Will Irish Eyes Be Smiling?

May 11, 2018 by

Will Irish Eyes Be Smiling?

A last-minute press accreditation was my golden ticket to Eurovision this year. I can therefore help out with this write-up of the first rehearsal of the 2018 Grand Final.

Ukraine screamed ‘Grand Final opener’ after pulling out a first half draw last night. It’s a very dramatic and gothic production which may do better than some might expect after the likes of Russia and Belarus missed the final. The song does have impact as an opener but it’s also a bit camp and creepy.

With so many of the Big 5 and Portugal being drawn into the first half, something had to give, and Spain has been thrown under the bus with this draw. It’s also vastly inferior to Lithuania and Germany as a ballad and seems too sleepy to do much on the scoreboard from #2.

Slovenia was a surprise qualifier from the second semi-final. Lea and her dance troupe are giving it a lot of energy, as usual. The phoney technical hitch remains for the final, but it certainly won’t be fooling anyone who has seen it before. This could be in the mix… for last place.

Ieva for Lithuania is up fourth and within five seconds has already eclipsed Spain. As the first good emotional song in the running order, it should be doing quite well and could well be landing Top Baltic bets.

Austria has a bit more uptempo oomph than Lithuania and is a nice contrast. ‘Nobody Like You’ has been doing good business on iTunes all week, but surely it will suffer from being as early as #5. It is very solid jury bait but Cesar will be hoping to pull in a better televote than Nathan Trent’s nul points last. He freestyled slightly for the high note and it sounded different to Monday and Tuesday.

Elina looks like she’s wearing a bit less makeup than usual for Estonia. ‘La Forza’ sounds incredibly dated coming after Austria, and I’m starting wonder how this was ever the second favourite, but the market hasn’t been able to make up its mind all season.

Norway has also been another big drifter in the markets following last night’s semi-final. Rybak looks a bit tired and if I were him, I’d be having a disco nap before tonight’s jury show. But this is otherwise as much fun live as it’s always been.

Maybe it’s just me, but Portuguese music seems to send me to sleep. ‘O Jardim’ has a very dreamy quality that some should at least appreciate. It’s all a bit low energy, but that was probably the intention. Claudia and Isaura seem like a mismatched duo and this entry seems at its strongest when the former appears alone on screen. A short break follows Portugal where Cesar from Austria gets an interview.

What strikes me during the UK’s rehearsal is that SuRie is actually a very strong singer. It’s pretty odd watching this one in an empty arena, as it really needs the crowd to lift it. There will be thousands of UK fans in the audience both tonight and tomorrow who will no doubt be singing along. The staging concept seems a bit unremarkable, just like the song.

Serbia was the most surprising qualifier from both semi-finals in terms of its qualification price, at over 7.0 during the live broadcast. It looks like it was placed here as pure filler to make Germany look and sound stronger. It’s amusing to see a Billy Connolly lookalike on stage playing a pan flute, but that’s where my enjoyment of this one ends.

Michael Schulte is deviating from the melody a little bit for Germany, in a good way. The lyrics and imagery on the backdrop promote strong family values, which could go down well with those watching with their kids at home. The journalist sat next to me plays a bit of Adele to suggest that this is a bit of a rip off of one of her songs, but the Outright price certainly looks more attractive than Ireland’s.

Albania probably qualified on Tuesday night with strong support from its regional allies particularly. But like Serbia, the placement of ‘Mall’ here screams ‘10th place in the semi’. Eugent has undeniably strong vocals and is quite possibly the best singer in the contest. It’s a shame the song isn’t a bit more modern, but the delegation will be happy to have qualified for the first time in a few years.

France’s stage has lots of atmospheric smoke across the floor. Both Madame and Monsieur are rocking some bright red shoes in stark contrast to their black outfits, which I’m told is the norm. I’m not sure there’s enough about the song for it to contend for victory, but I can see the reasons why many think it will.

Mikolas’ injury feels like it was a very long time ago now. I really like Czech Republic in this part of the running order. It stands out as being cool and contemporary enough despite some 80s colours in the staging. This should be doing well in the jury vote tonight.

Denmark takes us back to the Noughties era of Eurovision with a kitsch feel to the overall presentation. Rasmussen and his camp crew of vikings plod along the stage and then it starts snowing out at sea. It doesn’t feel like Top 10 in the final to me.

Against the odds, Australia’s Jessica Mauboy has climbed to second in the iTunes downloads. This could reflect a strong performance on the televote last night, and when I was in the arena on Wednesday night it was the crowd’s clear favourite. There were noticeably louder backing vocals than what we heard previously that seemed to work better during the verses. Jessica is also looking more confident with her complicated choreography.

There’s another short break so they can set up Finland’s staging props. This entry was popular for UK punters on Tuesday night because of Saara being known from The X Factor and it being a competent uptempo song. It suffers as being too camp and kitsch following Australia, but it’s ‘very Eurovision’ for sure. Her voice sounds more suited to the West End than pop music to me and she is likely saving her best for the juries this evening.

Bulgaria’s Equinox also sound a bit less strong this afternoon. ‘Bones’ feels particularly weak as a composition in this Grand Final but could be doing well on the jury side of things.

I recognise that Moldova’s likely to be pulling in a big televote tomorrow night, especially with most of the ex-USSRs being wiped out. I do think it’s a bit overrated though, and I’m almost certain that the juries won’t be rewarding this to the same levels they did last year with ‘Hey Mamma!’, which was a much more modern and credible song. But it is a brilliant contrast to the snooze-fest of Bulgaria nonetheless and could be troubling the Top 10.

Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso does as he always does for Sweden and the overall package wows me every time I see it. This is my pick to be the Jury Vote Winner in tonight’s jury rehearsal.

The lead singer of AWS looks like he had a late one last night. This is probably the best and most authentic (proper) heavy metal song that Eurovision has ever seen, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and doesn’t seem to be getting downloaded across Europe and Australia.

Netta is not wearing much makeup for this afternoon rehearsal but still seems to be going for it. Is Israel really the second most likely winner after it has underwhelmed almost everyone here in the Eurovision bubble?

The presentation is far too novelty for my liking and I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a potential winner. Nobody seems to talk about it any more and it has understandably lost a bit of momentum after they failed to recreate the magic of the excellent music video.

The Netherlands’ dancers’ foul-mouthed celebration at qualifying was a personal highlight of the second semi-final (Rob found it vulgar and unseemly). Nothing new to report here from today’s rehearsal. A head-to-head with Hungary could be quite fun though, if any bookmakers out there want to oblige.

Ireland already. The time is passing quite quickly for this final. There’s been a mad overnight gamble on this one to win the whole thing – I’ll forever wonder why. But it is the only ballad in the second half of the running order even if it is inferior to Lithuania and Germany as a song.

Eleni from Cyprus seems to be rocking her new status as outright favourite. I was lucky enough to enjoy a few days in Lisbon before I made it to the press centre. There is hysteria for ‘Fuego’ almost everywhere I have been. People are talking about it, singing it, blasting it out on their phones. And it comes on every other song in the clubs.

But it is also the most-viewed performance on YouTube and the most downloaded song currently. To my eyes, it’s the standout staging and performance of the year. Sacha JB has done an excellent job lifting this one with her typical arty screen effects, from the Jamala-style opening to the fire and smoke which connect Eleni to the elements. And whoever choreographed that dance routine deserves an award, but whether or not that turns out to be the Eurovision trophy will probably come down to the juries.

It’s Italy’s turn out of the Big 5 to close the Grand Final again this year. It is a bit of a dud as a song, far too wordy and the lyrics on screen are incredibly distracting. I think everyone’s still going to have Cyprus on their minds when this one is being performed.

The voting sequence remains the same as the last two years. France was the fake jury winner this afternoon; Ireland the fake televoting winner and then went on to win overall.

I’d like to wish you all the best of luck tomorrow with your investments. Thanks to Rob as well for sorting my press accreditation once again.


  1. hemsby

    Thanks for the article Tim,delighted that you eventually received the press accreditation.

    It doesn’t feel like a final to be over confident about regarding the outcome and hence I’ve found myself spreading green around quite abundantly over the last few days.

    The Irish gamble looks like a dud to me,fuelled by the Chinese story and some snowballing by big red carrying punters worrying its “insider” money.

    With SF 1 looking much stronger than SF 2 I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Top 4 emerge from Tuesdays show,possibly Cyprus,Israel,Estonia and Czech.At the prices I’d favour Israel over Cyprus but it could easily finish outside the Top 5 like Italy last year and I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I’ve backed Hungary,Ukraine and Moldova for Top 10 at decent prices and remain hopeful that their uniqueness and USP’s will aid their scores In addition the absence of Eastern region strength plus the change in Jury score criteria to favour marmite acts may increase their respective chances.

    The last place market looks interesting.I’m on UK at 8/1 but feel the other short ones may be OK owing to regional support.Perhaps there’s room for a big priced winner here like Denmark or Austria ?

    I wish Rob and yourself well for the remainder of your stay and hope it proves profitable for you both.

  2. neomichael

    I would say that Ireland’s shortening is mainly on its position on the running order, as 3rd position from the end is considered the best possible place and could easily be given to a nation to keep the gap with the front-runner closed enough.I cannot see it winning though, but there is a chance for a 2nd place.
    What baffles me more is which could be the country that won the semifinal 2? And why they haven’t placed it after the most probable contenders for winning from semifinal 1 (Israel,Ireland,Cyprus). Where there all songs of semifinal 2 (that were drawn it the second part) that bad ,and they wrote them off (assuming that Norway didn’t won the semi neither as it was placed also in a on competing area-7th place). Is it just a matter of which nation from semifinal would win and if so why they haven’t changed at all the sequence of the appearance of the main contenders: Israel,Ireland,Cyprus. Maybe the main contenders from semifinal were that close as regards their points and they decided to keep it as it is..
    Questions to be answered for tonight, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moldova or Hungary winning this thing.

    • Tim B

      Hi neomichael, it’s a very good question as to who won semi-final 2. I’m assuming it was between Sweden and Australia. If I could still bet on it now I would back Sweden. Maybe Norway was third or even perhaps Ukraine from the pimp slot.

      And it’s an interesting spot that some of the contenders from each semi have remained in the same running orders as they were on Tuesday and Thursday night. Norway is also performing before Australia and Sweden again. I guess this is a good way the producers can control how the voting will go, or at least being relatively confident of keeping the same orders as they finished in the semis. They did this last year as well, where they could. But in this case, Israel has been moved much closer to Cyprus than it was in the semi, surely to try and help them decrease the gap and make the voting a bit more exciting IF they are the Top 2. But it also feels like Cyprus has built on its momentum a bit since Tuesday, with enormous iTunes downloads and YouTube views relative to everything else.

      • neomichael

        Hi Tim, yes it could be Sweden also, but for some reason I don’t think that Sweden’s song is that unique in order to surpass the rest of the semi final 1 contenders from inferior position.
        If it is for Cyprus to win I feel that it will be a close battle with Israel.

        • Cathal

          Id say the reason its so hard to call is bar Sweden Their maybe have been no obvious 2nd place etc, like Australia,Denmark 2 I can remember both doing well on iTunes but not being given good slots in the running order meaning they probably didn’t do as well in the jury in the semi.

    • Cathal

      I’d say Sweden won semi 2, doing the best from the semi on iTunes and probably won the jury also. I think the odds say it all, its probably a certain top 5 but no more than and no less, basically the result Sweden want.

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