Does Anyone Know, Serhat?

Mar 25, 2016 by

Does Anyone Know, Serhat?

Finally, and after much delay, we have now heard all 43 songs heading to Stockholm. There will still be a few tweaks to some of the songs yet. Regardless, ESC 2016 will remain a curious puzzle until the mist starts to clear during rehearsals.

Both Russia and Sweden have their potential flaws and look opposable. The difficulty right now is, identifying alternatives you can be confident will definitely challenge for a top 4 finish.

Sweden appears to be a polarising entry, it wasn’t as convincing a winner of Melodifestivalen as anticipated (the dynamics of the new app vote notwithstanding), and those zeros it was awarded by the Belarus and Australian juries are perhaps a small warning sign, especially in terms of its Eastern European appeal.

The spoken word style of the song is perhaps too low key for the ESC stage, and Frans could be penalised by those jurors assessing ‘vocal capacity’. Being drawn 9th is possibly a slight negative too though it is certainly not the death knell for a song that is unique enough to stand out on the night. Sweden winning last year also adds a degree of caution regarding its chances this year. There could be an in-built response among some televoters to feel less inclined to support Sweden again.

As for Russia, with a strong televote looking assured, it is perhaps more a question of whether it can do well enough with juries to win overall. It will be a slickly presented song in Stockholm, no doubt, but it might be seen as copying a successful formula from last year if we see the sort of visual trickery in the official video re-created on the stage in Stockholm. Anything that is seen as derivative of a former ESC success risks being penalised.

It is largely due to the perceived weakness of the rest of this year’s field, and its voting power that Russia heads the market at a rather skinny looking current best price of 2-1 on the high street.

We have a lot of solo females trying to out-ballad one another in this year’s Contest and without seeing the staging, the performance, hearing the live vocal and knowing the running order, it is a difficult task to rank their chances at this pre-rehearsals stage. Australia, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Italy, Czech Republic…? You pays your money and you takes your chance. They also could be at risk of cancelling each other out to a degree unless one or two can rise head and shoulders above the rest when performed live in Stockholm.

It is a struggle to find a discernible hook listening to Malta’s ‘Walk On Water’ but Ira Losco will try her best to diva this track up. Given the fuss they have made over which song to take to Stockholm, Malta is clearly trying hard this year and there is talk of an exciting stage show lined up for this.

Serbia should have the skill to create evocative staging for Sanja’s song as it did with Zeljko in 2012. ‘Goodbye (Shelter)’ lends itself to violinists joining her on the stage. The concern is, she over-eggs it on the official video in terms of emoting. One of the potential spanners in the works for Serbia is Croatia also bringing a highly competent vocalist and ballad to this year’s competition – Nina Kraljic singing ‘Lighthouse’ – and there is a competitive Bulgaria to factor in this year too.

The ballad that potentially has the USP this year among the solo females is Armenia. It has a creative edge and is really a performance art song that seems built for a dramatic stage show. Only rehearsals will tell us whether Armenia can do a good enough job bringing it all to life on stage and Iveta is capable of selling it with her performance.

Ukraine’s Jamala has an assured live vocal and talk of a ‘3D enhanced performance’ suggests this could be one of the more memorable stage shows this year. The live video here gives an indication of her likely performance style. The worry is, ’1944’ as a song is possibly a little inaccessible, certainly in terms of Western European tastes, and there could be a ceiling for Jamala’s emotive warbling about an historical injustice that will be unfamiliar to most.

Latvia is a contemporary track but the success of Aminata last year has possibly encouraged the view this is a stronger entry than it actually is. ‘Heartbeat’ in its current incarnation feels a little underwhelming while Justs, as a performer, is far less bewitching compared to Aminata. Staging could help to elevate it.

Latvia is certainly rated much higher than Estonia at this stage. Juri isn’t the most charismatic of performers and this track could be in danger of getting lost. It feels like a very pedestrian 3 minutes the juries may rate but offers televoters little to buy into.

The chorus helps to elevate Hungary’s ‘Pioneer’ but Freddie’s diction and rather mumbled vocal will need work for it to challenge. Norway feels like 2 songs badly fused together. Iceland is likely to suffer due to Mans/Loreen comparisons and looks and feels far too calculated. The new version of Israel is definitely an improvement, whereas the re-working of Albania has seen it regress.

France has had a run of terrible results and many point to bi-lingual songs consistently doing badly at ESC. ‘J’ai cherche’ is a catchy pop song, and rather than detract from it the French language seems to suit it well. The 3 minute edit is maybe not as strong as the original version and there is a concern regarding staging given France’s chequered track record on that front. The female dance troupe employed during live performances in the lead up to the Contest so far has looked superfluous.

‘Ghost’ was an early favourite this year, but Jamie-Lee K’s performance at the German national final, and her rather bizarre Manga wardrobe, has dampened the market’s enthusiasm for Germany’s chance. The flipside is, it’s a modern, radio-friendly track and Jamie has a clear USP in terms of image.

Mention of maNga brings us neatly on to Cyprus which has managed to find itself a potentially handy niche as this year’s most accessible pop/rock offering, not dissimilar to the Turkish band back in 2010 who ended up finishing 2nd. Like maNga, Minus One are an accomplished live act, and how well ’Alter Ego’ is delivered on the stage will be key to its chance.

Last to reveal, Bulgaria is an instant, uplifting, contemporary tune. It doesn’t have the greatest ESC pedigree having not qualified for the final since 2007 when, of course, it finished a highly respectable 5th with Elitsa & Stoyan’s ‘Water’. Poli Geneva is a good live performer, as she showed at ESC 2011 singing a far inferior song to this. And ‘If Love Was A Crime’ is at least able to differentiate itself compared to the plethora of midtempo solo female ballads in this year’s competition.

It is always worth thinking outside the box at Eurovision and trying to find a country that is unconsidered by the market that might surprise. Serhat for San Marino… just kidding, though if they had pumped up the disco beat a lot more with ‘I Didn’t Know’ and he produced an X Factor Wagner-style performance, really hamming it up on stage, it had the potential to be tv gold and a big televoting hit.

Could The Netherlands have found another Common Linnets-type potential springer with a country folk track that similarly stands alone in this year’s Contest? In an open year, it’s not inconceivable. However, The Common Linnets were able to cleverly build upon the chemistry between Ilsa and Waylon to help construct intimacy whereas Douwe Bob, as a solo performer, does not have the advantage of this visual dynamic.

Austria has a certain unique charm though the staging concept seen in the Austrian national final of Zoe dressed like a fairy godmother walking through an enchanted forest felt like it detracted rather than elevated the song. Zoe would be better off ditching that gimmick and focusing on a more sophisticated performance that is all about her.

An uptempo song given a late running order position can be a dangerous beast at ESC which means it would be unwise to totally rule out Spain or Lithuania from achieving a good result this year. Both Barei and Donny Montell have stage presence on their side and while Lithuania might be a bit too generic, Barei’s dancing feet have the potential to give ’Say Yay!’ a certain x factor. This is really the only ‘dance-pop’ song in this year’s competition and there is no doubt Barei is an engaging performer.

It is important to remember that with the change in scoring system this year, we need to revert to more 2010-2012 thinking in assessing songs. Televoting strength can no longer be nullified by punitive jurors and there will, thankfully, be no repeat of Poland in 2014, topping the UK’s televote but ending up with ‘nil point’ from the UK because UK jury members decided collectively to place it last on their rankings.

It feels an open year, and a year when the intel gained from being at the rehearsals is going to be invaluable, with live performance, staging and running order pivotal in solving this year’s puzzle.

The upcoming ESC concerts in Amstedam and London will also prove a usual guide. Keep an eye out for reviews of those two events in the coming weeks.


  1. 2016 seems indeed a very interesting year. But sometimes I think we, intentionally or unintentionally, compare too much with previous years.

    Compared to last year or 2012 there indeed isn’t a real outstanding entry that screams ‘winner’. But I always try to judge this year’s field…without comparing too much to previous years. This year’s field is the field were the countries must do battle.

    On top of that, with 43 voting countries there always be a run-away victory. A country that will win with at least 30 points from the runner-up.

    And every year around this stage you can already pinpoint 3 or 4 countries that might do it. In 2014 for instance I just couldn’t see Armenia or Hungary win it. Then I saw the first live performance of Conchita back in March 2014 and I was more or less convinced that that performance would have the best chance to win it:

    That entry in the field of 2014 was the most unique, most charming entry that made appeals to whatever kind of emotions, televoters and juries alike.

    Same with Denmark in 2013, and Sweden last year.

    Now those years are behind us. Now it is important to ask yourself which entry in this year’s competition can seriously win it. Which country can seriously reach at least 230 points (in the new system 460 perhaps) from the mixed jury-televoting result)? Taking into account all the flaws, minor or big, that every one of the 43 entries has. And taking into account all available ‘live’ performances (charisma, looks of singer, ability to ‘act’, vocals)……I still stick to these four entries:

    Australia, France, Sweden and Russia

    They have their flaws. But in comparison to their total packages their flaws are not as big as the remainder of the 39 entries.

    These entries have the possibility to seriously charm audiences across Europe. These are the entries that make an appeal to real emotions: Melancholy, happiness, fun, goosebumps.

    I would make a case however that this year’s winner could have some problems in crossing 230 points in the old system. Because yes, Sweden this year will have some trouble picking up votes from Eastern Europe. And Russia will perhaps lag behind with some Western European votes.

    Still, there are countries that have more disadvantages.

    Of course I will wait until the rehearsals to place more bets. Still, the money I won with bets I placed for Netherlands and Austria in late March, early April 2014….still make me a happy kid as of today :-). Thus it’s also interesting to place bets right now.

  2. MGR

    1st place always is very important and I don’t want any rubbish like Russia, Spain or France, but if Sweden again is first thanks to the jury, this will be a big crime.

    Jury members can be very stupid. This may again be a big problem for Italy, because they have a great chance for the second time in a row. Maybe they will be not so strong in the next few years.

  3. Rob

    Betfair has a Top 15 market which is a good addition. If you want to lay a country in this market, you are backing it to finish anywhere from 16th to 26th, or not to qualify for the final.

  4. Bruce

    Quiet Sunday morning so I have had a chance to have a quick listen to all the songs,
    It is always hard at this stage to be confident, when we mainly have glossy well produced official videos to ponder, so my thoughts now don’t try to work out as yet which will likely work well live on the night.
    As far as the market favourites are concerned, I don’t find Russia, Sweden or Australia in my top 10. Not that they are bad songs but just not my preference or convincing me as to being deserving of their market position.
    France is my favourite, instantly catchy and uplifting piece of pop music.
    I like a few of the female ballads and of those I prefer Armenia which I feel just could come across as different enough in a good way to capture attention live.
    With far fewer televotes guaranteed than Armenia,my second choice would be the Czech Republic. Honorable mentions to Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Croatia
    Of the guys I see Latvia, Estonia and Hungary getting a lot of love from the fans. I prefer Hungary of the three and think it could do well overall.
    Cyprus has a decent rock song and Spain a decent dance track that shouldn’t be ignored either
    Semi final one looks by far the most competitive and most of my favourites aeem to have landed in it. Semi 2 there are a many more certain qualifiers and I imagine I will be ‘buying money’ that night
    Look forward to reading more from you over the coming months Rob

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, Bruce. I agree semi 1 much stronger than semi 2 this year.

      I keep looking at the top of the market and thinking it could be wrong. This is a value seeker’s default position, of course, but last year Sweden and Italy looked much more solid top 4 prospects. And Russia was rapidly backed in when the penny dropped it had a lot in its favour.

      To me, this has more of a feel of 2014 about it. If you recall Armenia and Sweden were at the top of the betting market, only for Austria and The Netherlands to emerge during rehearsals and end up usurping them.

  5. I’m not convinced by France myself. I echo the sentiment that it was instantly catchy and uplifting, but even at first I never thought it could win. My estimations were set back when shortly after the reveal, I saw Amir’s live performances with his tutu-clad dancers and his stagecraft being little more than casually strolling around. The song is very nice and pleasant, (although after a while I admit it kinda gets on my nerves,) but it doesn’t give me any feeling of being able to really challenge, kind of like Douwe Bob, Sanja Vucic or Francesca Micheilin. I have Amir about level with those three, not up top as a contender. The idea that J’ai Cherche could win just seems a little outlandish to me, it’s like when people were saying it could’ve been Maraaya last year.

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting, Ben. I’m not convinced by anything this year so it’s really a case of offsetting doubts with how these songs might be enhanced in Stockholm. It seems a very generic year.

  6. Guildo Horn Forever

    “Does anyone know, Serhat?”

    Yeah, I do. He’s my lodger. He works by day on the taxis but by night makes his real money as both a Telly Savalas and Eric Cantona impersonator. (He’s still working on his Shia LaBeouf.)

    He also has a cushty side-line in providing retro voiceovers for tourist ads for cities he’s never actually visited.
    (Man, that dance competition, it’s well, it’s, it’s just…)

    I’d prefer it if he wasn’t living in my spare room but, well, what with the bedroom tax and backing Molly to win Eurovision a couple of years ago etc. Needs must.

    Hi Rob! Guildo here!

    I’ve written elsewhere (the usual place) that value-wise I’m eyeing Sweden, Ukraine, France, Latvia, Armenia, Iceland and Belgium.

    I’ve written extensively on Iceland and Ukraine (with Ukraine being my sole EuroV bet (EW at 22s and 25s) so far this season).

    Must say that I think you’ve nailed it with your thoughts on Latvia. I was and still am a huge lover of Aminata and her Love Injected, fresh from last year.

    After the mega prices for Latvia from last year, I’ve been unable to judge if this year’s Latvian entry is value. I remember you were an early leading light (maybe THE early leading light) in highlighting Russia’s value odds last year. Do you have a similar difficulty (or are you subject to a similar interference) in assessing whether this year’s Russian entry is value? Actually – of course you don’t! I see one high street firm is now offering 6/4. Ha!

    At first I liked Justs. Cool name ‘n all. And he isn’t a girl (staving off immediate and losing comparisons with the sublime Aminata) Starts off doe eyed (albeit with bejacketed red leather danger potential) and then turns progressively more passionate. Blinding beat kick in, interesting middle 8. Another cracking Aminata tune. A satisfying, proper song (as with Iceland’s Hear Them Calling). But Justs lets it down a) with his painful shouty singing b) combined with his crouching constipation poses and looking down a lotness. I think he’s avoiding eye contact coz he can hear how bad his singing is. There’s an awkward giraffeness about long legged Justs that could and should be endearing…but it ain’t. An improvement in his singing could help bring him out of shell?

    Upon reading your note about up-tempo songs being potentially dangerous beasts I gave that Spanish song another listen. Hmmm. It is a lot better and catchier than I first thought, but I’m still not mad about it. Could be that the naff dance moves are putting me off (which would be easy to fix).

    At the odds, I still feel the Belgium entry is being wildly underestimated. If that cheesy package hits, if the stage show just works, and if her girlish enthusiasm strikes a warmth within the arena audience… Is it others’ guilty pleasure? What is or are the issues ranged against it? Dated, derivative, limp? Like the French entry, I just love everything about it.

    Re your Minus One paragraph, I checked out maNga’s performance from 2010. Now, I’ve never seen maNga before. Well, the first obvious thing I notice is that their lead singer is a cute teeny. Cyprus’s Minus One’s members all look like a bunch of middle-aged ex cons (quality ones who moonlighted as extras in Prison Break and kept fit in the yard gym, but still…).

    I’d like to add that Denmark can fuck right off for sending a group called Lighthouse X, singing a song entitled Soldiers of Love. I hope Russia bomb them

    And would like to add that although Serhat is a bit creepy, that that Ivan from Belarus is a whole continent of Euro-sleazy. I wouldn’t let him fly so much as a kite with me. I’d have him banned from public parks, too.

    • Rob

      Hi Guildo. Great to hear from you. Quality Telly Savalas docu 🙂

      btw, Ivan wants to appear naked with wolves, if you hadn’t read before:

      I especially share your sentiments regarding Denmark!

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        That video! It’s like he’s laying the groundwork for a porno version of Dances with Wolves! Ivan is way, way out there, isn’t he? Attempting to bond with a semi-feral hound by getting naked and singing in its face! His making-of book could be entitled The Bollocks Whisperer. :-D.

  7. Rob

    I was interested to read today Ben Linfoot, who has a column on the Sporting Life website, where he advises ‘value’ horse racing selections:

    Ben Linfoot’s Value Bet aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +301.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).

    correct as of 27/03/16

    Since EntertainmentOdds introduced a fully-audited, points-based system of tv betting recommendations at the start of 2014, the site has made a level stakes profit of +301.9pts.

    correct as of 28/03/16

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I usually have a peek at Ben Linfoot’s selections. There are areas of value still to be had in horse racing. It’s a testament to the quality of his tipping that he manages to turn a profit while not actually necessarily specialising in value areas.

      I think I’m correct in saying that his year on year profits are down. I think the success of his free service (featured for free on Oddschecker, no less!) has impinged on his profitability.

      It’s the old Pricewise phenomenon. Saturday morning, it was obvious which horses had been advised by Tom Segal, they’d be the morning steamers. By the time you’d read his selection advice all the initial value had gone. Nano seconds after publishing his value tips – they were no longer value tips! (Though I do recall Betfred, on a Saturday morning, for a 15 minnute window, used to revert the Priccewise horses back to their opening shows (with accompanying staking limits, of course).

      I can definitely understand why you’re operating a subscription service, Rob. Your analysis and tipping is of such clarity and quality that you’ve almost been giving money away for free! Your ROI figures must be amongst the best on the internet.

      • Rob

        All sadly too true, Guildo, regarding Pricewise. Back in the day, they would at least guarantee the RP advised prices in-shop for a period of time on a Saturday morning.

        Now, it seems to have degenerated to a situation whereby prices are cut overnight, and during the Flat season you can invariably work out what Tom Segal has advised because prices shorten on BF on a Fri. evening and there will rapidly be a sea of blue on Oddschecker.

        I’m pretty sure you would have made a lot of money laying all of Tom’s selections last Flat season at shortened odds – he had a very poor season and hasn’t hit the heights of a few years back.

  8. george

    no thoughts on Georgia Rob?

    • Rob

      It’s an interesting one, George, & one I wouldn’t want to totally write off for qualification from semi 2.

      They’re unique in the semi 2 field, a rock band playing instruments on stage should get some credit from jurors. I guess the worry is, it’s maybe a bit alienating for some televoters.

      I wish they had gone with their more melodic, slower ‘Weagree’ – would have been keen on that doing better than maybe the market would have anticipated. It’s a shoe-gazing gem imho:

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