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Early Odds Review: Iceland vs Bulgaria

At this early stage of the Eurovision 2021 market both Bulgaria and Iceland have made their way into being favourites.

This is little surprise. In Victoria, Bulgaria have the same artist as last year who ended the 2020 season as favourite before the EBU pulled the plug. Tears Getting Sober was a great track with one of the best orchestral movements we’ve ever seen at the contest behind it, and potential to score big. I had some question marks about its possible success if Rotterdam 2020 did happen, wondering if Victoria could connect to the camera or if there was wide enough appeal for this style (Sweden’s 12:a show, that replaced Eurovision, confirmed that worry as it fell outside the top 10 with the app vote there).

Bulgaria have been keen to show they are going for it this year, with a huge songwriting camp organised on the Black Sea coast in the eye of the covid-19 storm. They have promised they will be releasing potential tracks before they eventually select one internally to Rotterdam 2021. One such track was released in November, Ugly Cry, which is stunningly produced again but isn’t written with any of the pizzazz or flourish that would be needed for a Song Contest track. I don’t consider this song in any way to realistically be on the shortlist for Victoria, but it is a statement of intent and the professionalism of the team behind her. All that said, for all the pushing Bulgaria have been doing, the number of YouTube views (currently 164,000) isn’t favourite worthy considering we are nearly two months since release.

The second worry I have is that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to get a song for her that is as majestic as Tears Getting Sober was. For each returning artist there are going to be plenty of side-by-side comparisons to their previous entries, and I am finding it hard to imagine that a song that can lift itself above her previous entry. If they can do this, Bulgaria are dangerous, but there’s a big spread of outcomes between winning candidate and mid-table mixer that will emerge when we hear the three minutes.

There’s far less spread when it comes down to Iceland. Daði Freyr is back again, this time in an internal selection. We know that we have a song as well, and he has taken to social media to ask for people to submit one of seven vocal parts to him to arrange an acapella choir to put on the pre-recorded backing vocals now allowed for this year’s competition. That little PR move was enough to move him on the Betfair exchange from 11.5 to 10 - and is a good example of how this market moves on even the tiniest snippets of information.

Daði’s style will surely remain unchanged, and while the comparison will exist as with Victoria I am less concerned in this regard. Daði was always more than the song, per se, it was the character, the geeky production and the fun-loving element that made Think About Things go viral.

Iceland was only fourth favourite last time when the 2020 market closed, at similar odds to what they are now. As I took it there was doubt in the market in how Daði would translate across juries and Eastern televoters. Those concerns linger to this day, but the fact that Daði won 6 of the different ‘alternative’ Eurovision Song Contests that broadcasters ran in their home countries suggests it resonated beyond viral bubbles.

Furthermore I wrote in our Covid-19 piece that it appears that the population might want something different from Eurovision 2021 this year after how tough life has been for the previous 12 months. My hypothesis is that the public are going to be looking for a piece of fun escapism - something of the ilk of Love Love Peace Peace, the interval act from Stockholm’s hosting in 2016. It still needs to be cool, but I expect the audience of this year will want that loving that Daði provides.

Plus, that damn movie. I wonder if Netflix will give it another push in early May. Turning fiction into reality wouldn’t be such a panic for Iceland right now that would love the catalyst for their tourism industry that a Eurovision hosting post-pandemic would provide. I might need winnings on Iceland just to afford hotel prices though.

Comparing the two current favourites, I consider Iceland the safer option. Given the betting markets are mainly western based, Daði will be known and once bookies start offering odds there will be caution against a viral swing. Victoria is though the more likely of the two to be sitting on an absolute gem of a song, but is also more likely to be sitting on a mid-table flop.

Odds of around 10 for both songs are available on the Betfair Exchange at the moment. Let’s translate that in a different way, with 41 competing countries, the chances of these artists winning is about four times higher than any other random country in the competition. That doesn’t feel unfair at the moment, considering we know many of the other artists and their lack of scoring potential (as great as they may be, Go-A from Ukraine are unlikely to present a song with mass appeal, and that is absolutely fine).

But remember to also look beneath the advertised exchange odds to see where the market has already invested. Money matched on the exchange on Victoria lies between 11 and 14.5, most of that at 12’s. In contrast the range for Daði goes from a high of 13.5 to a low of 8.2 (which was the very first bet of the season placed on the exchange) with the modal figure being 10’s. It may appear that they are side-by-side in the odds, but of the two Iceland is the one people are far more invested in.

Assuming the feel good vibe continues the money may continue to roll.

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