Eurovision 2013: What can Sweden do with ‘You’?

Sweden’s Melodifestivalen came to an end with a nail-biting finish which witnessed Robin Stjernberg’s ‘You’ take the prize. You can see his winning performance here. He currently stands at 10-1 joint third favourite in bookmakers’ lists.

The manner of Stjernberg’s success in the much-vaunted Swedish contest caused a sharp division of opinion. The comfortable televote winner, YOHIO’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, had been marked down heavily by the international juries, where ‘You’ had proven most popular.

I don’t have a problem with the result at all: the rules are well established; and I thought ‘You’ was a superior song better delivered. I was confident that the rock schlager ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ would not have done very well for the host country in May, so my only regret is not having the opportunity to lay it in the top ten market over the next few months.

What do I think about ‘You’?

The song is a heartfelt mid-tempo number that relies heavily on Stjernberg delivering a strong and impassioned vocal. As compositions go, it’s modern and well produced. My non-Eurovision analogy is Coldplay. That may be slightly kind but it’s easily one of the better songs we will see in the final.

As to its weaknesses, you could say it lacks a strong hook. The song meanders in a pleasant and interesting way without immediately lodging a memorable melody. Stjernberg is not unconventional in the YOHIO sense but he also takes a bit of getting used to. Which is to say that the act is potentially a grower rather than a show-er, a disadvantage in the quickfire nature of a Eurovision final.

This was borne out by the manner of its success in the Swedish competition. ‘You’ failed to qualify as one of the top two in the last semi-final of Melodifestivalen. Instead it went through to the second chance round a week later.  Stjernberg’s  performance last night was the third week in a row Swedes had been exposed to ‘You’ and it had clearly grown on them. In the final televote, it easily overtook both songs it had finished behind in its heat. That wasn’t enough to win the televote overall, and in an open field with no outstanding competitor, ‘You’ managed 15.8%.

That doesn’t compare particularly well with past winners of Melodifestivalen. As I indicated in my article following Loreen’s success last year, her 32.7% winning total broke out of the 18-25% range that we usually see. The last time the winning song had a lower televote percentage was ‘Las Vegas’ in 2005, and the last televote runner-up to represent Sweden was ‘Hero’ which received 16.5% in 2008.

Both those latter examples died a death at Eurovision, but one difference between then and now is that the jury vote has returned. ‘You’ was the international jury favourite last night, and it’s the kind of song that juries should potentially favour, being well delivered, modern and well produced. The artistic presentation using contemporary dancers also helps remind those panels that this is, you know, a proper song and not just some piece of fluff. Therefore, the assumption will be that juries may go for this more than televoters in Eurovision as in Melodifestivalen.

That’s not an assumption to rely on too heavily – many assumed the same about Germany’s Roman Lob last year, and he actually did better in the public poll. Then again, he was well drawn, more telegenic and ‘Standing Still’ had an admittedly repetitive but more effective hook than ‘You’.

Germany’s entry the previous year, Lena’s ‘Taken By A Stranger’ was also more jury-friendly in nature but able to do marginally better in the televote (ninth). One reason for this is that it had home advantage, which basically means a great crowd reaction and a shortcut in people’s memories that this is the host entry. This could help ‘You’. However, Lena had the added benefit of being the winning artist too, and she opened the show, giving her an unfair boost that Robin won’t get. It’s also worth pointing out that plenty of host entries have performed very badly.

One problem that ‘You’ faces is strong regional competition from Denmark and Norway. This makes it harder to pick up top marks even from allies. Currently these three Scandinavian countries occupy the first three places in the Betfair market. It would be a surprise to see them manage that on the scoreboard in Malmo, though Norway and Iceland achieved first and second in 2009. That’s because it’s difficult for three songs from one area to dominate another region’s televote or jury vote.

Norway, Denmark and Sweden have all sent strong songs this year. As discussed previously, however, the slick production and effort that goes into these national finals and their popularity with fans means that ante-post value for their entries is usually in short supply. I’m not looking to back Sweden in any markets as a result.

However, whilst I would have got stuck into betting against ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ doing anything in May, the combination of home advantage, jury love and a field that lacks strength in depth means that I can’t dismiss a respectable showing for ‘You’ in May. What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

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36 comments to Eurovision 2013: What can Sweden do with ‘You’?

  • Daniel

    IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: there is a rule change this year that has largely gone unnoticed (I certainly hadn’t realised) but is clearly explained in the official PDF here:

    http://www.eurovision.tv/upload/press-downloads/2013/Public_version_ESC_2013_Rules_ENG_FINAL.pdf

    Traditionally the televote and jury each offered a top ten of 12-10-8-7-etc. These two scores were then added together to form an overall 12-10-8-7 etc.

    Under the new system, each juror will give a list of preference of ALL THE SONGS from first to last. Televotes will also provide a first to last list. Those rankings will be added up to decide the ultimate 12-10-8-7-etc.

    For example, if Russia comes first in a country’s final televote and last in its final jury vote, under the traditional system, before the points were combined to form an overall total, that would have given it 12pts (12+0) and a likely high overall total from that country.

    Under the new system, it would score 1+25=26. That 26 figure would be compared with all the other countries to determine where it comes overall, which would likely be much lower, maybe even out of the points altogether.

    This has huge repercussions for punters. These are my initial thoughts:

    – It’s not a good thing for love/hate entries. I used the Russian example above because its impact on how the Russian grannies may have scored in some countries last year was the first thing that came to mind;

    – it’s better for mainstream / middle-of-the-road entries that score respectably in both cases and never fall too far down in either list;

    – it further dilutes the diaspora effect. A low jury ranking can completely undo a guaranteed televote 10 or 12;

    – therefore, juries will have greater influence. It’s a proper 50/50 system.

    • Boki

      Thanks for the important update! Is it only for the final or the semi’s are also affected?

      • Daniel

        Hi Boki, both semi-finals and final are affected by the rule change.

        • Boki

          Thanks, just replied below but you were faster. Don’t know what’s happening but each time I have to try several times before a comment page opens, while the homepage opens always ok, weird.

      • Boki

        Well, the pdf was titled final but inside I read it’s valid for semi’s also.

        Rg Robin, I share the thought about being a grower which is bad since he has only one shot in the final, also telegenic than Roman. Said that, he should receive more jury support and not to forget his bombastic chorus – should be top10 at least.

  • trollgirl

    So will they in the end still convert back to the classic 12-10-8 etc system?

    • Daniel

      Hi trollgirl, good question and the answer is yes, they will. The viewer will not notice any superficial change at all. It should make the scoring more unpredictable too, however.

  • trollgirl

    I can agree with this change, and see the benefits of it, but I still cant see how the producer decided running order will go without making it look too much of a fix. I will be amazed if that wont cause too much controversy.

  • Justin

    Daniel as you say I think the type of song that will really suffer with this rule change is such as Turkey’s entry last year – high in the televote but way down with the juries. Inevitably it will work the other way round too with a high jury scorer which was very low in the televote. Looking at last year’s result my feeling is that it would have possibly improved Germany’s positions on the scoreboard but been detrimental to Turkey and, probably, Spain.

    I agree that this will make a very big difference especially in markets such as the top 10.

    I think the Swedish and Danish entries this year is the type to benefit – while we should now be a little more wary of the likes of Belarus.

  • Justin

    ps great spot btw and thanks for letting us all know!

    • Daniel

      Thanks Justin, though I can’t take the credit for being first to spot this. Agree on all your points and the examples you use, including Turkey. Incidentally, this change may help clarify Turkey’s withdrawal this year. They cited unhappiness with the power of juries as one of their reasons.

  • If I understand the rules correctly, this will also mean that no televotes are wasted. In other words, the vote I cast can affect the outcome even if the entry I vote for isn’t in the televoting top ten. Previously, a televote would only translate into actual points to an entry if it was in the televoting top ten.

    Is this correct?

  • Daniel

    That’s correct Eurocoder, and a very good point.

  • trollgirl

    I think Romania has never failed to qualify since the introduction of semifinals, but after this awful song, and only having their spanish friends for support (portugal not taking part, moldova in the other semi and italy voting there) do you think theres a chance they will miss the final this year?

    • Daniel

      Hi trollgirl, I think there is a decent chance of this happening exactly for the reasons you have set out. The rule change won’t help either – surely some jurors will watch this and put it right at the bottom of their rankings.

      • Hello Daniel, been some time, hope you well! So to me it seems that this makes it even more difficult for Greece to hit the top10.

        • Daniel

          Hi Panos, I was more optimistic than you before knowing about the rule change but yes, the new system will certainly make it harder for Greece and ‘Alcohol Is Free’.

  • Ron

    On the question of Robin and ‘You’, I’ve a feeling he’s not going to trouble the top of the leaderboard in Malmo. 15% of televotes in an average, or even poor, MF doesn’t exactly sound like an entry that is going to take Eurovision by storm in May.

    He’s an excellent singer and the song is pleasant, but it’s not a particularly dynamic or exciting number, which perhaps explains why it didn’t even make the top 2 in it’s initial semi-final.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it misses the top 10 in the final. Sweden had a string of disappointing results in 2005-2010, and there’s no reason to believe they are immune to such a result again.

    • Emma

      It’s true that Robin’s televote showing was no so good. However, he did quite well with the international juries which perhaps matters more. When left to their own devices, Swedish televoters/juries go for the likes of The Worrying Kind, La Voix, and now Heartbreak Hotel–songs that may be good but are a bit bizarre for the rest of Europe. The international juries haven’t failed Sweden yet (I’m not countin 2010, since the juries preferred Keep on Walking).

      Another thing to keep in mind–Robin was competing against at least three other popular young male heartthrobs (Anton, David, Ulrik–I’m not sure whether or not to include YOHIO and Sean Banan here) all with respectable songs. So far, we’ve seen a lot of female acts from other countries. The only young male act I can think of is Belgium, which seems unlikely to make the final. Robin had to split a demographic four or five or six ways in MF but he’ll have it all to himself in ESC.

      • Ron

        It’s a good point that he’s one of the few male soloists this year Emma, which could work in his favour (though arguably the songs of the three ‘heartthrobs’ weren’t up to much).

        It’s very true that Robin won the international jury vote but he didn’t take the juries by storm either, scoring a mere three 12s (again an indication that this may have been a poor enough MF).

        I’d go back to the point that ‘You’, while being pleasant, doesn’t seem a particularly dynamic or exciting entry, which perhaps may explain why it gradually built up a head of steam to win MF over three rounds, rather than hitting the ground running in the semis. ‘Popular’ and ‘Euphoria’ by comparison were instant, in your face songs.

        My gut feeling is that it may just miss the top 10 in Malmo. If it were the Latvian or Lithuanian entry, I’m not sure anyone would be describing it as a likely top 5 or top 10 song.

  • Tim B

    Anouk from The Netherlands has spooked the bookies with her eerie song ‘Birds’. How funny that this year the UK’s entry doesn’t warrant an article but The Netherlands’ will :D. Think I’m likely to be going against the grain here but I think it’s a toilet break song. I don’t doubt its quality for a moment – it’s an excellent song but not right for ESC imo. Anouk has a charming and haunting quality to her voice that I’m sure the juries will go for. Unfortunately, I think televoters will largely ignore it. The new voting system won’t be in its favour either – a very high jury but very low televote is quite possible. It’s got to qualify from the first half of the semi too – as if it wasn’t difficult enough to qualify being The Netherlands anyway. ‘Birds’ could well be this year’s fanw*nk and I will most likely be laying it in the relevant markets.

    • Boki

      ‘Birds’ composer (Swedish btw) said earlier that his song doesn’t have a chance of winning. Punters response today was “you don’t fool us” but I’m afraid the composer is right. I hope it will qualify from tough 1st half oif its semi. Btw personally I find it a masterpiece and those rarely do good on the televote.

  • Chewy Wesker

    I give up trying to pick winners at the melodifestivalen or any national final if that, i’m sorry but the best song/act doesn’t necessarily win. So there’s no point getting involved betting wise with these finals, this was something Daniel had pointed out earlier with the norway 2010 final where boyband A1 lost out to Didrik solli-tanger, this got me thinking Yohio was 4/5 fav to win this years melodifestivalen and “heartbreak Hotel” was a decent song but i felt “bed of fire” would of been a better song to win at malmo, and Ulrik Munther would of been a top ten banker for me. However i did think the winner would come from these top three in the betting. Yohio would of been a top ten lay for me too, if he’d won, i felt his manga image wouldn’t of been enough to get him there, so we’ve lost a banker bet there in the top ten market. I had dismissed Robin Stjernberg “you” but after hearing it a few times it is a grower, i think this will do well in malmo, and i expect sweden to be backed and maybe second fav come the final on the 18th may. I think this year has a very strong field, but no outright fav. Maybe sweden could nick it again this year, my top ten is almost full, but think i think there’s room for “you”.

  • Mait

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Sweden will win again this year. That would be exceptional! Why? Because there aint no other strong songs this year what really pops out. “You” is quite untraditionally formed, jury will absolutely love it. There’s a lot of great music put into 3 min rule. It has a strong upbeat, not so many songs this year have that. One of the best culminations. Fantastic vocal and live sounds even better than the studio version. I’ve noticed the jury will go for strong voices – whatever strong is the song if the voice sucks the jury won’t like it. Listening “You” more and more makes it to grow. It has some kind of strange feeling into it – first you maybe do not like it then you start to love it.

    I think the bookies have missed it here, placing it quite below. Odds like 15 and higher makes it a great deal. I must say one of the best in the market. Top10 sounds like a risk free bet.

  • Ben Cook

    What Robin has on his side is “the likeability factor”. When I was watching the MF final I just thought to myself he looks like a sweet guy who is just loving being on that stage. I think that will really come across to viewers. He nailed the vocal on the final and so long as he does that again (because it’s not an easy song to get right) he should be a contender.

  • Hej

    In the afterparty of Melodifestivalen, Robin gave a short interview to the foreign journalists during which he revealed that he, together with his team, will make the song sound stronger and more rhythmic.
    Hopefully, at the end, we will have an even stronger contender in Eurovision.
    Also, I absolutely agree that this is a grower. Here, in Sweden, it became more and more popular with time.

  • Boki

    MF final is special in a sense that televoting is allowed during and few minutes after the jury votes. So when Robin supporters saw he’s 1st on jury I can imagine they get extra motivation for those 5 minutes, especially when Yohio was so low. On the contrary, I could see Yohio fans giving up after jury flop.

    • Mait

      We have the same system here in Estonia where jurys votes are revealed before the televoting. It’s very unfair as years have shown the songs who got more jury votes tend to drop in public votes after that. We had some surprises because of that this year already. People get lazy and they think no votes are needed anymore. But the ones who didn’t got jurys favour will have a boost. It happend with our winning song this year with Birgit. It almost dropped out because of the jury. “You” is different and I think it didn’t get that much boost after they saw jurys votes. I think Yohio got a boost because of that. Without the revealing I guess Yohio could have much less votes. At least this is the experience what we have with the similar system in Estonia.

  • Mait

    I remember when I first heard the Swedish song. I was hooked immediately and blowed by the culmination in the end. Also with the very original voice. If they work with the movement (what looks quite chaotic right now) and Robin makes a strong performance I still can’t see any reason why It should fail in may. Jury will back it with the stable votes and I guess publics votes depends on what will happen on the stage. It is hard to forget the culmination part and if they blow away with it on stage it will be noticed by the audience. Too bad it will be heard on stage only once and not in semi-finals.

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