’t a feel good song. Maybe it’s down to taste, but I haven’t heard a recent contender that sounds anything like 1944. Maybe you can suggest one or two? It’s not even near Molitva, which was 100% televote.

        • Have to agree with Gav on this. Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written here or on Sofabet this year knows what a massive advocate I am of the epic, on top of the world feeling in a song, a quality which made up the entire top 3 in 2015.

          Nothing quite as epically uplifting on offer this year though, except possibly Lithuania, which makes things difficult. Iceland, Croatia and Malta just barely offer that kind of thing too.

          I’d say categorically that Sweden doesn’t. Gav namechecked them and Latvia in his ESC Insight piece published today. Why do you get that feeling from those songs if you don’t mind elaborating?

          • Quick note on Sweden in ESCInsight piece… I wrote: “I listen for positivity and an epic feel; something rousing and inspiring.”

            I find Sweden a positive song, which is derived from its major chord sequences and complimentary visuals. It’s not epic, like Grande Amore, but there is a feeling of positivity. Your ‘Everest test’ is fine, but it can lose a few songs where just simple musicality and visuals take precedent.

          • 2015 – ‘Heroes’: feel good pop
            2014 – ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’: uplifting operatic-pop
            2013 – ‘Only Teardrops’: uplifting pop-folk
            2012 – ‘Euphoria’: feel good dance/trance
            2011 – ‘Running Scared’: uplifting love story chemistry
            2010 – ‘Satellite’: feel good pop song and performer
            2009 – ‘Fairytale’: uplifting pop-folk:

            It’s quite obvious what Gavster is telling here. And I agree. Two songs that for me belong in this field as well:

            2016 – Frans with ‘If I Were Sorry’: feel good pop
            2016 – Amir with ‘J’ai Cherché’: feel good pop

  14. Hi and good luck to everyone. Do you if there will be any live-streaming in Amsterdam?

  15. Russia winning this year would be the worst winner since when?? Russia 2008?? Never…..got to be Estonia 2001……unforgettably awful victory.

  16. Russia is definitely playing the PR game by betting themselves to be the ‘favorite’ this year. They are trying to deceive the international juries and ESC fans. The fact that their MV’s views on the ESC are still below 1 million views proves that its not really the favorite.

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