|Eurovision: long, long prognostication
||[18 May 2013|04:19pm]
(Hello. This isn't a return to LJ of any great sort, just the quest for somewhere I can cheerfully drop a few thousand words of nerdery.)
So, Eurovision. I had to catch up the two semi-finals after the fact, thanks to some deeply inconveniently-timed work travel. However, that meant I actually bothered to watch the videos beforehand, and could also go through the semis knowing who had qualified.
Two things immediately struck me about the semis. First, this is a crazily strong year for both songs and singers: the plethora of television talent shows across Europe means that there's now a large fund of singers who can carry a tough tune on a big occasion, which has in turn allowed some very ambitious and professional vocal numbers. This has certainly been the year in particular of the big crashing young female singers, hammering out either soaring pop ballads or dance numbers (or indeed hybrids of the two). Bit of a shame, therefore, that the UK missed the memo, and sent a rather older crashing female singer with a ditchwater-dull ballad… but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The second thing is how well-staged the shows have been. I know Sweden gets a lot of practice at this each year with the Melodifestivalen, one leg of which this year was indeed in Malmo, but the lighting, sound, effects and camerawork were really sharp, giving visual options that meant songs didn't mostly need to resort to gimmicks to catch the eye. BBC Three also did a really nice job of presenting the semis: I really liked Scott Mills and Ana Matronic pairing up on the commentary, and will actually be disappointed to have that simpering Norton fool tonight instead.
But anyway, I've already been asked for my 'expert' (ha!) predictions for the final. It's worth noting the blindingly obvious as to the absences here, however: between Turkey's withdrawal from the contest, the Balkan blow-out in the semis (of the 13 songs eliminated, six were the former Yugoslav states (Serbia… whuh?!) and Albania - and Bosnia-Herzegovina withdrew as well), and Greece not being able to twelve points in the final to Cyprus (also out, slightly to my surprise with that song), there's an awful lot of stray eight-, ten- and twelve-point scores available that would otherwise be automatically spoken for. Likewise, although the Nordic countries are all strong, they'll be splitting their friendly votes between them. So this could also be the most open contest in a long time, despite the hot favourite in the betting - and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the eventual winner were currently sitting at 50-1 or more, allowing some lucky folks to make a right killing. Much will therefore come down to the running order, and the performance on the night.
But anyway, here's my song-by-song notes for the final, in running order:
1. France: Oh dear, this is just too good a song to be first in the order. Staging could save it, perhaps - we haven't seen it yet - but what could have been memorable in position twenty-something is going to be forgettable first out on the stage. No wonder it's bouncing along the bottom of the betting.
2. Lithuania: Ah, the dreaded second place in the running order! I reckon this was actually a bit lucky to get through the semi-final - perhaps the gender balance worked in this chap's favour? But unless gender works for it again, I found this all a bit pedestrian and blessed with some odd lyrics, and the 200-1 betting seems justified.
3. Moldova: I like this song, and it's well-performed and well-staged, but it's just not nearly exciting enough to survive being this early in a high-octane field, I think. Had it a hummable hook or a great big chorus, I'd perhaps rate it higher, but I reckon mid-table is where this will end up.
4. Finland: Oh myyyyyyy. There's nothing you can say about this that hasn't already been said: lyrics that are a bit on the dodgy side, staging and performance that would guarantee a booking at G.A.Y., gimmickry galore, and a hefty splash of politics to boot. There's been many tracks like this in the past that have savagely split the voting (Iceland's been a frequent contributor on this front, I think) between the countries that adore big, kitsch numbers (usually northern / western and liberal) and those that either don't understand or can't stand them (usually eastern / southern and more conservative). As it is, I can see this picking up a whole bunch of high scores in places, and then failing to feature in others. We won't forget it, but I can't see its winning.
5. Spain: As m'dear lady pointed out, this is "My Lovely Horse" in disguise, right down to the equine theme of the video. It sounds like it's been stolen from Ireland circa 1995, and despite otherwise being a fairly decent effort it's all a bit lightweight in this field and isn't misplaced at the foot of the betting.
6. Belgium: He's an odd-looking chap, isn't he? Strong song, however - much better than Ireland's later on - but the staging's a bit odd. That said, it's the best that's come from the Francophone half of Belgium for an awfully long time, and it would thoroughly deserve a decent top-half finish. Could it win? Maybe - and at 100-1 it's got a good return on it if it does. It's certainly the one that keeps getting stuck in my head more than any other.
7. Estonia: I'm astounded that this seems to be sitting around 150-1 in the betting: yes, it's yet another crashing great ballad from a young female singer, but it's exquisitely executed and has a fairly generous position in the draw in a run of fairly upbeat numbers. If it wasn't quite so similar to other entries, I'd rank this as one of my picks, but I suspect it's going to suffer from being sung in Estonian (18 of the 26 songs in the final are in English). Nonetheless, I like it a lot - possibly my favourite in this year's contest.
8. Belarus: Well, it's better than their efforts for the last few years, with some pretty glitzy staging and that sort of south-eastern European meets Latin pop sound that's done well at Eurovision in the past. However, it's got two problems: first, the singer didn't seem all that confident of her notes; and second, it's from Belarus. If Turkey had entered, borrowed this song, and given it to a stronger singer, I'd be backing it to win - but otherwise three figures in the betting markets seem justified.
9. Malta: Jeremy in IT and his risk assessments, huh? This is perhaps what Spain were aiming at, but missed. On the other hand, this is a pretty winsome affair, and quite refreshingly lo-fi in a year of somewhat overproduced monsters. I don't think it's a winner - this is Malta we're talking about, after all, and they specialise in snatching defeat from the jaws of Eurovision victory - but I could see this doing well.
10. Russia: Oh, this is another inch-perfect female ballad: an utter embarras de richesses on that front this year, but this one's brilliantly executed. A bit later in the draw and I'd really back this, but I fear it's going to be forgotten in the middle of the order - but it deserves its strong backing in the betting nonetheless. Actually surprised to find that it's not written by one of Nashville's finest, by the way.
11. Germany: Well, they're famous, which is in their favour, but it's not even the best song Cascada's done. In a year of big female-sung dance numbers, I don't think this is anywhere near the strongest and really doesn't have a chance - but then again I don't know quite how much they'll get on name recognition alone.
12. Armenia: I would ask rhetorically "how did this manage to qualify?", but I know the answer already: Armenia's diaspora is always good for a healthy number of points. It's a grotty mess of a song, however: it's got something of 1980s poodles with guitars about it, but the lyrics are just so rottenly awful and the singing so much like a cat drowning in mud, that I can't even bring myself to mock the bad dress sense. I would love if the betting - somewhere between 200-1 and 400-1 - might give this a risk of nul points, but sadly that just won't happen.
13. Netherlands: I'm still not sure whether the opening of this was supposed to sound quite so strangely pitched in the semi-final or not - but I didn't find this at all interesting and didn't even expect it to make the final. That said, an awful lot of other people who know what they're talking about seem to like it, and the saving grace for this might be that several Balkan tracks a bit like this have done well in the past ("Molitva", anyone?), with a bucketload of Balkan votes looking for a home. Nonetheless, possibly a case of "too good for Eurovision"?
14. Romania: On the standardised scale of campness (100 Liberaces make one Elton), this is hovering somewhere around two kiloEltons. I have no idea how it got through, because for all the crackers gimmickry, semi-naked men, demented shrieking, and lunatic staging, this is bloody awful. Really, truly, spectacularly awful. Between this and what comes next, this is my cue for tonight's tea break.
15. United Kingdom: Now, we haven't seen how they're going to stage this yet, and that nice Ms Tyler's got a pedigree and perhaps a certain residual sympathy across Europe, but it's just not doing it for me. Frankly, we're permanently five years or so behind the curve with Eurovision, and this looks just a bit out of date in the way that a lot of the new countries entering Eurovision for the first time a decade or so ago did.
16. Sweden: This won't do badly - Sweden never does badly, really - but it's a rather odd track and not very immediate. A run through the semi-finals might have helped this build up some support, actually, just as it did in the Melodifestivalen, but unless they've managed to use their own staging really to their advantage, I don't know how this can really stick in the mind. 66-1 or thereabouts seems stingy, really.
17. Hungary: This was so much better in the video: was the singer suffering from a cold or even nerves in the semi-final? It's another pretty little ditty, but perhaps just a bit too gentle for much more than a brief breather between two high-octane numbers. Shame, because it's sweet, but this could be heading for the bottom of the pile simply because it's going to get utterly overlooked.
18. Denmark: It's not hard to see why this is the hot favourite: cracking song and jaw-dropping staging in the semi-final. That said, that sort of support (and indeed the local support in the hall) can count against a song in the televoting, and the song makes demands on the top of the singer's register that she only just met in the semi. I'd joined the crowd tipping this before the week started, but I'm not so sure now: there's a lot of big songs by female singers here, and I don't think this one actually stands out as much as everyone thinks - but I'm just as likely to be wrong about that! I wouldn't bet against it, though.
19. Iceland: Pretty enough, but a bit forgettable. Uh. That's it, really. Another one that might be risking the wooden spoon thanks to an unhelpful draw position.
20. Azerbaijan: Would it be a bit uncharitable to describe this as bog-standard boy band as songs go? The staging's clever, though (Crystal Maze jokes aside), and there'll be votes from those swayed by pretty male singers. That said, I can't see how it quite justifies such short odds.
21. Greece: It's mad. It's got something of the Moldovan gnomes a few years back about it, but I fear this could be a bit of a one-joke wonder: funny in the semi-final, but a bit tiresome the second time. That said, it's going to get a bunch of joke votes just for its title, and may benefit from the south-east Europe wipeout. Don't count it out.
22. Ukraine: This is just a bit boring, I'm afraid, and you can rather tell from the gimmickry in staging (bring on the giant!) that they perhaps know it. It sounded a lot better in the video, but live this just came across as quite screechy. This would normally be a plum place in the running order, as well, but the surrounding acts could really leave this adrift. All told, I reckon you'd be wasting your money at 10-1 on this. Wait for me to look an idiot with that prediction, though.
23: Italy: It's a classy song, by about the best male singer for the night, and it's at the right point in the night for a bit of class, so I wouldn't write it off. But then again, Italy have found in the last couple of years since they returned to the contest that they can secure a decent finish by sending the San Remo winner, but it's all just a bit too good to win. Not a bad shout around the 25-1 mark, though.
24. Norway: Leaving aside the slightly awkward title, this is a magnificent track, with production values right up there with the glossiest top ten hits. The singer's more than equal to it, and has already a good career track record, although I'm surprise to find very little evidence of this track having done much in the charts across Europe yet. However, the staging is very reliant on the lighting and camera wizardry - a girl standing still in a white dress being pretty much the Eurovision default this year - and (having listened to this a few times) you need decent sound quality to appreciate the mixing. That said, I can see this raking in jury votes galore, and it's got to have a good chance.
25. Georgia: It's a slightly desperate trick to buy in the writer of the previous year's winning song, and I'm afraid that this has "song written to order" written all over it: it's a Eurovision-by-numbers, production-so-glossy-you-can-see-your-face-in-it, dramatic-key-changing, Disney-theme-song instant, rip-off of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But that sort of thing does well at Eurovision, as the noble Lord himself proved the last time the UK scored more than a dribble of points. I hope it doesn't win, but there's a risk.
26. Ireland: At least it's not Jedward! It's got prime spot in the running order, and its odds have shortened massively accordingly - and it's also another of the endangered males in the field. That said, I don't actually like this myself: the singer's dreadfully nasal and screechy (and not always on key?), and for all the over-the-top staging and production, the song underneath is instantly forgettable. It's not going to do badly, but it's not going to win (he said confidently and foolishly).
So if I were a betting man? Denmark's a waste of money at those odds, but deservedly a strong favourite nonetheless. Norway's also a bit short on the return for any cash, but has hit the running order jackpot. The Finnish insanity's fun, but unlike Lordi seven years ago it's far too early in the night to benefit from drunken amusement value, and a repeat of the whole girl-kissing thing could really lose votes in more conservative countries. The insanity factor is something which could benefit Greece, however, but I can't see them getting enough support to win. Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and all the other great big female ballads could just cancel each other out - any one of them perhaps having had a much better chance any other year, and they're all strong songs - while I would perhaps pick Belgium as the potential complete outsider surprise. But neck on the line: Norway and Denmark neck-and-neck, with Norway to nick it thanks to running order, ahead of Netherlands and perhaps Belgium.
There, that's guaranteed I'll look a fool!