Enter Russia, Stage Left

Mar 1, 2012 by

A week sure is a long time during Eurovision national final season. We now know the Netherlands song, Slovenia’s, Finland’s, Turkey’s, Austria’s, Jedward, as expected, steamrollered the opposition in Ireland, while Belarus replaced their NF winner with Litesound’s ‘We Are The Heroes’.
So, can Jedward charm Eurovision again, this time with ‘Waterline’? In the RTE studio their vocals were severely exposed, and watching them leap around the stage in their spangly suits looked like a replay of last year’s antics in Dusseldorf. This is one of our major reservations. Last year, Jedward were a real novelty, while the song ‘Lipstick’ lent itself perfectly to their madcap stage shenanigans. It was in-your-face and it was fun. ‘Waterline’ by comparison is far less fun. It is much more of a boyband pop tune, less in keeping with Jedward’s adolescent high jinks.
But they do have a very powerful marketing team behind them. In January, they were already promoting in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Estonia. At last year’s final, Austria gave Ireland 4pts, Germany gave them 8pts, Sweden gave them 12pts, Finland gave them 10pts, and Estonia gave them nil point. That Estonia zero is telling – they will surely need to impress Eastern Europe to stand any chance of winning and we have major doubts they can pull this off with a pop tune as anodyne as ‘Waterline’. You can bank on the staging being much better in Baku than we saw in the RTE studio, and the vocals will be better too, but overall we sense they are trying to pull off the same trick twice, and to the Eurovision audience ‘Waterline’ will come across like the emperor’s new clothes.
No doubt Baku will see the same charm offensive from Jedward that wooed the Eurovision media in Dusseldorf last year, and we are also likely to see the Betfair market being manipulated by their PR people, who will force Ireland’s price down to single figures, as was the case in 2011, to help generate more heat around the twins. If nothing else Jedward could prove a lucrative back to lay proposition. We suggest building up a green at around 14, as come rehearsal week, we expect to see that price come crashing in to single figures.
This year’s ESC is shaping up to be stronger than last year’s, with much more strength in depth. When you consider that Iceland came 4th and Lithuania 5th in last year’s first semi-final, and Romania finished 4th in semi-final 2, it wasn’t the greatest of contests with many of the ESC superpowers offering up below-par entries.
If viewers are looking for fun and in-your-face then Trackshittaz have stolen Jedward’s thunder this year with ‘Woki mit deim Popo’ incorporating dancing girls in salacious glow-in-the-dark suits:

It promises to be a show-stopping and entertaining stage show, which means we would not entirely discount Austria’s qualifying chance. They have few voting allies in semi 1 which makes life very difficult for them, and while juries will probably turn their noses up at this tune a late draw could see them sneak a place in the top 10 due to a big televoting score.
Slovenia and Finland offer up 2 very pleasant solo female ballads and also have legitimate qualifying prospects, but the song from last week that intrigues us most is Turkey’s offering. Can Bonomo sings the Balkan sounding and strangely hypnotic ‘Love Me Back’. We can see this going down a storm in the Balkans but it will likely do less well in Western Europe. It also looks a song that has the potential to be a staging triumph and is one we will be keeping a close eye on during rehearsals.
Macedonia’s Kaliopi unveiled her song last night. It is called ‘Crno e belo’ (Black and white). It is a ballad with a difference mutating into a rock tune mid-way through:

Bulgaria chose Sofi Marinova with the uptempo pop tune ‘Love Unlimited’. This is another house tune to mull over – joining the likes of Cyprus, Malta and more than likely Greece who have four potential songs among which we expect ‘Killer Bee’ or ‘Aphrodisiac’ to be chosen. For now, both Macedonia and Bulgaria go on our ever increasing ‘might qualify’ list.
Interesting news breaking in Russia that 2008 winner Dima Bilan (and 2006 ESC runner-up) is in the national final, teamed up in a duet with former t.A.T.u. singer, Yulia Volkova. Who can forget Yulia from her contribution to this iconic pop tune?

They are drawn 19 of 25 in the March 7 final and there is talk this song is slated as the anthem for Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, for which Bilan is an ambassador. It is written by a Swedish composer and given Bilan’s track record, you wouldn’t expect him to enter the contest again unless he thought the song was capable of a good result, and the market has reacted positively, thrusting Russia into 3rd favourite at a best price of 10-1 with Ladbrokes. The vibes would appear to be that Russia is trying this year and with Putin poised to become president on Sunday, and Bilan endorsing him, showcasing Russia’s power at the ESC courtesy of two of Russia’s biggest pop exports is probably right up Putin’s street. Look out for the song appearing online in the next day or two. If it’s decent, given Russia’s voting power, that 10-1 could look big.
We will discover Spain and Lithuania’s final songs this weekend but perhaps of most upcoming interest is the Estonia final on Saturday night. This year’s Eesti Laul has been a lesson, certainly to the UK, on how to go about selecting a quality Eurovision entry. Both semi-finals were crammed full of excellent songs, many of them of an alternative bent. It is great to see a small nation like Estonia offering a platform to so many credible artists in what must be a thriving music scene in the country.
Our favourite among the finalists is Tenfold Rabbit’s ‘Oblivion’ which is the sort of cerebral tune you could imagine a band like Radiohead having written:

It is unlikely to win the final, which looks a straight head-to-head battle between the 2 safest, MOR entries – Lenna’s ‘Mina jaan’, and Ott Lepland singing ‘Kuula’. Of the two we personally prefer Lenna’s song, but Ott pulled out the 10 ticket, meaning he has the advantage of being last up on the night, and we think he is the likeliest winner. Lenna sings from the 5 slot, Tenfold Rabbit from 8.
Rob Furber

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