Thursday, April 26, 2018

Little Lithuania still look like 11th

Once again I shall take a look at the way prices have been moving over the week with the bookies. It is clear that some acts have been making a good impression and others not going down at all well while they have been doing whatever it is that they are doing in this strange period preceding official rehearsals.

The most obvious beneficiary of the week's activity has been France's entry. A week or so ago they were grouped with Norway and Sweden in the upper 20s to lower 30s, around the lower regions of the predicted Top 10. Then during this last few days they have halved those odds which is quite an achievement and at one point yesterday they were in equal 3rd place with the Czech Republic. They are at 5th position as I write but battling with the Czech Republic, Australia and Estonia for that Top 3 place.

France's gain has been largely Sweden's loss. Sweden is still in the Top 10 but that is mostly because there is a massive gap between them and the next group who have yet to break away from odds in the upper 40s to 60s. At 38 now, though, if any one of the group below, which comprises Greece, Belgium, Spain and Finland, with Italy and Austria not far away either, were to show major signs of improvement then they could fall out of the Top 10 completely. Clearly, the Swedish singer is not doing well. It never has struck me as a particularly appealing or memorable entry from the nation who almost seemed to own the Competition until now.

Saara Aalto continues to make a good impression in interviews in 100 languages all around the globe but, so far, her charm has not done a great deal for her expected finishing position of just outside the Top 10. I have a suspicion that she will actually edge into the Top 10 on the night as some others will fail to match her enthusiasm and reliability on the big stage.

Austria and Denmark have made big advances on the leading groups. Whilst still way out of the running at 60 and 80 this is a good improvement on their 100+ ratings before and both are at their lowest odds so far.

The last country to show distinct improvement is Russia. I guess it couldn't have been much worse! I am guessing that Yulya has made some better performance efforts since and, whilst not exactly inspiring anyone as the odds remain way out at over 300-1, that's a lot better than they were when it looked as if Russia might not even qualify. As it is, they're in a group where a cat howling could probably qualify if it was vaguely in tune half the time.

Out of favour with the bookies are Belarus, Germany, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Ireland. When I say out of favour I mean they have all reached their highest ever odds since the betting started. Obviously something hasn't been going well and the bookies spies have noticed or punters are laying them off heavily now. Azerbaijan are surprising in this group. Their song is pretty commercial and I would have expected them to be certain qualifiers. Again, something must have gone wrong. Maybe some oil money will enhance their predicted bottom place and that is assuming they qualify - which I doubt at the moment.

Finally, down in the 1000-1 department, and that might as well be 10,000-1 for all the difference it would make to people wanting to back them, are Croatia, Iceland, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Georgia, Malta, Montenegro and poor old San Marino. Actually San Marino are not at all poor and could do themselves a favour next year by actually having someone from their own country to sing for them. They don't seem to be liked much and these singers do not come across very well at all. The other nations in the 1000-1 Club have simple chosen crap songs or artists who simply are not performing well so far.

In the fierce competition to qualify in Group 1, it still looks like Belarus may hang on and get that coveted 10th place, leaving little Lithuania lying in 11th and not making it through. I live in hope, though. Cyprus, in 9th place in that group, are also not exactly doing brilliantly with their odds hardly moving from the 130 to 140 range. Lithuania need to overtake one of Belarus or Cyprus to get through. The next in the Group 1 ranking is Finland and I can't see Saara being caught by a complete unknown singing on her own with no big effects or shoes.

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.

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