The Eurovision 2011 Story So Far

The invites have gone out for our annual Eurovision viewing party, and we got a request for a capsule summary of the top contenders and the fun ones to look for. So, Alexandra, and for others picking up the thread in Euroweek, this is for you ūüôā

When getting up to speed, the first stopping place is the bookies, but we don’t think that tells the full story this year, or at least we hope not. To look at Oddschecker and the current rankings, the bookies think it’s all about¬†France. At time of writing, he’s running about 3:1, way ahead of everyone else, and the odds have been shortening daily. France is putting up a pop-opera entry with Amaury Vassili, a young, telegenic tenor. We are hoping against hope he doesn’t win–in part because we’re not fans of the genre, in part because we don’t think his vocals live up to the hype, and in part because we just don’t think the song is all that strong.

Though the bookies think there is a clear front runner, we think it’s an unusually open contest this year, and honestly, we think any of about 7 or 8 countries could take it. ¬†A lot is going to come down to the final draw and performance quality.

The other contenders

  • Lena, last year’s winner from Germany, is defending her title with a good Hall-and-Oates-inspired stalker song. Google Eurovision predictor, which is using some mysterious algorithm based on searches, had her #1 up until today (for whatever that’s worth. Today’s leader is Jedward.) There’s clearly lots of interest, and we like her song. Now an established artist with a fanbase of her own, we believe she will deliver a top-five finish.
  • Estonia has an amiable and catchy pop number about nighttime in New York. Another top-five contender.
  • The UK came to play this year for real. Blue is a boy-band looking to make a comeback with an anthemic song originally intended for the World Cup. The song is pretty good (oooh!), and they’re professionals who have been working tirelessly to promote it and to develop a polished performance. A lot of fans are tipping them to win. We doubt they’ll take the crown, but their strong fanbase will make sure they have a good showing on the night.
  • A lot of people have been counting out Russia but I believe that’s a mistake — Alexey Vorobyov is hot, talented, and Russia’s support from the Eastern European bloc means lots of votes on the night. ¬†His song has been produced by RedOne, the mastermind behind Lady Gaga, and it’s pure pop, radio-friendly and relevant. Vorobyov’s manager seems to be a piece of work, but that’s neither here nor there. Top 5 is well-within his grasp.
  • Norway has lost favor in recent weeks with the Eurovision fanbase but I believe she’s going to do better than people think. ¬†Stella Mwangi’s Africa-inspired number is family-friendly and joyful, and it plays to her strengths as a performer. You understand the appeal after hearing it once, but it’s still good after hearing it a hundred times.
  • Speaking of one to a hundred, rounding out the big contenders is¬†Bosnia & Herzegovina. Dino Merlin is a well-known artist in the Balkans, and his entry displays solid songcraft and rich harmonies. BiH has a loyal diaspora that often delivers good results for the homeland, and we think his song is good enough to win over many new fans. ¬†We love it. ¬†Another likely Top 5.
  • Denmark, Azerbaijan, Hungary,¬†Sweden and Turkey¬†are likely finalists and will compete to round out the Top 10. ¬†Some think Azerbaijan can win, we don’t.

Other highlights:

  • Sweden–Eric Saade WILL be popular, and he’s going to shatter 3 walls of glass to prove it to you. He’s cute and the song is schlagerific. The girlies squeal with delight.
  • Ireland–the Jedward twins, already widely loved and/or hated on the British Isles, will pay homage to Britney Spears¬†with their distinctive hair and not-so-distinctive vocal talent. The number will (we hope) be over-the-top and love-it-or-hate-it entertaining.
  • Belarus–probably won’t make the finals, but it’s pure propaganda and awful lyric-craft. It’s also one of the best Belarussian entries in recent memory.
  • Portugal–a comedy troupe lampooning political Portuguese songs from the 70s. As esoteric as it sounds.