A few days have passed, the dust has settled, and it’s time to initiate a post-mortem on the Eurovision 2011 result.
On a personal note, my return of nearly 40% on a betting bank of £160,000 was my most successful Eurovision yet. Like everyone else, some things I called correctly, some things I definitely did not. Eurovision is always going to produce its fair share of surprises. The trick is to get more things right than wrong – or, failing that, to have more money on the things you get right.
The final was a classic example of this for me, and a reminder of why I look outside the win market for almost all my bets. Most of my profit came from finding various different ways to back just one strongly-held view – that fan favourite Hungary would do badly. If I’d been wrong about this, it would have wiped out my takings from the semis and more. But having got this one right, I could afford to be surprised by certain other aspects of the final result about which I’d felt much less strongly beforehand.
Anyway, what can we learn about Dusseldorf 2011 to file away for Baku 2012? Here are my top five take-home messages.
1. Azerbaijan won by default
Without wishing to denigrate what was a highly competent package, very effectively staged, I do feel that Azerbaijan was in many ways a default winner. I say this despite liking the song and having profited from its success.
The evidence? A low winning score in comparison to other years, only three awards of 12 points (two of which came from natural allies Turkey and Russia), and scoring from a smaller range of countries than some other entries. As I stated in my original article, ‘Running Scared’ ticked lots of boxes in being both jury- and televote-friendly and able to rely on Azerbaijan’s traditional Eurovision supporters. Once the draw panned out in its favour, this proved to be the last piece of the jigsaw in ensuring its success.
2. Eric Saade should be cursing his luck
Had the running order to Saturday’s show happened to be in reverse order to the actual one, I think we would be going to Stockholm next year instead of Baku.
Many of Azerbaijan’s main rivals were stuck in the first part of the draw. Sweden (who finished 3rd from a draw of 7), Denmark (5th from 3) and Bosnia (6th from 2) all did very well given this disadvantage. But while Bosnia struggled to appeal beyond its natural constituency, and Denmark relied mostly on western votes, Sweden proved most able to garner points from eastern and western Europe – Saade was ‘Popular’ everywhere. In fact, despite being caught in the middle of a strong run of uptempo songs early in the show, Sweden scored points from more countries than anyone else – including the winner.
The B-side to ‘Popular’ should surely be ‘Unlucky’. Saade was the last of the qualifiers to draw his slot in Saturday’s running order, and with four songs left to draw, positions 7, 18, 20 and 23 were still up for grabs. I reckon that if Saade had been left with any of the other three, he’d have won.
3. We shouldn’t read too much into the high-profile failures
Of the fancies that failed, it’s hard to extrapolate too much from their disappointing showings. It’s tempting to conclude from the dismal result for ‘Sognu’ that classical crossover simply has no appeal to a Eurovision audience – and, not personally being a fan of the genre, I won’t mourn if we don’t see much more of it. But we also have to consider the fact that France’s Amaury Vassili turned in a very below-par performance on the night.
We can also see the failure of Blue for the UK as adding to the poor record of entries with more than two lead vocalists in recent years – the girlband or boyband has not been a successful Eurovision formula for decades. But against that, we need to remember that they did themselves no favours with a poor performance during the jury rehearsal.
Estonia was the other market leader to bomb. Perhaps the cleverness of the composition, while admirable, was just never the type of thing that would work well at Eurovision. But it also suffered from staging that was as disjointed as the song.
4. Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about slightly dodgy vocals
I agree with the comment from fiveleaves after the final that factors such as staging and draw are proving to be more important than perfect vocals. Azerbaijan this year was a fine example of only adequate vocals, but a highly effective presentation of a decent song. Likewise for Sweden, which I’ve argued would have won with a better draw – the staging and glass-smashing gimmick were far more important factors in its good showing than Eric’s vocal ability.
This is starting to look like a trend. Lena’s vocals were certainly not spot-on last year, whilst Norway’s victory in 2009 was all about the song, Rybak’s charm and the staging too.
We can point to Ukraine and Greece this year as examples of countries which managed to lift their song to heights that would not have been otherwise expected thanks to a memorable stage show. Although both of these also featured fine vocals, I would suggest that the lesson for Baku is the power of staging to allow a song to punch above its weight.
5. Expect the unexpected in the semis
The jury system and splitting of the voting blocs in the semi-final really came into its own this year. It was surprising enough when both Turkey and Armenia failed to qualify from the first semi-final – but once the detailed results had been revealed after the final, we learned that Serbia and Russia weren’t far off either, in eighth and ninth positions.
Meanwhile, friendless outsider Malta was only one point away from a shock place in the final. Similarly, in semi-final two, friendless outsider Belgium was also just the one point away – I’m guessing ‘With Love Baby’ must have received plenty of jury votes. We’ll find out when the EBU release them, which on past form should happen in the next few weeks.
Had either Malta or Belgium qualified, I can tell you that the sound of the press centre’s collective jaw hitting the floor would have been heard all over Europe.
On the subject of the press centre, this was my first Eurovision reporting live from the event, and it was a fascinating learning experience for me to watch the TV feed of all the rehearsals. But in punting terms it was less of an advantage than you might expect. When I look at my biggest successes this year, I’m pretty sure I’d have reached the same conclusions from reading others’ blogs and watching the youtube footage, as in previous years. I tried to pass on my own first-hand impressions as objectively as I could, but my main advice remains to use your own objectivity to judge what you see and read.
I hope to be reporting for Sofabet again from Baku next year. In the meantime, UK readers may like to know that the next event we’ll be covering here on Sofabet is Britain’s Got Talent, and we’re already looking forward to both UK and US X Factors in the autumn.
What are your own take-home messages from Eurovision 2011? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Please do let me know in the comments box below.