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Blog: Thug Life

Eurovision week is now finally here and we have seen the clips and photographs of all 37 competing acts.

I will say it slowly and clearly, we don't know who will do well the same way we did when we began BetEurovision.

Croatia is now favourite to win the Eurovision Song Contest once more. 'Rim Tim Tagi Dim' rehearses at a pleasant 7.5/10, vocals sound much more secure and the bright stage show and pyro is as expected. There's nothing revolutionary about it, in fact compared to many other entries this year it is a tried and tested formula

The belief here is that the Croatian act has enough jury appeal and televote appeal to take it. Being telegraphed as the favourite will help immensely with running order and jury points to be respected on that side of the score. The televote is curious for this. I've been speaking much this year about how I'm not sure if this has the legs and, while I understand the vibe is that of a televote winner, I found the rehearsal footage still too static and stunted to make one want Baby Lasagna to win it all. 

I consider Croatia as of now favourite by default. It helps here that Croatia, and in particular Zagreb, have made it clear they are ready to host. Delegations will mutter about that all this week, and how that may help bring back the Balkan nations the Contest does need to financial stability (Martin Österdahl last week has spoken about increased financial pressures to Swedish media). 

And it helps that it appears nobody else actually wants to host the damn thing next year! The other cluster of favourites have came to Malmö with sufficient self-sabotage to limit themselves to 2nd place with curious choices Father Ted would have been proud of inventing. 

Nemo's outfit is strikingly fine and creates a memorable silhouette against the LED backdrop, but the fear is people will belittle the fluffy pink chicken character rather than as an empowering person one wants to vote for. Italy have Angelina hidden away in a digitalised forest and the outfits are miraculously intricate, but the merging of red and black screams aggression and risks further televote alienisation.

And Joost may have the emotional punch and tricks up their sleeve, but I'm negatively judging the staging on one point alone. That hardcore breakdown threatens to be the moment of the Contest with Malmö Arena bouncing but instead the focus of on Joost's goofy dancing and it loses all potential from that point on. The arena should be on fire - show them.

Of course I jest about it being self-sabotage before any broadcaster collars me in the press centre, but one can't deny that all surrounding this year's Contest might put some delegations off from wanting the responsibility.. 

Thankfully, Ukraine doesn't have that problem, as they almost certainly won't be able to host any time soon. The 30 seconds we have seen of Teresa and Maria are beautiful - it's a real piece of theatre, and deserving of Ukraine's shortening. Models (ok not out BetEurovision one, which is odd isn't it) should show Ukraine doing exceptionally well, in particular with the televote, after many years sky high of public support on their phones.

Does Ukraine's loyal points exist today, when the narratives of war focus on Israel? I suspect they do enough, and Ukraine top 4 is my heaviest position so far this season (thank you Unibet for the 17s e/w last week). However winning feels such a stretch and one assumes that Ukraine winning would not be a producer choice outcome. Especially with Christer Björkman as running order king this year who has openly critiqued the administration of Eurovision 2017 when he was drafted in last minute to make sure the show run in Kyiv. How early could Ukraine  draw, and could that hurt them? 

Then come the chasing pack, and while there still are worthy claims for Slimane's gimmick five metres from the mic or Greece's one camera show (of those two, France is very much now in contention and an e/w on France now might be fair game, especially with a second half draw), it's been those further afield that have brought noteworthy A game material to Malmö.

That does start with Ireland. Bambie is bringing a stunningly intense character to Eurovision and every single detail in camera cuts and facial expressions are majestic. Votable? I can see some love in the Semi and took a price for top 3 (to join Croatia and Ukraine), and should momentum be high it will be one of the most talked about acts on the Saturday night. 

I do expect Ireland to trade in single figures by Wednesday morning should the data suggest they were in the top 3 on Tuesday, just as I said on the podcast when Bambie won on the Late Late Show. I'm prepared for that. Final finishing position likely to be a borderline top 10, but the range is wide if Bambie does become the pro-Palestine act in the final, and if that can command attention and hype. It's an unknown factor to Eurovision 2024, and there are many of them.

Croatia's televote with most of the Balkans absent. Ukraine's sentiment in 2024 and Israel's distraction from that. The appeal of acts like Norway and Armenia on a global stage with their world music genres. If the televote favourites cancel each other out of top scores or if one runs away with it and the others suffer.

Too much this year is curious and difficult to predict. And yes that is a cop out, but 2024 is a step change for the Contest anyway in how it is styled and what is expected from it. 

This year may end up in a runaway but nobody is predicting as much at the moment, and it is a year that I have to urge anybody gambling to be cautious. It's been a gripe all season of people talking about places needed to win Eurovision (I.e. You can't win Eurovision if lower than 4th with juries). It's nonsense, close years mean we all need a reminder it is points that matter most. 

Yes, there are calls one can make but something smells fishy here in Malmö, and it's not what the Swedes call fish and chips. This is a year of uncertainties and noisy, diverse songs that are untested competitively. Croatia and Ukraine's big advantage for the punter is their National Final track records are known, and were landslides

Now with a week to go we are into the ugly part of the Song Contest. The part when our true data finally can point us in the right direction away from all of these fan proxies. We do our own bit for this, with ESC Insight and other sites making an audience poll. It's a game of chess on one side, analysing positions and data, but also a boxing match ready for a knockout. Let us see what hits hardest as the week goes on.

Hear our thoughts on each live show on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings this week, before an end of season episode on Monday 13th May. 

Thank you for listening and reading this season. 

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