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…

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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?

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Eurovision 2014: Latvia

Latvia will be represented in Copenhagen by Aarzemnieki, with their song “Cake to Bake“.

Oh hi there Latvia, I see you enjoyed “Tomorrow” by Gianluca. How about sending an even more twee version of that song this year? Indeed, most of this article is probably going to focus on the latent comparison between the two pieces, because it just feels so rather blatant.

There isn’t a whole lot that you can say about “Cake to Bake”; it’s very much a folk-pop singalong song in the vein of “Tomorrow”, but much less interesting. Part of what sold “Tomorrow” was the fact that the story that it told was a catchy hook that kept you involved with the song; you still remember that his name was Jeremy and that he worked in IT, after all. The hyperbolic statements that form the verses of “Cake to Bake” are at best sporadically witty; the happy and warming feeling you got from “Tomorrow” is still there, but it’s much more watered down in this entry.

Coupled with the above issue is that Gianluca was a hugely likeable character by himself, engaging brilliantly with both the cameras and the live audience, which meant that the performance in Malmö was spot on. By virtue of being a band, there’s just not enough to Aarzemnieki for them to match that charisma as a group and while it’s likely that the camera will mostly focus on the lead singer, the camera will no doubt stray to the others.

For proof of why this could be their downfall, there is another past entry that must be taken in to consideration. In Gianluca’s performance, he was the main attraction despite sharing the stage with five others – you only saw them in any great quantity when he was interacting with them. In 2012, Izabo went for a much more kitsch folk song, where the performance saw the camera darting across the stage trying to involve all the members of the band. Gianluca’s connected with the camera – Izabo didn’t and went out in the semi finals. It’s hard to see how Aarzemnieki will overcome this staging dilemma themselves.

However, the Latvians are much closer in style to Gianluca than Izabo and so is the song. There’s clearly recent form to suggest that this type of song can do surprisingly well, so it’s not all that fair yet to write Aarzemnieki out of the running entirely. If they can synch together a well crafted display on stage in Copenhagen, they might just stand out enough from the dub step and dance that precedes and follows them to be remembered. Unfortunately, you do get the feeling that in the overly stacked first half of this semi final, they really don’t stand too much of a chance.

Prediction: Doomed to go out in the Semi Finals. I suspect that they’ll finish fairly high up of those who don’t make the final, but Latvia notably lack a lot of voting support and the song is likely to get swamped by those around it.

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Eurovision 2014: Armenia

Armenia will be represented in Copenhagen by Aram MP3, with his song “Not Alone“.

Two things: first; welcome back! I’m going to try and get through every single song before the rehearsals start, because the writing spark has returned recently. Secondly – how nice of the Eurovision draw to come out today too, so I have a handy order for the articles I have to write.

Aram MP3 is, at the time of writing, favourite to win the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. I have absolutely no clue, because in my opinion it’s also one of the absolute worst songs of the year (and that’s saying something, given the overall quality). “Not Alone” – as if you couldn’t tell it was called that, given that the title is repeated so often – is a dramatic ballad-cum-dubstep breakdown kind of song.

I can understand *why* the song is one of the favourites – first of all, Armenian fans tend to be rather militantly vocal when it comes to their songs, because Azeri fans are just as vocal, and they have to constantly try to out-do one another. It will be interesting to see just where he polls when the OGAE polls start to come through; though they aren’t always consistent with the actual results, if Aram were to struggle in those then it would seem to validate the notion that his current popularity was a case of national pride speaking for the entire Eurovision community.

Secondly, “Not Alone” falls in to the often too misinterpreted “modern song!” fan movement, where people assume that those who are voting on the night will be doing so in droves for the song most akin to what’s currently in the charts; we can thank Loreen for this particular point, despite the fact that very few of the other recent winners have been able to exist outside of Eurovision (only Lena has really had anything on-point since).

The juries, of course, heavily marked down some of the more “modern” sounding songs in 2013, particularly Montenegro who would have easily qualified thanks to the televote were it not for the juries wiping that out. It’s highly unlikely that the same will happen to Aram, but there are more appealing songs (hello, Hungary) to both televoters and the juries in the same genre that come much later in his semi final. The chances that he will win the Semi Final will now surely be non-existent, let alone actually winning the entire contest.

It’s not just a case of the song’s genre being the issue though, as “Not Alone” is basic to the point of annoyance when it comes to the songwriting. There’s only so much of Aram slowly growling “you’re not alone” louder and louder you can take before you wish he’d just get on with it – nearly 2/3rds of the entire song has elapsed before the pay-off finally comes about. It’s likely that he will have to be fairly perfect in his own performance on stage in this opening section for it to draw in the votes, as one would imagine that any choreographed staging would only really be able to begin in earnest at the same breakdown point. 

There are some scant positives; yes, Aram will likely have impressive vocals and they are on show in the video. He is a consummate professional and his experience will help him massively on the Copenhagen stage. He’s also not a bad looking guy, so that might sway some of the younger voters. 

Prediction: Aram will qualify – that is undoubted. But if he is stuck with an early draw in the final, then he is highly likely to be swamped and forgotten by the end of the show; in this case, it seems certain that the favourite will flop once again, much like in 2011. A later draw would likely place him in the top ten, given Armenia’s usual support, but he’d need a lot more juror support than you’d imagine if he were to 

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Day Fifty Five: Portugal


Ana Moura, “Desfado”

It may seem odd that I haven’t mentioned a Portuguese act on the blog yet, but there are some rather pertinent reasons for that. Much like some of the Eastern European countries, Portugal’s music charts tend to be dominated by foreign acts, which makes finding new Portuguese singers harder than one would hope. Another issue is that the majority of Portuguese singers are performers of the Fado genre, a traditional Portuguese style of music that focused heavily on the guitar, and has never particularly spread outside of the country – but does not particularly enjoy digital chart success, perhaps a sign that it is not aimed at the younger audiences who are liable to buy singles this way.

Ana Moura is one exception to this, having managed to make it across borders and picked up some success in the likes of the Netherlands. “Desfado” is from her new album of the same title and is, as far as Fado goes, rather good. It’s charming and cute and Ana’s voice, as it is in many of her songs, goes perfectly with the tune. She’s also managing to make her own chart success and crucially, “Desfado” is even in the top ten of the Portuguese iTunes chart at the time of writing. Good going for a good song.

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