According to the bookies, Eurovision 2014 will be a battle between Armenia and Sweden. But, as we all know, the bookies are not always right. Just look at Sweden (2008), UK (2011), Hungary (2011), France (2011), Denmark (2012), and Germany (2013). For the past few years, Eurovision has been fairly predictable, and we no longer have the thrilling, close results like in 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2002. For a year with no Loreen or Alexander Rybak, it may be important to look at a few dark horses in this year’s contest. Note that these five dubbed “Dark Horses of ESC 2014” are not in the top ten of any betting agencies.
1. Spain – “Dancing in the Rain” by Ruth Lorenzo
The bookies gave up on Spain after 2012, when vocal powerhouse, Pastora Soler, finished tenth with a flawless, pitch-perfect performance of “Quédate Conmigo.” Two years later, Ruth Lorenzo is working tirelessly to win the competition. Like Pastora, Ruth is a powerhouse vocalist with the sheer gusto of belting notes with unwavering confidence. However, there are differences between the two divas. From hair whipping back and forth to the growl in her voice at the climax of “Dancing in the Rain,” Ruth is by far an edgier performer who is embraces risk (and apparently controversy). Pastora is an old-fashion, class act; for that, she was awarded greatly by the juries but panned by voters for being boring, to quite honest. An edgy, risk-taking Ruth is able to woo both juries and voters with the right package of voice, performance, and charisma.
2. Austria – “Rise Like a Phoenix” by Conchita Wurst
While fans worry about bias against LGBT contestants in Eurovision, there have been recent ESC winners who represent the LGBT community: Loreen (2012), Marija Šerifovi? (2007), and Dana International (1997). There was initial skepticism that Conchita was a novelty Verka Serduchka-esque act. With the bar set very low, Conchita exceeded expectations with a solid, classy song with enviable vocals, which will be viewed very favorably by the juries. Ever since Conchita’s first live performance, Conchita has been such a galvanizing force, rallying new supporters left and right. Ever since Russia’s anti-LGBT laws went into effect in 2013, Europe is responding. A Conchita win will send a message that Western Europe and its ideals are taking Eurovision back.
3. Israel – “Same Heart” by Mei Finegold
For three consecutive years, Israel failed to qualify for the final. To end this miserable dry spell, Israel is sending Mei Feingold, her smoky voice, and her grungy, dance song to Copenhagen. And while we have songs about breakups and failed relationships, “Same Heart” distinguishes itself from the pack by its attitude-filled delivery and grungy lyrics like “I’m skinning you up.” Mix Beyoncé’s attitude with a Kelly Clarkson rock song and Avicii’s production, and you have Mei Feingold. While she’s not a bookie’s favorite, Eurovision fans are reacting well. And, she may end up bringing the contest back to the Promise Land.
4. Ireland – “Heartbeat” by Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith
Ever since 1996, Ireland stopped giving fans iconic Eurovision classics like “What’s Another Year,” “Hold Me Now,” or “Rock N’Roll Kids.” After 17 years of forgettable entries, “Heartbeat” gives Ireland its best shot at a potential eighth win. The song initially did not leave a good first impression, mostly due to the poor acoustics of RTÉ’s studios. However, after listening to the studio version, it all made sense, and now I’m a fan. The unique blending of traditional Irish instruments, bombastic drums, and synthesizers may be winning formula, especially when you consider that all the frontrunners have been criticized for being safe, predictable, and unoriginal.
5. FYR Macedonia – “To the Sky” by Tijana
For several months, no one knew what to think of Tijana’s lip-synced performance at what looked like the Macedonian version of “Dancing with the Stars.” All skepticism was put to rest at Eurovision in Concert, where the 38-year-old artist surprisingly brought down the house with her charisma, voice, and pair of white, hipster glasses. Out of all 37 songs, “To the Sky,” has the best shot of becoming a summer hit across Europe with its catchy melody and strong, crisp production. If “To the Sky” does not win, Macedonia will most likely receive its best placing ever, even without the aid of its Balkan neighbors who withdrew from this year’s contest.
The first semi-final is TOMORROW, and the halls of B&W Hallerne are filled with uncertainty of who will win and host next year’s contest. We could very well be in Yerevan, Stockholm, London, or even Skopje in 2015…
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