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...