Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Eurovision: all change!

Rehearsals have been underway for three days now and seeing people doing their thing for real on the big stage as opposed to smart, edited recordings or small stage party performances has really made a difference.

Whilst Israel still remain clear favourite and their Netta did hold her place in her first performances, things have changed dramatically in the places beneath her.

The two major advances have been Norway and France, both of whom have produced superbly professional and relaxed rehearsals so far, streets ahead of many others. This inspires confidence and has pushed them to 2nd and 3rd places respectively. I think Norway will always do well with the lovely Rybak but this is not a winning song. Top 10, sure, but not a winner, so expect his odds to fall away again once some others - hopefully some others will - look a bit more like winners themselves.

France have a cool number that strolls along pleasantly and is quite engaging. It reminds me of a Dutch entry by the Common linnets a few years back. That did well and this will too but, again, it's Top 10 for sure but not a No. 1.

Bulgaria, previously Israel's main competition, faded away due to a drab and dreary performance. They may get the notes right with their very experienced individual singers (from nations other than Bulgaria) but something is lacking and that show won't appeal to voters as it stands.

The Czech Republic's singer fell down and has injured his back but we believe that he'll be back and he is determined to perform. He remains a good prospect but has lost his 3rd place, occasionally a 2nd place, and is now around the lower part of the Top 10.

Estonia have remained pretty constant throughout all this. Also competing for 2nd a couple of weeks ago they lost a lot of support when it was feared that the dress wouldn't be working. What nonsense. This superb singer doesn't need any gimmicks and I even think the emphasis on the dress thing has actually lost her some support. She has performed very reliably in rehearsals so far and is certain to make a first class job of things on the night. I can see her staying very much in contention when the enthusiasm for some other acts, currently showing more popularity, subsides.

Sweden have never been in the running really so far. They've been very much sitting on their own, well out of the leaders' range but also well in front of the rest. That has changed although I don't think they have done a rehearsal yet - they are just being assumed to be better than some who have not sounded good and have now risen to a predicted 7th place. Perhaps a really solid performance in next rehearsals could bring Sweden into contention after all. I doubt it. I think they've benefited from the jitters punters are feeling about some others.

The major disappointment so far has been Jessica for Australia. She had been up there with France and Norway, definitely in 2nd place or 3rd place most of the week but now falls away miserably, struggling to stay Top 10. She was just uninspiring, lost on the stage and the whole things imply didn't work. Some smart guys who know about these things have made some sound suggestions that she needs a party atmosphere up there; she needs a brighter, more cheerful staging and then she, with some company up there, can enthuse the audience again as she has shown she can do in closer encounters. I haven't given up on her as many punters appear to have done but she has a lot to do.

Saara Aalto also failed to build on great marketing and her own personality. Her performance was disappointing and seemed ridiculously complex and confusing. At one point she was tied to some wheel and had trouble freeing herself. She is also not a natural dancer and the moves interfered with her delivery. Both she and Jessica could be contenders to defeat the big girl from Israel but they'll have to work hard in their next performances to convince people. There will also soon be the performance for the juries which are crucial to get right as they actually count for votes!

Spain's two lovers have continued to hang around the 50-1 mark, as have Italy (now moving up to compete with Australia) and Belgium (dropping down).

Germany and Ukraine have shot up although I feel both are just  benefiting from good solid performances but these will not translate into votes or a better position in the end. They may have advanced but they're still only around 15th.

Greece has been another big disappointment so far. At one time she was really thought of as a contender to win but no more. Instead it will be Cyprus who carry the Greek voters' banner. Their entry is a feisty dancer and her performance will certainly be hot. She has attracted a lot of interest and her support has rocketed her from 'may just qualify' to a predicted Top 10 finish, overtaking Australia on the way. Personally, I don't think she will have the wide appeal she'll need and may drop back nearer the day. Whether Greece itself will revive I cannot say.

Moldova, as ever these days, entertain us and once more they have come from being 500-1 outsiders who may not even have qualified to a modestly brilliant 90-1 and I reckon they'll be there in the Final. If they are they'll do well. They just put a smile on people's faces and everyone gives them a few votes.

Hungary's heavy rock group look set to qualify and rehearsals went well. They can certainly fill the stage, no trouble. They could even be one to watch. Politics may stop them winning, though. They'll qualify, I am fairly sure and that will throw a few spanners in the works.

Despite very dull performances so far, the Netherlands and Denmark will get through, as will Russia, just, I think. Yulia has not been very good but she has done a lot better than the dreadful Russian performance which was the last we'd seen. She'll get the traditional support from friendly nations but not a great deal else.

Finally, the world may be waking up to little Lithuania's entry. They have been lying around in the 200-1 mark for weeks, ever since the betting started really. Finally, a nice rehearsal has shown that this girl is good and the simple song and presentation are worth watching and she has made it to nearer 100-1 and that, coupled with a poor effort by Belarus so far, has just made her 10th in her group. Whether she can hold that position and make the Final, though, is not certain. She'd have to overtake Belgium, Austria or Greece if Belarus recover. So her only hope is that Belarus don't recover.

This week has totally transformed the betting table but really I am not so sure it has changed the Top 10 that much. My feeling is that Jessica will recover and they'll fix stuff so she'll be Top 5 material again. As for challenges to Israel at this time, I can see none that are obvious. This year could be the year of a big surprise. Keep an eye on some of those that seem well out of it at the moment. And don't write off Finland just yet.

I even wonder whether Spain's lovers might not make a run for the top in the present market. Or Hungary to do a Finland of some years ago?

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