Friday 24 May 2013

Azerbaijan favouritism? A response

Over the last couple of days there have been accusations flying across the interwebz, that certain Eurovision fan-sites were paid by the Azerbaijani delegation to write positive things about their entry.

We can now unequivocally state that this was not the case for ESC Nation. We received no champagne, no petits-fours, nothing to say nice things about Farid while we were in Malmö.

We just really like Farid's arms.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Tack och adjö

So, before we set back to the calm off-season, here are a few small thanks:

  • To the EBU and SVT for providing us with the convenient reporting facilities, all went nicely and smoothly
  • To many other fan sites (esc-chat, ESC Kaz, escXtra,, escgalaxy, oneurope, eurovision-kiribati and many more) for helping out in such a friendly atmosphere in the press centre
  • To the delegations for allowing us to conduct interviews, ask them about hamsters and add their dancers to our hotties blog
  • To the people of Malmö
  • To Copenhagen Airport for the free wifi and hand luggage trollies. Hope they're still there next year!
  • And mostly to all of you, for reading, sharing, liking, disliking and commenting
Over for another year? ORIMLIGT!

Saturday 18 May 2013

ESC final: Where's the value?

If you've been following our betting guides to the Eurovision semi-finals this week, you'll know that it's been more than possible to make some easy money by predicting what's really going to happen, rather than what fans think will happen (hello San Marino!). However, there are always some surprises on the way, too - Israel's non-qualification will have stung the pockets of a lot of punters, for example. So where's the value in the betting market for tonight's grand final?

Firstly, because most normal people equate "ESC" to the Saturday night show, it's worth pointing out that there's far more money in the markets today - and far more interesting sub-markets for us to look at. Let's start with the winner market, though, since that's where most regular punters tend to focus. To say  that Denmark is the hot favourite to win would be a huge understatement. The best available price for Emmelie de Forest's song is 1.79 - that's less than evens in fractional terms. The problem is that most of us who don't think she's a guaranteed winner are none the wiser as to who will win. Norway are currently the second-favourite at 7, while Ukraine have drifted to between 9 and 17.5, depending on who you look at. Useful outsiders, particularly for an each-way bet, could include Germany or Italy (both available for 41) - or, if you think the world is going to go very strange tonight and fall for the elusive charms of Cezar, you can grab Romania for a tasty 101.

The next port of call is the top 4 and top 10 markets. Denmark is basically a write-off in the top 4 market (a best price of 1.12 offers no value at all), so you might want to look at the likes of the late-drawn Greece (4.5), Georgia (5.56) or Italy (5.5) for a better bet. The top 10 market is more potentially rewarding - if all the votes really are concentrated around the likes of Denmark, that opens up the possibility for some surprise countries sneaking into the upper echelons of the scoreboard. A price of 3.1 says that semi-final favourite Ireland will be among them, for example, while the male power vocals (in very different ways!) of Romania and Iceland are both priced at 4.5. Alternatively, if you think a soft and pleasant song like Estonia - effectively alone in its field - could capture enough jury attention to be catapulted into the top 10, that one's available for a very tasty 11.

As Eurovision fans, of course, we're almost as interested in what happens at the other end of the scoreboard. In the last place market, poor old Spain are the clear favourites - a mere 3 is available for them to finish last, and the odds are shortening all the time. Other candidates include Belarus and Lithuania at 11; both countries would seem to have enough allies to score 20-odd points, but that was almost enough for last place in 2011, so if the votes are widely spread then they could still get tangled up at the bottom of the table. Thinking of the light and airy sounds of Switzerland 2011, actually, I'm wondering if Malta at 21 mightn't be a bad outsider for last place - but then I also suspected Gianluca wouldn't qualify, so what do I know?

In the final, there are also regional markets to look at - although some are bigger than others, e.g. following the Balkan collapse in the semi-finals that's left us with just Romania and Greece to choose from! If you suspect Norway will come out as the top Nordic country but you don't want to pin yourself down to a bet on their absolute placing, for example, a price of 4.75 is available at sites such as Ladbrokes and Bwin. (The real outsider in this group is Iceland, coming in at a whopping 41.) Meanwhile, in what's being called the "Western Europe" category - consisting of the Netherlands, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium - you can still get a quite decent 2.44 if you think Hologrammatic Anouk will beat off the aforementioned competition. Seems quite feasible - the only one I can realistically see challenging her is Ireland (3.5), although if the Bonnie Tyler fanbase turns out in force, 7 might end up seeming like a quite acceptable price.

While we're on the subject of Bonnie, there's the top big 5 market. Italy leads the way here at a best price of 1.91, and with a late draw and all those Balkan votes floating around, it's hard to disagree with that. However, Germany's Cascada is a big name, and 3.75 for Natalie's dance beats to come out on top is quite an attractive proposition too.

As on Tuesday and Thursday, we finish with the many head-to-heads that are on offer. 2.62 for Greece to beat Azerbaijan seems like an interesting one - and I'm certainly tempted by the 2.1 that's available for Iceland to beat Finland, especially now we've seen their respective positions in the running order. Meanwhile, if you think Ireland's position in the running order is hugely advantageous to them, you can get 2.4 for Ryan Dolan to finish ahead of Anouk from the Netherlands.

You can use the wonderful Oddschecker to investigate all of these markets and more for yourself. And whatever you bet on, I hope you have a great time tonight and end up happier, richer, or ideally both!

Eurovision Day is here, ZOMGZ!!

Two weeks in Malmö are drawing to an end, and we've seen lots of rehearsals, mad cats, cows in the arena (or heard them, at least), worked our way through quite a substantial amount of wine, free or otherwise - and now we're nearly there. Tonight at 21:00 CET the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 will begin, and not too many minutes into tomorrow (depending on whether they've cut anything from the looong intro or the looooonger interval act) we'll know Loreen's successor.

I've been twisting my head forwards and backwards (and a little to the side, like in my accreditation photo) to try to figure out who it's going to be. The obvious answer is of course "Denmark", if polls and bookmakers are to be believed. But then again, so we thought about France in 2011 - could it be a case of the same kind of "accelerating favourite", that more and more people gets behind simply because they're starting to get a bit clueless? I don't really think the two are comparable, for what it's worth, and I doubt we'll see Emmelie de Forest crash to the same extent as Amaury Vassili did two years ago. I have been doubting her chances to actually win all season, though, and if nothing else, I want to stick with my prediction that she won't, just to make sure I'm not just swooped up in the majority view. A top 3 finish seems very likely, though, a prediction supported by the Danish song's success in various iTunes charts across Europe.

But then we need someone else to win, don't we...? GARGH. I've had Germany as a front runner big parts of the season, and Cascada is selling it extremely well on stage, so there's little reason to change that thought based on the rehearsals we've seen. However, I think it's safe to say its main audience is the televoters, and I do fear it might lose out on a few votes by being performed as #11. It's not a disastrous draw, but almost all of the other potential vote-grabbers have been luckier, and are to be find towards the end of the running order. Or could it actually hurt the others to be chucked together, and make Germany stand out more?

The delicious Fərid Məmmədov from Azerbaijan is hard to overlook, even though he is very short. His face is not a work of classic beauty, but with those arms, several upside-down e's in his name and that smouldering look in his eyes, I'm sold as hell. The strong, powerful song obviously helps too, and I think he's heading for a safe top 5 result. Yet, I can't see it winning, for some reason.

So we're left with Norway's Margaret Berger... I've loved this from about the first time I heard it, back in January, and it sure hasn't gotten any worse during rehearsals. She keeps nailing it, and is getting more smiley and charismatic by each run-through. I've been trying my best to avoid getting carried away and overrate its chances, but after convincing myself I won't get on the bandwagon and predict Denmark (even though I know there's a fair chance it's going to happen), this is by far the best package I'm left with - a great draw and a great performance, and a song that should appeal to televoters and juries alike. Boy, am I in for a disappointment tonight or what... :-o

So with that covered, this is how I think the complete scoreboard will look at the end of the evening. Am I wrong? Am I right? Comment or ridicule below!

1: NORWAY - Iiiiihh!
2: DENMARK - If it's not Norway, it's this. A good winner, but would be a bit anticlimactic...
3: AZERBAIJAN - Omnomnom
4: GERMANY - Hoping the juries went for it last night, and that she shines like we know she's capable of on screen tonight.
5: GREECE - May well be top 3 in the televote, and even I have started to mind it less by now... Is it related to hottie lead singer being very nice and touchy when we had our picture taken...?
6: UKRAINE - Useless, shouty mess, but god what a great mess it is.
7: NETHERLANDS - I really hope this doesn't fail...
8: ITALY - Had started to believe in a top 5 finish, but that performance in the jury final last night made me wonder. It should theoretically be his main audience after all, more so than the televote.
9: RUSSIA - Been solid all week, and works well, but there's little to actually love here.
10: GEORGIA - Similar to Russia - just a bit less solid the last few days.
11: ICELAND - Still think this is getting Norway's douze.
12: MOLDOVA - Would've been interesting to have this on much later, it does seem to disappear a bit when on as #3. A great little (well, tall) thing, though - the one that rose from rehearsals for me.
13: IRELAND - Should manage a decent result, but don't think it'll trouble any end of the scoreboard.
14: SWEDEN - An odd home entry, really, quite a different song from the rest. He's singing it well, though, and even if it might disappear a little for the televoters, I expect it got some jury support last night.
15: HUNGARY - Speaking of different... Love this to bits, and it stands out a mile.
16: ROMANIA - Yikes.
17: MALTA - Sweet and endearing in a goofy way, with his shy grin and walking with his feet turned inwards. Might get lost tonight, but should have a certain audience.
18: ARMENIA - Competent and solid, but probably won't have a massive audience. And I'm guessing the juries in countries that normally have them high in their televote may be a little extra careful to vote it down, unfair or not.
19: LITHUANIA - A great little song, this, and the performance last night was the best I've seen it, with a cheeky charm, and Andrius clearly enjoying himself.
20: FINLAND - This is as solid as ever, but I'm expecting it to get a bit lost when on as #4 - in addition to having a rather limited audience, region-wise.
21: BELGIUM - Competent enough, but forgotten a few songs after.
22: BELARUS - Well, who's gonna vote for this then? A few good neighbours and friends, and that'll be just about it, I would think. Still, CHA CHA HEY and CLINK * CLINK * CLINK
23: ESTONIA - Sweet and lovely, but rather doomed, I fear.
24: FRANCE - Not as good as it wants to be, and even if it were, would probably have a limited voting demographic. Will they repeat last year's televote zero? I guess it's technically not possible with the new voting system (as we won't have a 'televote 1-12'), but yaknowwhatimean.
25: UNITED KINGDOM - Nice and proper, if a little dull. 'Nice and proper, if a little dull' doesn't get you votes at Eurovision.
26: SPAIN - Making the most of what it is, but it still is what it is, sadly. Could we get our first zero in the final since the introduction of semi finals?

Good luck to all of you tonight!! xx

Malmö prepares you for every result

This befuddled car has been parking in the Triangeln area of Malmö is as clueless as we are, but at least it admits it.

I'd head plenty of warnings about Malmö before arriving here. "It's a shithole", "a ghetto", "stay in Copenhagen/Lund/Hamburg or regret it", etc. etc.

I've witnessed none of this. No, I haven't received any freebies to say this (except maybe some fika and lots of tap water) - but Malmö is actually a really nice place! Here are some reasons:
  • People are very friendly, and not in the annoying way. That goes for both random people at the street and Eurovision staff. The security people were always apologetic when they asked me to empty my bottle. And cars always stop for me when I approach the road (that felt weird - crossing a road in Stockholm, or back home for that matter takes forever).
  • It's a tasty city. You can get food from various cuisines for quite cheap (especially Middle Eastern) next to the yumsy Swedish pastries.
  • The trains are purple and are called Pågatåg. I want to live in them.
  • I felt very safe - any time of day or night - even in the neighbourhood that has some kind of reputation for not being so.
  • It was just the right size for Eurovision - and it was everywhere. The random supermarkets playing the official CD, the churches advocating schlager (what?) and the EuroCafé blasting out its music to much of the city. EuroCafé is the best in years, too!
  • Most importantly, there's a lot of hot people in here (thanks, Bosnian immigration?)
Enjoy tonight, we know we will!

Since everyone else is categorising...

...I'll do the same. Here's a guess as to how things might pan out tomorrow night - some of it is playing the percentages and the logic game, then there's a few speculative punts in there too. See what you think!

In no particular order within each category...

1st-5th: Denmark, Greece, Italy, Azerbaijan, Iceland
6th-10th: Germany, Russia, Georgia, Romania, Moldova
11th-15th: Ukraine, Estonia, Netherlands, Hungary, Norway
16th-20th: Sweden, Finland, Malta, Armenia, Ireland
21st-26th: France, Lithuania, Belgium, Spain, Belarus, United Kingdom

Friday 17 May 2013

Jury Final - live blog (part 2)

We are back after miss Woodruff, and Your Fishy Fishyness is at the ready!

NETHERLANDS - Not much new to report about Anouk - still steady, professional and lovely. Comes across very different and strong, but I do think it would benefit even more by being after another song rather than a break.

Sild: 6th-10th, Sam: 6th-10th, Yair: 5th-10th

ROMANIA - And the contrast couldn't be greater... Which I think helps both Romania and Netherlands, actually. I'm glad Cezar is here, as much as I hate it, as it makes for great Saturday night tv. Absolutely no idea what the juries and televoters will make of this, though!

Sild: 15th-20th, Sam: 13th-18th ,Yair: 12th-17th

UNITED KINGDOM - Aww, bless her, showing off her nice little mansion by the sea and all in her postcard. On paper, this should benefit a lot from being after Romania, as a normal song after the mad circus act, but it somehow doesn't quite work. That said, maybe it'd be even worse after something else...? She comes across less as an old rocker today, and more, well, old woman, which is a shame. Steady vocals and a good enough performance, though - and a massive applause in the press centre - are we in the British section...?

Sild: 17th-24th, Sam: 25th, Yair: 12th-17th

SWEDEN - Some nice eye contact in the build-up to the first YOOUUAUAUAOO here - the very boy-next-door and sincere-looking Robin is looking straight into the camera and connecting very well. Nothing wrong with his vocals today, and the random dancing isn't looking as useless anymore either - am I just getting used to it? Can't see this troubling the upper part of the scoreboard, but it won't be because of the performance.

Sild: 9th-17th, Sam: 8th-12th, Yair: 9th-13th

HUNGARY - The guitarist is rocking it as always, bouncing about and smiling - I think this rubs off nicely on ByeAlex himself actually, by somehow proving that his introvert indifference isn't actual indifference, they are actually enjoying this, even if they aren't going all Solayoh about it. Hopinghopinghoping this will do well, but fear it might get a little lost...

Sild: 10th-20th, Sam: 10th-20th, Yair: 10th-20th

DENMARK - Well, what is there left to say... I still can't see why it should be head over heels above the rest, but it clearly is a strong entry. She's very charismatic and eye-sparkling in parts of this, whereas she looks a bit, hmm, calculated (calculating?) in others. Is she getting bored of it...?

Sild: top 5, Sam: top 3, Yair: 1st-8th

ICELAND - One thing this entry benefits from is that it fits with the impressions (wrong or right) people have of Iceland - a blonde viking, slightly Celtic-sounding, dark, atmospheric... Makes it seem more genuine, somehow. The fact it's performed flawlessly with great camerawork obviously helps it too...

Sild: 9th-16th, Sam: 10th-15th, Yair: 5th-11th

AZERBAIJAN - He managed to find the camera in the second shot - yay! God, the eyes... Other than that, he looks a bit sweaty today - has he been out running again? I can't see this winning all of Europe over, but it's destined to do very well. The massive tail of red woman doesn't quite work when she's getting towards the centre of the stage, as the end of it is still on the catwalk - it ends up hanging over the audience in the front. Who gets a peek under her dress?

Sild: 2nd-6th - Sam: 3rd-5th, Yair: 3rd-5th

GREECE - Nothing new here - solid as always, even if not my thing at all - well, apart from the lead singer, that is. Bound to do very well in the televote, especially from this spot, but I think the juries will vote it down somewhat.

Sild: 7th-12th, Sam: 3rd-7th, Yair: 3rd-7th

UKRAINE - Ooops, giant not quite getting his steps in sync with the trembling beat this time! It does look far less ridiculous than it did it first, though. Zlata is very eager to show off her butterfly ring, there's lots of flaring about with her hand, along with the wriggling on top of her little island. She's in great voice, and there's little reason why the juries shouldn't vote for this. Got a massive cheer in the press centre too - are we in the Ukrainian section too...?

Sild: 5th-8th, Sam: 8th-12th, Yair: 7th-12th

ITALY - Marco is still in turqoise dress with a matching tie, starting off with a slightly weird-looking posture and drunken eyes in the close-ups. Probably meant to be 'emotional', but comes across more like dizziness right now. He also appears to be groping his crotch as if he really needs a wee - you should've gone before you went on stage, Marco! There's little wrong with this vocally, and he should do well with the juries based on this performance - he also managed to melt Yami completely! I do have my doubts about the televoting appeal, though... Hmmm.

Sild: 4th-15th, Sam: 4th-9th, Yair: 2nd-7th

NORWAY - We all know what we're getting here, and Margaret is indeed delivering - no issues visually or vocally. I'm really struggling to avoid getting my hopes up for this one...

Sild: top 5, Sam: top 5, Yair: 6th-11th

GEORGIA - "I just rally hate her face" says Sam from my right. And I don't really disagree. Good thing there seems to be lots of long camera shots, then. Good reaction in the press centre, but still leaves me quite cold.

Sild: 9th-12th, Sam: 8th-12th, Yair: 7th-12th

IRELAND - I think this really works as the last song - no winner, but good enough, and interesting enough to watch (hi dancer boys!) to keep people in front of the tv until the end, rather than head for refills or wees. He's singing it like he's done most of the time - with some crack-ups, but perfectly adequate for what it is.

Sild: 8th-15th, Sam: 13th-20th, Yair: 9th-16th

And there you have it! A very interesting draw, actually, seeing them in sequence like this - for all I still think the new way of doing it is unnecessary and stupid, they way it's done here does make each song (at least most of them) shine as much as they possibly can, simply by being after something that's a bit different.

I'll do a prediction of the full result tomorrow morning (ish), so watch this space. Meanwhile, leave us your views, your recipes for waffles or your phone numbers if you're hot in the comment field below - we'll hit the wine!

Jury Final - live blog (Part 1)

Good evening from the press centre in Malmö. Sild, Yair and I are here to blog the jury final, where half of the votes for tomorrow's contest will be cast. That means its important for the acts to give their best - especially for those who will be hoping to appeal to the juries in particular (we're looking at you Iceland).

We'll blog our thoughts on each song, and all three of us will give a prediction on each song's chances.

As we saw earlier, while Benny and Björn and Avicii's song plays, each of the acts walks on to the stage with the flag bearer of their country, just like the Olympics, except with more difficulty walking down steps (so more like the Paralympics in that regard, one could say).

Petra Mede gets a huge round of applause at the beginning, despite a horrible hot pink dress. Her script and delivery are much tighter this evening, even if she is referring to a prompt card for much of the introduction. 44 countries watching this year? So that's the 39 competing, Australia and...? All in all, it's a long intro - it's nearly 14 minutes into the show before we make it to the first postcard.

Incidentally, it's good to see the hall so full for a jury final!

FRANCE - arty shots are the order of the day, almost like in 2008. I'm not changing my opinion much from earlier - it's a safe, solid opener, but not one to challenge the scoreboard. Amandine will probably be relying on the juries for most of her votes, and accordingly is giving a much better performance than earlier - but even so, I'm not sure she really hits the notes with all the potential she could.

Sam: 16th-20th, Sild: bottom 5, Yair: 19th-25th

LITHUANIA - an enthusiastic crowd clapping along, and Andrius really is getting sexier with each performance. Though what will the juries think to the little pokey-out tongue he's giving them? This is a song that really has improved throughout rehearsals, and certainly deserves to be in this final. A good performance with genuine charm - not just eyebrows.

Sam: 17th-22nd, Sild: 15th-20th, Yair: 15th-19th

MOLDOVA - Hi Pasha and Pasha's arms! And hi dancers' arms too! Aliona is back to the swoopy-to-the-side hair for tonight. Despite what Martin said earlier, I'm not sure this is a very good draw for this song - it really benefited from standing out near the end in the semi-final, and I think it risks being forgotten here. And possibly the weakest she's performed it all week too - sounding not quite on top of everything, voice cracking very slightly on the biggest notes. Let's hope the juries didn't mind.

Sam: 13th-16th, Sild: 9th-14th, Yair: 10th-15th

FINLAND - tonight isn't really Krista's night - the juries aren't her key audience. It's a good performance as always though, both vocally and visually: this woman really does have so much personality! And it's certainly one that will get the audiences talking, but I do wonder if it's the kind of song that people enjoy, talk about... but don't actually vote for. Which is a shame, as it would actually be a pretty decent winner for the contest - punchy, contemporary and a social media genius.

Sam: 15th-20th, Sild: 18th-23rd, Yair: 12th-17th

SPAIN - a different yellow dress with horrible gold blingy jewelry on the shoulders and what looks like a stain on one of her boobs. We always said that this risked being a televoting nul points, but should pick up enough points from the juries to keep it off the bottom. I'd changed my mind earlier this week, but the first minute of the performance was enough to make me worry that we could be seeing our first overall jury/televote nul. It got better but... I worry. Notably, the last line of the song is now in English.

Sam: last, Sild: bottom 5, Yair: bottom 5

BELGIUM - uff, a nervy and pitchy start. It got a lot better, and this is just the same as it's always been. Roberto is a combination of terrified and/or overly expressive and he's wearing very pink lipstick tonight. Oh, and the last note was completely off, very croaky. But he seemed to like it, we even got smiles at the end!

Sam: bottom 5, Sild: 19th-24th, Yair: 15th-22nd

ESTONIA - this is actually a lovely draw for Estonia, after the loudness of Belgium and Finland and the not-very-good-ness of Spain. Birgit sings beautifully as ever, and is incredibly expressive without taking it over the top. I'd like to think this could surprise, and the performance tonight won't hurt that in the slightest.

Sam: 13th-19th, Sild: 17th-25th, Yair: 19th-25th

BELARUS - "Why do they have a monkey on a disco ball in the postcard?" wonders Sild. Good question. A good performance from Alonya, probably her best all week actually, both vocally and in terms of not being so wooden on stage. Everyone's back in their costumes from the semi-final, arms out and all. A strong performance, and it's one of the few songs fishing in its pool - could do well.

Sam: 9th-13th, Sild: 18th-23rd, 18th-25th

MALTA - smiley smiley Gianluca is just loving being there, and it's really very endearing. I wonder how the juries will take this - it's either very arty and genuine, or it might be a bit amateur. But they're the questions we've been asking all season. Gianluca is increasingly falling into the habit of chopping his phrases too early, probably because of breathing issues, but it makes the song sound a little rushed. He's back at the bench very late again after lots of high-fives - perhaps a deliberate decision?

Sam: 18th-22nd, Sild: 12th-18th, 12th-17th

RUSSIA - if the juries are going for a big vocal, here it is. Dina hasn't put a foot wrong all week, and the five singers on stage really do create a huge wall of sound. As I mentioned earlier, Dina is starting to get to grips with emoting the song too - she does look like she means it. And once again the audience didn't bat around the stupid balls the throw into the audience. Crappy idea. And the lights on the wristbands looks far too calculated, with far too many shots of them, to be as effective as the Russians were probably hoping.

Sam: 6th-10th, Sild, 8th-13th, 6th-11th

GERMANY - the sparkly heels are back! There's a great shot during the middle 8 (we are glo-o-o-o-o-o) where the camera soars from behind Natalie over a celebratory audience, which is very effective, as are the shots where she's surrounded by flags on the catwalk. I'm not sure she completely nailed it tonight, but her big market is tomorrow.

Sam: 6th-10th, Sild: top 5, Yair: top 5

ARMENIA - some unfortunate shots of a crowd who really don't care here. Another professional performance from a very professional act it remains to be seen what the juries think though.

Sam: 12th-16th, Sild: 14th-20th, Yair: 10th-17th,

Hm, interesting, we went into the postcard for Netherlands, leading us to assume they'd moved the break back to between Songs 13 and 14. But no, the postcard suddenly cut out and we're back to Petra introducing Lynda Woodruff. Lots of laughs in the press centre for the EBU spokesperson's tour around Stockholm.

And NOW it's time for Netherlands, and I will hand over to Sild for the second half of this rehearsal!

Final Dress Rehearsal 1 - live blog

Welcome to the first dress rehearsal of the final of Eurovision 2013! In a few moments, we'll hear the final songs in their running order for the very first time. I'm blogging from a seat in the hall, wifi permitting, so keep refreshing this page for my thoughts on the songs as we go. And Sild and I will be blogging the jury final from the screens in the press centre later tonight.

We have a slight delay in the hall, but we're soon about to start!

The opening film appears to be a caterpillar making its way around Europe. Obviously. Unfortunately, they had to cut the bit where the caterpillar hibernates and wakes up as Valentina Monetta after San Marino didn't qualify last night.

Oh, this is new! During the opening song (which I assume is the Benny/Björn/Avicii thing), all the acts come down the ramp to the stage, proceeded by a flag-holder - it's all a bit like the Olympics (or Junior Eurovision, if you prefer), except Greece aren't first. It'll be interesting to see tomorrow how many come down in full stage-costume and make-up - it could be a taste of things to come for the audience, or a spoiler.

Petra then proceeds to introduce the show, and the camera 'placed in the home of an Australian family watching right now'. This is very much the first run-through of the script, so don't be surprised if a lot of this has changed by tomorrow night. Some gags that don't really work, and asking if everyone's ready in French is a nice touch, but only about three people clapped. We're also now in a gap while Petra and the director discuss things.

FRANCE - an interesting and slightly muted choice of opener by SVT. Maybe Amandine has a late flight to catch? Amandine's singing well, as might be expected, but not fully attacking the big notes in the last chorus, but one assumes that'll change by tonight - indeed, Amandine just said at the end of her performance "I'm not singing too loud for my voice". Either way, I do wonder what kind of impact this will have on first.

LITHUANIA - the rather quiet start to the contest continues - it's almost as if SVT are easing the audience into the show with some competent if unremarkable acts before getting to the big guns. Lithuania was never challenging for the win, and still isn't, and probably loses out from not being after weird things. It works well enough, but easily forgettable by the end.

MOLDOVA - I'm very surprised SVT put this on so early. Aliona isn't wearing the top half of her dress (don't worry, she's got a t-shirt on), which makes this look a little odd, but the effect with the dress and the rising and that big note is still spine-tingling - and I suspect she'll benefit from being the first to use the lift. It might look a little tired by the time the UK comes around.

(Martin of next to me pointed out that Moldova have got the Suus-draw. Interesting.)


FINLAND - By contrast, Krista is in full costume again (how many of these wedding dresses does she own?), and as always looks and sounds great. This'll wake the parties up over Europe and provide a big talking point.

SPAIN - The intro to Spain looks and sounds great, and provides a big contrast to the hi-jinx of Finland right before it. I suspect those same parties will all still be chatting about Krista's kiss over most of this though. I'm blinded by my love for it, but there's still a tiny part of me that thinks that Spain could surprise. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniards to our right loved it.

BELGIUM - bless Roberto, it was a huge deal for him and Belgium to reach this final, and I'm so glad for them that they have. He totally missed his cue into the first chorus, ending up a whole beat ahead of the backing track. Let's hope he doesn't do that in front of the juries tonight. He's also wearing a big scarf, presumably to protect his voice, but you can hear some of the amateurism coming out, as he's sitting off the notes in the quiet sections, only to belt the big loud ones.

ESTONIA - Estonia panicked a bit when they made this final, as they hadn't budgeted for enough dry ice and fog for any more performances! But it looks like they've decided to splash out!. As for the song, still lovely, but probably needed to be drawn into the second half to stand of a chance of not being doomed to a bottom five finish here.

BELARUS - for those interested, Alyona walks out next to the disco ball and then climbs inside, rather than being carried inside it (or rolled! That could've been fun!). You know what this is - PYRO, ARMS, CHA CHA, YAZ BITTI MOMENT. Some slightly different outfits for the backing dancers though, white accessorised with black.

If you're reading, please comment and say hi! It's always good to know what you guys think!

MALTA - Gianluca spent too long high-fiving audience members last night, and only just made it back to the bench in time for the end of the song. No danger of that today, with no audience on the floor. I really have no idea how this is doing. It doesn't really engage me, but it's done pretty well - could honestly come anywhere from 6th to 26th.

RUSSIA - Dina's in what looks like her school uniform. This honestly sounds absolutely stunning in here, and Dina's actually showing some emotion. They're still trying the ridiculous ball-throwing thing, but I honestly think is a Top 5 contender once again.

GERMANY - Well, Natalie really got the crowd going in here! I can't really tell how well she's singing, with the sound-balance in here, but it's probably safe to assume she's doing pretty well. She's in jeans and her boots tonight, so we'll have to wait to see if they've decided to keep the heels she struggles to walk fast in! I don't think they've made as much of the background as they could have done, but still - a potential winner? Certainly should be top 10 anyway.

ARMENIA - well, Martin clapped. This is the same as it always was, and I still have no real idea how it's going to do. Could suffer by coming after the crowd-pleaser that is Germany though.

Oh, and now we have the break, rather than after Song 13 as we were expecting. Lynda Woodruff is in Stockholm, and I won't spoil anymore than that.

NETHERLANDS - after the break, rather than before, as we expected. On one hand, we felt it would benefit from being the last song before the break, on the other hand, this way we don't have the downbeat run of Armenia and Netherlands together, which might have hurt it. As always, a very good performance from Anouk.

ROMANIA - one person clapped for this too (not Martin this time). Cezar has a t-shirt on under his jacket, meaning his chest isn't on display as much as usual, and the dancers have got (some of) their clothes on. Interestingly, while the fans don't care, the choir who sang the opening song and are sat watching the show in the arena are clapping along. I predict big televoting scores from a few countries, and very little from juries and viewers elsewhere.

UNITED KINGDOM - Bonnie's wearing an off-the-shoulder black number that I assume might well be the final outfit - I can't see why she'd be wearing it otherwise. From loving this at its first rehearsal, I'm back to finding it unremarkable, particularly in this company - could the bottom 5 beckon again for the UK?

SWEDEN - Robin has his hair down right now, which actually suits him better than the high style he normally favours. Other than that, it's all much the same as we reported earlier in the week, just tidier, as it to be expected. Another one that I'm not really convinced works on stage... it feels like we're warming back up for the big contenders closer to the end.

HUNGARY - my fingers are very firmly crossed for Hungary. I didn't think it was qualifying after the dress rehearsal I watched, so was ecstatic to see it come out of the envelope last night. They're keeping the words on the backdrop in English, which I'm not convinced really works, but I doubt it affects the song one way or the other really. and after not contributing to the backing vocals last night, the guitarist has had his mic stand removed today. Other than that, you know how this one is already! A possible outsider?

DENMARK - now we're gearing up, and Emmelie has been placed perhaps surprisingly early for such a favourite. It makes sense they've kept Denmark and Norway apart though. The Danes have long ironed out and kinks in this performance, but there's no sign they're just going through the motions. They also have by far the most effective curtain of sparks, and is definitely still on my list of potential winners.

ICELAND - the surprise of the second semi-final for me, Iceland worked beautifully in its draw, with its simplicity and pure vocal. It'll benefit by being on later here, but is perhaps hurt by having to follow Denmark. Will certainly have its votes though, and could well be a dark-horse for a top 5 spot.

AZERBAIJAN - we're really into a very strong part of the show now, and this really is a very good final! Farid is looking hot - in both ways. That velour tracksuit can't be comfortable to wear! It looks like the female dancer has an even longer dress than before, as the end of the train never even leaves its starting point. Something tells me that Azerbaijan isn't a winner, but I'd be shocked if its not up there in the reckoning.

GREECE - I won money on this last night, betting on Greece to finish higher than San Marino. Thank you for the free money! The boys aren't in their stage outfits, but are still bouncing about and full of energy, despite already being pretty drunk by the time they were interviewed on Telia's after-show last night. Another contender for the top 5 here, particularly with a Saturday night audience and being on this late.

UKRAINE - I walked past the giant for the first time in the press centre today - my word, he really is huge! Zlata is lifted into his arms by a stage hand at the beginning, and the backing singers are crouching at the back, rather than coming up through the floor like they did on Tuesday. It's still to be seen what the audiences at home will really make of this, and if they manage to stop laughing at the giant long enough to listen to the song at all.

ITALY - well, he'll need to sing better than this tonight. It's in tune for the most part, but rather faltering and breathy. He also seems to have opted for a mint-green coloured suit, which wouldn't have particularly been my choice. He still wanders out to the end of the catwalk for the last chorus, which I've already stated by disapproval for. I do still think that if he nails this, it's a good enough song and he has the tons of charisma necessary to do very well.

NORWAY - Margaret's in a white t-shirt with bananas on it, and a big fluffy cardy. She still sounds phenomenal though, and this is a great draw for this song. I can't help wondering if by splitting up Denmark and Norway like they have, and giving Norway the seemingly more favourable slot, they're trying to even up what might have been quite a lop-sided voting.

GEORGIA - I am so exceptionally over this. I normally love a good belter of a ballad, but over the last week Sophie in particular has become more and more shouty, and there's just no passion whatsoever. That may be prejudicing my views, but I think this might be a relative miss for Georgia, particularly compared to the hype in the press centre a week ago. Also, Christer Bjorkman's husband is standing worryingly close to the shower of sparks! Look out!

IRELAND - has some element of being a bit of a wind-down after the climax of the last few songs. A solid closer to a very good show, Ireland can be proud of their boy, but he's not a challenger tomorrow night. For my part though, I would be very happy to see Ryan score higher than Jedward!

Petra follows Ryan on stage to answer some questions, and present Jean-Paul Gaultier, the designer of her dress who will apparently be in the audience tomorrow night. After the usual voting explanation gumph, we're into the reprise.

Some quick stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the recaps: I'd forgotten Spain had even happened, which isn't a good sign. They've not exactly chosen the best part of their song either, the beginning of one of the slow-into-fast choruses. France have the last chorus. Estonia's recap works well in this company. Germany's recap is the chorus where Natalie walks along the catwalk, a wise choice. The UK's recap is the end of the second chorus, so doesn't get a 'Believe in MEEEEEEE-yeah' bit, which is a mistake, while Sweden get a strong section of the second chorus. I think these clips are slightly shorter than the ones used in the semi - which makes sense as there's 26 to get in! Iceland again is very effective here, as is Azerbaijan. Italy have a chorus (and not a very well-sung one tonight!), and Norway again really stands out.

For the voting interval we have Loreen's new single with a suitably dramatic performance, segueing into Euphoria partway through. It's really poorly filmed at the moment, and I wonder how many times they're going to have Loreen back in here once we've left to run through this again. A second recap, and Petra almost misses the end of the voting and has to start the countdown from 1!

A baffling film about the Swedes and their attitudes leading into a musical skit by Petra, both best filed under 'Swedish humour'. Seriously excriatingly bad, and never-ending on top of that. WHERE IS CAROLA???

Oh, there she was, for about a second. Though it might have just been a stand-in, we're too far away to really tell. Now we're on to the third in the sequence of films on Eurovision history, and again I'm not going to spoil this one for you, except to tell you that there's some delightfully uncomplimentary comments about Linda Martin.

And Saade's in the green room! Yay! Does this mean we can include him in the hotties list now?

Oh! It's Sarah Dawn Finer singing The Winner Takes it All. This might just be the longest interval ever... And WHERE IS CAROLA??

Aha, Saade again, and Jon Ola Sand... we must be approaching the voting now...

...nope! More incomprehensible dancing! If I understand correctly, this dance might well be a man 'making' the scoreboard, or perhaps designing the voting order.

So, anyway, who's it to be? Sild and I are back tonight to blog the jury final, where half the votes for tomorrow's results will be decided. See you later!

"The same countries qualify every year!"

It's that time of year again, the time when fans from around the continent complain that the fact that their favourite song didn't qualify means that Eurovision is all a fix, that SVT planned it for their own favourites to succeed, and that neighbourly and diaspora voting means that some countries always get through, and others never had a chance.

What a load of rubbish.

Firstly, the Nordic countries. Though they have a strong record, it's certainly not a given for any of them that they will make it to the final. In recent years we've seen high-profile casualties like Stella Mwangi and Anna Bergendahl missing out, and Finland tend to only qualify one year in every two.

Much of the fire for this criticism has come from the result of the Israeli entry, which was a surprising non-qualifier last night - and it was Israel's third non-qualification in a row, a fact that has prompted fans to assume that Israel will never get through, whatever they send. This ignores the fact that they had had three straight qualifications prior to that, and that the songs they sent in the last two years were either poorly performed or just plain inaccessible for the contest.

Going through some of the others, it's particularly unbelievable that some fans are crying foul and claiming that the same countries always qualify in a year when both Belgium and the Netherlands have made it to the final. For once, both sent strong songs with good performances, and were justly rewarded.

That's the underlying thing - it's about sending a good song and a good performance and being rewarded for it. Yes, there are countries that 'always' qualify, like Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine, but they are also countries who take the contest most seriously and put a huge amount of effort into their song selection and staging. They've never seemed unlikely to qualify for the past few years, simply because they've always entered sure-fire qualifiers.

On the other hand, one could argue that they 'always' get through because of geographical and neighbourly voting. Of course, this does play some role, but it's simply impossible to argue that all the ex-Soviets will always qualify thanks to friendly votes. Take Belarus - seen as one of the bad guys in this scenario, they're hardly a consistent qualifier, with only two successful entries before now. Armenia has missed out before, even with heavy diaspora support, and Latvia has never qualified in recent years, despite having the same theoretical neighbourly support that sees Estonia and Lithuania through. It all comes down to the song.

Particularly interesting is the fact that, this year, none of the ex-Yugoslav songs qualified to the final, and two of these countries haven't seen a final in a number of years now. The thing is, if we were having this discussion five years ago, the argument would be "but the ex-Yu countries always qualify, whatever they send". That assertion has now been proved very firmly wrong... and so it goes on.

Quite simply, if you want to be a sure-fire qualifier every year, send something good every year. And yes, there are countries who it seems have absolutely no chance of qualifying, whatever they send. But what else do you expect when what you're sending is Valentina Monetta?

ESC2013 Final: Download printable scorecard here!

This morning, SVT revealed the running order for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest final.

France opens and Ireland is last to perform.
Other remarkable starting positions are those by Italy and Azerbaijan, both fairly late. This is at the expense of Denmark, which, sandwiched between the calmer songs Hungary and Iceland, will still probably make sufficient impact to go big on saturday.


So this is it.

1. France
2. Lithuania
3. Moldova
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Belgium
7. Estonia
8. Belarus
9. Malta
10. Russia
11. Germany
12. Armenia
13. The Netherlands
14. Romania
15. United Kingdom
16. Sweden
17. Hungary
18. Denmark
19. Iceland
20. Azerbaijan
21. Greece
22. Ukraine
23. Italy
24. Norway
25. Georgia
26. Ireland

Thursday 16 May 2013

Semifinal 2 draw halves

The press conference of the 2nd semifinal is happening at the moment. Which means that each of the ten countries will not receive their final draw order, as that will be decided by the show producers. However, they will draw whether they will sing in the first or second half.

Azerbaijan draws SECOND half

Finland draws FIRST half

Malta draws FIRST half

Eythor just said "You know" about 57 times

Iceland draws SECOND half 

The Koza Mostra lead singer kept eating the microphone and stating "No, I'm not drunk..."

A Greek female journalist also gave him a packet of Greek coffee. Does Greece actually grow coffee?!

Greece draws SECOND half

Armenia draws FIRST half

Hungary draws SECOND half

Norway draws SECOND half

Nodi just called Thomas G:son "Thomas Jayson" whereas Sophie corrected him to "Thomas Gayson"

 BTW, this also means the remaining countries will be second half, as there are no more slots for the first half left.

So Georgia SECOND half

Romania SECOND half

 And Cezar didn't like being compared to Dracula, and more or less said that he's almost as well-known as Dracula anyway...

The map of the final

Semi-final 2: Where's the value?

Tuesday was an interesting night for those who like to gamble on the Eurovision Song Contest, with a few surprises, at least statistically: the Netherlands qualifying for the first time since 2004, plus a blanket failure by the ex-Yugoslav nations, with none of Slovenia, Montenegro, Croatia or Serbia making it to the Saturday night show.

So where's the value in the betting markets for tonight's second semi-final? In theory, it should be a much less predictable affair, with an interesting mix of voting countries and musical styles to choose from. Despite this, the qualification market shows a clearer picture at the top of the scoreboard: the available prices for Norway (1.02), Georgia (1.04), Azerbaijan (1.05) and Greece (1.07) suggest that there are four very clear favourites to reach the grand final, and it's hard to argue with that. Interestingly, next in line is Malta at 1.36, followed by Israel and fan fave San Marino at 1.4.

At the other end of the market, Latvia (5.5) and Macedonia (5) are the clear outsiders, but again, it's difficult to find too many counterarguments there. More interesting are the prices for the hipster-friendly Hungary (3.8), Switzerland with its potentially huge Salvation Army televote (2.95) or even perpetual qualifier Romania (2.55), whose singer Cezar is unquestionably ridiculous but is blessed with an optimal draw, closing the semi-final with the bombastic and spectacular "It's My Life" (even if it's spectacular for all the wrong reasons). Any of these bets could represent good value - though I'm most tempted by the 2 that's available for Bulgaria, represented by the experienced Elitsa & Stoyan in a semi-final that's full of potentially friendly countries.

On the non-qualification side, if you don't buy into the Valentina Monetta hype, you can still find a healthy 3.2 if you believe that San Marino will fail to make it to the final. Finland's "Marry Me" is a hugely western-friendly song and performance, and 3.25 says that the rest of Europe will turn its back to a sufficient extent. But I'm perhaps most drawn to the 3.4 that's available for Malta to fail to qualify - Gianluca hasn't been hugely impressive in rehearsals and I'm not convinced that the friendly and cheerful vibe of the song comes across well enough on stage.

While the markets are convinced that there are four clear qualifiers, there's less of a consensus when it comes to the winner of the second semi-final. Norway is currently leading the way at 2.8, with Georgia next in line (4.32). For me, however, a Thursday night audience with this voting demographic could easily vote in numbers for Koza Mostra from Greece, and a price of 10 for them to win the semi-final seems well worth a look. Alternatively, if you want a real punt, Latvia is available for a mere 228. Anybody...?

The top 3 finish market opens up some interesting possibilities, although (as with the winner market) bets won't be settled until after the full results are revealed, presumably in the early hours of Sunday morning. Here, Greece is still decent value at 2.12, but I'd be looking at some interesting outsiders instead. For example, Israel is the only song in the "dramatic female ballad" genre tonight (unless you count the first two minutes of San Marino), so it could easily suck up a lot of jury votes. If you think that's enough for them to reach the podium positions, a price of 9 is currently available. Similarly, the Icelandic ballad could cut through the field and take points from everywhere - a quite generous 13 can be found for Eythor and "Ég á líf". Alternatively, you could play it ultra-safe and take the 1.66 that's available for Georgia to finish in the top 3 - surely a banker?

Finally, let's take a look at the head-to-heads that are available from Bwin this time. Most interesting to me is San Marino vs. Israel, where Israel is seen as the outsider at a price of 1.95! I find it hard to conceive of a situation where Moran Mazor is outscored by Valentina Monetta, so that's a very tempting bet. By contrast, the San Marino vs. Greece match-up has Greece as the favourites, but 1.50 is still a very welcoming price for the more committed gambler. And if I'm tipping Greece as the semi-final winner, I suppose I have to highlight the 2.40 that's available if you think Koza Mostra will finish higher than Georgia's Sophie & Nodi.

Those are just a few of the options available to you if you feel like having a little flutter on tonight's proceedings, anyway. Whatever you do and however much you decide to bet, have a great evening!

Some thoughts on tonight's semi-final

I watched the jury performances last night next to Sild while he was blogging, and I have to say that I think it's one of the hardest semis to call in a number of years. So much so that I genuinely think that absolutely anybody could - there's literally no act I would automatically discard.

Oh, and as I sit writing this in our apartment close to the Folkets Park here in Malmö, I can hear some guy teaching kids a dance routine to the instrumental version of Montenegro on the big stage there. Only in Sweden.

1. Greece - not my cup of tea at all, but they're great on stage, and we know how strong the Greek results have been in the semi-finals.
2. Azerbaijan - it's Azerbaijan, obv. Only the early draw stops this winning the semi. Oh, and here's a video of Farid jogging - keep your eyes up!

3. Iceland - I wasn't convinced about this until I saw it at the dress rehearsal yesterday, but there it was absolutely amazing. A beautiful atmosphere and one of the best vocals of the night, supported by an excellent choice of recap clip at the end.
4. Israel - complete jury fodder; probably less appeal for televoters, based solely on the fact that it's sung in Hebrew, but it's a strong performance of a good song, and should be safely through to Saturday.
5. Norway - a very good song, and one that I find very difficult to rate as I love it so much Am I overrating it because of my love, or underrating because I'm paranoid about it and see the tiniest flaw?
6. Georgia - mechanical, cold, effective. Sailing through to Saturday night and probably getting the Georgian result when it gets there, but Sophie in particular will need to sing better on Friday to secure the all-important jury vote in the final.

A bit of a drop now to...

7. Finland - won't be loved by everyone, but Krista's really selling it and does sing well. Could be a loser on Saturday night, but should be safe for now.
8. Bulgaria - hated it until a couple of weeks ago, got into it a bit more while out running the other day, then saw the stage performance and remembered just how Elitsa in particular dragged Voda kicking and screaming into 5th place in 2007. More of that should see it safely through tonight.

Now a gap to the next four, which are all very close.

9. Albania - inaccessible and in Albanian, but it's a good song. And it's actually very effective on stage. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised to see it drop out, replaced by Armenia, though I doubt there's room for both to qualify.
10. Malta - I completely ruled Malta out the last two years. One time they came very close with a pretty terrible song, the other time they snuck through with a decent if slightly amateur song. That's the issue this time too. Based purely on the combination of song and performance, Gianluca should probably be out - I don't really find it makes the connection it needs on stage - but its friendly votes will probably jump it above the parapet.

11. Armenia - we've seen before that they can fail. Other than diaspora, I really don't see where this song's votes come from, even if I quite like it myself. Wouldn't be surprised to see it swap with Albania though.
12. Switzerland - close to the ones above, but without the friendly votes it drops out of the reckoning. Before this week I might have rated it lower, but with a good draw it somehow works quite well on stage.

A gap here to the ones I'm most willing to leave out - though as I mentioned, I wouldn't be shocked to see any of these qualify.

13. Latvia - I hope I'm right, at least. It's a decent opener, and gets the audience into the show, but who really remembers the warm-up act after the main performances have been on?
14. Romania - if this were Saturday night, I probably wouldn't rank Romania this low (or rather, I'd probably predict it about 14th out of a field of 26. But on a Thursday, when the majority of the televoting audience aren't completely hammered, and with a jury that's probably going to crush it, I have to put Romania.
15. Macedonia - it's a great song, I do love it, and I think its chances will really depend on if juries respect it, but my feeling is that most of the audience is just going to find it a little difficult and weird.
16. Hungary - I'm sad to do this, and maybe I'm just being overly critical and paranoid about its performance and chances, but I really didn't feel it connected at last night's dress rehearsal - and that's what this song really needs to do.
17. San Marino - Oh San Marino... Valentina sings well, but the whole performance just comes off a little amateur, and, to borrow a comment Martin made a month or so ago, it's just Sense tu with a fast bit at the end really, isn't it? I see no reason an audience should really go for this. On the other hand, with the automatic points we suspect it has from its friendly juries, being this low is probably unlikely - it's probably one of the least likely to actually come last, but also the least likely to qualify.

Probably completely wrong, and I'll actually feel sorry for several of the songs that don't qualify, whatever they are. Everyone's clearly put in a lot of effort and upped their game, and compared to Semi 1, the overall standard is clearly that much higher.

Semi 2? Eek nooooo

Watching the second jury semi ended up being a rather difficult task (despite not having to blog this one) - it may have only one more song than the first one, but it somehow felt a lot longer. I'm not sure why, possibly it's the songs or the way they're ordered. When the recap showed the earlier songs, some of us wondered "oh, this was today?", possibly suggesting that they may suffer in the televote.

My main advice here is not to get non-hardcore fans to watch it with you. Especially the sceptical kind. As Sild reported and Keith captured in his camera, a night like this can only end up in tearing Lou leaflets and putting her head on a mad cat.

I'll try to do some kind of prediction too, so:

1: ICELAND - After so many ESC ballads over the last three years have been compared to Yohanna, this is the first one that actually gives me a similar feeling. Not really because of it being the same country, or hair, but rather the way a simple ballad is staged to perfection. I can see this finishing top 3 in both televote and jury.
2: AZERBAIJAN - As Sild said, this somehow wasn't as good as it promised during the earlier rehearsals, but should still sneak up to the top 3 or so if he manages to find the cameras again by tonight. I wonder if it's all the fanboys in Euroclub that made him so camera-confused?
3: GREECE - It's an OPA feeling all over again, and that one finished second in its semi, and possibly third under the new system, so this is what I'll guess.
4: NORWAY - I was worried about the limited appeal this song might have among those who aren't electronic music fans or Scandinavian, but the staging makes this stand out enough.
5: GEORGIA - The poor guy really looked like he's going to explode last night, but this shouldn't stop most those who go for the calculated stuff.
6: ISRAEL - Jury pleaser and all that, but by the end of the semi I kind of forgot it was there. Maybe it was Iceland's fault.
7: MALTA - As Sild said, there's an audience for stuff like this, but Malta also has a few jury friends in this semi.
8: FINLAND - Another of those that would make more sense on a Saturday night. Last night, especially in this draw, felt too early for this kind of thing, but I guess they've still done enough.
9: ARMENIA - Felt like a surefire top 5 while watching it, but by the end of the contest, Albania stole some of their thunder. Wouldn't be surprised if this doesn't make it at all.
10: BULGARIA - This may be three minutes of random noise, but somehow I remembered this at the end of the contest. These guys know how to sell a non-song when it matters, so it may be enough.
11: ROMANIA - Still no idea where to put this, so I'll throw it in the borderline region. I don't even know if I want this to qualify or not, either result would be some kind of amazing.
12: HUNGARY - I couldn't be happier to be wrong about this, as this is my favourite in the entire contest, but sadly this didn't have the intimate feeling it had in the smaller stage of the Hungarian final, and Alex looks a bit lost here.
13: SAN MARINO - I saw nothing to convince me that they'll get a significant number genuine televotes or jury votes. It's all a question of whether their pre-agreed swaps are enough.
14: ALBANIA - The ending with the pyro and all is quite impressive, but there's an awkward intro with lots of bad teeth to put many viewers off before that.
15: MACEDONIA - I adore this now, but it took me several times to get it at all, and I don't see why a normal viewer should.
16: SWITZERLAND - Is this starting to look like Sild's list? This has a good draw, but "who are these strange-looking people and why are they just standing in a line" will probably be the most common reaction tonight.
17: LATVIA - I didn't think it was as bad as Sild did, but still, when the recap came, it felt like some kind of distant intro. Can their diaspora in Norway save them from zero?

Off to enjoy some Swedish sun now. Hej dough!

It's Eurovision today too!

Good morning! Well, I'm up and about at a rather ungodly hour, thanks to the bright sunshine and loud kids. We may have had a little bit of wine at Eurocafé last night (it's just around the corner from our new and swishy apartment, it'd be rude not to, really), and obviously ended up wrapped in blankets, tearing Eurovision Weekend leaflets up to make new words and/or putting Lou's head on mad cat. As you would.

We're getting one step closer to the big final on Saturday, and today we'll see who will join the six automatic qualifiers and the ten qualifiers from Tuesday on stage. I managed 8/10 in semi 1, and wasn't awfully shocked about the ones I missed - I thought both Serbia and Croatia were in danger after the rehearsals we've seen, and Belgium was very much the one I thought might push them out. Positively surprised about Lithuania, but several of us felt it worked much better on Tuesday than it has all week - it somehow managed to stand out.

As always, my own views on the songs will shine through to a certain extent, and definitely influence some of my predictions, but this is how I think the results will look tonight - not what I want:

1: GREECE - They do have a habit of winning semis, don't they? Might be voted down by juries, but I need something to put on top...
2: NORWAY - I really want to put this one first, but don't dare to. Don't wanna jinx it! Unlike many entries, I'd say this pretty equal chances with both juries and televoters. Possibly Norway's best entry ever...?
3: ISRAEL - She was great last night, which is what matters for the juries, and I'd say this is a very likely jury winner.
4: AZERBAIJAN - Still gives me gooseberries every single time, love it to bits. The act might come across as a bit over the top for the average Norwegian or Icelandic housewife, though.
5: ICELAND - Yami thinks this could win the semi based on last night's run-through, and I'm not really disagreeing. It's working very well on screen, and should appeal to juries and televoters alike.
6: GEORGIA - Not as good as it could've been, but it's just so according to the book that it's bound to do well. Not a winner in any sense, though - there's just not enough people that love this.
7: FINLAND - Stands out a mile, and certainly not for everybody (me included), but would be surprised if this misses out tonight.
8: MALTA - Sweet and happy - there's always an audience for stuff like this, even though I sometimes wish there wasn't.

This is where it starts getting difficult... None of the remaining nine would really shock me if qualified at this point - possibly apart from Latvia. I've had Hungary and San Marino in during most of the season, but it might be time to do some changes...

9: ROMANIA - About as mad as mad cat. I have no idea what to make of it and how viewers will respond, but it would be quite amazing if it was in the final on Saturday. My head says no way, but could it manage it, somehow?
10: HUNGARY - Not at all confident about it, it's just not connecting quite as it should, even if it's a fab little song, and a great backdrop on stage. So please, you in countries voting tonight, help me be right and put this through!

11: SAN MARINO - Might well qualify on jury swaps alone, seeing as we have pretty much all the usual suspects for that in this semi. But apart from in Malta (where I assume this could well have gotten their douze anyway - weird cheese in Italian sounds just up their alley), are the televoters going to go for it at all? I don't really think so, and especially with the new voting system, this might suffer.
12: BULGARIA - A horrible piece of noise to me, but it's coming together nicely on stage, and is different from everything else. Needs a KISMET sign.
13: ARMENIA - Good staging, average song, not too many friends in this semi... Armenia used to be a surefire top 10, but I think we'll have have our third final in a row without them.
14: ALBANIA - They're making the most of it, but I don't think it's enough.
15: MACEDONIA - I hope I'm wrong, but sadly, I don't think many out of Esma & Lozano's target group will 'get' this. And most of said target group got lost in semi 1, so...
16: SWITZERLAND - Would've had a much better chance if they were participating with their video. As it is, this comes across as dulldulldull, no matter how hard they try to convince us they're having a great time.
17: LATVIA - Not helped by an absolutely unimpressed audience close to the stage. Can't see neither juries nor televoters having any time for this after they've gone off stage - could we have our first zero since Aven romale?

So, do you agree or disagree? Correct me and/or give your own predictions below - and most importantly, enjoy the show tonight!

Semi 1 : TV-review from a Belgian magazine.

Part google translate, part my translation:
Original article here.

TV review: 'Eurovision' on VRT channel één (**)

© Stéphane Laruelle

No, no Beyonce in Antwerp on Tuesday. But saying that there was nothing to see that night is going a bit too far. Whilst looking for a comforting moment of distraction from Beyonce's canceled concert, what did we find? Singing astronauts, a gentle giant, effeminate choreography and a sober commentator André Vermeulen who gave serious comments on what happened. This could only mean one thing.

A particularly nasty freak show? A documentary about the Efteling amusement park? The world's first television broadcast of an LSD trip? No, but it turned out to be the Eurovision Song Contest - the only time of the year which is generally accepted to curse 'them east blockers'. They vote as always amongst themselves.
The Kitschfest visited Malmö to this year. Thanks to (well, if you must) the victory of one Loreen, that won last year's edition with a song titled 'Euphoria'. We realized to our shame that we couldn't quite picture how Loreen looked or that we could remember anything from 'Euphoria'. We couldn't hum even two lines to save our lives. At the opening ceremony there was a smidge of recognition when the number was brought, but little more. A worthy Eurovision winner, thus.
The contest had again, in good tradition, a lot in common with a child without a working immune system: susceptible to the slightest flutter in the air. No trend may emerge or it is pounced upon by a cunning composer in each composition - theme this year: dubstep.

Slovenia came as a case in point with 'Straight into Love ", according to co-commentator Tom De Cock, an entry which resembled something that could have been by Netsky. Best stay out of Edegem (Netsky's town of residence - ed) for a while, Tom. Slovenia, just to be clear did not reach the final. Netsky does not seem to appeal to everyone.

Another creditable attempt at dubstep came from Montenegro, which for the occasion two astronauts on the stage did stumble - because this is the Eurovision Song Contest. We have thought long and hard for a way to describe 'Igranka', to describe the number of impromptu astronauts, but got no further than "the noise that blasts from your xtc dealer's BMW in that dark alley, where you just got pills from, and where you later realize he just gave you a bag of f*cking paracetamol. That type." Montenegro, just to be clear, did not reach the final. Rapping astronauts do not seem to appeal to everyone.

Who says Europe, now also automatically says 'crisis'. Something which didn't escape the attention of the organisers of the contest . To show that every little bit helped towards cutting costs, this year only one presenter was appointed, as opposed to the usual three that are interchangeable. The honour fell this year to one Petra Mede. Also a Swedish comedian who was described by André Vermeulen as someone with a sense of humor and perspective '- positive attributes that, in large quantities can sometimes lead to the Eurovision Song Contest, where they invariably completely prove indispensable.
The actual finale is yet to come on Saturday, but already we can regard this a successful edition.  Ticking off all the Eurovision cliché-boxes, after just one semifinal there's very little empty space left on our page. Singers who appear to consist mainly of legs (Belarus), clothing that excels in impracticality (Moldova, with a circus tent that also seemed to be on fire), the annual portion of leather, big drums and bare chests (Ireland, this time), and the most amazing songs, of course. The originality prize went to Ukraine this time, the tallest man in the country had been summoned to come on stage - or the smallest singer, we're not sure. The jury's still out on that one, so to speak.

Only remains to talk about the Belgian entrant, who to everyone's surprise did qualify for the final. But out of fear of comprising our own impartiality, we'd rather let European television viewers do the talking - read their judgment in the collected tweets below. One thing is certain: we have made ​​an impression, guys.

So... the Eurovision Song Contest. How for Pete's sake can you grade something like that? Let's look at  it on an appropriate scale: in terms of Eurovision-ness: a well-earned four out of four. In terms of exciting, high quality, valuable programming, ... Well, for the sake of peace let's take an average of the two and give it two stars out of four. Another cliché, simply because it is the contest? Well then: eurovision, six points!


"Because of my shoes / I'm wearing today / One is called love / The other's pain '- The submission of Lithuania has understood that he is courting, and in dire need of a larger size of Crocs.


Andrea Lowe @andreamaven Belgium seems nice but is actually the sort of boy who would hang around on your lawn crying for weeks after you dumped him.

Lucky there's a Takasa guy



Eurovision 2013 (semi 2) infiltrates... Ghent, Belgium!

You might think that we are actively looking for it, but really the only thing you need to do, is have a walk through a random city, and you're likely to find that Eurovision 2013 is everywhere. And I'm not talking about the pwetty butterflies.

Today, the random city is... Ghent!
Aaah... Ghent, errr... say what? It's a medium sized city, full of students, in the north-western part of Belgium. Nicely situated between tourist traps like Brussels (snore) and Bruges (sigh), this gem has been named the seventh (!!) best top destination in 2011 by the Lonely Planet guides. These Lonely Planet guides are of course well known for their extensive knowledge about Armenia...

...and Georgia and Azerbaijan. They may have glossed over one or two political sensitivities when compiling the guide though. On the plus side, each copy now contains a cd-single of Dorians's entry.

Back to Belgium's best kept secret, the city of Ghent. During one of our recent strolls through the city we stumbled across two more definite references to this year's Eurovision. With the second semi-final tonight, we thought it apt to show them to you.

This restaurant uses one of Switzerland's four official languages (Klingon is not one of them) to honour the Takasa entry. No it's not "Restaurant", although they might serve chianti and polenta.

Cezar was here. "Was" indeed, because the sign above the door indicates that the store space is up for sale. I wonder why.

Will these clues help the contestants tonight? Only a few more hours until we know. But one thing is clear: Whoever placed them there, is counting on going through to the final on saturday, since Belgium isn't even allowed to vote in tonight's semi. Money well spent, I'd say.

Robin is really enjoying the rollercoaster...

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Jury Semi 2

We're getting ready to watch the second dress rehearsal of semi 2, nicely situated in front of one of the big screens in the press centre. With us is also a nice printout of mad cat.

We'll update the blog throughout, so watch this space!

And we are on, with what seems to be a philharmonic orchestra of dancers on stage. Not quite sure what that means, but then I'm not quite sure what's happeneing either, so... It turns a bit more street as the dancers literally slide off the stage and are replaced by bikers (Ola & Barbro?) and more dancing. They somehow manage to turn the stage into a laptop at some point, which looks a bit cool.

Petra shows up to welcome Europe, to which the band Europe (or HEAT or Generic Swedish Poodle Rock Band) briefly pop by, and she's in a rather hideous dress. It somehow looks like ballgown where someone decided to lift her skirt to have a look at her mad cat, so to speak.

LATVIA - Giraffes in their postcard? I might have to start to like this... The glittery boys seem even myre hyper than normally, which I guess makes sense, as they probably feed off the audience. But there's little doubt the audience don't care... The dreaded stagedive is indeed taken care of by stageworkers rather than the audience, and frankly, it looks shit. All in all it works quite well, and it's arguably the best possible draw for this, but I still can't see it happening.

SAN MARINO - Valentina Mousepadetta is looking particularly distressed today. Other than that, it looks pretty much like it has all week, and she's in good voice. The 02 San Marino caption in the bottom left seems to be double - was this case during Latvia too, I wonder?

MACEDONIA - It is still double for Macedonia, at least... Lozano has now lost his glasses (which have come in various shapes and colours over the last week), and is apparently so scared of dropping his earpieces that he's plastered them completely. He's actually looking quite dishy in a simple black suit, singing excellently and seems very sincere about it all. And Esma is Esma, of course. Great stuff, this - would be lovely to see them make it.

AZERBAIJAN - I love the second shot of this, where we start off with Farid in profile, and then he turns towards the camera. Sadly, he almost always misses the camera with a tiny smidgen each time - GAH. Vocally strong as always, and this is bound to do well.

FINLAND - Krista seems to have recovered from her cold, which is good for her, less good for us, that may have to suffer the constant dingdongs again. The backing singers have clearly done like me and visited the local hairdressers, and are now sporting some kind of 50s hairdos that Aliona Moo would defeinitely approve of. I thought she messed up the singing a little for the keychange, but not in a way that matters. There's pink confetti, pink kissing and a manic DIIING DOOOOONG at the end - this should be popular in the Northwest, but presumably far less so elsewhere.

Petra tries to be funny, but somewhat fails, when introducing Lynda Woodruff, who is now after Finland, for some reason - not between entry 13 and 14 like in the previous rehearsal.

Like in the 2008 postcards, the butterfly flags sometimes have us guessing what the next entry is, and we think the next one up is Peru.

PERU (or MALTA) - Gianluca looks cheerful, but nervous. Which might not necessarily work to his disadvantage, actually - it somehow makes him across as human, and the human factor and his boy-next-door charm is a big part of the appeal here, I assume. In that respect, it would come across as a nice breath of fresh air after Finland's madness, but that effect is somewhat spoiled by the break.

BULGARIA - The postcard features lots of drumming, unsurprisingly. And if I haven't mentioned it before, the postcards are great in general - especially with acts like this too, where we get an extra chance to get to know them outside of the 3 minutes on stage, and what they're all about. Which for Stoyan and Elitsa is clearly 'banging things'. For one that hates this, I think it comes across quite nicely - it's different, they know what they're doing, and the light-heavy stage gets to shine in all it's glory with lots of flashes along with the beat.

ICELAND - We're back in the black suit, which is a good decision, I think. The simple, but powerful, performance comes across great after the Bulgarian banging - I think I know where the Norwegian douze is heading, at least!

GREECE - The lead singer was struggling to find the right cameras when we first zoom in on him, which makes him look a bit befuddled for a moment. Finding several later on, though, to great effect, I certainly felt that he was looking right at me. And I wouldn't mind that... Great chemistry, and this is obviously sailing through, or maybe even winning the semi. One of the band members had some earpiece issues towards the end, making it bounce about like mad around him, but I doubt that will cost them anything.

ISRAEL - Not much to say about this compared to before, except that she's apparently stolen Zlata's massive butterfly ring! The drama! Good draw for this too after Greece, and absolutely nothing wrong with the singing. Juries should adore this, the question is the televoters - personally, I think quite a few of them will too.

ARMENIA - A massive COUGH or something appeared out of the blue during the first chorus, what the hell was that?! It didn't look like it came out of any of them... I think this is coming across very well considering the fact I find it a nothingness of a song. It seems sincere and 'proper', somehow - no butterflies, no giants, no pink kisses, just them doing what the should, and doing it well.

HUNGARY - ByeAlex is looking rather terrified and worried for some reason, and not just in a hipster-I'm-standing-here-in-my-hat-singing kind of way. The guitarist is loving it, though, and even got some cheers from the audience during a little instrumental break. Alex himself is finally finding some cameras throughout, to great effect, but I fear this might be a bit too introvert and, well, Hungarian for most other viewers than those in the Nordics in this semi.

NORWAY - Unlike Hungary, this is eye-contactastic. She's pretty much finding all the cameras, looking into them with the right mix of happiness and coldness, and even smiles at times. And thanks to her arms, and not to mention the stage and lighting, the moment when the first chorus kicks in is the moment of this Eurovision for me. If this doesn't qualify, I'll bite someone.

A break with an "interview" with "Farid" after Norway, and Petra suggests she will be talking to 'someone we don't know yet' - could it be Lys?

ALBANIA - The Albanians have been spotted at most of the parties over the week, so they're obviously making the most of their experience. And I have a feeling they wouldn't be too bothered about not qualifying either - they seem confident enough about what they're doing and who they are, and this, like Armenia, feels very real. Well done, lads!

GEORGIA - Calculated, cold, loud - and fecking effective. But lo behold - were they a bit off during the MASSIVE notes, or was that just me?

SWITZERLAND - We heard rumours they'd been told to not wear the shirts with the slogan on, but they're still in them, so that might have been all lies. Lead singer has lost his glasses, though. Maybe someone sat on them. There is some kind of charm in this, but I think it would've worked better with a shorter song. Or less clothes on the Gygax.

ROMANIA - Yikes, the dancers from under the blanket appears to be all naked and red. Doesn't really help that they look like they're in the middle of an orgy at some point... This is mental, ridiculous, red, horrendous, wonderful, and... qualifying...?!

Petra looks wonderfully bemused after Romania - is that why SVT put them on last?

San Marino goes for a pretty early bit of their song in the snabbrepris, which is a surprising choice. Some of the long shots used for Azerbaijan are also less effective, but the part of the song makes perfect sense. Bulgaria chose som random verse - why, dears? Well if it keeps them from qualifying, it's fine by me!

Petra seems to be flirting with Cezar in the greenroom, before sitting down with Moran Mazor to introduce the Eurovision history lesson. God, the 80s were amazing!

And we have a second recap, in which Valentina Monetta indeed throws her cape and we have a beat! Makes sense in a way, when there are two recaps, and you have two different songs...

Europe show up again, as Petra announces the final countdown. Silly, but I like silly :-)

Darin is cuuuute, btw. He starts off slow at the piano for his recent hit Nobody knows, but it quickly turns into the fab, well-produced pop track it is. On a different note, he appears to be wearing a Swarbriggs Minus Two t-shirt!

He's followed by Agnes, who's dressed in lots of flaring fabrics. Clearly an interval act aimed at the local audience more than the international, but as many broadcasters cut to ads anyway, that's makes perfect sense. And unlike the dancing in semi 2, it gives the audience something to cheer for. Which they do - judging by one of the screams when she finished, Adelén is there and liked it a lot.

And after having France, Spain and Germany waving from the audience, we have our random qualifiers announced:

Switzerland (Adelén liked that too)
San Marino
(Some great acting by the volunteers for the greenroom shots here)

I'll give you my prediction tomorrow, with a full ranking like I did for semi 2. Stay tuned!

Second semi final dress rehearsal - blog

Unfortunately, we can't be in the press centre this afternoon, so we advise you to check out Martin's live blog on

We'll be back tonight for the jury performance. Stay tuned!

And on a side note.. Anouk has finlly released the videoclip to "Birds"

Tuesday 14 May 2013

It's Eurovision today!

The day of semi 1 has arrived, and despite (or maybe because?) following lots of rehearsals, we really are none the wiser, are we? Nevertheless, I'll dive into it and predict tonight's ten qualifiers. And to make sure I make an even bigger fool out of myself, I'll even throw in a more or less complete ranking of how I think it'll look when the full results are out on Sunday morning (or before, 2005-style).

So, here you go!

1: MOLDOVA- A little bit of a risky guess here, but I think it's going to do very well with the juries, and see no reason why at least some of the televoters shouldn't too.
2: DENMARK- I haven't "felt" it properly all season, and think it is far weaker than it's made out to be, but it's bound to do well. I never got the hype about Greece 2005 either, and we all know what happened there.
3: UKRAINE - She knows how to sell it, and it's pretentious enough for several of the jury members to lap it up, despite it having no structure or anything. Oh, and it's FABOO, of course.
4: IRELAND - Coming across very well, both in the hall and on screen - it manages to balance nicely between being modern and traditional, both visually and sound-wise. Would've been even better if he had the attitude to pull it off.
5: RUSSIA - Rock solid.
6: NETHERLANDS - Comes across very well after Ukraine. They have to make it with this one.
7: BELARUS - May well be punished by some juries for being a cheap pile of bouncy cheese, but for what it is, it's quite solid. Just remember to smile... CHA CHA HEY
8: ESTONIA - Stands out as a nice, warm standard ballad with a strong melody, performed well. Might not do too well with televoters, but I think the juries will make sure this makes it.
9: SERBIA - Looks horrible and it's a horrible song, but it somehow still works. Won't be shocked if they don't make it, but should be through.
10: CROATIA - The tricky tenth spot... Not at all sure about this, despite being confident all season.

11: BELGIUM - Opposite of Croatia here - I've had no faith in it all season, but it has crept up on me during rehearsals. In those cases I'm often better off sticking to my initial instinct.
12: MONTENEGRO - I hope I'm wrong - the final needs this!
13: LITHUANIA - Love the song, but it's somehow all lost.
14: CYPRUS - Might not hit a single televote top 10, but some oldfashioned jury members should keep this away from last. And it's cute.
15: SLOVENIA - I love them for trying, but I'd love them more if they'd both tried and actually found a proper song to go along with it. And why cover up the boys with massive masks?! :-(
16: AUSTRIA - Nothing to make it stand out, no friends, no pyro, no petitfours... A shame, really.