The semiotics of Eurovision

“I want to be this person”
“I want to be friends with this person”
“This person’s story inspires me”
“This person is cool”
“This performance reflects my values”
“I don’t like her, her styling is terrible”
“He reminds me of my schoolteacher/dad”
“I don’t like this, it’s too slutty”
“This is gay”

Viewers at home are not musical sophisticates. Their tastes are simple. And certainly in the case of Eurovision 2013, we can say this of the juries too.

Gianluca’s ‘Tomorrow’ – pleasant, unchallenging and competent but hardly the best sung or most musically worthy entry – won the jury vote in SF2. Greece’s high-kicking furballs, with their two-note singalong chorus, were second. Even the perfectly presented yet poorly sung sub-Katy Perry bubblegum of Krista’s ‘Marry Me’ came an astonishing 6th out of 17 with juries – ahead of far more vocally and musically impressive entries like ‘Rak Bishvilo’.

My point: come May, no-one is going to be sitting at home – or around the jury table – approvingly noting the 3/4 time signature of ‘One Night’s Anger’ or the use of an augmented chord in the chorus of ‘Cake To Bake’ while they watch the show.

After last year’s Eurovision, my neighbour said “We liked the one with the box”. Her Twilight-reading daughter thought Farid was cute. That’s the level we’re operating on. That’s what they remembered: the cute non-threatening boy and the box.

When we talk about Eurovision songs, we often say their success or failure comes down to the “overall package” – indeed, “overall impression” is the wording in the voting guidelines provided to juries. But what in effect does this mean?

How does one weight the various parts that comprise this package? What’s more important – that a song be well-written, or that it sound good and have good production values? That the singer hit the right notes and boast impressive range and control, or that they be young, charismatic, and interact well with the other people on stage and with the camera? Is it important that they be someone you can imaging hanging out with, are attracted to, or aspire to be like? How do our worldview and value systems, which we always bring to the table, affect how we perceive an entry?

And: are we even consciously aware of why some entries and performers appeal to us more than others, or are there factors to Eurovision performances that operate on a level we aren’t even really aware of?

The thoughts in quotation marks that I opened this article with are examples of some of the things I think go through viewers’ and jurors’ heads – consciously, subconsciously or anywhere in between – when watching a performance in Eurovision or any TV talent show. Feel free to add your own to the list.

It doesn’t take much of a leap in thought to understand that this is how people are responding – after all, isn’t this how we react to people in general, whether or TV, in a magazine or in real life? Isn’t that how you’re reacting to this very site now – the welcoming face at the top engendering trust and promising shared expertise, the declaration of wealth and success suggesting this could be yours too if only you read further?

The way I piqued your curiosity by opening this article with disembodied quotes, the paragraphs of build-up that tease new analysis and insight, the way I use words to create a vivid personality so that you read on for emotional reasons rather than out of academic interest? Aspiration and personality: this is what it comes down to.

I strongly believe there’s an aspirational element to Eurovision voting, and that like other TV talent contests, it’s in no small part a personality contest. I’m not saying the song isn’t important – it’s still really, really important, which is why I can’t see ‘Tick-Tock’ winning this year no matter how much of a sympathy vote Ukraine gets – but other factors play a big role too.

Would Loreen have won if she’d had Charlotte Nilsson’s staging and styling from ‘Hero’? Would ‘Only Teardrops’ have won if the performer had been 15 years older but the song and staging exactly the same? Would ‘Fairytale’ have won if it had been performed by Didrik Solli-Tangen, not Alexander Rybak? Would QUILTBAG people relate to ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ as much if Natalia Kelly were singing it – and would viewers on the night be more likely to vote for it? Questions worth asking.

Why was I wrong about Georgia, Germany and Ireland doing well last year? Simples: Nodi and Sophie were uncool and old. The singer from Cascada is uncool and old. (As you can see, “old” is relative.) And Ryan Dolan’s staging was gayer than the average Mr Leather Kilkenny contest.

As of the 50%-jury era, Eurovision is a heteronormative event – the era of songs like ‘Molitva’, ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’, ‘Diva’, and ‘It’s My Life’ (loved by voters, hated by juries) – is over. (Even Ryan Dolan came a relatively high 14th in last year’s televote; it was juries that killed his chances.)

For juries more than televoters, credibility and heteronormativity are conflated to the extent that they go hand in hand, and camp – which includes “ethnic” camp – is intrinsically bad. Unless it’s the type of performative heterosexual camp that has characterised recent winners. What do I mean? Time to look at the last 6 victors through a prism of gender, sexuality and patriarchal norms:

Dima Bilan – non-threatening boy whose shirt falls open, signifying availability to girls watching. Backed by floppy-haired non-threatening ice skater and floppy-haired non-threatening violinist.
Alexander Rybak – floppy-haired non-threatening boy, singing expressly about a girl and about love (= he’s not just gonna use you, he’s a sensitive boy of emotional depth, callously ignored by the girl in the song). The male battle-dancers in the background are competing for a girl; the female backing singers provide decoration and cutesy, submissive vocal support.
Lena – manic pixie dream girl, singing an expressly submissive song (she buys underwear, paints her toenails and does her hair in an attempt to please her love interest, who’s the planet around which she orbits like a satellite). As a package, the coyness of the lyrics, the childlike flirtatiousness of her performance, her age, and the LBD (little black dress) are a clear come-on to heterosexual male viewers; it’s an ephebophile magnet. (When Lena returned with an equally sexual but threatening rather than childlike on-stage persona the following year, she scraped into the top 10, despite the song being vastly superior in my book.)
Ell and Nikki – fundamentally non-threatening heterosexual love story performed by non-threatening boy and girl. White and gold lend a church-like setting to this role play of male-female love; the overall effect is a gilded paean to traditional values.
Loreen – mystical hippy dream girl, lost, confused and alone until metaphorically rescued from her turmoil and isolation by a strong male saviour.
Emmelie – manic pixie dream girl; her bare feet and sitting on the floor in a white dress communicate virginity; her interactions with the militaristic masculine archetypes surrounding her, especially the whistle-player – whose metal phallus she circles, eyes ablaze with proto-sexual longing – are loaded with a burgeoning sexual tension.

See what I’m getting at? It’s not exactly feminist central. Call this overanalysis, but don’t tell me a lot of thought doesn’t go into these performances and the messages and values they’re intended to communicate. Now you see why I put the 2014 contenders to the non-threatening boy/manic pixie dream girl test in my last article – because this is what has consistently won Eurovision in some shape or form since 2008.

The tonal gulf between the 2003-7 winners and the 2008/2009-2013 winners is remarkable, possibly unique in the contest’s history. It’s a lot harder to do this sort of gender- and sexuality-based reading for a “big ethnic dance” winner like ‘Wild Dances’, ‘Everyway That I Can’ or ‘My Number One’, songs that won on spectacle and impact as well as diaspora and regional effects.

A heteronormative reading of ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ or the expressly queer, feminist performance of ‘Molitva’ is simply not possible. But all of the winners from 2009 on – the year 50% jury voting was introduced – are unmistakably heteronormative in either their lyrics, presentation or both.

All of them had a shtick, a subtext, especially the female entries. Lena’s entire persona is shtick, onstage and off, to the extent there seems to be little underneath. Loreen and Emmelie’s entire performances were shtick – flailing around ethereally in a confetti snowstorm, and dancing about in bare feet and a negligee while staring down a bloke playing a tin whistle.

At Eurovision, you only have three minutes to communicate your message. The average viewer is not sitting in rapt silence, paying close attention to every song, but talking with family members, friends, fellow Eurovision party guests, while snacking or eating and in many cases drinking alcohol. If your Eurovision package doesn’t reach these people, you fail.

First impression is everything, because there is no second impression apart from the recap. So the performer is as important as the song: their personality needs to come through if viewers are to forge a connection with them. On the most fundamental level, a Eurovision entry is a three-minute meme in which the song, its staging and its message are all carried by the performer – it’s the performer’s perceived personality that sells or kills the meme.

The viewer’s and juror’s response is dictated by the extent to which they connect with the personality being presented, and whether this personality and the message of the meme align with their worldview and value systems.

Not singing in English, I’m sorry to say, acts as a considerable barrier in this regard: how can I connect to a performer and relate to their song’s lyrics and message if I’m linguistically excluded? Personally, I’d happily restore the language rule before you could say Chcę znać swój grzech, but in today’s contest, the fact is that unless the personality that comes through is very strong (Koza Mostra, Rona Nishliu), singing in a domestic language expressly communicates “this song is not intended for you” to viewers and jurors, giving them no stake in the entry and no reason to vote.

Let’s look at this year’s German selection, Unser Song für Dänemark, as a microcosm for the personality-contest theory. The two acts in the superfinal:
– Germany’s most successful act of the 2010s, a stadium-filling, multi-award-winning band with millions in record sales, whose fans queued outside the arena from 7am, and whose place at the crossroads of popular music and national identity in Germany I’d equate with Gary Barlow’s in the UK. The singer, an older male, is charismatic, the songs empowering, but with the German language being such a fundamental part of the recipe, there’s a sense that this is for a domestic audience and won’t translate. The singer’s gravitas is also slightly undermined by his tendency to make gestures resembling those of an air steward pointing out the locations of emergency exits before takeoff.
– A completely unknown group made up of three young women, who’ve never sold a record and have had almost zero media exposure (the wildcard show that Elaiza won was on NDR, a little-watched regional channel) singing a – let’s face it – only mediocre song in English. The three are fresh-faced yet with a certain intelligence, artfulness and maturity, and the lead singer is gorgeous: sparkly, humble, endlessly endearing and perky, like a cute anime character made flesh. Note also how the accordionist smiles from ear to ear throughout the performance.

Any conventional reading indicates that Unheilig should have won, as was near-universally predicted in advance, and that Elaiza – given the other big-name acts they were up against – shouldn’t have even made it to the superfinal. A personality-based reading suggests that Elaiza are the obvious winners of the two.

If we’re to read Eurovision performances as memes, hyperreality is another important factor we can’t afford to overlook. Hyperreality refers to the phenomenon of copies that mimic the original so closely, by presenting certain signs understood by the target audience, that they effectively become indistinguishable from the original.

To use ‘Only Teardrops’ as an example, give a song the signs that say “winner” – the white and gold, tickertape shower, spark curtain – and it will be perceived as a winner. Eurovision today is in no small part about song as simulacrum, product over art, tropes over originality.

In Western society, we are environmentally trained – through media, advertising, and our wider culture and socialisation – to respond to the hyperreal over the real or at the very least not to be able to distinguish between the two.

Hence much of the overwhelmingly Western European Eurovision fan bubble displays a strong affinity towards artifice and the derivative (not least in the case of Melodifestivalen), as well as specific tropes, and a concomitant aversion to songs of a raw, authentic, personal, or even just unpolished or off-kilter nature. This skews the betting market and skews perceptions of what will do well.

Even more relevantly for punters, the 2013 jury results reflected this concerning affinity towards the hyperreal by rewarding not the most musically worthy songs, but – as Rob at EntertainmentOdds wrote after the split results were revealed – those with memorable staging gimmicks (Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine) and that looked like winners (Denmark), and by plumping for the safe and the expected while simultaneously dismissing anything even slightly culturally alien.

Hence the South Slavic countries (all of which but Slovenia performed in their own language) landed at the very bottom of the jury vote in both semis. The German jury in the final placed all 5 Scandinavian countries in its top 6, while the Dutch jury’s top 3 were Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and its bottom 4 in SF1 the four ex-Yugoslav nations.

All of us debating Eurovision on the internet are music fans. A lot of viewers on the night aren’t. A fair proportion of them probably only own a handful of CDs. So when appraising the chances of Eurovision entries, look beyond song and staging – read between the lines, consider the meme and the message, what the song is communicating, and whether this message will be well-received.

Is it heteronormative, implicitly or clearly? Is the performer, as they come over in those vital three minutes, someone you could imagine spending time with, who you think is hot or cool, or who you might aspire to emulate? Are they inspiring, desirable, perky, fun, cute, safe, a breath of fresh air? If so, they’re one to watch. This is increasingly what it comes down to.

Let us know your thoughts on this subject and continue the Eurovision discussion below.

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89 comments to The semiotics of Eurovision

  • Henry VIII

    I guess for “heteronormative”, “not exactly feminist central” you could just say “normal” 😉 And I say “normal” without its recently given moral terror value. (The word simply means the average, the norm.)

    But, being serious, the point that we should put our analysis aside and just get an instinctive gut reaction to each song, like the viewer, is important imo.

    And your boy girl point, which I also agree with, suggests that Austria, much touted for making a statement, will do badly.

    • eurovicious

      Hi Henry, I think “normal” is problematic and exclusionary in this context (you do realise you just called a fair proportion of people reading this abnormal, right?) – but I see what you mean, it’d be perhaps better expressed as “frequent”, “common”, “majority” or “normalised”. After all, we’re talking about the values and representations that our society has normalised. In different societies where polygamy or pederasty were common and widely represented, as is or has been the case in other parts of the world and other periods in history, those would be “normalised” (societally approved) but no more intrinsically “normal” than monogamy, the nuclear family etc.

      When used in that loaded way, can you see why the word “normal” does have “moral terror value” for all the baggage it carries and the hostility it implies to those it excludes?

      • Henry VIII

        You’re right, I realise I was also trying to make a point about use of language and the changing meaning of words. Which is irrelevant and confusing when we’re trying to discuss the ESC.

  • To the poster above, “heteronormative” is not just “normal” for many reasons, jocular or otherwise. I think this is crucial in the article because there haven’t been many studies into other aspects beyond this: there’s an interesting article, for instance, on reflections of immigrants and their values by the ‘naturalised’ (for want of a better word) and how that reflects voting patterns (will English people vote for a Polish song out of taste, or out of their perceptions of the population?) or indeed the reactions by voters of oppressed groups – it was a bad song, yes, but how many (if any) refused to vote for Esma Redžepova because of her ethnicity? These are questions that deserve a look into but are very hard to find statistically speaking; and Vicious isn’t trying to cover all these angles, but rather the gender/sexuality binary that permeates society. Therefore to say “normal” over “heteronormative” is incorrect. Notwithstanding the obvious point that by using the term “normal” we are conveying that being LGBTQ is apparently not normal.

    Anyway, on to what I was going to post: this is a good article, and important to read in the idea of cultural semiotics, the new historicism of Stuart Hall and so on, so in that spirit I’m going to have a stab at “A heteronormative reading of ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ …is simply not possible” because I think there’s an argument that it can be, at least when treated in isolation to Western countries such as the UK. Now, we all know that Eurovision in the UK has an image that historically straddles the “camp gayathon” and “outdated songs but reluctant institution” barrier, the former of which the BBC seems to play up to. Lordi won because it breaks the mould of a conventional ESC song, true, but it also plays up to a very masculine image of music. I remember both at the time and in the future since when I’ve discussed Eurovision that many people I knew “it’s all camp, but that Finland song was okay” “the music sucks but I voted for Lordi” and so on. This is not evidence of course but a signifier into motivations of doing so. Liking Eurovision is still seen within the lenses of gay culture but Lordi reverts this by putting in (to an extent aggressive) a performance which is seen as “acceptable” to straight male macho sensibilities. It also has the advantage of being far more accessible than Teräsbetoni in 2008 who played to that same market. It also lacked the pyrotechnic/costume USP which certainly in my mind attracted the teenage boy demographic. TLDR I agree that we can’t make a blanket an assumption about Lordi as we maybe can in the 2009- era, but there are a number of tropes that play up to reasons of support which do tick many boxes.

    • eurovicious

      Totally agree with both points, especially the Lordi point, very well put Sam, and nice to have someone here commenting who knows more about this than I do.

      • Henry VIII

        It’s also nice to have people commenting who bet on it.

        Humour was wrong so now I’ll be plain. Excessive gay-centrism (as with any narrow outlook) is not conducive to accurate analysis. Most ESC viewers would be surprised to be told that “Liking Eurovision is still seen within the lenses of gay culture”.

        • Well, yes. Because I am, as my point refers to, talking within the dichotomy of Western and primarily British, perceptions of the contest that have been emphasised through popular culture, and that’s why I said so. It would be a tough ask to suggest the 200-300 million that watch ESC every year do so with a background of codifying it as such.

  • So let me get this straight (ha!): the break between, oh say, 1996 and 1997, or that between 1966 and 1967, was not as big as that between 2007 and 2008? What, pray tell, happened to the televoters of Europe in this one year? Because it wasn’t reintroduction of a 50% share of jury votes – that came in 2009, and “Fairytale” is arguably more different from “Believe” than “Believe” is from “Molitva”.

    Heteronormative winners are the rule rather than the exception at this contest, and always have been. Yes, 1961 saw a winner with a very clear gay rights message, but that was not how things usually went down back then. From “Een Beetje” to “All Kinds of Everything” to “Ein bisschen Frieden”, the cute, nonthreatening girl winner has always accompanied the ESC, and a lot of them had sexual overtones even during an era where you had to be way more subtle about them (“Poupée de cire, poupée de son” from 1965 comes to mind). There have been exceptions, most notably the aforementioned “Nous les amoureux” in 1961 and (of course) “Diva” in 1998, but pray tell, what was so groundbreakingly non-heteronormative about any of the winners from 2003 to 2005, exactly?

    Quote from the article: “It’s a lot harder to do this sort of gender- and sexuality-based reading for a “big ethnic dance” winner like ‘Wild Dances’, ‘Everyway That I Can’ or ‘My Number One’, songs that won on spectacle and impact as well as diaspora and regional effects.”

    Uh…is this supposed to be a joke? Three conventionally attractive women, three uptempo songs, at least one of which (Turkey’s 2003 winner “Everyway That I Can”) was lyrically every bit as submissive and desperate as you’re making “Satellite” out to be? Not that Greece’s “My Number One” was any better in that regard, mind you, and Ukraine’s “Wild Dances” probably only gets a free pass because its lyrics are mostly “dei na dei na” – what little there is conforms to the standards just as easily. All three performances were filled to the brim with eye candy for the heterosexual male, from Sertab’s veil dance to Ruslana’s leather getup to Helena’s entire performance, period.

    And digging a little deeper, check the lyrics for Russia’s 2007 “Song #1”, which finished third behind “Molitva” and “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”, or 2006’s “Never Let You Go” – finishing second behind Lordi, performed by the guy who won two years later, no less, and tell me again about the massive change that happened in that time. 2007 also was the year that saw one man in drag finish second, while another – Denmark’s DQ – crashed and burned at #19 in the semi.

    “Hard Rock Hallelujah” was a fun, danceable tune hiding behind horror masks. When the Finns tried sending an actual power metal band to the contest two years later (still the televoting era), they finished 22nd. The Czech Republic got sent home from 2007’s semi with one point when they tried actual hard rock. “HRH”‘s success was a perfect moment in time, lightning in a bottle, reaching across any kind of divide.

    “Molitva” was in its own way just as elaborately staged as its predecessor. Sure, Marija Serifovic wasn’t what you’d call conventionally attractive, but she wasn’t alone on that stage, and have you looked at those backup singers? The song also is not what you’d call an empowerment anthem in any way, shape or form – it’s yet another desperate love song.

    Each and every one of the winners from 2009 to 2013 also won the televote. True, the margin of victory would have been far lower for Azerbaijan in 2011 and Sweden in 2012, but “Popular” and “Party for Everybody” were every bit as gimmicky and heteronormative as the winners. 2010? No real difference – 76 points between Lena and Manga in the final result, 67 in the televote.

    Oh, and just for the record: “Taken By a Stranger” was a three-minute intro in search of an actual song. I wasn’t scared by it – Lena simply isn’t threatening – but it didn’t live up to “Satellite” by any means. “It’s My Life” was a disjointed hot mess of a song that threw a new curveball at you every time you thought you had it figured out, and it was rightfully trounced by the juries for that. “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” was fun, but empowering? How is Ukraine’s answer to Dame Edna empowering in any way? The juries were installed (among other things, like mitigating expat and neighbour votes) to pierce the veil of spectacle that a lot of acts these days surround themselves with. They kept “Party for Everybody” from finishing just eleven points shy of “Euphoria”, they kept “Popular” from #2, they pushed “Me and My Guitar” into the top 10, they pushed the best ESC song of the decade so far to #2 in 2011, and they averted a finish at #17 for what in my book is still the best ESC performance ever, France’s “Et s’il fallait le faire” in 2009. None of that even remotely qualifies as a bad thing for me.

    • eurovicious

      Hi Ospero, thanks for your long comment. “Fairytale is arguably more different from Believe than Believe is from Molitva.” – not from where I’m standing. Two are non-vocally driven songs performed by cute young boys in English, one is a very much vocally driven Serbo-Croat power ballad with an expressly lesbian, queer performance. The song itself, stripped of context, is pretty neutral, but the way it was staged at Eurovision (compared to the Beovizija versions, which Marija performed alone and in feminine dress), Molitva acquires a whole new context – I’ll hand you over to Germaine Greer: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/tvandradioblog/2007/may/21/gomarijaeurovisionstriumpha

      Performance does completely change the context of a song – look at the whole new meaning and narrative Erik Segerstedt’s Hello Goodbye acquires when performed as a duet with Mattias Andreasson instead of Tone Damli.

      Your last paragraph on Taken By A Stranger vs Satellite, It’s My Life, Dancing Lasha Tumbai etc is highly subjective, I’m not going to argue it either way – one of my best friends whose music taste overlaps a lot with mine (and who shares my visceral dislike of Lena) doesn’t see anything in Taken By A Stranger at all, but I love it. We all respond to things in different ways. Regarding the juries – you can argue they stopped the Babushki and Eric Saade from winning, but certainly from a betting community perspective, the big question is why they even gave those entries as many points as they did in the first place. There was wide surprise among fans and especially among punters that juries gave such high scores to Popular, Lipstick and most of all Party For Everybody, none of which are remotely vocally-driven or sophisticated.

      With regards to Never Let You Go, Party For Everybody, Popular, and your Twitter comments about Dinle and Mana Mou (I love Mana Mou, I think it was possibly the exact moment that my status as a Eurovision fan was cemented), please note that in this article I’m only talking about recent winners and the trends that have characterised them. I’m not talking about the other, non-winning songs in recent contests and I’m absolutely not saying the difference between 2003-7 and 2008/9-2013 is the most epochal in the contest’s history – that’d almost certainly be the late 90s, when the orchestra was phased out in favour of backing tracks, the language rule was relaxed again, and full televoting introduced – three changes that together transformed the contest into its modern version. What I was specifically referring to was how the era of the “big ethnic dance” song winning was superseded by the era of the non-threatening boy/manic pixie dream girl winning – consider 2006-2008 a transition period if you will, but the difference between 2002-2005 and 2009-2013 is striking. And yes, while I wouldn’t call those “big ethnic dance” winners feminist either, absolutely none of them were playing manic pixie dream girl – none of them were trying to be “girlish”, cute, coy or innocent. Ruslana, Helena and Sertab (and Marie N) all come over as mature, dynamic and positively empowered when compared to Emmelie, Lena, Nikki and even Loreen. And while their songs had love-related lyrics, the love narrative wasn’t the focus of the performance. Simpler songs for simpler times – a good upbeat song, some fab dancers and costumes, energetic, memorable choreo, and just enough flesh and sexiness but not too much – no snowstorms, no Mockney, and most of all no “young girl” or “young love” shtick or attempt to symbolically communicate innocence/virginity.

  • Bit of selective reading there as “difficult” does not mean “impossible”, notwithstanding the opening paragraph where this is meant to be looking mostly at the jury voting and not the televoters.

    “How is Ukraine’s answer to Dame Edna empowering in any way?” is an interesting comment here, and I think that’s rather dismissive way of looking at things. It’s also not the best to look at the situation, late 2000s, of the Dame Edna western generation with that of Central and Eastern Europe. Serduchka (and I can’t claim authority on this, in the sense that I am not Ukrainian) did send a challenge based on the political conservatism of the Rada: Verka was selected in an elections year, and had been condemned by several represented parties as “vulgar”. Yes, perhaps from a Westernised perspective it may not seem as empowering, but Verka is still to some extent a symbol of LGBTQ activism in that region. I suspect that you wouldn’t refer to Dana International in the same sort of terms, despite the fact that she relates to LGBTQ Israelis in a similar manner.

    • eurovicious

      As a German friend of mine who studied this sort of thing commented at the time, Dancing Lasha Tumbai is also a processing/reclamation of elements of Ukrainian history – Vergangheitbewältigung durch Glitzer, if you will – note the Soviet star repurposed as a glitzy hat, the blinged-up military-style outfits, the shouting of German numerals and commands. They’re all originally symbols of danger, state power, masculinity, and of dark periods in the country’s memory – repurposed and reclaimed (and thereby made safe) in the form of a camp disco explosion. Lots of other acts from post-Communist Europe have repurposed Communist tropes in a similar way – Russia’s Diskoteka Avariya, Slovenia’s Rock Partyzani, a lot of the bands signed to Berlin’s Eastblok Music etc. So it’s empowering in that sense at the very least.

      • Okay, I’ll grant that – though this is hardly the kind of empowerment that the article was talking about, but emancipation from a totalitarian past. I’m also not certain how burying that kind of message in nonsense and camp serves the purpose, but it’s as appropriate a path of communication as any, I suppose.

        • eurovicious

          Apart from Albania, Eastern Europe was only “totalitarian” for a decade, until de-Stalinization in the mid 1950s. After that it was merely authoritarian. (Yugoslavia broke with Stalin in 1948 so was never totalitarian.)

    • The article says that the break between 2003-7 and 2008-now was caused by the reintroduction of jury voting. This conversely means that the less orthodox winners of the former era were in some way related to televoting, because if those winners are unimaginable now, they certainly would have been pre-1997/98.

      Aside: What happened from 1999 to 2002? Out of those four winners, two at the very least easily conform to the post-2008 pattern, “Take Me to Your Heaven” and the absolutely dire “I Wanna”. Did a bolt of divine insight strike Europe’s televoters on New Year’s Day 2003? If so, it must have been one with a four-year expiration date.

      So the article insinuates that televoters were somehow less heteronormative than juries are nowadays, and the numbers and winners from the televoting era simply don’t back that up, at least not to the extent the article suggests, “Diva” and “Molitva” notwithstanding. There’s also still the little issue with 2008 still having 100 percent televoting in the final and what amounts to 90 percent televoting in each of the semis, so if anything the big break should be between ’08 and ’09.

      Also, are you seriously accusing me of selective reading when the article, by and large, is massively selective to begin with? Why, for one, are the Dutch jury results from the first semi last year any more or less indicative of a dislike for non-English songs – or anything else – than the others (another aside: the Dutch jury also had Moldova at #3 and Estonia at #4, and those songs were in Romanian and Estonian, respectively), and why are no other results mentioned, giving the impression of choosing facts that fit the theory? I know that most of the individual country results aren’t available, but I still maintain you can’t build any kind of convincing argument based on this ridiculously small sample. You could do it if and when the results from 2014 – which will be fully published, finally! – support it, though it won’t be easy to make any kind of case for or against non-English languages this year, seeing as how there are only a handful of songs in other languages in the 2014 ESC, and two of those aren’t in the semis (Spain and Italy).

  • When Emmelie was selected last year I said on here she had “that same star quality that Loreen, Lena and Alexander had”. It’s something I’ve really noticed in many of the recent winners. They just have that x factor that makes you want to vote for them. I find it difficult to pick out someone who looks like a winner this year, though I’m still backing Basim at the moment.

    • Henry VIII

      Good point about star quality but they all had vastly better tunes than Basim has imo.

      • eurovicious

        I’m hearing so much love for Denmark from all kinds of quarters atm, but I agree with this – the song isn’t good enough.

    • Gert

      “X Factor” is indeed one of the words I have used before as well. Sometimes it’s hard to explain how this works or how you get this “X Factor”. But it already helps if you look in the history of the actual performer. Background history is important too. An experienced singer who has already done his/her own concerts works in his/her advantage. “Stage experience” I call that. But also some lucky few have that “X Factor” without having too much experience. But they still charm audiences, if it is in a concert hall or behind the LED-TV.

      Perhaps this kind of natural talent, helped or not helped by experience, is a very important aspect of this “overall impression” Eurovicious was relating too.

      One thing I kind of missed in the article. Perhaps you, Eurovicious, meant it indirectly with this word: “meme”. But I think “emotion” is the underestimated aspect during a 3 minute Eurovision performance. An heartfelt emotion, if it’s a bit goosebumpy, happy, bit sad, melancholical, crazy, or radical. That’s part of the game that makes jurors and especially televoters rise up.

      I was comparing Georgia last year with Azerbaijan in 2011: Two very similar “packages”. But in the end Georgia left me quite “numb” and dispassionate, while Azerbaijan in 2011 really touched me. Call it some kind of melancholy. But this is very important too. And, like “X Factor”, “emotion” is kinda hard to predict (Allthough you can dig into biographies of performers). It happens on the actual night, when you sit in front of your TV-set.

      Wunderful article Eurovicious ;-).

      • eurovicious

        Thanks a lot Gert, I really agree with your points – performing ability/natural talent, and emotion/ability to convey emotion and connect, are absolutely crucial. I agree, I love Running Scared but Georgia 2013 came off as too boring, abstract and calculated.

  • This is a very good and persuasive article, although the in-depth discussion taking place above is a little beyond my scope of knowledge and I couldn’t hope to comment on that. I certainly believe that EV is onto something here, but there is a niggle in the back of my head that just makes me think that the perspective from which the subject is approached is slightly biased, as if the world revolves around hetero-normativity and the exclusion of anything that challenges that – and as if this approach to picking a winner magically came into effect with the re-introduction of juries in 2009. It sounds a bit too cynical.

    I’d like to offer another perspective which comes back to some points I made last year. Regardless of the voting system, every single Eurovision winner and indeed the top 5 of recent years has met at least one of three criteria:
    1. A well performed radio-friendly song that translates well to a TV performance, with chart potential – or indeed the closest possible thing to it.
    2. A high-calibre and/or timeless “masterpiece.”
    3. Accessible novelties.

    2007 is a funny year which I can single out as an anomaly. The infamous semi final resulted in a final almost completely derelict of western European nations had it not been for the big 4 rule. I would say that Moltiva won due to strong support from eastern tastes and simple lack of choice for the west which may partly explain Verka coming 2nd. Nevertheless, high-calibre (and arguably chart-worthy in the east) power ballad comes first, accessible novelty comes second. (I say accessible because it actually entertained unlike Scooch or Les Fatals Picards, both of whom were frankly crap.) And Russia’s sexy girlband with a song worthy of a spot in the UK charts at the time comes third.

    Personally, I will be combining these theories with EV’s “nice, non-threatening” approach to looking for a winning performer, and also keeping in mind that the juries will be looking for something with a pedigree of personality and quality, not just good vocals. Not understanding that last part is what led me to back Cascada last year.

    I certainly am very concerned that many non-fans I show Molly’s first performance of COTU to just don’t quite connect with it – instead telling me they like Sweden, Spain, Estonia, Ukraine and Denmark. I am going to do a more extensive recap test as soon as I can though. – But then again, many of us didn’t quite think Only Teardrops was going to be as good as it gets last year, did we? It’s a valid point. Maybe the winner isn’t always so obvious. We keep looking for the best overall package, when really we should be looking for the most agreeable and/or popular, especially under the new ranking system.

    I’m still concerned that Molly might be coming off a bit too brash and self-empowered, but then again, bearing the combined theories of my own, and the ones drawn from EV’s two most recent articles, I can’t see anyone that ticks all the other boxes other than Miss Nielsen. I believe she will surprise us at rehearsals with this younger new look and the ambitious light show. Sure the song is bland, underwritten and kinda dated, but so what? It’s a simple, accessible ballad that makes an impact.

    I’m not discounting Armenia either at this stage. There’s a lot of logical evidence against him, but I don’t think there are any truly fair and applicable comparables that history can offer us. We just have to assume he will be a threat because the song is daring, made a big impact on the market, the man can sing and perform, he obviously has a vision for his performance, and perhaps most importantly, he comes from Armenia. He is the “aesthetic winner”, shall we say…. but I’m more inclined to back a more logical winner, especially with the lack of value to be had on such an anomaly of an entry.

  • Henry VIII

    On the subject of provocative (see earlier post) I’ve just realised that the Ukrainian girl acts more sexually than any ESC act I can remember in the last 5 years or so. I’ve been a big backer. Should this be a concern?

    Make sure you see their current version, it’s the one where she’s in a black suit with black hat.

    • eurovicious

      Hi Henry, we’re on the same wavelength – I raised this exact point as a concern regarding Ukraine with someone on Twitter this afternoon who’d also read the article. I wrote “I’ll be able to judge it better nearer the time, but I think she’s poss. too sexy/strong a personality, not girlish/innocent. I don’t think she’s the right type of personality- unless they style her as a Ukrainian rebel!”

      • Straight man’s opinion time! 😀
        I think Maria Yaremchuk is absolutely gorgeous and adorable in the final preview video. Definitely unattractively more whoreish in the NF performance though.

      • Chris bellis

        EV – I agree about Ukraine. This in part is what did for the French entry last year (that and coming first in the running order) – too overtly sexually aggressive for the Eurovision market, which preferred your concept of the “safe pixie” singing about teardrops to the (to me anyway) the more exciting performer.

      • Dash Berlin

        Give Ukraine the kind of makeover Natalia Poklonskaya got, and we have a winner

  • Seronie

    The idea of a heteronormative bias at Eurovision is an interesting one. I have trouble agreeing because of the success of the likes of Molitva and Diva during times of televote – arguing that juries instead of the public are responsible for this and are the ones that follow this theory and ‘punish’ less typically normative entries while the public sometimes does not makes the theory a little more flexible than a rule should be. Juries and public alike have a tendency to regress towards a mean in terms of tastes and favour, but I don’t think it’s based on heteronormativity, but just human beings as a group favouring entries with broader appeal.

    There’s an interesting implication for Austria this year. It’s not ‘safe’ drag like Verka (I.e comedy drag like Dame Edna) but instead is more in the transgender category. However, and I say this carefully, the beard puts Conchita firmly in the novelty category – a bearded lady is a gimmick and subverts any conventional notion of what a transgender individual ‘should’ look like. I don’t think less open minded nations or individuals like Amar mp3 (allegedly) will be particularly threatened I. That sense, nor the juries, but the gimmick may detract from the song and harm it’s juries potential all the same, so either way it will be hard to draw a conclusion.

    • “I don’t think it’s based on heteronormativity, but just human beings as a group favouring entries with broader appeal.”

      Wholeheartedly agreed.

    • eurovicious

      As I set out, my position is that the heteronormative bias is with the juries, not with televoters, and if that “makes the theory a little more flexible than a rule should be”, then that’s intended – nothing I wrote above is in any way conceived as a “rule”, my aim was merely to highlight and analyse tendencies. I’m also not saying juries are explicitly homophobic, but that the notion of “credibility” – one that’s extremely widely subscribed to, and which I give no house room at all – intrinsically includes heteronormativity. If we respond to a drag performer with a beard as “novelty”, rather than taking them, their song and performance at face value, we’re guilty of it.

      “human beings as a group favouring entries with broader appeal” is the point and is exactly what I’m saying, because this is exactly how juries marginalise non-English songs, challenging and progressive songs, even just slightly unconventional songs, and yes, non-heteronormative songs. “broader appeal” means heteronormativity, because given demographics. a heteronormative performance automatically appeals to a lot more people than a queer or feminist one or in most cases a neutral one.

      In theory, Conchita has more jury appeal than Verka-esque comedy drag but less televote appeal. People’s ability to look past the beard is what it comes down to. What seems to bother people about Conchita is the uncertainty, the lack of the typical drag signifiers that make the performance “safe” and say “this is a man dressed as a woman” – she has a svelte female figure, female looks, female beauty and a female voice. The only signifier of masculinity is the beard, which isn’t even a conventional, widely-understood drag signifier (like a massive hat or outrageous dress). I think a lot of people will thus simply not know what she is.

      • Seronie

        I see what you mean, juries are indeed going to try and favour that which they perceive as credible (maybe not all juries, but likely most of them).

        The whole ‘ranking all the songs’ thing still troubles me. Juries can ‘punish’ unusual entries; gimmicky entries; televote threats; opponents as they please. Sure, Spain or Italy trying to negate the overwhelming Romanian televote within their country is an understandable effort, but still is a quandary as to whether it makes things fairer.

  • Keley

    Whilst this is a fascinating article and it’s really quite persuasive, I can’t help but think that Conchita will present the biggest meme of any of the acts this year, flying in the face of this theory. Of course, then we’d have to discuss whether there are positive and negative memes.

    • eurovicious

      Hi Keley, I actually agree on this and I’d really like to see Conchita do well. Her brand certainly isn’t the Cezar/Ryan Dolan brand of camp or the Verka/Sestre/DQ brand – she’s a serious vocalist and has deliberately selected a serious song that showcases her vocals and has a strong positive message and empowering theme. I hope that it’ll be positively received (fingers crossed), despite (or because of) it not being heteronormative. Austria and Hungary are two entries we can’t easily guage the potential success of this year, as we’ve never had a vocally powerful bearded drag queen or a serious, credible, exciting song about child abuse in the contest before.

      • chewy wesker

        I think Conchita will actually surprise this year, I really feel the shows producers will want her in the final. She really is a breath of fresh air, and although no one really thinks “rise like the Phoenix” is anywhere near as good as Adele’s “skyfall” it is however like a bond theme in all honesty, maybe a bond film that stars Roger Moore, from the mid-80’s, but still it does have a Rita Coolidge “all time high” feel to it.
        EV I must say I do love how you put your mind into all this, I think your right, people watching Eurovision at home judging the songs for the first time, are indeed thinking “I want this person” “I want to be friends with him/her” they “inspire me” their “cool” all these things we are thinking, and we are making judgements and very quickly with family and friends all making noise in the background. It can be difficult with some songs being missed to the odd toilet break, and interruptions. Viewers will indeed Make their assumptions within the first few seconds, and this is all very good for say denmarks chances, basim is very young 21 year old, with a jolly pop song, it should really be an open goal for them again this year on home soil and all. What really shocks me is, if viewers are thinking all of this, then I wonder why Russia are over 100 on betfair, with two “manic pixie dream girls” otherwise known as the Tolmachevy sisters, even with the Russian land grab, you would think the market would favour “shine” over “tick-tock”, Maria Yaremchuk is overly sexual in her performance, and the sisters do radiate good clean wholesome all the family can enjoy fun. I would think Russia Will do better than odds reflect this year.

  • RogerL

    I think you are missing one crucial piece of the puzzle.
    – What does the Fox say? (or rather the commentator)
    In every country there sits commentators giving their view of songs, performances, and dresses…

    I actually think any act would prefer to get positive or negative comments than a uninterested neutral.
    A negative comment might cause a reaction.

  • KylieW

    Thanks for introducing me to the “QUILTBAG” acronym btw!

    I can see what you mean with the chain of winners since 09, they all have one thing in common: non-threatening. As a fan of most of those acts I obviously didn’t see much of a problem in terms of quality but I didn’t notice the “non-threatening” chain until you brought it up.

    I guess with this new system an entry has to have absolute universal appeal to win, which means that something more innovative or challenging won’t have as easy a ride as it probably should do, which for someone like me is a shame.

  • Semiological analysis of Eurovision. I love it! 😀

    To me it feels like evaluating the last six winners from a heteronormative perspective is a little out of place here and would deserve a seperate article. That detour takes the importance of the semiotics you established in the first part of your article for granted and contributes to an argument why and how introduction of juries has changed the culture of the contest and the winners it produces. It is a good and accurate observation in my opinion but it doesn’t define or establish the boundaries of what Eurovision entries can possibly communicate in general, apart from the connotational gender/desire/sexuality availability message.

    So the foundation of your article is what interests me the most! The semiotics of Eurovision… or how meanings, messages, symbolisms, narratives etc are constructed.by the audio-visual product that is put on stage. Following the Saussurean tradition, the entire audio-visual product on stage would be the signifier, while the realm of the signified is what we want to figure out, right? We want to figure out what exactly is communicated, so we can make assumptions later if and how the signified affects viewer’s memories, contributes pick-up-phone motivation, influences jury reactions etc.
    But they must be separate steps of analysis in my opinion.

    I would like to take up your observation about the Romanian entry being “two over-35s singing EDM”. So, in other words, the correlation between performer and theme or rather musical genre is dysfuntional which arguably results in another layer of interpretation: pathetic “high school teachers who think they are still cool”
    A dysfunctional relation within what we see and hear on stage influencing the message. I’d assume it’s generally problematic when viewer expectations (dependent on cultural context) aren’t met..
    People often point to a lack of Norwegianess or a lack of nordicness trying to explain Haba Haba’s failure in 2011. I’m not hundred percent sure if I’m buying into that theory myself but it would certainly expand the model of the signifier being not only artist, song, presentation but also nation that would need to be put into consideration.

    People experience things though preconceived concepts and narratives, and regarding communicating a clear message Hungary and Belgium are from my perspective the crystal clear narratives this year.. It doesn’t necessarily mean people will love and vote for these entries, but it arguably puts them into advantageous position over others who have to work with less obvious narratives to get their message communicated.
    I think it’s important to keep in mind for further exploration that the strength/accessibility of the message itself and the aspect of viewers being motivated to pick up their phones need to be seperate steps of analysis. Being memorable or meeting certain expectations is an advantage, but I would say it’s not a given that it translates automatically to motivated televoters.

    By the way:
    Getter Jaani, textbook manic pixie dream girl with a theme that literally called western conception of hyperreality into existence 😉

  • Sander

    Great article! I also love to read the comments. I think there is some truth in the story. To me the songs that will score well are songs that can give you a clear emotion, whether it’s happiness, some kind of sadness or lust. I realized it during the 2012 and 2013 contests. Maybe I just overanalyzed it but there were some entries I thought would qualify for the final or would do well in the final because there was a clear feeling the song and the performer transferred to the viewer at home.
    The first time was when I saw Kuula. The song was very personal and focussed on him, and he just gave this sexual vibe because of his physique. With lithuania 2013 I realized that though the singer was a bit average looking, he looked a bit cute, boy next door nerdy and his shirt went up during the performance and in the the recap you could see it again. It seemed a bit sexual.
    Hungary 2013 was very happy and pure and it really had a positive vibe. Being humble can bring you pretty far in the competition I think. Acting like you own the place will work against you.
    Then there are songs that are very emotional that can really give you goosebumps. I truly think that if a song can give you a certain feeling instead of an instant reaction of ‘that’s gay etc.’ it can really stand out and do very well in the competition. Music video’s therefore are very deceiving to me when predicting the qualifiers or top 10 countries in the final. For example Hungary… I like the radio-friendly song and it sounds modern, I think the juries can go for it and the viewers too. But the guy just does not look boy next door to me. I think it can put people off. Also Belgium… I have no idea why he is so popular with the bookies. Even though he sings pretty well and the song is rather powerful, his appearance will put off a lot of people. They want to see someone who has a good body. Like already stated in the article, they want to be like the singer, etc. You don’t want to be fat, even though the song has a universal message. General Eurovision viewers are just superficial, just like other people 😛

    • eurovicious

      Hi Sander – love this comment! #TeamOtt #TeamPojavis It’s all about the manflesh.

      You make a really good point about Kedvesem, which was an unexpectedly big hit with televoters, not with juries. I know non-fans who don’t speak a word of Hungarian who voted for it because they found him sympathetic, ordinary, an endearing amateur with his own charming song among a sea of professionals. I think the visuals, his styling and manner, and the simplicity and (as you say) happiness of the song helped immensely. Plus with endearing, safe male performers his age (like Gianluca too), there’s always the question of mothers voting because they reminds them of their son(s).

      Worthwhile points about Hungary and Belgium 2014 – food for thought there.

      • Hey EV, absolutely loved this article. I tend to stay in listen-and-learn mode in the Eurovision comments as I’m very aware that I’m a relative novice, but I can’t resist me a bit of semiotics 😀

        So it seems to me that these words about Hungary last year –

        sympathetic, ordinary, an endearing amateur with his own charming song

        the simplicity and (as you say) happiness of the song

        mothers voting because they remind them of their son

        – also nicely sum up my own guilty pleasure of this year:

        It’s one of the very few of this year’s crop to put a smile on my face and lodge its chrorus in my head after one listen.

        I’m especially interested in your last point and the contrast with Belgium, considering the signals sent by the overall package. I’m asking myself, if you’re a mother, would you rather imagine your son as:

        – the dorky and amateurish yet charmingly cheerful guitar player who has female friends and is seeking your advice to improve his kitchen skills, or

        – the alone and broken-hearted portly gentleman whose main female love in life appears to be, somewhat creepily, you.

        Latvia is eight times the price of Belgium. As I say, I’m a novice here, but is it inconceivable they could do a Kedvesem?

        • eurovicious

          Cowabunga Andrew, thank you, and Latvia is also one of my favourites this year, indeed one of only 4 songs I like (the other 3 being Austria, Hungary and Poland – it’s the Habsburg Song Contest as far as I’m concerned).

          You’ve perfectly summed up the case for Latvia there. What’s not to like about it? For me, it falls firmly into the anti-fanwank category alongside past entries like Alf Poier, LT United, Pirates Of The Sea, Cezar etc – songs that the bulk of contest fans hate because they’re childish, not “credible” and don’t take the contest seriously, but that your average Eurovision party guest (basically, your average straight casual viewer who watches Eurovision for a laugh) would love. There’s a misguided perception in the fan bubble that amateurish equals bad, hence the long prices on Lithuania qualifying and Hungary top 10 last year. Novelty is a huge part of the reason why people watch Eurovision, yet in many cases it’s abhorred by the fan bubble – one recalls how both LT United and Silvia Night were actually audibly booed in Athens, which to the casual viewer – for whom these were two of the most entertaining acts in the semi – comes over as absolutely ridiculous. This dichotomy is worth bearing in mind.

          It has to get past the jury in the semi, which is a big “if” – one recalls how the jury killed Switzerland’s chances last year even though they came 5th in the televote. If it gets out of the semi, it totally has potential in the final. It’s incredibly catchy, offers more pure, unrestrained joie de vivre than any other entry, Jöran and his merry gaggle tick all the right “endearing underdog” boxes, and it has more built-in meme potential than any other song. Romania 2013 and Moldova 2010 both turned out to have huge meme (my favourites in their respective year) potential and both were dismissed the majority of fans for being too much like a wacky Eurovision song, basically, when wacky songs are the main reason a lot of people watch and enjoy the show, myself included.

    • chewy wesker

      Hi Sander, boy next door is always a good one to look out for. I keep it in mind for my top ten betting. And your right Malta was a surprise top ten last year, although I did have Hungary down as a top ten place, you do always get the expected surprise in eurovision.

      expected surprise that’s an oxymoron I think!

  • sonovox

    Eurovicious,

    Interesting post. I’ll read it again more closely later with my musicologist’s hat on. First off: this is the second time you’ve said that Latvia’s song has an augmented chord in its chorus. Do you mean the chord on ‘bother’? If so, that’s no augmented chord; it’s a secondary dominant resolving to the relative minor.

    So what? Well, this feeds into something that has long made me a sceptic of your posts and comments: your degree of faith in your own ability to judge musical sophistication, coupled with the opacity of the criteria that typically underlie your strong judgments. This article’s credibility relies on you actually occupying the place that you think you occupy on the spectrum of musical sophistication (whatever that means). I might easily take your augmented chord remark as evidence that you don’t.

    More importantly, if I’m reading this site as someone wanting to place smart bets, I don’t really want to read passages like:

    Gianluca’s ‘Tomorrow’ – pleasant, unchallenging and competent but hardly the best sung or most musically worthy entry – won the jury vote in SF2. Greece’s high-kicking furballs, with their two-note singalong chorus, were second. Even the perfectly presented yet poorly sung sub-Katy Perry bubblegum of Krista’s ‘Marry Me’ came an astonishing 6th out of 17 with juries – ahead of far more vocally and musically impressive entries like ‘Rak Bishvilo’.

    or

    All of them had a shtick, a subtext, especially the female entries. Lena’s entire persona is shtick, onstage and off, to the extent there seems to be little underneath. Loreen and Emmelie’s entire performances were shtick – flailing around ethereally in a confetti snowstorm, and dancing about in bare feet and a negligee while staring down a bloke playing a tin whistle.

    You seem to think that you’re presenting objectively true appraisals here, but that’s simply not so. I could well disagree with almost all of these value judgments. Not all musical sophisticates are going to agree with you or even share common criteria for value, and if you don’t realise this it reduces the usefulness of these remarks for punters (which is after all what this site is meant to be about). ‘Good within its genre’, for instance, is an important concept that seems to have little traction in your article, because you’re always so keen to tell people what they should think in the process of trying to account for why various demographics think the way they do. Very interesting that comments to this article have raised issues of subjectivity and selective reading, which are virtually never provoked by Daniel’s much more measured pieces.

    By the way, I think your commentary on heteronormativity is perceptive to a degree but also a massive oversimplification. Outwardly heteronormative performances can easily be coded means of articulating gay identity, and outward expressions of queerness, especially lesbianism, can easily be styled towards heteronormative comfort, preference or fantasy. (You yourself came close to this very point a while back with your take on Belgium’s entry this year). The history of opera, not to say Eurovision, is full of such things.

    No hostility intended – thanks for the work behind the article!

    • eurovicious

      Hi sonovox – I don’t for a moment think I’m presenting “objectively true appraisals”, this is a perspective, a reading, an angle which I put out here for people to agree or disagree with as they wish. No-one on here is telling you which way to bet. “I could well disagree with almost all of these value judgments” – please do. I’m not trying to be neutral or “measured” – it’s an opinion piece. And there’s zero point in writing what’s expressly an opinion piece and being meek about one’s opinion. As I’ve said, I’m not an expert, which is why I welcome comments like those above from Sam and Substantshell who are more knowledgeable about this area than I am, and whose contributions really added to the discussion. If you’re basically calling me an articulate gobshite, the charge stands. But at least we’re talking about this whole area now, have it in our minds and are hearing a range of opinion. Daniel’s articles are supposed to be measured and are the backbone of each season’s analysis, mine are opinion pieces offering different perspectives and contrary views – if I also took a “measured” approach there’d be no point in me contributing.

      “outward expressions of queerness, especially lesbianism, can easily be styled towards heteronormative comfort, preference or fantasy” – yes, exactly, compare Krista’s titillating lesbian kiss with the Molitva performance.

      And with regards to me “occupying the place that you think you occupy on the spectrum of musical sophistication”, all I can say to that is MORE VENGABOYS.

    • eurovicious

      And I bow to your superior music theory knowledge. Hey, in my review of Eurovision In Concert 2012, I called Pernilla’s cello a double bass, so, yeah.

    • eurovicious

      One last thing: if I state my opinion confidently/forthrightly, it’s because this forthrightness is hard-won. I remember sitting in a German tutorial in 2001 as an 18-year-old student (with no confidence and little sense of agency or identity, and no real concept that I could have a happy future) where Kafka’s Metamorphosis was being discussed, and wanting to propose a gay interpretation, but not daring because then everyone would “know”. It took me a few years and a change of country to realise that my opinion is actually worth something, so if I state a view matter-of-factly, I’m not laying down the law or trying to present it as objective truth, I’m just contributing as best I can.

  • SirMills

    Excellent article in my opinion. I have always considered the likability of the performer equally important as the quality of the song, the market tends to under estimate this aspect and hopefully it may continue, so I hope not to many will read this informative post :).

    I think it is a very simple and effective way to gain more information about a song’s potential is to show it to the normal people who has no deep interest in music in general. I have picked up some very informative points from my friends and family by torturing them to watch Eurovision songs in Mars. I asked them about the song, their response was shallow, and more often not even about the song’s quality, but it was really informative hearing their views.

    UK: I am liking the lyrics, such a beautiful message. (I thought the lyrics was a terrible cliche, but I am realizing more and more that normal people doesn’t even know what cliche means).
    Estonia: Wow, how can see sing so well while dancing.
    (I thought the generic nature of the song would matter, but people see an amazing talent they want to support, without even thinking about the song too much)
    Ukraine: She wears to much make up, She is pretentious (females), I would bang that, the song is catchy (males)
    (Ukraine won’t be getting many household votes or female votes, women look at her as a threat no matter how appropriate she will be dressed)
    .

  • Peter

    fantastic article, I am going to use it for teaching! Also, another strong argument for Denmark as winner again this year: Non threatening boy, very heteronormative, and busy, cute performance. Did I overlook any pixie girl? Molly? Elaiza? Given these parameters, in another year Russia too would have had a good shot at doing well. And Sweden made the wrong choice.

    • Chris bellis

      Peter – I too think Sweden made the wrong choice, but isn’t it true that Sanna has had a pixification makeover? I’m hoping so as I have money on her.

  • Peter

    Chris,

    did she? what do you mean, the asymmetrical haircut? I read it more as being reminiscent of 80s Pop. Or did I miss something?

    • eurovicious

      They’re planning on giving her a “younger” makeover, which we haven’t seen yet. I’m skeptical.

      • Peter

        well its true her style makes her look older than she is, she is only 29, right? although in Eurovision years, following eurovicious’ article here, thats of course already middle age.

  • Nissl

    I had a look at the top dozen of the odds field for this, finally. (Yay for being home sick.) As an American, I really *don’t* know how to factor in politics, juries vs. televoters, voting blocs, heteronormativity, etc.

    Going over the top 5-7 for the last 4-5 years… other than the novelty Russian entry with the old ladies… it seems to me the biggest thing is still to have a connector who emotionally commits and gives the viewer goosebumps. (Loreen, easily the biggest points margin winner of the last 5 years, did it in large patches of her performance.)

    The next best thing is to have a pretty young popstar, either gender, who can give at least a slight tingle during the performance, often at the start. (That’s pretty much your top 5 in 2013. Azerbaijan better have given one of its backup vocalists a nice bonus for 2011, not sure which was responsible). And use staging to make an artistic statement developing the theme of the song.

    As many have said, this field is weak. I don’t see any power connectors in this field. Moving to my second set of criteria, the field is also generally old and full of downbeat songs this year. Like a few others in the thread, I would certainly want Denmark onside for a high finish because it stands out by being positive and has a nice young charismatic singer. If I had to launch a popstar out of this field, he would be my pick.

    I cannot find a good quality live version of the Armenian entry. Do I just suck at Youtube? At least one of the lo-fi versions sounds concerningly ragged vocally. I wonder if this entry is being overrated off comparing the video to other live performances. This is a live competition.

    The UK entry… she’s got a thin, hollow voice, doesn’t connect at all, and as some have mentioned pulls facial expressions that are a bit haughty and off-putting. She would be a mid-table finisher on XF/Voice at best, if you ask me. If she can at least figure out the stage charisma a little, the entry is one of the stronger ones from a demographic angle.

    Sweden at least does a tiny bit to meet criteria. Azerbaijan too, though to me it seems like a subpar copy of another recent entry, albeit one that did well. Might be enough to put these pretty high in such a weak field. Hungary is certainly memorable and has a reasonably charismatic singer. I’m doubtful something so dark would win though. Romania’s couple is nice but old and recycled, the song is blah, and they will need very different staging. Ukraine is very off-putting on stage. Don’t like her at all, and I’m straight! Belgium would need to connect emotionally to make up for, well, being a very overweight guy singing about his mother. Norway seems like it should connect, but doesn’t, not in the versions I’ve seen….

  • Rob4

    one of the best eurovision articles ever – well done EV. i’m off to re-evaluate.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Reflecting over everyone’s comments over the last few weeks, is it fair to say that the sofabet community hasn’t reached a consensus on a single song in this year’s ESC?

    There’s seems to be a problem or flaw with every entry in the field!

    In which case, staging will be everything? Yes? No?

  • AlexanderS

    Good article, eurovicious! Although as pointed above, a little excessive on the “heteronormativity” focus. I’ve always found that concept rather radical and dangerous, because it implies an active fight for reaching a stage where, for example in Eurovision context, at least half of the songs would be about minority sentiments and that is just not right. Note how even the gay audience passionately supports your so-called heteronormative songs, while the campest entries in Melodifestivalen are never favourites. This is why I think we should not use that concept at all; it does not really introduce any new information or analytical strategies.

    A few other points:

    – It is easy to say “look at what the act is communicating when estimating its chances” but at this point this is a very hard task, simply because we do not know the stage narrative (which admittedly structures the message). We did not expect Cezar’s freak show last year, therefore we did not see him winning the televoting in the semi. We did not expect Farid’s otherwise static love ballad to become such an attractive stage perfection, therefore few people could see him ending 2nd. At this early point listening to the songs is only like reading the message as a simple text on a piece of paper rather than the person communicating it verbally in front of you.

    – One highly neglected aspect of the success (although mentioned a bit in the comments above) is the semiotics of the entire act seen as a representation of a particular country/culture. Or, to put it simple, the stereotype image. Stereotypes play a very big role in Eurovision and it is surprising how little attention they get in analysis. They are the reason why Greece always does so well by sending the same tune over and over for more than a decade now (and they only time they went more Swedish in 2012, they “flopped”). Stereotypes are the reason why ex-Yugo ballads still do very well although they are already entirely irrelevant to pretty much everything that the contest wants to be now. Stereotypes, or actually the lack of stereotypes, is why some countries (particularly in Central Europe) simply can’t rely on stable televoting support. Spain is a country that continuously fails to understand this concept and refuses to send what Spaniards are typically associated with. This year among the top-scoring on the “stereotype homework” assignment are Sweden and UK. The Swedish song is not a clap-along ABBA type of schlager, but the performer looks exactly like how the majority of the world imagines Swedish girls to look like. The UK song is very British in sound and the performer too looks very British.

    – As for the “disruption” between 2003-2007 winners and 2008-present, I think everyone is looking in the wrong direction. The answer is much easier and quite obvious. Eurovision simply became a lot more popular in official and social media in the recent years. This is why I find it funnily naive when people say that “Malta came second in 2005, so they can still win!”. It’s like comparing Facebook’s first year with what it is now. Back then the EBU did not really care about where the contest is going to be held next year; now we are talking about possible soft-power interference and arrangements to avoid “a wrong host”. There is an entire universe of difference between Eurovision 2004 and Eurovision 2014 in its essence as a media product.

    • eurovicious

      Hi Alexander, thanks. I broadly agree with your three bulleted points, especially the first one. Regarding your opening paragraph (which I don’t agree with), where on earth do you get the idea that if we keep looking at things in terms of heteronormativity, “at least half of the songs would be about minority sentiments and that is just not right”? Nobody wants that and nobody’s saying that, I’m certainly not. The level of gay representation in Eurovision is probably about right as it is. Regarding you considering heteronormativity as a “radical concept”, what’s radical about (to quote a friend) “acknowledging the social norms of the status quo”? It’s about the least radical thing possible. To quote another friend, “It pisses me off that a simple step towards equality – noting that inequality exists – is already seen as too much.”

      Looking at songs, TV shows, all kinds of representations in terms of these norms is a tool that people who fall outside the boundaries of these norms can use to show how they’re excluded. By saying “I think we should not use that concept at all”, you’re saying people who are already marginalised shouldn’t even comment on their marginalisation. Regardless of this, nothing in this article was about trying to show how gay people are marginalised in Eurovision – I don’t think they are – rather how all the winners since 2008/9 have had an implicit or explicit heteronormative narrative in their lyrics, staging or both. As non-straight people are perhaps only 3-5% of the population, it’s understandable that these songs win.

      Your remark about too much minority rights reminds me of when I read an article on racism or sexism and there’s someone in the comments saying “But what about racism against white people?!” or “But what about sexism against men?”…

      • AlexanderS

        All I am saying is that the heteronormativity concept does not inform such an analysis, to put it bluntly, it is a bit useless. If we are trying to identify a peculiar trend among the winners, this is not the one. Not only the winners, nearly all Eurovision entries (and especially those singing about love) are heteronormative. Let’s look elsewhere.
        But I surely enjoyed reading your article and evaluate your analysis.

        • I slightly agree with Alexander. It might just come down to pedantics… Using heteronormativity as a term in this context rubs me up the wrong way. It does imply the marginalisation of sexual minorities. I felt that when I read this for the first time but I couldn’t think how to verbalise it. I think simply “normativity” or even just “the status quo” works much better.

          • eurovicious

            So if I use a term that “[implies] the marginalisation of sexual minorities”, that “rubs [you] up the wrong way”? Get over it. To come back to what Gerry said, “Ugh, simply noting how heteronormativity affects even Eurovision is now ‘too much’? It pisses me off that a simple step towards equality – noting that inequality exists – is already seen as too much.” And it pisses me off too, insofar as this article wasn’t even about marginalisation or whatever. It’s about how recent Eurovision winners have featured a heterosexual narrative that goes beyond the level of generic lyrics about love (found in the majority of pop songs and the majority of entries each year) and spills over into the on-stage narrative and the artist’s persona or shtick. It’s a personal take, as usual. With regard to comments implying it’s dilettantish, well, you’re not reading it in an academic journal, you’re reading it on a website about gambling on Eurovision, it’s not referenced and it’s written under my usual nom de plume and contains jokes. What do you expect? I know it’s a worthwhile contribution and the majority of the (positive and constructive) reaction, from people I respect, would appear to confirm this. But it appears I’m not even allowed to touch on the subject of heteronormativity without a bunch of straight men (yes, I know, not all straight men, just a minority) getting uppity. Heaven forbid I should rub some straight men up the wrong way by daring to go all “gender studies” for one article.

            I’ve had more positive feedback on this article than any other I’ve written, but also more negative feedback – even more than when I wrote about corruption last year, or after the Caitlin Moran thing – and while I make a point of always being open to criticism and taking it on board, never taking it personally or as an attack, and never dismissing people who offer criticism as “trolls” or “haters” as so many do in online discourse these days (thus creating a bubble where they never have to engage with the criticism and only ever hear positive feedback), what’s really coming through between the lines, as the negative comments on here and on Twitter slowly but continuously add up, is a subtext of “Ugh, he’s doing a GAY perspective”. I’ve been writing online about Eurovision for coming up to 2 years now and commenting here for over 2 years – people know what to expect from me, and I’m not gonna be silenced by someone posting an epic, personal takedown (with valid points but nasty), saying “you’re always so keen to tell people what they should think”.and ending it with “No hostility intended”. Or by opaque comments along the lines of “I normally like your articles but I didn’t like this one” with no further details provided when I ask why.

            Non-white feminists came up with the term of “intersectionality” because they felt excluded by a lot of mainstream white (middle-class) feminism, the type that focuses on getting Jane Austen on a banknote rather than helping marginalised women on the ground in a practical way. In response, the white feminist commentariat started saying the word “intersectionality” wasn’t helpful, was hard to understand etc, was offputting etc. In other words, black women came up with a tool to empower themselves and privileged white female journalists tried to belittle it and take it away from them. And whaddaya know, when I use the concept of heteronormativity – which non-straight people came up with, again as a tool – I’m attacked for using it and told similar things. In other words, “Can’t you be a bit more quiet about being marginalised?”. I hope it bloody does rub you up the wrong way, Ben, because that’s the point. Your suggestion “the status quo” wouldn’t have been a useful term for me to have used in this article because it’s totally open in meaning and can mean different things in different societies, whereas “heteronormativity” has a specific meaning.

          • Tim R

            Heteronormative is defined, first and foremost, as “the assumption that normal and natural expressions of sexuality in society are heterosexual in nature.” Its use here, as I see it, is to diagnose a symptom imposed by a society which is structured to approach things through a heteronormative lens. It wasn’t even used in a negative way, it was merely asserting that this exists (sometimes without explicit knowledge, as is socially conditioned from an early age) and plays a part in the creation and interpretation of music – both in and outside of eurovision. Both queer and straight people can [and often do] use a heteronormative lens to look at the world. Asserting that using this terminology is “radical” or “dangerous”, however, reinforces the view that the only “normal” sexuality is heterosexuality and that suggesting otherwise is deviant. The reason this can “rub one up the wrong way” is because it challenges deeply held socially-constructed beliefs. “Normativity” would not suffice here as, like Eurovicious said, what is normative differs from culture to culture and, moreover, does not directly address the issue at hand and could mean any of an array of other socially “normative” beliefs.

          • I would like to take this opportunity to withdraw my above comment and publicly offer my full and sincere apologies to EV. It was in poor judgement but of course was not intended to offend you. My only justification comes down to a certain point that I made in a recent private conversation which I won’t reference here, but other than that I can’t explain.

          • AlexanderS

            “It’s about how recent Eurovision winners have featured a heterosexual narrative that goes beyond the level of generic lyrics about love (found in the majority of pop songs and the majority of entries each year)”

            Eurovicious, this is where I believe you are quite wrong. There’s nothing like “generic lyrics about love” in pop songs, they are all clearly heteronormative. American charting r&b/rap songs are even quite openly sexist. This is what makes your argument about the winners unstable, in my opinion.

  • Boki

    So it seems our winner this year will/should be: hetero, white, young and beautiful, not offensive, desirable for men but not too sexy to repel women, mum and dad friendly singing about love and stuff – and all of that times two – it’s Russia! 🙂

    • Chris Bellis

      Boki…Any other year perhaps! Although, now I think about it, the South Ossetia business in August 2008 didn’t harm Alexander Rybak (an ethnic Russian) in 2009, when Russia hosted Eurovision. The contest was however very controversial, and the Russian entry that year was woeful. I noted that Alexander Rybak thanked the organisers in perfect Russian and got a hero’s welcome, even though he won for Norway. So I’m now looking on oddschecker at the Russian twins….

      • Boki

        I know 1st of April has passed but I was joking…

        • eurovicious

          I thought it was hilarious 😀

        • Chris Bellis

          I think if you read my comment you will see that I responded to your joke in the spirit in which you delivered it. Clearly I failed to convey in print the dry humour that I was intending. I’ll get my coat. But what would you say if the joke turned out to have some truth in it? We’d not be laughing then.

          • Boki

            To be honest I’m in the fast scanning mode at work so no wonder I missed the point, I apologize. I just wanted to make sure you don’t do any foolish thing after looking at oddschecker but now I see it’s too late since 3 figure odds on betfair are gone 🙂

            Seriously, the twins actually fit to many categories but my hidden message was that trying to categorize things can lead to wrong conclusions. Each year is unique, and (for example) people spend too much time in trying to find an act similar to someone successful from previous year. You can get some right but will also get some completely wrong, there is no magic formula…and if someone would find it certainly is not going to publish it.

      • A little late to the party, perhaps, but a slight correction here: Rybak is Belarusian by birth, not Russian.

  • Henry VIII

    One problem with the theory may be that without any reason why the juries would introduce such a change we are relying on statistics. Winners since 50% jury is a sample of 5, and even though it’s all winners since then it’s not much.

    The Russian grannies, falling outside this narrative, came second. Winners Finland 2006 and Serbia 2007 also fall outside but I’m not convinced they’d have done less well post 2008.

  • I have put some more thought into the gender topic.
    I believe I’m receptive to reading entries through the lens of patriarchy and other socially constructed norms but I really struggle to see Loreen’s staging as a representation of weak confused woman being saved by strong male saviour. It is true that he lifts her up at some point showcasing strength and control, but in the context of the whole presentation, he receives little to no spotlight or identity, she is in command of the dancing and at some point it appears as if she is pulling invisible strings controlling his actions. I think I’d have less difficulties explaining Loreen’s entry as a reproduction of white supremacy with an underlying slave narrative than to see it as a representation of female subordination, especially in contrast to the wider context of established gender roles in commercial pop music.
    In the same year of 2012, Greece sends a girl, epitome of objectified flawless beauty with a theme that couldn’t be more sexually inviting while stressing also the non-threatening female subordinative role, who by her nature is unable to control her body in the prospects of heterosexual intercourse, and that scores the worst result for Greece in a decade. Perhaps too inviting and not a challenge for male “conquering”, but I’d also argue that we have seen a slight shift in contemporary culture where it’s socially acceptable for females to inhabit the concept of slut as long as you are white girl from mid or upper class. It’s okay these days to be a slut in a Paris Hilton pop star sense; a woman of colour working 14-hour shifts at McDonalds probably doesn’t have that kind of freedom of choice or self-expression.
    Anyway I’m losing a bit focus here, while other political agendas drift to the foreground 🙂
    I think it’s worthwhile looking at esc entries with a focus on gender aspects, but since it involves interpretation and cultural norms which are constantly changing I would propose a more comparative strategy taking the standards that are set by non-esc music into account. Not that it would save you from angry mob reactions 😉

    Before I’m giving away my own sentiments I’d be interested to hear your interpretation of Ace Wilder’s stage narrative regarding gender and race.

    • eurovicious

      Yeah, by the time I refer to the tin whistle in Only Teardrops as a “metal phallus” at the very least, it should be clear there’s a slight element of tongue-in-cheek in this article. The Euphoria reading is subjective (like all the others). That’s a fair comment on Euphoria. There are lots of “boobs and bum” entries like Aphrodisiac that have done badly, indeed, that sort of thing doesn’t win these days. Ace Wilder: a comment on the disproportionately high number of black men in US prisons? While the rich white elite gets away with not working? (I’m stretching it now.) Or, given that the main reason for the US’s high incarceration rate is draconian drug laws, a comment on how black men are locked up for drug possession while middle-class white women can get away with it? Is Ace doing nothing because she’s high?

      As a Swedish-American, Ace has an outsider perspective and comes from a country with a welfare state, statutory holiday and low rates of incarceration. From her perspective living in Florida, the US wage-slavery system (where there’s no safety net or even statutory holiday) is part of the same uniquely American system that jails so many people (disproportionately black people), so the combination of her song and staging could be read as a protest against both? The way she’s dressed almost as “trailer trash” implies sollidarity with America’s poor, although given that she doesn’t belong to this group, it could also be classed as appropriation/fetishising of it or speaking on people’s behalf. What do you think?

      Agree with your comment that middle/upper-class white girls have leeway to act “ratchet” in a way that others don’t, Miley Cyrus being a good example. “inhabit the concept” is a perfect way to put it, it’s taken on and off like a mask – the distance between someone’s perceived/established persona and the one they temporarily adopt (squeaky-clean Disney girl twerking on your face) is what creates the sensation.

      If anyone wants to analyse this staging: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x85f7l_2009-lithuania-sirdeles-quarter-3_music …be my guest.

    • I think I can answer Shell’s observation on Eleftheria at least…. Kalomira had virtually the exact same narrative and came 3rd, so what’s the difference between her and Eleftheria? (other than juries? I don’t know Eleftheria’s televote only position)

      Basically, Aphrodisiac was shite. 😛

  • I think it’s time to compare Italy 2011 with Russia 2012 now. For the very simple reason that it sometimes can work both ways. In essence, the result is )more or less) 50% dependent on jurors and 50% on televoters. Even more so, since the entire rankings from both sides are being taken into account.

    So what happened:
    ITALY 2011:
    01st, 251 POINTS: 100% jury
    11th, 099 POINTS: 100% televote
    ——————————-
    02nd, 189 POINTS: combined & final result

    RUSSIA 2012:
    11th, 094 POINTS: 100% jury
    02nd, 332 POINTS: 100% televote
    ——————————-
    02nd, 259 POINTS: combined & final result

    So, it really work both ways. But I still think we are seeing the juries, especially on here, as a bunch of “bad guys” trying to bring down the televote.

    Well, against that you can say that it were the actual televoters who “destroyed” the chances of Italy’s first ever victory since 1990.

    In any case, I don’t believe in all this. Again, it really works both ways. And yes, maybe the televote shows a more pronounced, clear victory in the TOP 10, whereas jurors vote more carefully, thus showing a more equally distributed set of points and a less clear victory.

    Still, we see what the current 50% jury / 50% televoting is capable of. It is capable of producing a more balanced, thus better end result in which countries from Eastern Europe to the classical “West” can agree on.

    For me, it creates the perfect ranking, the most perfect end result you can get.

    Regarding this year’s winner. I think it’s more simple really: You need to do well, very well with BOTH televoters and juries. And then it also depends on the exact number of points.

    For instance, the points difference between the 100% jury result and 100% needs to have a certain stability to, IN COMPARISON to the other countries. Italy 2011 for instance showed only a difference of 152 points between juries and televoters. Thus resulting in a scoring slightly north of ( 99+(152:2)= ) 175 points. The final result being 14 points more; 189 points. This was because the jury is always slightly more “subtle” with such “quality entries”.

    Russia 2012 showed us a difference of 238 points between the 100% jury result and the 100% televoting result. Thus resulting in a scoring ALSO north of (94+(238:2)= ) 213 points, but considerably more. The final result being 46 points more; 259 points. This was because the televote is always more pronounced with these “acts”.

    Still, both Italy 2011 and Russia 2012 in the end won a silver medal. Despite the actual points totals, both entries could not win. Azerbaijan 2011 and Sweden 2012 showed us how you need to win.

    Is it then a more “safe” victory? I don’t think so. It’s merely a case of attracting as much points as possible, with BOTH televoters AND juries.

    Yes, “Quality Entries” like Italy 2011 are doing better with the new system, but they still need to face the “drunk eye” of the televoter. But in return one can say that “Circus Acts” like Russia 2012 are slightly “punished” by the juries. But treating the juries suddenly as a bunch of Cosa Nostra-people goes too far. Because, despite not winning, Russia 2012 still received that silver medal.

    My conclusion:
    The current 50% jury/50% televoting result is the best system. Yes, I believe professional betters still have some problems actually stepping in the shoes of the juries, thus predicting the jury outcome better. But it’s not fair and, given my above explanation, also not true, that juries are people that should not be trusted. The simple fact that there are juries, means that each juror NEEDS to watch every entry in detail, despite their actual outcome. That’s something you miss with the “drunk” televoters.

    • AlexanderS

      I think juries are much easier to predict than televoting. I knew this year that Ace Wilder would win the international juries, just like Axel would win them in the Belgian NF. Juries are far more susceptible to hypes and inter-broadcaster relations. They also take the agenda of the show’s producers far too deeply in heart. This is why I am absolutely convinced that the likes of Norway don’t stand a chance to win the juries this year.

      • Gert

        Thanks for the remark AlexanderS. But that was not exactly the point I wanted to make hehe. In short: I think we need to accept that a 50%/50% result is really a 50% jury and 50% televoting result. At times, I think that the juries are still being perceived as some kind of “bad guys”. IMO they are just watching the contest, thus each entry, much closer and in greater detail than televoters.

  • eurovicious

    If you understand German and I know some of you on here do, they’re reviewing the songs live here now: http://www.eurovision.de/songchecker243.html Cake To Bake was just compared with Malta and Hungary 2013, just as Andrew did yesterday.

  • Kelly Ann

    A bit of a random one, but I was wondering what people’s thoughts were on Finland this year? I certainly don’t think it will be challenging for the win, but given this year’s general lack of strong packages combined with (what the juries probably consider to be) a credible song and act, performed by a young and reasonably good looking group of lads (so popular with the young girls televoting) mean that I could imagine it getting Finland’s best non-Lordi result in a long time (which admittedly is not that difficult).

  • PK

    I like Finland’s sound and look like the group have the potential to put in rousing performance. Russia also appear to have a good song and perform well in my view.

  • Great article, although I do not agree with the claim that juries voted for Moldova & Ukraine in 2013 because of staging gimmicks. Juries at Eurovision generally tend to vote for voices more than for songs – and Moldova and Ukraine, while only mediocre songs, both had incredible singers. In these cases, it was the vocal ability that did the trick, more than the giant or the flying dress.

  • eurovicious

    Related reading: this extraordinarily good piece by academic Catherine Baker on Eurovision, LGBT equality, human rights after the Cold War and homonationalism, which just went online today: http://t.co/QxIfNUT5Sm

  • I re-read this article this evening and this video came to mind. (Warning: NSFW language.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59OJ17raqWw

    So which song is going to convey that aspirational message as alluded to in this article? I’m pretty sure I know. 😛
    #powertothepeople

  • Funny to look at this now it’s over. Definitely not a hetero-normative winner. Not even cis-normative. But the point can be seen in Eastern-European jury-votes. Many of them gave Conchita Wurst low rankings despite high televote-ranks. (Top5 in every country except Estonia)

    But I see the “stage like a winner” point. All the gold and fire-effects.

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