ESC 2013 – Rankings That Rankle

Jun 5, 2013 by

ESC 2013 – Rankings That Rankle

Those pesky jurors can make fools of us all and they really did at ESC 2013. After picking up the pieces of my shattered jaw and letting the dust settle, it is difficult to know where to start with these initial rankings released by the EBU.

If you have followed the ESC analysis here since the site first tried to ‘crack Eurovision’ in 2010, it has been a story of diminishing profits over the last 4 renewals. It seems the more you know about the ESC, the less you know.

It was speculated the scoring change this year was a potential spanner in the works and there is no doubt, based on these rankings, that it has significantly moved the goalposts in 2013. And if it was introduced to try and negate bloc voting and any, for want of a better description, ‘funny business’ then it has spectacularly backfired.

The first observation – if we can garner any sense from these results at all – is that easily-accessible, middle-of-the-road songs look to have benefited greatly on the jury side of things under the new scoring system. How else do you explain Malta ranking first in semi 2 and Austria 5th in semi 1, not to mention Sweden 3rd on the jury ranking in the final? Conversely, more leftfield, original entries appear to have suffered under the new system.

Given how well they performed on the televote ranking side of things, the jury shortfall of Croatia, Bulgaria and Montenegro is particularly galling, having put forward the case here for all 3 being good value qualification prospects.

It was previously thought – at least by me – that juries were there to reward bold, original, contemporary entries. Songs that demonstrate musical artistry and highly skilled song writing, especially when combined with a stellar live vocal/performance – well executed, high quality ballads being particularly favoured. This is why my provisional jury top 4 in the final was Norway, Netherlands, France, Italy.

Norway ended up ranking lower on the jury side of things in semi 2 than Malta, Azerbaijan and Greece. Meanwhile, in semi 1, The Netherlands was ranked lower than Denmark, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine and Austria.

In the final, Norway ranked 4th and The Netherlands 7th. France, compromised perhaps by its draw in 1, was ranked 12th by juries; Italy was ranked 8th after Mengoni put in a decidedly lacklustre effort in front of the juries.

Let’s dissect these results further by looking at Azerbaijan’s success at ESC 2013. This is what I wrote about Farid during the semi 2 jury performance: Farid was visibly shaking throughout the song but for the most part it was ok. Not his best, he missed the last note & was a bit flat at the very start.

As a ballad ‘Hold Me’ did not resonate as anything special and Farid’s vocal was certainly never the strongest. Jurors reached a different conclusion. He sang from the 4 slot in a field of 17 in semi 2. In terms of voting strength Azerbaijan was far from favoured in semi 2, ranking around 6th in terms of historical voting data. Its strongest ally was also missing this year in Turkey which was certainly expected to hurt it in the final.

When you analyse ESC, you factor in position in the running order and voting strength as 2 key variables, not to mention song quality, and live vocal as 2 further key variables. Azerbaijan didn’t stack up particularly strongly on any of these variables in semi 2.  Which is why it was rated here as a value lay to finish in the top 3 at 1.65. And yet, it not only managed to finish top 3, it won semi 2 with a points score of 139, receiving points from every other country that voted in semi 2 bar Armenia and Germany, including 7 maximums.

Let’s take a little trip back through time. In 2011 in semi 1 Ell & Nikki sang from the 18 slot (out of 19). In terms of voting strength Azerbaijan was heavily favoured in this semi and ranked 1st in terms of historical voting data. Azerbaijan came 2nd in semi 1 in 2011 with 122 points, a tally that included only 2 maximums.

You can discuss the merits of ‘Running Scared’ vs ‘Hold Me’ until the cows come home but while Ell & Nikki’s semi-final points tally made sense based on established variables, it remains hard to fathom how ‘Hold Me’ managed to achieve such a big points haul this year in both its semi and the final.

These results look even more baffling when you contrast Azerbaijan’s jury ranking with the likes of Israel and Iceland in semi 2. To my ear Rak Bishvilo was a high quality ballad, very well sung, and while initially not rating ‘Eg a lif’ as highly, it was easy to see a lot of jury love for this song too, on the basis well sung, quality solo ballads are well rewarded by juries.

There were no contrived gimmicks with either song. Eythor powered it out flexing his vocal muscles on those big money notes while Moran sang superbly and from the heart during her jury performance. This was my description at the time: ‘Thought Moran really shone tonight. Very powerful, heart-felt delivery of this song.’ And yet, Iceland was ranked 8th by juries in semi 2 and Israel 9th.

It was a similar story for Estonia and Cyprus in semi 1, ranked 8th and 12th respectively. The stellar vocal prowess of Croatia’s Klapa s Mora was also shunned, ranking an astonishingly miserly 13th among juries. We also assumed a stage presentation displaying impressive musicianship and, like Croatia, a song remaining true to its national identity, would be rewarded. But Bulgaria’s ethno rock package was similarly snubbed in semi 2, ranked last by juries.

So much for fears, meanwhile, that Greece would be penalised by juries. ‘Alcohol Is Free’ managed a 3rd place ranking in semi 2. Could I ever have imagined jurors in semi 2 ranking ‘Alcohol is Free’ as superior to Norway’s ‘I Feed You My Love’, along with Malta and Azerbaijan? Never in a million years.

Then you have to look with a certain degree of astonishment at the jury ranking of Moldova and Ukraine in semi 1, 3rd and 4th respectively. You can accept a jury 2nd for Russia – it was an all-round competent power ballad – but Moldova and Ukraine appear to have been rewarded handsomely based more on vocal prowess than the quality of the songs. And yet, the likes of Birgit, Eythor and Moran didn’t receive such generous treatment in the semis. The only other factor that I can think of that may have given both Moldova and Ukraine a further jury boost is the staging gimmicks of both these songs.

If this is the case then these supposedly ‘music professionals’ who sit on juries are guilty of not performing their job properly. My guess is, if Birgit, Eythor and Moran had employed the services of BGT’ hot favourite Attraction, telling the story of their songs in trademark heart-rending style, all 3 would have performed much better in terms of jury ranking, which basically means staging gimmicks are winning the day with jurors and are able to cover up a multitude of sins in terms of song quality.

Another baffling element of these results is why Georgia so heavily lost out in the east and why Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan so heavily succeeded? In the final Ukraine was ranked 6th by juries, Moldova 5th and Azerbaijan 2nd, compared to Georgia’s lowly 12th.

Watching the semi-finals and final again after returning to the UK, the Georgian song definitely had some sound issues that were not as easy to pick up on in the press centre. But this is not enough to justify such a stark differential especially given that juries were willing to let Azerbaijan off for an all-round sub-standard vocal.

Televoters also loved Zlata enabling Ukraine to rank 2nd on the televote in the final. Even with the gimmick of the giant and Zlata posturing on her plinth for 3 minutes, this is surprising given Ukraine isn’t in the top tier of televoting superpowers, ranking 10th in terms of the historical voting strength among this year’s finalists, not to mention the strong competition in the east.

You can accept the televoting magnetism of the motherland, Russia – 5th on the televote in the final – as Russia is a voting superpower (3rd only behind Armenia and Greece this year) and Dina’s ‘What if’ was an easily accessible and well executed ballad. But along with Azerbaijan, ranked 3rd on the televote in the final, Ukraine’s televote lure is more difficult to fathom. Especially in the context, again, of Georgia which languished in a 23rd place ranking on the televote, despite being 4th in terms of its historical voting strength in this year’s final.

Another anomaly of this year’s split results is that the one main fear concerning Norway was that the song would not connect with the voting public. And yet, ‘I Feed You My Love’ achieved a highly respectable 6th place ranking on the televote in the final. If someone had told me this result, pre-final, I would have invested more heavily on Norway winning this year’s final as my assumption was, it would comfortably top the jury vote. The Netherlands also fared reasonably well with televoters achieving a ranking of joint 10th.

That juries ranked Denmark first is still surprising. ‘Only Teardrops’ was an extremely unoriginal, Eurovision-by-numbers effort that could never have a life outside of the ESC. It had strong echoes of early 90s Irish band The Cranberries. I thought this before but must credit Daniel Gould of sofabet who mentioned this in one of his preview articles. So, it was only the 20 years out of date, yet roundly endorsed by juries.

One can only conclude juries, like the folks sat at home, were taken in by the clever SVT production that gave it the winner’s clothes with requisite pyro curtain and the ticker tape of a victory parade. Or maybe they monitored the fan coverage pre-final and knew Denmark was the favourite to win, so there was an in-built ‘you must rank Denmark highly’ response.

The bottom line is, jurors have proved themselves more untrustworthy than ever before in 2013. And verging on incompetent given it is supposed to be a song contest, not a singing contest or a staging gimmicks contest. Under the new scoring system, the ESC definitely appears to have veered more towards those latter 2 aspects.

If you look back only one year, it is easier to make sense of the top jury 6 in the final which were comfortably clear of the rest. Sweden, Serbia, Albania, Italy, Spain, Estonia. 4 high quality ballads with stellar vocals, an Italian entry that exuded a certain class, and the outstanding trance package of ‘Euphoria’.

This year the top 6 on the jury rankings make a lot less sense: Denmark, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Norway, Moldova, Ukraine. You can talk about the Eastern bloc vote influence helping 3 of those, and the Scandi bloc helping the 3 others but that’s far too simplistic an analysis and is not enough to justify such inflated rankings in the cases of Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova and Sweden.

You do start to wonder if there has been a complete miscalculation in some countries given the new scoring system and the possibility for jurors to misunderstand the ranking procedure and end up placing their rankings accidentally back to front.

Some are suggesting ‘commercial’ songs are now winning the day with juries – specifically highlighting the jury ‘success’ of the likes of Malta, Belgium, Austria and Sweden. But it is hard to hold this up as some kind of new voting paradigm. What makes any of those songs more commercial than, say, Hungary or Lithuania for instance?

Trying to pull these results together, the only common denominator I can come up with is middle-of-the-road, easily accessible, feel-good songs winning through with juries under the new system… apart from Georgia. While anything too niche is losing out. Israel – Hebrew. Montenegro – rap. Bulgaria – ethno. Croatia – classical.

There would appear to be a fine line between a winning USP and a losing USP, and a fine line between staging that succeeds despite being calculated and contrived, and staging that doesn’t succeed by being too calculated and contrived… Georgia.

Throw in a guy in a perspex box doing amazing moves; a giant in a silly cape carrying an attractive woman who essentially proceeds to offer up the aural equivalent of farting rainbows for 3 minutes; or a self-raising, multi-coloured dress, and you are going to have your score inflated on the jury side.

If this is a trend under the new system then it is a troubling development because it is going to encourage ESC nations to focus on staging gimmicks even more. Not only that but the message from these results is clearly that you are better off sticking with safe, sanitised ‘Eurovision-by-numbers’ efforts to enter in the competition rather than anything organic, alternative or true to its national identity. Surely for the welfare of ESC as a relevant pan-European song contest this is the wrong road to go down, and risks making it look even more out of touch.

There has obviously been plenty of discussion, post-ESC 2013, surrounding the suspicious looking scores of certain countries, and as yet unsubstantiated talk regarding juries being bought and televote totals manipulated in foreign lands where televote totals, especially in the semi-finals, are very low.

It is obviously more tempting to cry foul when you have returned from the Contest, tail between your legs, with a large part of your analysis blown out of the water and your bank balance barely boosted after 5 months of keen study. But there were certainly some strange, unforeseeable elements to this year’s scoring. Let’s hope the EBU is taking allegations seriously and properly investigating this year’s results.

You do start to wonder whether the main reason SVT pushed Denmark for the win with the staging and changed the protocol during the post-semi-final draw for running order positions in the final, which appeared to be teed up for Denmark to get a 2nd half draw, was precisely because the EBU was well aware of the dubious efforts being made by certain countries to essentially buy victory this year. And maybe why it disallowed Ukraine from having this level of staging gimmickry going on:

Obviously winning favourites does not suit a value approach to tv betting markets, and we saw a glut of them at ESC 2013, so you can accept profits being well down. But I walked away from ESC 2013 seriously concerned about the possibility of ever returning to the sort of profit levels achieved in 2010 and 2011.

During the last 4 years of investing seriously in tv betting events, Eurovision rapidly gained a status here as the most lucrative trading platform of the lot. On the back of this year’s results, it looks far more unpredictable than previously considered and will require some serious re-working, in analysis terms, if we are to see the same scoring system utilised again in Denmark next year.

31 Comments

  1. Ben

    Perhaps you should not let your personal opinions of a song cloud your judgement. Azerbaijan were always going top 5 with that entry, especially with staging as impressive as that.

    • Rob

      Hi Ben,
      It’s not a case of personal opinions clouding judgement as you have to draw to certain conclusions regarding how songs are going to perform.

      As outlined in the article, an analysis of the variables used at previous ESCs suggested Azerbaijan would not achieve such a high score, especially not in the semi.

      • I have to second that, Rob.

        I never let personal feelings cloud my judgement. I’m the kind of person that bets against my own footy team.

        • Rob

          I do all the time, Gav. Loved the San Marino song this year but didn’t stop me laying it heavily for qualification.

  2. eurovicious

    This is an absolutely stellar piece – from the heart, like Moran – and has negated the need for me to write anything similar this week (as I was going to), as you’ve not only said pretty much everything I was going to but also in the way I’d have said it: with precision and fire. And you highlight the exact same gallingly aberrant results that stand out the most to me too:
    – Croatia, Bulgaria and Montenegro (the latter two of which would almost certainly have qualified under the previous system, and all of which – having come top 10 in the televote – would have even qualified this year under the new system had the juries done their job properly)
    – Netherlands, Israel, Iceland, Estonia, Cyprus… Georgia (all far too low), Austria (far too high). I also hardly need point out that when juries rank the derivative, only adequately sung novelty kitsch of Marry Me ahead of genuine artistic and vocal talent like Moran, Eythor, Dorians, Elitsa & Stoyan, Cezar, even Valentina – and higher than televoters to boot – we have a problem.

    I have few quibbles with the 2010-2012 jury results. In those years, the juries functioned pretty much exactly they should have. By contrast, this year’s jury results are a fucking joke.

    I think “industry professionals” is being interpreted very loosely in a lot of countries. For instance, the German jury included Lena and this man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuC-c0FSHCg

    I want to elaborate on something you touch in your discussion of Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan’s staging gimmicks and of the Danish entry. Going to the Swiss NF in December planted a seed in my mind for a column on hyperreality and sign exchange in Eurovision; songs not as original works (let alone art) but as simulacra of simulacra, collections of tropes, designed to provoke only a sense of recognition and familiarity – and thus safety – in the viewer. It’s content, not music; instead of the notes themselves saying “this is a good song”, the space between the notes says “this is what a good song is supposed to sound like”. And in the case of Denmark, the visuals accordingly didn’t communicate “this is a good performance” – such as by artistically accentuating the song’s emotional narrative, as in the case of Euphoria – they instead communicated “this is what a good/winning performance is supposed to look like”, in a way that sat uneasily with many observers including myself.

    In consumerist hypercapitalist society, we are environmentally trained through media, advertising, and our wider culture and socialisation to respond to the hyperreal over the real, or at the very least not to be able to distinguish between the two. (This training is constantly reinforced by our surroundings, as well as through the commodification of the authentic and dangerous and its conversion into the new normal, neutralising the inherent threat it poses by making it part of the establishment it challenged.) Hence the overwhelmingly Western European Eurovision fan bubble displays a strong affinity towards artifice and the derivative, and a concomitant aversion to songs of a raw, authentic, personal, or even just unpolished or off-kilter nature. Product over art. Whereas the 2012 jury results rewarded the original, the outstanding, the culturally and artistically authentic – from Suus to Euphoria – the 2013 jury results display this concerning affinity towards the hyperreal by rewarding not “good songs” but “songs that look like winners”, and by plumping for the safe and the expected while simultaneously dismissing anything even slightly culturally alien. Hence in the jury vote, the South Slavic countries (former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria) – which have retained and developed their own vivid popular musical culture separate from the rest of Europe – landed at the very bottom of the jury vote in both semis. Incredibly, the German jury vote in the final had all 5 Scandinavian countries in the top 6, together with Hungary. Similarly, the Dutch jury’s top 3 in the final were Norway, Sweden and Denmark, while its bottom 4 in SF1 were the four ex-Yugoslav nations.

    For the record, The Cranberries had a lot more musical chops than Only Teardrops demonstrates, as evidenced by a song like Zombie (the second-ever single I bought, on cassette from Woolworth’s in Altrincham – the first being Star Trekkin’ by The Firm, on 7-inch vinyl); even the lightweight, breezy Linger is a lot more musical and sophisticated than Teardrops.

    • Rob

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post-ESC interpretation of the split rankings, ev, & to offer up such a fulsome reply.

      Especially fascinated by the idea of a move towards ‘responding to the hyperreal’. Think you could be on to something & it certainly might help go some of the way in explaining the shift in jury response compared to 2012.

      btw, I liked that first album by The Cranberries too, especially ‘Linger’ but it was of course derivative of the true indie pioneers of that sound – The Sundays – & their epoch-making debut album – ‘Reading, Writing & Arithmetic’ released in 1990. Harriet Wheeler – truly the voice of an angel 🙂

      • That’s a cracking read EV and an interesting thesis on the shifting Eurovision plates.

        One only has to watch Melodifestivalen and Melodi Grand Prix to observe the commercialisation and westernisation of Eurovision. The end of the language rule also signaled the end of compositions stamped with regional identity. The last decent identifiable ethno songs were probably Horehronie and Työlki Ellää. The latter was punished by the juries despite being popular in the televote.

        I summed it up on Twitter: Eurovision is gradually morphing into large scale Melodifestivalen. That said, I have no problem with the derivative, as it will clearly make the contest more popular as it tries to capture the next generation of fans. Like you though, I am a purist and enjoy a proportion of traditional songs in the makeup of the contest. Should that grant them immunity? I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, I would like to see countries that enter traditional music rewarded for the composition rather than its commercial potential.

        While I understand and share your bemusement at Israel’s failure to qualify, I don’t believe Finland should be scolded for sending a thoroughly entertaining song that fantastically staged. I don’t listen to that kind of music, but I’m open minded enough to appreciate and recognise a quality entry.

        Don’t be too disheartened though EV. I’m sorry some of your bets didn’t come off too. We were all a tad sore after this year, and the Eurovision bubble was something new to me. That said, Daniel, Rob and I managed to emerge from the two weeks unscathed.

        • And I’ll just add… Dreams is my favourite Cranberries track.

        • Rob

          Very fair observations, Gav. I guess a major concern is, if it follows the MF template in future years, that could even see songs performed at the ESC with a backing track – apparently, something Christer Bjorkman would like to see, & he is obviously on the rise up the ESC ladder.

          This really would be a hammer blow for serious investors in ESC markets, as the ability to sing live has been a key component in the assessment of entries.

        • eurovicious

          Thanks Gavin. I think I was getting a bit smug after (to my own surprise) I did well on both semis, but then fell flat on my face in the final. Pride comes before a fall…

          After this year’s contest I have to agree with you on it becoming more westernised, commercialised, Swedified etc… and I hate that. It’s not what I watch Eurovision for. 2012 is actually the only year out of the past 5 that I really like, whereas I’d consider 2004-2008 a golden age. 2009-2011 and 2013 were too bland and mainstream. More tonk tonk is called for.

    • Boki

      Think you made a big point there: those “industry professionals” are or act like common people in many cases. Besides that, each year we get a set of completely different individuals so the only predictable outcome is unpredictability.

    • Rob

      Here’s one especially for you, ev 🙂

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n35C0j3LLB0

      • eurovicious

        Especially for me? Thank you 🙂 I’m not sure what to read into that… here’s where the betting story ends (again), indeed, where my faith the event that is Eurovision ends (if not my love of its music and what it represents), and where the social media story ends, but let’s call it the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. I do know and like this song actually, I just never knew who it was by! Thanks again.

      • eurovicious

        Especially for me? Thank you 🙂 I’m not sure what to read into that… here’s where the betting story ends (again), indeed, where my faith in the event that is Eurovision ends (if not my love of its music and what it represents), and where the social media story ends, but let’s call it the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. I do know and like this song actually, I just never knew who it was by! Thanks again.

  3. Boki

    Hi Rob, just for the record to point out one thing I didn’t see yet in the split reviews. We suspected the new system is going to hurt some and that happened to some indeed but nobody is mentioning Serbia. We all thought it’s going to be punished by the juries, the question was how much – anyway Moje3 were pimp-slot value proposal for top3 in their semi on all betting sites. What we all take for granted is that they will get a good if not great televote score and at the end it didn’t happen, quite opposite. Serbia was calculated to have a great voting power in the semi but it failed to show up. It could be that the new system effectively slashed the diaspora votes in the western block, ex-sssr block ignored them and presence of only two Balkan allies in the semi was not enough.

    But at the end, I think that many things could be explained with the song/staging impression they act makes. Azer staging was superb and that was enough. Moje3 were childish act, Dutch commentator compared them to K3 (Flemish/Dutch girl band with a Dutch repertoire, mainly aimed at pre-adolescent children) – enough said.

    • Rob

      Thanks for your post, Boki. There is so much to comment on regarding these split results it deserves a part II. Serbia’s failure on the televote was, again, surprising. I figured their outfits were a bit odd to our Western eyes only, but in Serbia’s part of Europe maybe not so much.

      I see Serbia got 10s from Croatia and Montenegro and a 6, 5 & 4 among 3 other ‘friends’ in Austria, Slovenia & Sweden. You’re right – it would appear the new system hurt Serbia as you can only assume it was the jury ranking that dropped these points tallies down and knocked them out of the top 10.

      Serbia’s failure to make the 10 gave me greater conviction Romania would not be qualifying from semi 2. Its voting strength wasn’t nearly as strong and yet it qualified comfortably in 5th.

      It got 10s from the likes of Malta and Iceland, 7 from Germany, 6 from France, 6 from Norway… These are nations I didn’t have on a list of likely candidates to award Romania pts this year, so I can only conclude Romania did much better with juries than anticipated. And for all the showmanship of Cesar I was once more surprised that it proved such a resounding televote hit.

      So you can add Serbia and Romania to a long list of ‘surprises’ for me at ESC 2013.

    • eurovicious

      I think the explanation for this is quite simple and it’s that Montenegro got Serbia’s televote. RTS isn’t good at music, and there was a lot of dissatisfaction surrounding Beosong this year, as a whole host of big-name artists submitted songs and almost all of them were rejected behind closed doors by the producers. The quality of the 15 songs ultimately chosen was very poor and the suggestion is it was a fix-up for the Moje 3 girls, who were left as the most high-profile act. The outcry was such that Serbia’s main commercial station, Pink, announced its intention to organise an alternative Beosong featuring all the rejected entries (http://www.telegraf.rs/jetset/529384-grandovizija-sasa-popovic-pravi-svoj-beosong), although 4 months on, this still hasn’t happened. Remember also Marija Serifovic whipping her jacket off during her interval performance in the final to reveal a t-shirt saying “music above corruption”, as her brother was one of the rejected artists.

      While Moje 3 were popular with Serbian TV viewers, having won Prvi glas Srbije, I suspect most people (especially in the diaspora, where people won’t necessarily have watched Prvi glas Srbije or know who Moje 3 are) just didn’t like the song and liked Montenegro a lot more – Igranka is much closer to the type of music popular in Serbia and the region at the moment, especially among the young and the diaspora. By contrast, Ljubav je svuda isn’t much of a choon. Part of the problem is that for historical/sociopolitical reasons, RTS actively tries to distance itself from the type of music that’s most popular in Serbia, while Pink own the country’s main record labels and broadcasts this type of music all the time. It’s like the BBC/ITV situation but much more pronounced. RTS can’t do pop. Zeljko even defected to Pink and premiered his new single on Pink’s flagship music show on the night of the Beosong final, in a direct clash.

  4. Mag

    I think you’re too hard on Azerbaijan – he’s not a strong singer, but the song and staging were great. I expected top 5 too. Probably 2nd position is too much and I don’t doubt all the corruption stories, but I just think Azerbaijan uses all necessary methods to win including hard work.
    I did like Moldova’s entry from the country’s final, so I’m not surprised it did well with the juries. I think it would have done better with the televoters if they were keeping it in English in spite the “bad English” that some complained.
    Netherlands – I think it did the maximum in the Grand Final. She has a great voice, but the song is not very convincing for me and she seemed sort of detached…I am happy for the country and all the Dutch people whining they never qualify, but that was not a winning song.
    My favorite for number 1 was Norway – I am surprised it did not do better than that and honestly Denmark’s song adds to many years of disappointing number 1s at Eurovision for me.
    I agree with you on Malta & Hungary – they did much better than they deserved and the new way of calculation gives too much advantage to no-hate/no-love songs! I was pleased to see them qualifying, but I’m not pleased to see Malta number 1 with juries in semifinal 2 for example.
    Disappointed with Israel & San Marino not qualifying…And as it was clear they were not televoters’ favorites, juries are to blame in my opinion. They let them down.
    After most of the bloggers’ negative comments, I was surprised but happy to see Cezar qualify. And ironically due to televoters! Yes, many argue that it’s the WTF factor, but actually there are great comments on his Eurovision videos regarding his voice.

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting, Mag.
      I think I need to stress, a top 5 finish for Azerbaijan did not surprise me in the final. Nor Ukraine’s high finish for that matter. I was very weary of both.

      If you look at my final preview article I gave Azerbaijan as 6th, Ukraine 7th, & that was with my potential ‘springer’, Iceland, finishing above them.

      My biggest issue is with Azerbaijan’s semi-final victory, based on the analysis I’ve outlined above. Farid did not have a good live vocal & the staging was contrived.

      Of course, you can expect such gimmicks to pay off with the public – helping to boost the likes of Azerbaijan & Ukraine’s televote – but jurors should be analyzing the songs objectively & assessing the actual substance and quality of the songs.

      ‘Hold Me’ was nowhere near the standard of ‘Running Scared’ imho & in a clean & fair contest should not have been winning its semi or finishing 2nd in the final. And Ukraine shouldn’t have been finishing 3rd.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        I agree with Mag re your hard line on the demerits of Azerbaijan. I loved Azer’s entry.

        Farid was a good looking, charismatic and clear, pleasant-sounding singer.
        I remember reading you saying this [c&p jobbie]:

        ‘Farid looking very nervous at song start. You can see his hand shaking as he is holding the mic. But he regains his composure to deliver the song well. He is incredibly expressive and really does give ‘great camera’.

        The only alleged negative was that he looked genuinely nervous at the outset of the performance. Hmmm: a muscular, handsome young man went on a “confidence journey” within a single performance. Is that a negative or a positive?

        Imo, ‘Hold Me’ was a catchier song than ‘Running Scared’. I can’t even remember how that other Azer entry’s tune went. I think I do remember that it benefited hugely from a favourable draw, especially in relation to the bulk of its rivals.

        Above you say: ‘the staging was contrived’ and follow on from this thought with: ‘Of course, you can expect such gimmicks to pay off with the public – helping to boost the likes of Azerbaijan & Ukraine’s televote – but jurors should be analyzing the songs objectively & assessing the actual substance and quality of the songs.’

        I disagree that Azer’s staging was gimmicky. I think I remember eurovicious (on another site) describe the (as then) new Azer staging as ‘art’. I remember nodding my head in agreement at reading his response.

        The staging was beautiful, symbolic, innovative and visually represented the story. There was a perfect match between the the themes of the song and the performance.

        Compare this staging with the staging of Ukraine in 2011. A past winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent plays with sand off to the side of the singer. It is an extraneous gimmick, integral to nothing. The sandinista could have done her thing to the side of any of the acts, any of the songs.

        Although the ESC is a song contest, it is broadcast on television. It’s not a radio show; it’s a television show. As much as you may wish that viewers and jurors would not be influenced by visuals, nevertheless they still will.

        Take the Netherlands. A beautiful, delicate, whimsical waltz of a song. The female singer’s deep and smoky voice contrasting effectively with the will-o’-the wisp song.

        But the presentation! Anouk typically looked like she’d just rolled out of bed. She seemed to have selected her outfit on a 5 minute stop at Topshop. And she’d managed to select a top with armlets that didn’t cover her tats.
        As Mag comments above: ‘…she seemed sort of detached.’ Yes. As though she was embarrassed by the song and/or the ESC.
        The back projection was as cheap as it gets. Thoughtless.
        An example:- lyric: ‘Birds falling down the rooftops, out of the sky like raindrops…’ Check this with the rolling projection on the background screen!

        I guess it sounds like I’m having a pop at you. I don’t mean to be aggressive. Sorry, Rob, if I am overstepping a bit. I enjoy reading your opinions, you’re often on the money and I like this site.

        But this is a betting/tipping site and I know that you back your opinions with your money, so challenging your analysis is potentially a good thing? It took me a very long time to realise I have a tendency to overestimate the chances of blonde female singers! Lol. This oversight was measurable in losing betting slips 🙁

        I noticed with your continued support for Serbia throughout the ESC, you underestimated the dreadful visual presence of their entry.

        It developed from a soft-porn show featuring three leggy prostitutes into a children’s tv show featuring three bimbo prostitutes. I postulated that it was what you would get if you had three high-class hookers perform a Hi-5 stage show.

        I’ve read a number of posts (on another site) penned by eurovicious on the very, very naughty activities of Azerbaijan. They deserve all the stick going for their shady dealings.

        But imo ‘Hold Me’ was superb all-round entertainment and fully deserved to be top three.

        • Rob

          Thanks for such a comprehensive post, Guildo. Should point out, with Serbia, it was flagged up here as a value e/w bet before we saw the Malmo stage presentation.

          I expressed major concerns at how they looked during rehearsal coverage, and virtually wrote Serbia off as a top 3 prospect after seeing those outfits for the first time but you obviously cannot retract an earlier betting recommendation.

          That said, I stand by everything I outlined as to why Serbia was a value e/w play at the time in its semi-final in looking to find some early ‘value’, which is what this site is about.

          I accept that clever staging is going to inflate the televote. That’s a no-brainer. The point I am making in my analysis of this year’s rankings is, I still find it hard to fathom why juries rated ‘Hold Me’ so highly. And even more so in the case of Ukraine.

          You expect them to be doing a professional job in assessing song quality. If, as you intimate, the Netherlands was marked down for what Anouk was wearing, & the fact the presentation didn’t have 3D birds come out & hover above her head throughout the performance, then the Contest is going down the wrong path & a re-think is required as to what exactly jurors are there to assess.

          Farid certainly did give great camera but I kept watching Azerbaijan & Ukraine, & returning to the thought neither song was especially strong.

          I still anticipated both to do well, but that was more to do with worries over the ‘buying Eurovision’ angle. I still think that’s ultimately what helped both to such impressive results in their semis and the final.

          But there was a further doubt the new scoring system had been put in place to counteract any shady goings-on & Azerbaijan’s recent success in the Contest might also see juries being harsh on it.

          From a value angle, I agree with Panos that Azerbaijan’s Outright price did become great value e/w when it drifted on the high street, purely given its track record in the Contest.

          Everything is incredibly easy in hindsight & it is in our psyche as investors in these markets to staunchly defend winning selections.

          That’s why you, Panos & others will offer up the counter view on Azerbaijan this year while I will maintain ‘Running Scared’ was far superior to ‘Hold Me’ & was a very deserving winner of ESC 2011 – flagged up here at 16-1 🙂

          If you have followed this site in the last 4 years Guildo, you will see the analysis has been enormously profitable for readers despite ESC 2013 proving less bountiful.

          You can’t get it right all the time, but if you get it right more times than you get it wrong, taking a value approach, then you will win in the long run.

          The likes of Little Mix, 66-1, Chris Hollins, 28-1, Greece to win its semi at ESC 2011, 50-1, Germany to win ESC 2010 at 14-1, Azerbaijan winning ESC 2011 at 16-1…

          These results have allowed me to pretty much give up my day job, so do keep reading as there will be another one along soon 🙂

          • Seconded!

            I’ve read a few mutterings complaining about failed tips. People forget the risky long-odds prospects we pick out and the hours of research and analysis that goes into uncovering those diamonds in the rough.

            We’ll keep highlighting those working-men’s tips, Rob 🙂

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          My apologies, Rob. I can see now my response had a touch of arrogance about it and a touch of the MBO about it (Master of the Bleedin’ Obvious).
          I was aware of your stellar tipping record, but there’s no harm done in reminding me!
          ‘Everything is incredibly easy in hindsight’ – so true. Gamblers are hostages to fortune.

          I think what niggles me in general is a thread of opinion I’ve read in pockets on a number of sites. There’s a subtext of: I thought this song should have done well, while that song should have done poorly – with in actuality the reverse transpiring. This then seems to lead to a conclusion that the juries are fools [which they may well be!] and that it is the juries’ collective fault [with the implication that their decision was inexplicable]. Add into this mix the very plausible finger of campaigns of corruption being pointed at certain countries and the general post ESC analysis seems, imo, a little muddied.

          I’ve only loosely followed the ESC over the years and so lack the depth of historical knowledge of most others.

          I did take a keen interest in last year’s show.
          There was the effect of the new voting system for this year; but the patterns of last year’s results and this year’s seem to hold a fairish level of consistency.

          I will defend my opinion of the Netherland’s entry. The singer and the presentation made plain: ‘We don’t care and can’t be bothered’. For me, it detracted from and impinged upon the listening experience. I did wonder at one point if the low-tech or minimalistic look might work for it, but the production choices were so poor that they created a dirge-like atmosphere. The monotonous and daft footage on the back projection seemed to have been selected by someone who had heard the title of the song but not the song.

          If juries did mark it down for any of the speculations I’ve floated, I think that is understandable.

          I think I have read on another site the guidance given to juries. Whatever the content of the guidance, I should guess it is flawed.

          You said in you post 2 above (5:36pm): ‘…but jurors should be analyzing the songs objectively & assessing the actual substance and quality of the songs.’
          Just reflecting on this and I think it is the stimulus point for a discussion.
          I won’t pursue it, though, in case I’m coming across as a bit arsey!

          Thanks for replying.

          • Rob

            Thanks for the follow up post, Guildo. No issue for me whatsoever with any of your posts – appreciate you taking the time to type out your thoughts.

            I’m impressed you can find a level of consistency between the 2012 results & this year’s because I struggle to see much at all, which is why 2013 proved so tricky.

            The subtext of expecting what would do well with juries is based on what we have seen juries reward in the past. For me they have become an increasingly subjective, inconsistent and untrustworthy body & the new scoring system appears to have merely accentuated this.

            I didn’t think there was anything incompetent about The Netherlands staging. Certainly nothing that should have been causing juries to mark it down. It was a simple, stripped back presentation in keeping with the song. Personally, I thought the backdrop was effective in re-enforcing the dreamy quality of the song.

            Music is subjective but I also believe if you are a music professional you should be able to recognise quality. I am a huge music fan & my taste is enormously eclectic after 30+ years of listening. Play ‘Birds’ or ‘I Feed You My Love’ back-to-back with, say, ‘Gravity’ & as pieces of music the former 2 are so far superior in my view it’s not even a contest.

            All you can do is try & put yourself in the shoes of a juror, & hope they agree with your assessment.

          • eurovicious

            Completely agree with this comment. The Dutch staging was fine – when you have a song like Birds and a performer as truly magical as Anouk, you don’t need bells and whistles. Less is more. I don’t even think most people will have paid that much attention to the backdrop, the focus was rightly on Anouk throughout.

            Don’t worry about coming over as arsey Guildo, I know I do sometimes (too much so) but difference of opinion is a good thing 🙂

  5. Panos

    Everything is relative. I personally think Hold Me is a great song (I was shocked by its 11th/12th position in the win market ages before the staging concept) and Running Scared an average song. Almost everyone at my party had Hold Me as their favorite song after all 26 sung. Add to that a great presentation. Add to that a hot guy. So for me no need to think and re-think about those high semi/final ranks.

  6. Jorgen F.

    I am a Dane and I feels really bad about our song. Disappointed, too, with what happens to Cezar (masterpiece opera), Birgit, Eythor and Nodi & Sophie. Georgia, Estonia, Iceland, Romania and Norway sums up my top 5, with Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, Malta, Italy completes the top 10. (no particular order indicated, and only finalists counted)
    I totally agrees with the cases of Hungary, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, totally punching above its weight. Finally Malta is totally great. And I view Greece exactly the same.
    Armenia, Hungary, Greece, Finland should be out!

  7. eurovicious

    I have a new theory on the jury vote (which also applies in part to the televote and thus to the overall results). Reading a Eurovision blog, I encountered the following Irish newspaper clipping from 1970 and after reading the third paragraph, suddenly understood everything: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VoD9V9Qo94g/T1ORzTcBIsI/AAAAAAAAABQ/AQionp0nMjc/s1600/eurovision70.png

    It’s a popularity contest. People (shockingly, juries to a much greater extent than televoters) are voting on charisma, on perceived personality. Emmelie won for being Emmelie/Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Farid came second for being the resident Desirable Boy and for his staging, Zlata came third for being this year’s big-voiced babe. Robin came third in the jury vote for being an almost-too-archetypal-to-be-true Non-Threatening Boy: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lg3grnqd7x1qgllp5o1_500.jpg. It’s that simple. The song and vocal were irrelevant to the 2013 juries in almost all regards – to get major jury love as in the cases above, a song only had to fulfil the criteria of being undemanding, very mainstream/accessible and in English, and its vocal merely competent.

    Malta winning the SF2 jury vote, then being top 10 in the final? Same applies: charisma and personality. Youth, charm and simplicity. (Ditto Hungary’s televote, arguably.) Krista 6th out of 17 in the SF2 jury vote? Charisma and personality. Moran 9th in the jury vote? Poor optical impact, lack of opportunity for personality to come through, and the overwhelming sense that it seemed like a downer/toilet break song immediately following Greece. (This was the feeling I picked up in the arena during the afternoon rehearsal and the reason I turned my Q bet into an NQ bet. Watching the show that evening in the Eurovision Village, there were audible groans and a sense of disinterest when Moran appeared onscreen and the song began after the slapstick capers of Greece.) Her vocal skill and the quality of the song were irrelevant to jurors and televoters.

    Austria beating NL in the jury vote? Same rule applies. Opening number with charismatic pretty young girl singing very easily accessible mainstream song versus an older, edgier singer with a more complex, austere song.

    People often correctly say that X Factor UK is a popularity contest and isn’t really about who’s the best singer, let alone artist. (I think this much was clear in the first series when we ended up with a Steve Brookstein/G4 final, with much more talented and interesting acts like Cassie, Voices With Soul and Rowetta having fallen by the wayside in previous weeks.) As of this year at the very latest, the same now applies to Eurovision, and it’s because of the juries much more than the televoters. It’s a Big Brother of first impressions – a vote on who seems “nice” as judged in the space of 3 minutes, factoring in appearance, personal charisma and how pleasant and inoffensive the song is. As perceived using the above criteria, Emmelie, Farid, Zlata, Gianluca etc. are simply cooler, more mainstream/accessible, less threatening figures (with less threatening songs) than Cezar, Andrius, Elitsa & Stoyan and Who See, none of whom are telegenic and all of whom thus fared much worse with juries(!) than viewers.

    Emmelie: “nice”. Farid: “nice”. Zlata: “nice”. Even Krista: “nice”. Montenegro and Bulgaria: not “nice”. Foreign and threatening.

    (Incidentally, I find myself able to apply this theory retrospectively to all winners since 2009. Lena and Emmelie are cut from the same cloth, Loreen won for being cool, and Rybak is the Nice Non-Threatening Boy. Ell and Nikki’s presentation was non-threatening and “nice”, as was the song.)

    Given the cultures of the majority of countries voting in Eurovision, I’m extending this theory to include a more speculative sub-theory of “selection against camp” and “selection towards heteronormativity”. How can we explain the vastly different jury receptions of Saade, Tooji and Ryan Dolan? Easy: Popular was robustly masculine in it choreography and presentation – think the macho smashing of the glass box and the backing dancers’ tough-guy dance moves. It wasn’t fey in the slightest. By contrast, Stay and Only Love Survives were camp as tits, the latter in particular, each for different reasons. Dolan and his song weren’t especially camp but the staging was extremely so, while in the case of Tooji, this was the other way round – the staging wasn’t particularly camp but the song itself is musically very camp (the structure, the hooks, the ethnic elements that almost evoke belly dance, especially combined with the dance moves) and Tooji himself is also noticeably camp. Vocally Dolan was easily the best of the three, but it didn’t help him one bit.

    Cezar: camp as tits, hence a much lower jury score than televote despite his extraordinary voice, the best in the contest.
    Montenegro: camp in the theatrical rather than cultural sense – it’s awesome but juries were alienated (GEDDIT?) by spacesuits and a robot woman.

    Running Scared coming second in the jury vote: very heteronormative. Krista: heteronormative. Far from being anything approaching “queer” (and thus threatening), the lesbian kiss at the end merely came over as token titillation, and exists with the very established framework of I Kissed A Girl, Te Amo, Madonna/Britney/Christina kissing etc. This pretend lesbian behavior is heteronormative as it’s all about women objectifying themselves and each other by engaging in same-sex hijinks solely to titillate men and cause mock outrage.

    End of thoughts for now.

  8. eurovicious

    Oh, and Georgia: unlike Ell & Nikki, Nodiko and Sopho were neither young nor cool, hence the relative and surprise failure. It’s like your schoolteachers singing a love ballad. They’re not aspirational or accessible figures.

  9. eurovicious

    Serbia: foreign-language song with confusing and threating “queer” presentation, despite highly competent vocals.

  10. Rob

    Great stuff, ev, & thanks for taking the time to post your latest thoughts.

    I think what you say all makes for very valid reasoning. From a personal point of view I would like to see juries going back to doing their job & rating the songs according to song quality. It is a song contest after all.

    But it has all become extremely clouded now, & a lot of jurors are clearly being swayed by a number of elements – many of which you highlight – which have nothing to do with the quality of the songs.

    I’d like to see the EBU go a lot further in setting out instruction for jurors, ensuring they are legitimate ‘professionals’ & more importantly with a handle on contemporary music (Tony Hatch & Tony Blackburn are music dinosaurs who should simply not be anywhere near a professional UK jury), & inviting all jurors to listen to the songs over a period of time, while asking them to ultimately assess them how they are delivered on the big nights in front of the juries.

    At least, if we knew all jurors had listened & studied the songs over a good few listens, we would (in theory) get a more reliable, predictable & robust jury result, & trading would be easier.

    Under the new scoring system & as the jury rules currently stand, it’s an invitation for far too much subjectivity & makes the jury element far too random imho.

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