Some very quick musings before I head off to Amsterdam.
It’s been three years since we last saw Malta in the final. ‘Chameleon’ by Michela is one of the most modern-sounding songs in this year’s contest and should therefore have little trouble getting them back there. The verses in particular are very strong and sound as if they are building up to something special for the chorus. This is where the song underwhelms for me, but the musical drops here are reminiscent of Dua Lipa and give the song its overall contemporary vibe. With Malta’s usual inflated jury scores, it will only require a small televote in the competitive semi-final 2 in order for them to reach the final.
Georgia is not worth anyone’s time, in my opinion. It’s a truly horrible song, a complete waste of time and money, and will be competing for last in its semi-final.
The best uptempo song of the year arguably comes from Switzerland. It’s yet another catchy song which has drawn ‘Fuego’ comparisons (you know, because Eleni Foureira invented all music) but the audience probably won’t see this with it being performed by a man. Inspired by the latin music trend of recent times, this is a song which is crying out for a full-on dance routine. Thankfully this has been promised by Luca in various videos, and word has it Sacha J-B is doing at least some part of the staging. In terms of predicting how it might do, this song reminds me in particular of Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’ in 2015 (9th) and Czech Republic’s ‘Lie To Me’ in 2018 (6th). However, the song quality this year is piss-poor and therefore we might possibly see Switzerland in contention to win. My feeling is that somewhere between second and fifth is more realistic, as the song itself doesn’t have enough gravitas.
Another year, another super-polished package from Sweden. John Lunvdik will sing the gospel-inspired ‘Too Late For Love’ in Tel Aviv with his mini choir. What was remarkable about this year’s Melodifestivalen results is that John swept the jury vote winning every single set of 12 points available. It’s a solid jury song and Sweden seems set for the Top 3 with that constituency, as usual. And yet this is the most unremarkable Swedish entry I’ve encountered since I started taking this contest seriously. I don’t feel like there is too much for televoters there. It’s pleasant as a radio song but is not particularly relevant or exciting. Countries in Eastern Europe might also have a problem with black performers on stage, so it could potentially do less well with the ex-USSRs. Still, with a strong jury score guaranteed, I feel that around fifth place is likely for Sweden this year.
The host country’s song often isn’t that great, and that is unfortunately the case with Israel. Kobi Marimi is clearly a great singer who deserved a better song. It’s a fairly traditional ballad that leans on the dated side. Many people are predicting that Israel will finish last this year and I agree that last on the televote seems plausible. However, juries should respect this song at least a little bit and it’s likely to be very well performed. In terms of the battle with Germany vs. Israel vs. the field to finish last, I would personally ‘favour’ Germany to end up there over all other songs as things stand.
“What the bloody hell was that?!” is what Simon Cowell might have said if Russia’s Sergey Lazarev had performed ‘Scream’ on one of his talent shows. Everyone seemed to be surprised when this song was first released, in a negative way. The theatrical stage song certainly wasn’t what I envisaged for Sergey’s much-hyped return to Eurovision to win for Russia and get revenge over Ukraine (and Australia). Put simply, it’s very underwhelming and weird, at least in the studio version. We know that Russia will do very well in the East because it’s Russia and because it’s Sergey, but I cannot see Western Europe being kind to this song at all. It lingers at single figures in the market and I’m not entirely sure why, seeing as there are much stronger competitors in the field. It looks set to do less well than Sergey’s 2016 effort on both the televote and jury vote sides. A 7 on the televote from UK and 8 from Sweden in 2016 will be more like a 0 and 1 this time around. Not underestimating Russia’s strength, I think anywhere between 3rd and 7th is realistic for Sergey’s sophomore effort.
Saving the best until last, The Netherlands is currently the outright favourite at the time of writing. Duncan Laurence stunned fans with the release of his song ‘Arcade’. This is a highly respectable contemporary ballad that has so much going for it. The song pulls you in straight away with a delightful mystical sound. It is connecting with a lot of people due to its melancholic yet uplifting vibe and is very evocative. As a composition it is head and shoulders above everything else in the competition, with the most gravitas out of everything at Eurovision this year. It screams winner of the jury vote, and leading performances in fan polls suggest it will be in the upper echelons of the televote as well. This is because it is not a song I would exepct the fans to be rating especially, as they are usually somewhat allergic to male ballads. Therefore, the fact that they collectively seem to prefer it to everything else this year is very encouraging for how regular viewers will take to it. The only downsides I can possibly think of are, the first chorus comes in after the first minute which is usually a negative for a song’s chances. Also, we don’t yet know what staging concept the Dutch delegation have come up with for this song, and obviously everything has the potential to be screwed up.
All things considered, I really don’t see any country than The Netherlands lifting the Eurovision trophy this year. It feels like the only true contender in a year of very weak quality, and one that could’ve competed well in stronger years vs. Mans Zelmerlow or Jamala, for example. At this moment in time I expect ‘Arcade’ to win both the televote and jury vote and go for the scoreboard record that Salvador set for Portugal in 2017. But there is still plenty of time to go for things to potentially change. I for one am looking forward to seeing what happens.