It is time again for our annual Contender or Pretender series! And, for 2019, it’s all in one easy-to-read post. This series looks at the top ten of the betting odds prior to the start of rehearsals and attempts to figure which ones are truly challenging for victory (contenders) and which ones do not stand a realistic chance at winning (pretenders). Per usual, the ten entries will be examined in random order.
Country:Sweden Entry:Too Late for Love
Performed by: John Lundvik Written by: John Lundvik, Anderz Wrethov, and Andreas “Stone” Johansson Composed by: John Lundvik, Anderz Wrethov, and Andreas “Stone” Johansson
Why it is a contender: It is a strong (by European standards) R&B song that stands out from the crowd. It has a compelling collection of performers who know how to command the stage. The song is also quite catchy and warm.
Why it is a pretender: It’s schlager reminiscent of the 90s era of the Contest. There also is not a lot of strong precedent of people of color doing well at the Contest.
Final Verdict:Pretender! Aside from racism still being a very rampant part of Europe, this song is just too generic to actually win. I imagine that it will continue the trend we’ve seen with Sweden over the past few Contests, big jury score with a moderate to low televote.
Country:Italy Entry: Soldi[Money]
Performed by: Mahmoud Written by: Charlie Charles, Dario “Dardust” Faini, Alessandro Mahmoud Composed by: Charlie Charles, Dario “Dardust” Faini, Alessandro Mahmoud
Why it is a contender: It’s super-contemporary, and quite biting. Plus, Italy always seems to have an automatic boost at ESC. The composition is also quite intriguing – immediately grabbing your attention and forcing you to listen.
Why it is a pretender: More diversity issues…Muslims are not exactly well-received throughout the continent. Furthermore, rap is not very successful at the Contest, with only two rap songs ever finishing in the Top Ten (Greece 2011 and Romania 2017).
Final Verdict:Contender! Aside from the facts that this song won the OGAE fan poll and has been jockeying at the top of the betting odds, this song is quintessential of today’s sound. Soldi has more sales, streams, and views than any other Eurovision song this year, by far.
Country:Switzerland Entry:She Got Me
Performed by: Luca Hänni Written by: Laurell Barker, Frazer Mac, Luca Hänni, Jon Hällgren, Lukas Hällgren Composed by: Laurell Barker, Frazer Mac, Luca Hänni, Jon Hällgren, Lukas Hällgren
Why it is a contender: A contemporary song in the vein of Fuego performed by a hot guy who is an equally as good dancer. It sounds like something one hears in the clubs or at special events – i.e., it has mass appeal and gets folks moving!
Why it is a pretender: It is a bit of a generic song with two others, Malta and Cyprus, that have similar sounds that will siphon off points. Hänni has also shown himself to be not the strongest live performer.
Final Verdict:Contender! This song has been insanely popular since its release and has the added benefit of being a male-driven song when its nearest competitors are female. Expect Switzerland to not only reach the Top Ten for the first time in a long time, expect it to challenge for victory.
Performed by: Chingiz Written by: Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Pablo Dinero, Hostess, Joacim Persson Composed by: Borislav Milanov, Chingiz Mustafayev, Trey Campbell, Pablo Dinero, Hostess, Joacim Persson
Why it is a contender: Azerbaijan is back! This is the blend of ethnopop and ridiculousness that Azerbaijan has made itself known for in its earlier years. Chingiz is particularly hot and is a showman.
Why it is a pretender: Even at its height, Azerbaijan never truly threatened for victory. And the one year it did win, was a matter of surviving when the televote and jury vote were deeply split. This song is also a bit dramatic and stands out in not necessarily a good way.
Final Verdict:Pretender! Aside from the fact that Azerbaijan does not have a great track record of success since Turkey resigned from the Contest, Truth does not really have enough quality to surpass the stronger entries and not enough flair to surpass the flashier entries.
Country:The Netherlands Entry:Arcade
Performed by: Duncan Laurence Written by: Duncan de Moor, Joel Sjöö, Wouter Hardy Composed by: Duncan de Moor, Joel Sjöö, Wouter Hardy
Why it is a contender: A powerful song of heartbreak arising from naiveté, sung powerfully by a beautiful boy. Not only that, the song is simple and direct, which has been a successful combination as of late.
Why it is a pretender: Laurence has not proven himself to have the strongest stage presence. Not only that, the song’s simplicity can cause it to get lost among the array of uptempo songs, particularly if the producers give it a poor spot in the running order.
Final Verdict:Contender! Just like Portugal in 2017 and Israel in 2018, Netherlands has been atop the betting odds since it was released by the Dutch broadcaster. This song also is consistently popular across the web.
Performed by: Sergey Lazarev Written by: Sharon Vaughn, Dimitris Kontopoulos Composed by: Philip Kirkorov, Dimitris Kontopoulos
Why it is a contender: The song is dynamic, we know that Lazarev is good for performing a stunning stag show. He’s attractive and has a good voice. Not to mention, precedent currently shows that a Russian singer returning to the Contest after finishing in the Top Ten wins (Dima Bilan was runner-up in 2006 and then won in 2008).
Why it is a pretender: This song, much like his previous one, is more style than substance. The juries have also repeatedly shown a distaste towards Russia, and it seems unlikely to change this year.
Final Verdict:Contender! Russia has been aiming towards victory since it last won. Expect this year to have an even more amazing stage show than we saw in 2016 and for Russia to soak up a higher percentage of jury votes as other songs, which are more similar, split points.
Country:Greece Entry:Better Love
Performed by: Katerine Duska Written by: Katerine Duska, David Sneddon Composed by: Katerine Duska, Leon of Athens, David Sneddon
Why it is a contender:Better Love is an easy to sing along with anthem celebrating love. It’s catchy and Duska is a character. If the staging is in the same vein as the music video, this act will stand out quite a bit.
Why it is a pretender: Anthems, while catchy, rarely succeed outside of the arena and with those beyond the core demographics of the fan base. Furthermore, if the staging is in the same vein as the music video, this act will be seen as a more than a bit overtop and overwhelming.
Final Verdict:Pretender! As much as I would love to be able to pronounce that Greece has returned to its former glory, it’s just not the case. Duska will have to work hard to nail the vocals and carry the same attitude she has become known for. Expect this to be one of the bigger favorites that fall short of the Top Ten.
Performed by: Tamta Written by: Alex Papaconstantinou, Geraldo Sandell, Viktor Svensson, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark Composed by: Alex Papaconstantinou, Geraldo Sandell, Viktor Svensson, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark
Why it is a contender: A sexy lady singing a catchy song that exudes a confidence that many aspire to have. And, if Fuego is any indication, the Cypriot broadcaster has top choreographers and directors on hand to plan a stunning performance.
Why it is a pretender: This song is pretty much a carbon copy of Fuego, as such, these kinds of duplicates rarely surpass the achievements of their predecessor.
Final Verdict:Pretender! Don’t get me wrong, I am quite confident that this will finish in the Top Ten. However, I do not think it will come close to winning. There are simply too many stronger entries in the field this year and too many direct comparisons for this to overcome.
Country:Iceland Entry:Hatrið mun Sigra [Hatred with Prevail]
Performed by: Hatari Written by: Einar Hrafn Stefánsson, Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson Composed by: Einar Hrafn Stefánsson, Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson
Why it is a contender: As the strongest rock song this year, Iceland gets a boost to its interest. Not only that, but the overall outlandishness of Hatari’s persona is enough to draw an abundance of attention.
Why it is a pretender: The outlandish nature of Hatari is a double-edged sword and will likely turn off many viewers. Lordi in 2006 had the added benefit of a generally inoffensive song (though, it was not without controversy), with a title like “Hatred will Prevail,” this entry will surely turn off the millions of casual viewers who will be casting the bulk of votes on Saturday.
Final Verdict:Pretender! Hatari is no Lordi and I doubt that they can reproduce the Finnish band’s success. Not to mention, novelty acts have been losing popularity over the past decade and, regardless of Hatari’s level of sincerity, they will come off as a mere gimmick. I’m not sure if this even has enough to reach the Top Ten.
Performed by: Michaela Written by: Joacim Persson, Paula Winger, Borislav Milanov, Johan Alkenäs Composed by: Joacim Persson, Paula Winger, Borislav Milanov, Johan Alkenäs
Why it is a contender: Like Cyprus and Switzerland, this song is in the same vein as Fuego and is more than capably performed by the young Michaela. It’s a catchy and assertive song that will get folks up and moving.
Why it is a pretender: Unlike most of the songs on this list, Malta has direct competition with Cyprus and Switzerland. As such, there will be direct comparisons that Chameleon will have to deal with that the Netherlands or Russia will not.
Final Verdict:Pretender! As much as I think this is the strongest entry between the three Fuego copies, it is consistently performing behind the other two among fan votes and throughout most of the betting odds. Furthermore, few teenagers have the stage presence enough to win the Contest. I do think it will finish in the Top Ten.
Contender or Pretender 2019: Recap!
So, there you have it, the top ten in the betting odds heading into the rehearsals divided into serious contenders and those pretending to challenge for the win. A quick recap of this year’s predictions:
Italy Switzerland The Netherlands Russia
Sweden Azerbaijan Greece Cyprus Iceland Malta
A few other songs not currently in the top ten of the betting odds to put on your radar?
None this year, I truly think one of the four above contenders will win. I do think we’ll see some surprises (per usual) in the Top Ten come the Grand Final. I think Australiawill return to it (since the crafting of this series, Australia has moved into the betting odds top ten). France has also moved into the Top Ten, but Francehas not had much luck when going in with betting favor (see: 2009, 2011, 2016, and 2017). Spainand North Macedonia will also be much higher than usual, likely in the Top Ten. I think both songs are strong and stand out among those around it in the crowd.