Tuesday 10 May 2016

Semi Final One - My picks for tonight

I promised earlier that I wouldn't make any predictions. Because I suck at it. But I'll tell you who I want to qualify tonight. Partly influenced by what I think might be possible. So for all the prediction fans out there; you are free to consider this a prediction if you really want to.

Croatia (in spite of the clothes, I thinknit's a strong song and performance)
Netherlands (stands out as a fresh glass of water among bottles of bad wine)
Armenia (love the performance)
Russia (as much as part of me would love this to not qualify, that just isn't going to happen. And it's for sure not among the 8 weakest entries)
Czechia (probably the strongest power ballad, and a very competent performance)
Austria (cute and charming. Deserves to go through)
Iceland (quite underrated, and really stands out in the good way)
Malta (really managed to clean up the performance and should definitely be in the top 10)

After these eight it gets more difficult. But I'd quite possibly also pick Cyprus as it's a really nice rock-inspired song and they're presenting it well on stage. And Bosnia-Herzegovina would be nice as well as it's classic Balkan Eurovision schlager and every contest needs a bit of that.

There are a lot of strong contenders among the other entries too. In fact, I don't think there is any entry in this semi that I would mind seeing in the final. I'd just mind if they steal the spot from someome I'd rather see there.

Rainy prediction, part uno

For some reason Syden has decided to be all rainy and wet (and thundery - it's getting exciting etc), so this first Eurovision day has been spent indoors perfecting my (very fresh!) snooker technique. It's going so-so so (so?) far – a Bee, a Faulkner and a Fry have all beat me, and I'm sure there's more to come. Will the predicting go any better...?

Last year I managed to do very well in the final somehow, and pretty good in the semis (9/10 in both semi 1 and semi 2). Pretty sure I'll be more off on all evenings this year... As always, I'll predict the full ranking, even if we'll only get to see the ten qualifiers in a "random" order tonight.

1 Russia | I think this is winning on Saturday too, so today should be a fairly easy match for it. Plus it's the best song in it!
2 Armenia | Wasn't sure about this before, as it's all a bit weird and complicated and aggressive and siren-y, but reports suggest they've managed to stage and film it *just* right.
3 Netherlands | I find the song a bit too dull to do anything in the final, but it should sail through to it quite easily.
4 Czech Republic | I find the song a bit too dull to do anything in the final, but it should sail through to it quite easily.
5 Malta | Erk. My instinct here is a big no, but it seems to appeal to various different people, for some reason.
6 Iceland | More erk.
7 Estonia | Not at all sure about this, but it deserves to qualify. And we all want to see the bummage again on Saturday, don't we?
8 Hungary | I don't fully get this (apart from the #hip bit), but several seem to, so a safe-is qualification and then 21st or so in the final seems likely.
9 Cyprus
10 Austria | Many things suggest this won't make it, but then there's also the fact it's, like, you know, a nice song, so...

11 Croatia | Hope it makes it, fear it just won't click.
12 Azerbaijan | The song by itself should be an easy top 5 in this semi, and Azerbaijan know their way around getting points, but according to all reports, trustworthy or not, she's royally fucking this up. Looking forward to hear for myself! :-D
13 Bosnia & Herzegovina
14 Finland
15 Greece
16 Montenegro
17 San Marino | Just a bit too obviously last to end last.
18 Moldova | A shame, I really like it :-(

The borderliners - My Semi 1 Prediction

I have to admit, I'm finding Semi 1 one of the hardest semis to predict in a number of years, and that's for the simple reason that there are so many songs that, for me, are right on the borderline of qualifying. To put my thoughts in order, I thought I'd write about them.

For me, there are six songs that are definitely through in Semi 1, and four that are definitely out. That leaves seven in the borderline between 8th place and 14th place - so three of them have to qualify. Those seven songs are Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and for me, they fall into three pairs (plus Greece). So let's take them in their pairs.

Battle 1: Azerbaijan vs Austria
The two young girls who haven't impressed vocally in rehearsals. I've always really liked Austria, and have tended to be quite firm in my belief that it's a good song, and that will be enough to carry it through. However, with a lot of competition in this semi-final, and so many things working against it (the language, Zoe's vocals, the cute-and-likeable vs annoying-and-precocious debate), I now think it stays in the semi. Azerbaijan, by contrast, has never impressed me as a song - I always found it quite ordinary, and I think the staging is also quite underwhelming. But they have more friends, and what's possibly quite a generically appealing song.

Battle 2: Hungary vs Estonia
Two boys singing darker songs. Hungary have been quite well-thought of since 'Pioneer' was chosen, both in predictions and betting odds, but I've never seen it. I always found the performance from A Dal quite uninteresting, and it doesn't sound like Freddie's done much to change that in Stockholm. It'll all depend on if Europe sees something more than I do. On the other side of the battle, Estonia have changed their performance for the international final, and reports suggest it might be over-complicating things now. I do think Hungary is slightly more accessible as a song, but Juri might have enough appeal - and who knows what juries will make of it?

Battle 3: Croatia vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
The Balkan nations - is there room for both of them in the final? Croatia have tumbled down the rankings over the past couple of months, and even more so after seeing the planned stage performance. I always had Bosnia-Herzegovina down as a non-qualifier - just too Balkan as a song, and potentially not a very vote-friendly look (that's me trying to find a kind way of saying that Deen looks weird). But as Bosnia always do, they've come with a strong (if slightly odd) performance in rehearsals, and may surprise us once again. I told myself I'd never bet against Bosnia qualifying after 2010 - perhaps I should take that advice tonight.

And then there's Greece. As a song, it should be doomed - but on the other hand, the last time they entered a combination of rap and singing in a mix of languages, which we'd all assumed was hopeless when it was selected, it went and won the semi. I'm always wary of counting Greece out.

So, I have to make a choice... here goes:

The qualifiers:

1. Russia
2. Iceland
3. Netherlands
4. Armenia
5. Malta
6. Czech Republic
7. Cyprus
8. Hungary
9. Bosnia-Herzegovina
10. Estonia

And missing out:

11. Azerbaijan
12. Croatia
13. Greece
14. Austria
15. Montenegro
16. San Marino
17. Finland
18. Moldova

Russian jury investigated after streaming their deliberations

We've woken to the news this morning that the Russian jury is being investigated by the EBU after one of their number streamed segments of their deliberations during the first jury semi-final by Periscope.

During the stream, viewers could see the five jury members watching the Netherlands and Armenian entries and discussing their votes, including such choice comments as 'my husband is Armenian, so I favour Armenia' - parts of the votes of one of the jurors can clearly been seen on screen too, including the fact that she has marked down Moldova and Hungary, and likes the Netherlands.

Now, what is the EBU to do about this? There's nothing in the rules to say you can't stream your jury voting, because, of course, who would even think of doing that? More problematic is the fact that we hear one juror favouring Armenia because of her husband's nationality (which would potentially breach the rule that jurors pledge that there is nothing preventing them from voting independently), and that we've seen some elements of a jury's preference which should be kept secret.

In the past, if a jury voting has been disqualified, the country's televote solely stands. This year, because every country needs to produce a valid jury vote and televote for the system to work, the rules state:
If – for whatever reason – a country cannot deliver a valid jury result, a substitute result is calculated by the jury result of a pre-selected group of countries. These groups and their composition have been pre-approved by the EBU permanent services and the Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest.
So, if the EBU decide the breach here is serious enough to cancel the whole Russian jury vote, this is what they would have to do. They would also presumably have the option of automatically doing the same for the final, or demanding the Russians find five new jurors. Or will they, as has so often happened in the past, just give the Russians a slap on the wrist and tell them not to be so silly in the future?