Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Something's happening in Lisbon and little Lithuania might just make it

Lots of movement in the odds today, especially late afternoon / early evening. I believe the acts are now in Lisbon and I can only assume that several are practising and getting reviewed by someone somewhere and it is having quite an impact on expectations.

Whilst Israel's awful track remains favourite, the odds have slipped from under 3 to nearer 3.5 which is more than they've moved for the last few weeks.

The Czech Republic guy is clearly going down well as his odds have substantially narrowed and are now matching Bulgaria's again, indeed there is quite a gap opening. Bulgaria seemed to go down well at some other parties recently but people's real favourite now seems to be Jessica from Australia who has moved from around 6th to 2nd on occasion and is now certainly neck and neck with the Czech Republic and currently sending Bulgaria down. Before she was battling with Sweden and Belgium but they've sunk, presumably through either no performances or poor ones so far.

Belgium had been one of the main contenders a while ago but not now. One of my tips to win, Estonia, with the operatic performance, are dropping like a stone at the moment so I can only guess that things have not gone well. There was some nonsense about the country not being able to afford the big dress for the performance but I find that pretty ridiculous an excuse. She's still 5th, though, and there is a huge gap between her and the next acts in contention.

Greece I would have expected to do better but they're out there at 50-1 and those are not the odds of a potential winner. Odd. I had expected the good performer and a sound song to be well up there at this stage.

Saara Aalto brought Finland back into the running after some splendid performances in Europe but is now dropping back again. So either her principal also-ran competitors Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Norway have done a much better job since or she has made some mistakes. We'll see soon enough. Normally I'd would trust her to put on a brilliant live act so she cannot be written off yet.

Norway continue to bumble along near the Top 10 with their previous all time greatest winner Alexander Rybek's cheeky how to write a song song. That's about all that's going to happen though. He has performed well and still only managed the lower orders so I don't see that improving much either.

Little Lithuania are in the tough Group 1 and will really struggle to qualify but I do hope they do. The song does stand a chance and will appeal to many as will the girl's personality and simple attraction when viewed against what will undoubtedly be some crazy staging and expensive lighting, arrangements etc. for others. To get to the final, she needs to beat most of Belarus, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Armenia or Austria. Someone else reckons she will as her odds, whilst still not exactly encouraging at around 150-1, are better than all but Austria, Belarus and Cyprus. She might just squeeze past Belarus and get in which could make things interesting. If she'd been in Group 2 then she'd walk in as even acts like Hungary and Latvia, currently around 500-1 are predicted to get through.

Group 2 is really bad and Russia will probably be there as even Yulya on a bad day may be better than Iceland on a good one, never mind Georgia, Montenegro, Poland and Slovenia which have no hope whatsoever from what I've heard so far. I shouldn't write off Hungary, by the way. If they do get through they'll be the sole representative of good hard rock and that's bound to pick up some votes for them. A total contrast to everyone else indeed and quite an efficient performance too. If the lead singer gets carried away his voice loses any key and that'll be no good but if he holds it together the song, if you can call it a song, will appeal to quite a tranche of public voters.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eurovision: UK helps France while Russia struggles in practice shows.

We are now going through that interesting stage of the run-up to the competition when acts start appearing at various shows across Europe and have to perform live. Some are clearly seeing the benefit of this and putting in some impressive, solid performances while others are displaying nerves, poor arrangements or just the simple fact that they may be OK in a recording studio with plenty of time to fix mistakes or add some depth but live? Forget it.

Russia's Yulya made a big mistake with a terrible performance recently and she has not recovered since. It was probably more the fault of the backing singers than it was her and I suppose there is always a chance that she'll be all right on the night but there is even a query as to whether Russia will even qualify this year. If they were in Group 1 then I would say they definitely would not have done, without some background work to persuade the people counting the votes. As it is, they're in the very poor Group 2 and could actually get through still, despite odds of around 400-1 at the time of writing.

Spain's romantic couple haven't been able to reproduce the love, or the notes, quite as well either and their chances seem to have been slipping away although not so badly and there have been signs that they may, after all, be getting their act together again so I am not writing them off. They'll participate anyway as one of the Big Five but I don't see them winning.

Finland's Saara Aalto is doing well in the live gigs. She is a brilliant singer that I remember only too well from the X Factor not that long ago where she finished a good second here in the UK. The bookies have her only just scraping around the Top 10, though, maybe only just making the Top 15. I have a feeling she may surprise us and do better but the song still isn't good enough to win in my view.

Israel's dreadful woman and the song Toy do continue to get the crowds' support wherever she goes and, despite some dodgy singing, I expect her to do well in the public votes which, as we have seen, can make a huge difference. Expect Israel not to be first after the jury votes but to close in and even overtake some of the Top 5 with the second count.

Bulgaria were not impressive in the early days but now are putting on a good show and making more sense of the song too. They're proving popular at the gigs and are making a real effort to get as wide a circulation as they can. After coming second last year, they can see that the No. 1 place is there for the taking. They are now second in the bookies' odds across the board, having overtaken all three of the only other serious contenders at this time, Australia, Czech Republic and Estonia.

Estonia, we're told, are lacking a few grand to pay for the dress they want the opera girl to wear. You know, surely someone can cough up the necessary or just put her on in a simple dress and let her remarkable talent and a great song do the rest. She could still win, in my view, with the sort of stunning performance she can produce. Unfortunately, she has not been obvious at recent shows and that is something she needs to put right. Some familiarity with the song makes a big difference to that public vote, even if it doesn't with the juries.

I do like the effort Australia's Jessica Mauboy is putting in and she bounces on to the stage with enthusiasm and bags of confidence. Provided that she doesn't let that boil over into over-singing, she really should keep that level of popularity and turn it to her advantage. The song starts poorly, low in her register but once we've got past that then she is quite enthralling and the song is very smart for this competition. She is still my own choice to win, being one of the few we would regard as memorable in years to come. These shows are doing her a lot of good and helping her to hold on to her deserved Top 5 predicted finish.

The Czech Republic are likely to do well this year too with their Lie To Me entry which I am convinced steals the sax bits from Moldova's success last year. The performer is a totally natural guy and you just get the feeling he'll put on a good show whatever happens around him.

I mentioned some time ago that the UK entry, SuRie, was clearly the crowd's favourite on her own selection night and I reckon that remarkable affection she engenders in a live show was responsible for her national vote win too. It certainly wasn't the best song or the best performance. She is not predicted to do at all well. Indeed, as things stand, she wouldn't qualify if UK had to go through the Semi Finals like most entries do. She will be there, however, and she is also working hard at the intervening shows across Europe. The most recent, this weekend, saw her stand in for Emilie of the Madame & Monsieur pairing for France. Overnight she learnt the song and put on a really good performance which very much impressed the 3500-strong audience. Not only was she singing another county's entry really well but some parts were in French and after that she did her own song too. There can be no doubt that she is accomplished and a confident performer. I'd love to see her do well and it would be great if her efforts could be remembered and gain her a few extra votes from the juries. I really can't see the song doing well and I fear she'll be on the right hand side of the board when the voting's done but maybe near the top with a little help from our friends.

You'll get 500-1 on the UK winning but unless SuRie stands in for a few more live on the night I can't see that happening.

My own predictions remain pretty much as they were:

Australia or Greece to win, with Estonia still with an outside chance

Israel, Czech republic and Belgrade battling for a place in the Top 5.

Watch out for Moldova and Lithuania, if they get through.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Eurovision 2018: the Top 10

So now that everyone has released their entries it is time to make a start at figuring out which ones we need to pay attention to and which can simply be ignored.

The bookies favourite, and by a big margin, is Israel. I really don't like it. The video is just horrible. It is quite different to anything else, though, and has certainly got people's attention and I can see it holding their attention for some time. We kinda got tired of Italy's entry too early last year and that, together with a poor performance and a correspondingly brilliant performance by the Portugal winner, sealed its fate. I am really hoping the same thing happens this year. There will be a definite limit to the number of times I can watch this woman without feeling ill and it is not a song I will be humming along to. I am hoping so much that a few others perform so ruddy marvellously and she simply puts off enough voters to allow some others to compete for the prize.

Let's look at the others.

The classic pop song this year comes from Australia. The girl Jessica is excellent, confident and this is another great entry from Down Under. Usually I have been a little biased against Australia as it just doesn't seem right somehow having Australia in Eurovision but I am getting used to the idea and, quite frankly, someone needs to beat the annoying woman from Israel on the night. Jessica could do that. My personal second favourite.


My own favourite is Lithuania's entry. Ieva really does seem to care about her song and I like the slight Dolores O'Riordan tone that appears sometimes. Unfortunately, this is way out at over 300-1 at the moment and, with a lot of competition in Group 1, there is a distinct possibility that Ieva won't make it to the final. That will be a pity so I am hoping she captures some other hearts in the Semi Final. To do so she'll need to out perform and out vote Armenia, Azerbaijan and Cyprus and maybe even Finland's Saara Alto. I can't see anyone kicking Azerbaijan out and Saara Alto is doing a great publicity job for Finland so Lithuania have a tough task.



Next we have a remarkable group of very different contenders. First, and most likely to do well, is Estonia's Elina who sings La Forza, a wonderful operatic number but one that keeps your attention and sounds sort of modern still. The notes she reaches are simply phenomenal and I like the straightforward style of presentation, although I suspect there's be a big dress and lights on the night. It is a stunning song and Elina must be the best singer by far. It would be a very worthy winner and set the standards for future years on a more serious level, reflecting Portugal's move last year and building upon it.

The Czech Republic have only recently joined the Eurovision club but this year they should reap some of the benefits with their jazzy number from Mikolas and friends. I swear the sax riff is the same as did so well for Moldova last year! That is probably its best bit and why it is looking quite popular. I don't see it winning, though.

The Netherlands have had some consistently good entries for some time now and this year they have a chap called Waylon who doesn't wail on at all but gives us real guitar strumming Country Rock or Rock Country. It's a driving number that is different and I am sure it will get plenty of support. again, not a winner but a contender for the Top 5.

Spain have two young lovers staring into each others' eyes as they croon and sway. It's very sweet and not a bad song at all. They will certainly get a huge number of televotes as there is something in the chemistry that just makes people go 'aah' and that will often turn into a vote or two. A complete and utter contrast to the Israeli woman. In fact I hope this comes just after the Israeli entry and makes voters forget what they saw. It is one of those entries that may surprise us and win. There are not very many this year.

Another is France with Madame Monsieur and the very simple Mercy. It reminds me of some of the simple Belgian and Dutch entries of the past. Those did well and I feel this will too.

Greece are often popular just for being Greek and reminding people of sunshine and lovely shades of blue. They have also had some great entries in the past but also a few rather dodgy ones. This year it is a goodie. Yianna is a big pop star there and familiar with the big stage. She sings very well and this has a nice traditional feel which we haven't got a great deal of this year amongst the top entries. She is out at 40-1 at the moment but I think those odds will fall considerably once a few more people hear the track.

Denmark always make a good impression on the competition in my view and I have really liked several of their past entries. This year it is a heavy number with what look like five Norse Gods looming in the mist. They sing well, very strongly and it will definitely have some appeal. Not enough to make much difference, though, but you'll probably remember them afterwards.

Norway have brought back Alexander Rybak. And he's singing a song that tells us how to write a song which kinda implies that he knows how to win.Well, he does insofar as he won a few years ago with a splendid track and lots of violin playing. All that gets referenced in the clever show but I don't see it being good enough to beat a few others and voters will think, 'Yes that was nice' but not do a great deal more. He'll get lots of 4s and 5s.

Azerbaijan have the only other commercial pop song. It's quite a good one but no-one wants to go to Baku in 2019. They will get the usual compulsory votes from several neighbours and others who feel obliged for various business reasons so could be up there with the Top 10 team.

Bulgaria, after two excellent years when they were close to winning at times, are well fancied by the bookies at the moment, with a fourth or fifth place envisaged. I don't get it. The song, the singing, the lyrics, none of it works for me at all. I may be missing some magic that will be woven in a live performance but so far it leaves me cold and slightly annoyed at the odd English. It isn't going to win, or, at least I hope not as I haven't got that one covered.

So, assuming Lithuania don't make it, here is my very early prediction for the Top 10 (ignoring Israel):

Australia | Estonia

Spain | France | Greece

Azerbaijan | The Netherlands

Denmark | Czech Republic | Norway

Unless someone puts in the most amazingly better live performance at a Semi Final or re-issues another version of their track, that is it this year. Saara Alto may squeeze in for Finland and someone somewhere will give Israel and Bulgaria bucket loads of votes. Russia too will get close but I don't think even the frail Yulia will be enough to pull in the numbers they usually expect to get. Hers is a decent song but not great. Politics may not help Russia this year either. Nothing wil, i am sory to say, help the United Kingdom's chances either. SuRie may be a nice young lady and was able to influence the crowd well at the show where she was selected. I just can't see he doing the same sufficiently well to get very far at all at the main event. the song simply isn't good enough and just doesn't stand any comparison with the others I've mentioned above. United Kingdom are currently over 400-1 and I fear that's generous. They'll be higher yet.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hello to Goodbye from Romania. A class performance.



A splendid song from Romania again this year. Excellent singing from the attractive girl lead and if the band can replicate the full sound on the night then this may well get a good number of votes. Here they are doing a live performance so it is clear they'll be capable - something one can never be sure of with autotune and so many tricks in the recorded videos we see for others.

In some ways this may be a bit dated now and it does lack any catchy line you'll remember but for sheer presence and class I'd like to see them make the Top 10.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Netherlands keep up the good standards, going for country rock this time.



Netherlands seldom disappoint with their entries and here's something else that is good. A rock - country song that is a great relief from everything else we'll be listening to. It is a bit repetitive but I guess that's no problem in Euroland. This chap Waylon looks good and seems pretty competent. On his own on stage he should get a decent number of votes. I can't see this winning but worth watching out for.

Top Ten I say.

Elina sings opera for Estonia. Marvellous entry in an interesting year.



If points were awarded purely for notes and purity of voice then Elina would win hands down in 2018. This may be the first real operatic performance in the competition for some years. a marvellous song, brilliantly sung and this will certainly get many points along the way. I suspect they may be mostly middle numbers, though, and may no add up to enough to win.

Look out for this one, though. I would love to see Elina steal the show from the Israeli woman.

Definitely a year of extremes.

Israel go bonkers. Unfortunately this could win. Bulgaria won't.



Oh dear. This is the wild entry for 2018. I hate to say this but it could be the winner. We can only hope that, like Italy last year, it gets overtaken by some other entry that we'll be happier listening to over and over again afterwards. This is weird but I can see it will have appeal.

I understand that it struggled to get through various stages of the Israeli shows but it did make it. So it will divide jurors and voters alike and that may just allow Lithuania or someone like that through. I do hope so.

Currently the bookies' favourite. they haven't been great at getting the No.1, however. It will make the Top few, however. get your money on now while you can get vaguely reasonable odds.

Another entry rcently released is from last year's Runner-up, Bulgaria. This year they won't do so well at all. It is an over-produced number and sounds like a lot more than six people in the group so may suffer in a live show unless they use a backing track for more depth. It's dark grey and a bit tedious. Not a disaster and may well keep Bulgaria in the respectable left hand side of the board but only just. I do wonder how whoever writes these things comes up with such weird translations. So I love beyond the bones. Hmm.
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