Saturday, May 23, 2015

Eurovision 2015: The bookies' view

This chart will be updated through the evening and should provide an indication of whose chances are improving and who might as well give up!

Eurovision 2015: It could be all over for Sweden when the fat lady sings

With just a few hours to go, here's my best shot at some sort of prediction as to what we've got in store in Vienna.

Unlike previous years, there really isn't one stand-out song for 2015. Quite a few have their merits and, as rehearsals have come and gone, several have gone down well with the audience there but not always the same ones each time! There are good songs and good performances but not necessarily do the two come together, or, at least, few have so far and none have combined the best of both.

There is a clear Top 3 from which the winner is likely to emerge: Sweden, the almost permanent bookies' favourite to date, Russia and Italy. Now, on a normal Eurovision night, Italy would walk this with Il Volo having experience, lots of fans as they've been doing this for ages and it's a superb moody, operatic type of song that even people who don't go to operas quite admire and can be inclined to vote for. The trouble is that, so far, the three guys have not exactly stunned observers with their performance and it is all about the vocals; there are no marks for the nice suits.

Russia would love to win and give two fingers to Europe as it celebrates a year since annexation of Crimea and they have the absolute classic Euro ballad and a lovely lady to sing it. She sings it extremely well and has hardly put a foot wrong throughout the build up but somehow I feel she'll be pipped at the post by someone.

Sweden have a good late 80s number and some fabulous graphics on our screens and it may well be their night but I just don't see it. They'll get loads of huit points but I just feel the douze points will be dished out very broadly and they'll be close but not kissing the beard at the end. Actually, that's probably a good reason  why Russia might prefer to come 2nd after all. Not the sort of thing they'd want to show on the old Soviet Station Entertainment Channel.

After those three there are a couple who have been battling away all week: Belgium and Australia. Belgium have a weird song but an inspired young lad singing it and he has been one of those few that have really got high approval ratings from the people listening and watching. Belgium came from being completely ignored and maybe not even getting through the Semis to a definite contender for at least 4th place at one point. Australia also have a cool chap singing and it's a pretty current sort of track but I think it's a bit bland. He can sing and perform well but however hard he tries, and he will try, there's something missing in the whole thing. So, all those waking up early in Oz to watch the show will be disappointed, I reckon. And anyway, surely you can't invite some country on the other side of the planet to join in your 60th Anniversary celebrations and then let them win the prize for the night, do you? No. They wouldn't even get to host the damn thing next year so it would all be cocked up and some runner-up or, probably United Kingdom, will have to stump up the cost of it next time. I suppose we could give it to the Scots to host. They'd like that.

So it could be Belgium but that would require voting groups to be pretty young and spaced out. If they're old or don't like chocolate then they'll choose Italy or someone else.

That someone else might be from the third group: Estonia, Serbia and Norway. No, let's rule out Estonia and Norway straightaway. They have excellent songs and very good singers but Norway's is quite worryingly dark and we never do get to find out what he did as a child. No way can that be allowed to win and we're not going to humming that in the car on the way to work on Tuesday. Estonia's is nice an catchy but it's also pretty gloomy and it would take voting groups comprising near suicidal thirty somethings to give this douze points. It will do well, for sure but not well enough. That leaves Serbia. Now, the jolly fat lady that sings this has a sort of vive la difference approach and this is all jolly politically correct. Now we haven't got to sit through 2 minutes of Finland's special needs chaps croaking at us out of time and out of tune, Serbia is the natural choice for the do-gooders out there in voting land. Terrible song but when the fat lady sings it might be all over as she really can belt it out and many supporters of all sizes will like that. I don't but I have to accept it is a contender.

We're now down to the lower regions of the left hand side of the board and there are several scrabbling to make the Top Ten and in amongst these are a couple of possible winners. First, there's a 16 year old who looks about thirty eight singing about Mama for Israel. It may not be Mama at all but it sounds like that at the start. he also has the most annoying lyrics of the whole competition and we all know how well songs with crap lyrics do. Listen out for the Leave -Tel Aviv rhyme! He, like Belgium's lad, had lots and lots of audience approval and rehearsals have been great for him. Such a bad song, though. But still, he has a chance. I'll hate it happening after several years of reasonably good results but maybe it's time for crap again. If it weren't Israel then it would be rather more possible but as Israel seldom gets great support across the forty voting nations I think they'll finish up Top Ten and that's not bad.

The other contender in this batch is Spain. Now I love this one. It has a really powerful structure and all the key changes and expression that a big ballad type of number needs to satisfy lots of nation's older voters. It's my personal choice to win but I remember having similar enthusiasm for a similar Spanish entry a few years ago which got about eight votes in total and that was probably from Portugal. So I am wise enough to accept that Spain simply doesn't cut it with the rest of what comprises Eurovision for some reason my knowledge of history is too poor to fathom. If, however, the voters are also similarly lacking concern for whatever may or may not have gone before then this would be a strong contender. there are signs that the young lady performing has done a good job so far and is up there with Russia on the looks and voice front, possibly also the front front now I think of it too. So if Italy's boys disappoint and voters still disapprove of Big Red's antics over the year then Spain will be the nation that gets the ballad lovers votes and may be in with a chance after all.

Sharing the scrabble for the left side of the board are the old USSR states Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. They may dislike each other quite a lot but they dislike most of Western Europe as much so will be guaranteed not only to stifle the points tally for contenders like Italy, Sweden, Spain and the boy Belgium but also to award each other and Russia douze points as well as doling out the twelves to the likes of Slovenia and Latvia and maybe even Lithuania. It is for that reason that Azerbaijan always comes in the top five and even won once. They have lots of money and neighbouring states don't particularly want to argue. Even Russia feels it needs to keep in with Azerbaijan. So they'll do well. they won't win as it is not a good number at all but they'll get plenty of points.

Georgia has one of the sexiest girls on the stage and she'll be doing things with feathers and wings that may frighten us but it's all good traditional Eurovision stuff. And there isn't that much around this year so Georgia will be up there doing fine, maybe even beating Azerbaijan. Both will knock Armenia into a cocked hat unless some deals have been done behind the scenes. Armenia hold quite some sway from the southern parts of the old Soviet Union and, again, may do well with a terrible number.

So, who's left? Slovenia and Lithuania have lovely catchy Europoppy numbers. If they happen to perform exceptionally well then their sort of half-way-house status between East and West may just get them enough sixes and sevens to complicate the top part of the board. I feel it's unlikely. Slovenia were once very much fancied but their performances have been lacklustre when they needed to be really sparkly to work. All is not yet lost but I don't see them making the top spot now.

Oh, yes, then there's United Kingdom. I honestly have no idea how they'll do this year. we have had a disastrous run so far. Last year we tried the cliches but it was flawed lyrically and uninspired performance-wise. This year I think the couple will put on a good show and sing well but a 1920s style mixed up with slightly sad electro-pop may only appeal to half a dozen people in Latvia or Lithuania. I don't see any douze points coming our way at all but we won't be bottom.

Bottom has plenty of contenders already. This is the 'other' group. they're hardly worth mentioning as they're all pretty bad. Well, Montenegro isn't bad at all but it is extremely old-fashioned and with so few Baltic states in this year they simply won't get enough friendly support to win. Germany has a dreadful 1940s look and feel about it. Not a good look or sound. Apparently the girl singing is actually not the act that won the competition for the Germany entry this year. Austria have an appallingly boring band of blokes with 1970s hair. Clearly Vienna doesn't want the cost and inconvenience of this charade again in a hurry! Latvia, Poland and Portugal will both shout at you a lot. Good times to make some tea or heat up the pizza.

Romania, Albania, Greece and Cyprus are the others you'll hear but probably not notice. The Cyprus bloke is a pleasant chap and the song trundles along but unless he does something exceptional he will stay with the others in this bottom section where nothing is likely to happen, France have a nice song but you'll not recall anything about it afterwards.

Last in my commentary come Hungary. Hungary could have taken the whole show but keep messing up their rehearsals and voters appear to have given up now. At one point I might have had them as a potential winner but now I fear they might come last. Quite an extreme situation and they are worth watching as they might just upset everything on what could be a close night.

So a class performance from Italy, Belgium or Spain could make any of them top five. It'll be Russia in second place and hopes for a #1 slot could be all over for Sweden after the fat lady has sung. Serbia might just win.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Eurovision: last bets please

If you're looking for the best odds on Eurovision then the next few days are likely to represent the best opportunities. So far, all anyone has really heard or seen have been the tracks released on the promotional videos. These will usually be well engineered and, other than the live show performances, artists had the chance to fix things that didn't quite go right or notes that didn't get reached. The audition performances where they are playing or singing in front of a large audience can be more reliable but even then there could be a backing track that they may not be able to use in Vienna.

So, so far, we don't really know how well they'll sound on the Vienna stage, live, with just the permitted backing and band. The rehearsals will start early next week and that's when there will be some changes. Those who don't do terribly well will see their odds grow and there will also be those who are increasingly fancied after they do a good job. Good songs can turn to rubbish overnight and previously dull or uninspiring numbers can acquire a new lease of life or personality.

How the acts interact with the many journalists writing about the competition, and how local fans react will also either increase or decrease expectations and, in inverse proportion, their odds.

There are three clear favourites at the moment: Sweden, Australia and Italy. I am still not convinced about Sweden's entry winning but, yes, it is the sort of song that is highly likely to be up there in the Top Few. Australia I feel similarly about. I can see them getting plenty of votes just because absolutely no-one should worry about giving them a few points long the way but I don't see that many 12s. Rumour has it that the guy can and will perform well and the novelty value will almost certainly bring them some consolation of a Top Few place. Of the three I fancy Italy and believe that the three singers are experienced enough to create a good atmosphere and strong song on the night. Their video is pretty poor so, in a sense, they should only get better! It has been a while since an operatic number has won and this could be the year and Vienna would be a suitable venue for that.

The next three I believe would be Iceland, Estonia and Denmark. Iceland's entry is very catchy but well constructed too. It also has girls in off-white dresses and no shoes who seem to do pretty well. It is a bit of a copy of Emmilie De Forest's winning entry from a couple of years ago, though but it looks a very good bet for the Top 10 if not the Top 5 and odds are looking generous

Estonia are already well discounted and currently predicted to come 4th. Theirs is a powerful girl and boy song and I am pretty sure that will be well liked and hit the Top 10 although I would expect Iceland to beat them still.

Denmark seem ridiculously unfancied at the moment and I don't see why. They have a great, catchy and appealing number that could have been performed by One Direction and no-one would notice much difference. They have a fan base too. The guys look a bit clean and anaemic in the video and the two girls.could have been copied from the 1970s but if they all perform well and look a bit less chocolate boxy on the night this is a potential winner in my opinion. At odds of several hundred to one and around 8-1 just to make the Top ten this is well worth thinking about. If their rehearsals go well expect those odds to shorten massively. This reminds me, odds-wise, of The Netherland's Common Linnets last year. They were way out at 600-1 and came second.

The other Top 10 contenders are Lithuania, Spain, Slovenia and one of Russia, UK and Azerbaijan.

Spain's entry is classic Euro-ballad. Very strong song and if the girl who sings it looks more human and less photoshopped but still produces such a powerful and accurate performance then she ought to follow the excellent example set by Ruth lorenzo last year and get Spain back in the top flight. However, I also recall a gorgeous track either one or two years previously that only just scraped off the bottom of the whole thing. So Spain cannot be relied on for the popular vote for some reason.

Lithuania have a cheery number which includes kissing and that's always going to get some votes. It should do well across borders too, the country having quite a few friends in the Baltic as well as East European voters.

Slovenia's girl is quite sexy, an unusually scarce quality this year, sounds a bit like Lulu and several other more recent chart successes here and she is definitely one who will either do much better or much worse depending upon how she manages the stage on her own. Her cracked voice and slightly down lyrics may not please everyone but enough, possibly, for the Top 10.

Russia have what seems to be an almost manufactured song with all the right words in all the right places and most of the notes in the right register too. The singer is almost too perfect looking in another heavily air-brushed video and you just feel that old Big Red is trying too hard again. they'd so much like to win but I don't see this doing it. They always get far more votes than I predict so I guess they will be the one act that makes the Top 10 out of these last three but there were one or two notes that weren't quite right and something was missing in the one performance I've heard so far and that says that it isn't at all certain.

That means United Kingdom have a chance. I always think we ought to have a chance but recent years have not been good. Blue almost made the Top Ten a few years ago but since then we have done really quite badly. This year we're taking another big chance with a 30s style song that is quite unlike anything else that is in the mix this year. That's quite a good thing and, if the voters across the nations get it, UK could do very well indeed as I feel we would get a good flow of reasonable numbers from everywhere. However, a; less than inspiring performance, bum notes or just a mood that's not consonant with the rhythm of Electric Whoever will see them way over on the right side of the board once more.

If Russia bores us and United Kingdom annoys us then there's always Azerbaijan. No commentators particularly want to go back to Baku, though, and they do have some influence locally. The Azerbaijan entry is a bloke who sings remarkably well but he does have an odd shaped face. Great notes and all good traditional Euroballad that is bound to get marks from almost everyone. That's not just because they're a bit frightened of Azerbaijan but it is a good average number and will get good average votes. That might be enough, with Russia's twelve points to push them into the Top 10.

So now's the time to get some good odds on winning or things like Top 10 positions. Once you see odds falling next week for some acts then that may well be an indication that they've done well at rehearsal and, whilst they may still have Semi Finals to get through, if it's an act I've mentioned or you fancy then catch it before it drops further. After that, you have the Semi Finals when we'll get a very good indication of not just how people will perform live but also how they look like attracting votes generally. That's the second time odds will tumble and when you'll need to jump quickly. The third time, of course, will be on the night as they perform and the fourth and final time to get anything like decent odds will be when the first few actual votes are cast and we get a glimpse of real potential results.

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