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Blog: Let's Talk Loreen

I did predict on Thursday’s Bet Eurovision podcast that Loreen would reach favourite status to win Eurovision should the staging live up to expectations.

I did not anticipate the situation we have now.

The last matched price at the time of writing for Ukraine, the favourites to win Eurovision for almost a full year, was 5.9. Sweden has leapt up from odds around 8s at the start of the week to now most recently matching at 2.46.

The sole cause of this is Loreen’s ‘Tattoo’.

As you are well aware with my ESC Insight hat I cover Melodifestivalen each week, and get access to the press listening to each Melodifestivalen song before they are made public. Loreen’s ‘Tattoo’ struck me on that first listen as an epic and stunning track and of a class above anything else we have had in the competition thus far. Yes, I took more on Loreen to win Melodifestivalen at that point and even more when I saw the chorus of my co-workers who agreed in no uncertain terms that this was the one for Liverpool. I love the line from Schlagerprofilerna saying that the Swedish people would be “idiots” if we sent something else to Eurovision, because that is the truth.

Yes, I also looked at this beyond Melodifestivalen to the Eurovision Song Contest itself. Strong year, weak year, whatever your personal taste, there are few things that jumped out as being able to score well on both the jury and the televote side of the equation. Sure we can entertain that Alessandra can pressure juries with Spotify stream data, that Spain could take televoters with it on its artsy side, that more than 1 in 5 jurors will be able to get past the first minute of Cha Cha Cha, and half of those that do will tap out by the turbo schlager ending. Yes, this is the real deal and I was happy to move Sweden from a very quiet position to a very green one in the aftermath of Tuesday.

I was again happy to see the fan reaction to the song on Thursday morning. Yes, they are fans. Yes we have hyped up the song and yes there is the impact of the bubble being the bubble and Loreen being seen as the second coming. But the positives most certainly outweigh the negatives and those positive to the song weren’t just saying it was good, they were saying they were already emotionally connected to the extent that a majority of them I am sure will be picking up the phone to vote for Loreen in May.

Then comes the staging in the afternoon. I took a little bit of risk out at this point because Loreen’s staging isn’t always made for competitive action, and has in the past been too high brow and too distant. However with Tobias Rylander as the designer, big budget staging was expected. I would say that the song’s staging was better than I had anticipated, though only slightly and with reservations. On the plus side is Loreen’s pop star look and the use of the haze machine gives a feeling of star quality that buries everyone else in the Saharan sand on stage. The LED screen sandwich is a breathtaking start that gives the gimmick without feeling in any way cheap. Cinematic is the word of choice.

On the competitive downside (I want to emphasise competitive, because Loreen has been quite clear about separating the art from the competition, but that’s why you are here) Loreen is, as is not unusual for her performance style, often performing to the space rather than the camera, the sand on the floor is picked up by her headset mic, and I agree with other commentators that her extremely long fake nails give a witch-esque quality that may alienate some unnecessarily. While cinematic is the word of the day to describe the act, after the first rehearsal I saw, my immediate reaction was intense.

Of all the people commenting on Loreen’s rehearsal that evening I came across the most negative. And that is not to say that it was a bad rehearsal, it oozes quality and visually, as well as musically, it eats the rest of the competition at Melfest and ESC.

But that is with my ESC Insight hat on. That is with my bias that would love Sweden to take win number seven and invite you all to Stockholm* next year. That is with a desire for wanting my Eurovision to push the boundaries of pop music. But does this ‘do a Statements’ and go too avant-garde? That was what I was feeling that night. No it was not that obscure, but 'Statements' wasn't touching Eurovision favourite status at the time. Again, the other press sang its praises as did the fans with the 30 second snippet and thus I had to concede that perhaps I was the problem in overthinking that this might suit Kirstie from Kidderminster after all. But it was a lingering doubt and worry that I had.

Two things have happened since then which have made me relax that nervous stance. The poll by OGAE Sweden saw Loreen win the rehearsal poll with ease and, considering the song is all for TV and you can’t see Loreen for most of it, that is a great sign. It’s also a sign that Loreen will get enough kiddie votes in the final to possibly win the Melfest televote as well. This song is never going to be a preschool favourite but considering the rock number placed second in that poll the assumption thereafter is that Loreen was able to take votes from every age category.

The other thing is the momentum internationally. It is not just the bubble that is getting in on this. RTE Radio played the snippet I’ve been told, BBC Radio Merseyside have been discussing Loreen’s return. The news that Loreen overtook Ukraine to become Eurovision favourite has hit the press across the continent. The one thing that can help a performance that might be too artsy for its own good is momentum and signalling. If this is telegraphed to the people that this is the one then that can normalise it, people can expect it. It will be interesting to see if Loreen’s song hits any viral charts after it is released after the heat. I would have said unlikely with the song alone, as well written as it is, but will everyone talking about it make it happen? This is one part where the betting odds help to dictate the narrative of the Song Contest. Having a stage invader has only helped with the narrative, and the number of streams and views are at a level we haven't seen for Sweden before. Doesn't matter what we think if everybody else thinks it is the one.

The other theory for momentum is that we have the potential now for a Sweden vs Ukraine Eurovision season. Last year it was Ukraine vs. the world, and the televote options were scattered amongst entries that were not competitive with juries. If Loreen is in the mix and goes in as the favourite then does that in itself bring together the voters who want an alternative to a Ukrainian victory in May? One can see the logic that a two month narrative between the two nations standing strong at the top of the leaderboard could move people together, and could bring enough televoters to Sweden to keep it ahead after 'Tattoo' wins the jury.

And now that Sweden price to win Eurovision is around 2.5, or slightly less. Fair price? I have had my reasons for caution but this appears to be one of those selections where it’s me that is overly cautious, and the community voices are far more that this is the real deal. I do see this as more of a jury song than a televote song (my twitter poll agrees) and yes, there is that lingering concern about those tuning in on the night and seeing something so intense without the traditional 'vote for me' moment, but a stat that helps with this is that we only have 37 countries this year, and we have lost Eastern and Central European nations like Russia/Belarus/Bulgaria/Montenegro/North Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Hungary/Slovakia. Loreen’s hype wouldn’t permeate into these nations in the way it will within the Big 5 and Scandinavia and that helps keep Sweden’s narrative as one of two contenders going into the final.

Either way if it wins Melfest and does a performance on par with what we have seen already, there’s little reason to suggest Sweden vacates a top two spot in the Eurovision betting market. Yes, there are a few songs coming that could impress (Israel comes to mind with a similar team of previous Eurovision winners behind it), but I can not see anything at this level, or at least this hype, coming through. Yet it should be said that if two or three of the internal selections are of the required quality then Sweden's price will drift.

The one other reason to be somewhat cautious on the price for Loreen, winning or not, is that it appears there is a correlation between the discussions of Eurovision in the British media and gamblers swarming in on Ukraine (before Loreen the market saw Ukraine pushed into where they Sweden is today). There will be a Ukraine gamble by the Eurovision = politics crowd at least once more this Eurovision season. Whether that happens tomorrow at odds of 5s or in two weeks at odds of 8s, or in a month or during rehearsals is what will be impossible to predict. But when that happens the price for Loreen will naturally shift as well. There is a rationale that the fever around tickets that I assume happens next week could correlate to the Ukraine drive coming, and if so you will get a better price on Ukraine then rather than now.

If there wasn't Ukraine in the equation right now, the scary thought is that Sweden would likely have already gone odds on...

But how likely is the Swedish 7th victory in Liverpool? Well the more we keep talking about it the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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