Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package
Occidentali's Karma is not a song I'm willing to oppose given it could occupy any of the top-5 positions in a low quality year packed with ballads and peace songs.
Having beaten Fiorella to the Sanremo 2017 crown, Francesco Gabbani has just confirmed he’ll be travelling to Kiev to represent Italy at Eurovision 2017. We’re now in the unique position of having all Big-5 entries by mid February!
Before we go into whether Italy can win in Kiev, we first need to recognise that Occidentali’s Karma isn’t a novelty song; it conveys a serious message in a lighthearted and fun way, which ensured it won Sanremo ahead of the likes of Fiorella and Ermal Meta. An example of novelty is Romania 2013, Portugal 2011, Czech Republic 2009 or Finland 2006. Then we have songs that could be termed as novelty, but are more fun in approach such as Russia 2012, Ireland 2011 and Ukraine 2007.
As yet, nothing like this has won the Contest under the jury system, but even Russia’s grannies finished second to Loreen, albeit with heavy reliance on the televote. Songs that were just good fun that did well are: Israel 2015, Greece 2013, Germany 2010, Romania 2010 and Azerbaijan 2009. Occidentali’s Karma stands up well against these songs and there’s even a slight crossover between Lena’s zany moves and Gabbani’s eccentric dad dancing, including the genuine enjoyment and charisma they both exude when performing their songs. This factor cannot be overlooked when up against 25 other songs all regimentally choreographed. Lena, and even AySel and Arash, came alive on TV when there was an element of spontaneous, infectious fun. Gabbani has this factor.
I obsess over staging when watching Eurovision rehearsals, so I get quite excited when I see something like Occidentali’s Karma. There are several memorable branding cues that helped Gabbani standout at Sanremo, the main one being the gorilla. Like Mans’ cartoon character, viewers remembered Occidentali’s Karma as the song with the gorilla. However, the vibrant Indus inspired graphics worked as a further subconscious cue to viewers, but they also explained the reason for the gorilla to non-Italian speakers. Next up were the olés from the orchestra which added to that element of fun and spontaneity. Obviously, the orchestra won’t be travelling to Kiev, but Gabbani will likely opt for backing singers to execute this role. Then we have the ‘nameste’ greeting and ‘om’ chant – both are as recognisable as ‘hello’ or ‘arrivederci’ across Europe, so even if Occidentali’s Karma doesn’t switch to English, there’s plenty for viewers to latch on to. Anyway, the last and potentially most important part of the branding is Gabbani’s dance during the refrain, which seems to be going viral across Italy. The foot shuffles of Malta 2012 and Spain 2016 are incomparable, as they were restricted to the fan community. Gabbani’s dance will be copied by kids and adults alike.
The typically high brow Sanremo jury many not have supported Gabbani’s song, but they didn’t support Il Volo either. The Italian press jury recognised the potential of Occidentali’s Karma on night one and public support grew throughout the four day contest. Given Gabbani had to beat Fiorella, one of Italy’s biggest stars, he ended up over 10% clear on the televote. Il Volo only managed a 4% margin. Now many readers will point and say that Il Volo were more jury friendly at Eurovision, yet failed to win despite topping the televote. Well the votes are no longer linked, so the jury cannot cancel out the televote and vice versa. Given Jamala won last year without topping either the jury or televote, any song capable of topping one half of vote has to be respected. And unlike last year’s televote winner from Russia, Gabbani’s song at least has some substance and personality.
Is this enough to make Italy winners? At the time of writing, the number of countries yet to show their hand is dwindling with only Australia, Sweden and Denmark considered as serious threats. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Netherlands could surprise, but in terms of what we already know, Italy has the most complete package, and considering the fun, infectious nature of Occidentali’s Karma, it’s not a song I’m willing to oppose on Betfair given it could occupy any of the top-5 positions in a low quality year packed with ballads and peace songs.
EDIT: New version.
It’s an abrupt cut to the Eurovision obsessives, but to the average Eurovision viewer tuning into May’s final, it’ll change nothing. The key ingredients remain in place; Gabbani’s charisma, Gerald the Gorilla and the dad-dancing segment. It still has to be respected.
Italy were too short in the market, so it’s encouraging to see them drift a little. Common sense emerges at last.
Are we heading Italy in 2018?