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Podcast: Eurovision 2016 Part 3

ESCtips’ Gavster, freelance broadcaster, Tobias Larsson and fellow Eurovision gambler, Panos Zannettos share their expert opinions on semi final 2.


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About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. Thanks for the podcast, now it’s clear why Bulgaria is getting so much love in the market recently ;). I’m not a big fan of it yet so waiting for the rehearsal.

    Btw how is it possible that you get to pick your press pass so late? Wasn’t the custom that you get it a day before or something?

  2. Two years ago Tobias called Austria before everyone in one of these podcasts. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Italy next week.

    • He called Sweden last year swell lets not forget :P. I keep feeling Italy may do something similar to 2011 and sneak under the radar and win.

      • http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x434dmc_francesca-michielin-nessun-grado-di-separazione-8-4-16_fun

        Her delivery has improved by a long way thats for sure,much more emotion and perfect rabbit eyes down the camera.Like Tobias i love Italian pop so i dont have to worry about if Italy will do well,i back them EW every year anyway my mug punter bet and last year paid for twelve years worth.
        If the jury “get” the song it has a very good chance of jury top 5,but it is “if”.The staging is rumoured to be green with some planting flower symbolism though so they need to be careful they dont wander into kitsch territory.Sony are very protective of Francesca’s contemporary image though so hopefully the staging is done right.

      • I’ve got a bet on Italy best of Big 5 @9 or 8/1 at WH. Good combination of underrated Italy and overrated France. Really hope she will stick to the style of the music video though, not a ballad-style like at San Remo… She doesn’t need a fancy dress and dramatic movements

      • Italy’s song is lovely as is Francesca herself. She reminds me of Gabrielle Aplin (who I’d love to have at ESC for the UK,) but I haven’t got a clue what about the song makes it anything close to a winner. Based on what I’ve been hearing though, I’m hoping the staging will be quite evocative.

        In the performance linked above, she looks a bit frustrated. Quite little connection felt here. Some smiles wouldn’t go amiss.

        • I agree Ben,though in a tight year if she can get high with the jury a decent finish is possible,9s top big five with WH looks good value and is a far better way to play her from a value side than the outright.Its the most “Italian” entry since they came back though and i still think they should of changed the song given the team they have.A danger of a flop,but im with M.M thats 9s is probably good value.

        • We should probably be saving all this Italy chatter for Friday’s podcast, but while we’re here I agree with most of the above. No degree of Separation is a neat little gem in the line-up, and one of those entries which if everything comes together could be outstanding. Top big five is worth the punt, although I’m still holding out to see what France bring.

          • There is quite a lot of fan love for this but I’m afraid I don’t get it. The song has a nice ‘Nessun Grado’ chorus but I don’t feel it is right for the contest – it lacks the build of, say, the Serbian song, and Francesca does not exactly exude warmth – and she hits a few bum notes into the bargain.

  3. I have some theories involving certain countries that need to be sorted.

    Poland – Based on this running order I get the impression that SVT are trying to stop this qualifying for the final, not just by placing it in the death slot but also putting Israel 2 slots after. To me Israel and Poland are sort of going for the same vote as they both have singers that have quite unique looks but impressive vocals, I feel SVT are using Israel combined with the death slot to stop Poland qualifying and by doing this they put Switzerland ( the favourite for last in the semi in my mind) so that Israel and Poland are more or less back to back. I still don’t see Israel qualifying and I personally prefer Poland but I feel the producers have used the previous to cripple the latter. Until rehearsals I’m not so sure, if you where to put a gun to my head and make a call I would say probably qualifying, there diaspora cannot be underestimated.

    Lithuania – I have many thoughts on this, song wise based on what we have on offer combined with voting strength it should get through but then I factor in that A. the staging in the NF was not very good B. he wasnt even that convincing a winner of the selection as he came into the final as runner up to Erica Jennings. After the NF factor I have some more A. The Lithuania delegation had only a week to hand in to the EBU what there performance was going to be like, will they have been able to change a pretty average stage show into something really captivating in a week, Norway couldn’t do it last year so I don’t see why Lithuania would plus they don’t exactly ave a great record when it comes to staging. B. The fact they are put right next to Australia (a country the EBU wants to do well ) indicates to me that the answer to part A is they haven’t improved the staging that much if at all.

    In regards to the semi as a whole, I do think we will get at best 5 songs from the second half infact, I can only see 5 countries actually standing chances of qualifying. Ukraine and Bulgaria are pretty much locked in, Norway are more or less locked in swell ( thanks to the performer more so than the song) and then its Denmark and Belgium, If either where in the first half I would probably said NQ because the first half is a lot stronger but with the second half draw I could see all 5 make it. I don’t want to completely rule out Albania either as they have an great draw and a good chunk of friends voting. Overall I think you’ve got about 14 songs that actually are in contention to qualifying ( Belarus are among the 4 that are not, but there the only act of this list that I’m considering moving to the other pile if there staging is impressive.)

    Very hard semi to call, I may have to wait till the phone lines close in the live show to make my final call!

  4. Many thanks for the podcast….always an enjoyable listen.

    I’m very much against Panos’ two OR picks Sweden & Australia.Whilst I personally like the Swedish entry,I do feel its prospects of success are slim.Its “Bieber” qualities make it current,however from a RO of 9 I fear it will be pretty forgettable and expect its televote to suffer as a consequence.I also fear for its Jury vote also,especially if the criteria set is strictly adhered to.

    The Australian price/love puzzles me slightly as well.Compared to other solo female numbers such as Italy,Czech Rep,Bulgaria,Armenia & Malta the song comes up well short.It’s repetitive to the point of exasperation with no interesting refrain.I also find Dami an emotive vacuum and unlike most other observers I’m not over keen her vocal ability.I suspect the honeymoon period for Oz may be over.

    From Semi-Final 2 my main fancy is Bulgaria and the charming Polli.Decent draw,catchy upbeat number with a positive message and a hook of a chorus which allows for it to retain some ethnicity.All will obviously depend on the staging however with opposition in SF 2 thin on the ground (Dangers are Serbia & Ukraine IMO) I’ve been happy to invest.

  5. I think the likeliest semi winner is either Latvia (but the draw isn’t good) or Serbia (but Sanja’s expressions worry me). Ukraine won’t be able to win over enough neutrals to win the semi and I only see Australia third at best.

    I’m surprised with how many people seem to fancy Bulgaria to do well. I fear it is going to look very messy on stage and I personally can’t see what makes it so much better than say yay for example. Will qualify most likely, but I’d be surprised if it made it to the top 10, yet alone higher.

    I think the following countries are fairly safe:

    From those that could easily go either way, I’m edging towards Ireland, Norway and Poland.
    I know this combination would break the usual rules of second half and last six etc but I can’t make much of a case for Denmark or Albania and Georgia’s a long shot.

  6. Thanks for another thought provoking podcast guys. Taking on board your observations, my thoughts on selected entries are as follows:

    Latvia – I know this is one that Gavster fancies for the final win. For me almost definite top five but maybe no more. However, the pre-party footage showed Justs moving around more and this made his delivery of the song appear more impassioned. I do wonder if being drawn first in semi-two may harm Just’s prospects of winning the semi and as a consequence his chances of getting a good running order slot in the final, particularly if he draws first half.

    Israel – Gavster, this was one you seemed to dismiss quite quickly in your review, without (maybe??) listening to it a lot. After a few listens I believe the song (though not brilliant) has a bit to commend it and Hovi is a strong performer. Whether this will be enough to overcome the disadvantages of lack of televote support for Israel and a tough running order draw I don’t know.

    Belarus – A dodgy looking long haired singer throwing the kitchen sink at the staging in a slightly desperate bid to qualify. Moldova 2015 anyone? All I can say is the staging will have to be quite something and Ivan’s vocal coach will have earned their corn if this ends up going through.

    Australia – It’s a good but not great song performed by a more than competent singer. It feels like top 10 finalist material but no more. Australia has kept a pretty low profile in the past few weeks, and this may have encouraged the betting market to pin its faith blindly on it in the absence of too many alternative strong contenders for the outright win. It wouldn’t surprise me if the odds start to lengthen once Dami turns up for rehearsals.

    Georgia – I like the song and I admire that it makes few concessions to the contest, but, like Gavster, I can’t see it qualifying.

    Belgium – I agree with the panel. Put this song almost anywhere else in either semi and it was a nailed on non-qualifier. But with the pimp slot and the guarantee of a competent and enthusiastic performance from Laura, it’s almost certain to go through. It’s ironic that Finland, with a similar type of (dated) song, but with a stronger chorus, will probably fail to qualify owing to its semi-one opening slot.

    Personally I don’t see this semi as being too difficult to call. Rehearsals, of course, may throw me into confusion. I see 9 certain or reasonably certain qualifiers. Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Lithuania, Australia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Norway and Belgium. 5 certain or very likely non-qualifiers – Switzerland, Belarus, Slovenia, Georgia and Albania. Leaving Israel, Ireland, Macedonia and Denmark to fight it out for the one remaining qualifying slot – which Israel would deserve but may well not get.

  7. Israel vs Poland? Okay… They’re both unusual looking guys with good vocals, but I’m actually kind of surprised that this is even a match with any doubt. To me Israel wins hands down by virtue of having the far more modern and better written song with a really good climax. I understand it takes time to build but I don’t think it’s gonna be an issue.

    Poland just comes off as some accented, extremely naff Savage Garden B-side with a key change and a costume that reminds me of their 2006 non-qualifying entry. Remember they failed to qualify in 2009 with a dated ballad as well.

    I recognise Poland has a large diaspora, but I think a lot of Poland’s strong televote in contrast to the weak jury score in the semi final last year was mostly because Monika was paraplegic and in the pimp slot, not because of the diaspora. Diaspora support should, in theory, be unconditional, but when Poland has sent weak entries, their televote has been weak, so don’t overrate diaspora. It should be an afterthought to the entry itself.

    While this statement which follows isn’t immediately apparent, unless it finds its way into the staging, both acts claim their songs are about being true to oneself and/or equality, and I think Hovi is much more convincing at getting that across, because Hovi is clearly gay, whereas Michal just comes off as a straightforward eccentric. It’s harder to relate to him than to Hovi, and I think he’s going to end up 12th or so in the semi, if not lower.

  8. This new episode format really threw me off, anyways, here’s my two cents:

    Latvia – Everyone here knows it’s my favourite, so I’ll rein in my bias and just leave it at saying this is one of the few certain qualifiers in this semi.

    Poland – I disagree with Ben above about “weak Polish songs don’t get diaspora support”, in the sense that the singer is pretty well known in his country and he won his NF very convincingly. The coffin slot is a hindrance but not the end of the world. And you have to give him props for really delivering the song.

    Switzerland – Last place, nuff said…

    Israel – Potential pee-break song unless they come up with something magical on stage.

    Belarus – He’s got zero charisma, but I’m not counting this one out, mainly because of what usually happens to Belarussian entries whenever the contest is in a Nordic country…

    Serbia – Almost certainly going through, juries will like it.

    Ireland – I totally agree with what you guys said, I thought this was a qualifier when it first came out, now considering the super competitive first half of this semi, I have it down as a NQ. Now thinking about it, I think that Nicky will also sound like a bad karaoke singer coming straight after Sanja who’s one of the strongest vocalists in this year’s competition.

    Macedonia – Kaliopi lifts the song live, but I’m not sure it’s enough.

    Lithuania – Another certain qualifier IMO by virtue of having an arsenal of friends in this semi to rely on.

    Australia – VASTLY overrated in certain circles of the fandom, and the fact that apparently they have a very technological staging sounds to me like they’re trying to polish a turd. Unfortunately probably will qualify unless they massively screw this up.

    Slovenia – Dead in the water.

    Bulgaria – Should qualify unless they massively screw up, I see hardly any hate for this song and could be a dark horse for a great result if they nail the staging IMO.

    Denmark – Only have them down as a qualifier due to the “4 from the last 6” rule.

    Ukraine – I’m not 100% convinced that Western juries will take to it, juries have been known to punish songs that are very “ethnic” sounding, and personally I think it’s way too marmite to trouble the top 5 in the final. Certain qualifier though.

    Norway – Again, biases aside, I think this is a very likely qualifier, however, I fear it won’t do too much in the final

    Georgia – As much as I like this song, I know it’s going to sink like a lead balloon. I’d like to have the optimism Tobias has.

    Albania – IMO SVT are treating this as some sort of buffer before Belgium comes on, then BOOM! the reset button is hit.

    Belgium – I agree with everyone else here, anywhere else in the semi = NQ, but they just had to be given the pimp slot…

    • Kylie, on Poland, I was forming my statement based on facts about Poland’s historical performance. In 2011 they had a good pop song (though badly performed) in Polish, yet they finished 3rd from last with televoters and 2nd last with juries. Being on first shouldn’t have hindered it that much. As I said, diaspora support should be unconditional, and some of it probably is, but I think we’re vastly overrating its impact. Michal may be big in Poland right now but will Poles living in the UK know him that well? It’s hardly the viral hit Donatan and Cleo brought to Copenhagen.

      Norway for me is a borderline. It’s tricky to write it off because it’s Norway. They’re always very polished and it’s easy to think of the semi finals as a stage where we simply filter out the amateurs and jokers, but that’s not always the case. Icebreaker is a weird song and the staging in MGP was awkward. There’s a certain anonymity about the overall package for me. I don’t think it’s gonna work.

      As for Belgium, I think it’s a certain qualifier and I think it’s going to do better than some think in the final. Wouldn’t rule out mid-table or at a push, even a Golden Boy type result. It isn’t playing on the retro thing like Uptown Funk, it’s completely shameless dated disco, but it’s still a really good song. If it had actually come out in the late 70’s I think it would’ve topped the American charts. It’s a hell of a lot better than Andy Abraham’s “Even If”. Televoters are gonna love it, I think.

      • Another stat for Poland, in 2010, they sent something ethnic and theatrical which did better with juries than televoters. I lived with some Polish people at Uni and showed them the 2010 entry once, asking for some context. They said the whole apples thing was symbolically very important and they weren’t ESC fans or anything, so the diaspora should have understood and supported an entry like that, but the televoters only had it 13th.

  9. As we thought it looks like Serbia are going with four backing singers and a dancer.I was torn on if it was better to have full backing to really power the refrain, or try to add instruments Željko style.Seems they have decided to go for full on cranking up the refrain to focus the juries minds.
    Sanja is getting better in controlling the delivery,but she still has the odd hair flick and diva moments.With a hugely powerful melody/build/refrain/ now locked in she really needs to keep things classy so the juries can reward her stunning vocals.Get it right she might destroy Belarus and Ireland’s chances.


    Im also not sold on Norway yet.Its a great slot,but the song seems very disjointed and im not sure the juries will support it.Belgium have a much more voteable girl next door as well in the pimp.Il wait for rehearsals but im tempted to take Norway on.

    • Yeah, it looks like these movements start after 90 secs in the song. She improved a lot and I think this make-up is much better than the one in the presentation video. With the proper staging, because the message of the song is clear and should be broadcasted on tv by the presenters, I think it can do good.

  10. Bulgaria have shortened a good bit. Are there people in the know regarding the Bulgarian stage production or is it simply a case of punters looking for some last minute value?

  11. I am far from suggesting a neat cause and effect, but the main market movers today have been Italy and Bulgaria, precisely the two countries which emerged with the biggest plaudits after Podcast Three yesterday, especially from Tobias!! Does his legendary “calling” of Conchita 2014 now mean that he is the principal driving force on the betting markets?!

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