Rox-y Music

May 12, 2021 by

Rox-y Music

During 2nd rehearsals it’s probably of more worth to start thinking potential ceiling with some of these entries and assessing the current prices available on Betfair.

Starting with Lithuania. It’s a slick, professional audio-visual package. After being given slot 1 in this semi, it can probably expect better treatment from the EBU in the grand final. Matched at 1.45 for a Top 10 finish following 2nd rehearsal… that says it all.

Slovenia’s Ana has a vocal reminiscent of another Ana, Anastacia. This is a highly competent entry but slot 2 makes things difficult. Not a completely forlorn hope, reliant on plenty of jury love, being matched at 6.2 to Q.

Took a trip inside the arena to watch Russia’s Manizha. It’s a real visual feast throughout. Cap duly doffed to the Russian staging team. If Russia qualifies this is going to be keenly contested between backers and layers for a top 10 finish.

There is a sense Sweden is at risk of missing its traditional top 10 placing this year. And it does feel like it could be scrabbling on the edge despite the typical Swedish polish applied to the ‘Voices’ presentation.

How is the EBU going to present the Australian entry in semi-final 1 is perhaps the most burning question. It seems more likely the tv presenters will point out to the audience it was recorded ‘live on tape’ prior to the Contest due to Montaigne being unable to travel to Rotterdam, and an interview with her may well be in the works. How this is all handled could boost or hinder Australia’s Q chance significantly.

North Macedonia remains the rank outsider to Q from semi 1 despite Vasil being capable of powering this out with gusto. Matched at 7.2 post-2nd rehearsal.

The story of this much livelier semi 1 Q market compared to semi 2 (187k matched vs 70k for sf2) is, a lot of the short-priced ones are uneasy and there’s an overriding sense some of those priced over 2 could upset the apple cart.

Ireland obviously improves today but the staging still looks far too busy. Some are biting at 2.94 following this 2nd outing.

Elena T has a very nasally intonation when you get to hear her sing. This falls much closer to Tamta territory than Eleni F but the markets continue to be keen, Cyprus matched at 25 in the Outright.

Norway’s Tix, the great showman, has a visual shtick that could easily leave televoters nonplussed and jurors unimpressed. Norway is uneasy trading 1.52.

Cyprus may be considered the more professional package by jurors but Croatia’s Albina wins the charm offensive. Being matched at 1.55 to Q but there is unease in the Croatian Q price as well.

Geike is the consummate frontwoman for Hooverphonic. Belgium is one of those countries threatening to crash the odds-on Q party in semi 1, currently being attended by 11 countries. It is knocking firmly on the door touching 2.

Israel’s Eden goes with the headpiece throughout. She continues to biff notes here and there on every run through. The squealed high notes and dress reveal at song end remain superfluous elements. The confident Israel Q backers arrive again taking 1.6.

This is such an exhausting vocal test for Roxen. She’d need to have the lungs of the free diver in ‘My Octopus Teacher’ to get through this unscathed. But the visuals are striking and tell the story well of a young woman battling her demons.

With the modern interpretive dance element, it has an edgy USP, and Roxen comes through the ordeal like the plucky survivor of an attack by Twitter trolls. The market remains dubious about Romania’s progress to the grand final, matched at 1.86.

It’s a huge shame really because if we had had an ESC 2020, and Romania had simply re-created this video for ‘Alcohol You’ on stage here in Rotterdam, Roxen would have gone close to winning. Let’s make no mistake, this is a young music artist with true star quality.

Efendi does her best with ‘Mata Hari’ but this is the definition of going through the motions. It is this stretch of songs from 9-14 in semi 1 that is really testing traders’ mettle this year. This is a ticklish semi alright, Azerbaijan matched to Q at 1.78.

Ukraine’s Kateryna is feeling under the weather and missing from this 2nd rehearsal. Other member of Go_A tested negative. Kateryna’s PCR test result is pending… to everyone’s relief it’s come in negative.

This is a visual triumph helping bring ‘Shum’ to life. Big USP once again. We’ll see Malta again tomorrow. Is the semi 1 picture any clearer? Not really. Much more thought required ahead of next Tuesday’s first live show.



  1. eurovicious

    A joy to read as usual, Rob.

    I consider 2021 a lot weaker than 2020’s outstandingly strong vintage, for reasons very particular to the circumstances. A lot of this year’s songs feel like watered-down caricatures of their predecessors, as if given a year to come up with something new, artists and broadcasters decided to take their 2020 entry as a template but make it more reductive, mainstream and Anglicised in the hope of attracting broader appeal but losing what made the song special in the first place. Iceland and especially Lithuania lost a lot of the character their songs had in 2020, while on the ethno-pop front, Cleopatra to Mata Hari and Feker Libi to Set Me Free are huge downgrades. There are very few entries you could listen to with your eyes shut and know what country they’re from, perhaps no more than 9 – Manizha and Go_A in SF1; Hurricane, Anxhela, Gjon and Fyr og Flamme in SF2, and Barbara, Blas and Måneskin among the automatic qualifiers. These non-English-language songs may be few in number but are pretty strong on the whole, whereas of the English-language entries (almost all of which fall into the category of “Anglo-American commercial music” whichever country they’re from), the only ones that I enjoy are San Marino, Moldova, the underrated Croatia and the criminally underrated Czech Republic, plus the affecting ballads from Bulgaria and Slovenia. (I’d love to see Ana qualify having long been a fan of hers, and I think her song hits the covid zeitgeist very well.) Gratifyingly, the weakness of the overall field is offset by how well most of the entries are shaping up, with what feels like a high standard of staging and performance this year. My personal favourites are Ukraine, Serbia and Denmark, all excellent examples of the type of music their countries do best and that’s genuinely popular at home.

    About Bulgaria: it’s been my prediction for the winner since April. Apparently I’m one of the few people who greatly prefers it to Tears Getting Sober – not just musically but because I think the theme and emotional content resonates far more. Countries across Europe are at very different stages of the pandemic (it’s essentially over in the UK but still raging in much of eastern Europe), and there is a very particular zeitgeist – mournful yet hopeful, an acknowledgement of loss combined with a yearning for the world to bloom again – that only a few competing countries have attempted to tap into. Ukraine’s techno-pagan rebirth and fertility ritual is the most literal example, while Bulgaria’s beautiful staging, Ana’s musical prayer and even the UK’s wistful bop Embers also do a really good job of capturing the present overarching mood. In the latter case, I think the BBC and James Newman have gone in exactly the right direction and I would hope that it does well, especially now that the UK is viewed in a more positive light in Europe again on account of our vaccination success (relative to the difficulties still plaguing the vaccine rollout in most EU countries apart from a couple like Denmark and Austria).

    I think Malta is a false favourite and struggle to see its appeal – Destiny is naturally charismatic and can reliably belt it out, but the song feels like a weaker version of what Netta did 3 years ago, and I don’t like how it forces Destiny into a very Americanised “sassy black girl” template right down to the “Hell no”s. There’s a shallow, bitter tone to the lyrics that Toy lacked (as well as being a far superior song) and that just doesn’t seem believable coming from a likeable 18-year-old girl going to Eurovision to have the time of her life after a long period of being stuck at home. Plus I don’t know how anyone thought after a year of continent-wide mourning, anxiety and economic calamity, during which people have been forcibly separated from each other for significant durations on an unprecedented scale and society has become even more atomised than it was before the pandemic, that what Europe wants and needs now is a spiteful clapback song that insincerely trots out glib girl-power feminism themes that were dated 15 years ago and that aren’t exactly a pressing concern right now to the majority of women let alone men. I say this despite and because of the fact that Toy was my favourite in 2018; the two are worlds apart. Eurovision juries may be balanced for gender and age, but they’re not balanced for class or income (this is an observation, not a suggestion), yet class is a huge factor in music taste. At a time when people’s main concern is protecting themselves and their relatives from a pandemic and staying in or finding employment/surviving economic insecurity so that they can keep feeding their families, “if I show some skin doesn’t mean I’m giving in” is hardly an urgent or relatable sentiment, even if juries (drawn from their country’s urban creative classes) may consider Je me casse credible, commercial and empowering.

    • Rob

      Many thanks for posting, ev. Your analysis always makes for an erudite, insightful read.

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