‘Birds’ Flying High

Mar 13, 2013 by

‘Birds’ Flying High

We hope you took our advice a couple of weeks ago and hopped aboard the Netherlands train after we flagged up the enormous promise of ‘Birds’ in our post on February 27 based on Anouk singing a snippet of the song live that popped up on YouTube. At the time Netherlands was available at 33-1 e/w first 4. It has since traded as low as 9 on Betfair, and currently resides as 3rd favourite to win ESC 2013. An over-reaction? Some think so, some don’t.

It’s undoubtedly the classiest tune heard so far heading to Malmo in May and has a magical quality all of its own. Whether it can win is a different matter. What stands it in good stead is that it is defiantly different from the usual ESC fare, and is unique among this year’s field.

Naysayers are convinced the song will pass televoters by and following news of the scoring change of rules this year, there has been a rapid conclusion reached by some ESC observers that this irrevocably harms any chance ‘Birds’ might have had. It may do very well on the 1-25 jury scale (1-15 in its semi-final), but it will slide into obscurity on the 1-25 televote scale (1-15 in its semi-final), goes the perceived wisdom. But such thinking is based purely on conjecture, and it certainly isn’t a given that ‘Birds’ will reside towards the bottom of the televote rankings.

Italy 2011 is probably the best recent example of a song in a similar ilk to the Netherlands, in the sense it was something of a leftfield entry that year as a classical jazz number and, from a certain standpoint, oozed class. Arguably, the bi-lingual ‘Madness Of Love’ was a far harder entry for the ESC masses to ‘get’ than Anouk’s ‘Birds’ yet managed a respectable 11th on the televote, from the not especially beneficial 12 slot. It topped the jury vote pushing Italy into 2nd spot overall behind Azerbaijan.

Albania last year was another acquired taste entry. ‘Suus’ had a terrible draw in 3 yet managed 8th place on the televoting scoring chart. Albania and Italy have more voting strength than the Netherlands, but these 2 examples give rise to the hope ESC audiences are capable of picking up their phones to support unique songs of beauty. In ‘Birds’ favour, it is sung in English, making it more accessible, and as a composition it knocks these 2 entries into a cocked hat.

Anouk’s dreamy and haunting song certainly has the potential to create as much USP on stage as Rona’s remarkable high notes, or Raphael Gualazzi’s consummate piano playing, and ‘Birds’ cannot be accused of being bland and forgettable unless listeners have had a complete aural bypass.

It is not inconceivable that ‘Birds’ pulls off something unprecedented in terms of jury points in a year severely lacking in the quality department with arguably only Norway’s entry coming anywhere close to the Netherlands on the creative song-writing scale. Set alongside so many formulaic tunes this year – the likes of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Denmark and Belarus all delving into the pot marked ‘ESC winning ingredients’ and seriously over-cooking things – ‘Birds’ is certainly a beacon of originality.

Much like Germany in 2010, Netherlands underdog status could be a further boost to the groundswell of support ‘Birds’ receives – commentators Europe-wide pointing out the country’s 38 years of ESC hurt etc. And surely there are few better messages for the EBU to strike in terms of the Contest’s egalitarian status were the Netherlands to pull off victory this year.

Further potential good news for Netherlands backers is that the producer-decided running order is intended to ensure all entries have the chance to stand out this year, and SVT (with a nudge from the EBU which surely will have some sort of say in things) should go out of its way to give the Netherlands as big a leg up as possible given its minnow status and undying loyalty to the ESC – missing only 4 Contests since the competition began in 1956 despite a sequence of poor results over so many years. So if it qualifies, a beneficial (for televote purposes) late draw looks to be on the cards.

They do, however, have a tricky job on their hands with the first half of semi 1, where the Netherlands resides, given they have 7 solo females to try and mix up alongside only one male group into a contrasting running order of light and shade.

In Sweden last weekend Yohio was beaten, which was a good result for readers as we advised laying him at odds-on. As for the winner of MF 2013, ‘You’ sung by Robin Stjernberg, we are surprised by its current position in the Outright market trading at 13 on Betfair. It won a weak MF this year, and only after qualifying from the 2nd chance heat.

Not only that but voting figures released since appear to highlight the song’s weakness and hint that it required repeated plays over a succession of 3 weeks, for Sweden to get behind it enough to win. The song, while well performed by Robin, lacks gears and as a pop package it is all rather too beige.

There is very little left to reveal ahead of next week’s Heads Of Delegation Meeting and the deadline for this year’s songs. Of most interest are Italy, Azerbaijan and Moldova, though Macedonia are coming up with a new song, and it would be rude not to mention San Marino and Montenegro. The minute segment of the French song released today doesn’t exactly inspire.

So the 39-song line-up is very nearly complete, and as of today the 5 songs we are happy to have potentially our biggest greens on are Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Georgia and Belarus. You may have noticed how we cunningly left favourite Denmark off that list. That’s because up to now it has been trading far too short on Betfair in our view, and isn’t a strong enough entry to justify such a short price. It has started to drift to a more realistic price. We respect its chance and may get more heavily involved if it impresses during the rehearsal period.

We will not be giving any semi-final advice until we know the full field this year, we discover the draw for the running orders of the 2 semi-finals, and we get a wider spread of prices quoted by the high street.

How is your overall book looking? Are you happy opposing the Netherlands or do you see ‘Birds’ flying to the top of the leaderboard in Malmo? Is it possible we still have not heard this year’s winner yet? Feel free to belligerently vent your opinions below.

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  1. Rob

    The French entry in full. 1st impressions: quite nice if a little underwhelming…?


  2. Henry VIII

    I personally love Birds and it’ll be my number one but beacons of originality are difficult to assess coldly. Some with quality and that were performed confidently on the night have been winners.

    I mainly agree with your top 5, more neutral on Georgia, but Rob why is Russia in there? I wouldn’t oppose it Top 10 because of the tedious diaspora, and the new scoring may help it a little, but it seems so unoriginal and dull.

  3. Rob

    Russia shaping up to be something of a Serbia 2012, Henry, as it has big voting strength (in the top 3 this year on my calculations). It looks like being highly competent – Dina Garipova has a superb live vocal. It may be rather formulaic, and certainly doesn’t inspire me the way the Spanish song did last year, as it is a bit too obvious, but it ticks a lot of boxes & well-executed solo ballads usually do very well with juries.

  4. Matt

    Informative post as always Rob. I was presently surprised by Sweden as hadn’t followed qualifiers and it goes in my top five. I share your interest in Russia, Belarus, Netherlands (not sure televote will be enough to make it win) and of course Norway. Think Germany will hoover up points too but juries will mark it down. Also not a fan of Georgia which to these ears is so cliched and predictable. Appreciate the voting power will keep it in the frame though.

  5. Rob

    Hi Matt,
    I think Georgia is the best value in the Outright market atm. Well-executed male/female duets have a history of being well appreciated by ESC audiences. They appear to be very capable singers & if they can work on their interplay together with the staging, this could enhance the song.
    Take your point that it is cliched & predictable – much like Russia – but given Georgia’s voting strength (like Russia’s), it could easily get right in the mix.
    The new scoring rules potentially open things up big time this year – we could well see a very close final with about 8 or more songs fighting it out at the top of the leaderboard – expect a crazy night of trading in May 🙂

  6. Tim B

    Rob, I’m not as confident in you in terms of The Netherlands’ chances. I do think it’s more than likely to pass the casual viewer by, and whilst it’s not guaranteed to receive a low televote score, I don’t think it’s a given that it will be challenging for top spot with the juries either. For me, there’s a hint of Sweden 2010 in that it’s the kind of song that could pass a lot of people by, despite being so classy etc. I think the best hope for this song is the low end of the top 10.

    Agree totally on Robin Stjernberg’s chances for Sweden. The song is a little beige to first time listeners, which incidentally is the same colour as his suit. To put my money where my mouth is, I’ve layed Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark in the outright. I’ll consider turning Denmark green at a much later stage if it looks like it’s going to win, but my feeling now is that it won’t.

    My biggest greens in the outright are Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Norway. I think the winner will be from one of these countries. Glad to have traded the outright thus far, as there have been some huge prices on offer and it’s not too difficult to get an all-green or mostly green book.

    Rob, what do you think of the new Ukraine? It’s not the best structured song, but Zlata is an amazing singer and sure to pick up jury points. I find it very uplifting and can’t discount it for the win.

    This seems to be Azerbaijan’s entry.
    It may have the national final to win but seems like this is the chosen song and so winning the NF should just be a formality.

    If so, it has a lot of potential and presents a conundrum for terms of punters in terms of which ex USSR nations will come out on top. Is this something you’ll be covering in a future analysis?

    • Boki

      Hi Tim,
      Why do you think “Hold Me” is the Azeri chosen song? If I remember they usually don’t show the esc song in the final but only select the artist, is it confirmed that one of the final ones will go to esc?

      • Boki

        Just saw the announcement, you are right that both artist/song will be chosen tonight.
        On a first listen “hold me” is nothing special, but having in mind it’s Azer and male performer in a female predominant year I’m glad to have it green just in case.

        Rg Ukraine, it’s the weakest for me in the ex ussr ballad camp (song itself I mean) and I have it full red (unlike Russia).
        Rg Holland I’m puzzled, first impression was amazing song that will flop on the televote but I’m surprised by the amount of good reviews, yt hits etc. So it can go either way, will wait and see but took some high odds on the presentation day (comparing to today) just to get covered.
        I’m still thinking Norway is the one to beat.

  7. Rob

    Thanks for posting, Tim. Had seen that Azer song – it’s quite nice if a little bland, which seems to be my pervading sense after listening to a number of this year’s entries towards the top end of the market – Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine. Good looking guy, solo male ballad – he at least has a corner of the market potentially to himself.

    Zlata may well have a very good voice but her ballad goes nowhere for me & is all a bit too Disney. It’s inescapable that we all bring subjectivity to assessment of ESC songs, & her song has the most jarring visceral reaction in me of the lot – all too saccharine.

    Trying to put my cold ESC hat on, the wider ESC audience may appreciate it more but Ukraine does not have the voting strength of Russia, Azerbaijan or Georgia, & I am dubious regarding the song merits in terms of jury love. I am still of the view Ukraine only managed to achieve 4th place in 2011 largely because of the sand artist.

  8. Rob

    I forgot about Italy’s Marco in earlier reply to Tim – he will more than likely also have a ballad & qualifies as another good looking solo male.

    Thanks for posting, Boki – also very much in the Norway camp when assessing relative merits of the Scandi crop this year.

    Looks like it’ll either be L’essenziale or Bellissimo for Marco according to rumour mill:


    • Tim B

      Thanks Rob. Haven’t been following anything that’s happened in Italy so that’s useful to know. I’d be happy with Italy as a red with either of those, especially ‘Belissimo’. He does have a very good voice though.

      Btw guys, with the Ex-USSR bloc vote potentially so diluted I also see Norway as the most likely winner this year – top of the jury vote and way up there challenging in the televote, is my current thinking. Turning Norway a bit more green atm as the price creeps upwards on Betfair.

  9. Rob

    Amandine singing the French song live found here:


  10. Rob

    Moldova’s entry (a missed opportunity for the country not sending ‘A Brighter Day’ by Tatiana Heghea, which had far more stand out appeal). This is yet another solo female ballad in semi 1 – 8 of them if you include Denmark:


  11. Rob

    Countries will draw a position in 1st half or 2nd half of the final following each semi-final.

    r.o. for the 2 semis decided no later than March 29.


    And it’s L’essenziale for Italy:


  12. Rob

    Important info found here, including Sweden having drawn the 16 slot in the final:


  13. funky

    oh boy do I not like “birds”…a truly awful song.

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