Posts tagged “contender or pretender

ESC 2019: Contender or Pretender!

Contender or Pretender logo

Hello Dear Readers!

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.

  1. Sweden

  2. Italy

  3. Switzerland

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. The Netherlands

  6. Russia

  7. Greece

  8. Cyprus

  9. Iceland

  10. Malta


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.

EO logo with Swedish flag

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.


Country: Azerbaijan
Entry: Truth

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.

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

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.

EO logo witch Dutch flag

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.


Russian flag mapCountry: Russia
Entry: Scream

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).

EO logo with Russian flag

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.


Country: Cyprus
Entry: Replay

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.


Country: Malta
Entry: Chameleon

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.

EO logo with Maltese flag

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:

Contenders:

Italy
Switzerland
The Netherlands
Russia

Pretenders:

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 Australia will 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 France has not had much luck when going in with betting favor (see: 2009, 2011, 2016, and 2017). Spain and 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.


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.


Contender or Pretender 2017: Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it – the ten songs that comprise the top of the betting odds at the time of starting Contender and Pretender 2017. As a recap:

Contenders:

-Belgium
-Bulgaria
-Italy

Pretenders:

-Armenia
-Australia
-Azerbaijan
-Ireland
-Portugal
-Romania
-Sweden

This may seem quite skewed, however, I truly believe that the winner will be from among Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy. Since the start of this series, Ireland has fallen out of the top ten of the betting odds, replaced by France (who I have previously deemed as a legitimate contender).

So, in adding France to the fray, of the four contenders, who do I think will win?

Well, my opinion has not changed. I still think Bulgaria will pull out the victory this year in Kyiv, taking the Contest to Sofia for 2018.

Beautiful Mess is compelling, intricate, and heartfelt. Much more so than any of its closest competition. Italy is fun, but it will be a bit much for a lot of first time viewers. Belgium has been losing ground over the past week and will be going into the Contest on a downward trajectory. France, while beautiful and unique, just isn’t as captivating Bulgaria’s ballad. I think Bulgaria has the perfect mix of jury appeal and fan attraction to win this year.

What are your thoughts? Leave them below and/or on Twitter.

Stay tuned!! Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday I will be teaming up with DizzyDJC to bring you podcasts all throughout Eurovision Week. Stay tuned here, YouTube, or Twitter for the link to broadcasts!

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Contender or Pretender 2017: Episode Five – Armenia and Ireland

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been nearly a week already! We have reached the last two entries that are a part of this series: Armenia and Ireland! Armenia probably does not surprise many, but most are probably shocked (if not pleasantly surprised) to see Ireland make a late surge for the top ten of the betting odds going into Eurovision Week. But, does either country have what it takes to raise the crystal microphone?

Fly with Me performed by Artsvik

Why it is a contender: This song is unique with it’s varying tempos and ethnic flair. More than that, the song tells a story of trusting in love – always a popular sentiment at ESC. Furthermore, the composition is utterly captivating; each moment builds upon the last.

Why it is a pretender: The same compositional elements that make this song stand out are the same ones that can turn off viewers. The ever-shifting tempos and melodies make the song sound a bit cluttered and confused. By the end, the viewer is left trying to catch their breath.

Final Verdict: Pretender As much as I love this song, I just don’t see it captivating viewers enough to pull off a victory. I do think the juries will like it, so expect a Top Ten finish.

 

Dying to Try performed by Brendan Murray

Why it is a contender: Murray’s voice is certainly unique and it helps that he is rather adorable. The song is also something that many can relate to; it’s a love song with a heavy dose of reality.

Why it is a pretender: Murray’s voice isn’t for everyone. The composition is also not inherently interesting; subtly is rarely appreciated at Eurovision.

Final Verdict: Pretender I think this song will qualify for the Final. But there will be the eventual comparison between this and the other two young, male ballads – Australia and Bulgaria – and I just don’t think that this will stand up to those two in the minds of viewers seeing these songs for the first time at the Grand Final.

 

So, will Armenia build upon its recent success? Or will it just be too much for viewers? Conversely, will Ireland spark a new era of domination? Or will it be not enough for viewers? Leave your thoughts below and/or on Twitter!

Missed the previous episodes of Contender or Pretender? Click here to find them!

Check back later for the wrap of the series and my updated prediction for next week’s winner!

 

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2017 Contender or Pretender: Episode Three – Portugal and Belgium

Hello Dear Readers!

Today we look at probably the two most surprising members of the Top Ten betting odds, Belgium (who has been doing fairly well in recent years) and Portugal, who, as far as I know, has never been in the top ten of the betting odds going into Eurovision week. Two very different songs that both stand out from the crowd, but, does either have what it takes to win?

Portugal

Amar pelos Dois performed by Salvador Sobral

Why it is a contender: A heartfelt ballad that sounds like it was dropped from the 1940s. This is a high quality composition with a gentle performance that helps it transcend its simple lyrics. Portugal is the perpetual underdog and has the support of a big swath of the fandom behind it.

Why it is a pretender: Only nine times has Portugal ever reached the Top Ten, the most recent of which, 1996, was its highest placing: 6th place. History’s arrow does not seem to be pointing in Portugal’s direction. Not to mention, for many casual viewers and those that turn to Eurovision for vapid schlager, this slow ballad will be more chore than enjoyment.

Final Verdict: Pretender While I commend Portugal for sending a truly artistic song, but it’s just too simple to win. I think Portugal may have a legitimate shot at the Top Ten, but lacks the power to overcome more memorable ballads or the outshine the up-tempo numbers.

Belgium

City Lights performed by Blanche

Why it is a contender: This is perhaps the most unique of the EDM-inspired entries this year. Blanche’s deep voice makes her standout from all the other female singers and delicateness of the song will help give it broader appeal. The song is also catchy without being repetitive.

Why it is a pretender: It’s unique, but is it too unique? Depending on its staging and how its start position, this song could seem too weird to too different to make a real impact in the minds of televoters.

Final Verdict: Contender This song simply stand out in a positive way. I think the juries will also take to it quite strongly given how rare it is to hear a solo pop singer with such a low voice sing so well. I think the composition is captivating enough to linger in the minds of viewers and jurors alike throughout the night.

Hmm, Belgium at one point was towards the top of the betting odds, not it’s floating around the tenth spot. Portugal has solidly been sitting in the top five since mid-March. It will be interesting to see how these songs do in Kyiv. You thoughts?

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2017 Contender or Pretender: Episode Two – Bulgaria and Italy

Hello Dear Readers!

Today we look at the top two songs in the betting odds, Bulgaria and Italy! One is a perennial favorite returning to form after a brief stumble last year, the other is finally coming into its own after many years of languishing in the semi-finals. But, does either have what it takes to actually win?

Bulgaria

Beautiful Mess performed by Kristian Kostov

Why it is a contender: A beautiful, haunting ballad powerfully performed well by a young, cute singer. The lyrics are intriguing and the composition is gripping. What’s more, the song generates a feeling of longing within the listener.

Why it is a pretender: It’s not the most exciting ballad this year, as the climax of the song does not particularly stand out. Not to mention that Bulgaria rarely, if ever, stages its songs properly. If the music video is any indication, we will witness a trite, uninspired stage show.

Final Verdict: Contender If you read my initial reactions to this year’s songs, you’ll know that I picked this song to win. Thus far, I have yet to see a reason strong enough to change that thought. With that said, BNT still needs to come through with an amazing staging to hold off other contenders.

Italy

Occidentali’s Karma performed by Francesco Gabbani

Why it is a contender: This is a fun, catchy song that challenges us intellectually. Italian seems to be a favorable language in garnering votes. Not to mention that Gabbani seems to be a serious contender, having won San Remo and looking to win Eurovision.

Why it is a pretender: For the average Eurovision viewer (aka, the televoting masses), this song might seem a bit odd – particularly with its dancing gorilla. Even if the staging is kept close to its original, it might be a bit too much for most casual viewers.

Final Verdict: Contender This song is catchy, interesting, and very unique. Italy is poised for victory soon and this just might be their year. It would be great for a fully non-English song to win (the last time that happened was 2007) as it would hopefully spur other countries to utilize their national languages next year.

Come back tomorrow to check out Portugal and Belgium!
Also, don’t miss our recently published news updates.
Missed yesterday’s reviews of Australia and Romania? Never fear! They’re right here!

 

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2017 Contender or Pretender: Episode One – Australia and Romania

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s rehearsals week for Eurovision! It’s so early this year but we’re happy that we have enough time for Contender or Pretender. Today, we began our journey with Australia and Romania – two very different songs that currently find themselves in the midst of popularity.

Australia

Don’t Come Easy performed by Isaiah

Why it is a contender: A powerfully-sung ballad by the young Isaiah Firebrace – whose live performances have helped push Australia into the top ten of the betting odds. He’s a proven competitor, having already won X-Factor Australia. The song also stands out as one of the few higher quality slow songs in a year dominated by uptempo entries.

Why it is a pretender: Well, the song is fairly generic and repetitive. Listen to the song, the phrase “don’t come easy” is repeatedly endlessly.

The first verse is rather boring; the song doesn’t really pick up until the end of the first refrain.

Final Verdict: Pretender Isaiah will be lucky if it keeps its Top Ten streak intact this year. While this song is pleasant, it is rather forgettable. I think it will struggle to get out of the semi-final and, despite being jury fodder, will not do too well on Saturday night.

Romania

Yodel It! performed by Ilinca ft. Alex Florea

Why it is a contender: For the non-fan, this song represents the quintessential Eurovision entry. It’s poppy, fun, and campy. It certainly stands out and is unlike any other song from this year (or any of the recent years).

Why it is a pretender: For the non-fan, this song represents the quintessential Eurovision entry. It’s obnoxious, repetitive, and vapid. Let’s not forget that, in the past twenty years, no song in which either rap or yodeling was a primary feature (except for Greece 2011) has finished in the Top Ten.

Final Verdict: Pretender This song stands out for all the wrong reasons and I have yet to hear a satisfying live version of the song. Not to mention that the juries do not tend to go for this kind of song. I would not be surprised if this song fails to qualify for the Final.

Hmm, starting off with two songs with less than favorable odds. Maybe tomorrow’s potential victors, Bulgaria and Italy, will fare better.

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2017 Contender or Pretender!

Hello Dear Readers!

First, in the event that you missed last week’s post, here are my initial thoughts concerning the songs that I think have a legitimate shot at winning this year in Kyiv. This also included this year’s bracket for ESC Obsession’s Annual Eurovision Tournament.

ESC 2017 Tournament

And, if you are curious, here is my personal bracket based solely on my personal preferences.

Second, we come to our yearly Contender or Pretender series, where we look at the top ten countries in the betting odds and access whether they have a realistic chance of winning (contender) or if they are merely names without foundations (pretender). I took the top ten countries and randomly sorted them.

You’ll see them in this order:

Day One: Australia and Romania

Day Two: Bulgaria and Italy

Day Three: Portugal and Belgium

Day Four: Azerbaijan and Sweden

Day Five: Armenia and Ireland

Some notes: It has been interesting watching the movement in the betting odds. Per usual, Sweden and Italy are in the top ten. Azerbaijan seems to be back in the good graces of ESC while Armenia has made its typical late-season push towards the top of the odds. As shocking as it is to see countries like Belgium (perhaps, though, not so much after finishing in the top twelve in three out of the past four years), Portugal (when was the last time they were among the top in the betting odds?), and Bulgaria, I think the most shocking are Ireland and Australia. Both started in the low teens back in March (once all the songs were known). Both sneaked up the rankings while others slipped (France, Denmark, Greece, and Hungary are the next four, all of which were once in the top ten). Interestingly, Macedonia seems to have fallen the farthest; reaching about seventh in the betting odds before following to the low teens.

Stayed tuned! Each day this week, we’ll cover each of the ten entries at the top of the betting odds; analyzing their potential, identifying their shortcomings, and providing a verdict.

 

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Contender or Pretender 2016 – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

Sorry for the brief delay — but we’re back!

This week, we looked at the ten songs with the highest betting odds this time last week, which are mostly the same, though with some shifting. France has narrowed its odds against Russia for the top spot. Italian Flag MapThe biggest thing is that Armenia has been pushed out and Italy has moved into the bookies’ top ten favorites. My opinions on Italy have not changed. In addition to Italy, I think that Czech Republic (which has narrowed its own odds to 12th, thus far) is the other song outside the bookies’ top entries with a legitimate chance of winning; I truly think that it will be the dark horse this year.

So, let’s review. Songs that I believe are contenders:
Russia
Serbia
France
Australia

and songs that I believe are pretenders:
Sweden
Armenia
Latvia
Bulgaria
Ukraine
Malta

Looking at the four songs deemed to be contenders, how do I rate their chances?

RussiaWell, Russia has dominated the betting odds since mid-March and has a very strong following among the fan community and Sergey Lazarev is very attractive and unafraid to bare skin. However, the song is rather trite and, while the live vocals will probably be great, the staging promises to be over-the-top. I also think that it will come off as a weak imitation of Heroes.

SerbiaSerbia presents a strong song that is bound to keep the country in the Top Ten. A powerful song that promotes girl power will definitely do well. However, songs with R&B stylings have a checkered history at the Contest and trying to conflate the sound with a Balkan-themed presentation (which seems like the most likely event) will confuse viewers enough to prevent Serbia from winning.

AustraliaAustralia brings, perhaps, the strongest vocalist to the Contest this year. The song is captivating and will stand out in a field of uptempo numbers with its dramatic composition and easy to relate to lyrics. However, Sound of Silence has not been making the rounds of the preview concerts or radio play as the other entries have. It will lack recognition among the viewers and juries.

 

France is peaking at the right time; J’ai Cherché has been steadily rising in the betting odds over the past eight weeks. FranceWhen first selected, the song was around 15th in the betting odds, now it is a close second. The lyrics are catchy, fun, and balances French and English well. It has a contemporary composition that makes you want to sing and dance. Amir is a handsome guy who knows how to command a stage. Right now, I would say that France has the best chance of winning Eurovision 2016! Next year in Paris? Cannes? Lyon? Marseilles? or Nice? Perhaps, France just needs to not sabotage themselves with a horrendous staging and pray that they get drawn into the second half of the running order so that SVT doesn’t drown them again with a crap song position.

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Malta and Australia

Hello Dear Readers!

So, here we are, the last episode of Contender or Pretender for 2016 (aside from tomorrow’s recap post!). Today, we are taking a closer look at the last two songs to be within the top ten of the bookies’ odds: Malta and Australia! Two powerful, diva-driven entries – one is a love ballad the other is about a fractured relationship. Let’s dive into them!

Malta

Walk on Water performed by Ira Losco

Maltese Flag MapWhy it is a contender: Losco returns to the Contest with a powerful pop song that is bound to captivate audiences. The composition is moving and slowly builds throughout its duration. Losco’s voice is great and she is a seasoned performer. The lyrics are simple without being needlessly repetitive.

Why it is a pretender: While it is an uptempo song, it’s not particularly catchy or easy to sing-along to. I also think, in a year with so many uptempo pop tunes, it would very easy for this song to be lost in the mix, particularly with a poor spot in the running order.Malta

Final Verdict: Pretender This song is not getting much traction among the fan community and is mostly being looked over for more provocative entries (such as Ukraine or Latvia) or more contemporary songs (such as Russia or France). Malta, while a strong entry, will most likely be lost among the entries and will have the lowest Final result of any of the ten songs that we are looking at this week.

Australia

Sound of Silence performed by Dami Im

Australian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: The song is powerful and, arguably, is the strongest of the female-led power pop ballads this year. It is performed by a beautiful woman with an incredibly powerful voice with experience in competing (Im won X-Factor Australia). The song stands out amongst the crowd of uptempo entries.

Why it is a pretender: Diva entries tend to perform well, but don’t usually win. In the last twenty years, only three diva-driven entries have won (Austria 2013, Serbia 2007, and Israel 1998; not to be confused with the female-led pop songs that have dominated the past two decades). This song also falls prey to not being overly catchy, not necessarily a bad thing in such a melancholy song, but it means Sound of Silence will not be very memorable – which is a drawback when performed in an array of 26 songs on Saturday night.

Final Verdict: Contender AustraliaThis song leaves a big impression and Australia is a rather popular country already. Not to mention that Im’s voice is possibly the best one in the Contest this year. This song will most likely receive a strong position in the running order and a decent stage show. Even without either, the song is powerful enough to leave an impression and the lyrics are readily relatable for the average person.

What do you think? Does Malta’s song make you want to perform miracles? Does Australia’s offering make you wish for silence? Leave your comments below!

There you have it! The ten songs with the best betting odds heading into the Contest: Sweden, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, France, Malta, and Australia. Tomorrow, we’ll recap these entries as well as look at my thoughts for possible dark horses that will surprise us in Stockholm.

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Ukraine and France

Hello Dear Readers!

We are on our fourth episode of Contender or Pretender and things are heating up. Only a few more left to examine, today: Ukraine’s history lesson with *no relevance to recent events* and France’s best shot at victory in years!

Ukraine

1944 performed by Jamala

Ukrainian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: This song has immediately made an impact. It has incredibly moving lyrics and composition and performance. There’s nothing like it in the Contest this year. With a strong stage show that displays the song’s narrative, this will make a huge impact in the Grand Final.

Why it is a pretender: This song is rather modern, like most modern songs, it will split the televoting audience as well as the juries (though, the juries will most likely rate it highly). Furthermore, because the refrain is in a rare, Turkic language (Crimean Tatar), it is integral that the commentators do their job and communicate the meaning of the song – which will probably fall short of happening effectively.Ukraine

Final Verdict: Pretender This is one of my favorite songs this year. However, it is just too modern and too divisive to win. I completely think it will be in the Top Ten, but not hosting the crystal victor’s trophy. Great song, but it will not win.

France

J’ai Cherché (I’ve Searched) performed by Amir

New French Flag MapWhy it is a contender: It’s fun, contemporary, and catchy. France has finally found an effective way of incorporating English into their entries while maintaining a predominantly French flair. This is the kind of entry that will do well in the charts after the Contest.

Why it is a pretender: While the song is contemporary, it’s sound is a few years late. I also think that the composition, while fun, is simple, a little too simple.

Final Verdict: Contender FranceThis song entertains all! The fans love the idea of a strong French entry and the casual viewers will love the sound of the song. As mentioned above, J’ai Cherché is instantly sing-alongable and will stay with you long after it is off the stage. There is a definite possibility that we will be in Paris or Caen or Cannes or Marseilles or Nice….

What do you think? Will Ukraine’s ode to the 1944 forced migration of Crimeans to central Asia at the hands of the USSR captivate Europe? Is France being setup for another disappointment à la 2011?

With that, we have only two entries to address tomorrow: Malta and Australia!
Missed the previous episodes?
Sweden and Russia
Serbia and Armenia
Latvia and Bulgaria

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Latvia and Bulgaria

Hello Dear Readers!

We now reach the halfway point of our this year’s series. Two countries that have a pretty rough history at the Contest come with strong songs this year: Latvia and Bulgaria! Two contemporary songs that will definitely leave an impression on the night.

Latvia

Heartbeat performed by Justs

Latvian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: Building upon last year’s success, Latvia brings another super-modern piece composed by Animata. The song is mysterious and has flashes of brilliance throughout. Justs also ably performs the song and there is sure to be another stunning performance onstage (rumor has it that Animata will also choreograph the stage show for Stockholm).

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics are a bit nonsensical. There is not much of a story or a meaning that is easy to gather. The composition, while unique, is a far cry from Love Injection, the captivating song that gave Latvia its best finish since winning in 2003.

Final Verdict: PretenderLatvia This song has been popular since it won Latvia’s Supernova and the right to represent the country in Stockholm. However, as mentioned above, this song is a poor imitation of last year’s entry. Part of Love Injection‘s success can be attributed to its uniqueness and its flawless performance. While Justs has a great voice and a good look, the song just won’t be able to make a mark in a crowded field of decent songs.

Bulgaria

If Love is was a Crime performed by Poli Genova

Bulgarian Flag CountryWhy it is a contender: Oh, the difference five years can make. In 2011, Genova would have been happy to reach the Final with Na Inat, now she is performing a song that could reasonably win. Why? This is a song that’s catchy, fun, and easy to understand. However, it is also contemporary and stylized with modern tones.

Why it is a pretender: Well, Bulgaria does not have a history of making wise decisions in regards to staging at the contest. They often go too big or too small or just plain….off. These quirks are off-putting and, in trying to capture the super-modern stylings of this song, there is a lot of potential for awful outfits and superfluous (that is, unnecessary) backing dancers.

Final Verdict: PretenderBulgaria Let me start by saying: “I love this song!” And I think that it will do well. However, between a lack of confidence in Bulgaria’s ability to properly stage the song and the fact that modern tunes don’t appeal to all, I just don’t think that this song has what it takes to lift the crystal trophy in May.

We have now looked at Sweden, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Latvia, and Bulgaria. Who’s next? Ukraine and France! Come back tomorrow!

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Serbia and Armenia

Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome back to our second episode of Contender or Pretender. Yesterday, we looked at Sweden and Russia, the two songs with the biggest fan followings online. Today, we move towards probably the two songs that probably surprise the most people with their presence towards the top of the betting odds: Serbia and Armenia!

Serbia

Goodbye (Shelter) performed by Zaa Sanja Vučić

Serbian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: The song is powerful and captivating. If you listen to the composition, you can feel the song building over each second; we’re on a ride towards a climax. Additionally, Vučić has a powerful voice and is a great performer. And, this is a female empowerment song which should go over well with the televoting audience.

Why it is a pretender: It’s a bit of a disingenuous entry – there’s some traditional elements that we have come to expect from Serbian entries, but it is, generally, a fairly Western song. It is R&B-infused, which, itself, has a dicey history at the Contest.

Final Verdict: ContenderSerbia Ultimately, I think that Goodbye (Shelter) is a powerful, captivating entry. I think that people will see this, they will remember it, and will be blown away by its power. I think it has a legitimate chance at winning.

Armenia

LoveWave performed by Iveta Mukuchyan

Armenian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: This song sticks out and makes an impact. From the spoken portion at the beginning, to the sounds of take off, to the powerful chorus that holds you. The composition and lyrics also give a bit of an air of mystery to the song.

Why it is a pretender: Everything that makes this song unique also holds this song back. There is also a big question mark around how the song will be presented on stage, as there are large swaths of instrumentation without vocals and a lot of repetition.

Final Verdict: PretenderArmenia Honestly, while I like the song, I am surprised to find it in the bookies’ top ten songs with a chance to win. It’s an interesting song, but not as interesting as it think it is. Ultimately, it’s just an average song.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss below!
And come back tomorrow for Latvia and Bulgaria!

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Sweden and Russia

Hello Dr. Readers!

So, we open up with the two songs that probably have the most support within the fan communities: Sweden and Russia! One is a contemporary hipster anthem dripping with sarcasm; the other is a quintessential schlager tune that builds upon the pop legacy of Heroes. Interestingly enough, the schlager is coming from a little further east than usual.

Sweden

If I Were Sorry performed by Frans

Swedish Flag MapReasons why it is a contender: The song is catchy and simple and takes advantage of the most basic of human entertainment: storytelling. It’s simple enough for folks to follow the plotline without being overly repetitive and still maintains an air of mystery.

Reasons why it is a pretender: The song is a bit too basic and, quite honestly, the singer comes off like a jerk. The composition is also simple and not too entertaining; the song is just flat throughout its duration.

Final Verdict: Pretender Sweden was deemed "a contender" in last year's series.The song is neither captivating nor uplifting. It also lacks any kind of musical element that makes this song captivating. We know that it will perform 9th on Saturday night and it will be long forgotten by the end. Not to mention that only four countries have ever won on home soil – Spain (1969), Luxembourg (1973), Israel (1978), Ireland (1993 & 1994) – and no one has done it for over twenty years.

Russia

You Are the Only One performed by Sergey Lazarev

Russian Flag MapReasons why it is a contender: A traditional ESC entry in that this is full-blown schlager, a German word meant to capture the style of pop that typified the German and Scandinavian entries of the 70s and 80s…and 90s. Russia is moving away from its diva entries of the recent past with a rousing pop tune that has a captivating composition and stage show.

Reasons why it is a pretender: It’s a little too typical. The song can become tedious and, without a big staging, is just not much. The lyrics are trite and lack any kind of depth.

Final Verdict: RussiaContender This song, in addition to having a great stage show, will be more than adequately performed, as Lazarev has a good live voice. Not to mention that Russia has a large diaspora and a lot of guaranteed points, at least from the televoting public.

Come back tomorrow when we will examine Serbia and Armenia.

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Contender or Pretender 2016 is Here!

Hello Dear Readers!

Sweden was deemed "a contender" in last year's series.

Sweden was deemed “a contender” in last year’s series.

So, the annual Contender or Pretender series is here! Once again, I will be taking the ten entries with the highest betting odds, as of today (24 April), and go through each one – discussing its merits, its weaknesses, and rendering an ultimate conclusion on whether an entry is a contender, has a legitimate chance of winning, or a pretender, an overrated act that will not win.

The ten entries with the best betting (in random order) are:

I will review two songs per post each day this week! So, stay tuned!

RomaniaAlso, interestingly enough, thirteen countries still have lower odds of winning than Romania, who was disqualified from competing late last week. While, this is mostly due to the fact that two last sites have yet to remove the country from their betting pools, I think it’s funny that there are songs that are currently listed as having a worse chance at victory than a non-competing entry. Those countries are, in order from best odds to worst: Ireland, Finland, Belarus, Albania, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

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ESC2015: Contender or Pretender

Hello Dear Readers! Time for our annual Contender or Pretender series! Once again, we have a slew of bookie favorites that I am taking upon myself to put through the ringer as we head into Eurovision Week 2015! I have selected the six entries that have the highest odds according to OddsChecker: Sweden, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Australia, Italy, and Estonia. Interestingly enough, Norway and Lithuania, both early favorites, seem to be fading as the Contest draws near. Given the fact that the opening reception is occurring as I write this, we’ll just go through all of these fantastic songs together!

Swedish Flag MapSweden
Heroes performed Måns Zelmerlöw
Reason it’s a contender: Another year, another Swedish entry picked by bookies and fans alike to win. This year, we see Måns Zelmerlöw finally earn the Swedish ticket to ESC. A likable, attractive guy with a schlager song that is catchy, well composed, and fantastically performed.
Reason it’s a pretender: We have not seen a true schlager song win the Contest since Latvia back in 2002. Heroes, for all its merits, is full-blown Germanic pop meant for ESC: i.e., schlager. Fans tend to get less enthused for this style, particularly in the East.
Final Verdict: Contender! Since missing the Final in 2010, Sweden has only brought its top game to the Contest, this year is no different. The song has already been charting in several countries and the staging is impeccable. Expect another top three finish for Sweden.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani Flag Map
Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Hüseynov
Reason it’s a contender: Well-written, well-composed, well-performed, Hour of the Wolf is a perfect confluence of elements of victory. After last year’s understated performance garnered Azerbaijan’s first ever finish outside the Top Ten, expect a stage show that dazzles!
Reason it’s a pretender: A tepid performance will result in this song being lost in the shuffle of ballads and washed out by the uptempo pieces.
Final Verdict: Contender! This song is the real deal. Everything about this song represents the heights of music composition and lyric writing. There is a rare gem of an artistic work like this at the Contest. This song has the potential to win and promote high standards of music within the Contest.

Slovene Flag MapSlovenia
There for You performed by Maraaya
Reason it’s a contender: The song is modern and relatable — and the song reflects the relationship between the husband and wife! It’s an easy song to sing along to and inspires an instant connection from the listener.
Reason it’s a pretender: Interestingly enough, up to date songs do not tend to win the Contest (with Euphoria being the notable exception). The singer’s voice is also a bit unique, which may rub some viewers the wrong way.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song is lovely and cute, but not strong enough to help Maraaya lift the crystal microphone Saturday night. While this might be Slovenia’s strongest showing since 2011, I do not think that the song has gained enough steam to propel it beyond the stronger entries.

AustraliaAustralian Flag Map
Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian
Reason it’s a contender: The song is uptempo, fun, and incredibly easy to dance to. Guy Sebastian is charismatic and Australia has already shown that it will pull no punches in its quest for victory.
Reason it’s a pretender: There are a lot of folks out there that will angrily withhold votes for this song simply because Australia is not a European country. Additionally, R&B has not traditionally played well at the Contest.
Final Verdict: Contender! For as many people who will not vote for Australia, there are just as many who will. Guy Sebastian has the added bonus of already having some name recognition. The song is contemporary, fun, and, if performed flawlessly, has a real shot of sealing the deal for the Aussies!

Italian Flag MapItaly
Grande Amore performed by Il Volo
Reason it’s a contender: Fresh off its OGAE International victory, the Italian entry seems to be peaking around the right time. It is everything that one imagines when one thinks of Italian music – operatic tenors singing a dramatic song about love.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a bit old-fashioned and has an air of self-importance. Not to mention that Italy seems to always just fall short of its potential since its return to the Contest.
Final Verdict: Pretender! While this song did win the OGAE International Poll, which predicted both Sweden’s and Denmark’s victory, the poll is imperfect, as many of the others that have fared well in the poll have fallen flat at the Contest (for example: San Marino 2013). At the end of the day, Grande Amore is too dramatic and too predictable to bring the Contest back to Italy.

EstoniaEstonian Flag Map
Goodbye to Yesterday performed by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Reason it’s a contender: The song is gritty and unexpected. Not only that, but the duo have decent chemistry together and the lyrics lend themselves to an unfolding narrative on-stage.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a little too edgy for a mostly family-oriented program. Many of the viewers who will be tuning in on the night may be turned off by the song’s subject matter and a couple with such a large age discrepancy.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song appeals to many for its edge, but not enough to make-up for those who will be turned-off by it. Actually, I think Estonia will not only NOT win, but will finish with a disappointing final placing outside the Top Ten.

So, in summary: SwedenContenders:
Sweden
Azerbaijan
Australia

SloveniaPretenders:
Slovenia
Italy
Estonia

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ESC2014 – Contender or Pretender: Episode One

Howdy All!

Thanks for joining us for this year’s rendition of Contender or Pretender. I did this last year and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would bring it back! Last year, the betting odds had ten entries all grouped together. This year, I think the top ten currently in the betting odds are not all realistic. I guess I am naming four of them as pretenders right off the bat! So, I will only look at the top six: Armenia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. I will randomly pair them and look at each entry’s chances of winning. I am leaving Hungary, Azerbaijan, Romania, and Belgium out as I do not think any of those four have a realistic chance of winning and time is of the essence!

The pairings will be:

Sweden & Ukraine

Denmark & Armenia

United Kingdom & Norway

 

Sweden

Song: Undo                 Performing Artist: SannaSwedish Flag Map

Why it is a contender: This is Fredrik Kempe songwriting at its best – a powerful ballad that pulls the heart and draws the ear. Sanna is a marvelous singer and perfectly captures the song’s emotions. The staging and performance from Melodifestivalen were both flawless – if they are reproduced in Copenhagen, perhaps on a heightened scale, then we could easily find ourselves back in Sweden next year.

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics leave something to be desired, “Undo my sad/Undo why I feel so bad,” not exactly the deepest of emotions being expressed here. The new video, which also debuts a new version of the song, tames it quite a bit, taking away most of its punch.

Final Verdict: Contender If you have read anything I have written here or elsewhere online for this year’s Contest, you know that I deeply believe in this entry’s ability to go far. While the new version is rather lame, I have no doubt that they will revert to the original composition once the rehearsals begin next week. For better or for worse, Sweden could very seriously be hosting the Contest again next year.

Ukraine

Ukranian Flag MapSong: Tick-Tock         Performing Artist: Maria Yaremchuk

Why it is a contender: Aside from the fact that Ukraine is currently benefitting from a rare surge of interest from the West, it has a strong track record in the Contest, particularly when relying on an entry’s staging. Not to mention the fact that divas tend to equal success for the country. This is one of the few, true foot-stompers this years and has a lot of potential for an amazing stage show.

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics are weak, the singing is sometimes weak as well. Not to mention that, as a heard on ESCInsight, “Ukraine has other things to worry about than a pop song competition at the moment.” This is a fun song, but lacks any real depth in composition or lyrics.

Final Verdict: Pretender Quite honestly, I do not know why this song is so high in the betting odds. In fact, I think this song will be another mid-table finisher for Ukraine – something that is still atypical, but is becoming more and more common. While this song will benefit from being different from the others, it doesn’t stand a chance again the much stronger entries.


Eurovision 2013 – Contender or Pretender? Episode Five

esc2013 logo

Hello! Welcome to the final installment of my “Contender or Pretender” series, where I am looking at the ten entries with best betting odds (according to oddschecker.com) and determining whether they are legitimate contenders for victory or overrated pretenders that won’t live up to the hype.  I’m looking at the ten songs in random order, and have previously examined:

The Netherlands & Norway

Russia & Sweden

Azerbaijan & Italy

Denmark & Ukraine

Today, we conclude the series with Germany and Georgia.

GermanyGerman Flag Map

Song: Glorious                        Performing Artist: Cascada

Why it is a contender: We’ve had some big names at the Contest before, but most of those names tend not to have graced Top Forty charts for at least ten years prior to the artist’s participation.  Cascada, however, is a huge name – with worldwide acclaim (in fact, my co-worker was blasting Evacuate the Dance Floor just the other day – that is still very relevant in the pop music world.  Not to mention, the fact that it’s a club anthem that is bound to get fans dancing throughout Europe.

Why it is a pretender: Even though Cascada is a really recognizable name, the song itself is somewhat plain.  It may be a club anthem, but it’s not special; why it has a similar sound to Euphoria, it lacks the mystique last year’s winner had.  Additionally, I’m not sure if Natalie Horler, the lead singer, has the vocal chops to really compete with some of the other talent that they will surely be facing in the Final.

Final Verdict: Contender. Russia has sent superstars at the top of their game, both finished Top Three (T.a.T.u finished third (but in one of the closest Contests to date) and Dima Bilan won (not to mention his 2nd place in 2006).  Only two other artists rival the name recognition of Cascada, Anouk (who has had success in a few countries outside of the Netherlands) and Bonnie Tyler (who has not really been all that relevant since the 80s).  The song is also a well-done, albeit plain, dance tune that will simply benefit from getting people up and moving in front of their televisions.

Georgian Flag MapGeorgia

Song: Waterfall

Performing Artists: Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani

Why it is a contender: If 2010 has taught us anything, it’s that Georgia knows how to craft a song that is jury gold, and they’ve done it again!  This ballad will, for sure, win the votes from the juries.  It’s well performed by Tatishvili and Gelovani, the composition steady builds throughout; Waterfall is powerful and dramatic without being too much so.

Why it is a pretender: If there is an area in which this entry crosses the line from balanced to overdone, it’s in the lyrics.  “There’s no me without you…I’m breathing because of you…There’s no world without us” it’s all a bit much.  If viewers pick up on this, then it can turn off many viewers, particularly the ones who are one the fence about the entry.  Additionally, the song does not seem to be getting a lot of attention from fans around the web, it’s just floating beneath the radar.

Final Verdict: Contender. I don’t think the lack of fan support now will hurt Georgia too much.  There does not seem to be any negative attention around it and it’s captivating enough to hold the attention of first time listeners, whether it’s in the Second Semi-Final or the Grand Final.  The song is dramatic and builds throughout to captivate the audience and pull you in.  In addition, as I said before, the juries will heap points upon Georgia like they did in 2010.  This song will definitely be Top Ten, if not Top Five.

Contenders

Pretenders

Denmark Italy
Georgia Ukraine
Norway Russia
The Netherlands Azerbaijan
Germany Sweden

And there you have it; “Contender or Pretender 2013” is now complete.  Not by design, but by fortune, we have, in my opinion, five contenders and five pretenders.  I think all seven of the non-automatic qualifiers will make it to the Grand Final.  I think the five contenders have a legitimate shot of winning this year.  The other five entries, while I do not think any of them will fail, I don’t think any of them will actually challenge for the win.Danish Flag Map

Ultimately, I think Denmark and Georgia will be battling it out for victory.  I think Denmark will have the slight edge over Georgia because it will have larger support from the fans as the faster, younger song between the two.  I predict that Denmark will ultimately prevail and bring the Contest over the Øresund.  Whether DR decides to have it in Copenhagen, again, or hold it in Århus, Ålborg, Horsens, or Herning, is a matter to be decided later.

Special thanks to espn.com ACC Blog for providing the inspiration for this series!


Eurovision 2013 – Contender or Pretender? Episode Four

esc2013 logo

Hej and Dobar Dan Readers!  This is the fourth part in my series called “Contender or Pretender” in which I am looking at the ten entries with the best betting odds (according to oddschecker.com) and determining whether those entries actually have a decent shot of winning or not using my own mix of history, musical experience, and personal preference to render judgment.  I have already judged the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, and Italy, declaring two as legitimate contenders and the rest as pretenders, follow the links to find which ones!  Today, Denmark and the Ukraine find themselves in the spotlight.

Danish Flag MapDenmark

Song: Only Teardrops Performing Artist: Emmelie de Forrest

Why it is a contender: Wildly popular, this song leads just about every single poll and betting odds website.  Going into DMGP, this song was picking up popularity throughout Europe and went from outside shot to runaway champion.  de Forrest delivers a strong performance and the entry has a strong composition.  The song is catchy, but not overly simple; it has a strong narrative without the use of complex lyrics.  It has the feel of classic schlager without being too trite – all the makings of a winner.

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics could be stronger, the story comes through, but they’re a bit redundant and simple (“The sky is red tonight/We’re on the edge tonight”) While it might be Eurovision gold, it’s not exactly tearing up the charts around Europe, as several previous winners had at this point (except for in Romania, apparently).  Not to mention there’s a strong contingency out there that deems this song as plastic and forgettable (not an invalid argument), and depending on viewers’ moods on Saturday night, this song may tank, especially if positioned next two more unique, impassioned songs (say, Italy and Norway).

Final Verdict: Contender.  This song is vastly popular among fans and has the ability to catch you from the first time you listen to it – two keys to any song that hopes to win the ESC.  Not to mention the fact that this song has only been picking up steam since winning DMGP.  While I don’t think it will be a runaway winner, I think it definitely makes the short list of true contenders for victory.

UkraineUkranian Flag Map

Song: Gravity          Performing Artist: Zlata Ognevich

Why it is a contender: A theatrical entry that delights the ears and the eyes, Gravity is Ukraine’s latest attempt to return to the Winner’s Circle.  It’s grand, it’s multi-layered, it’s stand out tremendously from the pack.  Ognevich has an astounding voice and a strong stage presence.  The song has quite a following in the fan community and Ukraine, with few exceptions, always does very well in the Contest.  Additionally, after winning the Ukrainian ticket to Malmö, Gravity was retooled to make it more appealing.

Why it is a pretender: With similar culture preferences in the voting trends (due to a shared cultural history, countries located close to one another or that were once united in the same geopolitical zone tend to vote for one another), the Ukraine tends to benefit from having the strongest entry amongst those it is culturally similar to (i.e., Belarus, Russia, Poland, etc.).  However, this year, both Russia and Belarus have very strong entries that many consider as possible favorites, leaving me to think that perhaps Ukraine will lose out on votes to these two countries (only three times has these countries shared the Top Ten together).  Furthermore, even in its retooled version, the song is very theatrical and very complex, at the risk of alienating listeners.  Theatrical, in that its musical style is reminiscent to something you find in a Broadway musical.  Complex in that there’s a lot going on – it’s busy; there’s a lot layers in the composition, the backing singers are very loud, and it almost sounds as if the song continually restarts.

Final Verdict: Pretender. I know that many of you will probably disagree with this verdict.  While the song is widely popular, I think its theatrical style will alienate viewers.  It stands out, but I think that it will confuse viewers and leave them scratching their heads wondering what just happened; particularly if Ukraine breaks out its patented over-the-top staging that it seems to trot out every year.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave comments below!

Come back tomorrow when I will conclude the series with Germany and Georgia!

*A note, this series is based on a series on the espn.com ACC blog.


Eurovision 2013 – Contender or Prentender? Episode Three

esc2013 logo

Bom Dià!  Welcome back to Eurovision Obsession and welcome to the third installment of my “Contender or Pretender” series.  Throughout this week I am looking at each of the ten entries with the top betting odds (courtesy of oddschecker.com) in random order.  In part one, I declared both, the Netherlands and Norway, as contenders for the Eurovision crown in 2013.  In part two, I dashed the hopes of Russia and Sweden, labeling both as pretenders (i.e., overrated).  Today, I turn my judgment towards Azerbaijan and Italy.

Azerbaijani Flag MapAzerbaijan

Song: Hold Me                        Performing Artist: Farid Mammadov

Why it is a contender: Azerbaijan is a very strong ESC participant, finishing in the Top Ten in each of its five attempts, including a victory in 2011.  Not to mention that the song is pleasant enough that it’s hard to imagine anyone disliking it.  Azerbaijan is also very good at promoting its entries as well as staging them.  Generally speaking, all of its entries have been staged in such a way to maximize their impact.  Much like in 2011, Azerbaijan presents a generic ballad; much like 2011, a good staging and no Turkey to split its votes with, may result in another vicotry for the Caucasus country.

Why it is a pretender: Unlike every other Azerbaijani entry, we don’t see Mammadov being shipped all over Europe to perform and promote his entry.  Additionally, we aren’t seeing the hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured into this entry that we normally see with Azerbaijan; there’s no music video, no fancy remixes, not even the reporting of an endearing backstory to endear you to the song.  Perhaps, after all the expenses of last year, Azerbaijan is not too eager to host the Contest again any time soon.

Final Verdict: Pretender.  Azerbaijan is phoning this entry in, and its very evident.  Don’t get me wrong, Mammadov does the best he can with a decent song, but honestly, if Hold Me was coming from any country west of Russia and south of Denmark, it would not be on anyone’s radar.

ItalyItalian Flag Map

Song: L’Essenziale                  Performing Artist: Marco Mengoni

Why it is a contender: Unlike Monaco, Luxembourg, and Poland, which were all consistently getting low marks before pulling out of the Contest, Italy was rather successful. Since returning, Italy has finished in the Top Ten both times.  Altogether, among its 37 previous entries, it’s finished last once and in the Top Ten 27 times (including two victories and six other Top Three finishes).  Not only that, Mengoni has already proven his ability to win this song by taking the San Remo crown with L’Essenziale.

Why it is a pretender: Despite Italy’s strong track record and the entry’s San Remo championship, it is somewhat boring, particularly when compared to Italy to previous songs (both, uptempo jazz numbers).  The song has the added difficulty of having only one opportunity to impress the viewers, as it will not be performed at either Semi-Final.

Final Verdict: Pretender. This song tries to impress with its subtleness and simplicity, which will win it lots of support from the juries; however, I do not think this will translate over to the viewing public, particularly if the SVT producers sink it in the running order determination process.  While its final slot in the running order will determine its odds, as of right now, I would not put money on this song to contend for the victory.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave comments below!

Come back tomorrow when I will be examining Denmark and the Ukraine!

*A note, this series is based on a series on the espn.com ACC blog.


Eurovision 2013 – Contender or Pretender? Episode Two

esc2013 logo

Hello! Thanks for coming to Eurovision Obsession!  You have come to the second installment of my current series called “Contender or Pretender” (i.e., is it strong or weak”).  Throughout the week, I will be looking at the current ten entries that sit upon the top of the bookies’ odds (according to oddschecker.com, a site that pulls together various odds from across the internet).  I am looking at the entries in random order; yesterday was the Netherlands and Norway.  Today, I am looking at Russia and Sweden!

Russian Flag MapRussia

Song: What If                           Performing Artist: Dina Garipova

Why it is a contender: Dina has some pipes!  She is by far one of the top voices this year.  Not to mention, it’s coming from Russia, which has finished in the Top Five five of the last ten Contests (including a victory in 2008), that number grows to eight if you include the three entries that finished eleventh.  This is song, What If, is also made to make you feel good and try to redeem your faith in humanity.

Why it is a pretender: The song is “feel good,” but it’s a bit too much so.  It’s ridiculously trite and over the top.  Even the music video is too much – it ends with everyone holding hands and being overwhelmed with emotion because of the song.  Furthermore, this song is rather formulate – like “Eurovision by Numbers” and lacks any real sense of authenticity.

Final Verdict: Pretender. Despite the fact that Russia is a popular ESC country and has a strong history of performing well, this song, I think, will simply fall flat.  It’s too plastic and dull for the viewers to truly get behind it, and I think it’s too bland to rally the jury support that (I think) the bookmakers are assuming it will get.

Swedish Flag MapSweden

Song: You                                Performing Artist: Robin Stjernberg

Why it is a contender: Unlike in the Seventies, Sweden does not seem afraid of hosting the Contest multiple times within a short span of years (in case you don’t remember, Sweden set out the Contest in 1976 out of fear of winning and having to host again so shortly after ABBA’s victory in 1974).  You is a strong entry that is musically compelling and lyrically sound.  Not only that, but this entry is a proven contender, fighting it’s way to the Melodifestivalen (Sweden’s (in)famous and very popular national final) from Anden Chansen (essentially, a second chance round for high scoring entries that did not qualify from their heat); this song is definitely battle tested – which is much more than could be said for the internally chosen Russian entry.

Why it is a pretender: There’s a reason why Stjernberg had to qualify for the final via Anden Chansen, his live performance leaves much to be desired.  The song is great, but it’s a little too big for him.  Surely, he’s been practicing for the last month will no doubt continue to do so for the next one, but in field that has an usually high level of vocal talent, I doubt he’ll get to the level of being able to give a comparable stage show like Anouk, Dina Garipova, or the duo from Georgia, to name a few.

Final Verdict: Pretender. In 2011, we saw two favorites, the UK and Russia, both of which were expected to easily be Top Ten finishes, both had widespread fan support, both were big name artists.  And both were nailed to the wall by the juries who did not appreciate their poor performances in the jury final (i.e. the Second Dress Rehearsal).  Robin Stjernberg, who does not have nearly the same star power as Blue or Alex Sparrow (nor the sex appeal), nor does he have nearly the same level of fan support.  I see this song not only failing to win, I don’t even think it will make it to the Top Ten.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave comments below!

Come back tomorrow when I will be examining Azerbaijan and Italy!

*A note, this series is based on a series on the espn.com ACC blog.


Eurovision 2013 – Contender or Pretender? Episode One

esc2013 logo

Hej alle!

This week I will be doing another series!  This time, I will be doing a “Contender or Pretender” series looking at the ten entries that the bookmakers say have the best chances of winning ESC2013.  I am using oddschecker.com, as they do a decent job of combining the odds across the various major betting sites.  Those ten entries are:

Denmark
Norway
Ukraine
Russia
Sweden
The Netherlands
Georgia
Italy
Germany
Azerbaijan
(right outside of these ten: United Kingdom, San Marino, Ireland, Belarus)

I will be doing two entries a day, in random order, throughout the week.  Today, the Netherlands and Norway are up at bat!

The NetherlandsDutch Flag Country

Song: Birds                              Performing Artist: Anouk

Why it is a contender: Anouk is well known throughout Belgium, France, and Denmark – all of whom are voting in the First Semi-Final.  Not only that, while many of the songs are mid-tempo, modern, or pop ballad, Birds remains truly unique, harking back to the sounds of the sixties or seventies.  This helps it leave a mark and completely separate itself from the other songs in this year’s Contest.  Additionally, Anouk is known for being a strong performer, which should win her votes from the jury and fans alike.  Not only that, we’ve seen that the juries tend to prefer ballads and tasteful entries to louder, more flashy entries.  Not only is Birds understated and tasteful, the Dutch are known for their simple performances.  If nothing else, we do not have to worry about a stage performance getting out of hand.

Why it is a pretender: The biggest thing that Birds has going for it (that it is a late 1960’s era ballad) is also its biggest drawback.  For every fan that remarks about how nice and subtle it is, there is another that calls the song boring and undynamic.  Furthermore, the lyrics take some getting used to.  Without interpreting them, they seem a bit disjointed – she goes from singing about isolation to birds that are falling out of the sky to wishing for flowers and trees; how strange!

Final Verdict: Contender. The song is unique enough to stand out from the pack and be recognized.  Yes, the lyrics are a bit wonky, but they’re poetic.  Anouk is well-known and is a strong performer.  The Netherlands is due for a turn in their luck at some point and this just might be the year!

Norwegian Flag MapNorway

Song: Feed You My Love         Performing Artist: Margaret Berger

Why it is a contender: Like the Netherlands, there are no other entries that sound like Feed You My Love.  It is a very modern, electric song that appeals beyond just those who normally go for the electronic stuff.  Furthermore, the song is composed in such a way to give it a quality of epicness that sets it apart from the others.  The song has a bit of a cult following that is ever increasing; not to mention, with a very high number of Norwegians expected to attend, this song will benefit from a pseudo-home field advantage.

Why it is a pretender: It is simply not very accessible.  While Feed You My Love is adding to its hoards of fans, I’m not sure if its style will appeal to the average ESC viewer.  The staging from Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was a bit too simple and was quite underwhelming, without adding something a dynamic (say, some strobe lighting, fireworks, extensive background LED work) this song could suffer from not making an impact.

Final Verdict: Contender.  This song is too unique and too popular to fail.  Oft compared to Euphoria, I would argue it’s pushed beyond that mark.  It’s edgier, it’s darker, and its composition takes the listener on a journey.  Not only do I think it is in the running for the victors’ trophy, but I think it could also win a Marcel Bezaçon Award for best composition.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave comments below!

Come back tomorrow when I will be examining Russia and Sweden!

*A note, this series is based on a series on the espn.com ACC blog.