Friday, May 12, 2017

Eurovision: counting on friends and neighbours

For a moment, the United Kingdom passed Sweden in the betting odds and became predicted to come 5th. As I write they're back in 6th place but there's little to choose between the two. The point is that UK are seriously becoming a contender while Sweden are gradually finding that the trend is for their odds to widen more and more.

At the Top, Italy hold on but a major advance is being made by both Portugal and Bulgaria. Surprisingly, after a pretty poor live Semi Final performance, Belgium have closed down too and are a strongly fancied 4th place. I understand too that they top the iTunes charts amongst Eurovision releases which is probably why the odds are falling - clear proof of popularity of the track if not the performance! Unfortunately, juries will come into play and I suspect they'll cane Blanche for not hitting notes well or really doing anything other than standing there looking very scared and occasionally remembering the instructions to wave her arms.

Romania's great fun yodelling thing dangles around in 7th, way distant from UK and Sweden above them and also from Croatia and France below them. In fact, I expect they'll make Top 4 as people will vote for them for the sheer fun of it.

If Russia has its way they'll get Bulgaria's Kristian, who was born in Moscow and won various Russian competitions, into the top slot on the night with major disappointment for fans of Italy's Francesco and his gorilla. That'll be their quite effective and smart revenge for being banned. Francesco's marvellous track, though, will be what we all remember and hum to ourselves for days afterwards.

Looking at the competitors in a different light, though, we have to remember that countries vote for whom they like. This is not solely political but quite reasonably understandable as people in one country will often tend to prefer the rhythm, style and language of a neighbour or act from a similar background. So Armenia and Azerbaijan are the only two likely to get that sort of support from the Eastern bloc. Bulgaria might get some benefit too. The point is that there will be many votes to be shared between just a few entries in the final. All countries get to vote, remember.

Italy, Portugal, Belgium and UK, in contrast have rather fewer 'friends', and will have to share their 12s and 10s rather more widely with, overall, a possibly significant lower total.

Sweden and Croatia will benefit from this, like Poland did remarkably last year with an extremely average entry making 3rd place amongst the public votes but starting with almost last with a mere 7 jury votes.

I think it will be a tight race this year. Don't rule out Armenia or Russian revenge!

2nd Semi Final: Four good and fourteen really quite bad acts

This was not a great night for those of us who try to defend Eurovision and say that it does find some great tracks! Here are the 18 acts, as they appeared, with my comments at the time and updated now I know the results.

Serbia Tijana is a bit frightening and you really will neither need nor want to remember this one at all. All is well with the world - she's gone. The see-through wedding dress might normally be expected to be attractive but not this time.

Austria but Nathan is British. We’re still not going to win though. Ordinary song but it should reach the Final. I can't remember where I read that Nathan was a bus or tube driver in London. I may be wrong but he does sound like one. He scrapes through the Semi Final but I don't think he'll do very well.

Jana has a pretty little dress and dances alone. A modern pop song. I like it but FYRMacedonia seldom get support at #Eurovision And they still fail to get any support. She was about the only girl with any sex appeal this year in a group that may well be remembered for its many excellent but pretty bland female singers whose personality just doesn't come across. Her performance wasn't brilliant, though, to be honest.

Malta Claudia solid performance by a solid woman. One of few to hit the right notes but a bit old style and 1000-1. Those odds proved about right and she will just be in the audience on Saturday. We hear that this is the umpteenth time she has attempted to win for Malta. Maybe it really is time for someone else to have a go?

Romania bring true #Eurovision kitch! Rap and Alex yodelling that is weirdly v popular and Top 5 likely if she gets the notes right The second act to get through and the audience love these two. They genuinely do perform and make people smile. It has stupid things like cannons and some odd dancing routine which they get muddled up in but they'll get plenty of 5s and 6s from juries across the board. Predicted to come 7th. I reckon they might be Top 4.

Netherlands OG3NE unpronounceable but v popular entry. Great singers but crap song goes nowhere. They’ll be back Sat. Yes, they'll be back but they were not that great in this semi at all. The one thing they've been praised for has been their harmonies and singing the right notes in the right places but that wasn't obvious at all. Once at around 20-1 they're now 400-1 and no-one expects to see them make any serious challenge at all.

Hungary Joci is all v traditional stuff which will go down well with the E bloc. Probably gets thru then quickly forgotten. This is in the Final and is one of those that you just cannot tell how it will go. I doubt it'll make the Top 15.

Denmark have Anja from Oz, another big blonde ballad singer screeching at us quite a lot. Popular for some reason. Lots of great expectations for this girl and she sand reasonably enough but I find the song very tedious and she gets screechy too which is annoying. She qualifies but don't expect to hear much more about her this year.

Ireland deserve a place with a good song but poor Brendan seldom hits the important notes Pity, unless can get it right I do feel sorry for Ireland and all the people supporting this guy. He is clearly a talented young fellow but just seemed dwarfed by the whole event. Some people get lifted by these things but not Brendan, despite Louis Walsh's backing and plenty of success at home. The song was well-written too, maybe a bit too plaintive but it had all the right features. This really should have made it through in a field of mostly far worse stuff.

San Marino. Valentino and Jimmie Forgettable disco sort of track from two singers old enough to know better. For a moment I though San Marino might even get through as so many terrible acts were announced as qualifying. But they are in the audience once again. Like Malta, it is time for the country to take a fresh look at who represents them. I know it's a small country but, seriously, they can do better than this rubbish.

Croatia Jacques One bloke two voices. All a bit odd and not exactly sing-a-long. But juries like this sort of thing. They certainly do and Croatia sail through. It'll be talked about and get plenty of jury votes. Not so sure about the public, though.

Norway JOWST has one of few modern tracks this year. OK but seldom performs well and unlikely to do much I did not expect this to qualify but it has. It is pretty awful, to be honest. In fact, i cannot now recall anything about it at all except a male lead who looks like a Russian or Swedish winner from a few years back.

Switzerland Timebelle struggles with notes even in this simple song. Really not very good. Yet another very forgettable entry. This was very poor. No chance of qualifying.

Belarus Great old-style folk rock from Naviband. No-one seems to like it but I do. Hope they get another chance. Yes! The audience loved them and they were totally relaxed on stage and just enjoyed what they were doing. That comes across very well in comparison to the heavily controlled staging that most acts have. Great reaction from the crowd and they sail through quite easily by the seems of things. Whether they'll get much further I am not so sure although I wish them well and would love to see a surprise Top 5 for them.

Bulgaria have a possible winner with Kristian. Definitely Top 5 and certain to qualify although James Arthur may sue. It's the way he pronounces 'impossibull' and the track could have just been taken from James' album. A quality act from a real youngster showing Brendan from Ireland how to do this. I suspect he'll have topped the votes with teh public and this bodes well for a competition at the top on Saturday. This could well be Russia's revenge!

Lithuania Fusedmarc provide what is generally regarded as the worst entry of 2017, maybe even the 21st century. Awful. No further comment necessary.

Estonia Koit & Laura with a classy song. Bit boring but with such poor competition they may well get thru. I did expect Verona to make it. But Estonia have to watch from the sidelines this year.

Israel With a backbeat stolen from 2016 and the main tune stolen from 2015 this is eurostyle glue. OK. That’s all. This really should not have qualified but it did. How? I don't know. I don't expect to see or hear a great deal more though. a challenger with Spain for the lower echelons.

To summarise, therefore, we have Israel, Bulgaria, Belarus, Norway, Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania and Austria qualifying.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

1st Semi Final: a chance for Portugal and Armenia to close the gap on Francesco.

This is certainly a different year in terms of how people are viewing most countries' chances of winning Eurovision 2017!

This evening Semi Final 1 takes place and we'll get the first real idea of how 17 of the 40+ acts will come across and just where they are going down well and where they're simply going down.

Three of the current Top 4 will perform tonight: Portugal, Sweden and Armenia. They'll all sail through but I have the feeling that Sweden's good-looking chaps are just also-rans this year. Sweden are today at their highest odds for months - not a sign of much confidence in the market at this stage!

Azerbaijan, Belgium, Finland and Australia might have been regarded as absolute certainties a few weeks back but they've all been disappointing. Belgium held so much promise with a very cool video and track but their young lady, Blanche, has failed to impress live. Azerbaijan frighten the pants off people with the horse's head, ladder and strange writing on a blackboard. Finland have an artist with one of the most reliable voices and a simple backdrop to the performance but it is really very boring. Australia have a good-looking young lad waving the flag from down under but he really needs a better song. All four are lounging at their highest odds so far too but, despite that, have no real competition so should also get through.

That leaves space for three more to qualify tonight.

That would be Moldova, Greece and Poland if you go by the betting odds. But with the 'best' of these out at 400-1 it really is going to be totally unpredictable! It also doesn't matter a great deal as none will have a hope of winning anyway. My guess is that Georgia will make it through in place of one of those, probably Poland, and Albania might squeeze in too, despite their 1000-1 odds. It really is that crazy.

Moldova is the only country whose odds are not at their worst amongst the first Semi Final lower echelon contestants. They have a fun number about a guy who fancies a sexy girl but gets told off by her mother. A wedding is eventually arranged and, yes, you've guessed it, the bride turns out to be the mother not the sexy daughter. We would miss Moldova, wouldn't we. In an evening of tedious tracks I wouldn't be surprised if they actually make it through!

Italy are still way out in front but Portugal have recently closed the gap considerably and are a serious contender now. Armenia must nt be forgotten either. the song is neither one thing nor the other but they will get the massive Eastern bloc vote and that may even be enough to make them #1.

Finally, at the time of writing the United Kingdom are predicted to come 6th! That's the highest for many, many years, even as a prediction so well done to Lucie for what must have been excellent rehearsal performances and interaction with people there, all of which counts. If Armenia wobble then she may even take the top female ballad spot and then anything's possible!

So tonight may not actually tell us a great deal after all but it'll be fun watching anyway.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Rehearsal Ups and Downs in Kiev

It has been entertaining to watch clips of some of the rehearsals for the Semi Finals and also see the impact that they've had on the betting odds. I haven't seen everyone and none of the automatic qualifiers but there's been enough amongst the others to keep us amused!

Italy are still way out in front, despite no-one seeing any rehearsals yet or, at least, none I've noticed. That really is quite a credit to the material released so far and the general aura surrounding the entry this year. In a sense, the competition is Italy's to lose now and I would imagine they must be pretty nervous as they see how badly most of the rest are doing! Will Francesco manage to be one of the good ones after all? Let's hope so as the rest aren't up to much anyway.

The young lad from Ireland seems to have lost his nerve completely. He had a very good song but it simply hasn't worked so far and they've dropped from a potential Top 10 position to a massive 400-1 shot and may not even qualify. They're going to have to battle it out with a bunch of no-hopers in the Semis whereas before they'd seemed a sure fire qualifier.

Greece have the song that the audience will like but the experienced singer will have to get her act far more together if she's going to get far. They should qualify but only just, I fear. Again, once way up with the leaders, mainly because of the singer's popularity and experience, the song she was provided didn't help much and that brought her chances tumbling and now the poor performances to date have Greece out there at 300-1! Amazing.

Belgium has been the greatest disappointment so far. Quite recently the very good recorded track had put them as high as 2nd, the main challenger at one point to Italy and I was glad to have got them at 8-1. Now they're 85-1 as the girl simply isn't doing well at all. The song is in an unusual low register for the most part and it just seems odd. the singer has little obvious personality too, from what observers are saying. the track does have potential so I'm not writing them off yet but, once a potential winner, she'll be lucky to stay in the Top 10 now.

Another big fall in expectations has come from the Australian entry. The nice lad has a rubbish song, basically, and has so far failed to deliver it very well on stage. He was once up in the Top 3 but now may not make the Top 10. They'll be disappointed Down Under.

Staying more or less where they have been all the time are the UK and Netherlands. I don't think either has a chance in hell of winning but both are competent and should be trusted to come across well. The Netherlands group is great but they just have a grotty song. We haven't heard Lucie Jones on stage in Kiev yet but I reckon she'll be fine and shouldn't lost her almost solid 14th or 15th place. With a bit of luck she might scrape in the Top ten if the others continue to fall and she hangs on.

Doing well in rehearsals have been Finland, who have a dark song and little to worry about in terms of presentation. The singer is excellent and has nothing to worry about whereas others have all kind of weird and wonderful antics to cope with. She has brought a dull song into contention just by being solid on stage so far.

Romania have also not only kept a potential Top Ten position but actually made themselves a contender with a potential 5th place now. The song is the silly yodelling thing which some voters will love so expect to see a combination of 10 and 12 points and 1s and 2s which will do them nicely. I do hope it doesn't win as it it's pretty crap but better crap than most. And it is Eurovision, after all. If it's time for a silly, cheerful song then there's precious little choice. Romania yodelling, Italy's gorilla or Moldova's Cool Sax Man and sexy young women who seem to get more dressed on stage rather than the more usual other way round.

In Russia's absence, someone has to carry the Big Red Flag and collect all the votes they would have had. It looks like Armenia and Azerbaijan will be the main beneficiaries this year. They have interesting songs. Azerbaijan, in particular, have a quite scary performance which may have some impact. Armenia's singer is good and they have a habit of attracting votes with pretty singers too. neither is really a winner in my book and no-one really wants to go to Baku again either. Armenia might be more popular as no-one knows anything about the place at all.

The two main contenders after Italy are Bulgaria and Portugal. Both have very strange looking guys with well-written songs. I much prefer the classic Portugal song which is really quite unique and could have come from the 1920s. It really ought to do well and is, in my view, the contender. So far, however, the chap who is singing it has been unwell and his sister, who conveniently wrote it and can sing it really well, has stepped in to do the camera settings and stuff. Quite frankly, the guy only has to stand there and wobble about a bit. It is something he doesn't need to rehearse and I have a feeling he'll be great first time.

The Bulgarian lad is young but seems confident. The English translation and accent are a bit odd but, as I said, it is quite a modern sound and the juries seem to like Bulgaria as a convenient combination of East and Balkan politics so they'll do well from that stand-point.

I expect Sweden will do well again. They seem experienced and there's a good-looking chap performing with several other good-looking chaps and the song is poppy enough to be memorable for the time it takes to get the votes. After that you'll forget it but it will make the Top Ten. Just. It simply isn't interesting enough and, unless, everyone else falls flat, there will be a good six or seven that'll beat them. They will, though, be the main beneficiary of the Scandinavian votes. There's only Denmark to compete really. they'll do well from that point of view too but the song is pretty poor and very boring. Neither have moved much in the betting so far. Neither will win either.

Now, once the automatic qualifiers have had their show it may be that things change again. Spain, for instance, seem to be totally unwanted this year. Again. It is, admittedly, a terrible song but the young lad who sings it is a bundle of personality and that may just start to earn him some votes after all. be prepared to be appalled and surprised by Spain. Germany is very tedious this year. So Is Ukraine's entry. Quite awful, really. No return to Kiev in 2018 that's for sure! France have a good pop star and she will do OK but the song is forgettable.

With Italy looking pretty certain, I've cashed in my bets for the win and I'm looking now at who might make the Top 10. the odds are minute, of course, but there's fun to be had if Belarus qualify, for example. they have a jolly traditional Eastern bloc number and are about 800-1 to win but 8-1 for a Top 10 position. About the same as Lucie. So I've set up a series of bets where five ought to be definites and the winnings from them will pay the losses on some wilder cards. If a wilder Belarus does come up trumps then even better.

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