Eurovision 2013: The jury drop

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.

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22 comments to Eurovision 2013: The jury drop

  • Chewy Wesker

    It’s worth pointing out that jury scores for semi-finals won’t known till after the final. And anyone betting on the winner or even top three won’t be known also. Not even to betfair so those bets won’t get settled. Keep this in mind if your backing a winner in the semi with the hope using your winnings for the final.

  • New version of Estonia released, in case anyone hasn’t heard it yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJhW_wKh4cw

    There a couple of small differences, but it’s still pretty much the same song. I feel like Birgit has been very unlucky with the draw (being drawn in the first half in particular). If Estonia and, say, Moldova were switched in the running order then I’d likely be backing the former to qualify.

    • eurovicious

      It’s a shame for Birgit. I remember her back from Eurolaul 2008. I’m happy she finally made it to Eurovision, though I was supporting Rolf as usual (who’s now lost the Estonian selection 6 years in a row and has said he won’t be entering again). Et uus seks marmoset or whatever it’s called is a lovely song, but it’s not memorable – it’s the musical equivalent of a cup of camomile tea. Very like a US country ballad, but so was Is It True?. I do think it’s jury-friendly and I like this new version, but there’s a lot of competition for the jury vote in that semi.

      Apropos lesser ballads being outclassed by more sophisticated ones later in the running order, that may be SVT’s logic behind the Russia-Ukraine-Netherlands triple whammy, with two facile ballads followed by a sophisticated one. When Verjamem was followed by Nebo in 2012, Would You by Nar jäg blundar in the same year and Tout de moi by Hasheket Shenish’ar in 2005, in each case the former finished second-to-last. I’m not for a moment comparing Slovenia, Belgium and Monaco to Russia and Ukraine; I am saying that that Verjamem, Would You and Tout de moi all did worse than they deserved to due to being overshadowed by a classier and more mature act in the same genre immediately afterwards. This may be the thinking by giving us Birds immediately after Gravity and What If?

      • Ben Cook

        Good point and it probably is best for Netherlands to come after Russia and Ukraine, but I suspect the reasoning behind it may be nothing more than “NL haven’t qualified in 8 years, let’s give them latest draw possible”

  • I still think betters are tending to slightly favour the taste of fans really. I mean, I was predicting against, ‘betting’ against entries like France 2009, Albania 2012 and ‘Kuula’….Estonia 2012.

    Yes, televoters will vote this less favourably, but it is here were juries really help simple, effective performances.

    You can say a lot about this year’s Estonian entry. Fans dislike it. But I start to have a feeling this will actually stand out with this new version right after Austria. Which means ‘stand out enough to qualify’.

    Also, please do not forget how important vocals have become with juries. I rarely see that factor being judged properly by betters. Albania 2012, Estonia 2012….boring at most by fans. But when I saw the live performances from the national finals, I was already impressed.

    To a lesser extent, I think Estonia could have this too this year. Yes, the song is ‘boring’, but you have to admit that Eesti television knows how to get the staging right. And luckily they picked a fantastic singer in a beautiful charming dress.

    Call this ‘good old Eurovision times’, but they indeed are back to a certain extend.

  • I agree. I also tend to go a bit further than that. I hear many fans….and betters still saying ‘the televoter will bring this ‘boring ballad’ down’. But the other way around, like ‘the judges will bring this ‘visual gorefest/act’ down’, I hear much less often.

    It’s because people still think juries are unpredictable. Wrong. You need to compare current day juries -5 per country- with the on stage panel of judges for audition shows like ‘X Factor’, ‘Brittain’s Got Talent’ and ‘The Voice’.

    Having said so, I completely understand why juries put the grannies last year, Russia 2012, on a more than worthy 11th spot instead of a much worse 18th spot.

    Why 11th? It’s too sweet, too charming to completely ignore these grannies….even by juries. Like Susan Boyle in Britains Got Talent, the Russian grannies got a similar sympathy vote from judges.

    On the other hand, juries won’t allow such an act to ‘win’ Eurovision anymore. That’s too farfetched for juries, while for televoters this ‘crazy stuff’ should win. Juries are still more detached, less emotional than the spontaneous fingers from televoters using their mobile.

    The result was that while in the 100% televote the Russian grannies were quite close beating Loreen, the juries cancelled this out completely, even with the juries’ more than respectable 11th place. Because the eventual points difference between winner Loreen and runner-up Russia was STILL a whopping 113 points.

    Moreover, while the power of juries is kicking in slowly, certain countries are already re-alligning their selection format to accomoddate to this influence of 50% juries. One big example is Turkey. Their reason for not participating in the contest is a clear sign on the wall. And trust me, when they return, their entry will be a bit more…scaled down….less novelty than previous years.

    You already see it in this year’s contest: Loads of slow-tempo songs, no novelty acts (Russian Grannies, Lordi, Verka), more simplicity on stage and more focus on well sung songs.

    Certain betters call this…..’boring’, but they still need to re-allign. Eurovision is changing constantly….and this means that for instance British and Dutch fans can’t go away by saying bluntly ‘Eurovision is such crap’. You’ll see in a few years time Eurovision is a bit more like the 1990’s again: A SONG contest :-9.

    • eurovicious

      Some great points there Gert. I’ve discussed in the past how juries go for earnestness/gravitas, but it’s important to remember that they’re just human too. When you only have 10 songs to pick, you go for what you remember. “Originality” is one of the criteria the juries vote on, and the babushki certainly had it fresh out of the oven. The fact Alexei Vorobyov came last with juries in 2011 with just 25 points also tells us that the grannies’ success wasn’t due to regional voting effects among ex-USSR juries.

      As I understand it, countries are under no obligation to publicly reveal the makeup of their jury, though quite a few do. I’ve heard, informally, that the criteria for being on the jury can be less strict in some smaller eastern European countries. (We’ve all heard the Malta rumours too.) So despite what I’ve said about earnestness etc, we shouldn’t imagine 5 Sheridan Morleys on each national jury. It’s people from the domestic entertainment industry, many of whom will be musicians and reward the best talent, but some of whom (TV/radio presenters, entertainment journalists, local celebs, “ordinary” people who’ve managed to get onto the jury) will vote primarily for what they found entertaining.

      I find this year boring because of the quality of the ballads rather than their quantity. If this year’s contest was 39 songs like Suus, Kuula, Korake ti znam, Nije ljubav stvar, When The Music Dies, Quedate Conmigo etc, without a banger among them, I’d be having a meringue in my pants and booking my ticket to Malmö as I speak. The closest thing to a bad ballad last year was Vida minha – I even find stuff like Would You, Verjamem and Nebo that went out in the semi preferable to most of the sickly and forgettable ballads on offer this year. I strongly feel Georgia will win the battle of the ballads.

  • Still, what I do is predicting what juries will do. It is vital for a good bet. And I think it can be done much better. I mentioned the example how juries gave the Russian Grannies an 11th place with a tiny bit more than 90 points. Such a result is destructive for chances of victory.

    Moreover, there IS a huge difference between televoters and juries. No matter who is in the jury, judges still need to watch the whole damn TV-show. In all instances they need to make rankings, lists, that will be recalculated by the chairman of the jury to the average jury score. I can not believe that for instance one judge leaves the TV studio to lit up a cigarette because he/she finds that ballad boring. The fact is, that judge is ALSO judging that boring ballad, while televoters in real would start zapping to another channel or fetch some more beers.

    For me personally, Malmö 2013 goes down as one of the better contests, with more interesting songs and less ‘stupidity’. Hence the fact that even televoters are indirectly forced to actually list their favourites, because there is no clear stand-out ‘stupidity act’.

    Regarding the notion that certain songs are ‘too good for Eurovision’. Too good for Eurovision to WIN yes. But never should the notion be that a song that is too good should not participate.

    Moreover, I take greater pride in the 8th place of France 2009, the 5th place of Albania 2012, the 2nd place of Italy 2011, the 6th place of Estonia 2012, the 10th place of Germany 2011, the 10th place of Spain 2012. These kind of results for these examples would have been unthinkable in 2005 or 2006.

    • eurovicious

      Totally agree with your last two paragraphs. This is why we need the jury. I love all those songs, and apart from Taken By A Stranger, they represent the true fulfilment of the contest’s potential – brilliant original music by domestic composers performed by remarkable artists in the country’s language. I’m totally against the Swedification of the contest and personally I’d love to see the EBU tighten up the composer rules. How can a song reflect a country if they simply bought it in? Providing an international platform for domestic songwriters is a huge part of what ESC should be about, and countries like Azerbaijan that import a song every year should instead be focusing on developing and investing in local talent and the domestic arts scene.

      I also think Eurovision would be better quality and far more musically relevant – and less corrupt – if private rather than public channels were responsible for it, but that’s a whole other debate. You only have to look at the difference between X Factor and The Voice in the UK to see what I mean, and the divide is similar or worse in other countries. Germany only started sending relevant entries because private TV got involved (from 2010-2012). Other countries like Serbia have an even greater cultural and musical divide between the public and private broadcasters. The general problem is that apart from Eesti Laul, MF and maybe Finland, the music in most national finals doesn’t represent the domestic music scene/industry at all.

  • Alexander S.

    Totally disagree with both of your suggestions.
    First of all, limiting the songs to national products only means direct advantage for several muscially advanced countries like Sweden. The last 2 winners were Swedish songs, maybe this year’s one too, that speaks more than anything about the local music of the other countries. If you ban that, some countries like Azerbaijan would never have a chance. Sweden would be a top-favourite every year, in fact they would have won comfortably in 2011 if the Azeri song was some local crap (which we know they’re capable of finding). Another example is Latvia, whose NF this year became much better when they opened it to foreign composers. Yes, there is Suus, but how often does that happen? In reality countries like Sweden and UK are far more advanced in their music industry than others; there’s no sense in widening the gap even more. The contest was never limited in that aspect in the past.

    As for your second suggestion, it might work for problematic countries like UK or Ireland, but it’s literally opening the gates of the hell for many others! In particular Serbia would start sending turbo-folk divas with huge boobs year after year, that’s the last thing you want for the contest, believe me. Not to mention that low ratings would make broadcasters drop Eurovision, which can’t happen in cases like BBC even if Terry Wogan is the only viewer on that Saturday night!

    • eurovicious

      Ooh, that second paragraph! You don’t know me 😉 trust me Alexander, I would love nothing more than to see Serbia send something like this

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxdC1dnGy-E

      or this

      …but we’re getting off-topic now 🙂 your idea of “hell” is my idea of heaven…

    • Boki

      Some poorer countries are forced to send “some local crap” because they can barely afford to participate, so no money left for Swedish composers. Luckily for Azeri they don’t have such a problem. One thing is to allow foreign composers and the other is to buy from the best for own advantage.

      • Boki

        Btw, one of the songs from this year’s Serbian pre-selection (Beovizija) was written by a Belgium guy Marc Paelinck who also wrote Chiara’s song from 2009.

        • Daniel

          Marc Paelinck is also the writer of ‘Solayoh’ for Belarus this year. Another country where finding a foreign songwriter seems an imperative.

  • Alexander S.

    I don’t have a problem with countries buying foreign composers. Poor ones like Georgia can do it too. This isn’t different than the fact that, say, the Swedish delegation is twice as big as the Macedonian and can additionally afford special effects and elaborate props on stage. If we tolerate that, we should tolerate buying foreign songs too. Besides, you don’t even need to buy in most of the cases – all you need is to open your selection for foreign composers and they’ll come for free, often much better than the local ones. And I generally think Azerbaijan is some kind of a hate pet among fans; Germany bought a US song and won, but no one made a big deal of that.
    Sorry that my replies are misplaced, there’s something preventing my browser from replying directly to a post.

    • eurovicious

      That’s a good point, there is often a lot of fan negativity surrounding Azeri entries that the songs and performers themselves don’t justify. Personally I’d take Running Scared or When The Music Dies over Lena anyday; I object to Germany constantly sending fake American (2006, 2007, 2009) and fake British (2010/11) acts, but that’s part of the country’s ongoing identity crisis and something I could go on about all day.

  • Germany an identity crisis?? If there’s one country in Europe that is self-assured and arranging its finances properly, then it certainly Germany. Ever since World Cup Football 2006, the respect in Netherlands for our dear neighbours grew substantially. Whereas our other overseas neighbours, the UK, prefer to distance itself from Europe, both culturally and financially, Germany has become the engine of Europe……an example for many other countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal.

    This also goes for Eurovision. If we talk about Azerbaijan and Germany I mostly see similarities. Both countries are extremely self-assured and want to do everything in their power to win the whole damn thing.

    For me personally, that keeps the ‘sports spirit’ within Eurovision alive. Hiring foreign composers to achieve that goal? Well, I can tell you this….Dutch Eurovision fans were jealous of this approach. And that’s why Anouk also cooperates with Swedish composers. It’s part of the Eurovision going global.

    And it’s not something new. Back in the past, micro nations like Monaco, Switzerland and Luxembourg were forced to hire foreign talent, composers and performers alike. It’s a logical thing to do, especially when the own national music products aren’t that succesful anymore.

    Netherlands used to be like Sweden in the 1970’s: Famous music producers, lending their talents to American and English performers. But whereas Sweden still maintains this status, Netherlands’ music industry has gone downwards ever since. That’s why I am BEGGING for foreign composers.

    Also, do not underestimate this: German and Dutch music industry are actually very much focussed on American/English/Swedish music. Simply because we all share the same kind of Western (Music) Culture. And I think the British and Americans know that very well too 🙂

    • Boki

      Composer of “Birds” was heavily involved in Anouk’s last two albums (2009 and 2012) so it’s no wonder they just continue their collaboration.

  • tpfkar

    Culturally I perceive that Germany is struggling for identity.

    I visit my wife’s family on a regular basis, and am shocked how English is everywhere – adverts, magazines, TV. Turn the radio on and there’s precious little German language music – most of it was in the UK charts a few months ago and there seems to be an unwritten law that you can’t go 20 mins without a Robbie Williams or Olly Murs song. I caught the German top 40 of 2012 over Christmas, and I think 2 of the top 10 were German? The number one was this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viVtHCDG81w which I’ve never heard in the UK.

    So no surprise they have sent English songs to Eurovision every year I’ve paid attention; this comes directly out of their own musical culture.

    Mrs tpfkar still says they have no chance this year, but there are plenty of worse songs and even allowing for a semifinal cull I can’t see it lower than mid-table.

    • eurovicious

      Thanks tpfkar, that’s exactly what I mean. Germany has a 51st-state mentality (or 52nd after the UK) and immediately adopts and uncritically worships US/UK pop culture while looking down on its own.

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