Could this year be Czechia’s first time in Eurovision top five?

Vesna performs during a dress rehearsal for the first Eurovision semifinal

Czechia has participated 12 times in the Eurovision Song Contest, but only made it to the final five of those times, and only reached the top 10 once, with their best ever result of sixth place in 2018. This year, a catchy song by Czech entrant Vesna – a “pan-Slavic” all-female group – has already made it to Saturday’s final. So could 2023 be the year that Czechia finally makes it into the top five – or better? I put this question to Dean Vuletic, author of the book “Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest”, who is in Liverpool for this year’s edition.

Vesna - My Sister's Crown (LIVE) | Czechia | First Semi-Final | Eurovision 2023

“I think the Czechs will finish in the top 10 definitely. The top three or the top five I’m not so sure – there are many strong songs in the Grand Final this year. But many of these strong songs were also in the first semi-final, which the Czechs passed. That was the hard semi-final this year, and they certainly did a great job there, so I think that the chances are high for a very good finish for Czechia.”

Do you think the fact that they have a Ukrainian musician in their line-up for the Eurovision entry song will help their chances at all?

“I think the Ukrainian element in the song does draw extra attention to it, but there’s more to it than that. There are other songs in this contest that are referring or alluding to the war.

Vesna | Photo: Tom McEnchroe,  Radio Prague International

“But the whole package needs to be eye-catching and impactful, the singing needs to be of a high quality, the song itself needs to be well-produced. And the reason the Czech entry is successful is because it manages to do all of this. It really is the full package – not only in the production of the song, but also when you see it performed on stage.

“It also captures this current trend in Eurovision – namely, the trend towards authenticity, by not being completely in English, and by engaging with a political and social message that captures the attention of the international audience. You’ll see that songs that are standard pop songs in the English language don’t do that well in Eurovision anymore.

“In this semi-final that the Czechs passed, the songs that weren’t in English all went through. And I think this is a very strong message, a very hopeful message, because what Eurovision needs to have more of is certainly cultural and linguistic diversity. The audiences are obviously appreciating and valuing that more and more, and the Czech entry has certainly hit the right note in that regard.”

Vesna | Photo: Tomáš Sedláček,  Český rozhlas Olomouc

So do you think this could be the year that Czechia does the best yet? Their best ever position was sixth – do you think they have a chance of beating that?

“I think that the Czechs could beat that record this year, yes. This is the song that could do that.

“I actually think the Czech entries have been very good in Eurovision in recent years. What needs to be worked on though is the popularity of Eurovision in Czechia. I hear from my friends and acquaintances in the country that Eurovision is still not so popular, and I think that if it continues to send such successful entries as Vesna, it may soon have to face the fact that it’s going to win Eurovision and therefore have to host Eurovision, and it would be good to increase the popularity of the contest in the country before that happens.”

How accurate in general are the bookies and the polls when it comes to predicting Eurovision winners? And how about your own prediction success rate?

“Well, I always say I’m a historian of Eurovision, not a prophet. I don’t like to predict, and I really don’t like that the bookies have such an impact on public opinion of the songs – I think that this is not right. We should all be waiting until we see the final performances on stage.

“Sweden has been leading in the bookies’ favourites for a long time now. Sweden is generally a very much favoured country when it comes to the bookies – this is due also to the country’s track record of success in Eurovision. But I think that the track record that Sweden has had unfairly influences the bookies’ predictions.

“We’ll see what happens on Saturday night – I think it’s still open. I actually don’t think Sweden will win – partly because I’m suspicious of this favouritism towards Sweden, and also because I think that the Swedish entry doesn’t reflect the trends I was talking about – especially the trend towards authenticity. It’s in English, there’s nothing Swedish about it, it doesn’t engage with a broader political or social issue. So for me, it’s not going to be the most eye-catching performance on the Eurovision stage this year.

“But what I can say about the Czech entry is that it will be memorable, and this is what a song needs to be in order to stand out among the 26 songs in the Grand Final. So already in that regard, the Czech song has had an impact, it’s been a success, and now we just have to wait and see how that is confirmed in the final results.”