Vive La France!

Apr 18, 2016 by

Vive La France!

The London Eurovision Party is always a fun experience, but it’s worth remembering that these fan concerts aren’t always the best places to be assessing the chances of this year’s entries.

Desperate times call for desperate measures for Ireland, who have rolled out a member of Westlife having not qualified now for three years. Sadly, Nicky Byrne was primarily a backing vocalist in that group and he struggles to carry the radio-friendly ‘Sunlight’. It would come as little surprise if Ireland miss the final again.

Not quite content with sending a rock song in Bulgarian to the contest, this year Poli Genova has returned with a song that sounds like a Junior Eurovision entry. ‘If Love Was A Crime’ was always likely to go down well with this sort of crowd, and Poli is sounding better than she did in Amsterdam. I’m getting a little concerned for my Top 10 lays.

Albania are prone to sending evil rock ballads that don’t end up travelling much further than Tirana. This year’s is performed by Eneda Tarifa. Elhaida Dani scraped into the final last year thanks to her rabid online fanbase, but unfortunately for Eneda, she isn’t quite as famous. She sings the hell out of this though, and will benefit from an advantageous running order. But you still get the impression that qualification is an uphill struggle.

A piano accompanies Italy’s Francesca on stage, who opts not to perform with it for ‘No Degree of Separation’. She isn’t the most charismatic of singers, and tends to make this song forgettable. Italy have a habit of forgetting to bring any staging to the Grand Final, but the view here is that this year Francesca will really need something special in order to draw in televoters.

Also in toilet break territory is Croatia’s Nina, who tries hard to engage the audience with ‘Lighthouse’. She is once again donning her villainous black witch’s cape, which surely has a risk of alienating the viewers. You would hope that Nina will qualify based on the quality of her song, but she doesn’t strike me as being very voteable, not to mention Croatia’s shocking record.

Competing with Nina in the goth stakes is Iceland’s Greta, who is dressed like a teenager going to see Marilyn Manson. She gets the crowd going with her uplifting anthem ‘Hear Them Calling’, who of course love her from 2012. But this song won its national final so unconvincingly that you suspect Iceland are relying on their favourable running order position, in addition to a few friends voting, in order to avoid an early exit for the second year in a row.

Minus One’s ‘Alter Ego’ is the best rock song the contest has seen for a long time, and perhaps ever. However, it certainly isn’t made for venues like this and frontman Francois Micheletto struggles here compared to last week in Amsterdam. The fanboys here love the chorus though, and I’m excited to see what Loreen’s choreographer has come up with in terms of their stage show for Stockholm.

Montenegro’s Highway are still helping me pretend I’m at a credible rock concert. They probably did a better job than Cyprus here, with their duelling frontmen owning the small stage but Cyprus absolutely kills their USP in Semi-Final 1.

One of the best vocalists of the night was undoubtedly Ovidiu Anton. Some are suggesting Romania may miss the final this year for the first time, which is probably not impossible. But despite being a dated Meatloaf ballad, ‘Moment of Silence’ is tremendous fun. It is crying out for some OTT staging in Stockholm.

Also competing to win the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest is Poland’s Michal Szpak, whose vocal masterclass for ‘Color of Your Life’ was a highlight of the evening. They could do with a modern staging concept that covers up how old-fashioned this song is, but it would come as a surprise if Poland failed to qualify this year with their solid voting power. There are certain echoes of Conchita here, who is not as strong vocally as Michal. But he’s having a pity party, and we’re all invited.

Sweden’s ‘If I Were Sorry’ is hugely underwhelming coming after Poland, which really exposed how weak Frans is vocally. Due to the modern-sounding nature of this song though, this may not end up affecting its chances. But there are big question marks over whether or not Sweden as a host country can win the televote from the Grand Final starting position of #9. Frans absolutely looks like a superstar, with a lot of confidence and swagger, but he has drifted on Betfair as a result of this performance in London.

Latvia’s Justs was impressive and did his best on the small stage, which wasn’t as much of a problem for France’s Amir, who continues to charm the pants off these European fan audiences. There is a huge and undeniable buzz around this song at the moment, and its momentum has brought it down to 5.4 on Betfair at time of writing.

Amir has likeability and charisma by the bucketload, and hopefully backing singers will aid him in negotiating the trickier parts of the song. It’s also worth pointing out that France are likely to be given a very favourable running order slot this year, perhaps #26 or #13, as now seems to be custom for whichever Big 5 country decides to make an effort.

Even more popular than France’s Amir is Austria’s Zoe, who got the biggest cheers of the evening. It’s hard to imagine this dated chanson capturing the imagination of the wider public but you never know.

Spain’s Barei always reminds me of little Caroline Flack, though I can’t say her dancing is as good. However, the now infamous foot shuffle comes as welcome distraction to ‘Say Yay’s awful chorus. Barei isn’t one of the best singers this year, and it’s difficult to see Spain not floating around Last Place in the final at this stage.

I almost forgot to write about Ira Losco, which doesn’t bode well for Malta’s chances. This is currently not as good as the studio version, and I found myself switching off for the first forty or so seconds. This is one which looks incredibly short in the outright market.

Kaliopi is hoping to reverse the fortunes of FYR Macedonia with a dated ballad in Macedonian she seems to have saved from the 1980s. She is always very impressive vocally but ‘Dona’ is probably not as strong as her 2012 effort ‘Crno i Belo’, which scraped into the final despite being in a Semi-Final packed with Balkan countries.

There’s a lot of goodwill surrounding the UK’s Joe and Jake, who were given the pimp slot in front of the home crowd. Joe is still very off vocally for the first part of the song, as he has been in several other performances. He will need to improve in order to achieve a good result in Stockholm, but it seems unlikely that this song will be troubling the Top 15, despite their likeability.

We’re getting very close to the contest now, with the rehearsal period just around the corner. Let’s hope some of the big name UK bookmakers stick their head above the parapet soon and offer some e/w prices on the 2 Semi-Finals along with some qualification and top 10 odds.


  1. Cathal

    I feel Nicky is improving with each performance, if Ireland bring decent backing singers they could help massively because I feel Nicky has the confidence and charisma that out last 3 singers could only dream of having. The one area he really struggles with is when he sings “Sun” other than that I think he is okay not great but okay and he has got a live performance on the voice of Ireland on the 23rd so that will probably be the best indicator of his performance since the Ukraine NF. I do have to admit I’m getting a little worried because we are so close and he still isn’t quite there yet but we just have to wait and see.

    • Rob

      I tend to agree with you Cathal. I thought Nicky was better than expected last night. Sure, there was a backing track to help him but with backing singer support I think he can deliver this song well enough in Stockholm, & on first listen it is a decent pop song, if rather generic.

      • Cathal

        Exactly, for me its perfect song for qualifying but after ESC I don’t think we will hear it again.

  2. Cathal

    Also you said “Alter Ego” is the best rock song this contest has “ever seen”….it’s a very good rock song but Manga 2010 beats it out of the water clean!

  3. PeterNL

    Nice article 🙂

    I would not feel like laying Bulgaria for Top 10 at the current price. It might not reach the Top 5, but I have a feeling that this is one of the few songs this year that could scramble some points from all over Europe and it does not have very impressive competition from the own region either.

    Besides that, how is your feeling on Poland? In Amsterdam Michal Szpak made a great impression, and apparently he did it again in London. The only thing is that if the song has to be compared with something, it might be Austria’s song of 2015, which didn’t get a single point. Can Michal lift this song to such a level that it can reach Top 10?

    • Tim B

      Hi PeterNL, Poland’s song is a personal favourite this year. I was very impressed by him in both Amsterdam and London. As a country with big voting power and a large diaspora, Poland is possibly worth considering for Top 10 but Top 15 is probably more of a realistic prospect. The song is dated and could well be punished by juries, but this might depend on whether or not they can disguise this fact with some clever staging. You can’t fault or doubt his vocal though.

      • I get an Iceland 2013 vibe with this entry.

        • Tim B

          Yes! That’s a good comparison. Although Poland has a lot more voting power than Iceland, and so this has the potential to do a little better than ‘Eg A Lif’.

        • squall

          Agree, interesting comparison! And not only because of the hair 😉

          To Poland’s advantage I’d list (like Tim) the diaspora, plus the English lyrics.

          To Iceland’s 2013 advantage however, is that the song – while very traditional – was considerably less dated, had a great bridge, and a much better climax than Poland’s tired key change.

          In all, a finish around the same (17th) doesn’t sound at all unrealistic to me.

  4. steve

    Nice article Tim and a balanced view which is always a help in this.

  5. Shaun

    Hi Tim

    Do you think France’s odds plummeting pre-contest from 40s to 5 or below is more a less an indication of a great result? Its pretty much unheard of before rehearsals begin.

    • Tim B

      It’s certainly look promising for France, Shaun. Can it win? Yes, probably. Part of the reason it was 40s was surely because of France’s dismal record. It has grown on me, especially the 3 minute version but it’s true that it didn’t strike me as anything special on first listen. Amir has been the star of the promo circuit this year and I think it’s clear that it’s the fans who have primarily been bringing its price down after watching him perform at the concerts. It looks to be challenging Russia for favouritism now.

  6. Rob

    Running order for 1st week of rehearsals, according to eurovoix:

    • James

      Hi Rob. Not the news I wanted to hear! I had placed a bet on Romania to qualify with Paddy Power @ 6/5, and not to qualify with bwin @ 7/5.

  7. James

    Hi guys. I know that there are a number of question marks over Italy’s entry, however I still felt that odds of 16/1 for them to come top of the ‘big five’ offered good value.

    Since Italy re-entered the contest in 2011, they have won this market three time in five years. Whilst finishing in the ‘top ten’ on four occasions, the best results for the other four countries in this period are Germany 8th, Spain 10th, UK 11th & France 15th.

    Anyway, it would appear that other punters agreed with me, as Italy’s price has subsequently dropped to 5/1.

    • Rob

      Hi James. Apologies for delayed response. 16-1 Italy would certainly have been amazing value if you managed to nab it.

      It seems there is always lots of jury love for Italian entries. Since 2011: 1st, 4th, 8th, 21st, 6th, & easy to figure out why Emma’s song in 2014 did poorly.

      It hits the sweet spot of Italian language/solo ballad. I do think Franciesca’s vocal is a bit weak & I’d like to see her sat at the piano. But I would not be surprised to see jurors rewarding Italy again & in an open year it could find itself creeping up higher & higher on the scoreboard, esp. if it gets a 2nd half draw.

      You should be refunded on those Romania bets on the high street. Bets stand on Betfair but would expect the high street to treat Romania as a non-runner, no?

      • James

        Hi Rob. I am certainly expecting to receive my non-runner ‘Romania’ stakes returned, but it’s frustrating to see a guaranteed profit wiped away.

        I did manage to grab Italy at 16/1, although I was restricted to a stake of just £12.50. I totally agree that Italy’s prospects of a good result would be enhanced if Francesca were to play the piano throughout her performance.

        Do you plan on sending out a subscriber email each day from next Monday? What time of day do you normally send out the emails?

        • Rob

          Hi James. Yes, will send a subscription email each day of rehearsals even if it is to say ‘no recommendation today’ which could well happen once or twice during the 1st week.

          Bookies seem increasingly reticent to offer ESC prices, & like your Italy 16-1 experience they will quickly restrict stakes. It’s tougher than ever but I will be working hard to unearth the value along the way.

          Can’t put an exact time of day on emails. But what I will aim to do is try & recommend prices that are available across the big bookmakers. The smaller firms can be especially hard to get decent stakes down with.

  8. Steve

    Hi Rob,

    I’m a bit late to the Euro party this year so have signed up for you subscription offer as your pearls of wisdom helped so much with Strictly and SPY last year.

    Trying to get myself up to speed and wonder if I’m along the right lines of thinking Spain is a good top 10 (or even 15) lay and Latvia look good for top ten if not higher. I’m a huge fan of Czech Republic, Italy and Sweden. Not sure what your thoughts are on the first two but I’m hearing from friends who are visiting various European cities this month that Frans is being heavily play listed. Good e/w bet?

    Looking forward to hearing your views, especially once rehearsals start.

    • Rob

      Hi Steve. I’m endeavouring to head to rehearsals with as open a mind as possible in what appears a very open year.

      Strange year in that every country appears to have significant potential flaws so I expect live performance, staging and running order to be more important than ever.

      I’ll be holding off on recommendations until seeing those all-important rehearsals. Thanks for subscribing – you’ll get the investment advice hot off the press 🙂

  9. Hi, I requested H2H Australia vs Sweden on betfair, which they initially offered at evens. It’s now changed in favor of Australia. Any idea about live performance for Aus? It looks like they have put a lot of effort/money in the video so I can only assume they will do the same thing on stage. I think they will easily finish ahead of Sweden. Any thoughts?

    • Rob

      Hi Ward,
      I wouldn’t be confident to call that h2h pre-rehearsals. I think the Oz staging was cited as one of the most ‘technologically advanced’ along with Russia, Malta and maybe one or two others.

      I’m a little unsure about the impact of such staging. There is a danger the clever visual gimmicks will be seen as derivative following Mans ‘show’ last year.

  10. Jim D

    Have a great time in Stockholm fellas – may it be an enjoyable and profitable experience 🙂

    • Rob

      Thanks Jim. Highlight of the tv betting year. Let’s hope it’s a profitable one 🙂

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