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Eurovision Preview

Eurovision Preview
Friday,May 13,2016

Eurovision is undergoing a renaissance, and whether you're a hardcore fan, or looking simply to win a few quid, jump in our fabulous fun Eurovision Pool, grab some ear plugs, some nibbles and a stiff drink and tune in to Saturday's BBC1 live coverage.



Like the Grand National, the days of Eurovision when you could narrow it down to five or six "with a chance" are long gone.


This year the flood of money is for Russia. There are two obvious reasons for this.



The first is that it's almost identical to the song that won it last year. Now, this is no guarantee. Although ballads won the first few Eurovisions (the first "pop" song was the superb Poupée de cire, poupée de son, written by Serge Gainsbourg, in 1965) the attempt to copy the previous year's trick (say, the skirt removal for Bucks Fizz in 1981) has rarely succeeded.



The second reason is more important – the other qualifiers. There are significant Russian minority populations in the countries of six of the other finalists (Armenia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan and Georgia). There might be what is called an "eastern sympathy"  in Bulgaria, Serbia and Cyprus.



This doesn't need to be collusion. Quite simply, the voters and the juries in 10 of the 26 countries are likely to be amenable to Russia – which does have a decent entry to back itself up. Popular voters and juries contribute points separately this year; a system which works in favour of the "alliances". It's hard to see Russia getting fewer than eight votes from any of the nine countries above in the "popular" vote.



Russia is by no means a certainty (its odds are the same as they were for El Gran Senor in the 1984 Derby narrowly beaten by Secreto) but even El Gran Senor managed second.



The voting system this year is such that the country that wins will garner a large number of seconds and thirds, rather than a few firsts and a few nowheres.



Looking at the odds "betting without Russia", there's a fancy for Australia and Ukraine – neither of which sets my pulse racing. One has to feel that there's a bit of heart ruling the head about the Ukraine entry, given its political connotations.



Here are my (individualistic) views of the finalists, in running order:



Belgium: Laura Tesoro "What's The Pressure"

Outsider. Had the misfortune of making me think she was going to do "Another One Bites The Dust" when I heard that bass intro riff. Looks like a mid-table performance.



Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková "I Stand"

Ballad with a one-bar piano opening. Singer attempting to bring back the bustle as fashion accessory. The set looks like one of those fiendishly difficult board games that Deep Mind is about to solve. Big outsider even though it isn't awful. It just isn't memorable and sounds somewhat old-fashioned.



Netherlands: Douwe Bob "Slow Down"

My original notes put this as "sub Garth Brooks", but it's better than that. It's also something fresh and original, from the "fast ticking clock" intro into a single (acoustic) guitar strum as an opening. The set continues the "time" motif, looking like Jools Holland's Hootenanny. A really catchy hook. I like this as a top four chance.



Azerbaijan: Samba "Miracle"

Synth start, attempt at a power pop ballad. Lots of orange flames and a one-piece gold lamé costume. These facts stick with me more than the song itself. Weak.



Hungary: Freddie "Pioneer"

Bloke banging a big drum! Freddie's three personal trainers as backing singers. And it has a bit of whistling. Freddie seemed to turn up for the semi-final in a tee-shirt and torn jeans (perhaps he'd come straight from a session with one of his trainers) which makes me wonder if he has an outfit hidden away just for the final. As with many eastern European songs, it just feels a little bit like something Take That would have sung 20 years ago.



Italy: Francesca Michielin "No Degree of Separation"

The first of the automatic qualifiers and odds currently being laid on Mel using the line "I bet she didn't need a guide to get here".  Despite the English title, it's mainly sung in Italian (always a brave move. I loved the Bosnia song, but it was sung in a language that they don't even understand in Brussels, and presumably failed to qualify as a result). The second brave move is that (in the official video at least), it zips straight into the vocals. Ballad, not particularly exciting. Mid-table.


Israel: Hovi Star "Made Of Stars".

Clever two-bar piano introduction and (pay attention many other countries) this guy really can sing. Haunting ballad with a fine progression that builds up the tension. Perhaps its only weakness is that it finishes with more of a whimper than a bang. Just about the only song in the second semi-final that had me saying "this guy has class". I think this has a great chance of a top four-place.


Bulgaria: Poli Genova "If Love Was A Crime"

Loved by the local eurotrash representative, this song features a costume with flashing lights cunningly designed to make Poli's legs look thinner. Opening riff is a piano bar with what sounds suspiciously like a sample from "Right On Time". It seems to shift from a disco-house-style verse to a traditional eastern European-style  chorus, which rather grated with me. Both are catchy, but the first most definitely doesn't lead to the second. Possibly one of those songs that gets a few 12 points but an awful lot of zeroes.


Sweden: Frans "If I Were Sorry"

If Professor Green was Swedish, this is perhaps what he would sound like. Anodyne, inoffensive, semi-rap that doesn't really go anywhere. Home team and guaranteed a clap-along to the chorus, so will get quite a few 4 points and 6 points. But it's hard to imagine any country's jury or popular voters putting this first.



Germany: Jamie-Lee Kriewitz "Ghost"

Quite the strangest costume this Eurovision (and that's a high bar, trust me). And a very odd voice that shifts from mezzo-soprano to deep contralto a couple of times, presumably to show off Kriewitz's range. A clap-along chorus that ends just like that. Very hard to see why the Germans picked this, or how it is going to do better than the bottom five.


France: Amir "J'ai Cherché"

Opening riff of violins which conceals the fact that this is standard eurotrash pop fare, with the relentless bass drum beat in the middle eight almost a caricature. Disco clapping! Presumably bought at Poundland after the final nightclub nearby closed down. Mysteriously this is one of the favourites without Russia. Can't see it myself.



Poland: Michal Szpak "Color Of Your Life"

Great jacket, straight out off the Sgt Peppers album cover. Song gets straight into the hook chorus (not a bad idea). Women playing violins in the background is a bit Gnarls Barkley 2005, but, as ballads go, this is one of the better ones. Will it be a ballad year? That's the poser. This has a better chance than the rank outsider odds assigned to it.


Australia: Dami Im "Sound of Silence"

Nothing epitomises the soul of Eurovision more than a girl of Asian heritage representing Australia, singing about Facetime. Dami Im also has the misfortune of having a name that will play hell with autocorrect on mobile phones. As for the song, well, I don't think that Simon and Garfunkel will be losing any sleep that this will become more associated with the title "Sound of Silence". This is favourite without Russia. Not a bad pop song, but is it a Eurovision song? My feeling is no. But Australia will get a vote from most of the juries and public voters, not least because of the number of Australian expatriates all over Europe. At these odds I would be a layer rather than a backer. Nothing against it, but I don't think it stands out from the pack.



Cyprus: Minus One "Alter Ego"

By "Alter Ego" they presumably mean alter ego for Brandon Flowers and The Killers. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. At least it's different from the normal fare. But nothing like this has ever done particularly well in Eurovision. I was surprised that it qualified, although I am sure Russia was cheering it on.


Serbia: Sanja Vučič "Goodbye (Shelter)"

Two and three-quarter bar opening piano riff that adds nothing. Over-the-top ballad that our eurotrash expert loved. I was less impressed. An orchestra of violins? Really? In this day and age? A rather eccentric performance as well. But, a catchy tune, albeit one so repetitive that I was bored with it before the song ended.


Lithuania: Donny Montell "I've Been Waiting For This Night"

I rather warmed to Donny and this song, although I'm not sure why. Possibly because I could imagine it being performed by The Gaslight Anthem (or, indeed, any Bruce Springsteen tribute band). Well, with these lyrics:
"For a thousand years, through a million tears

"With a hungry heart, every day apart

"I've been waiting for this night"

you wonder why Bruce isn't suing for breach of copyright. Can't see it getting a place, but I'll enjoy listening to it again.


Croatia: Nina Kraljić "Lighthouse"

Nina is quirky in a good euro way. I think that her dress could have qualified for the final without Nina bothering to turn up (it would have exceeded the Easyjet weight allowance on its own). Not much movement from Nina (is she standing on a box?) A Bucks Fizz "reveal". The song doesn't really live up to the performance (although it builds nicely), so it's hard to see it getting a place.


Russia: Sergey Lazarev "You Are The Only One"

Written by a professional tunester and arranger who has studied carefully the book "How To Write A Eurovision Winner For Dummies". Same for the set designer. As I wrote above, not a certainty, but it ticks every box and then a few more that we hadn't thought of. Even has a short slow bit to rebuild the tension. Worthy favourite, but not an odds-on jolly for me.


Spain: Barei "Say Yay!"

Timing is a bit strange for a "dancey" pop song. Short break about a minute in when it goes dark. Not sure what this was meant to achieve, but it doesn't succeed. Also, song where singer screams "SING IT!!!!" as song reaches climax leaves you thinking that not even she is sure about it. Little hope.


Latvia: Justs "Heartbeat"

Baffled that this decent song qualified because Justs simply can't sing. Okay, that never harmed Marc Almond's career, but I was left wondering how much better the song would have sounded if a quality singer had got hold of it. Still, it qualified, so what do I know. Mid-table at best.


Ukraine: Jamaia "1944"

The politically controversial one. Apparently about Stalin's troops overrunning Crimea and forcibly deporting the Turkish ethnic Tatars. To be honest, hearing the Tatars moan about others invading their land is a bit rich, since raiding other people's lands (and taking slaves for trading) was one of their major hobbies for hundreds of years. Hard to get excited about the song, and its position as second favourite behind Australia in the "without Russia" betting somewhat baffles me.



Malta: Ira Losco "Walk On Water"

In the first semi-final Ira was the easy winner of the lusty middle-aged men vote, just like Poland was a few years ago. A dress from the Eartha Kitt fashion school. Unfortunately the song doesn't quite live up to the promise. Forgettable. Mid-table.


Georgia: Nina Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz :"Midnight Gold"

The only song whose qualification would have amazed me more than this would have been Macedonia. A turgid semi-rock song with strobe lighting that probably left three studio technicians blind before the semi-final broadcast. This really is indescribably awful. The new voting system makes it virtually impossible for a country to score no points at all. But, if any country was going to manage it this year, it would be Georgia.


Austria: Zoë "Loin d'ici"

Have to admire a country that is not France having most of the song in French. Old-fashioned pink chiffon strapless dress, but a cracking pop song with a hummable hook. A good price I think, particularly as it comes on late and this is not the strongest Eurovision ever. One of only two songs that I have watched right through in the re-run. Audience really liked it as well.



United Kingdom: Joe And Jake "You're Not Alone"

Well, if you've backed this one to win, you probably are alone. A tedious single piano opening bar (surely the motif of the year) and fake guitar holding a la Andrew Ridgely. I mean, what is this song? "I, I, I, feel like I'm dancing in the sky, sky, sky". Are lyrics like this still legal? Bottom half.


Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan "Love Wave"

Perhaps a bit too left-field to do well, with a build-up nicked from "A Day In The Life" (but compressed into six seconds). Powerful voice from Iveta (Bonnie Tyler school) and an interesting middle eight (the nod to traditional Armenian folk?). I'd quite like it to do well, but I fear that it won't.


Cliff notes: I like: Russia, the Netherlands, Austria, Israel, Poland, Lithuania and Austria, with Hungary getting the "bloke with big drum" vote.


Underpriced: Israel, Netherlands, Austria, Hungary


Overpriced: Ukraine, Australia, France, Sweden


Good luck if you're playing the Eurovision Pool!

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Saturday, May 14, 2016 12:43 PM
Great blog Pete!

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