The Dimming Of The Lights

Apr 3, 2017 by

The Dimming Of The Lights

Last night’s ESC gig at London’s Café de Paris reinforced the feeling this is largely a year of ‘ok’, offering a wide selection of nice, competent songs lacking the wow factor, and coincidentally the initials of the only song heard on the night that potentially bucks this trend (‘Occidentali’s Karma’).

A bare-chested Slavko, who looks like being the eye candy for the ESC gay community this year, began the evening unexpectedly early so he was only caught introducing Kasia Mos, the second act to perform. She is one of this year’s female pin-ups – as anyone who has accidentally typed ‘Kasia Mos Playboy’ into Google search will testify.

She can carry this tune as well as she can carry a dog on her shoulders (one for all the Googlers out there) and the sense remains it is the last part of ‘Flashlight’, where she gets the chance to hit the power notes, accompanied by the strings, which is the song’s most evocative section.

Blanche was next on. Judging by the betting markets reaction to her rendition of ‘City Lights’ you would think she stank out the joint. Far from it. If anything, this was evidence her vocal skills can handle this song fine. The sound mix wasn’t ideal as in the lower register this song demands, her words sounded mumbled listening live, but definitely in tune.

The concern remains how this song can be brought to life on the Eurovision stage. While she lacks confidence this is not a song that offers the chance for her to become especially animated singing it.

A shy 17-year-old girl singing what is a rather downbeat tune on a small stage in a tiny venue like this is certainly not the place for it to be seen in its best light so judgement is reserved here until seeing the staging in Kiev. More than anything else, lighting may well hold the key to whether this song sinks or swims.

The concern remains how this song can be brought to life on the Eurovision stage. While she lacks  confidence this is not a song that offers the chance for her to become especially animated singing it

Spain was next, described by a friend who was giving ‘first time listener feedback’ on the night on all the songs, and from this point forward to be referenced as ‘Listener X’, as, ‘Something I imagine hearing going round the supermarket buying groceries’.

Triana Park offered the first burst of energy on the night (having missed Slavko) despite it being lead singer Agnese Rakovska sans band members. She certainly has charisma and the song’s dance/trance vibe along with Agnese’s unique dress sense kindled memories of Loreen for Listener X.

Nathan Trent performed ‘Running On Air’ afterwards a cappella. He was aided by the audience clapping and singing along but this highlighted his controlled vocal skills on what can only be described as the definitive ‘nice’ song among this year’s field.

O.Torvald gave the evening a blast of rock and Yevhen Halych, the lead vocalist, has plenty of stage presence but it is hard to conceal ‘Time’ being a run-of-the-mill rock tune and nowhere near the level of The Hardkiss’s Ukrainian runner-up song last year, for instance. Drawn 22 in the final, of most significance regarding this entry is perhaps who lands the 23 slot, as this might just offer the chance to shine.

Ruslana earned her fee putting in an incredibly powerful and spirited performance of ‘Wild Dances’ among others, and probably leaving many at the bar requesting, ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.

‘Best of the night,’ said Listener X. ‘What odds is she?’
‘Really useful input. Thanks,’ came the sarcastic reply.

Drawn 22 in the final, of most significance regarding this entry is perhaps who lands the 23 slot, as this might just offer the chance to shine

Finland’s Norma John followed with ‘Blackbird’. This is a fan favourite judging by the response among the crowd but it felt rather narcolepsy-inducing in the context of this running order.

JOWST had the keyboard player in a Darth Vader mask but without the illumination effects seen at the Norwegian national final. This still managed to light up the stage as the chorus has an infectious, toe-tapping quality.

Romania took the audience’s fervour up a notch with ‘Yodel It!’. ‘Different. A lot of fun. Like it,’ was Listener X’s verdict. Romania has drifted like the proverbial barge in all ESC betting markets which is in inverse correlation to its standing within the fan bubble.

Malta inevitably felt dull and old-fashioned afterwards despite Claudia Faniello’s vocal competence. Alma brought the most charisma seen yet by her for another big fan favourite this year, ‘Requiem’. A little jig and coquettish smile can work wonders elevating this but there is still a sense she could sell it even more.

Women, young and old alike, were observed bopping away enthusiastically to Robin Bengtsson’s ‘I Can’t Go On’. Without the travelator and slick staging gimmicks seen at Melodifestivalen it did feel more of a bog standard pop song here. It says a lot for the homogenous nature of Melodifestivalen songs that Robin’s rendition of ’Constellation Prize’ was initially mistaken for this year’s song.

After some Conchita-mania, and a loud bang going off towards the end of ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’, which really wasn’t the best idea given recent events in London, Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov performed ‘Beautiful Mess’. First thing of note with the spindly Kristian, is he could do with a square meal or two. There was a large amount of reverb on this so while his vocal sounded fine this performance was not a clear indication of what we will hear in Kiev.

It says a lot for the homogenous nature of Melodifestivalen songs that Robin’s rendition of ’Constellation Prize’ was initially mistaken for this year’s song

It’s a strong ballad and Bulgaria looks like remaining popular in the betting market, especially because the team behind Kristian are maximising their PR and seeking to generate hype around this entry at every opportunity.

Germany’s Levina followed and got yet another ‘nice ditty’ tag from Listener X though it felt a bit wallpaper-y on the evening. Denmark’s Anja brought a bit more to the stage with a rendition of Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ prior to ‘Where I Am’ which was more controlled here compared to the Danish national final. It does still risk getting shouty if Anja over-performs it but this didn’t do Dami Im any harm last year.

Czech Republic’s Martina Bárta put in a nicely-controlled version of ‘My Turn’ though it felt subtle and subdued following Anja. No clear intel was gained on FYR Macedonia’s Jana Burceska as she was heavily concealed and enhanced by a backing track. Slovenia’s Omar Naber was competent enough during an otherwise forgettable performance.

He had the audience in the palm of his hand, joining in with the arm movements, the ’Allezs’ and the closing ‘Om’. The guy’s charisma is undeniable and this one will go ‘big in the hall’ in Kiev

Francesco Gabbani followed and well and truly stole the night. He had the audience in the palm of his hand, joining in with the arm movements, the ’Allezs’ and the closing ‘Om’. The guy’s charisma is undeniable and this one will go ‘big in the hall’ in Kiev. Listener X’s verdict? He wasn’t as enthused by the track as the audience were though he acknowledged Francesco’s impressive stage presence.

The UK’s Lucie Jones got the closing slot and the clarity of her live vocal shone through. Where this ends up in Kiev will hinge on the staging but there is enough there for Lucie to get some jury love at least. Videos of last night’s performances can be found here and here.

This is a peculiar time for the ESC betting markets. Live performances in London and Amsterdam this coming weekend have an impact, as do the OGAE polls, despite live gigs not being an entirely reliable indicator of what we will see and hear in Kiev, and the audience made up of die-hard fans. And your typical OGAE member is not representative of a wider Saturday night primetime audience, or the jury professionals for that matter which always leaves an intrinsic question mark over the veracity of these polls.

Salvador Sobral stays at home in Portugal and drifts 7 points from 15 to 22 on Betfair’s Outright market, as big a drift as Belgium’s Blanche who has moved from 14 to 21 on the back of last night’s lacklustre performance.

Sometimes there isn’t much rhyme or reason to certain market movements while others are more easily explained but one thing is clear: a growing belief Italy is going to be very hard to beat on May 13 as it has hardened to 2.52 at the time of writing on Betfair.


  1. Cathal

    I’m getting tired of Denmark being compared to Australia last year, bar Anja being slighty shouty and Aussie the two songs are nothing alike. Sound Of Silence was a great song that stormed iTunes after the show… where I won the most on the top 10 on any country outside of Scandinavia; Australia guarenteed.

    • Rob

      I wasn’t aware comparisons had been made by anyone else, Cathal. I drew the comparison because Anja got shouty performing this song in the Danish final imho, & Dami Im, at least to my ear listening to her in the press centre in Stockholm, was guilty of similar at times.

      They did a great job with her backing vocalists. It’s obviously subjective & I think we have a fair bit of evidence jurors love solo power ballads that showcase said vocals.

      • Cathal

        I apologies Rob, I thought you where comparing the song’s but no, just the artist’s! I wouldn’t be surprised if juries love it but it will be mostly because of Anja rather than the song itself (she has said recently that she will have 5 hidden backing vocalist’s so at the moment I’d be confident in her pulling it off). Denmarks big problem imo is that I think they have already gotten as much out of the song as they can and based on her interview she doesn’t plan to change anything bar maybe backdrop + more backing vocalist’so, while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing what it does mean other songs while not as well done yet still have some extra gears. I completely agree about the shouty part and the worst part is I’ve yet to see her not lose her breath during the perforomance and at ESC where she will be performing it many many times + the added preassure and there you have a problem

  2. Bel

    Italy is now traded at @2.22. I really think that`s crazy at this moment. Rob: could you please say what do you think about it? Thank you.

    • Rob

      Hi Bel. There has been a significant move on Italy which gathered pace after Francesco’s appearance at the London Eurovision Party on Sunday night.

      Nothing has changed other than the ESC traders present on the evening seeing him in action first hand & being impressed.

      His charisma is infectious, he can sell the song incredibly well but the question remains how the wider Eurovision audience, and the professional jury members rate him and his song.

      2.22 does look very short but it is difficult to imagine much of a drift from this point. Challengers look thin on the ground as things stand but there is always the chance for 1 or 2 to impress during rehearsals in Kiev.

      • Bel

        Thank you very much, Rob. I`m going to close my position soon and pray for AZE, ARM & POR. 🙂

  3. To be very honest, comparing Australia 2016 with Bulgaria 2017 is like comparing cars with tractors. Sorry. Dami Im’s song in the first place was build around massive, big, ‘straight in your face’ vocal belting. That really helped her securing a 1st place with the juries.

    To me, Bulgaria is far too gentle, too soft to compare it with that. If you do want to compare Bulgaria 2017 with a recent predecessor in the same field of, I get reminded of Norway 2014. Both entries were/are to me uttermost jury friendly, but really depend on a good running order to do well with televoters.

    Here I made a comparison of TOP 5 scoring ballads (not including Austria 2014, Ukraine 2014, although those had stunning vocal belting too). And that makes it even more clear to me that Bulgaria’s chances for TOP 10 are realistic, but at the same time its chances for TOP 5 could be too much to ask for:

    –> ALBANIA 2012:
    Unique yet not chart-worthy song. Stunning, remarkable vocals. Simple staging. No eye contact.
    –> AZERBAIJAN 2012:
    Same as Albania. Vocally stunning. Perhaps better song. OK eye contact.
    –> AZERBAIJAN 2013:
    Fairly dated Eurovision ballad. Rousing climax. Completely enhanced by A-Game in staging. OK eye contact.
    –> RUSSIA 2013:
    Another fairly dated Eurovision ballad -intro, key change, rousing climax-. Vocally superb yet notas memorable as Ukraine that year. Great staging. Good eye contact.
    –> NETHERLANDS 2014:
    The current benchmark for applying cinematic staging to a fairly simple country song. Can’t see this being done with Kristian. Good eye contact.
    –> SWEDEN 2014:
    Perhaps the least contemporary Swedish entry in recent years (ballad with key changes). But A-Game in staging. Good eye contact.
    –> RUSSIA 2015:
    A rousing Eurovision ballad, slow build-up, fantastic ‘straight in your face’ climax. Vocally superb. Very emotional performance. Good eye contact.
    –> ITALY 2015:
    Fairly dated popera stuffwith OK-staging, though not great. But totally enhanced by impressive vocals, intense camera work and tons of charisma (O’G3NE?).
    –> AUSTRALIA 2016:
    Like I mentioned before.

    –> BULGARIA 2017:
    My conclusion stands. Kristian’s charismatic performance and the emotional, gentle, pure song really lacks the “Ooomph!” to be compared with the above ‘ballads’. A-Game or not, I think we need to be a bit more realistic here and compare Bulgaria with other recent ballads that ended in the TOP 10, but were a long way removed from TOP 5 (eg. ITALY 2013, NORWAY 2014).

    If one can confirm that Bulgaria is planning to do something with holograms, then that does change things a bit. But not much. So in the end the same counts for Bulgaria as to what counted for Belgium: An incredible overrated reaction in the betting odds.

    One last thing about Denmark: We know that the Danish staging is usually copy-pasted from the NF to the Eurovision stage. Thus don’t expect a staging triumph reminiscent of Australia last year. Another overreaction and slightly too ‘fan bubbly’ for me.

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