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Reactions to the First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

So, there you have it, our ten qualifiers from last night!

  1. Austria

  2. Estonia

  3. Cyprus

  4. Lithuania

  5. Israel

  6. Czech Republic

  7. Bulgaria

  8. Albania

  9. Finland

  10. Ireland

Some historical notes:

  1. First time ever that Azerbaijan failed to qualify.

  2. Belgium’s streak of Top Ten finishes ends at three.

  3. Ireland qualified for the first time since 2013. Finland qualified for the first time since 2014.

  4. Bulgaria’s Top Ten streak (2) has the potential to stay alive.

Some of my key reactions:

  • Finland has a poor staging and gave poor performances, it’s my biggest disappointment of the night.

  • Albania’s qualification, by far, is my biggest shock for the night. It’s a meh song with a decent performance, but other songs were better.

  • I don’t think there was a happy surprise for me. I’m satisfied with the bulk of the results and not too shocked by any of them, other than Albania.

So, there you have it. I was only 7 out of 10 for my prediction, but that’s life. I’m looking forward to tonight’s jury show for Semi-Final Two. Enjoy the show!!

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Thoughts After Semi-Final One’s Jury Show

Hello Dear Readers!

Last night was the Jury Show for Semi-Final One and oh boy! What a show! A friend turned to me and said he thinks this is the strongest-ever semi-final to date (that’s since 2004). I’m inclined to agree. Five of the top ten songs in the betting odds plus many more with very strong fan support. The questions we have now start to shift to thinking about who won the jury vote? Who bolstered their chances of qualifying? And who still has work to do?

So, who do I think won the support of the juries? It’s really hard to say. My heart says Estonia but my brain thinks Lithuania may have pulled out the victory. The song is very sweet (though, a bit boring) but the staging was near perfect. It’s definitely not a winner, but I think it maybe much more of a contender than initially thought.

Who set themselves up for success?

  1. Switzerland – one of the most forgotten entries this year, the Swiss are capitalizing on their late running order slot by putting out a stage show that’s than the song. Zibbiz are great performers and really sell the song.

  2. Cyprus – fired on all cylinders, I completely understand how Cyprus moved up to second in the betting odds. I don’t know if it will garner a lot of love from the juries, but it will definitely qualify.

  3. Estonia – opera doesn’t usually get a lot of love from the juries, but I think Elina’s pure talent and the fact that she had one of the best vocal performances of the night will score her more love than the genre usually gets.

  4. Azerbaijan – this is average song, but with a fun performance and a lot of great energy. She definitely outperformed where she should be. 

Who still has work to do?

  1. Czech Republic – it was a big let down. I know he hurt his back, but he was super mechanical and his vocals were off. If he can’t move like he should, then they should emphasize other things, like his sex appeal. He needs an amazing performance tonight to preserve his shot at moving through, because it won’t be with any help from the juries.

  2. Greece – great song with a great vocal performance, but a terrible staging that’s antithetical to the composition. It’s going to weird out a lot of viewers, so she needs to reproduce the same vocal power as last night.

  3. Finland – uhhh, weak vocals, weak staging, lackluster energy. Everything needs to be stepped up tonight. There are always shocks, especially in strong semi-finals like tonight. If she doesn’t do better, she’ll go down as a shock elimination.

  4. Armenia – apparently it comes off better on tv than live, but it just felt so flat to me in the arena.

So, after seeing the Jury Show, the ten qualifiers, I think will be (in no particular order)

-Israel

-Lithuania

-Greece

-Cyprus

-Estonia

-Czech Republic

-Austria

-Bulgaria

-Switzerland

-Azerbaijan

No Armenia, Finland, or Belgium. Risky predictions, but I stand by them!

As always, watch out for my post show thoughts and reactions!

Contender or Pretender 2018

Contender or PretenderHello Dear Readers!

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

  • Norway

  • Estonia

  • France

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Bulgaria

  • Sweden

  • Italy

  • Spain

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.

CzechFlagMap1. 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: Pretender As 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.

Swedish Flag Map2. Sweden

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.

Norwegian Flag Map3. Norway

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.

Italian Flag Map4. Italy

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.

Spanish Flag Map5. Spain

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.

Bulgarian Flag Country6. Bulgaria

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 give  strong 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.

Cypriot Flag Map7. Cyprus

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.

New French Flag Map8. France

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.

Estonian Flag Map9. Estonia

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.

Israeli Flag Country10. Israel

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

Final verdicts:

Contenders

Pretenders

Norway

Czech Republic

Spain

Sweden

Bulgaria

Italy

Cyprus

France

Estonia

Israel

So, that leaves four potential winners from this bunch. Of these four, right now, I would have to say CyprusCyprus 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.

ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

Here we are, at the end of another initial reviews week. I’m sure many of you feel vindicated, many of you feel confused, and some of you may even be angry – no matter how you feel, thanks for reading 🙂

In case you missed it, here are my song reviews:
Semi-Final One
Semi-Final Two
Automatic Qualifiers

Preferences

First things first, which songs did I like the most? Check out this year’s ESC Obsession 2018 Preference Bracket to find out.

Looking for your own bracket? Here is this year’s blank bracket for you and your ESC friends to fill out! ESC Obsession 2018 Eurovision Tournament

But, which songs currently comprise my personal Top Ten heading into the Contest?

  • Armenia

  • Belarus

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Israel

  • Greece

  • Latvia

  • Sweden

Predictions

As a quick refresher, I predicted that these songs would finish in the Top Ten: (in no particular order)

  • Israel

  • Estonia

  • Austria

  • Australia

  • Czech Republic

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • Montenegro

  • The Netherlands

  • Sweden

Of, these, I thought five had a legitimate chance at victory: (again, in no particular order)

  • Austria

  • The Netherlands

  • Czech Republic

  • Montenegro

  • Australia

Currently, Australia and Czech Republic are both in the top ten of the betting odds, meaning, that I will discuss them more in next week’s Contender or Pretender series. Let’s dive into the three other entries receiving little attention from the bookies.

Austria – From the very first time I heard this song, it sounded like a winner to me. From the composition and style to the lyrics to the how smooth César Sampson is. This song may not be on too many radars right now, but it will shoot towards the top of the scoreboard, I can feel it. Now, since I first heard this song in March, I have seen videos of him performing it live, and it does not quite translate, at least, not during the preview concerts. Ultimately, this impacts his betting odds, but it won’t affect his final position with the juries and televoters on the night. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s truly difficult for a person of color, particularly a Black person, to be particularly successful at ESC. I honestly think this can be a counterexample to that opinion.

Montenegro – This song is on no one’s radar and actually falls towards the bottom of the betting odds currently. So, why on earth do I think it can win? Several reasons: 1) it’s one of only a few true and well ballads, 2) it’s a very classic Balkan sound, 3) the other four former Yugoslav nations will struggle to reach the Final, let alone seriously compete, leaving Montenegro there to soak up all their big points as well as from other Balkan allies not voting for Bulgaria, and 4) it’s a high quality song! The composition alone is worthy of victory. The singing is right on and the lyrics are captivating. This song should narrow those odds greatly once it qualifies and then we’ll see just how big it will go. Again, without any other former-Yugoslav country (and really, any Balkan country not named Greece or Bulgaria) having a legitimate shot at even qualifying, I think Montenegro will do quite well.

The Netherlands – A song that started on everyone’s radar as it is performed by a one-half of a runner-up duo, it’s country rock – a genre not often heard (if ever) on the ESC stage, and it was one the first to be selected. Don’t underestimate the power of a well done song that is unlike any other in the competition. The real question is whether enough country and rock fans will be voting to bring the Netherlands up the scoreboard, as I think it will only finish in the high single digits/low teens among the jury. It is most definitely not a traditional Eurovision entry like Austria and Montenegro, but that just may be its saving grace.

Who do I think will actually win? Well, you need to check out my prediction bracket! ESC Obsession 2018 Prediction Bracket

The bigger story here is that, for as long as I have been keeping this blog (December 2009), no victor has come from outside the top ten folks according to the betting odds. This is going to be an interesting year – a well-deserved anomaly for Portugal, hosting for the first time ever after so many failed attempts.

Come back next week for the annual Contender or Pretender series where I break down each of the top ten songs according to the betting odds and determine which ones have a legitimate shot at victory and which are merely distractions.

Until next time, find me on Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, or YouTube, all @escobsession

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