It was June 2011 when the first call for artists was released, and now it’s May 2012 and the contest is tomorrow. Eurovision has truly become a year-round affair. It’s finally time to make our predictions for the Eurovision Final. To write this post, we watched the semi-final performances in order of their final draw. In our opinion, it’s the best way to prepare short of watching the monitor in the Baku press room. When you put the songs in order, you see things you simply can’t see by eyeballing the draw or watching single songs.
For once, we don’t feel that the draw interferes with the strongest entries this year. Many of the weaker songs in the final have been drawn at the beginning, leaving the stronger entries for the latter half of the show. Unlike last year, where the draw had a big impact on the winner, this year the songs will get to compete mano-a-mano, on their own merits. May the best performance win.
Engelbert kicks off the show for the United Kingdom. This is a far from ideal placement, but as it turns out not as tragic as one might think. “Love Will Set You Free” is a great fit for Engelbert. Hours later, when you’re watching Serbia and his big ballad, you still remember you saw Engelbert. Yet draw still does matter. The middle of the show is very, very strong, and we think that’ll make tough for the UK to have a big finish. Chris has Engelbert just squeaking into the top ten, while Jen has him just out.
Songs 2-5 are among the weakest songs in the final. One of these will probably be our last place finisher. Hungary is too early in the competition to make an impact and immediately downed by Albania’s standout vocal. Lithuania smoothly transitions us from ballad to disco. He holds his own against Rona, and gives us a little something extra (as if we would expect anything less from Donny) in the second half of the song. Bosnia pulls us back to ballad land. By this point we are feeling rather sleepy.
This early parade of ballads nicely sets up Russia, and in context 6th doesn’t seem like so terrible a draw after all. To a certain degree adorable Russian grandmothers are draw proof. They are utterly charming and so different from anything we have ever seen at Eurovision that you’d remember and love them no matter where they were in the running order. Now we feel like the show has begun (even though we’ve already seen a couple good performances).
Iceland is a contrast but placed between Russia and Cyprus its earnestness and absence of joy puts them at a disadvantage. By the end of the show, their plea to “Never Forget” will be long forgotten.
Songs 8-10 are 3 female performers with upbeat songs. On first blush, we liked Cyprus’s contrast with what came before. However, she is followed by two more experienced vocalists who are better singers. By the time we get to Greece at 16th, Cyprus is not holding up. We’re predicting she finishes out of the Top 10. France, as with last year, is killed by Italy which follows immediately after. Anggun is singing well, but rehearsal footage suggests there is too much happening onstage. France might have gotten away with it if she weren’t followed right after by Italy. Nina has similar poise and experience, but their more straightforward staging shows you can have a better impact without the acrobatics.
Estonia offers us a big ballad, followed by Norway. Though “Stay” is one of our personal favorites, their Semifinal performance was a shambles. Even if they pull it together, Tooji has an uphill climb to finish well. Especially with what follows.
We will be given a short break between 12 and 13 and resume with Azerbaijan. It’s at this point where the competition heats up. Songs 13-20 are well-written, well-performed and well-staged. Any of them could make the Top 10. It’s punishing because they are all good and we don’t get a break. Dressed in a gorgeous dress, Azerbaijan delivers a power ballad. Romania follows with a solid vocal and an engaging stage show. Denmark after that. Soluna is a former front runner who has been near perfect the entire fortnight and looks like she has been greatly enjoying her Eurovision experience. Then Greece, who lightens it up with their ethno-pop. This song is simple but appealing, and there’s no reason why Greek fans won’t vote for it in droves.
In the middle of this pack is Sweden. Among all the others, somehow Loreen manages to stand out. The darkness of the performance, the movement, the excellent fit of vocalist and song…it draws you in.
Turkey follows after Sweden and holds his own. Can has a unique style, and the song’s staging is excellent. Spain follows, and in rehearsals she has arguably been laying down the best vocals of the entire show. In all likelihood she will get a good result from the juries. However, while the type of ballad she is doing gets big votes from juries, the public tends to stay away from them (see Nadine Beiler from Austria last year).
Next is Germany, who seem to have figured out how to make Eurovision work for them. Roman is the first male eye candy since Tooji, has a radio-friendly pop ballad, and vocally has been extremely consistent.
The final batch is also good, but some aren’t quite on the same level with what we have just seen. Malta is good fun and lightweight compared what has come before. Finally a chance to catch our breath. FYR Macedonia lays down a powerhouse rock vocal, but I just think the audience will be feeling a little fatigued at this point.
On paper, we thought 23rd was a good draw for Ireland. Watching it through we’re revising that call. Jedward is about performance, not vocals, and we’ve already seen from the likes of Turkey and Sweden that others can do both. The viewing audience will appreciate Jedward’s energy, but this is a tougher field than 2011. They simply aren’t going to hold up.
At 24th we have Serbia. The last thing we want at this point is another ballad, but Serbia is just too good. Watching Zeljko’s performance, I found myself thinking “I’ve heard this before,” but I also found myself thinking “none of the others I heard before were better than him.” At the end of the day, we think this competition is a two-horse race between Serbia and Sweden.
Finally at 25th and 26th we have Ukraine and Moldova. Ukraine, in contrast to Serbia, is exactly the kind of number we want to hear at this late stage of the show. She’s going to bring down the house. Moldova is our pleasant, sweet after dinner aperitif.
Last Place: Hungary
Last Place: Hungary