Previewing the Final of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest

Adrian Kavanagh, 12th May 2017 

Following on the previous posts reviewing Semi Final 1 and Semi Final 2, this post will offer a brief review of the 26 acts competing Grand Final of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. As in the case of the semi-finals, this contest will take place over two nights, with the professional juries voting on the contest taking place on the night of Friday 12th May (tonight!), while the public will vote on the televised show, which takes place on the night of Saturday 13th May.

As well as offering a brief commentary on each of the 26 songs in in the Final, this post will also rate each song/act/country based on (a) that country’s position in the Final running order, (b) the latest Bookie odds (based on the rankings across different betting firms as detailed on the Oddschecker site at 12.00pm on Friday 13th May) and (c) placings as estimated by my Eurovision prediction model. For each of these categories, ***** will mean “Top 5 finish”, **** will mean “6th to 10th place/ranking”, *** will mean “11th-15th place/ranking”, ** will mean “16th to 20th place/ranking” and * will mean “21st to 26th place/ranking”.

(I’ll also given my own personal rating for each act/song. In this case, ***** will mean “I love this to bits”, **** will mean “I really like this”, *** will mean “I think this is pretty good”, ** will mean “Mmm, I guess this is OK-ish” and * will mean “Er, sorry, not my cup of tea”. But do make up your own mind on these entries by checking out the Friday afternoon dress rehearsals for all of these acts, by checking out the Wiwibloggs video playlist on YouTube.)

1. Israel: I Feel Alive – Imri. In 2016 Belgium closed Semi Final 2 and then opened the Final. In 2017, for something different (??), Israel have closed Semi Final 2 and will open the Final. (Personally I thought Moldova would have been a better act to open the Final.) In a year dominated by competent and worthy ballads, Eurovision fans were hoping that Israel would send an Eastern-infused dance track to Eurovision and Israel did not disappoint. This is not as good as 2015’s Golden Boy by any means and it’s not as good as Belgium’s Laura Tesoro from 2016, so the early position in the running order will not help. Commentators have issues with Imri’s live vocals during the rehearsals and this could be an issue, especially with the Jury vote, although the vocals were not an issue in the semi final.

Running Order: *, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: *AK Rating: **

2. Poland: Flashlight – Kasia Moss. Very stark and very dark ballad from Poland (similar in spirit to The Netherlands’ Birds in 2013), which is well performed by the experienced Kasia Moss. Bookies odds suggest that this might just about miss out on qualification, but Poland should do fairly well in the televote due to the impact of the Polish Diaspora and this is likely to appeal more the juries this year than did the Polish entry at the 2016 Final. Poland has been allocated the dreaded No.2 slot in the running order – no song has ever won from this position in the running order and this has the lowest average number of points per running order position – but the Polish Diaspora vote should ensure that Poland do not suffer too much when it comes to the televote and this should fare better than the most recent acts to occupy this Final running order slot; France in 2015 and Czech Republic in 2016.

Running Order: *, Bookies: **, Prediction Model: *, AK Rating: ***

3. Belarus: Story Of My Life – Naviband. This is another act that could set Twitter alight on Saturday night, not that this is a novelty act by any means. Very happy/cheery, very charming and very catchy, this marks the first time that an act will perform in the Belarussian language on a Eurovision stage. Along with Italy and Portugal (and France…but not Spain, not Spain…), this is another act that marks somewhat of a reaction against the increasing dominance of English at the contest. Belarus have the worst qualification record out of all the Former Soviet states, but Naviband were strong enough to make the Final in the very open semi final. Could a position in the Top 10 beckon, especially if the “disenfranchised” Russian diaspora vote opts to get behind them? However, from third position in the running order, it must be questioned whether this is on too early in the contest to make an impact. (It’s interesting to note that Ukraine TV has allocated

Running Order: *, Bookies: **, Prediction Model: *AK Rating: ***

4. Austria: Running On Air – Nathan Trent. Catch and current, this entry was strong enough to stand out in Semi Final 2 despite its early position in the semi final running order. Now Austria have got another unfavourable position in the Final running order – does lightning strike twice? After a long period in the Eurovision doldrums, Austria have had some very good results in the past few years (overlooking discretely 2015’s nils points) but this early position in the running order leaves Nathan Trent with a struggle on his hands to make an impact in this Final.

Running Order: *, Bookies: **, Prediction Model: *AK Rating: ***

5. Armenia: Fly With Me – Artsivik. The song has a very strong Eastern flair, which sets it aside from other acts in this contest, but the very inventive/clever staging gives this act even further impetus and saw Armenia climbing up in the betting odds since rehearsals began over a week ago (although the entry did lose some momentum after coming through Semi Final 1 and it will not be helped by this early position in the running order). With a strong vote likely from the Armenian diaspora and the potential of picking up votes that would usually go to Russia, this could still do very well in the Final, but it might be a bit “too out there” for the more conventional Eurovision viewers/jury members to put it in a position to challenge for the overall honours on Saturday night.

Running Order: *, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ****AK Rating: ***

6. The Netherlands: Light and Shadows – OG3NE. The song itself is not especially amazing and this initially, when based solely on the radio version, struggled in terms of the betting odds. But this does have an extra degree of sparkle when it is performed live and the Dutch odds started to narrow notably once OG3NE hit the preview parties and started to perform this live and the odds have narrowed further since rehearsals commences over a week ago. Some commentators think this could be a good tip for a Top 10 finish… The relatively early position in the running order may not help; against that this entry (along with Armenia) may be helped by being the first of the serious Top 10 contenders to appear on stage in this year’s Final.

Running Order: **, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: **AK Rating: ***

7. Moldova: Hey Mama– Sunstroke Project. Moldova had an excellent qualification record over that country’s first 7/8 years within the Eurovision contest, but Moldova subsequently failed to qualify for the Final over the past three years. Sunstroke Project did get Moldova to the Final in 2010 and the group returns Moldova to the Eurovision Final this year. As a song, in and of itself, this is not particularly amazing, but the staging and delivery (involving Eurovision legend, Epic Sax Guy, and some backing singer bridesmaids who do become brides) definitely adds a lot to this and this has been one of the entries to have gained notably in terms of the betting odds since the start of rehearsals over a week ago. It’s a lot of fun and would, in my opinion, have been a great act to to open the Final. This may be too early in the running order to push Moldova back into the Top 10 for the first time sign Fight in 2007, especially given how close it is to Italy in the running order.

Running Order: **, Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: ***

8. Hungary: Origo – Joci Papai. We have yodeling and rap from Romania to look forward to later on in the Final, but first get a mixture of Gypsy folk and rap from Hungary. In some ways this almost feels like a throw back to the ethnic entries that dominated in the mid-2000s. It’s hard to work out how well this will do in this Final. Hungary have had a good record of qualifying for Finals in recent years, but then many of the Hungarian acts end up toward the bottom end of the table when the final votes have been counted and a similar fate may await this year’s entry.

Running Order: ***, Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: **AK Rating: ***

9. Italy: Occidentali’s Karma – Francesco Gabbani. This became the red hot favourite to win Eurovision since it won at San Remo a few months ago and remained so until the two Semi Finals took place earlier this week. Catchy song which is enthusiastically performed, dancing man in a gorilla suit…what’s not to like, especially in a year dominated by over-earnest entries? However…the staging in Kyiv does not seem to work as well as it did in San Remo, although there is still time to fix that. However…Portugal have now emerged as a serious challenger to Italy in the betting odds and Bulgaria – with a much better position in the running order – have also made some gains in the odds relative to Italy. However…the 9th position in the running order – although it’s not the worst by any means…is not a good position in the running order to get. Only one act has won Eurovision from this position in the running order – Celine Dion in 1989.

Running Order: **, Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****AK Rating: *****

10. Denmark: Where I Am – Anja. Having somewhat controversially missed out last year (with an entry that could have been a contender to win Eurovision itself), Anja Nissen – winner of The Voice Australia in 2014 – finally gets the chance to represent Denmark at Eurovision. Some commentators do not particularly like the song, but it does actually build quite nicely and works well in terms of the Eurovision stage, especially as it allows Anja to give full rein to her exceptional vocal talents, especially in the final verse. The position in the running order could be better – it is sandwiched in between the two contest favourites – but it could be a lot worse given that Denmark were drawn to perform in the First Half of the Final. 10th position is actually the best position in the running order to get in terms of the Fist Half of a Eurovision Final. This should do well as this is a quality entry.

Running Order: *****, Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: ***AK Rating: ****

11. Portugal: Amar Pelos Dois – Salvador Sobral. Almost hot on the heels of one of the two contest favourites comes the other. General expectations are that this could be the entry that provides Portugal with its best ever result in a Eurovision contest (that country has never finished in the Top 5 in a Eurovision Final and their best ever result was a 6th place finish in 1996). This has been closing in on Italy in the betting odds since Tuesday’s Semi Final 1. This is very…very old fashioned…it sounds like a song from the 1920s and it is very simply staged, but there is something magical, unique and unusual about this entry that could grab the Eurovision juries and public voters’ attention and potentially see this give red-hot contest favourites, Italy, a run for their money, especially if Salvador goes on to win the Jury vote in the Final.

Running Order: ****, Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, AK Rating: ****

12. Azerbaijan: Skeletons – Dihaj. Edgy and experimental? Just plain weird? Or both? These are the sort of questions that will be asked after Dihaj’s performance and there may also be some quite-unnecessary Mr. Ed jokes. If Eurovision audiences enjoy, or can put up with, the staging, then this could do very well in this year’s contest. In a similar vein to Loic Nottet in 2015, this is one of the more current/radio-friendly entries in this year’s Eurovision and Dihaj performs it with conviction. It has got a pretty good position in the running order for a country drawn to perform in the First Half also, although statistically this running order position has not been as good as 10th, 11th or 13th – the other late First Half running order positions.

Running Order: ***, Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***AK Rating: ****

13. Croatia: My Friend – Jacques Houdek. Crikey. There will be some buzz around Romania and Italy in this Final, but if any entry is likely to break Twitter then it’s going to be this one! This involves a duet (in different languages) in which only one man (wearing a, er unusual, jacket to illustrate this) sings. It’s different. Whether different good or different bad remains to be seen, although this has got through a competitive Semi Final and has climber significantly in the betting odds since then. This is unlikely to win, but it might not be a total shock if this edges into the Top 10, especially as Croatia is the other Former Yugoslav country left in the contest.

Running Order: *****, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ****AK Rating: **

14. Australia: Don’t Come Easy – Isaiah. After their first two successful years in the contest, Australia may be facing into a more difficult year in 2017.  Is this a well produced and well sung entry? Yes it is. But it’s also very boring, a bit whiny and quite easy to forget. And that can be a problem if you’re slotted in to perform in the earliest position in the Second Half of the Final running order; statistically the Second Half equivalent of the No.2 running order position. This will need a solid vote in the Jury contest to make an impact on Saturday night, especially as there will be more countries fighting for the Viking Bloc vote on Saturday than was the case in 2015 and 2016.

Running Order: *, Bookies: **, Prediction Model: ****AK Rating: *

15. Greece: This Is Love – Demy. The most successful country at Eurovision during the 2000s was probably Greece, but – as the impacts of economic austerity bit hard – the country’s fortunes waned notably during the 2010s, culminating last year in their first failure to qualify out of a semi final since the introduction of the semi final system in 2004. The selection of Demy has marked a return to form for Greece this year. But maybe not enough to see Greece back in the Top 10, especially given a poor position in the Second Half of the Final running order. This is well staged and well performed and very entertaining (for me, this would have been my choice to close the show), but there have been some vocal issues which might cost Greece in terms of Jury votes.

Running Order: *, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: **AK Rating: ****

16. Spain: Do It For Your Lover – Manel Navarro. Do it for your lover? Nah, do one yourself mate… The weakest entry by some distance in this year’s Final and it won’t be helped by the controversy that erupted in Spain over its controversial selection back in February (which might not lead to a warm reception in the hall in Kyiv on Saturday night).  This could finish in last place (it has United Kingdom 2015 vibes) and would deserve to do so.

Running Order: **, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: *AK Rating:  (no this isn’t a typo, this is a zero star…)

17. Norway: Grab The Moment – JOWST. Norway have been relatively successful at Eurovision in recent years. They did fail to qualify last year, with a song that I would consider to be much better than this year’s entry, but are back in the Final again, having come through Thursday night’s semi final. The position in the running order is a pretty good one – this position of course provided a platform for three of Ireland’s Eurovision wins. This is a pretty contemporary entry and it’s generally quite imaginatively staged…but I’m not a big fan of this.

Running Order: ****, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: **AK Rating: *

18. United Kingdom: Never Give Up On You – Lucie Jones. This is a really good position to get in the running order. In fact, statistically there is no better position to get in a Eurovision Song Contest running order (apart from maybe the third last position in the running order). After a series of very poor form and perhaps even poorer entries, the United Kingdom is now in a position where they could take advantage of this. I’ve always liked Lucie Jones and her performance is likely to be one of the best, if not the best, in this year’s Final. But the United Kingdom have also really got their act together this year. They’ve rearranged the earlier version of this song, which mainly won Eurovision: You Decide back in January on the basis of a very strong Lucie performance, to give it more impact. The staging is excellent – when added to the Lucie Jones performance, this will give viewers goosebumps. A dark horse and deserves to be Top 5, at the very least.

Running Order: *****, Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: ****AK Rating: *****

19. Cyprus: Gravity – Hovig. For me, the first minute of this song is quite interesting, but then it very quickly starts to lose interest. There were some vocal and performance issues evident during the rehearsals also, but Hovig did manage to sort these out ahead of the Jury/Public semi finals and he did enough to earn a place in the Final. The interesting staging (not very dissimilar to Loic Nottet’s (Belgium) in 2015) could still Cyprus “do OK” if it all “goes right on the night”, but there are many “big beasts” in this section of the running order and this could be forgotten about, given that it’s sandwiched between the United Kingdom and Romania. Strangely enough, the 19th position in the running order has not been a very successful one across past Finals…

Running Order: **, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: *AK Rating: **

20. Romania: Yodel It! – Ilinca ft. Alex Florea. This involves yodeling. And rapping. An unusual mix and undoubtedly the closest thing we have this year to a novelty act. Unlike the dirge of bad novelty acts we had in 2008, this is not a bad thing for 2017, given the glut of competent, yet over-earnest (but often quite dull) acts in this year’s contest. And it’s definitely not a bad thing when performed with conviction and quality. If you are going to have yodeling at Eurovision, then you want really good yodeling and the very talented Ilinca offers some of the best yodeling you’ll ever hear. This could be a dark horse to finish in the Top 3 on Saturday night if Italy, Bulgaria or Portugal falter…especially given Romania’s position in the Final running order. Yodeleeii!
Yodeleeii, yodeleeii, yodeleioo!!!

Running Order: ****, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ****AK Rating: *****

21. Germany: Perfect Life – Levina. Ukraine won from this position in the running order last year, but Germany are unlikely to do the same this year. Germany finished last in the 2015 and 2016 Finals and there are genuine worries about a threepeat in 2017, although there are a number of other songs in this Final that are a lot worse that this solid entry from Levina and the first half minute of this is staged very well. Like Cyprus, however, it could get forgotten about given the big number of high profile entries in the latter running order positions in this Final. And the very close similarities to Titanium may raise a few Jury member eyebrows…

Running Order: ****, Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: ****

22. Ukraine: Time – O.Torvald: Ukraine lucked out when it came to the draw for their position in the running order – as Hosts, the Ukraine’s running order position is the only one to be decided on by a draw – as they’re on relatively late in the show running order and in a very similar position to the one taken by Jamala in the 2016 Final. Is this a potential winner? Er, no… Ukraine have an uncanny knack of turning good/OKish/not so good songs into great Eurovision entries and have emerged as one of the main Eurovision superpowers as a result. Their only real bad year was the last time they hosted Eurovision back in 2005. This could be a similar year for them, as this rather pedestrian rock effort isn’t likely to interest too many voters. Maybe something happens Ukraine when they get to host the show… This is effectively some token noise and faux fury, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Ukraine will need a lot of neighbourly votes if they are to finish in the Top 10 this year…

Running Order: *****, Bookies: *, Prediction Model: ***AK Rating: *

23. Belgium: City Lights – Blanche. When this was first released a few weeks ago, it swept up towards the top of the Bookie odds (just after Italy), but a series of nervous performances from Blanche at the Eurovision preview parties and the early rehearsals led to concerns that this might not actually qualify from the semi final. Many were asking if Blanche could fight her nerves and deliver on the big stage when it mattered? Stronger performances from Blanche in the the Jury/Public Semi Final 1 shows, however, pushed this back into qualification contention and saw her into the Final. This is very contemporary/current sounding entry, but Blanche’s very obvious nerves in the semi final seemed to give her an extra vulnerability which appealed to the older audiences. Since the semi final, this has regained some of the lost ground in the betting odds and the good position in the running order could translate into another solid showing for Belgium at a Eurovision Final.

Running Order: ***, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: *****AK Rating: ****

24. Sweden: I Can’t Go On – Robin Bengtsson. This is a cleverly staged and solid pop entry from the new superpowers of Eurovision and this likely to do very well in the Final; not surprisingly given that this is Sweden. But it may be a bit too clinical in its execution to engage enough with the Eurovision audiences to push for overall victory. It does have the advantage of performing third from the end of the show in the running order and – take note fact fans – third from the end is the best position to get in a Final statistically.  This has running order going for it, this has the Viking Bloc going for it, this probably has a high Jury ranking likely to go for it to, so it would not be wise to discount Sweden’s chances of a seventh Eurovision win. Robin Bengtsson went on to win Melodifestivalen in March when other higher ranked favourites faltered…could history repeat itself in Kyiv?

Running Order: *****, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: *****AK Rating: ***

25. Bulgaria: Beautiful Mess – Kristian Kostov. After a long time in the doldrums, Bulgaria are building a reputation as a new Eurovision powerhouse on the back initially of some strong performances at Junior Eurovision and then a 4th place finish in last year’s Final thanks to Poli Genova. Beautiful Mess is expected to do very well in the Final. This very contemporary ballad, performed fearlessly by a very young Kristian Kostov, was second favourite, behind Italy, for a long period in the run up to this week before being overtaken by Portugal after Tuesday night’s semi final. A strong performance in his own semi final, however, has yet again pushed Kristian back into serious contention to be, at least, one of a small number of serious challengers to Italy, especially given the really strong position in the contest running order.

Running Order: ****, Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, AK Rating: ****

26. France: Requiem – Alma. This très français entry will bring the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest to a close. This is catchy and fun and performed with great charm by Alma, who has built up a solid fan base among the Eurovision fan base with a series of good performances across the preview party season. This is perhaps not as catchy as Amir’s entry from last year, which finished in 6th place in the Final, but there seems to be much more effort being put into the staging by France for this year, although the overtly complicated staging can prove rather dizzying for the unsuspecting viewer. This is a very good entry and Alma is very likeable and très charmant. But it may just come too late in the running order (as has happened with some other entries that got to perform last in the Final) to be able to push for a Top 5 or even Top 10 finish.

Running Order: ***, Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ***AK Rating: ****

Top 10 based on Running Order (i.e. Average Number of Points per Position in the Final Running Order between 2004 and 2016): 1. Sweden, 2. United Kingdom, 3. Germany, 4. Denmark, 5. Croatia, 6. Romania, 7. Ukraine, 8. Portugal, 9. France, 10. Bulgaria 

Top 10 based on Betting Odds: 1. Italy, 2. Portugal, 3. Bulgaria, 4. Belgium, 5. Sweden, 6. United Kingdom, 7. Romania, 8. Croatia, 9. France, 10. Armenia (NB: The countries falling just outside the Top 10, as of now, as regards the betting odds would include The Netherlands, Moldova, Denmark and Azerbaijan.)

Top 10 based on AK Prediction Model Estimates: 1. Italy, 2. Sweden3. Bulgaria, 4. Portugal, 5. Belgium, 6. Romania, 7. United Kingdom, 8. Croatia, 9. Armenia, 10. Australia

My Own Personal Favourites – Top 12: 1. Romania, 2. United Kingdom, 3. Denmark, 4. Azerbaijan, 5. Italy, 6. France, 7. Bulgaria, 8. Belgium, 9. Moldova, 10. Greece, 11. Portugal, 12. Armenia

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