Lessons We Learned From ESC 2011

May 16, 2011 by

This year’s ESC proved to be another betting triumph for EntertainmentOdds. Among some of our stand-out advice was Azerbaijan to win, flagged up at 12-1 back in March, Greece at 50-1 to win the first semi final and finish top 3 at 5-1, recommending laying Turkey to qualify from semi-final 1 at 1.1, advising backing Georgia to finish top 10 at 9.8, laying Ireland to finish top 3 in the second semi-final at 2.5, and tipping Slovenia to finish top 3 in semi-final 2 at 5.5.
The most important thing following months of research is to take stock of the semi-final and final results from this year, and learn lessons ahead of next year’s ESC in Baku.
One key factor that has leapt out at us already is the importance of effective staging, and on the flipside, the detrimental effect poor staging has. Looking at this year’s final top 10, in our view Ireland, Sweden and Ukraine in particular were significantly boosted by the visuals. Yes, ‘Lipstick’ was a catchy number for teen televoters but more in its favour was the colourful canvas created as a backdrop for Jedward’s energetic performance. It mattered little that they hardly sang a note.
Eric Saade certainly saved his best for the semi-final and final, after some suspect rehearsals, but again the slick staging of his waifer-thin piece of schlager pop, incorporating flashy choreography, cute, close up smiles down the camera lens, and breaking glass was a triumph, and must have had teenage girls across Europe feverishly texting their votes for the Swedish dreamboat.
It was also a genius move on the part of Ukraine to have a sand artist painting a picture of the song on stage, boosting the impact of an otherwise fairly limp ballad. Ukraine had a late draw and voting friends to help it, but we reckon the sand artist helped it just as much, if not more.
The songs that suffered most in our view due to poor staging were Hungary and the UK. After all the debate over Kati Wolf’s vocal, she produced the goods in the semi-final and final, but we always felt the staging of the song was very poor. Compared to other nations, the lighting was terrible and didn’t match the great dance beat and chorus of the song. It was all too minimalist with her backing dancers mostly absent.
We mentioned these concerns in earlier posts, as we did regarding the UK. The LED wall beaming images of the band behind them along with the big neon ‘I Can’ looked amateur, dated and egotistical. And their appalling suits made them look like wedding ushers outfitted by Burtons circa 2000. The thought process that went on there was completely flawed.
Also, the interplay between the band on stage looked messy, disengaging and camera shots never showed the band in close up really ‘selling it’ the way Eric Saade and Lena singing for Germany did. It was strange that they decided to change things in Dusseldorf as they had looked a lot tighter and the camera angles much better when they performed it in the UK in the lead up. The arrangement of the song was also tampered with and this didn’t do Blue any favours either.
Position in the draw in relation to the songs leading up to it is also a vital ingredient in trying to fathom the impact of songs. Looking at the final, we had 3 light pop tunes drawn at 6, 7 and 8 before Greece arrived on stage at 9. Yes, Greece has lots of voting friends (offset to a degree by an early draw) but the drama of this song really jumped out at viewers given its context in the running order, enabling Greece to finish in the top 10 for the 8th consecutive year.
Greece was further boosted by outstanding staging of the song. Yes, it had the best draw performing last in semi-final 1 but the staging must have been a big boost as well, helping it to topple Azerbaijan in the semi-final.
Eldrine were also teed up perfectly to have a big impact performing last in the final but also by being something completely different from the songs that preceded it, helping Georgia reach the top 10 for the second consecutive year. Moldova was another song that was a triumph of staging, and a song that hit viewers in the face. This enabled ‘So Lucky’ – slated by many – to achieve a finishing position of 12th and it was a case of close but no cigar for top 10 backers of Moldova.
It is also important to take note of how well nations perform in front of the juries on the Friday night. Bloggers advised that the UK sang poorly as did Serbia. We expect this was a further setback to Blue.
In regard to red-hot ante-post favourite France, for us, as stated in previous posts, it always had a Timeform squiggle alongside it over how pop-opera would go down with the public. But it was noticeable to us watching the final live that nerves got the better of Amaury and he was off-key at the start of the song. The drama of the tune seemed to dissipate. We reckon this was an indirect boost to Italy that immediately followed. This was very well performed and for those in the audience who wanted something classical and refreshingly different, it was Italy that ended up trumping France. We are also pretty certain Italy received a massive boost from the jury vote. We think this is down to the internal politics of the ESC as much as anything and reckon a directive was sent out to give Italy a boost after its return to the contest for the first time in 14 years. For those able to read between the lines, Italy proved a fantastic top 10 punt at double figure prices, and each-way on the Outright at 200-1.
We are second guessing with a lot of the insights above. Much more will be borne out once the results are released in greater detail. What did you notice about this year’s ESC that you will be taking into next year? Do you agree with the points made here? Feel free to add comments below and build the debate.
For now, we will leave you with the winning song. For us, it was always a light and fluffy delight of a ballad, the interplay between Ell and Nikki was perfectly executed on stage, as were the lighting effects. Azerbaijan was another triumph of staging, and this was just one of the factors that played so enormously in its favour on the night and made it such an outstanding punt to win this year’s ESC as advised here, and the second year running we flagged up the winner.
Rob Furber

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  1. zoomraker

    Well played Rob,

    have enjoyed following the blog

    think your right about the staging,

    the lesson I’ve learned is the importance of singing in English.

    I loved the Spanish song and think it would have done a lot better if voters could understand the Lyrics.

  2. Rob

    Great point zoomraker. I agree Spain offered a real party spirit with that tune, especially given its position in the final draw, but being sung in Spanish probably cost it dear. Makes you wonder whether Bulgaria also suffered for this same reason. I thought the song was very good, Poli Geneva performed it really well, but I see it ended up finishing 12th in semi-final 2.

  3. zoomraker

    Bulgarian tune was pretty good.

    Must have been won by non english song in the past?

    Guess that’s were voting allies and common culture helps.

  4. fiveleaves

    Some great tipping and analysis again Rob.

    Greece the standout tip for me as altho I hated the ‘song’, but the arguments in it’s favour put forward on here meant it was one of my biggest winners of the week.

    What I’ll take away from this year is staging, staging, staging.
    A poor song well staged will often beat a good song poorly staged.
    Also Eric’s (and Jedwards) high finishing positions points to plenty of teenage SMS voters.
    I suspect they helped Lena and Satellite to victory last year too.

    As for this years winner. A very worthy winner for me.
    A contemporary souding song, very well staged.
    The public and the juries will forgive the odd vocal flaw if the other 2 are in place.
    The other thing that helped Azer to victory was the Turkey failing to qualify.
    With their cultural and ethnic links I’m sure plenty of Turks around europe would have backed the Azer song anyway, but without Turkey in the final I suspect they voted in even greater numbers for it.

  5. Rob

    Yes, I agree fiveleaves. You can imagine the teen girls around Europe feverishly texting their votes for Jedward and Eric. And Turkey’s non-qualification had to be an indirect boost to Azerbaijan.
    It shows how you need all the different factors to fall into place – and on reflection the 19 draw for Azerbaijan was the final piece in the jigsaw. Georgia’s draw of last on the night also made it a fantastic bet for top 10.
    As for Greece, delighted to have flagged that one up to win the semi, finish top 3 in the semi and beat Turkey on the head-to-head 🙂 The staging was brilliant and I thought the Loukas Yiorkas’ vocal was the best male vocal in the contest, helping to make the song stand out regardless of the rapping part.

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