Here we are, one week out from the Grand Final and the bookies are still unsure how to sort out their odds for winner. Good golly the betting odds have been extremely volatile this year! As of this (5 May) afternoon, the top ten in the betting odds looks like this:
Israel has maintained its position at the top, but all the others have been in flux. Estonia is back towards the top after spending the past two weeks lingering towards the bottom of these ten. Italy and Bulgaria have quietly been slipping further down the odds, while Norway and France have quietly moved up. And as Spain cracks the top ten, we say goodbye to Australia and Greece.
While many thought Finland’s push last week was am going to last, it was Cyprus that extended from about 30 in the betting odds to it’s current position of sixth.
While the betting odds leader hasn’t won a Contest since 2013 (as far as I can remember), every winner for as long as I have following the Contest has come from within this group bookies’ favorites. Interestingly, I still stand by my statements from last week: Austria and Montenegro are going to wildly out perform expectations while the Netherlands will climb the scoreboard as well.
Due to all the constant shifting, I’ve been unable to put together the Contender v Pretender…until today! We’re gonna do a lightning round – ten songs, ten breakdowns, ten verdicts. As always, we’re going to look at the songs in a random order.
1. Czech Republic
Lie to Me performed by Mikolas Josef
Why it’s a contender: A sexy song performed by a sexy singer that’s both catchy and unique.
Why it’s a pretender: The lyrics are a bit nonsensical and more conservative viewers will be turned off by the performance.
Final verdict: PretenderAs much fun as this song is and as great a performer as Josef is, this song just isn’t a high enough quality to the level of support needed from both the juries and the televote. It will easily get Czechia its best placing to date.
Dance You Off performed by Benjamin Ingrosso
Why it’s a contender: Catchy, modern, with a slick staging – this is Sweden at its best.
Why it’s a pretender: Ingrosso’s vocals are not for everyone. The staging, while flashy, can actually be a bit distracting.
Final verdict: Pretender In a weaker year, I would say this song could win; however, with there being such an wealth of contenders (even Lithuania is floating just outside the top ten) I don’t think this song has the juice to reach victory.
That’s How You Write a Song performed by Alexander Rybak
Why it’s a contender: Previous winners tend to get a bump, particularly ones as popular and ever-present as Rybak. And say what you want about his offstage temper, the boy knows how to write a catchy song.
Why it’s a pretender: The song is catchy but rather vapid. Additionally, it’s not 2009 and I don’t know if the staging is contemporary enough to standout.
Final verdict: Contender This is one well-placed position in the running order from lifting Rybak into the hallowed realm occupied by only one: Johnny Logan. It’s catchy and he’s a big enough name to truly contend.
Non Mi Avete Fatti Niente performed by Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro
Why it’s a contender: It’s Italy, which has joined the ranks of Sweden, Ukraine, and Australia in the perennial conversation about potential winners. The song itself is well-delivered.
Why it’s a pretender: Full disclosure, I don’t much care for this entry, I think it’s pretentious. With that said, I also think that neither the composition nor the performance are all that interesting.
Final verdict: Pretender Not only is this a weaker entry, but given the producers’ propensity towards maximum differentiation, I imagine this will end up swallowed up by the entries of either side of it.
Tu Canción performed by Amaia Romero & Alfred Garcia
Why it’s a contender: A classic Eurovision style song; Spain has slowly worked its way up the betting odds. Pretty, sweet, and trans-lingual (i.e., you can readily understand it without speaking Spanish).
Why it’s a pretender: It’s a bit too simple and could easily be swallowed up in year marked by loud pop and synthetic trumpet.
Final verdict: Contender Much like last year where the final came down to two ballads in a year dominated by uptempo songs, this may just have what it takes to pierce through and make a lasting impact.
Bones performed by Equinox
Why it’s a contender: Haunting, passionate, unique. Groups do not always go over well, but they have pretty good chemistry.
Why it’s a pretender: Is this song too weird and too out there for your typical ESC fan? Unfortunately, the fact that Equinox is an ethnically diverse group only hampers their chances.
Final verdict: Contender Last year we saw what can happen when the juries givestrong support, Australia ended up in the Top Ten with only two points from the televote (we saw the opposite effect in 2016 where the public thrust Poland into the Top Ten despite minimal points from the juries). This song, as long as it is sung well, can outperform “Don’t Come Easy” and can therefore win.
Fuego performed by Eleni Foureira
Why it’s a contender: Incredibly contemporary, passionately performed, and wide appeal to fans from two of the three key demographics (teen girls and gay men). Once rehearsals began, Fuego shot up the betting odds like something I’ve never seen before.
Why it’s a pretender: There’s a reason this song took so long to *catch fire* – it is inherently average.
Final verdict: Contender This song is *burning up* the betting odds thanks to a sizzling staging. As such, the producers will do all they can to place the song towards the end of the running order in as sweet a spot as possible.
Mercy performed by Madame Monsieur
Why it’s a contender: It’s a very French entry and in a year where national sounds and languages are retaking the narrative, this song leads the pack. The composition is intriguing and the performance is lovely.
Why it’s a pretender: It’s a very French entry, leaving a feeling of mild confusion and disconnect. The lyrics are also difficult for me to understand.
Final verdict: Pretender As much as I personally like this song, it doesn’t have the wide appeal necessary in a winner.
La Forza performed by Elina
Why it’s a contender: It most definitely stands out and is performed flawlessly.
Why it’s a pretender: Opera, while having a near perfect qualification record, it has never finished in the Top Ten.
Final verdict: Pretender This is my favorite song this year, but I just cannot see a world where it wins. Opera just isn’t popular enough.
Toy performed by Netta
Why it’s a contender: Top of the betting odds for the duration of ESC season, this is a massively unique, fun, empowering song. Despite its supermodern composition, it is still easy to follow and engage with.
Why it’s a pretender: This the type of song that elicits strong opinions and those who are not so fond of it are out there. It is also more reminiscent of something you’d see at Junior Eurovision than at the ESC.
Final verdict: Pretender Controversial prediction, I know. But, I can’t see this song garnering enough jury support to win
So, that leaves four potential winners from this bunch. Of these four, right now, I would have to say Cyprus might be the bedt choice. It’s picking up steam and interest at just the right time while the others all seem to be stagmating or slipping. Interestingly enough, with Portugal’s victory last year, Cyprus now has the dishonor of having the most victories without a win, at 34. If Cyprus were to win, that title would fall to Iceland.