The Big 5 and host nation, The Netherlands, have all hit the stage for their first rehearsals, and a few of those nations have really shaken the odds. In this chat conversation I had with Dennis van Eersel from ESCDaily, we spoke about whether we will see a Big 5 nation take the trophy home this year.
A: Going into the contest, it seemed that this was the biggest effort we have seen from the Big 5 collectively in a while. Would you say that’s true?
D: Yes and I love that. The level of the Big 5 influences the overall level of the show in such a big way. If they come up with quality entries that also would have qualified from a semi final, you immediately have an extra strong final field. And I was glad to see that some of them delivered, but sadly there are also some major disappointments. Let’s talk about the positives first, shall we?
A: France seems like a good place to start, as probably the hottest favourite to take out the competition, at least in my eyes. The first rehearsal really confirmed that for me, and I’m so glad that they have chosen to keep things as simple as the national final, well, arguably they have made it even simpler. This kept the focus solely on Barbara and her incredible vocals. Does this give off winner vibes for you as well?
D: Winner vibes all over for France. The song is unique and outstanding, but can still appeal to both jury and televote. Barbara sings it in a way that her emotion comes across very, very well. Stronger live than in the studio. And the vocals and camerawork also screams ‘winner’ to me. Oui, I can see us all travelling to Paris next year. But during the Italian rehearsal I also had winner vibes, I must say. You?
A: This is what’s making it hard to predict this year. France is offering up a old-style French ballad, which is incredibly emotional and classic. Switzerland is offering up another French ballad, but it’s much more contemporary in song and staging. Italy on the other hand has an energetic rock number that is going into the contest with a huge support base. Out of the three, I think Italy will manage to score the highest televote. Italy seems to always pull in the big numbers when it comes to televote, even with songs that perhaps don’t deserve it, but this year, they deserve every vote they receive.
D: I am thinking Italy could swoop the televote this year. They have such great chemistry and the song is just what Europe needs after a full year in lockdown. Time to break free and be extravagant again. Their lyrics also refer to this, but I don’t know if people pick that up. I’m not entirely sure about their jury potential. They are very professional and vocally it’s amazing. But will the genre be getting the jury reward it should? What are your thoughts?
A: I think maybe we sometimes get the impression that juries are uptight and only like traditional, ballad style songs, but why shouldn’t Italy be liked by a jury? There are a number of countries across Europe that love rock, and this is a solid rock entry.
D: I agree, but I don’t really see anything to compare it to. Hatari and AWS for instance were much more extreme, I think Måneskin could do way better with the jury than they did. Manga from Turkey in 2010 is perhaps the song that comes closest in the past, and we know they did amazing. Personally, when it comes to the image of the contest and displaying a current vibe, I would prefer Italy over France as the overall winner. Also when it comes to which country we would visit next year, haha.
A: There’s definitely some Italian bias from both of us, but it’s not just us who think Italy is in with a chance. They are high with the bookmakers as well. Now flip that around, and let’s talk about who isn’t high with the bookmakers, ie, which of the Big 5 will we see in the bottom 5 this year?
D: Like almost every year, the United Kingdom is very underwhelming. The song had some potential, I thought before the contest. But the staging, camerawork, everything is so obligatory again. They won’t get a lot of votes. And of course Spain, which was a total carcrash to me. They even changed the song, suddenly added some beats that don’t belong to the song at all. You must be very disappointed with that, after reading your preview before the contest about Blas.
A: I feel like a bit of a fool after watching Spain, as I campaigned so heavily that this was an entry that would sneak up the table. Voy A Quedarme is such a beautiful ballad, so I have no idea why a) they would stage it in the way that they did, and b) why they would change the backing track of the song. It just lost so much of the intimate feeling of the song. I think they should have made this more personal in the same way Bulgaria did in her performance. It’s a touching song, but you wouldn’t know from the performance.
D: I agree, it’s a wasted opportunity. Spain has lost its way for many years now, I would like to see them turn things around. Many Big-5 nations did so in the past, including Germany. But this year I can’t see them do anything on the scoreboard. SORRY!
A: Jendrik has the elements to create a great performance, but it just didn’t come together in their first rehearsal. I actually enjoyed the stage show itself, but due to such fast pace singing and intense choreography, Jendrik was completely out of breath and the vocals suffered big time. It’s such a shame, because I was really excited for this.
D: Based on his clips on Social Media, I know he has such a big personality and character. They kept their visual concept and performance still a bit low-key, with just some dancing and color switches. I think he needed to go over the top even more. It’s fun to watch, but I don’t think anyone who’ll see this for the first time will remember his performance at the end of the night. Let alone vote for it. What about The Netherlands, we haven’t even spoken about the host country yet!
A: The Netherlands is another nation heading into the contest without much hype, although I personally love the song. The first rehearsal managed to elevate the song immensely, and I hope this gets the love it deserves. Vocals were on point, and the stage show adequately showed the message of the song.
D: I was happily surprised. Jeangu is a good singer, there is a woke message behind the song and I can see the juries hoping on the Dutch train again to keep them away from the bottom spots.
A: I think Top 10 is probably out of the question, but maybe like in the 15th to 20th region?
D: That’s what I am thinking as well. But the vibe in The Netherlands is he will be in last place, but that’s not what I think at all. Mostly because of the jury-appeal he, and the song, have.
A: The Netherlands won’t do the double, but we may find ourselves in the one of the Big 5 nations this year, but time will tell!