In the run up to last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the first one covered here on Sofabet, I posted a series of ten top tips for predicting the outcome. One aspect of predicting Eurovision which we can now say much more about is the impact of the return of the juries.
These panels of five music ‘professionals’, chosen by each national broadcaster, have a 50% say in the overall points handed out by each country. The system returned in the 2009 final, and was used in the 2010 semis and final. That means we have a lot more information on juries’ preferences than we did this time last year.
My guesswork about which of the 2011 Eurovision songs juries are likely to favour – or not – is based on this data. There’s still not a huge amount of it, but we can now attempt an analysis based on the entries which did disproportionately well and badly with the national juries compared to the televote in 2010 and 2009.
Let’s start with Tom Dice for Belgium in the 2010 final, because that song received the biggest boost from the jury vote compared to its televote score. It was almost the favourite song of national juries, coming second with 185 points, two points behind Germany. With televoters it came 14th with 76 points.
Why the difference? Its appeal to juries is obvious: a good, modern ballad, performed simply and well. For televoters, an early draw next to a Cypriot entry also involving a boy with his guitar did not help to overcome Belgium’s perennial lack of allies.
The second biggest beneficiary from national juries in the 2010 final was Israel. Fifth with 134 points among that constituency, Harel Skaat only managed 19th with 27 points with televoters.
Here we had another boy stand on stage and sing his ballad (rather less modern than Tom Dice’s), with no frills attached. But one reason for the difference in opinion may be the lesser-known fact that national juries vote on the dress rehearsal the night before, when Skaat was vocally stronger. On the night itself, under more pressure, he rather went to pieces.
That wasn’t the whole explanation, as Israel had also been given a greater set of points (+42) by the jury compared to the televoters in the semi-final two days before. They were closely followed by Ireland (+41), with a traditional Eurovision ballad by former contest-winner Niamh Kavanagh.
Temporarily interrupting the ballad trend, in the first semi of 2010 it was Bosnia’s well-performed if dull mid-tempo rock song which received the biggest jury boost (+59). But next came Portugal (+49), with – again – a rather traditional Eurovision ballad.
The results of the 2009 final saw the greatest positive difference between jury scores and televoter points for the United Kingdom (+118), France (+110), Israel (+92) and Iceland (+87). Interestingly, the first three of those featured big names in the music industry (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Patricia Kaas and Noa).
With the exception of Israel’s worthy and dull mid-tempo number, the rest were all ballads.
Spot the pattern that seems to be emerging? It is backed up by looking at the songs that the juries trashed the most in comparison to their televoting counterparts. In the 2010 final that was France (-117) and Serbia (-73). Both were upbeat songs with a busy and in parts raunchy presentation.
This is not to say, of course, that every ballad is automatically going to be rewarded by juries, and every upbeat song punished: Romania’s catchy pop song came a close third with the juries in the 2010 final; Belarus’s horribly saccharine ballad came second last.
It’s also worth noting how hard the juries came down on Lithuania, whose ‘Eastern European Funk’ did not qualify from its 2010 semi-final but would have done so comfortably just on the televotes. This suggests that jokey, gimmicky songs are also likely to struggle with the juries.
Beyond the types of song juries prefer, evidence is also emerging that the juries are living up to one of the main reasons for their introduction – reducing the power of diaspora voting in the public televote.
To take the most obvious examples, in the last two finals we have seen this for Turkey (-58 in 2010, -89 in 2009), Armenia (-50, -40), Russia (-44, -51), Azerbaijan (-45, -131) and Greece (-42, -58).
Azerbaijan’s poor relative performance with juries in 2009 is perhaps an example of a perfect storm of jury underperformance – a country with a strong diaspora vote, and an insubstantial but catchy ethnopop song with lots of choreography. Exactly the same could be said of the aforementioned Serbian entry in 2010.
On the subject of lots of choreography, the only other nation in 2009 to do as badly as the five listed was Albania, with a -55 figure. This upbeat entry featured acrobatics and various gyrations from two dwarf-sized backing dancers and a man in a turquoise gimp suit. It made for memorable TV of a sort, but was another example of juries failing to be impressed by gimmicky, busy staging.
It’s worth emphasising again that this is still early days for the return of the national juries and it’s questionable how reliable it is to extrapolate from trends so far.
But next time you hear me speculating on the opinions of national juries – as when I’ve written in my posts so far that I suspect juries will dislike Jedward’s ‘Lipstick’ and Stella Mwangi’s ‘Haba Haba’ but like Lena’s ‘Taken By A Stranger’ – this is where I’m coming from.