We all know the dance move the “slut drop” (at least Moje 3 do) – today I want to talk about the “jury drop”. This is the established phenomenon of credible, well-performed upbeat songs receiving a relatively high jury score in the semifinals before plummeting out of favour, often massively, in the final.
Here are some examples from 2010-2012 that illustrate what I mean. For each song, I’ve listed its position in the jury vote in the semifinal followed by that which it fell to in the final.
Lautar (2nd to 9th)
Popular (3rd to 9th)
Always (3rd to 9th)
OPA! (3rd to 11th)
Aphrodisiac (3rd to 18th)
It’s All About You (4th to 12th)
La La Love (4th to 12th)
Je ne sais quoi (6th to 19th)
Zaleilah (5th to 20th)
This Is The Night (5th to 16th)
Rockefeller Street (6th to 18th)
Obviously a fall in jury rank between the semifinal and the final is to be expected for many songs. There are simply more to fit in. But the above falls are larger than you’d expect. It tends to be the case that credible ballads and midtempo songs either hold their position, only fall a few places or sometimes even gain ground in the jury vote in the final, while credible upbeat numbers experience a much larger drop at their expense.
For instance, in 2012, ‘Euphoria’ and ‘Nije ljubav stvar’ maintained their positions in the jury vote from semifinal to final, ‘Suus’ and ‘Kuula’ each lost just 2 places, and ‘Love Is Blind’ fell only from 10th to 14th.
In 2011, Mika Newton’s ‘Angel’ and Dino Merlin’s ‘Love In Rewind’ held their respective positions in the jury vote (7th and 11th), ‘The Secret Is Love’ and ‘New Tomorrow’ fell by only one place each and Maja Keuc’s ‘No One’ by three. ‘Watch My Dance’ only fell from 9th to 14th, Eldrine’s ‘One More Day’ from 13th to 16th, and Zdob si Zdub’s ‘So Lucky’ only from 13th to 15th.
In 2010, perhaps as a result of performing in the final third of the final, both ‘Sweet People’ and ‘Playing With Fire’ actually increased their position in the jury vote (from 10th to 6th and from 8th to 3rd respectively) at the expense of other songs, while ‘In A Moment Like This’ maintained its rank of 7th.
The reason for this phenomenon is simple. In the semifinal, there is simply less for juries to choose between, and the overall standard is weaker. Under the 2010-2012 system, jurors only awarded points to their top 10. In a semi of 16-19 songs, once you subtract the inevitable duds, misfires and poor performances, this means that most of the rest are going to receive points from the majority of jurors, whatever their genre.
In the final, this wasn’t the case under the 2010-2012 system. When you can only pick 10 out of 25 songs to award points to and the overall level of quality and credibility is significantly higher, you’re more likely to plump for the serious efforts and standout vocalists.
It will be interesting to see how the 2013 rule change, which asks jurors to rank all songs and not just their top 10, will affect the jury drop.
There are obviously exceptions to the general trends I’ve outlined here. The jury drop is a guide, not a universal rule. Lots of other factors also come into play. One notable counterexample sticks out like a sore thumb: in 2011, Jedward increased their position in the jury vote from 10th in their semi to 6th(!) in the final.
Not dissimilarly, the Babushki only fell from 8th to 11th in the jury vote in 2012. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m classifying both of these songs as standout novelty. They differ from the “jury drop” examples I list above in that they’re performed not by soloists but by uniquely memorable groups with a strong USP and surrounded by a wave of pop-cultural buzz and mainstream media attention.
‘Euphoria’ could also be cited as an exception, but I see it in a different category; despite being upbeat, it’s primarily an emotionally driven vocal piece and has (or at least aspires to) gravitas, which I couldn’t say of any of the “jury drop” examples I list.
Even with a flawless vocal, a lesser ballad drawn late in its semi but early in the final can also do the jury drop, especially if joined in the final by superior ballads with a later draw. In 2011, Eveline Sasenko performed 17th in a semifinal short on ballads and duly topped the jury vote. But drawn 4th in the final and now outflanked by rivals like Maja Keuc and Nadine Beiler with more contemporary numbers, she sank to a miserable 20th in the jury vote.
Similarly, Maya Sar managed a respectable jury score of 6th performing in the penultimate slot in a semi with a lot of strong ballads. But drawn 5th in the final and facing more competition still, her jury score fell to 15th.
We only have three years of semifinal jury statistics to analyse, but they tell us that for upbeat songs to receive jury support in the semifinal in the first place, staging and production values are key. An uptempo number needs to leave a memorable positive impression by looking good on stage and by being credible, well-performed and adequately sung.
That only adequate vocals are required if the overall package is effective is a key point – semifinal juries weren’t nearly as harsh on Ivi Adamou or the Babushki as many expected, and ‘Popular’, ‘OPA!’ and ‘Always’ all managed to come 3rd in the semifinal jury vote despite unremarkable vocals.
All of the “jury drop” examples I list, featured a memorable and vivid visual performance with a lot going on on stage. A really outstanding vocal and late draw can see even wacky or bizarre upbeat entries receive tremendous jury support in the semifinal, as in the case of ‘Lautar’ and ‘Be My Guest’.
Upbeat songs that fail with juries are those that are less credible and more kitsch, often in a language not widely spoken, and – most of all – those that look cheap on stage.
Songs of this type to have failed to meet with jury approval include ‘Run Away’, ‘Love Unlimited’ (despite an excellent vocal), ‘Angel si ti’, ‘Horehronie’, ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Eastern European Funk’, ‘Sha-la-lie’, ‘Työlki ellää’ and ‘Narodnozabavni rock’, the latter two despite the use of instruments. (Perhaps accordions are the anti-piano as far as juries are concerned.)
Importantly, the exact same rule applies to ballads. Contrary to many expectations, juries did not respond positively to ‘Lako je sve’ (cheaply and kitschily staged), ‘Lost And Forgotten’ (“Drop them to the fire!”), ‘Butterflies’ (get the moth powder) and ‘Il pleut de l’or’ (I’d rather it rained Carte D’Or), none of which at first glance look or sound especially jury-unfriendly.
Bear this in mind this year when considering the jury chances of San Marino’s ‘Crisalide’, which will likely receive a low televote; the performance and staging will be crucial, and songwriter-cum-svengali Ralph Siegel – who controls every aspect of his Eurovision songs, including what the performers wear – has a terrible track record in this area.
As I see it, prime candidates for a jury drop in 2013 include Belarus, Ireland, Finland and Serbia. They’re all polished enough to get jury attention in the semi but likely to fall out of favour in the final if they qualify. Build this into your calculations.
I expect Serbia’s jury drop to be smaller given Moje 3’s established vocal ability and the greater extent to which the song allows them to demonstrate this, but the other three could fall very dramatically. And: bear the rule change in mind.
What are your thoughts on the concept of the jury drop and what impact do you think the rule change will have on it? Keep the discussion going below.