Eurovision 2014: Grand Final Outcome

And in the end it wasn’t even close.

So, my run of predicting the winner right every year has come to a crashing halt (and quite spectacularly so too – but there’s reasons for that, as I’ll get to). But it’s good to be able to say that I don’t even care, because a truly deserving song won with an even more deserving artist. I watched the show at a party and it was clear who everyone wanted to win, such was the way that Conchita Wurst managed to unite people. The fact she did so across Europe, scoring points from nearly every country, including ones you would never have dreamed of proves the power of her statement. 

But I’ll save more for Conchita when we get to her. The following is a run-down of my thoughts on each and every song in the final based on their finishing order. I’ll try not to get in to too much detail when it comes to voting and the semi-finals, as I’ll probably have posts covering those in the next few days too, but this is at least my theories on why certain countries finished where they did. Starting with…

26th: France, 2pts (Twin-Twin, “Moustache”)

Completely and utterly deserved. Twin-Twin were TERRIBLE, finishing last on both the televote and with the juries. It’s the first time that France have ever finished last in the entire competition too. Everything about the performance was wrong – out of time, tune and touch. It became an indecipherable mess and nearly unwatchable, such was the colourful assault on the eyes. They looked downright amateur after Sanna too. Ultimately, everyone should have had this one pegged for last place.

25th: Slovenia, 9pts (Tinkara Kovac, “Round and Round”)

Bless Tinkara – she gave this everything she could and probably deserved slightly better than 25th. But Slovenia never do that well and she probably needed more support from the juries than she got to offset the inevitably low televote score. This one probably lost something in ditching its original staging too, because as it ended up, Tinkara looked far too distant from her backing singers and instead the entire thing relied on the changing backdrop/floor. It just wasn’t enough for her.

24th: San Marino, 14pts (Valentina Monetta, “Maybe”)

She didn’t come last! Admittedly, Valentina made it in to the final by the skin of her teeth (and a hefty eight points from old allies Albania), but this was the ultimate victory for her and for San Marino. She didn’t disgrace herself one bit and if this is, as it seems, her final foray in to Eurovision, then she can leave with her head held high after this performance, particularly considering the fact she made it so high with the help of the public and not simply the jury, as many had assumed. Good job, girl.

23rd: Malta, 32pts (Firelight, “Coming Home”)

This…I cannot explain. Not one bit. Well, I can give it a go – that the voters thought that Malta was far too much like a Mumford and Sons tribute act – but Firelight deserved much, much better than this. The juries got it spot on by ranking it so high and with its running order position, this should have been challenging for the top five. The fact that they suffered a similar result in the semi final makes it all the more baffling. No issues with the performance whatsoever…this is one of those baffling Eurovision results you just can’t get your head around.

22nd: Azerbaijan, 33pts (Dilara Kazimova, “Start a Fire”)

Only the winner gave me a better feeling than this. That’s not Dilara’s fault, of course, but after last year’s voting calamity with Azerbaijan, to see them tumble so hard down the order is a very welcome sight. Dilara is a wonderful vocalist, but the song was too dull and low-key, was lost in its position and the trapeze artist stole the show. Perhaps more telling is that this only qualified in 9th place in its semi final too, when it had a considerably better draw to boot. Absolutely nothing went right for Azerbaijan. I mean, even Malta’s customary 12 points disappeared. I wonder wh–*looks at new EBU anti-rigging rules* ohhhhh.

21st: Italy, 33pts (Emma, “La mia citta”)

Oh, Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. La mia citta is by far her best work and this was also far from her best vocal work either. The entire thing just seemed very confused too; so, it’s a song all about loving your city, and yet she’d dressed up as a Roman, thrusting around the stage like the Italian Miley Cyrus. Fair play to Emma, she owned the hell out of those walkways, but nothing made sense here. Italy’s good run comes to an end with arguably their most deserving artist. That’s what she gets for not entering with “Non E L’Inferno“…

20th: Greece, 35pts (Freaky Fortune ft. RiskyKidd, “Rise Up”)

And in a completely deserved – and welcome to see – 20th place, Greece! Many people expected that, simply thanks to the traditionally strong Greek vote, this one would do well despite its shortcomings. But we saw in 2012 that Greece doesn’t necessarily just do well these days when they don’t deserve it; RiskyKidd was frankly embarassing throughout the performance, looking a bizarre mix of smug and disinterested. Furthermore, the trampoline trick completely backfired on them and left the end of the song feeling rather dull. The fact it didn’t even make the top half of the televote was very telling.

19th: Montenegro, 37pts (Sergej Cetkovic, “Moi svijet”)

A deserved finish for Sergej; a wonderful singer, but another person stuck with baffling staging and a distracting act going on in the background. This was a song that cried for a Zeljko-esque approach to the performance, but instead Sergej and his backing singers were left feeling closer to a support act to the show behind them. Bizarrely, he actually finished better on the televote than with the juries, though perhaps this was more a case of being the only real Balkan left in the running (and if you include Greece, he still was the top Balkan!) meaning that he got some added support from friendly nations. Hopefully it’s enough to keep Montenegro in it for another year.

18th: Germany, 39pts (Elaiza, “Is It Right”)

For a song that everybody assumed was going to finish dead last, Elaiza managed to pull this one out of the bag somewhat. They toned down considerably on the ever-tricky streamers to their benefit, but the vocal tricks still felt a little offputting throughout the song. It is, however, true to say that “Is It Right” has always been better live rather than in studio/music video form, which probably explains why nobody really gave them much of a chance. Interestingly, this one did very well with the juries after everyone said that they gave one of the worst performances too. They also survived being the so-called “cannon fodder” between Austria and Sweden rather well – a good job by the girls.

17th: United Kingdom, 40pts (Molly, “Children of the Universe”)

*sigh*.

There was a moment – probably just after the first chorus – that I realised that the UK had completely and utterly blown it. Somewhere, somehow, they had thrown away what had seemed like a sure thing; maybe not a victory, but surely a top 5? But in the translation from smaller stage to Copenhagen, “Children of the Universe” lost the anthemic feeling it so desperately needed. Molly looked alone; too static and dressed in something that was completely incorrect for the performance. It all just felt so flat.

Yes, the draw probably didn’t help us, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Yes, we probably deserved higher – just – but this was meant to be ours for the taking. And, realistically, we threw it away. Molly is a great singer and I hope she has continued success, but more than anything, I hope the UK does not revert to its previous ways of sending the wrong type of acts. If anything, I’d say that we should try it all over again and send Molly to Austria with a song with slightly more edge. 

And if nothing else, we’ll always have Curly Wurly Cake.

16th: Belarus, 43pts (Teo, “Cheesecake”)

Belarus finished 16th for the second year in a row and with the Russian twelve points to boot. I was never a fan of this performance, nor the song, but regional influence (big points from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were enough to support Teo through to the final and then a respectable, if slightly undeserved, 16th place. Fair credit to him for selling the song well though.

15th: Iceland, 58pts (Pollaponk, “No Prejudice”)

From a song that overperformed to a song that, dare I say, actually underperformed. Didn’t think I’d be saying that, but Pollaponk were absolutely fantastic on Saturday night. A cheeky, fun-filled performance that got the crowd going after the slight lull caused by Belarus & Azerbaijan; again, a victim of being a bit too early on in the running order. This was the “in your face” version of what Conchita was subtly trying to tell, perhaps indicating why the juries didn’t fall for it as much as the televote, a 15th-12th disparity between the two. Still, the group produced Iceland’s best result since 2009 and deservedly so.

14th: Poland, 62pts (Cleo & Donatan, “My Slowianie – We Are Slavic”)

The televote put this song in 5th – and you know what, I would have been very happy to see it that high up. Trashy, completely classless and pure unadulterated fun. Cleo was absolutely incredible in this performance, keeping the attention on her even with the camera, saving it from becoming a shouty mess. You do feel that this one could have done even better had they focused on some more English rather than the sparse showing at the end too – but the juries were the real tripping point, which was a shame but completely expected. Again, let’s hope it’s enough to keep the Poles interested in Eurovision, it being their best result since 2003.

13th: Switzerland, 64pts (Sebalter, “Hunter of Stars”)

Inexplicably, Sebalter was wiped out by the juries. No idea what they found so objectable; Sebalter’s charm and charisma clearly came through to the voting public. Perhaps the whistling hook, which no doubt worked as an earworm when it came to being memorable for voting, proved to be more of an annoyance to the juries. That, or the fact the song realistically makes absolutely no sense was a bit offputting to the “music professionals”? Perhaps his position next to the more “polished” Hungary also harmed him, but Sebalter was probably one of the most hard-done by acts of the night.

12th: Romania, 72pts (Paula & Ovi, “Miracle”)

After an all-too serious and smug performance in the semi final, Paula and Ovi did indeed embrace just how ridiculous their staging was. Ovi made no attempt to hide the fact he wasn’t playing the circular piano, whilst Paula oversold all of her dance moves. “The note” went as well as it could, and it was another welcome breath of up-beat air at the start of the show. In fact, I’d almost have been tempted to move this in to the top ten myself, so improved was it on the night. Well done to the duo, who didn’t disgrace themselves on their return like many thought they might.

11th: Finland, 72pts (Softengine, “Something Better”)

Well, now this was a surprise. Softengine easily came through the semi final in 3rd place, it turned out, and then turned it around in to an 11th placed finish, the country’s best since Lordi and second best result in the past 25 years. Like Malta, this one suffered because of the televote and not the juries, having been 7th with the juries and only 17th on the televote. That’s possibly one of the hardest to explain, because they really gave it their all on Saturday night – the only thing might be that their light show was too distracting to the viewers watching at home en masse? It’s a difficult one to work out, but the band deserved this one.

10th: Spain, 74pts (Ruth Lorenzo, “Dancing in the Rain”)

Ruth managed to just about match Pastora Soler’s performance, which is a very worthy marker to match herself up against, plus she was the victory of the Big Five battle. A very engaing performer with a song that probably was a little overhyped and a bit too simplistic to do all that well – much like Pastora, it was the televote that held her back; big power ballads don’t work if they just focus solely on the voice. Fair play to Ruth, she tried something different with the rain effect staging, but it wasn’t a killer enough hook to pick up more votes. Here’s hoping that she continues to have a good career though. 

9th: Denmark, 74pts (Basim, “Cliché Love Song”)

Denmark’s job of making sure they didn’t disgrace themselves but keeping themselves as far away from the victory worked perfectly here. No issues with Basim or the backing group, but the entire thing fell in to the realm of self parody the second that the “Love” banner descended from the sky. True fact: everyone at the party I was at was really enjoying this right until the banner fell, at which point it was clear to everyone that it had just descended in to a cheese-fest. Could Basim have won? Maybe – but even taking the banner in to account, you’d have expected him a couple of places higher. Personally, I’d have had him a couple of places lower…

8th: Norway, 88pts (Carl Espen, “Silent Storm”)

It’s hard to say what happened with Carl; 8th place was well deserved in the end, but you do wonder if it could have been more. The bookmakers did him no favours by placing him as the favourite so early, then they completely undersold him by the time the final came around, which probably contributed to why he was so buried in the running order when DR published it. His low placing on the televote is easily explained that way, along with the sacrifical staging that the Norwegians lumped him with. The juries rightfully rewarded a massively heartfelt performance though and the big man finally won me around on a song that I fought so hard against.

7th: Russia, 89pts (Tolmachevy Sisters, “Shine”)

Well. I will give Russia credit for some things here. By giving Ukraine 7 points, they effectively broke down some of the political borders that had worked so harshly against them. Did the girls deserve to be booed? No – they didn’t – and it’s also fair to say that the audience wasn’t booing them, but it was a message being sent back to those in Russia who had decried the contest and its winner as a “hotbed of sodomy”. The boos throughout the Russian voting made it clear that this was not an attack on the Tolmachevy girls. 

Furthermore, to give the sisters credit, this was a great performance of a rather average song. They really lifted it up (when they could have crumbled under the pressure from Tuesday night) and I’m unashamed to say that this probably deserved its place after all. And that is a sentence I never, ever thought I’d be typing this year.

6th: Ukraine, 113pts (Mariya Yaremchuk, “Tick-Tock”)

Mariya absolutely killed it on the night, being one of the absolute best openers to a contest in many years. Every part of this performance was what it needed to be; typical Ukrainian over-the-top staging sold to perfection. The “hamster wheel” was a memorable moment and it has to be said that Ukraine didn’t even really need the “sympathy” vote to help sustain them in the voting. It wasn’t loved particularly by the juries, but you’d have imagined a later slot might have seen Mariya in the top five, perhaps just outside the top three. It wasn’t a winning song, but as far as the Ukraine’s form goes, this was another feather in their cap.

5th: Hungary, 143pts (András Kállay-Saunders, “Running”)

I never saw Hungary as a potential winner, but I knew that many saw it as the dark horse, which is why when it seemed to be picking up traction early on in the voting, I started to think that maybe there was something I had missed. András is a good but unspectacular performer and the song + subject matter clash is still far too jarring for me to really see how it could marry up well. But, to give Hungary credit, they went all out on the staging and were probably the only country who got the “something going on in the background” thing right, especially by having it link in all at the end with András protecting the girl and looking the hero. Hungary have started to get good at this Eurovision lark though and Budapest isn’t looking out of the question too soon.

4th: Armenia, 174pts (Aram MP3, “Not Alone”)

Much like Carl before him, Aram wasn’t helped by the bookmakers making him the favourite so early on; when he did stumble on the semi final night, he was effectively thrown under a bus and written out of the running. There was a brief moment during the voting where that started to make everyone look foolish, but in the end 4th was all Aram could achieve. He wasn’t perfect in his performance on the night either, but he is a showman at the end of the day and was able to sell it as best he could. A typical strong Armenian performance, even if I never really liked the song. And, of course, they ranked Azerbaijan last of all. Wonderful.

3rd: Sweden, 218pts (Sanna Nielsen, “Undo”)

In a year without Conchita, Sanna Nielsen would have won. I have very little doubt in saying that – she simply had the ballad votes stolen from her. She was flawless and could not have done any more, let’s face it. Perhaps “Undo” was not the strongest of her attempts at getting to Eurovision, but quite rightly, Sanna was rewarded with a fantastic position that she has long deserved. Graham Norton said it correctly too – there would be no complaints if she had won. Fair play to SVT for allowing her to go out there and try to pick up the victory too, unlike some of their other more self-sabotaging neighbours. Sweden are once again rightfully at their place at the top of the “constant contenders” pile – three years out of the past four, they have finished in the top three – and you’d imagine that they’ll be chasing the crown again in 2015.

2nd: The Netherlands, 238pts (The Common Linnets, “Calm After the Storm”)

Perhaps the best pure song – and certainly the most commercial, as is being proved by its continued success on iTunes throughout Europe (it’s currently in the UK top 5 on iTunes, beating both Molly and Conchita). Simplistic, iconic staging. Really, there was nothing more that Ilse and Waylon could have done; they ticked all the boxes. Sadly, it was a night where it simply wasn’t to be for them for reasons outside of their control, but undoubtedly this is a song that will fall in to Eurovision legacy for years to come. The Netherlands have completely turned it around and right until the votes started to come in, I had convinced myself that we were heading to Amsterdam in 2015. Bravo to the Common Linnets.

1st: Austria, 290pts (Conchita Wurst, “Rise Like a Phoenix”)

Deep down, I wanted Conchita to win it. I just never thought she would. She would be too much of a divisive figure. The East would never vote for a drag queen performing a ballad surely meant to be sung by a “woman”. The juries would find her a mockery. It would all conspire against her.

And then she won it with almost relative ease.

There were moments in the voting where it almost seemed too good to be true. It seemed that they were building her up too much and that the Common Linnets would catch her. But then she kept on pulling away. More countries gave her 8s, 10s, 12s. Georgia, Lithuania – even five points from Russia. Then came the Ukraine’s points. And in my head, I realised what had just happened. 

“Rise Like a Phoenix” is a wonderful song. Conchita – Tom – is a wonderful perfomer. The message that has been sent out across Europe by her victory and in her speech is an incredible feat. In a time where the rights of LGBT people throughout Europe are under scrutiny, where hate crime is still a major issue, the fact that such a gender-breaking act could win so convincingly is a true marvel.

This is the winner that Europe – perhaps not Eurovision – needed.

Eurovision 2014: Grand Final Predictions

Here we go then. The Grand Final of Eurovision 2014 is just hours away from us now, so what better time than to put those final predictions in to place. Before that though, a word about the standard of this year and why it’s made these decisions particularly hard – whilst it’s hardly been a stellar year for Eurovision songs, it’s probably one of the closest fields in a final. Everyone has really produced their best since they got to Copenhagen and no act left has really messed up at any point. It’s been a consistent year and sometimes that is all you need. But I digress. Let’s move on to the actual songs, shall we?

Bottom of the pile

Best to start on a negative, eh? Yes, whilst there’s been a consistent good-if-not-great feel about this year, it seems easier to predict the ones that will be languishing at the bottom of the table at the end of Saturday night. Belarus and Iceland may be fun songs but their early draws will be a real hinderance and neither have the greatest voting support to work with anyway. I have a feeling that the audience at home won’t be rushing to vote for France either; Twin Twin will breathe some fun in to the mid part of the final, but there’s nothing that memorable about the song for that to last.

But dead last, I fear (as do most people predicting this) seems to be going to Germany. Elaiza are very competent and there’s nothing wrong with “Is It Right” as a song, but their jury performance became undone by errant streamers, a visual effect that has pestered them throughout rehearsals and they have failed to do anything about. It’s called editing as you go, girls…not only is there the visual element working against them though, but being sandwiched between two of the huge favourites in Austria/Sweden will also mean they are completely overshadowed. It’s hard to find many positives here.

I can just hope that San Marino don’t finish last though. They had enough support from somewhere to make the final, so for Valentina’s sake I hope she doesn’t finish last. You’d expect some cursory votes from Italy and their usual allies in Albania and Montenegro at least to keep Valentina safe.

The Midfield

The issue with the level of consistency this year is that it’s in the mid lack that it’s very hard to place anyone. Certainly the first place you would look would be towards the likes of Finland, Montenegro, Slovenia and Poland, countries that don’t usually perform that well when they do make the finals. All four have their own unique hooks and individually deserve to do well, but they are the most likely to be forgotten about.

I’m also, perhaps controversially, sticking nearly all the other automatic qualifiers in here. Denmark have done a hatchet job on the staging with their massive “LOVE” banner, whilst Italy and Spain *should* do well but probably won’t. Ruth may be a great performer but she is probably going to be out-diva’d by Conchita; plus, if Pastora Soler could only manage 10th, then her chances must surely be slimmer.

I can also see Romania and Norway in here. Paula and Ovi’s staging is awkwardly hilarious in all the wrong ways, but there’s a feeling that they “get things going” after a very indifferent start to the final which may help them. Norway may have been a former market leader, but Carl is far too early in the running order to do anything. I’d expect him near the top ten though.

Finally, Russia will scrape enough points to be respectable and will be booed once again. Just missing out on my predicted top ten though is Malta – Firelight have a great draw, have a very accessible song and probably should be top ten, but I can imagine a couple of countries with better voting allies outpacing them.

The Top Ten

Speaking of which – Azerbaijan and Greece. The Azeri’s clearly have decided not to push the issue too much this year and have calmed efforts with “Start A Fire”; Dilara is a great performer, but this is definitely a tamer attempt by Azerbaijan. They’ll still score well, undoubtedly, but they don’t want to incur any problems with the EBU’s new rules. Similarly, the idea of leaving Greece out of the top ten would be pretty foolish and the Freaky Fortune boys are competent enough to reel in some good televotes.

Ukraine may open the show but in the current climate, they surely won’t be forgotten about. Mariya deserves more than just sympathy votes for “Tick-Tock” but will take whatever she can get I’d imagine, especially if it meant beating Russia in the table. As for Armenia; Aram’s chances of victory are completely dashed now and without having the favourite tag attached to him, he’ll have a fight on his hands. “Not Alone” is a strong song though and shoehorns itself desperately in to being memorable, so I can imagine he will be rewarded well for his efforts.

The two songs that I could possibly see doing even better thought are Switzerland and Hungary. Both have great draws towards the end; Sebalter is incredibly likeable and engaging and should have had good support from both televote and jury, whilst Andras has arguably the most contemporary song with “Running”, which should see him do well on the televote particularly. They’re both top 5 calibre, maybe even top 3.

The Contenders

But there are only four songs I can see winning this year. To start with, let’s go with the bookies favourite: Sweden. Tuesday night’s performance was the first time I saw Sanna as a real contender, such was the power she gave to “Undo”. The Swedes will be the beneficiary of all the Scandi 12 points, you’d imagine, and the juries will of course be throwing their points towards Sanna. But ballads just “as they are” haven’t excited the televote too much recently and that might be her stumbling point. Of all four, this is the one I can see winning the least.

Austria break the ballad mould by virtue of Conchita. She is easily the most recognisable of all the contestants, has a stirring performance and was not too harmed by her early draw. It seems that she will not suffer at the hands of perceived homophobia as much as was expected based on her sales in the likes of Russia and she will definitely receive good votes from the Western nations. Part of me hopes she can do it; only a smaller part believes she will though. Either way, it’s likely she will be the star of the show.

Smart money would likely go on The Netherlands – a sentence I never thought I’d be saying, even at the start of the rehearsals. But “Calm After the Storm” proved to be one of the best staged songs of the year and comes alive in live performances. The Common Linnets are seasoned veterans and know exactly how to win over a crowd. The proof is in the sales: they’re still selling across Europe even five days removed from their semi final performance, a feat only really seen comparatively with Loreen. They have arguably the best draw in 24th. They wouldn’t be runaway winners, but they’d be damn good ones if they did. Eurovision may well be finally returning to Amsterdam after so many years of pain for the Dutch.

But there’s one country where victory would be even less expected. From a personal standpoint, I’ve always bet on the winner – I got Azerbaijan right, Sweden and Denmark too. This year I’ve only put money on one country: the United Kingdom. Molly closes the show in a spot that isn’t necessarily the best, but “Children of the Universe” is the perfect closer, with the “power to the people” message a driving call for votes right before the lines open. It’s staged perfectly and Molly is an enchanting performer, in the mould of Loreen and Emmelie before her. She comes in to the final an unknown force with the public, unlike the Dutch. Surely there will be no better shot at the UK finally reclaiming the crown, though…

My head says The Netherlands. My heart says United Kingdom. Game on.

Eurovision 2014: Grand Final Draw Thoughts

Some quick thoughts on the draw for the Grand Final before the full rundown goes up later:

> Ukraine is probably the fairest opener to the show: Mariya is due support anyway and is therefore more draw proof than the past few show openers. Belarus‘ chances of finishing dead last are much higher in the graveyard second spot.

> Azerbaijan, Norway, Romania and Armenia have all been buried in the running order, occupying a strong if unspectacular row of songs at the start. Most at risk here would be Romania and Armenia, who will probably make each other look worse by virtue of their respective strengths and weaknesses. Any last thoughts on Aram’s chances are dashed now and he’ll have to do a lot better vocally now that he has Sergej after him for Montenegro. Speaking of that run, Poland could do very well following those songs with its tongue-in-cheek performance.

> Austria is draw-proof, but 11th is still a good slot for Conchita. Germany will be overshadowed by Austria before and Sweden after; Sanna gets the post-commercial slot that was favoured last year when it was given to Anouk. DR have clearly noticed that Conchita and Sanna are two of the big favourites now and have given them the fairest shot they could after they drew the first half. Victory is not out of their grasp yet…

> The next 5 songs very much feel tacked on to the beginning of the second half – none of them obviously have a shot at winning, so why waste them towards the end? One note is that Italy and Slovenia could stand out well here, whilst France, Russian and Finland should be more worried.

> Ruth Lorenzo was obviously pleased with 19th based on her Twitter; she’s also quite well protected from the other ballads and may steal some of their thunder by performing late. Switzerland and Malta should be happy with their draws and Hungary runs the risk of being overshadowed, but all three songs are probably going for top 10 if they perform well.

> Denmark already knew they had it good in 23rd, but appear to want to shoot themselves in the foot with their staging. Which brings us to the real battle – 24th vs. 26th. It’s increasingly looking like it will come down to The Netherlands vs. the UK; based on recent form, you’d say that Molly has been hindered by performing last, but she’s also the first real contender to be placed in that slot. “Children of the Universe” is a belter and a perfect close to the show; Denmark benefitted from this in 2010 when the much more inferior Chanee and N’Evergreen finished 4th by virtue of having a good close to the show. It could give her the added edge if the audience are still willing to bite. But Ilse and Waylon should really be viewed as the favourites now; “Calm After the Storm” has gripped the iTunes Charts and they will stand out massively so late on.

> Spare a thought for Valentina, being sandwiched in at the end there. But the chances of her finishing last are surely diminished now and she’s already had her victory just by making the final.

Do you agree with how DR have put the show together? Let us know in the comments!

Eurovision 2014: Semi Final Two Outcome

First things first – last nights semi final may have been one of the best in history. Nearly every act brought their best and there was real doubt in my mind about who would qualify. In the end though, the answers were almost the obvious ones…

Rising Up…

The star of the show, unsurprisingly, was Austria and Conchita Wurst. The roar from the crowd every time the camera even just lingered on her meant that, realistically, her qualification was never in doubt, even if DR did their best to throw in some extra tension by revealing her last. “Rise Like a Phoenix” was absolutely flawless and there’s a real chance that Conchita won the televote last night and maybe even the semi final, if you want to look in to her draw in the final. It’s fair to assume that she is a “draw-proof” act; the fears over her popularity with the eastern bloc are also disappearing, as she’s doing well in the Russian iTunes chart. If she nails the jury performance, then we might yet be off to Vienna…

Also a huge hit, Switzerland are criminally underrated by the bookmakers at the moment. Sebalter is a hugely charismatic performer who is probably one of the best at commanding the stage; a beefed up performance of “Hunter of Stars” with extra pyro is also a big winner in my view. He’s got the all important second half draw and a good position with that – a top 5 finish would not be out of the question here.

The Diva-Off

Three divas entered, but only one remained after the semi-final, as Slovenia made the final for the first time in three years, sending Macedonia and (shockingly) Israel out. Fair play to Tinkara, who absolutely smashed it on the night. She had the advantage simply by performing last of the three solo up-tempo females and didn’t let it slip away. It was hard to have any issues with her making the final after that.

Tijana threw away a good song with “To The Sky” with staging and camera work even worse than what cost Estonia their place, but I’m still baffled by Israel not making it. Mei was in good form; the only fault one can really find is still in the composition of the song and the transition in to Hebrew for the middle part. It’s likely she was forgotten by voters after a harsh early draw – and if the rumours that Israel will be departing the contest are true, perhaps the producers didn’t think of doing them many favours…

Other Qualifiers

Malta deserved their spot in the final after Firelight gave a great opening to the semi final. “Coming Home” is a familiar enough tune with its Mumford-esque tinges that voters will find it appealing. They’re another who will massively benefit from their draw in the final too – it could be another good finish for the Maltese.

On the other hand, Norway and Romania made life difficult for themselves with their performances. Carl simply doesn’t command the stage enough and you could hear a lot of audience noise during “Silent Storm” which was mightily off putting. The staging doesn’t help things – but it’s nowhere near as much of a car crash as Romania’s. The holographic Paula trick looks horribly cheap and the less said about Ovi’s “attempt” at playing the circular piano the better. If the Romanians have any sense, a hasty rehash of the staging in the first final dress rehearsal might be the only thing to salvage their blushes.

Who knows if the staging helped or hindered Poland, but “My Slowianie” was unashamed and, for that reason, quite fun. If it managed to make it through an undoubtedly harsher voting audience in the semi, it should fare better in the final too. Similarly, I’m not sure if the trampoline was much benefit for Greece, but they had bigger issues in terms of vocals on the night. But they’re Greece and Greece always qualify.

Finally, Finland gave a competent enough performance that sounded different enough from the rest of the acts to make it through. Softengine are probably heading for the mid-table, but that’s not bad for Finland after their struggles recently. Belarus‘ qualification was the only real sting for me, as TEO was fairly unspectacular, especially in comparison with the likes of Israel.

Unsurprising Departures

There was a brief moment where I thought Georgia had just about done enough to make it through halfway through their performance, but by the end I was solely back in the view that they wouldn’t be progressing. Far too confusing a song and the vocals just weren’t quite there…wherever that would be.

Whereas Georgia threw too much in to the song, Ireland tried to throw too much at the stage to compensate for an emptier song. It was all too busy and distanced from itself, with the dancers, violins, drummers and finally Kasey all failing to interact with each other. Kasey seemed flat and disinterested – this was easily the most obvious NQ of the night.

Finally, Lithuania’s inaccessibility also caught up with them, proving diaspora can’t get you everywhere. “Attention” was far too attention seeking and the less said about Vilija’s glory hole skirt, the better.

In terms of predictions, I got 8/10 for both what I thought and what I hoped would progress – getting Israel wrong on both, whilst predicting Lithuania to make it and not Slovenia/Poland on what I thought and choosing Macedonia over Belarus/Finlamd in my hopes (though I preferred Finland to Macedonia on the night).

Next stop…the grand final!

Eurovision 2014: Semi Final Two Predictions

After the shocks that accompanied the first Semi Final, making predictions for this second Semi Final has proven to be a much tougher beast. Coupled with an A-Game jury rehearsal and it seems the only real definite of this show will be that all the artists are going to put on one great spectacular. But, here’s some educated guesses about who we will be seeing – and who we won’t be – come the final on Saturday.

Definite Qualifiers:

Starting things off with Norway; Carl Espen’s status as the favourite to win has long since gone, but “Silent Storm” is still a powerful song that will do well with both juries and voters. The issues here mainly come with the way the Norwegian delegation have staged the performance, which probably links in with the theory that they don’t actually want to win again and have been spooked by just how well Carl was doing with the bookmakers. Still, this isn’t enough of a sandbagging effort that we won’t be seeing this song again come Saturday.

Austria are surely guaranteed their spot in the final too. Whilst Conchita has been decried by some voices in the Eastern European nations, Austria will probably be getting big points from the likes of Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland and the UK. Conchita’s charisma is obvious to see and she will be coming out all guns blazing with, arguably, the best ballad of the year. Finally, even if it is massively overloaded with gimmicks, Romania will undoubtedly make the final. “Miracle” isn’t as good as “Playing with Fire”, sure, but Paula and Ovi have the experience to make it through this semi relatively unscathed.

Likely Qualifiers:

Yes – only three songs are probably safe enough for me to call that “definites”. Greece are right on the cusp of being there, mainly because…well, it’s Greece, and Greece always qualifies. I’m not a huge fan of “Rise Up” but it’s the type of song that Greece can send and do well with. Unless it was heavily, heavily tanked by the juries – which is a possibility – I’d say that we have our fourth qualifier right here.

Malta and Israel are both strong songs, performed very well, but have the possibility of being forgotten about in favour of other songs in this semi final. We’ve already seen this probably lead to Estonia’s failure to qualify from what seemed a safer position, so it can’t be ruled out. Malta are probably the safer of the two, as their Mumford and Sons style is much more unique in this semi final, but Mei is a commanding presence on stage and has carried a lot more fan support than most in this semi. I’d be surprised – and disappointed – if these two didn’t make the final.

Going Home:

I’m wary of saying anything here after the San Marino “debacle”, but here goes nothing: Georgia are doomed. The Shin and Mariko have, admittedly, made “Three Minutes to Earth” a much more palatable song than it seemed when it first debuted, but it’s still just too much of an oddity in this field to stand out and make it to the final. Georgia usually carry some good regional support, enough to make the final anyway, but in recent years they’ve struggled – failing to make it in 2012 and only qualifying in 10th with a song tipped to do very well in 2013. Given the derision that seems to surround “Three Minutes…” then I’d say this one is flat out on its back.

Ireland also seem destined to be on the next flight home too. There’s just too much confusion going on in the stage show (which Ireland suffered from last year) and Kasey’s vocals aren’t up to scratch. The song feels flat on a big stage and it would take a huge upswing from the televote for this one to make it; it’s also unlucky in that it starts off the large run of pure pop-sounding songs that ends this semi final, so will probably be forgotten by the end.

The Maybe Group:

Which leaves seven songs and four slots left in the final – that’s how tight this whole thing is. It’s consensus that Switzerland are probably going to qualify, as they have a lot going for them. A catchy whistling hook prevails through “Hunter of Stars”; Sebalter is a cute, affable performer who captures the eye and he’s also improved his own performance since the song debuted. They’ve thrown in some extra pyro for added effect too, which means this is the most likely of this group. The Swiss don’t usually have great voting support, though, which may harm them, but will have Germany, Austria and Italy to lean on at least here.

It’s easier to find negatives about other countries’ voting support: Belarus don’t have too many friends, which means they usually have to find a gimmick to pull them through (or a genuinely good song in Koldun’s case). Teo had a Las Vegas theme to “Cheesecake” early on in rehearsals, but that’s been pulled and it all looks like one big boyband now, which might have sunk his chances. It’s a modern Robin Thicke-esque song though and that might help him on the televote. On the flipside, Slovenia have probably played their cards towards the juries, as they too have very few voting allies if past form is to go by. They’ve not made the final since 2011, but “Round and Round” is another catchy song and Tinkara performs it very well. It’s just lacking that big edge though and that might be the end of it.

Who knows what vote Poland are going for with “My Slowanie”; it’s been described as low-rent porn meets Carry On in terms of its stage performance. That’s not usually the Eurovision audience (particularly for semi finals) and what seemed like a done deal for Cleo and Donatan now looks like it might be slipping away. This one looked a set to qualify, but now it’s looking much less likely. Lithuania has always been a confusing one this year; “Attention” isn’t a particularly good song, especially in its composition, and Vilija is good but not great. Never rule out the power of the diaspora though – if Lithuania can make it through with Andrius and Donny in the past two years, it’s probably a done deal that they’ll unfairly take a spot on Saturday night again.

Macedonia last made the final in 2012 with a hugely likeable performer in Kaliopi, whose song was mostly ignored until she performed in the Baku semi final. This year, they have a hugely likeable performer in Tijana, whose song was mostly ignored until she arrived in Copenhagen. The chance for a repeat is obviously there and she does perform it very well – if anything, this is where the threat to Israel comes from. Her appearance on the BBC for the first semi final went down well and that might mean she’ll be getting points from the UK when she wouldn’t have been expected to necessarily. A real question mark on this song.

Finally, there’s Finland. It would be a second straight year of all the Scandi countries making it to the final if they were to qualify, but there’s real about about just how confident Softengine are on stage. Vocals, nerves and a lack of connection with the camera have all been shoved in their direction through rehearsals and if that combines together tonight, that would be a huge blow to what is one of the stronger songs in the semi.

This is a ridiculously hard one to call. There’s a huge gulf between the songs I’d like to see in the final and the songs I think will be there too. As such, I’m going for my official “this is what I think will happen” prediction and a personal one. The ones I believe are:

Malta – Israel – Norway – Austria – Lithuania – Finland – Belarus – Switzerland – Greece – Romania

The ones I’d like are:

Malta – Israel – Norway – Poland – Austria – Macedonia – Switzerland – Greece – Slovenia – Romania

Now watch as Georgia knock Norway out.

Eurovision 2014: Semi Final One Outcome

A surprise contender, a favourite slipping, a shock qualifier and boos a plenty a jeering crowd – that was a first Semi Final to remember.

In my predictions, I got 7/10 correct, accurately predicting Armenia, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, The Netherlands and Hungary and missing Iceland, San Marino and Montenegro. In their place, I had predicted Estonia, Belgium and Portugal.

Estonia missing out on the final is the most baffling, though the camera work for the actual performance left a lot to be desired for. It was difficult for Tanja to make a connection with the wide sweeping shots; the impressive dance routine was almost underfeatured. Tanja’s vocals were solid, though a little bit wavering in the first verse. It’s possible the juries didn’t respond well to it and unfortunately the song was forgotten by voters in the long run, but I think losing this one in particular was a real error by Europe.

I wasn’t sad to see the back of Belgium; I didn’t respond to “Mother” at all and never quite understood why people seemed to be hyping it up as a certain qualifier. A poor jury performance probably didn’t help Axel either. It’s since been revealed that the 11th and 12th placed songs only missed out by 3 points; chances are, that was Estonia and Belgium. As for poor Portugal…Suzy gave it her all, but the whole thing seemed a little bit lacking in energy. On a big stage, the party element was lost slightly and her failure to qualify was probably the easiest to call.

Albania and Moldova were fairly obvious non-qualifiers too after their performances, whilst Latvia actually impressed and probably finished in a respectable place in the standings.

The Shock Qualifiers

It’s probably hard to call Iceland and Montenegro “shock” qualifiers – Pollaponk gave a really energetic performance of a song I enjoy, though it did feel a little bit *too* forced at times and I wouldn’t have been too surprised if they hadn’t made it. Sergej, meanwhile, delivered what had been expected and Montenegro finally made it to the final.

But the huge shock, of course, was San Marino making the final. I’d predicted Valentina finishing last in the semi final, yet there she was celebrating her first triumph in three qualification attempts. I’m still not sure how, as “Maybe” is still a fairly uninspiring song, even if she did perform the hell out of it. I have a feeling that the juries might have given her a rather big helping push over the qualification line. Thankfully, she drew the second half of the Final, so I doubt she’ll be embarassed on Saturday night. It’s hard to feel angry that she took a worthier song’s spot too, simply because you kind of feel that she’s earned it.

Lowered Prospects

Aram MP3 was shockingly poor when it came to his performance; he seemed nervous, the camera work was poor and the entire thing felt rather flat. Chances are it was just nerves, because he’s been spot on all through the week beforehand. Still, this laid bare the issues with “Not Alone” and Armenia have since drifted from their spot as favourites. Another early draw in the final seems to have put the nail in the coffin and it’s probably not going to be Yerevan 2015.

Azerbaijan and Russia were good, if uninspiring. You get the feeling both are just aiming for a top ten finish and nothing more than that this year, such is the relative lack of force that usually surrounds these heavyweight nations. Finally, Hungary’s performance was competent but didn’t excite too much. The dancers telling the story remain a distraction though and this may be the song’s biggest hurdle to still overcome. Still, Andras is importantly in the second half, so another good Hungarian result is not out of the question.

The Big Winners

After a bombastic performance, Sweden are now the favourites with the bookmakers once again. Sanna sang her absolute heart out, performing even better than she did at Melodifestivalen. Last night was the first time I ever saw “Undo” as a Eurovision winner – but again, an early draw may have sunk Sanna’s chances. She was by far and away unchallenged as the big Diva on Tuesday night, but if the likes of Conchita and Ruth perform after her in the final, she may be forgotten about.

Ukraine also have drawn an unlucky slot in the first half, but Mariya sold the hell out of “Tick-Tock” and, as predicted, Ukraine pulled all the staging tricks out of the bag once again. A highly confident and polished performance with strong vocals, it maintains its great hook and is a catchy song. After hearing the boos that Russia received when they qualified, it’s fair to say that Ukraine are probably riding a wave of support too – this one is heading for the top 5 no matter what.

But the biggest winners – and perhaps the start of one of the biggest underdog stories in Eurovision history – must come from The Netherlands. Simply put, the Common Linnets stole the show with a hugely captivating, flawless performance of “Calm After the Storm”. One of the best pieces of camerawork ever seen in the ESC captured Ilse and Waylon perfectly throughout the song and the fans reacted appropriately. Since the semi final, the song has cracked the iTunes top 100 in the UK and is the highest selling across the continent on iTunes of the SF1 songs. A draw in the second half of the final will probably see them on late in the final too. There’s no telling just how far this one could go, but this is perfect jury fodder and looks likely to be a hit on the televote too. After so many years of hurt, have the Dutch stumbled upon a winner? The betting has already seen them slashed from 125/1 outsiders to being 3rd favourites at an average 6/1. Confidence seems to be growing, but will it remain before Saturday? Time will only tell…

That’s all for this Semi Final – all set for tomorrow and the second Semi Final!

Eurovision 2014: Semi Final One Predictions

So, the first semi final is upon us in literally an hour or so’s time. Who is going to make it, and who’s on the next flight out of Copenhagen home? Here’s my two cents on it all…

Definite Qualifiers:

Undoubtedly Hungary will make it through from the last spot in the semi final. Even if the subject matter of the song still seems like such a bizarre choice for Eurovision, the package is neat enough that I can’t see them not making it. Similarly, despite my earlier protestations, Armenia are also a lock on for the final. Aram hasn’t been flawless, but the song will appeal to some voters and enough of the juries to make it.

Estonia is definitely my dark horse for the semi final and possibly even the whole competition; Tanja sells it perfectly and it differentiates itself from being a “Euphoria-clone” unlike Glorious did last year. And of course, there’s no way that Sweden will miss out on the final. Sanna is just too good for that, and even with an early draw slot in the semi final, there’s no way she’s going to get lost in the pack ala Anna Bergendahl.

Masters of the re-work, Ukraine, have done it again. Whilst the refreshed version of “Tick-Tock” wasn’t to everyone’s liking at first, they’ve managed to put together a strong stage show and Mariya is singing with confidence. With the political situation at the moment too, there’s bound to be a bit more voter apathy towards them too.

Oh, and Azerbaijan. Unfortunately.

Likely Qualifiers:

Speaking of turning it around for the contest, The Netherlands have worked hard and it looks likely that the Common Linnets will make it two straight years of qualification for the Dutch. Ilse and Waylon own the stage and are seemingly flawless, bringing what is otherwise a fairly tame song to life on camera. All the better to have them in the final again too.

Political climate aside, Russia have just about managed to make “Shine” a palatable enough performance that it’s hard to see the Tolmachevy Sisters not making it through to Saturday night. Expect them to be greeted with boo’s, too. 

Going Home:

Oh dear, San Marino. Valentina peaked a year too early with “Vola” and the sympathy towards the returning diva has run dry. “Maybe” is far too much of a “maybe” for anyone to really get behind it; after coming so close last year, it’s common acceptance that San Marino might finish last in this semi final.

They’ll have company with their often voting partner Albania though. Hersi has a great voice, but the song is far too confusing and inaccessible. It’s trying too much in three minutes to be successful and that is it’s huge falling point.

I was very, very tempted to put Latvia in the following group, but whilst “Cake to Bake” is kind of charming in its amateurish presentation, you can’t see where the votes will come to send Aarzemnieki to the final. Latvia have shown in the past few years that they don’t have the voting support and this kitsch type of song has failed for them before. Soggy bottom? Probably.

The Maybe Group:

And this is where it gets difficult. Common belief is that Belgium will have no trouble making it through; Axel wasn’t great in his jury rehearsal though and the entire presentation is so stilted that voters might not see the appeal. He’s probably the safest one of the bunch though.

From the safest to the least likely to make it; Moldova are only here because they’re usually always in the final. If the votes swing their way from the region then they very well might be able to squeak in to the final, though Cristina’s wig-splitting performance of “Wild Soul” is leaving a lot to be desired for a finalist.

Of all the songs, the one I *want* to get through the most is Portugal. It’s a huge injection of fun and it would be lovely to see Portugal get in to the final on their return, sticking to their roots by singing in their native language. Suzy is a wonderfully engaging performer, which she proved at the London Eurovision Party. “Quero Ser Tua” is a huge grower too, but I worry that the juries may have already sunk this one.

Montenegro are another who may benefit from regional support; Sergej is a very good singer, but “Moi Svijet” isn’t the greatest Balkan ballad we’ve had; it’s not even one of the best in the past few years. Still, the juries may have liked his voice and he could be carried through on their strength alone, in an ironic role reversal of Montenegro failing to make it last year. Also, you get the feeling the EBU would like them to succeed at least once.

Finally, Iceland might just strike the right chord with the fans at home with their message of equality. It’s unashamed fun and the group sell it well (much better than Aarzemnieki do with their song, another issue for Latvia). I wouldn’t complain one bit if this made it through.

So – who are my ten? In performance order…

Armenia – Estonia – Sweden – Russia – Azerbaijan – Ukraine – Belgium – Portugal – Netherlands – Hungary

Check back later to see the actual outcome and thoughts on the show!