Saturday 18 May 2019

I'm giving in too...

Well, I say that. I actually ended up putting Netherlands top in my ESC Nation Message Board pre-rehearsals prediction, because I just couldn't see what else won. And I still feel like that now. At no point have I really felt that Arcade is a likely, or even really a deserving winner - but I don't see anything else winning either. And they can't all come 4th.

It felt quite easy to put the entries into blocks, and I actually have Netherlands and Australia above everything else, as I struggled to find entries to fill the Top 5. To be fair, I'm always like this - in the last few years I've always struggled to visualise these songs doing *well*. Which usually means there's some kind of surprise, like Sunstroke Project or Michael Schulte. If I were to call a surprise Top 5, it would perhaps be Slovenia or Norway. It might even be Spain, though I really don't think so.

So, without further ado...

1. Netherlands
2. Australia
3. Iceland
- I feel like this is the kind of thing that the build-up and the hype will really help; juries in particular really tend to follow hype, so I'm expecting that to make up for the underwhelming live performance.
4. Sweden
5. Azerbaijan
- to be honest, I was underwhelmed by this in the semi, after all the raves from the press centre, but I guess I'm probably missing something there, as I was pretty alone in that opinion. It also doesn't help that I really dislike the song!
6. Switzerland
7. Russia
- it never felt like a winner or even a Top 3 entry from the moment it came out, and I wish I'd had the courage in my convictions to bet on it earlier.
8. Slovenia - genuinely could come anywhere.
9. Malta - a little surprised they put it on first.
10. Norway
11. Czech Republic
- I'm more surprised they put this on so closely after Malta. They're visually similar, and I'm now considering getting out of my original Top 10 bet that I put on weeks ago.
12. France - which I guess makes them Top Big Five by default.
13. Italy
14. Serbia
15. Greece
16. North Macedonia
17. Estonia
18. Spain
19. Cyprus
- hugely underwhelmed by Tamta and everything about this in the semi-final, it wouldn't have shocked me if it had failed to qualify.
20. Albania
21. Denmark
22. San Marino
23. Israel
24. Germany
- 'too obvious to be last' is usually rubbish, but I'm hoping the S?sters might get a little bit of jury love to push them above a couple of other entries.
25. United Kingdom
26. Belarus

I'm finally giving in...


A bit of poolside and restaurantside Norwegian national day celebrations yesterday (mainly involving coriander, muy autentico), followed by a much more important day - IT'S EUROVISION TODAY!

My predicting skills improved greatly from semi 1 to semi 2 (7/10 and 9/10 respectively), so maybe I'm at my peak now? Here's what I think anyway! Have a great evening everyone!

1 Netherlands | I'm finally giving in... Still don't quite 'get' it, but it managed to win others over in the semi, so there clearly is something there that maybe just isn't for me. A bit like Denmark in 2013, basically. And a Dutch win after all these hundreds of years would be fantastictje!
2 Australia | The kind of thing that I'd imagine juries could ignore a bit, but then it's Australia, so here we are...
3 Switzerland | Great draw, great face, great arms, great energy.
4 Sweden | I've supported it all season (and it's still up there with North Macedonia as my absolute favourite!), but I'm caving in for the pressure.
5 Russia
6 Italy | Seems a bit disappointing in clips, but he was meant to be sick and stuff, wasn't he?
7 France | Erk, I promised I wouldn't get sucked in on the hype, didn't I?! It was probably this "exactly"-moment that clinched it. Still not at all convinced by the song, but I'm expecting both juries and televoters to get on board with the message, or maybe most of all with Bilal himself.
8 Greece | *does fingery handmove to reach high notes*
9 Iceland | This seems surprisingly forgotten considering what they're clearly aiming for.
10 Azerbaijan | I'm not at all impressed, but people seem to be, so...
11 Norway | My original thought about this was 'decently safe qualifier, lost in the final', but I'm starting to think it could get a decent amount of televotes from viewers looking for something cheerful and typically Eurovision-y with a hint of "local flavour" (even if that's as fake as can be). Hope it beats Rybak's result last year, at least!
12 Slovenia | I was a bit nervous this would be boring in the semi, but thought it was absolutely magical - monotonous, but sucks you in with the very initimate staging, which they're really nailing with the minimal interactions between them. A shy smile here, a gentle brush on the arm there... #swoon
13 Spain | Have disliked this ever since it was chosen, but his arms and the cheerful performance on last should secure a decent televote result, even if  I'm expecting the juries not to care.
14 Malta | Thought this looked really promising in rehearsal clips, only to look messy and average in the semi. With that early draw too, I can see it going down the Ira Losco route re: jury/televote split, i.e. opposite of Spain.
15 North Macedonia | YAY
16 Serbia
17 Cyprus | Unlike many, I think this works reasonably well (that wet-look-hairgel à la 1992 aside! WHY), but I always thought the song had a limited appeal anyway, so 17th seems about right.
18 Czechia
19 Belarus
20 Albania | Positively surprised at this qualification, but I assume it's without a chance apart from the Swiss televote and such.
21 United Kingdom | Can't see the televoters caring, but could get some random jury votes here and there.
22 Israel | I'm starting to appreciate it more after we did Kobi versions of various other entries at breakfast today. Malta works particularly well.
23 San Marino | This might have gotten some random cheerful televoters going on Tuesday, but I can't see anyone caring now it's buried at #7.
24 Denmark
25 Estonia | A handful of Swedish and Finnish televotes, and that's it? It bloody better be.
26 Germany | Oh dear.

Thursday 16 May 2019

Predicting Semi 2 - trusting my instincts

7/10 for my Semi 1 prediction, which is quite poor, frankly. And my mistake? I allowed myself to be swayed by the words of those in the press centre, and the enthusiasm of those watching the clips we got, and went against my original instincts and included Poland and Georgia among my qualifiers, and took out San Marino. It says a lot that my original, pre-rehearsal prediction, was better, with 9/10.

So tonight, I think I'm going to stick to my guns, and go with my original impressions as far as possible.

There's a lot here that I'd be delighted to be wrong about - my personal Top 10 in this semi contains at least four of the songs I'm predicting to be out after tonight. Unlike Serhat on Tuesday though, I don't think there's any chance my personal last place (and 41/41 overall), Latvia, comes close to qualifying.

1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Russia
4. Azerbaijan
5. Switzerland
- these obvious top 5 have only solidified their positions in rehearsals)
6. Malta - the YouTube ads and the staging variations, different in every rehearsal, only demonstrate how much Malta are trying. And when Malta are trying in ways we can see, you can be sure they're also trying in ways that we're not seeing.
7. Denmark - total semi-final song, especially coming after a bunch of dark, moody songs
8. North Macedonia - surely even Macedonia can't stuff this up now? If they did, it would be...

9. Romania - I think it's only me who believes in this, and I might be blinded by my love of it, but I think it's strong enough to get through, especially with the professional performance it looks like they're delivering
10. Armenia - despite everything, I think they just scrape through, but I debated this one a lot, and considered swapping it with the two below multiple times.

11. Croatia
12. Austria
13. Norway - this is where I'm really sticking to my guns. I love the song, but when it won the Norwegian final, I said to myself 'this is Verona'. I just don't see who votes for this, outside Eurovision fandom.
14. Lithuania - whereas here I'm going against my original instincts, but Lithuania have done none of their normal staging wizardry that lifted their mediocre mid-tempo males into finals past.
15. Albania - again, I just don't see where the audience is for this
16. Moldova
17. Ireland
18. Latvia

Semi 2 As Seen From Above

No, I haven't passed to the other side yet, but I've been hiking! Thanks to the (bad?) influence from some others ESC Nationers, I agreed to get up very early to spend hours walking uphill in the sun around San Bartolomé de Tirajana:

Thanks to this, the following prediction is a bit more brief and less thought through than Tuesday's, but maybe that's all the better, seeing as I only managed 7/10 right then... Think it must be my worst semi prediction in years, it's usually 8/10ish. But here we go, anyway!

1 North Sweden | It just kicks ass, frankly.
2 North Netherlands | Never fully 'got' this, but several seems to, so it's clearly not a case of France 2011 or so where everyone just assumes someone else likes it until it turns out nobody actually do.
3 North Russia | It's all about that cross-chorus at the end!
4 North Switzerland | Could be the one of the safe and obvious one that fails a bit, but even if it does, I can't see it not qualifying, it'd just be 8th or so instead. He's just too charming not too.
5 North Malta | I wore camouflage speedos yesterday to support the blending into the surroundings. Everyone ignored me all day!
6 North Azerbaijan | ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
7 North Very Macedonia | All my goosebumps are polished and ready for action - go get them, Tamara!
8 North Norway | Doubt the juries will get behind it, but televoters probably will, at least reasonably so.
9 North Croatia | Yikes. I've even kinda started enjoying it.
10 North Denmark | Yikes. I've not at all started enjoying it.

11 North Armenia | Just too nondescript, I feel.
12 North Moldova | Maybe the sand might get it up here? But still rather doomed, I suspect. It's not as fitting a song to the concept as Angels was.
13 North Ireland | Please please do better!
14 North Austria
15 North Albania
16 North Romania 
17 North Lithuania | Surely not even the Lithuanian diaspora can save this...?
18 North Latvia | Surprisingly forgettable for something that's 40 minutes long.

A glass of rosé for whoever can guess what my favourite is tonight! Answers on a postcard by tomorrow morning, please.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

And some semifinal 2 predictions

So my semi 1 prediction somehow turned out to be pretty accurate. Only getting Hungary wrong instead of San Marino was a surprise, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see San Marino making it. Serhat wasn't very good, but it's the kind of stuff every Eurovision final needs. So all is well.

Now, the 2nd semifinal is definitely a lot harder. I feel like there's about 15 songs that will qualify. So there's gonna be a lot of room for surprise non-qualifications. And there's a few songs that seem to have gained a lot of momentum with the rehearsals. Austria seems to be in with a good shot of qualifying in spite of previously being considered quite chanceless. KUNG FU PÆNDA seems to be doing a good job of lifting the song on stage, and I can see it getting a decen tresult in the televote and possibly being top 5 with the juries. Another song that seems to have increased its chances a lot with the performance is North Macedonia. Even if it's far from my favourite, I can see it doing better than I originally expected. Will it be enough to qualiy? Maybe... But I am leaning towards a yes.

Otherwise I think most of the more obvious qualifiers (Sweden, Russia, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Malta, etc) will make it in the end. But if we'll have a surprise non-qualification it could possible be... Norway? I do hope they make it, but it might just be a bit too eurovisiony and gimmicky for the juries, and not strong enough to place high enough with televoters in this strong semifinal. I would be sad to see a Stella Mwangi type of result for it, but maybe that's what will happen. (Now watch them win the semi).

So, it's a really tough semi to predict, but these are my 10 picks.

01 - Armenia - Srbuk - "Walking Out"
02 - Ireland - Sarah McTernan - "22"
03 - Moldova - Anna Odobescu - "Stay"
04 - Switzerland - Luca Hänni - "She Got Me"
05 - Latvia - Carousel - "That Night"
06 - Romania - Ester Peony - "On a Sunday"
07 - Denmark - Leonora - "Love Is Forever"
08 - Sweden - John Lundvik - "Too Late for Love"
09 - Austria - PÆNDA - "Limits"
10 - Croatia - Roko - "The Dream"
11 - Malta - Michela - "Chameleon"
12 - Lithuania - Jurij Veklenko - "Run with the Lions"
13 - Russia - Sergey Lazarev - "Scream"
14 - Albania - Jonida Maliqi - "Ktheju tokës"
15 - Norway - KEiiNO - "Spirit in the Sky"
16 - Netherlands - Duncan Laurence - "Arcade"
17 - North Macedonia - Tamara Todevska - "Proud"
18 - Azerbaijan - Chingiz - "Truth"

I would however not be unhappy if I was wrong when it comes to a lot of these. Ireland qualifying would be very nice, and Lithuania has been one of my favourite songs all season. But this semifinal just has too many songs that deserve the final.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Predicting semi 1 - the dilemma of Georgia

All season, I've had a pretty solid selection of about five or six songs that definitely don't qualify from Semi 1. They were a group of songs for which I just couldn't see any road to qualification, and top (or bottom, depending on your point of view) of that pile was Georgia.

On the surface, it surely should have no chance. It's basically a combination of last year's Georgian entry, which came dead last, and last year's Armenian entry, which didn't exactly set the scoreboard on fire either. But... it's just so much better than either of those. And it's staged fantastically. So...

Am I the victim of having heard these songs too many times, and analysing them to death*? Should I stick to my original instincts? Or is it just possible that Georgia can defy the odds and make it to the final?

You know, what? I'm going to say yes. There's enough unpredictability in this semi-final, with its combination of weird, out-there shit and underperformed ordinariness, that actually I think anything could happen. Well, almost anything. Other than Montenegro qualifying, obvs.

So, prediction time:

1. Australia - I'm still very curious to see if Australia can maintain the jury love they're so notorious for, even when entering popera, which hasn't always gone down so well with juries in the past. If they can, I think they could be top of the pile tonight.
2. Iceland
3. Hungary
4. Cyprus - incidentally, these are the only four I'm willing to call as finalists with 100% certaintly. From here, there's an element of doubt, including even for...
5. Greece - I've been unconvinced by every clip of this I've seen in rehearsals. It should easily be strong enough to make it through in this field and with this running position, but I don't have high hopes for Katerine in the final.
6. Slovenia - pleeeeeease be good.
7. Czech Republic
8. Poland - I've been betting against it all season, and I'm slightly going against my better instincts here, but from reports in rehearsals, I think they have a chance of making it through. And it's my favourite, so I'll be delighted if they do.
9. Georgia
10. Serbia - basically Serbia are coming between 9th and 11th like they have in every semi-final for the last few years.

11. Belgium
12. Estonia - I'm hoping this is the case, at least. It's so bland and ordinary that it really doesn't deserve to qualify. If it does, it's obvious bottom 5 fodder on Saturday night.
13. San Marino - it's just too shit. Let's not forget that Triana Park managed to come last, from last.
14. Finland
15. Belarus
16. Portugal - Conan commits the ultimate sin in Eurovision - he really gives you no reason why you should vote for this.
17. Montenegro

*yes, obviously.

Predicting the first semifinal

As opposed to the fish, I'm still up in the cold Norden. But in spite of neither being by a pool side nor in Tel Aviv, I've also tried to get an impression of the rehearsals and the performances through the videos, blogs, the messageboard, etc. Especially from Shi over at Escgo, whose blog has been both entertaining and interesting to read.

So I've decided to make some sort of prediction. Please take into consideration that it will probably be all sorts of wrong, but after some thinking I've decided to go for a mix of expected qualifiers and some surprises. Because we always do get some unexpected results. I feel like this year the surprise might be that Belarus makes the semifinal top 10. Why? Even though reports from rehearsals say that the performance is a bit of a mess, I can imagine it picking up both semi-high jury and televoting points from a couple of countries, and some mid scores from others, based just on the fact that it really is quite a catchy song and stands out pretty well among all the slower entries surrounding it.

Poland has really grown on me recently, and their performance seems like it's very likeable. This coul indeed mean they'll quality, and I probably will be hoping they will after seeing the show tonight. But at the same time... it's a tricky song. It might as well be the kind of entry that fans love, but neither juries nor average televoters do. So in the end I decided to opt for a non-qualification. Just like with Georgia, which many people seem to think will make it. But effective performance or not... it's still the same song. I'd also live it if San Marino qualified, but it doesn't seem like the performance really measures up. So I'm leaning towards it ending up about 11th.

However, I do think Serbia might just make it, ending up somewhere in the lower top 10 in the semifinal. Nevena has delivered in the rehearsals, and there might still be a lot of appreciation for these kinds of ballads in Europe even 15 years after their heydays. And Estonia might scrape through simply by default for being pretty "normal" in this bunch. Though I wouldn't at all object if they didn't.

01. Cyprus - Tamta - "Replay" 
02 Montenegro - D mol - "Heaven" 
03 .Finland - Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman - "Look Away" 
04. Poland - Tulia - "Fire of Love (Pali się)" 
05. Slovenia - Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl - "Sebi" 
06. Czech Republic - Lake Malawi - "Friend of a Friend" 
07. Hungary - Joci Pápai - "Az én apám" 
08. Belarus - ZENA - "Like It" 
09. Serbia - Nevena Božović - "Kruna" 
10. Belgium - Eliot - "Wake Up" 
11 .Georgia - Oto Nemsadze - "Keep on Going" 
12 .Australia - Kate Miller-Heidke - "Zero Gravity" 
13 .Iceland - Hatari - "Hatrið mun sigra" 
14 .Estonia - Victor Crone - "Storm" 
15 .Portugal - Conan Osiris - "Telemóveis" 
16 .Greece - Katerine Duska - "Better Love" 
17 .San Marino - Serhat - "Say Na Na Na"

Semi 1 Through Fish Eyes

While basking in the Canarian, as opposed to the Israeli, sun, I've been trying to get an impression of rehearsals from videos, blogs, messageboard chitchat and Rizo's insta. It's obviously quite far from actually being on site, so don't bet your house or Canarian holiday apartment based on my musings below, but I guess there's also advantages in seeing things from afar. Almost every single time I've radically changed my mind on a song's chances thanks to watching rehearsals live in previous years, my initital, "clueless" predictions have been closer to the truth, so it's definitely easy to get caught up in the bubble at times. This year, I'm at least very happily avoiding getting caught up in any France-hype! (Now watch me be wrong and Bilal wins with two thousand and eleventyfive points).

Aaanyway, it's "only" a semifinal tonight, so there's actually no need to figure out anything more than just ten envelopes, but I'll attempt a full ranking anyway. Been thinking this semi is very tricky most of the season, but the order below actually came together quite nicely in the end - particularly towards the bottom, oddly! One thing I'm missing, however, is an actual semi winner, it just seems like a handful of countries that'll come 3rd or 4th.

1 Greece | Well, something has to win this semi, and it's not going to be Rybak, so why not? Stands out visually, and a strong song.
2 Australia | Could we finally have found an Australian entry the televoters will like more than the juries? I think it's utter rubbish myself (particularly that last minute of pure NOTHING), but it's colour TV of the highest order.
3 Iceland | I can't help but feel that this could've looked so much better if it was sent by Sweden or someone else with a clear plan about camerawork and directing - as it is, it just seems like they rely completely on all of the "shocking" stuff going on, and just asked someone to 'film it' without much more thought behind it. I wish there was a striking visual contrast for when the chorus kicks in, for instance.
4 Hungary | Very solid stuff, despite being a slightly lamer version of Origo blended with a slightly lamer version of Jamala's golden tree.
5 Cyprus | This just has 5th in the semi written all over it, doesn't it? Reports suggesting she sounds horrible, but I actually think the bits I've heard sounded fine.
6 Poland | I assumed this was dead when it came out, but I'm warming to it, and it stands out a mile. Screechy and horrible, but not necessarily in a bad way.
7 Slovenia | Amidst discussions about performances, running orders and whatnot affecting a song's chance, one argument I keep coming back to is that a song that's good enough will always qualify almost no matter what. And seeing as Sebi is loooovely, it really should. But could it possibly not...? Iiiih.
8 Serbia | Some friendly televotes, a decent jury result for being sensible and normal and decently done, and ta-dah!
9 Czechia | I'm really really really not the core audience of this (they feel like they would talk about being in a ban)d a lot... 🙄), but everyone genereally seems to agree it's going through so why not. The one positive thing I can say about it is that in their video of an "unplugged" performance, you can literally see the plug. I love it when things just work out.
10 Georgia | I'm possibly swayed by the segment used for the official rehearsal clip here, unlike several others it clearly is the vital bit. But the bit in question really kicks ass!

11 Belgium | All season I've assumed they'd tidy this up by the time it hits the stage, but not so sure anymore. And even if they did, I still can't quite see what they're aiming for with the song itself, it's all a bit halfway between everything. What I do like about it is Eliot himself though - he has a certain boy-next-door-mixed-with-Blanche quality to him. But I get the impression almost everyone else finds him a bit average/boring/shy/bad/whatevs [delete as appliccable].
12 Belarus | Might manage to get a decentish televote result for being a bit young and cheerful, but when there's no song and no singing, why would any jury care?
13 San Marino | Serhat himself obviously sounds ridic, but what struck me in rehearsal clips was actually how bad the backings sounded. Which, yay, tbh - makes it less likely to attract the attention of anyone but the Monenegrin jurors.
14 Portugal | I had a phase a few months ago thinking this was working, but it was quite brief. Think it was around lunchtime. The red/green look is quite striking, but yet ill-advised, somehow.
15 Estonia | This type of straightforward EDM-ish song really should be right up my alley (hvis det er lov å si...?), but the sheer averageness of it is just making me violent. Add hair that not even Eamonn Toal would approve of, singing that not even Sophie Carle would approve of, and RHYMING THIS WITH THIS, and you've got a disaster in the making.
16 Montenegro | It's just so obviously coming last that it probably won't.
17 Finland | Not deserved at all, but I just can't see why anyone would remember this when voting time comes. Now if only they'd sent this, it'd be a different matter...