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If it's the End, I need to know

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Azerbaijan releasing their song this week, a week after the EBU deadline, was a damp squib way of ending NF season. Damp squibs are a way many would describe this NF season, with the general fan community consensus that, it is a weak year.

I hold some caution to that, the Big 5 are strong and if the Semi Finals weed out the scraps the Grand Final should be a good spectacle. What may happen though is the favourites, which are very strong, may pull away from the pack to make a voting similar to 2015 where the top 10 were well ahead of the rest. This could leave some value for diaspora only hits (thinking Serbia as a potential example) fitting into the top 15 with a reasonably low score.

The favourite at the moment is Ukraine. We all know why. On *release*, on pure song alone, I called Stefania a 33-1 shot to win Eurovision. The type of song that screams Eastern European televote and Ukraine's constant success in staging making it possible e/w value. War has meant they have been trading around Evens, as there is a perception this will help particular with televote.

That's something out of everyone's comfort zone to predict. Being honest in my book so far Ukraine is the most negative of the favourites. That's because it's expected by the community that they will perform on tape, rather than in person, which will be a lot more cold. Furthermore the band can't attend preview shows around Europe nor is Stefania likely to score well in proxies like the OGAE poll or Euro Jury in April.

The biggest understatement of the year is that Ukraine's chances are impacted more by what happens off stage than on. If I need to invest at short odds later in the season so be it, but the current wave of fan media interest will be on the other 39 acts.

Italy then follow next at around 5s. 'Brividi' is a stunning ballad with numerous wow moments and reasons for juries and televoters to give it top marks. The off-beat male duet style makes for tight harmonies and a visual look that is different in a very good way for 2022.

Italy has survived the running order draw drama by placing 9th which is perfectly fine to win from. Naysayers argue that in this era nothing with a single figure running order has won, a correct stat but in a producer led running order few favourites get such draws so the sample size is too small. The idea that one can go each way on this and get money back if 2nd to 4th feels fantastic. The one caveat is that there needs to be a 3 minute version, which has crippled Italian entries before in history and could do so again.

Sweden comes up next and this is priced around 8s on the exchanges. 'Hold Me Closer' is a winning worthy song but with much bigger question marks than 'Brividi'. Cornelia's gravely voice may alienate some and the genius of this song lyrically and emotionally took me and many others more than one listen.

To do the business in May this needs to be telegraphed to viewers as the one. It needs radio airplay for a couple of weeks beforehand. It needs to win polls so odds shorten so commentators give it a nudge and a "don't go to the toilet now" moment. The run in from now until May is more important for 'Hold Me Closer' than any other song this year and I am concerned that Cornelia, as a new act to the Swedish public, will be led by her label to persue a new market domestically rather than going out to work on getting in Europe. I was pleased to see her sign up for London Eurovision party which suggested there is a desire to win, rather than just to make a career. Could do the business.

Finally at the top of the tree is the United Kingdom. The UK deserves to be short. Partly because the short price means we in the betting community acknowledge that this is the type of song that could bring in waves of patriotic money but also because Sam is one of the few on a proper European tour in the build up (I only note Bulgaria otherwise...) and has a song with positive USP that screams cool Britain musically and visually. I don't remember the last time young fans around Europe were happy to be associated with a UK act.

I would understand if when credits roll the UK finishes in the top 5, yet would similarly understand if this ends up around 18th. Though based on the loud voices abroad who are picking out this one to watch, be cautious this year about an easy UK lay as it may be twitchy should a good rehearsal push this to single figures in ESC week.

In terms of outsiders the obvious one to watch is Poland. Finally have we got the artist who, with possibly the most striking voice in the competition, can attack jury points and televotes for Poland. The exchange is interesting here with Poland being matched under evens for a top 5 place, suggesting an e/w bet on Poland is excellent value. We agree. Ochman will need to up his game from the NF performance to challenge for victory, but a top 5 position for Poland feels a very sensible position to take.

Looking down the list of other possible contenders I'll pick out a few worth watching. Spain with Chanel has the music entertainment moment of the year so far with her dance breakdown in Slo Mo. Song wise it shouldn't be anywhere near contention but it has been hovering up and down at 50s for a while. Will be interesting to see if the routine can be made extra spicy for Turin and get fan buzz thereafter. Similar to the UK - I’d understand the universe with this in the top 4 or languishing in mid table.

I also find the Norway entry ‘Give A Wolf A Banana’ an interesting proposition at 50-1. Similar to Spain this is not high up the betting odds for song quality, but for potential viral quality and assumed televote appeal. I will make a bold statement here - this could do just as well with juries as televoters - there is something very slick about the package that may get this more respect than I think it deserves. Should that be the case this may be scoring very very well.

The two outsiders that get early attention from me are Finland and Germany. Finland have matched at over 200s currently yet when the National Final songs were revealed they were around the 25 mark. The difference here is an extra knowledge that The Rasmus’ victory in Finland featured a performance the community thought was weak. We agree.

However the shift to 200s is extreme for a song that is written for the Song Contest in a positive way and a band with name appeal that will be picking up radio airplay and other casual media interest in the weeks before the Song Contest. Sort out the performance (nothing an off stage extra vocalist won't fix) and Finland would be back in the pack.

I also note Germany, bringing the song ‘Rockstars’ as something to watch for those wanting a mega long shot to chase. This is one of the few songs this long (last matched over 500) with an emotional moment which is given by the Eminem-esque rap part which is solidly delivered - and juries will average around the right age to appreciate the throwback.

This needs work to touch up the visual presentation and the resolution from that rap back into chorus needs to be more obvious but with help this can get some signalling as being winner worthy in the line up. Matched just shy of 10s for the top 10 for those wanting a more realistic offering.

For now the season is entering a new phase. This is the phase where data drives our analysis, with everything from fan and community based polls to streaming data taking a large amount of our analysis. We also have the preview party tours which allow many acts to be compared like for like and for many acts to deliver their first live performance.

Rehearsals in Turin being just over a month away. Until then when we can see the finished product on stage, the Eurovision Song Contest betting market is full of speculation on the tiniest thing - and we enter a time when some former Junior Eurovision artists on a EuroJury can cause the market to move, or random stories about a certain country providing great staging. In many ways we are at the end, but in other ways the silly season has just begun..

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