Following the rules implemented since 2008, the nation of the previous winner plus the “Big Five” contributors to the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) are automatically in the finals. Around the mid-2000s the Big Five tend to end up in the bottom pack, but since 2009, especially with the current system that combines jury votes with popular televotes, at least one figures in the Top 10, and one time one of the “Big Five” (Germany) even won. Let’s look at the prospects of the automatic qualifiers starting with the entry from last year’s champion:
SWEDEN: “You” – Robin Stjernberg. It has a similar sonic vibe with the Danish entry, with tribal drumbeats, but it showcased some more vocal virtuosity–and the guy seems to be able to deliver the challenging vocals with aplomb live. I don’t expect this to duplicate Loreen’s win, but a Top Five or even Top Three finish is highly possible.
FRANCE: “L’enfer et moi [Hell and me]” – Amandine Bourgeois. Eurovision fans don’t have a high regard for this number, but for me it’s an improvement over Anggun’s disappointing entry. I love the official music video to this number, especially with Amandine’s demented stare to the camera giving everyone the heebie-jeebies (in my reckoning, in a good way). Based on the video there is an opportunity that we’ll be treated to a hunk (or hunks) onstage, like what Anggun treated us with last year, though this year the hunk might be tied up to a chair (or maybe in chains or in other form of bondage). I don’t know if she’ll be using a French hunk, but if she’ll be using a Swedish hunk, I have visions of seeing beefy Manhunt International 2012 1st runner-up Peter Jonsson playing the role–but I found Uppsala where he’s based from is over 600 km away from Malmö. Well, I’ll just carry on with my fantasies…
GERMANY: “Glorious” – Cascada. Cascada is probably the most popular current act amongst this year’s entries, as it already fielded a host of international hits like “Everytime We Touch”, a dance remake of Rascal Flatt’s country hit “What Hurts the Most”, and “Evacuate the Dancefloor”. This entry is the one amongst the Big Five that is most likely to make the biggest impact, and probably even win the contest.
ITALY: “L’essenziale [The essential]” – Marco Mengoni. Since returning in 2011, this country had been a fixture in the Top 10. This entry’s prospects of sustaining that showing, though, is a bit iffy. It’s actually a solid, modern pop ballad, but there is another Italian language entry that would most likely make a bigger impact, especially if it makes its anticipated breakthrough into the finals. Still, a respectable finish is very likely.
SPAIN: “Contigo hasta al final [With you until the end]” – ESDM (El Sueño de Morfeo). At first listen, you might assume this number lacks the dramatic impact of “Quedate Conmigo”, as it’s a low-key acoustic pop-rock number. But I love the way the song has a rave-up (shift to an uptempo phase), and it’s sweetly sung, so even if it is unlikely to duplicate “Quedate Conmigo”‘s success, it will fare respectably. I know they want it to make it easy for non-Spanish speaking audiences by abbreviating their actual band name, but dyslexics out there might read out their acronym wrong and have, well, naughty thoughts (see France above).
UNITED KINGDOM: “Believe in Me” – Bonnie Tyler. I think the strategy in the BBC goes like this–which act is still popular in Continental Europe? They want to court votes from as much of Continental Europe as possible. They tried Engelbert Humperdinck though that surprisingly backfired (I was shocked that he didn’t get that much jury support). Since Bonnie Tyler still releases records in Germany, the BBC thought why not her? The song is not bad, and is well-sung in Bonnie’s distinctive raspy style, and I have to hand it that Bonnie still looks wonderful, but I don’t know if the country-pop style of this song would connect with most of Europe. I just only hope that she’ll be spared a near-cellar-dweller finish like what poor Engelbert experienced last year (he failed to prevail against those damn Russian Grannies even if he’s clearly the better singer, even with the pitchiness encountered during his performance).
Now with all entries accounted for, here is my prediction on who will end up in the Top 10:
TOP 10: DENMARK, RUSSIA, UKRAINE, SAN MARINO, AZERBAIJAN, GREECE, NORWAY, GEORGIA, SWEDEN, GERMANY
BUBBLING UNDER: AUSTRIA, CROATIA, NETHERLANDS, FINLAND, BULGARIA, ICELAND, ISRAEL, FRANCE, ITALY, SPAIN
Of course who makes the Top 10 doesn’t mean they are what I prefer to listen to–so let me trot out my Top 10 personal choices:
PERSONAL CHOICES: DENMARK, UKRAINE, SERBIA, SAN MARINO, FINLAND, NORWAY, GEORGIA, SWEDEN, FRANCE, SPAIN
Though oddsmakers are pointing to Denmark as the possible winner of this contest, I don’t see a clear-cut front-runner this year: I feel that Germany, Ukraine and Norway could usurp the win from Denmark, or Sweden could duplicate its win, or maybe tiny San Marino could squeak by and pull off an upset (like the way Monaco won back in 1971). Let’s see how it all unfolds next week…