Eurovision ’21: Today’s the day! Grand final predictions are here!

Eurovision Song Contest 2021  concludes today with the Grand Final, airing in the U.S. on Peacock, live at 3 PM ET/12 Noon PT

Now, the 20 songs that made it through the two semi-finals are joined by the Big Five and host country The Netherlands entry, and things are gonna get real, because I’ve been checking a LOT of the fandom in the “ESCBubble” and…well, they don’t take a lot of factors into consideration. They rarely do. But I’m going to try and do so here. First up, here’s the 26 finalists in the order they will appear at today’s Grand Final:

Cyprus – “El Diablo” by Elena Tsagrinou
Albania – “Karma” by Anxhela Peristeri
Israel – “Set Me Free” by Eden Alene
Belgium – “The Wrong Place” by Hooverphonic
Russia – “Russian Woman” by Manizha
Malta – “Je Me Casse” by Destiny
Portugal – “Love Is On My Side” by The Black Mamba
Serbia – “Loco Loco” by Hurricane
United Kingdom – “Embers” by James Newman*
Greece – “Last Dance” by Stefania
Switzerland – “Tout l’Univers” by Gjon’s Tears
Iceland – “10 Years” by Dadi og Gagnamagnid**
Spain – “Voy a quedarme” by Blas Canto*
Moldova – “Sugar” by Natalia Gordienko
Germany – “I Don’t Feel Hate” by Jendrik*
Finland – “Dark Side” by Blind Channel
Bulgaria – “Growing Up Is Getting Old” by Victoria
Lithuania – “Discoteque” by The Roop
Ukraine – “Shum” by Go_A
France – “Voila” by Barbara Pravi*
Azerbaijan – “Mata Hari” by Efendi
Norway – “Fallen Angel” by Tix
The Netherlands – “Birth Of A New Age” by Jeangu Macrooy*
Italy – “Zitti a buoni” by Maneskin*
Sweden – “Voices” by Tusse
San Marino – “Adrenalina” by Senhit featuring Flo Rida
* – Auto “bye” to the finals
** – Live On Tape being used due to positive COVID test

Ok, having spent the last 48 hours watching and reading the various analysis of the semifinals, and knowing the Jury vote is always notoriously hard to predict – at least one song the fans love will be in the bottom ten at the end of the jury vote, it’s almost tradition – and also knowing how the fans in the Eurovision Bubble are voting, I’m going to figure in several factors.

Sentimental favorites – four acts have HUUUGE “sentimental” favoritism. All were hugely over fan favorites last year, and one of them has some other directions that some votes could come from this year. Those four are Gjon’s Tears, Switzerland; The Roop, Lithuania; Victoria, Bulgaria; and Dadi og Gagnamagnid, Iceland.  In all four cases, the performers delivered songs this year that were on a par or even better than their entries last year. And one act has some additional baggage this year that might actually work in their favor – Iceland’s Dadi Freyr himself made the choice not to perform live while two of his band were in quarantine for positive COVID tests, and they elected to use their “live-on-tape” performance made during their second rehearsal last week. This could work either way – it could give them a disadvantage in the contest and cost them their shot at the top, or it could work HUGELY over, and get them even more votes because of their decision to put friendship and that connection above the show, in essence as sort of sympathy vote. Will this factor have much play? Not a lot, but some. And that’s for all four performers.

Because the juries are notoriously hard to read, it’s hard to see where they will go, but based on past experience with Eurovision, I think they will play hard for creativity and less for staid. Creative staging is a big part of the main contest, and is a factor that’s hard to judge with both fans and juries. Live style is also a big part of things, and is just as subjective. So let’s go with the Juries first.  Based on these factors and others, the acts that I think are most likely to be somewhere in the top ten at the end of the jury vote are:

Malta – “Je Me Casse” by Destiny
Portugal – “Love Is On My Side” by The Black Mamba
Iceland – “10 Years” by Dadi og Gagnamagnid**
Ukraine – “Shum” by Go_A
France – “Voila” by Barbara Pravi*

The most likely acts to fill in the rest of the top ten are:

Switzerland – “Tout l’Univers” by Gjon’s Tears
Russia – “Russian Woman” by Manizha
Cyprus – “El Diablo” by Elena Tsagrinou
San Marino – “Adrenalina” by Senhit featuring Flo Rida
Greece – “Last Dance” by Stefania

The acts who could make top ten with an unexpectedly high jury vote:

Bulgaria – “Growing Up Is Getting Old” by Victoria
Belgium – “The Wrong Place” by Hooverphonic
Italy – “Zitti a buoni” by Maneskin*
Norway – “Fallen Angel” by Tix
Finland – “Dark Side” by Blind Channel
Lithuania – “Discoteque” by The Roop

A number of these songs have HUUUUUUGE fan bases, but I just don’t think the juries will get behind them in the long run. Italy is one of those – I think it will be in the bottom half at the end of the Jury vote –  and surprisingly, so is Switzerland. If Gjon uses the same static staging for the finals that he used in the semi-finals – the staging was utterly ghastly – never mind his exquisite voice and his ability to hit every note from the recording live, he’s pretty much kissed his chance to win the contest goodbye. Juries are notoriously hard on the combination of great song and bad staging, and it could come back to bite Switzerland on the ass today.

And while I’m not a huge fan of France’s entry, Barbara Pravi‘s song is exactly the type of song that the juries usually adore, and it’s helped by a lively performance and staging that is a reminder of the great French music halls of the past, the exact opposite of Switzerland.

Staging and performance are also the strong point for Ukraine. Katerina Pavlenko from Go_A has an electric presence, she can belt it out like nearly no one else in the contest this year, and the fan support is HUGE. The staging is creative and should help a lot.

San Marino is in the catbird seat this year. They get to go LAST, and that’s nearly always a big boost for the televote. Whether the Judges will be so kind to it is another matter. The presence of worldwide superstar Flo Rida is going to make a big difference and the fact that he and Senhit have so much fun on stage is going to make a huge impact with the jury as well. No matter what, the smallest country in the contest, a tiny enclave surrounded on all sides by Italy, is about to make history – their first top-half finish and it could even be in the top ten…we’ll see.

Portugal, who was an also-ran in the fandom until the semis (and THANK YOU for bringing them through!) has a style matched only by France’s Barbara Pravi and could finish considerably higher than most people are expecting with the juries. But the fandom is still lacking in huge support for their awesome number, so The Black Mamba will need to depend on the jury to keep them as top ten contenders.

If the jury vote goes the way I believe it will, there will be no chance for Switzerland and Italy to make the top three, no matter how big the televote is (if Switzerland changes up their staging, all bets are off here). So when all is said and done, at the end of the evening, I think one of these four songs will be sitting on top as the 2021 grand champion:

Malta – “Je Me Casse” by Destiny
Iceland – “10 Years” by Dadi og Gagnamagnid**
Ukraine – “Shum” by Go_A
France – “Voila” by Barbara Pravi*

My personal preference for winners, in order, would be Iceland, Malta, and either Greece or Portugal, but I think Stefania’s weird and visually ridiculous “invisible stairs” routine in her staging will take her out of the running for the top three. Filling in my top five would be Switzerland and Lithuania, but I don’t think they have a top five shot, so we’ll pick two more and say Cypress and either the UK or Finland…

So we’ll see how right or wrong I am, the bookies are, the fans are…sometime between 6 and 7 PM ET today.  I’ll be back tonight with a video recap of the show on my YouTube channel, TKR Video Central, and give all the highlights and low points for the day…and for my part I have to say only one thing – May the Best Act Win…GO DADI GO! GO DADI GO!