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Eurovision 2019 Rehearsals: Day 4 Review

Tomorrow we’re all off to Jerusalem for a day trip, but today it’s Judgement Day in the press centre as we get to see Russia and the Netherlands rehearse for the first time.

Roko kicked off rehearsals with The Dream and started the performance lying down on the LED floor surrounded by the fires of hell. Roko is eventually joined by two gold-winged dancing angels who attach wings allowing him to ascend to heaven. I’m guessing the story is fallen angel Lucifer getting his wings back and returning to heaven, though unlike the TV version of Lucifer, I doubt Netflix will be coming to Croatia’s rescue anytime soon. Despite Roko’s exceptional vocal abilities, the song is too overblown to be taken seriously.

Now time for one of the year’s big pop tunes. Michela starts gazing out from her bedroom window before the camera moves through the window to show Michela opening a door and causing water to flood into her room. Her bedroom then morphs into an underwater scene. The theme is that her projection backdrop constantly changes, thus enforcing the chameleon refrain. The backdrop shifts through various scenes as four dancers join Michela at various points during the song. The vocal was poor for the first few run throughs of Chameleon but Michela grew in confidence with every performance. Malta have created some strong visual branding which is what Switzerland is missing earlier on in the running order. The vocal worries might be something to watch out for in the jury rehearsal next week.

Lithuania is nearly identical to the national final; however, Jurij’s falsetto is much stronger. Moreover, he has great connection with the camera which is the main strength for Lithuania in the hope of being a surprise qualifier.

After what seemed like a 30-minute setup time, Sergey Lazarev took to the stage to perform Scream. There are mirrored LED boxes that are able to display Sergey’s reflection along with pre-recorded footage of Sergey, as well as allowing Sergey to appear within a box aka Ani Lorak. I think the narrative is looking into one’s soul, but it wasn’t anywhere near the finished article by the end of Russia’s allotted time. Much more work required I think. Don’t forget that in 2016 whole parts of the staging were changed between first and second rehearsal and the markets continually yo-yoed at points when Russia or its closest competitors were on stage. This journey isn’t over… yet.

Albania opts not to use the LEDs, instead favouring the stage lighting. The staging has a vintage quality with autumnal hues – I’m not sure this is the USP Albania needed. Vocally it’s on point if not rather vote-demotivating. Albania feels like a moment of breathing space before the pace picks up again.

Keiino were meant to be the party banger before Netherlands and North Macedonia, yet the trio opted for dark staging and dark outfits. They have also opted to divide themselves into separate sections of the stage during the opening, which makes the stage appear incredibly empty. They come together before the joik section, but I fear it might be too late for them. Norway’s performance lacks the sort of voteability required to compete at the upper echelons of the scoreboard when compared to Switzerland and Malta.

Duncan is sat alone on stage playing a piano. The performance is designed to represent authenticity and that’s most definitely on display. There is a nice quality to the performance with long swooping camera shots, yet I remain emotionally unmoved. I need to see more emotional resonance and a clincher moment to get the goosebumps going. The juries will 100% like this but the Netherlands needs the televoters on side to seal the win. Much like Russia, I feel this is a work in progress. I would have liked to have seen Duncan perform below an array of incandescent filament bulbs with a circling camera. The ingredients are there. It’s now up to Pannecoucke to make it work.

Tamara wears a dated emerald green ballgown with eight rear-facing Tamaras on the backdrop. It’s like a piss take of Russia’s staging. I’m guessing it is designed to represent turning one’s back on one’s enemies. This isn’t how I would choose to stage North Macedonia. It needs to be more classically ballad with warm hues and sparkly lights. Even so, in terms of connection and emotional resonance, it does take some of the wind out of the Netherlands.

Last up today was Chingiz for Azerbaijan against an almost neon-coloured backdrop. He’s joined on stage by two robot arms that project a laser heart on to his chest and seemingly scan his vitals. The whole mood and concept of the song really draws away from Switzerland and others much earlier in the running order. There’s a rapture moment during the middle-eight mugham-vocal section as an overlay effect lifts Chingiz’s soul to the heavens. This is a first class job from Azerbaijan and it guarantees them a top-3 finish in the semi.

We’ll be back on Thursday, folks!

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. After the rehearsals, I’m not sure that Russia or the Netherlands will be in 1st place of the jury. Sweden now seems more believable or maybe Italy (expect).

    • Catriona Colville

      I know no one will agree here, but I feel Australia are in the game here for victory. As a total package, it’s hard to match. As are Azerbaijan. Sweden would be my pick as well, but Netherlands are still in it. Not sure about Russia. The song just isn’t memorable enough.

      • Australia are not in the running.

        • Catriona Colville

          I understand your confidence in this, but I disagree. I’m not saying they are the frontrunners or anything, but I think with a fair wind they could be the winners on the Saturday.

      • Netherlands still a worthy favourite imo but improvements have to be made on the staging if they want to win the contest. Jury’s will rack points up for the Netherlands no matter what the staging was like. It’s the televote which is the problem.

        Russia are really up against it now imo. Azerbaijan will probably take a good amount of points from Eastern Europe which doesn’t do Sergey any favours. The song is not great and the staging sounds underwhelming too. One too many negatives for me. Just my opinion though.

        Thank you for your thought’s and work Gav. Enjoy your day off.

  2. Had a feeling Azerbaijan were going to deliver, noticed during the stand ins that they were the ones really shortening. With how weak Eastern Europe and Azerbaijan possibly using dirty tactics if they sense a win or a good result Azerbaijan are seriously in the race now.

  3. Hi Gavin do you feel Az are a genuine threat? You having a swell time in TA I hope?

  4. Caution a bit against sudden love in for Baku 2020.
    It could well take televote from Swiss and Malta but cannot see this being popular with juries, at least enough to threaten. The price swing is as much a correction to cool reception for Netherlands and Russia as a vote for the song as such. As Gav said, in a day of sub par staging, it got a “whoosh”effect at the end. Italy will be eyeing all this very carefully. All to play for.

    • Hi Mark we’re often on the same page, but the song will do really well with juries, I feel, as it is a quality song and for tele the staging seems miles ahead of Rus NL Swi and Swe. Unlike Cyp tho there isn’t the vocals weak link, which I think was the undoing of Eleni.
      I think we underestimate this at our peril. It will be 2nd or 3rd fav I feel with NL and Ita come the GF 😉👍 Will close Semi 2 with a massive Fuego style bang. Bloggers are heaping praise on it.
      10s may seem very long come next Thurs 😉

      • Always saw AZ as a solid top 10 lock at 2 to 1 and happy with developments. Still not convinced by certain jury love but it has deserved its rise today without doubt. Up to others now to up their game.

  5. Netherlands 4th in today’s press poll. Oh dear I know it’s only a press poll but 4th is not good at all considering it’s the favourite to win the contest.

    • As you say it’s only a press poll but those are some worrying signs for Malta and Netherlands. Big WTF from me for the Russia and North Macedonia scores with their staging concepts. I guess it’s coming across a lot better for those that are there.

  6. Nailing a dark horse is a lot of fun. The prices have been silly all season. Top 10, at 2/1, Semi at 34, outright 100+ were gifts.
    Azerbaijan and the Netherlands were the main two songs I instantly got (Switzerland a little behind).
    Anyway this is stronger than I expected as it has “the moment”. It’s not just the modern, catchy pop song performed by a great and telegenic singer. It feels more powerful than that. I would have probably played it more predictably but fair play to Azerbaijan for delivering a concept that sets this apart.
    For me the Netherlands had it easily with the right staging and would be untouchable. That is not the right staging for me and they’re right in the thick of it with the other contenders.
    Malta does not work for me. Granted, I need the camera angles to judge whether it’s alright or really messy. A low top 10 looks fair.
    Russia looks fairly impressive visually but with even less of a narrative or even emotion than yatoo. This is not winning.
    I’m glad there’s a day off tomorrow, today was intense.

  7. Eurovision Value

    Can only agree with you, Hippo, what a feeling…

    Have the right to flex a bit I think 😉 , since it’s not a aftertimer (http://esctips.com/2019/04/25/eurovision-2019-sausage-fest-kosher-edition/#comment-48826 and on twitter) 🙂 Was really waiting for the rehearsal and shopped arround the bookies when I saw the response on ‘the moment’ for extra stake

    Can’t wait to see the real footage, since I’m not too confident it can actually go on to win yet…

    Now, let’s roll on Spain and see what Fokas has in store. Together with Italy, it’s gonna be exciting.

    • We actually had fairly similar opinions on a few I see. Nice.
      Italy for me is hard to call and I don’t have a strong opinion either way really. Anywhere within the top 10 wouldn’t surprise me.
      This year just got really interesting.

  8. PS.. I do hope our Dutch friends manage to return that piano back to Argos before May 16th.

  9. Overview on the craziest day I have ever seen (overall that is) with odds during rehearsals:
    *Russia possibly Top 5 but are NOT winning with that old hat, desperately old fashioned, clever but ‘nothing what we thought it would be’ staging
    *Aze are now definitely in the mix and could be a compromise winner
    *NL could still win. Let’s not over exaggerate but the staging is a let down rather than a disaster
    *Swe could only win by a scoring concotion with votes being all over the shop but still not a winner for me
    *Swi will do well but at this stage are not winning
    *Mal will do well – but winner – unlikely
    *Ice and Oz will impress from Semi 1 but again this seems out of reach

    The most likely winner now for me is ITALY and if Mahmood bu**ers up the stage then who knows…

  10. I think Netherlands can win if they remove that piano.
    Azerbaijan was impressive but winner? I don’t think so. Top5? Likely.
    Malta’s chances increased. They can take a place in Top 3.
    Russia no chance.

    About Australia. It’s always good idea to back Australia first, then lay after jury votes declared. Australia’s televoting performance is very poor. Australia can’t win even if they finish 1st with juries which is very unlikely. Much more options to consider for juries this year..

  11. Let’s talk more about Az.

    I think market is overreacting to Azerbaijan. The disappointment about Russia and Netherlands also played a role in this line movement. However, the line changes for a reason. If Az is priced under 15, it means it’s a serious contender to consider at the moment. It doesn’t mean Az will win but they can take a respectable place in Top 5. There’s a reason for line change for Az. The song itself is good. There’s a stage show and the last part where he sings folk tune like Jamal is impressive.

    In my opinion, the song is too generic and doesn’t feel too special. A good stage show is always a great boost but it’s not the whole thing. Nobody wins solely with a good stage show. The Netherlands have the real masterpiece here, I just hope they don’t ruin the song with bad staging. Yes, i’m talking about that cheap piano! Why you hide Duncan behind that piano? Let him stand in the stage. How he will connect with audience behind that piano? And even it’s not a class piano! It looks like a cheap 2nd hand piano.

    Duncan need to follow Salvador’s style. Just stand up in stage. Let the audience accompany you with their flashlights. Sing with your fragile, emotional voice. Some lights are ok but don’t exaggerate it. The music will win, not robots and fireworks, at least this year..

    Good luck Duncan!

    • I agree regarding Netherlands sawyer. It’s a masterpiece and I backed Duncan @ 16/1 when the song was released. But now I’m very worried for him. The song is great and it’s head and shoulders above any other song imo but.

      The staging is bad, Like really bad. Netherlands may as well rip it up and throw it away tbh. They’re better off having Duncan standing behind the microphone singing the song like Salvador.

      Piano doesn’t work it looks cheap and it’s obvious he’s not playing it, Giant light bulb as I call it does nothing and doesn’t fit with the performance imo, Too many long shots when close ups are needed more than anything because Duncan needs to connect with viewers.

      I still think it’s a worthy favourite because the song is a piece of art and it’s by far the best song in the competition. It’s just the staging that is worrying me.

  12. I have to work, even during these frantic Eurovision rehearsal days. But tonight I found time to write my outsider-perspective impression about Duncan’s first rehearsal. Am I optimistic for a win? I think I am fairly realistic. I don’t expect a win, and I mirrored that feeling most of the time on here. Anyway, curious what you think of it :-):


    • I agree in a way with what you’re saying about the staging. For me this is not Amar Pelos Dois either and Duncan is no Salvador. Musically this has much more in common with the likes of “beutifull mess” or “Sound of silence” or something like “you let me walk alone”. It’s got a great build and progression. Some nice lighting, use the backing singers and look straight down the camera for the chorus. It doesn’t need a piano, the lasers don’t sound effective and what’s the ball for?
      There’s something disjointed about this and at the moment all we’re left with is “it’s the best composition”. Duncan’s live performances have never gave me winner vibes but it’s only now concerning me with the Netherlands making some questionable choices. It can still come together but if the Netherlands go on to win it will be tighter than it had to be.

    • Hi Gert. Where did you hear about Panini and Dutch team not happy with staging today?

    • Gert, I tend to agree with the contention that The Netherlands are likely to ‘win a medal’ because of the quality of the song. Reviews of first rehearsals understandably place most weight on the staging and, as such, can lead to overreactions when assessing an entry’s prospects.

  13. There’s a pretty clear consensus building here around what NLs needs to do: ditch that “piano”.. (Barrier), use more close ups. And get more of those “Duncan down the camera lens” moments. Get the lasers in earlier and integrate the ball/sphere into the staging. It’s all achievable. But question for Gav here : do these teams ever pay the slightest attention to what they get in feedback? Has there been a modem case of a song being really successfully revamped on the basis of constructive feedback.

    They need to listen, adjust and make changes. It could be the difference between winning and coming fifth.

    • Really, I think that’s a bit too drástical. To me it’s the difference between winning or…..coming 3rd….maximum. I think people treat The Netherlands now as a staging disaster. That it is not. Hence I wrote the piece above. This could still be the year that, as opposed to Salvador Sobral, the song alone wins, and less so the actual charisma/emotions within the total package.

      Yes, I agree, after today’s rehearsals it’s now one of the potential contenders. But really, like Gavin pointed out earlier, that was always the case ever since it got released. I think even with better staging, there’s still Duncan. And Duncan is Duncan, and not Salvador or Mans. He’s unique in its own way. And he has a very powerful song to guide him with it. That white ball or this portable piano for that matter won’t make a difference.

      My personal guess now? A 2nd place overall with jury’s and, like Blanche in 2017 and because of her song back then, plentiful room for TOP 4 for ‘Arcade’ with the televote.

      I always said before the rehearsals: Sweden, Italy or Netherlands. That’s not gonna change for me. One of these three will win it. Not Russia, not Switzerland, not Greece, not Cyprus, not North Macedonia, not Iceland, and, despite this one shortening so heavily today, not Azerbaijan either.

      Let’s wait for the next rehearsals. I’m pretty confident Netherlands’ camerawork will be much tighter. I’m pretty confident Sweden stays this great. And I’m pretty confident Mahmood has something up his sleave staging wise as well.

  14. Mike G'day Mate

    Piercing through all the darkness there will be light…

    Sweden is the light! 💡

  15. From the comments of those who were able to watch the performances today, it would seem Azerbaijan and Malta were the two nations who took a big step forward and The Netherlands have gone back.

    This doesn’t mean The Netherlands can’t win, but if he had nailed the rehearsal it could already have been ‘game over.’ Instead, as it stands, Duncan is now only one of a handful of contenders.

    Gav, says the live performance is not giving him goosebumps. There are some people for whom Arcade has never touched them emotionally (I can’t remember if Gav falls into that category) and that’s fine. But if the live performance is not touching the emotions of those who did react emotionally to the video, that’ s a worry.

    • My problem now is this:

      – Malta
      – Azerbaijan
      – Cyprus (SJB)
      – Switzerland (SJB)
      – Czech Republic

      All up-tempo tracks. Of which Czech Republic to me stands out most. And off course the staging triumph of Azerbaijan. But let’s face it. More and more countries at Eurovision know how to execute staging triumphs. Even more mediocre entries (as far as polls concerned) like Croatia, Serbia, Austria and Denmark know how important staging has become.

      So my question therefore is this: With such a wonderful LED-enhanced stage design as the one in Tel Aviv, and by taking into account the perfectly staged ‘Fuego’s’ of this year, are other, more unique high-quality entries, with slightly less perfect staging, more impactful because of that?

      And are cancelling Switzerland, Malta, Azerbaijan and Cyprus each other not out a bit….points-wise?

      • Good point Gert, but i have another point for you? What about male performers? The current Top-6 is men only. Does that cancel each other as well?

  16. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to follow the season this year, but I’d like to share some thoughts after watching the first set of rehearsals.

    I always thought that 2019 would be a quite open year and the price for the Dutch song was way too short imho, no matter the huge amount of love the song and the video have gotten so far. It was probably the lack of serious competition that allowed them to lead quite comfortably. Now after a rather underwhelming rehearsal today, the market is in some desperate search of new potential winners, but interestingly none of the early contenders has managed to grab the opportunity and create some momentum. Russia is way too calculated (as expected), Switzerland is not solid enough, and Sweden is… simply Sweden doing their thing and possibly winning the jury, but failing the televote once more. That leaves some room for Italy, so I’m really curious to see what Mahmood is bringing to the stage. Still, the Netherlands is probably the one to beat imo.

    The only songs that emerged during the first rehearsals are Azerbaijan and Australia, but I don’t see any of them as a real threat – for now. I’m really happy that Azerbaijan is getting finally the love they deserved, being hugely underrated so far, but if they want to have a real chance they have to perform really well with the juries (top 3 maybe?), and I’m not yet convinced they can pull it through. It seems like a safe bet for the top 5 though. Australia on the other hand was never my cup of tea, but I admit the staging alone is good enough to help them qualify, but then finish outside the jury top 10 in the final.

    From the rest of the field Greece is a solid jury top 5, but I have no idea what the viewers will think about the staging. Malta and Armenia are also probable jury top 10, but probably will fail the public vote. Iceland is way too divisive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the overall top 5, with a lower top 10 mark from the jury. Finally, I feel that North Macedonia is a good outside bet for a good result, provided that the jury will appreciate Tamara’s vocal abilities.

    I will wait until the second set of rehearsals to make my predictions for the qualifiers. I always like to spot surprise Q and NQs and I admit it feels rather hard this year. My first instinctive thoughts are that either Hungary or Czech Republic will fail in semi 1, and one of Moldova or Croatia will make it in semi 2. But things might change dramatically in the next few days…

    • It’s really hard now to predict which of these three entries could win and what their positions will be in the Grand Final. I give it a try:

      –> Jury: 2nd – 3rd
      –> Tele: 2nd – 5th (more prone to running order)

      –> Jury: 1st – 2nd
      –> Tele: 3rd – 5th (more prone to running order)

      –> Jury: 1st – 4th
      –> Tele: 3rd – 6th (more prone to running order)

      All these three to me have their own con’s and pro’s. When looking into con’s I think both Mahmood and Duncan have charisma/emoting issues. Yet their songs are their strongest assets. John’s con however is the song, it still lacks that uniqueness and modern urgency. Yet John is the better performer and has a better stage act.

      So at this stage, I could see a 2016-esque scoreboard battle emerge.

      • Well said Gert, I agree very much with your analysis and I’m also very confident that all 3 will be jury top 3/4. The problem is that none of them looks like a very strong candidate to be the televoting winner right now, but if any of the 3 manage to finish at least second with the televoting will probably take the overall win.

        My current ranking in order of likelihood to finish higher with the televote is Netherlands>Italy>Sweden.

        I don’t think that Duncan lacks charisma. I think that the main problem is his introverted interpretation of a very emotional song. They really need to work on his stage presence and his interaction with the public, to make his performance more relatable, and that’s not an impossible task.

        I think that Mahmood has a similar problem as well. It’s a very personal song and I feel that his performance conveys his mixed feelings about what he is singing. I can still see people relating to the song though, but I’m still waiting to see how this will translate on the Eurovision stage. His poor performance with the Italian public is worrisome, although we all need to acknowledge that the public in Eurovision couldn’t be more different to the one of Sanremo.

        Both above songs are indeed far more superior to the Swedish one, although the latter is already a good complete package. It takes a few listens to appreciate “Too late for love” and there’s not enough time for that in Eurovision.

        Any other song will still need to break into jury top 3 to win, even if they win the televote and that looks very hard atm (I don’t expect a runaway televoting winner this year anyway). I can see Russia doing very well with the public (mostly in Eastern Europe), but it’s not going to finish jury top 2/3 – it’s too dated and radio un-friendly and the cold emotionless staging just kills it off completely. Azerbaijan is still in the mix too, being the best dance track of the year (above Switzerland, Cyprus, Malta, etc) – but only if they make it in jury top 3 as I said before. It seems unlikely, but not impossible imho.

        All others seem to be out of the running for the victory already.

      • Catriona Colville

        Do you genuinely think those 3 are the only contenders?

  17. Netherlands song will transcend the staging, just like Portugal 2017. All the reports are gross exaggerations due to impossible expectations not being met. The $3.20 will look like value in 7 days.

  18. Ne ponimayu skeptitsizma naschet Rossii. Da, eto ne opravdalo ozhidaniy masshtabnoy postanovki kak ozhidalos’. No vse ravno Rossiya i Niderlandy vydelyayetsya sredi vsekh.

    Rossiya mne kazhetsya budet sil’no nizko u zhyuri. V rayone 3-5 mesto. No to, chto eto pesnya s glupoy lirikoy ne budet na 1-2 meste u zhyuri dlya menya bylo ponyatno s samogo nachala.

    Problema Niderland mne kazhetsya ne v pianino, a v neuverennom vokale Dunkana. Na dannyy moment dlya menya on ne pervom meste zhyuri, chto stavit pod ugrozu yego pobedu. Budem nadeyat’sya, chto on budet uluchshat’sya.

    Ozhidayu Italiyu. Mne kazhetsya on mozhet zatsepit’ zhyuri kak “nastoyashchiy artist”.

    Shveytsariya kazhetsya dob’yetsya bol’shego s zhyuri, chem Kipr v proshlom godu. Mne kazhetsya on v top-3 u zhyuri. Yego vokal dlya takoy aktivnoy khoreografii ochen’ khorosh, v otlichii ot Yeleni, kotoruyu spas bek-vokal. No golosovaniye telezriteley? Yeleni sdelala slabo, tol’ko 253 balla. Pri etom pesnya byla yedinstvennoy tantseval’noy pesney.
    I do not understand skepticism about Russia. Yes, it did not meet the expectations of a large-scale production as expected. But still Russia and the Netherlands stands out among all.

    Russia seems to me to be very low at the jury. Around 3-5 place. But the fact that this song with stupid lyrics will not be on the 1-2 place for the jury was clear to me from the very beginning.

    The problem of the Netherlands seems to me not in the piano, but in Duncan’s uncertain vocals. At the moment for me he is not the first place of the jury, which threatens his victory. Hopefully, it will improve.

    I expect Italy. I think he can hook the jury as a “real artist.”

  19. Alot of people and the market are withholding. Believing that Italy will take the overwhelming favourite crown.

    Thing is we already know Mahmood doesn’t emote. He looks down and doesn’t connect with the audience. This is not good for the television viewer!

    What we have seen is what we get. The winner WILL be from the semifinals. Someone who connects with the audience. This rules out NL. Duncan doesn’t connect. Too introverted. Always has been in every performance. And the piano IS a barrier physically and literally to that connection to TV land.

    Its an open year. The market tension and hesitation speaks for itself.

    Of those who connect, it’s one of these three: Russia, Azerbaijan and Sweden.

    The winner has always connected with the TV audience. Always. That’s the bottom line.

    • Important post TJ, especially the last line. There must be other acts that connect, for example Czech Republic, Spain and dare I say it Iceland spring to mind (but perhaps not in the way you mean) but I guess you’re discounting them because you don’t rate the rest of the package. I have serious reservations about Sweden as I’ve mentioned in my other post. It takes more than a smile and a cheery demeanour for people to decide that out of everything they’ve seen that night that’s what they are gonna spend their money on.

  20. In addition, the competition is filled with dance bit tracks of various stripes – Switzerland, Malta, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Estonia, the Czech Republic. To this I would refer Iceland with its obsessive melody. Here we also add productions overflowing with chareography and unnecessary elements – Greece.
    So Russia, the Netherlands and Sweden seem to be salvation among this plastic.

    • So I look forward to the indulgence of 2017, when the voices of the audience were divided between two love ballads sung in the twilight: Amar pelos dois and Beautiful Mess. Only this year, two songs offering to relive emotions – Arcade and Scream.

  21. I like rule out Sweden. The song is very generic. It can end up like Benjamin Grosso.

  22. You couldn’t write the script…Mahmood cancels appearance at a charity concert last night with a severe viral throat infection. I imagine he will be fine for ESC but just when you thought this last 24 hours couldn’t take any more twists and turns lol there we go…

  23. I’m with Sawyer on Sweden. I wonder how Gert can make them 3rd to 5th with the televote? The song is pleasant enough, but unremarkable. I see little in it or the artist that is gonna make anyone think ‘out of all the 26 acts tonight that’s the one I really want to win’. Why would people feel massively motivated for Sweden given all the success they have had in this contest? Its like spending your money voting for Real Madrid to win the Champions League. Apart from that, there’s the elephant in the room of the his ethnicity and that of his backing singers and dancers. Black people always struggle in UK reality TV shows where the outcome is dependent on a public vote and I believe that Eastern Europe is far more racist. I think he will struggle to get in the top half with the public.

  24. It’s an interesting year, because even though the Netherlands is the huge favourite, it feels like the vibe is different than what it was with the favourites of year past. My problem with the Dutch song is that it is missing something every Eurovision winner in the last decade has had: a sense of hope, light or fun. Even the dark songs (Ell & Nikki, Conchita, Jamala, Salvador) has had a feeling of hope or “I shall overcome this” in it. This song is a mopey guy singing about some girl (or perhaps guy…) who does not want him. Why should the audience feel or root for him? Just go and find someone else! Of course a lot depends on the staging, but he could just as well come off as an entitled “nice guy”, and I can’t think of anything less zeitgeisty.

    Compare and contrast to Italy, who has by far the coolest song and story in this year’s contest. An Italian version of Drake with an immigrant background who has a song about his troubles with his dad. But he is not moping, just stating what has happened and seems like a guy who will move on. Pending the staging, I really believe the audience will connect a lot more with Mahmood than Duncan. Musically, it has quite a few hooks (I would have liked a stronger chorus, but that bridge is fantastic!) That’s not to say it is a certain winner, I do have doubts about the immediacy of the song, since it took me a couple of listens to get it, but right now it is my best bet.

    • I think there are moments when we are simply reading too much in previous winners. ‘1944’ purely as a song was pretty dark, historically, and wasn’t really building towards hope or a reaching hand towards others. It was a song that was judgemental towards the Soviet Union and all its inhumane deeds. Jamala didn’t want to reach her hand to Russians. She wanted to reach her hand to everyone else, except the Russians. In sheer desperation she merely wanted that piece of history to be known to us. So sorry to say it: ‘1944’ was not about light, not about fun, and not about hope.

      However, and there comes in my analysis about emoting; Jamala DID emote. Although the song was and is intensely dark and devoid of hope, she translated that dark message with so much conviction, charisma and tons of emotion, that jurors and televoters alike bought her plea and voted for her. Obviously she was aided by one of the best LED-Visuals since the dawn of LED’s in Eurovision. But it worked.

      Having said that, purely as a song, I find ‘Arcade’ way more ‘hopeful’, especially in the final half of the song during the chorus; the part where Duncan sings “Oohhhhohohoooooh”. But we all know, and you forget to mention that, that the staging and the performer still need to emote that. Actually, I think I don’t care less about historical perspectives, stories and performer’s background. In the end, during those 3 min’s, and only during these 3 min’s, the actual performer needs to ‘catch’ the emotions of jurors and televoters alike. We have seen that Duncan is a very introverted singer, who looses himself in the song. It’s debatable if this fact alone emotes other people or not. And 2nd rehearsals show us if Duncan connects a little bit more; a smile here, some more eyes in the souls at home.

      Mahmood to me is very much a similar singer. Also very introverted (like so many other contemporary hip-hop style singers), most of the time caring more about moving his arms/hands than looking into the camera’s. So with regard to that Italy has a similar issue with emoting as The Netherlands.

      But saying that ‘Soldi’ has the better story -and again, I think that’s not what matters most- to me escapes me. Salvador’s backstory, solely for promotional purposes,was way more interesting than Mahmood’s background. And if it’s there, then it’s not the reason it’s such a top-favourite in the odds and polls. It’s the song, and the song alone. Actually, just like ‘Arcade’.

      If either Italy or Netherlands wins, then to me it’s the first time since Loreen (‘Euphoria’) where the actual strength of the song (and vocals) are the decisive factor in its potential victory. Loreen was also very much ‘lost’ in a Kate Bush-ian dance act, where we barely saw her face. The dark lighting, the difficult choreography, Loreen’s hair; it all prohibited the aspect of connecting with the camera. Yet it won handsdown mostly due to song quality, impressive vocals and a captivating yet very simple choreo-act. It was unique in the field. Not just Italy like you say, but also Netherlands has that kind of quality.

      PS: You really mean it when you say Ell & Nikki, Conchita and Salvador were singing…….dark songs? I’m sorry, I find that a tad bit preposterous. Sorry :-).

  25. Lot of pocket talking here!

    1st I dont believe people would vote for another act just John is black! To say people from Eastern Europe more racist is racism in a nutshell.

    2nd Who followed the San Remo Festival 2019?! Mahoods Win was a farce! Look his voting results all days just before the “honour jury” kicked in. I know San Remo is not ESC but Italy will struggle with Televote same Iceland.

    3rd Sweden, Azerbaijan, Russia or Netherland will win.

    Game Over.

    • Erwin, its rather rude to come on a forum and lazily dismiss carefully constructed and detailed arguments as money talking. If you were to take a look at the record of black contestants on Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor, perhaps you’d get off your PC high horse and face reality. We’re here to make money and sadly we exist in a world where racism is a reality, only a fantasist would argue that isn’t the case and the facts bear it out. As for Eastern Europe, look at the abuse that black footballers receive in countries like Montenegro.

  26. Erwin, have a look at this if you really believe that Western Europeans are as racist as Eastern Europeans:


  27. Great study ref thanks Milton. It is such a sad fact but the belief of racism playing a stronger part in some country’s public voting than others is a widely held belief/point of consideration.
    It is so sad, but given half of ESC is decided by the very same public it is a factor that anyone predicting and betting on the outcome of that same vote has to take this into consideration.
    It’s also true that how ‘fabulous/amazing/inviting/personable/likeable’ some ‘minority group’ artists come across, will also be a factor in there being a higher degree of ‘acceptance’ eg Conchita radiated love, warmth, humility and also just a touch of fabulousness and glamour that would ‘overcome’ some traditional barriers I feel that traditionally may have been there towards a man, with a beard. in a dress 😉👍

  28. I was re-reading some of Sofabet articles from 2017 and found the following interesting passage:

    “I think Eurovision performances need to have a sacral quality – in the combined effect of staging, performer and song – to hit the very highest reaches of the scoreboard by giving viewers something approximating a religious experience and meaningful sense of communion.”

    Nicely aligned with some comments in this thread on having birth, re-birth / hope and/or transition story in a winning Eurovision performance. The article was written ahead of 2017 final. But it was suggesting that there was none of this kind in Italy 2017 song.

    And every time I think of Salvador, I’m thinking that his song did look and sound like a quiet liturgical service, himself being a quiet preacher. In fact, don’t treat this as blasphemy, but his bearded look with longer hair and open wide eyed do have some iconic qualities. Meaning, you could find faces like this on religious icons.

    The same article suggested that Ukraine 2016 and Austria 2014 stage personas were akin to supernatural deities (eg growing trees and wings) while Sweden 2015 and Russia 2016 were akin to Heracles-type heroes (jumping among clouds, freezing in time). So… we need deities and heroes, overcoming hardships, going through rebirth and giving hope to capture attention and become top-3.

    Who would fit the definition this year? Whom do you see as half-deities and half-heroes going through transition and bring hope? Who serves a liturgy?

    My short list is Sweden, France, Russia and maybe Australia.

    • I remember that thread. It’s nice to sometimes consider the wider context and more theoretical side of Eurovision at times rather than just the diaspora, jury bait, East v West debate we all get into. It’s an interesting theory but I think it’s a stretch at some points to try to make the connections and is no hard rule.
      If we do look at it from this angle however, Sweden is obviously there, the Gospel sound, lyrics and light show. Russia too, goes for it, but looks to fall flat. I don’t get a message or a connection from that performance or the song.
      Azerbaijan has the Jamala tree moment, Chingiz being re-animated his soul attempting to leave him from the descriptions during the Mugham part. The press reaction to that first rehearsal was incredible in comparison to the rest of the field.
      Those three fit the bill best for me. I wouldn’t bet against those being the televote top 3.

    • Hi Reader. It’s interesting that you did some digging up and recovered that theory from the older discussions in this page.

      I do like these theoretical approaches as well, but I don’t think that they explain everything in the history of Eurovision televoting. I do agree though that there has to be some emotional trigger in the winning song/performance. The emotions don’t always have to be deep or necessarily positive: sometimes is pure awe and/or amazement: that’s how Lordi won back in 2006, or how Sergey won the televoting in 2016. Other times is just joy, like Alexander Rybak in 2009 or many of the early 2000’s winners.

      Another thing that I agree that it’s very important is story telling. It doesn’t always have to be a story of re-birth and hope though, but there has to be a story and it has to be a part of the emotional trigger. Marija won in 2007 singing about a lost love, the same did Sobral in 2017, while Jamala sang about a lost home – none of these stories had a message of hope or rebirth, while the songs from Conchita, Dima Bilan, or Mans did.

      Anyway, I think that from what I’ve seen so far the songs that work for me, in the sense of having the potential to create emotions and tell a story, are Netherlands, Azerbaijan, and possibly Iceland, North Macedonia and Malta. I’m not getting any ’emotional vibes’ from Sweden or Australia, while I’m very disappointed with Russia, Portugal and Armenia, and need to wait for Italy’s performance to make my final list.

      And of course that’s only one half of the equation, because the jury has a different approach and sometimes a completely different set of criteria…

  29. There’s some similarities between ”Too late for love” and ”Nobody but you”. However, ”Too late for love” sounds too american in my opinion. It’s like church songs play in American movies. Even in first seconds of the song, you can guess how the song will go on. There isn’t much surprise element. It sounds too generic. Top 5 is possible but I don’t think it’s a winner. Chingiz’s Truth is a much more original song in my opinion.


    About that half-deity theory..Tell me about Netta please! 🙂

    I think we can see something different this year. Mopey boy with fragile voice can steal the heart of the audience. Eurovision is not always about happiness. I remember, it was 2016 and some people were ruling out Ukraine because the song is too dark. The theory was dark songs doesn’t win in Eurovision. It may be the case in recent years but you know what happened in 2016. Who knows? Maybe this is time for a sad, emotional song to win this year..

    • Sawyer, an excellent question on 2018.

      So who was the man who triumphed in the jury vote? Right, it was Cesar with a well sung gospel-inspired song (fits the definition). But why less love from televote? Gavster summed up it brilliantly last year – Cesar was giving a vibe of a very good back singer vs being a front man. And then there’s a most delicate topic of the elephant in the room described above. Cesar does not look like your average Pole, Irish, Greek, etc. If Cesar looked like and had a charisma of Mans, he would have been a winner by now. However he still finished on the podium.

      Another song which was bringing the message of rebirth and hope was Italy. Sung by attractive lead male singers, it rightly captured top 3 of the televote. The jury… I still do not understand why they flopped the song to be honest.

      So we do see a patterned re-birth / hope song in top 3 for both, televote and jury. But they did not win because of other reasons that need to be added to the mix. So, this strategy is not a guarantee for the win, but it is a helpful boost.

  30. About the half-deity theory…come on guys – Netta, Mans, the Az winhardly inspirational on that footing.

    IF we are going along that line NL is by far the closest – pure, fragile yet strong like steel in its truth.

    • Right, but there is no rebirth and hope in the Dutch entry (or I missed one). Maybe if Duncan were to finally abandon the shackles of his piano, stood up and oozed some hope – it would be a different matter. But it does not look like a liturgical service so far (can change though). So far I can see everybody dying alright but where is my resurrection and coming back from death? Where is my anastasis and miracle? Nope… does not fit so far

      • Hi Reader Salvador’s song was all about unrequited love lost and no hope of a reconciliation – no rebirth or hope there either yet it romped home 🤣🤣🤣

      • Just read my message above :-).

      • Oh well, I completely disagree on this one…

        The lyrics of the Dutch song tell a story of self-discovery, recognizing one’s own mistakes and ‘cracks on a broken heart’, to emerge stronger and reborn in an act of self redemption. Hands down the best lyrics of the year and a haunting melody that gets directly to your heart and mind.
        The narrative they have chosen is not wrong at all – it’s a vulnerable song and sitting on a piano telling a personal story to the audience makes complete sense to me. What they need to do is to tighten up the performance, the camera angles, the lights, and Duncan’s interaction with the cameras, to allow the message of the song reach out to the viewers. My gut tells me that they will do it – all the elements are there, it just needs some fixing.

        On the other hand I’m very disappointed with Russia’s staging and I don’t think it can get much better apart from some technical details. Well, they had a more difficult task having to stage a less interesting song with weaker lyrics, but I’m afraid they have completely lost the plot in the narrative. I’m sure that Fokas, after some bad results in the last few years, decided to stay in his safe zone: boxes and mirrors are what he knows to do best. The problem is that I can’t see a story being told, unlike the video of the song. I just see a poor guy suffering a psychotic episode and hearing multiple voices ‘screaming’ inside his head – I don’t know if that was their intention…

  31. NL behind the scenes from their first rehearsal: after all the outcry and drama this looks REALLY GOOD already. Not the best staging in the world but it’s beautifully back dropped and sitting at the piano keyboard seems to have Duncan more at home, confident and relaxed than ever. This is very very strong and can only get better after the 2nd rehearsal. Gosh – much ado about nothing, what?😯👍

  32. Samuel Turnbull

    People said the East wouldn’t vote for Conchita but she did very well in Eastern votes. The people watching and voting in Eurovision are not the typical knuckle-draggers. Race and sexuality isn’t important in the same way.

    Sweden won’t win but not because of his ethnicity.

  33. Sweden will win because he is the ultimate gospel preacher!

  34. Hmm some people dont remember Alexandar Rybak’s name but when you say boy with violin, everybody remember. Something like this can work for Duncan? Piano man, lol.

    I think it would work better without piano. He must be standing in the hand clap part.

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