Where Did The Russian Jury Vote Come From?

Jun 19, 2012 by

Where Did The Russian Jury Vote Come From?

The split ESC jury and televote results have finally been unveiled by the EBU and, probably more so than the previous two years, they make for hugely surprising reading. But after some of the rumours we heard while travelling to Baku and back, via Russia, maybe not entirely surprising.

There is no better place to start than with Russia, given the big red we built up on it on the Outright that caused so many sleepless nights during this year’s ESC. A huge televote total always looked on the cards and this came to pass to the tune of 332pts and 2nd place on the televote behind Sweden. What we find harder to understand is Russia’s jury totals.

This is where we were anticipating a huge shortfall for Russia and a position loitering somewhere close to last place. Let’s not forget that Alexey Vorobyov singing ‘Get You’ for Russia managed only 25 jury points in the 2011 final, and last placing for what was a perfectly acceptable pop tune. There has been a clear anti-diaspora agenda noted among juries in recent years, and there looked no primer suspect for a jury thumbs down this year than the much talked about and hyped Russian novelty tune.

The Babushki began the song with a barely coherent mumble, and didn’t offer any semblance of vocal ability at any stage of ‘Party For Everybody’, a tune that was as lyrically bereft that you could find. So our main question for jurors would be this: how on earth can they justify rating Russia 8th best in semi 1 to the tune of 75 jury points, and 11th best in the final with 94pts? What a nonsense, and an insult to credible artists at this year’s ESC such as Kaliopi (69pts, 17th), Soluna Samay (51pts, 21st) and Maya Sar (71pts, 15th) to name just 3 who fell well below the Babushki on the jury scoring in this year’s final.

Ahh yes, you see, but on the novelty scale, Russia was a triumph, some may argue. Juries will reward songs that are executed well in their particular musical sphere. But that argument doesn’t hold water, as Romania was brilliantly executed as a fun party tune. Norway was well executed as a slick piece of pop production straight from the Schlager school, and Greece was a well delivered piece of ethno pop. Yet they were all shunned by juries along with many others that were similarly competent in their chosen genres.

Russia’s 8th place in semi 1 on the jury vote is particular galling for our followers given it did not merit even a quarter of that total of 75, and if it had received the sort of score it deserved then 66-1 shot Albania would have won semi 1 for us, and given our overall profit on ESC 2012 a massive boost. As it was Albania’s combined points total was still only 2pts less than Russia. We can only surmise that juries do not always base their voting on musical merit based on this year’s jury voting. Are some of them corrupt? It’s dangerous territory to start pointing the finger and making such allegations but this year’s results really do bring into question the integrity of some juries.

As feared, and contemplated over the course of ESC 2012, Romania was severely punished by juries – ranking 20th with 53pts – scuppering its chance of a top 10 finish overall, despite finishing 7th in the final on the televote. This strikes us as ridiculously harsh, and how on earth can it be justified when fellow fun/party tunes such as Moldova managed 104pts with juries, and Russia, as already mentioned, 94pts? Especially given that ‘Zaleilah’ was so well sung by Mandinga’s Elena.

Despite recommending a back of Albania e/w in semi 1, and to finish top 10 in the final, we are surprised by the televoting totals Rona was able to achieve. Albania came 8th on the televote in the final despite its lousy draw in 3, and in semi 1 it managed 3rd on the televote from trap 5. Quite an achievement, even given Albania’s voting power, and offering hope that a solo ballad of genuine quality could yet win the ESC in a year when there is no stand-out, runaway winner. Germany’s 6th place on the final televote and Estonia’s 12th place are also impressive given their comparative lack of voting strength in the final.

Other than that, the trend remains that the televote is largely dominated by those nations with the biggest voting power who deliver songs that tick the right boxes for their vote bases – Serbia, Turkey, Azerbaijan – and then add to that those tunes that have a simplicity or novelty value that televoters can easily latch on to – Russia, Romania, Ireland.

Alongside Russia’s dubious and frankly absurd jury score, one of the most eyebrow-raising results this year has to be Ukraine’s startling televoting deficit – a miserly 37pts in the final. This was a song considered a very solid top 10 proposition, and not just by us, largely because of Ukraine’s voting strength in the final combined with its favourable late draw in 25. And juries were fans of Gaitana’s song rating it 7th best in the final with 125pts – a surprisingly high total, though perhaps just reward for Gaitana’s excellent, unaccompanied vocal. Yet televoters did not support it.

This final result mirrored the semi in which Ukraine was rated 3rd by juries yet placed 17th of 18 on the televote, despite Ukraine, in semi 2, ranking 6th in terms of voting power. An explanation as to why Ukraine’s traditional allies did not support the song is hard to find, other than to factor in, we are afraid to say, a racist element into this shortfall.

One strange anomaly this year lies in the fact Greece finished 4th in semi 1, beating Cyprus (7th in semi 1) by 25pts, finishing above Cyprus in both the televote and jury vote. Yet in the final, regardless of Greece possessing even greater voting power, and also being drawn later, Cyprus managed to beat Greece by 1point overall, aided by 25pts more it received on the jury vote. This, despite Greece beating Cyprus on the televote by 26pts and achieving a higher combined score by 1 point. Not that we’re still smarting over Greece losing its h2h with Cyprus by a single point…

We were in Baku and watched the jury performances and we cannot for the life of us fathom why Norway was rated the worst song in semi 2 by juries, and 24th out of 26 in the final. Tooji sang the song adequately enough – certainly on a par with the sort of vocal ability Eric Saade offered up singing ‘Popular’ in 2011. And this was a song more about the total pop package, surely, and the presentation and choreography was fantastic.

Norway received a lousy 24 jury points in the final, whereas Sweden received 106 jury points in 2011. This is made more non-sensical when you consider Cyprus’s pop effort, ‘La, la love’, was sung weakly by Ivi in front of the juries yet managed 85pts with juries. Televoters also turned their noses up at Tooji and we can only think his look wasn’t tweenies cup of tea, unlike the female-friendly, boy band good looks of Saade. Being followed by hometown gal Sabina in 13 probably stole Tooji’s limelight too. In future, when assessing the heart-throb credentials of such performers, much attention needs to be paid to the artist in question, and precisely the vibe he is giving off.

On the televote, Ukraine, Norway and Cyprus probably also suffered because Loreen ruled supreme this year in the pop/dance genre, stealing their sunshine. Malta finishing 5th on the jury vote in semi 2 is another surprising result. Malta’s ‘This Is The Night’, on every conceivable scale, was inferior to Norway’s ‘Stay’, yet it earned 72pts more among juries in semi 2. Readers – can you enlighten us, or need we only remind ourselves of Malta’s history of surprisingly high jury scores, and said jurors later seen holidaying in 5-star luxury in The Seychelles?

Denmark faring so badly with juries in the final (21st, 51pts) is also enormously surprising, as is its poor televoting return of a meagre 18pts and 23rd place. You can understand a certain televote deficit for Denmark, Norway and Iceland in the final due to being eclipsed by their Scandinavian neighbour Sweden, but you might have reasonably expected all of these to receive much higher jury scores. For Denmark to be ranked a disappointing 6th by juries in semi 1 is also rather baffling when you see juries rating Moldova, Greece, Cyprus and Romania as superior.

Another factor may well have been running order. Denmark was probably eclipsed by the Babushki in its semi, arriving next on stage following Soluna and her garage band. And given the impact Loreen made arriving in the 17 slot in the final, it looks like Denmark and Greece in particular were damaged on the televote by this.

We knew there were a number of songs seeking to be the runaway jury winner this year, and honestly, despite being the bookies’ favourite, it surprises us that Sweden not only won the jury vote, but by such a huge margin. Loreen managed to choke on a snowflake and still win the jury vote by a landslide. 18th place for Spain on the televote is certainly lower than we expected, and 154 jury points, and a 5th ranking with the juries, not as high as we expected.

It is understandable for the likes of Serbia, Albania, Italy and Spain to be towards the top of the jury vote, though far more surprising to us that Moldova achieved 9th place among juries in the final. Regardless of Pasha Parfeny selling ‘Lautar’ well on stage, this could also be said of any number of other performers who didn’t get nearly as much jury love as Moldova. Add this one to 2012’s long list of perplexing results.

To sum up, a lot of unforeseen factors had a bearing on this year’s ESC; more so than the previous two years. That said, in Douze Points, an introductory guide to ESC trading (see above link), it is stated how important it is to ‘think outside the box’ and it was mentioned there to consider Russia’s ambitions after Putin’s return to office, and Eastern Europe’s racist overtones, so in some ways our own warning signs were not factored in maybe as much as they, on reflection, could have been. But this is all in hindsight and you would have needed a crystal ball to predict some of this year’s results.

We all know we are at the whims of the jurors’ subjective tastes, but 2012 really does bring into question, more than ever, what the hell juries were playing at. Which perhaps hammers home the point, that it is best to stick to the certainties at the ESC, and this year the one result that resides firmly in this certainty list was Serbia’s 3rd place, and the UK finishing well down the leaderboard in 25th. The key remains to make these strong, well-reasoned predictions, your biggest trades.

Sabina Babayeva sang this year about ‘When The Music Dies’. And it really has if music professionals are rating a group of female seniors in amusing national costume, who among them could barely hold a note, inviting the audience to ‘Come On And Dance’ while offering assorted baked goods, as 11th best in 2012. Though, on reflection, the bewildered little one really did nail her tray-carrying duties in front of the juries on the Friday night so that must have swung it for them.

What are others’ observations on this year’s split results? Is there anything glaring you have spotted? Please add your opinions below, as it will all help going into 2013 in Stockholm.
Rob Furber

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8 Comments

  1. Mitch

    Rob, a fantastic analysis of the revealed points allocated by the jury. Some serious questions surely have to be asked on some of the scoring. Is there any independent body that investigates any dubious jury voting? Eurovision I believe is gathering recognition but such suspect jury votes could be so damaging. Not only for my betting portfolio, but for the credibility of the competition I am thankful Loreen eclipsed the corrupt Russian grannies. How as a punter can we guard against dirty jury voting next year???

  2. janeair

    I am afraid it is impossible to guard ourselves from such jugement. If only EBU will find new rules to control all the members of jury. With Russia it is very difficult, we are so corrupted country and exel others in sophisticated lie…

  3. Rob

    Thanks for the swift responses, Mitch & Jane 🙂
    I think they need to be far more transparent regarding the composition of juries and the process through which the juries sit, assess the songs, and then calculate the consensus jury score. There should be some independent observers used by the EBU imho to strictly monitor the juries.
    As things stand, it is clearly something that can be manipulated, and is manipulated. They sit in their home country when they assess songs during the jury performance and the whole thing is very clandestine.
    It certainly does pose a dilemma for serious ESC punters, Mitch, and we can only hope these are isolated instances. To some small degree, the dubious history of securing unlikely jury votes was behind the recommendation of backing Malta for qualification from its semi. Russia, as jane articulates, is possibly a country that knows exactly what to do to win favour, and the EBU has some serious questions to answer.

  4. Jamie

    Good post. I agree with most of it. A few comments.

    Firstly, I think that the most important point you make is to stick to the certainties or at least the highly likely. I spent a lot of time this year agonising on whether to lay Russia in the outright. I did a lot of analysis but, in the end, felt uncomfortable taking any position. On the other hand, I layed the UK in the outright, on the basis of an average song and a terrible draw, with little in-depth analysis and no agonising at all.

    Secondly, on the general point of jury voting, I agree with what you say but doubt that anyone outside the gambling community has much interest on whether a particular song was first versus second in a semi-final, or whether it was tenth versus eleventh in the final. In 2009, the EBU published the detailed televote and jury scores at a country by country level. However, since 2010 they have published only summary splits between the two votes. As your analysis makes clear, the summary split raises more questions than it answers. Did all juries give points to Russia, or just a few? Did they get their points from friendly eastern juries, or from eccentric western ones? I suspect that the absence of the detailed split voting since 2010 suggests that the EBU is aware that jury voting has many of the same eccentricities as televoting, but doesn’t want to re-open the issue of voting fairness.

    Finally, I’ve noticed that some of the fan sites have got hold of the detailed jury results for a few countries, so maybe those will provide some clues. I’ve also seen the detailed televoting results from Italy. In the final, with a choice of 25 songs, the top song got 27% of the vote; the top three songs got over 50% of the vote between them; and only five songs got more than 4% of the vote. The tenth song scored one televoting point with just 2.4% of the vote. I suspect that this type of vote distribution is typical and that significant televoting points can be generated from relatively low numbers of votes.

  5. Rob

    Thanks for taking the time to post, Jamie. I think you make some great points, especially regarding low televote totals, and the possible reason for the EBU not giving the full country-by-country breakdown any more.
    Some have been pointing the finger at Azerbaijan regarding its televote scores this year in some countries – it is clearly something that, much like the jury vote, can be manipulated.
    The likes of http://escxtra.com/ carry all the national results as and when they are released.
    I think the main issue arising out of this year is the eccentric jury scores. You can try and come up with some new rules about what juries like and dislike based on what we see in the overall jury scores, but I don’t think this helps us that much. I sense they are a hotch-potch of random individuals, their tastes are wide-ranging, some clearly are not remotely qualified as professionals, and, I have no doubt, are corrupt.
    The difficulty for punters and traders is trying to pinpoint those certain-looking trades. Unless you can get heavily involved backing 1-5 shots to qualify, this is not an easy task. Greece looked a cert to beat Cyprus on h2h to me, but it didn’t. And who’s to say the juries might not have decided to turn their noses up at Serbia this year for ‘trying to create the perfect jury song’ etc etc. The Russian lay was one of those few solid looking trades, but that was without considering the corruption angle. A near fatal error 🙂

  6. Jamie

    I think you are right that the juries are best viewed as a hotch-potch of random individuals. Musical taste is pretty subjective. There are only five people on each jury so each country’s jury score will reflect the biases of those individuals, and those biases will probably change from year to year assuming that different people are selected to serve as jurors each year.

    When the BBC used to select UK songs via a public vote, I remember that they often included ‘experts’ on a panel to comment on the candidate songs before the public voted. I imagine juries are a bit like that type of panel, complete with random opinions from people like John Barrowman with ludicrous views of what constitutes a good Eurovision song.

    I think that there is a further factor which leads to jury randomness. As I understand it, each juror is expected to pick their top 10 songs and award their personal 12-10-8 etc. If I use myself as a random example of a juror then, in this year’s final, I thought that there were three stand-out songs. I would have found it easy to award my 12, 10 and 8 points to Sweden, Estonia and Italy. After that though, I found several of the next tier of songs to be pretty similar in quality and flawed in different ways. As a result, my 7 to 1 point scores would have been much more difficult to decide and, therefore, more random. Should I vote for Albania because the girl poured her heart and soul into the performance but where I didn’t really like the song; or should I vote for Moldova, Romania or Ukraine because they were fun, upbeat performances of songs which I could sing along to but which had little substance; or should I vote for Serbia because it felt like a quality song but wasn’t really to my own personal taste? I doubt that I would make the same decision on ranking these songs two days running. And I’d still have to find another two!

  7. Rob

    Another top post, Jamie 🙂
    Especially liked this:

    ‘When the BBC used to select UK songs via a public vote, I remember that they often included ‘experts’ on a panel to comment on the candidate songs before the public voted. I imagine juries are a bit like that type of panel, complete with random opinions from people like John Barrowman with ludicrous views of what constitutes a good Eurovision song.’

    So, so true, and your example of Barrowman could not be more pertinent. I was seething the night he single-handedly pushed Scooch to victory by raving about their garbage tune being ‘so Eurovision-y’ 🙁

    This is what concerns me even with the return to a public UK selection next year. Rest assured, ‘Your Country Needs You’ will be a cheap, half-arsed affair, and the contestants will be former boyband members/X Factor rejects/stage school types, and we will have to suffer Barrowman again, swaying the public vote with his ridiculous comments. If not Barrowman, then someone else.

    And that is spot on about the jury composition and how they go about ranking the songs. It’s an absurdly subjective process. Still think the EBU could work harder to make the process stricter, get better qualified individuals, genuine professionals sitting on the juries, and ensure there is no manipulation/corruption but maybe that is not in their best interests…

  8. Rob

    Surprising news for those planning an ESC 2013 excursion to Sweden. Malmo chosen as host city: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=malmoe_to_host_eurovision_2013

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