Blastoff day: Who will win ESC2017?

Now we have the full running order, which seems to have tipped the scale a bit in the direction of Bulgaria and Portugal, and now the race tonight seems to be between three main contenders. Italy has slipped a bit from its formerly unassailable lead, and now Portugal sits ahead in betting by  a hair, with Italy and Bulgaria close at his heels.

order

I like all three of these entries, and won’t be crying if any of them win.  The fourth and fifth in the betting are Belgium and Sweden, and both of them are worthy contenders as well.  If Belgium wins, I don’t think it will be great for the Contest, since Europe would be crowning as winner a great song let down by a lame staging and shaky, inexperienced singer.

But my one other consideration is also in play.  Where would I like to travel in 2018 (in hopes that I can afford it)? I have looked at the options in Lisbon, Sofia, Gothenburg an Brussels and would be very excited to spend a week in May in any of those options. If Italy wins, the host city is rumored to be Torino, but there is no firm consensus yet.

Lisbon seems to be the ideal Eurovision host city for me, close by, inexpensive, beautiful, historic, and with a perfect pleasant climate. If Salvador wins I will start fighting tooth and nail to save for a Eurovision trip next year.

It’s only a few hours from the Finals.  US viewers can watch it on LOGOtv starting at 3pm EDT noon PDT.  It looks to be a fine show, so watch it!!

ESC Countdown 2 Days: 2nd Semi Reactions

Tonight’s (or today’s, for us Americans watching in the afternoon) second semifinal was closer and a bit harder to predict than the first, and contained a few surprises. Over the top Croatia turns out to be the only ex-Yugo nation to make the finals this year, and when horrendous Lithuania and rather good Estonia both failed to make it through, we will have a finals with none of the Baltic states represented.

I am pretty sure (and the betting odds seem to bear me out) that Bulgaria, Romania and the Netherlands were the top three votegetters tonight. Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria was so perfect in both voice and stage presentation that he has to be a very strong contender for victory Saturday. The bettors have Blanche from Belgium as fourth place in the Finals, which I find kind of ridiculous with her poor command of the stage and quavering vocals.

This year three of the five Nordic nations are in the finals, with only Finland and Iceland missing out. I think Sweden will do by far the best of the Scandis, with a probable to five placement, followed by a vocally strong Anja of Denmark and a modern and current chart-friendly JOWST of Norway.

We will soon find out the final running order for Saturday, and that should give us a few more hints of who is well-placed to win or out of the running…

 

Esc Countdown 3 Days: Reaction to First Semi

Well, yesterday’s first semifinal shook things up, didn’t it? Three tiny things that seem to have had a major impact last night on everyone’s view of what might happen Saturday in the Finals. One, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani had a long clip from his upcoming final performance shown during the voting interval and he suddenly didn’t seem like a runaway winner anymore. The song seems a bit slight and superficial, and his performance a bit tossed off and casual.

Second, after a week when nobody saw Portugal’s Salvador Sobral rehears due to his ongoing health issues, finally he took to the stage last night and blew everyone else out of the water.  Sure he’s quirky and weird, but endearing, mesmerising and fully committed to his performance. I’ve heard from friends in Europe who say that they usually hate Eurovision but were completely caught up in the three minutes that Sobral took the stage. Portugal’s chance to win this took a HUGE step forward yesterday.

first-semi-final-qualifiers

Third, the running order draw for the finals is taking shape with the qualifying entries drawing lots for the first or second half of the show. Sweden, Greece and Belgium are to be in the coveted second half of the running order. Heavyweight contenders Italy, Portugal and Armenia are all crowded into the first half.  This shakes up expectations a bit.

Now let’s talk about Belgium.  “City Lights” is undoubtedly a potential worldwide hit and a very current and well-crafted downbeat pop song. But Blanche is definitely a carcrash when it comes to performing before an audience. Her unsteady vocals and deer-in-the-headlights onstage demeanor had most of us thinking she didn’t qualify into the top ten. But in their usual reality show trickery, the producers had her announced tenth, knowing the surprise and shock in the arena and home viewing audience when her entry was called out over such more impressive entries as Finland, Georgia and Iceland, even Slovenia. Here is a bit of her wobbly rehearsal performance (youtube is blocking US viewers from seeing Eurovision 2017 broadcast show streams and clips due to LOGO’s ownership of rights for the US).

Today, Belgium and “City Lights” are the top charting ESC song on Itunes in most countries, with Portugal second.  Maybe viewers like the song so much they will overlook a bad performance Saturday? I suspect that juries will fear rewarding a lackluster and inept stage performer and mark down her scores at the Friday Jury Final as a pre-emptive strike against her potentially winning.

ESC Countdown 3 days: Who will Shine at Semi 1?

Tonight is the first actual broadcast of Eurovision week, as the 18 contenders in the first semi are whittled down to ten finalists via juries and televoters. About eight of the finalists are pretty sure bets with Sweden, Portugal, Armenia, Finland, Cyprus and Australia the closest thing to certain qualifiers. Add in  perennial votegetters Greece and Azerbaijan and the qualifying list is almost full.Kyiv2017

Let’s look at the top three contenders tonight. Armenia has a striking stage presentation and great vocals.  Her votes from the East could put her at the top tonight, though of course the actual scores and rankings from the semis aren’t made public till after Saturday’s final.

Portugal should end up with their best placing ever this year. Working for them is their touching, charming singer and performance, with his sympathy-getting story of Salvador’s heart condition that prevented his from attending last week’s rehearsals (with his sister, the song’s composer, standing in before his Sunday arrival).  The question marks are whether votes turn out for a fine song that is in Portuguese and sounds like it could be 50 years old.

Sweden has been consistently near the top of the final scoreboards for the last seven years, and this year should keep up that record. Robin is goodlooking and a fine singer with a great modern song and stage package. If juries and voters prefer something that screams international radio hit, he could walk away from tonight with the highest score.

We are only a few hours away from tonight’s Kyiv semifinal broadcast, and as always in Eurovision, there will be surprises and disappointments when the top ten are announced. But if any of these three powerhouse entries somehow fail to make the finals, it will be a stop-the-presses shocker.

ESC Countdown 4 Days: I Miss Jury Rehearsals!

This is a little departure from recent posts, and is more of a personal rant.  Of all the wonderful things I miss from not attending Eurovision in person this year, the one I’m pining for the most might come as a surprise. I REALLY loved going to the three Jury Rehearsal shows, which are the first public dress rehearsals and take place the nights before semis and the Grand Final.

The Jury Rehearsals are watched by the professional juries from each of the participating nations, whose scores have a 50% bearing on the final scores each country awards.  So even though we can can these full show runthroughs a dress rehearsal, none of the artists give anything less than 100% in their performances (if they have any brains in their heads).

stage

The show is also the very first time anyone sees the full semi or Final as it was designed to be seen, in real time, no do overs, with all the bells and whistles and special effects in place, and before a cheering live audience. When you spend a week at Eurovision with tickets for all the shows, the excitement of the Jury Rehearsals and seeing every performance live on stage for the first time is probably what you remember most fondly.

Of course, there is nothing so much fun as watching the scores mount up on Finals night and hearing the roar as the winner is announced and brought to the stage for their victory lap performance, but the relatively calm and yet focused energy on rehearsal nights is something I will always treasure and look forward to sharing again, maybe next year?

ESC Countdown 5 Days: Bottom of the Heap

Cheat sheet for American viewers of ESC 2017

Some Eurovision entries are just bad in a WTF-sort-of-way. Some entries are great songs with the wrong singer, or vice versa. And some are just too anonymous to find a voting audience.  Pick a few from all these  possibilities, and you have the bottom of the fan lists and betting odds for 2017.  There’s a very good chance that the home viewers won’t see any of these entries more than once, since they will either fail to qualify out of their semis, or they are automatic qualifiers you will see only in the Grand Finals before they ignominiously drop like a stone in the final voting.

Valentina-and-Jimmie

Little San Marino’s disco mess with Valentina and Jimmie

This year we have two of the Big Five automatic qualifiers that are destined to fail. Spain is recent years has been alternately VERY good or very lame.  Unfortunately  Manel and his summer beach disco reggae falls in the latter category. He is young and attractive, but the song is so repetitive and filler-ish that it is hard to see this as anything but bottom three in the Saturday night scores.

Germany, despite a recent win in 2010, has more often presented poor-quality entries that scrape the bottom of the barrel in the last decade. This year “Perfect Life” is a nice-ish little song that is okay and inoffensive, but it is hard to see who (if anyone) will pick up the phone and be moved to vote for poor Levina.

Czech Republic has struggled since it joined the ranks of Eurovision nations, only last year qualifying for the Finals (and landing with a thud in last place there). This year they tried to recreate their formula from 2016 with an attractive, competent singer and a big ballad, but this time the magic just isn’t there. Without any history of neighboring countries voting to help them, the Czechs seem destined to fail in the semi and fail to qualify.

Lithuania did well last year, even cracking the top ten with handsome and athletic Donny Montell and a Swedish-composed entry. This year their home-grown alternative rock is sinking like a stone, and there is almost no scenario that sees them getting past the semi with “Rain of Revolution”.

And tiny San Marino is the little country that could–one time only in 2014, after several failed attempts at qualification. Returning for a 4th go-round is local jazz vocal star Valentina Monnetta and her favorite composer Ralph Siegel (creator of a dozen ESC entries in the last four decades). The song this year, with duet partner Jimmie Wilson, is a disco mishmash that has camp appeal. But that alone doesn’t seem enough to save this throwback from the lowest ranks of semi non-qualification.

ESC Countdown 6 Days: Rehearsal Week Shockers!

Cheat Sheet for US Viewers of Eurovision

Ok, I guess I have been watching too much social media clickbait.  Maybe this year’s first week of rehearsals in Kyiv has only produced one or two actual shockers, but there are definitely a host of surprises, good and bad. Some entries have turned out to be remarkably better than the press and fandom have previously judged, and a couple favorites have proved to be far WORSE.ukraine-stage

Let’s start out with some happy surprises. Slovenia’s Omar Naber is returning after 12 years, with a song called “On My Way” that would have sounded dated back in 2005. The bookmakers had this in absolutely last place of this year’s crop of 43, and no one considered it as any contender for the finals.  But Omar’s well-trained voice and stage professionalism, as well as a nicely understated stage production, have turned this “Meh” song into something that absolutely might qualify for Saturday’s big show.

Another entry that was supposedly dead in the water was Nathan Trent for Austria, who is a charming and attractive singer with a slight song.  Given its “death spot” of number two in the semifinal running order, its fate was sealed.  Until the first rehearsal, that is, when the press voted Austria as having the very best rehearsal and runthrough of the nine entries that day. Now t looks like he is a fairly certain qualifier. It’s cute, fun and well-performed…

Greece is a usual powerhouse when it comes down to the voting, partly due to the large number of Greeks in various countries across Europe who contribute to a powerful diaspora contingent across the continent.  This year they chose local pop superstar Demy, but unfortunately the Greek viewers also chose the worst and slightest of the five songs she was offered to use for her official entry. But the strength of her voice, stage presence and the beauty of the stage production propels this into an undeniable contender for the top ten at Finals.

Now for some of the bad news… Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace is a young man of 18 with a big deep voice, and bettors have compared his chances with hot favorite Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria who is only 17 and also competing with a modern, radio-friendly ballad.  But rehearsals this week by the Australian have failed to impress, and his chances have slipped to “borderline qualification”.

Iceland’s Svala also has a modern pop hit on tap for her entry. “Paper” was warmly welcomed into the Contest when it was chosen in March, and she was cautiously viewed as a finalist, providing that the stage production was warmer and a bit lighter than the dark weirdness she showed in the national selection show. Well, from all reports she has become less engaging and more offputting, so her fine song looks to be headed into obscurity after Tuesday’s Semifinal 1.

And the big shocker… Belgium’s Blanche is a reality show winner with a deep, mysterious voice and a surefire chart-ready song in “City Lights”. Her prospects were unlimited, not just as a certain qualifier, but as the 4th-place favorite to take home the trophy as this year’s winner. A case of nerves at London’s Eurovision party put a scare into fans, and then Blanche took it easy and bowed out of the next few public appearances. But this week’s shambolic rehearsals have confirmed her paralyzing stage fright, dropping Belgium out of the top ten in betting odds, and ESC press now see her as an almost certain casualty in the first semifinal.

Ahh, Eurovision… you never know what you are going to get till you see all the entries up on the same stage battling it out for real!