Eurovision 2016: The Post-Mortem

Eurovision rarely fails to surprise and provoke, and that’s certainly proved the case this year. There’s been a constructive discussion in our comments section about the political aspects of Jamala’s participation and ultimate victory. From a betting perspective, this year was considered tricky and unusual: each of the frontrunners had flaws, and it was considered an open contest. That came to pass, with a very tight finish among the top three.

The change in the allocation of points and their reveal seemed to heighten the unpredictability of the event. I’ve written a longer-form piece for ESCInsight (I’ll tweet the link when it’s published), in which I’ve talked about the new challenges that this, and other aspects of the modern contest bring the gambling fraternity. But amidst the greater sense of uncertainty, it’s worth reminding ourselves that there are plenty of continuities too.

1. You don’t need to win both the televote or the jury vote. Or indeed either of them.

The return of the juries in 2009 started with two winning acts who topped both constituencies, as was also the case in 2012-4. But the system clearly opened the contest to the possibility that this need not be the case. Azerbaijan finished a distant second in the 2011 jury vote behind Italy but still won; Sweden finished a distant third in the 2015 televote behind Italy but still won.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be considered surprising that a country finishing second in both votes, putting clear water between it and the rest of the field in both cases, was the eventual winner. The see-saw nature of the reveal felt like it exaggerated the “shock” of this happening to an audience unsure of what to expect from the new system.

2. Here comes the politics…

A look at Ukraine’s televote performance in the semi-final as opposed to the final suggested a strengthening of support in some countries. Jamala went from 8th in the UK semi televote to 6th in the final, from 10th to 7th in Switzerland, 8th to 3rd in Australia. This for a country with a decent draw in both events, and no significant diaspora in these countries – arguments which might otherwise be used to explain such movements.

Could it be that the Saturday night audience were more aware of the political narrative? I can only speak for the British commentators who failed to mention the backstory behind ‘1944’ in the semi-final, before its anti-Russian message became front page news in the British press on the day of the final. This can only be speculation, but it may help explain how Ukraine overcame semi-final defeat, which in itself is not unheard of among Eurovision victors anyway.

3. Color us shocked at the Polish result, when perhaps we shouldn’t have been

By separating the jury points and televote, we saw an effective return to the 2009-12 system, whereby a strong televote or jury score couldn’t be annulled by a poor ranking in the other constituency. On the televote side, this was clearly going to benefit those nations with jury-unfriendly songs and diaspora to rely on. A points tally for the years 2013-5 under the new system compared with the one used back then didn’t reveal too many significant changes in finishing position. Yet if we’d gone back a bit further, we would have found similar if slightly less extreme differences in finishing position based on the two systems, such as Turkey’s Can Bonomo in 2012.

A big improvement was thus possible, especially for a country like Poland, whose 2014 entry had suffered most under the 2012-5 system. As an excellent BBC analysis indicated, the diaspora hadn’t got behind their 2015 entry, but returned in force this year. There were indications that this might happen – Michal Spzak won a hotly-contested national final, and ‘Color of Your Life’ performed well in iTunes downloads after the semi-finals. Once again, the new points system and reveal just emphasised the disparities.

4. Juries are political, and human

The focus on just the jury scores for the majority of the voting shone a light on what we have known for a long time: that juries can be political, mercurial and brazen. Those countries with an anti-Russian political viewpoint were more likely to reward Ukraine. There were other examples of political alliances being cemented, such as Armenia and France.

Juries can be like televoters too, something we noted after the Russian grannies managed eleventh with them in 2012. The strong showing of Belgium in the jury vote was thus more of a surprise here than it perhaps should’ve been. I’d assumed this rather insubstantial but fun offering would perform much better with televoters, not the other way round. But juries have rewarded well-executed entries of this kind in the past such as ‘Lipstick’ and ‘Lautar’, and Laura added herself to that list with an infectious performance.

My main gripe with the juries remains the continuing over-achievement of Maltese entries compared with their televote. ‘Walk On Water’ won the jury vote in the first semi-final, and managed fourth in the final, when it could only muster 16 televotes in total from a plum draw. This kind of thing has happened far too often in the past not to raise eyebrows.

5. The semi-finals

Shibboleths were broken in the semi-finals. The “four from the last six tend to qualify” pattern was thrown out, with only two and three managing it from each heat. Which just goes to show that song and performance are more key than ever, especially with a producer-decided running order allowing each song to breathe more effectively.

Otherwise, it’s worth remembering that this year’s most “shocking” non-qualifier – Iceland – could only manage third in the televote in its own national semi-final. How’s that for hindsight? To add insult to injury, it turned out Greta wasn’t even borderline, scoring badly with juries and televoters to finish significantly behind even Serhat.

Do let us know your thoughts on these points, and keep the conversation going below.

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47 comments to Eurovision 2016: The Post-Mortem

  • Ande

    Thanks for keeping this up Daniel 🙂

    Hope you’ll be back for more Eurovision coverage next year!

  • Here’s a thought from me. Have we reached Peak Staging?

    In the run-up there was a lot of talk on here about “it’s all about the staging”, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happened. Iceland and Belarus both used elaborate visuals, but tanked in the semis. Armenia and Russia both did well, but their staging really didn’t impress people as much as was expected.

    The thought also occurs that the more elaborate you make your stage show, the more capacity there is for things to go wrong. Iceland in particular struck me as an interesting concept that didn’t quite seem to gel on the night – personally I was far more impressed by her Songvakeppnin performance.

    It probably didn’t help that the camera crews just weren’t playing ball with the staging. Iceland, Russia and Ukraine all had effects that were clearly designed to be seen in a close shot with the camera directly in front of the singer, and time and again the camera was elsewhere at the critical juncture, panning across the crowd and showing up the prop as just a prop.

    I do wonder if the designers of that hologram ever thought their fancy 3D would be used to show off Ivan’s buttcheeks. 🙂

    In the end, it wasn’t about the staging. It was about the narrative.

  • Hippo

    A lot of people are saying the Russian staging didn’t impress, but looking at the facts- this was the highest televoting result Russia have ever received and only the second time they’ve topped that constituency. They beat Conchita by 50 points and from a 42 country final beat Loreen and were within 17 of the mighty Rybak.
    I also watch the contest with people who don’t know that a)I know all the songs since they come out and follow the rehearsals and semis and b) bet on the event- just to gauge the reaction on the night from fresh eyes and all were pretty amazed by the climbing up the screen bit and most thought Russia deserved to win.
    Maybe I should spend less time with people so easily fooled but the point is the staging worked. What didn’t work was the song. That’s what held it back on the juries, they weren’t fooled by the staging. I never had Russia as a jury winner, but I also never had Australia 190 points ahead (I figured around 90) or Ukraine more than 40 ahead.

    • That does chime with a comment a work colleague made to me after the semifinal, “I liked the bit where the Russian guy was climbing on the boxes. The song was rubbish though.”

      Going back to the idea of Peak Staging, there is the question – after Mans’ digital gnomes and Sergey’s holographic turd-polishing, where are people supposed to go from there? The words “law of diminishing returns” spring to mind. While I don’t doubt Ukraine can stage the contest effectively, it doesn’t seem likely they’d be able to afford as elaborate a stage as SVT. The same would be true in 2017 if the contest was won by, say, Malta, Armenia or Bulgaria.

      Another bit of feedback I kept hearing from casual Saturday night viewers was that the contest felt very bland and homogeneous. Hot girl sings. Hot guy sings. Hot girl sings etc. How is a casual viewer supposed to remember any difference between, say, Hungary and Lithuania? Or Azerbaijan and Malta? I’m starting to wonder if the Euromelodifestivalen sound may also have a law of diminishing returns.

      While it pains me to agree with Rybak on something, if Jamala’s win does result in a swing back to more ethnicity in songs, that may be no bad thing.

      As well as Peak Staging, could we also be reaching Peak Melodifestivalen? Some of those who scored unexpectedly well (Austria, Belgium etc) didn’t really sound like Melfest songs.

      Oh, Germany, you missed a trick by not sending the Gregorian laser monks instead of Jamie Lee. You could have soared to the dizzying heights of not-last.

  • Phil/Hippo….I think there’s a consensus here developing around a point: the visuals have to mesh in with and compliment the audio. Russia’s problem that there was a chasm between the two and this exposed the emptiness and superficiality of the song. I am no stranger to this theme, having worked in television for 25 plus years, where graphics that illustrate the points being made in the script are key. Some of the disasters have been when graphics teams do not look at the script and its concepts and devise a presentation which does not only NOT match the words, but actively fights them. I am not saying that this was the rational and self-reflective assessment of the juries, but there was a very deep seated level of “something not quite working here.” It was OK for the televoters. I am not being patronising here, but I do thing many of them were swayed by the “bloke climbing up the boxes” thing: the same comments were heard at my Euro party! But this was never going to be enough for the juries. I had Russia to be in 5th/6th place after the jury vote. I backed Aus and Ukraine at 14-1 and 11-1 e/w three weeks ago, assuming Russian weakness.

    Having said that, I do not fear a repeat of 1944. I believe in a “Eurovision collective memory” and a certain pendulum effect. It’s a long time since we’ve had two winners that can be said to share the same DNA as songs. I expect that to continue in 2017 and beyond.

  • “Two CONSECUTIVE winners”….I should have said, more accurately. Ireland 1992/1993 was possibly the last time?

  • johnkef

    One week after the contest has ended my thoughts for this year are

    1. Trying to duplicate last year’s winner is not wise, even if you think that your presentation is more elaborated. You might trick the televoters, but you cannot trick the juries. An expensive lesson for Russia, a punishment for the cheaper production of Iceland and to a lesser extent for Belarus.

    2. Having a strong televoting or jury song can get you to the final and you may crack the Top10 but that’s it. I would use that recipe if i were a country with poor qualification record.

    3. The lesson from Eurovision 2015 was not learned. We had a Top9 of really great unique songs that stood out from the crowd because of that. In 2016 only Armenia and Netherlands tried something different and they were more or less rewarded for their choice. Justs preferred to ”die with his principles untucked” and blew all his chances.

    If i were a Balkan or East European country i would send something more representative of my culture sung in my language or 50-50 as a start. Why send another english ballad that has nothing to do with my culture and has to beat another 15 english ballads? Jamala’s win might be good for the contest because of that.

    4. One thing that i keep saying every year and it’s recipe for success when betting. The pedigree countries know how to do it. The others have to first learn how to do it before they win the contest. Belgium and Netherlands are in this category They have created a momentum these last 4 years and if they keep trying, the win is closer than ever. I’m curious to see if France learned its lesson from this year.

    5. EBU should clear its mind a little bit. It cares too much for the expansion of the contest, which is not a bad thing, financially speaking, but every few years there’s a problem ahead.
    -The first one-semi years the problem was that the same countries were qualifying no matter what they were sending and some countries were not qualifying even when they had a good song.They solved the problem with the double semis.
    – Then another problem emerged with the high cost of participation that made some countries abstain from the contest. I don’t know how they did it but most of the countries returned.
    – Now there is the danger that politics are taking over the contest that might cost the withdrawal of multiple countries in the future. With the current format a contest with less than 36 countries is not sustainable, unless next year apart from Australia we have New Zealand, Korea or Japan in the contest…It’s a PR disaster for EBU looking for an expansion and at the same time losing countries.

    6. And a more personal point. Something has to be done with the BIg5. It’s unacceptable that UK, the country with the biggest music industry in Europe to send amateurs every year.
    The same with France. Italy returned and every second year the winner of SanRemo doesn’t want to participate in Eurovision. How are you supposed to win if you don’t do what it takes to make it? Only Germany is making some effort but they usually screw it up.

    • PurpleKylie

      There’s nothing morally wrong with “dying with your artistic principles untucked” to paraphrase you there

      • Chris Bellis

        Nothing morally wrong but quite a lot artistically wrong. If Aminata had performed the song, it would have been a serious contender. Really good song. I’m totally mystified by the love for Justs on this site. The bloke gave me the creeps, as did a few others from that neck of the woods. I note btw that Frans has been signed up for a record deal, even though he’s just a “pissy teenager”. Something about being a natural performer who owned the stage with a modern very untacky song which also had commercial potential. In the real world, Sweden won once again, but since I had them as top five, won for me any way.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          I thought Justs was good but not great, a bit of an angry giraffe at times, with pointless staging and questionable styling.

          One problem was that everything about his performance looked and sounded strained. The migraine man.

          His other problem was that he was diminished to dust by the double-whammy tectonic crush of following Aminata and preceding Jamala.

      • johnkef

        No there isn’t if you are an established artist with the experience to handle a song. If Stoke City plays against Barcelona and selects to attack as a strategy, everyone will admire their courage to do it but not their wisdom…neither the result will prove them to be right. Justs did what everybody expected him to do the last two months. He exagerated killing his chances. proving that he didn’t deserve the buzz around him. Both juries and televoters weren’t moved by his performance

        • PurpleKylie

          I don’t give a flying monkeys about potential results appeal in this argument, I’m just saying that at least he died falling on his own sword than trying to be something he wasn’t, which as an artistic/creative person myself, is something to appreciate even if it’s not to your taste, I mean just look at the German girl regarding the whole “true to yourself” vs “change in order to pander to everyone” thing.

          Now was it not the best thing to do in terms of getting as much support as possible? Maybe. But I’m just saying that being yourself on the Eurovision stage shouldn’t be something us cold-hearted pundits should slam regardless of the result.

          I’d imagine Eurovicious would agree with me saying that if every singer tried to please everyone, even if it meant compromising their artistic integrity, Eurovision would be really freaking boring and homogenous.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Bravo to the German girl for sticking to her samurai swords and her artistic vision.

            A very interesting failure and still fascinating.

          • We tend to focus a lot of results here because it’s a betting website, but I totally agree that where an act winds up on the scoreboard isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only mark of value. If a song didn’t get a stellar result, but moved or entertained you personally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

            I may have lost my shirt betting on Greta (no matter, I more than recouped my losses thanks to Jamala) but she’s still an artist whose next album I will download. If Kylie and Guildo found similar value in Justs and Jamie Lee respectively, that’s perfectly fine.

            On that note, I’ll just add that much as I mocked Serhat (and I did, repeatedly) on the night I found myself thinking, “Hang on a minute, I am actually having fun and being entertained watching this”, and bravo to him for that.

          • fused

            Justs was my least favourite of the lot, I thought he was annoying, trying too hard and that he sounded awful. But I think it’s a fair point that “staying true to yourself” can be a good thing with pop music and TV voting, especially if it’s a positive vote, as you’re always going to get some people out there that will like you. The gamble is whether it’s going to be enough people.

  • The biggest difficulty this year was correctly calling/predicting the winner of Eurovision 2016. Because it was the very first time that the eventual winner wasn’t a winner in both the televote and the jury vote.

    We did have Azerbaijan as winner in 2011, who won the televote, but didn’t win the jury vote.
    We did have Sweden as winner in 2015, who won the jury vote, but didn’t win the televote.
    And now there’s Ukraine 2015: 2nd with both the jury vote and the televote.

    Is that dramatic? In my opinion not. These variables can happen. But as a better or just as a participant in a Eurovision fan poule, it’s very hard to predict a 2nd place, which was the case with Ukraine in the jury vote and the televote.

    The fact that some people were calling either Russia or Australia as winner, were perhaps more correct, because they were leaning either to a better/predictor judging with the nature of a ‘televoter’ (Russia) or a better/predictor judging with the nature of a ‘jury member’ (Australia).

    Having said that, and having judged the 100% televote results, it becomes clear to me that those entrants who did good stuff in the televote, but less so in the jury vote, are always a bit ‘cheap’ or ‘tacky’ or ‘cheesy’. And/or they are countries who are heavily backed by demographics (diaspora), like Russia. Some examples:

    –> Russia 2010
    –> France 2010
    –> Sweden 2011
    –> United Kingdom 2011
    –> Russia 2011
    –> Russia 2012
    –> Turkey 2012
    –> Romania 2012
    –> Greece 2013
    –> Romania 2013
    –> Poland 2014
    –> Romania 2014
    –> Albania 2015
    –> Serbia 2015
    –> Lithuania 2016
    –> Poland 2016

    I think it’s safe to say that the musical taste of televoters on the whole is pretty awful. The above entries are obviously ‘televoting vodder’ and are either backed by huge diaspora or are quite poor from an artistic viewpoint. I am glad we have juries. And yes, the juries need to be improved. I fully agree on that. But it will be a black day if in the upcoming years juries are being removed, thus going back to a 100% televoting system.

    • eurovicious

      It’s worth noting that Azerbaijan’s victory in 2011 is essentially analogous to Jamala’s, Formally, Azerbaijan won the televote – by just 2 points (getting 223 as opposed to Sweden’s 221, with Greece a distant third at 176) – but it’s been well-established that Azerbaijan arranged mass SIM-card voting that year. We can basically take it as read that Sweden won the fair televote that year, Italy won the jury vote, and Azerbaijan came 2nd in both but won overall. That’s almost certainly what would have happened even without corruption (Azerbaijan would still have won on its own merits), as Italy had nowhere near enough phone votes and Sweden nowhere near enough jury support.

      • Still, Ukraine now has perhaps the most artistically relevant Eurovision winner since Ireland 1996 (‘The Voice’) and Norway 1995 (‘Nocturne’). Yes, there’s a lot of politics involved. But you can also say that there’s a wonderful background story involved with this year’s winner Ukraine. And lyrics-wise….Ukraine 2016 is perhaps the best winner in a long time.

        You know, I love entries like France 2009, Ukraine 2010, Italy 2011, Albania 2012, Netherlands 2013, Netherlands 2014 and Latvia 2015. I thought such entries never could win again. 2016 shows that such an entry CAN win.

        Azerbaijan 2011 was marvelously staged. Absolutely true. But as a song, and hearing the vocals, it’s a very average winner. Ukraine 2016 should be hailed as a winner. And even countries like Australia, Sweden, Russia and Bulgaria this year should now that really the best song….the most artistic presentation….can win. Bravo Jamala.

        • eurovicious

          The Crimean Tatar lyrics are taken from an old folk song and the English lyrics are facile and awkward… a professional lyricist did not work on this and a native English speaker didn’t check it. It’s the Beautiful Song of atrocity lamentations. If you’re gonna sing about an genocide at least do it grammatically and with an actual point more meaningful than “you think you are Gods but everyone dies” (???)… it’s like something a European high-schooler would produce in an ESL class when asked to write a poem about why war is bad. Wars For Nothing is terrible but even it has a couple of great lyrical couplets (“Can you justify all the eyes that will never see daylight?”, “That you live in peace does not mean
          It’s okay to ignore all the pain”) that are far better than anything in 1944.

          • For me Jamala didnt win ESC because of a song about Crimea.She won it because she broke peoples hearts as she lamented over the loss of a child.The child might not of been real,but it represented the ultimate loss anyone could suffer.A child torn from a mothers bosom.The tree and the skyward yearning pain locked the viewer into that emotion.The symbolism was hugely powerful.There is also the fact her delivery was stunning,and that made it authentic.”you think you are Gods,but everyone dies” is a genius lyric.She isnt talking about the death of the people,she is talking about the perpetrator’s.The fact they arent gods by taking away peoples lives,because they are mortal,and they themselves will also die soon enough and then have to face a real God perhaps.The victims are telling the soldiers they arent gods and they themselves will also die and hell might be their reward.The key is the gap between Gods and but.

          • eurovicious

            I understood that “You think you are gods but everyone dies” was directed at the perpetrators, but tell that (that they’ll have God to answe to) to a regime of state atheism…

    • eurovicious

      Saying televoters have “pretty awful musical taste” because the songs they like are “cheap”, “tacky” and “cheesy” (citing as examples Blue, the Babushki, Popular, Allez Ola Ole, Love Me Back, Alcohol Is Free and My slowianie) might be the most disconnected-from-reality comment I’ve ever read on this site… Eurovision is supposed to be fun. People like fun. People don’t watch Eurovision for 2 hours of earnest ballads and credible music, they watch it for diversity, wackiness, camp, surprises, the unexpected, the outrageous, novelty, new horizons, amazing costumes and fashion disasters, spine-tingling vocals and musical car crashes, hot girls and guys and everything in between, humour, entertainment, controversy and great pop music… for everything that came up in Petra and Mans’s song in the interval act. Lose that, and we lose Eurovision.

      • Oooowh, perhaps it is. But this is my personal opinion. You like the more “fun” part, the colorful wackiness of the contest. I prefer the more serious entries, the more artistic songs.

        There is a factual remark I again want to stress though. Televoters do tend to vote more for the wackier, crazier circus acts in the contests. And let’s face it, televoters are prone to nationalist pride as well, hence the more visible diaspora with televoters.

        Juries on the other hand tend to judge all 26 finalists…..and don’t forget the more artistic, quieter, serious entries. If we had 100% televote, and I think you would agree, the contest would only focus on those audiences who only prefer the whacky, crazy, ‘cheesy’ acts. The re-introduction of juries however also made a different, more serious audience happier; an audience that was completely neglected in the years 1999-2008.

        • eurovicious

          I agree we need juries and we need the right balance of yin and yang (a Molitva for every Verka, a La La Love for every Suus). A great Eurovision should have a varied mix of quality uptempo and fun songs and quality dark ballads and serious entries. That’s what make years like 2012 and 2007 what they are. Right now we have the worst of all worlds – hardly any great bangers, hardly any great ballads, just a load of generic songs in English trying to be nothing in particular in between.

          • Quite agree about the balance. We need our Serhats every bit as much as we need our Jamalas. We don’t need sub-Melodifestivalen blancmange.

          • The mild change in the rules on how the jury and televoters were melded together of course came quite late on. Last year’s system encouraged broadcasters to send bland to get through to Saturday. Now at least a wedge of televotes in a semi can get you there especially if you have some inbuilt jury love. Hopefully this will make things a bit more lively for the 2017 Contest.

  • Curtis

    Is your point about Maltese overperformance with the juries a conspiratorial one?

    • I’m not sure. Personally I always thought Malta was, like Netherlands this year, way more juries bate. Ira Losco is a wonderful, charismatic, slightly older singer, who still belts it out wonderfully. Her song was modern, but certainly not as cheesy as Lithuania or Poland this year. And the stage act was nice and not too crowded.

    • eurovicious

      Malta has been working the juries for years, this was said to me on site in 2011 by someone in the know and it’s still going on today. The vast gulf between their jury score and televote result every single year speaks volumes. Ira is fine and Walk On Water is alright (the chorus could be stronger) but given previous form we can’t assume its jury score was honestly attained.

      • George

        If this was Azerbaijan there would have been an investigation long ago (indeed there was something done after 2013). But part of me thinks the EBU are turning a blind eye to Malta because it’s a country that they do want to win at some point.

  • PurpleKylie

    Thanks for everything Daniel, this year was a very stressful contest, fingers crossed next year gives us less headaches

  • Chris Bellis

    I expect the UK coming bottom five will be the gift that keeps on giving, as long as we keep sending acts that wouldn’t win a holiday camp talent show, with songs already rejected by has-beens like Rick Astley and The Wanted.

  • eurovicious

    I talked previously about how female singers in Eurovision can function as personifications of nationhood – think back to how nations used to be represented as women like Britannia, Germania, Mother Russia etc… I think Jamala definitely fulfilled this role very much given her song, performance and the political context, and that this is a lot to do with why people responded to it, given more resonance and credibility by the fact it was her personal story and her own pain. Obviously whatever artist you send to Eurovision automatically becomes the representative of your nation to the European audience, but when you just send a generic artist and song (like Mariya Yaremchuk with Tick Tock), this particular resonance is absent – Mariya Yaremchuk couldn’t become a vessel for expressing Ukraine’s pain and for Europe to reciprocate through by expressing its empathy the way Jamala could.

    There’s also the idea of the “nature goddess”, which I think has relevance – we see a tree grow out of Jamala, and the idea of the “world tree” is important in Indo-European mythology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_tree. She sings “We could build a future where people are free” and a new world is born from her pain. Zoe and Greta were also depicted as nature goddesses, but while the former appeared as a virginal innocent in a garden of Eden and magicked some poppies into life, the other was in a stormy world of darkness and flung a flock of crows at the viewing audience. With Greta, there was no sense of the darkness that accompanied her being overcome or any rebirth, whereas in Jamala’s performance, we see Ukraine reborn out of pain (just like Conchita was) in the form of the giant tree of light that grows with Jamala as its root.

    Sergey’s wings superficially fall into the same category, yet unlike Conchita’s transformative, one-way phoenix-winged rebirth, Sergey promptly loses his wings shortly after the start of the entry, and much of the rest of his performance shows him scrambling to keep up with various obstacles rather than directing the action around him. While Jamala, Zoe and Greta are all shown as being in deity-like control of the elements, Sergey is at nature’s cold mercy as he leaps from platform to platform – rather than summoning the asteroids (or regrowing his wings), he has to risk life and limb to reach it in time; he is never in charge. (Why does he have wings at the start of the presentation then lose them when it’s in this section that he actually needs them?)

    Someone more in charge is Dami, the “techno goddess”… while Jamala, Zoe and Greta are shown commanding nature, Dami is shown commanding technology. The common theme is omnipotence. Mans was shown leading and inspiring a cartoon army last year; Dami swiping a few graphics may pale in comparison, but both Mans and Dami as techno-gods (as well as Jamala and Zoe as nature goddesses) display far more control over their environment than Sergey ever does. Daniel was totally right in describing it as “Krypton Factor brought to the Eurovision arena [with] no relevance to the song and no emotional connection”.

    • John

      I wouldn’t be quick to say there was anything thematically amiss in Russia’s entry. Sergey did win the televote, so largely his staging did ‘land’ successfully.

      IMO the thunder and lightning, the wings, the wall poses, the obstacle course, and the burst of sunlight all more or less present a composite heroic action man. My brother, definitely a member of the ev lay community said ‘I thought it worked, it was really impressive’.

      I think we over analyse a bit, like when we had the knives out for Bulgaria and Lithuania for sending their singers out alone and giving them unpolished staging/wardrobe. More important were the close ups and giddy enthusiasm of the singers.

      But anyway, back to your point, I think thematically Russia managed a heroic/classical archetype. Not to our exacting standards, but well enough.

      • Yeah, sometimes we do over-analyse.The average Saturday night viewer isn’t going to scrutinise every note, and quite possibly a lot of the juries might not either. To me the part that made Bulgaria stand out (and quite possibly caused it to shoot up the scoreboard) was the bit where the backing singers came on and joined Poli in a final knees-up. It felt like a celebration was happening on the stage.

        • eurovicious

          I agree, I never joined in with the criticism that Poli and Donny being alone on stage was a bad thing, and I remember arguing the same thing re: Sofi Marinova in 2012. Poli commanded the stage (dancers would have undermined her), and her “friends” coming on at the end as a show of support did feel triumphal and celebratory. Poli’s individuality and charisma also worked wonders, especially her cool, idiosyncratic styling and dance (message: I’m not just another generic pretty euro-girlie, I’m an existing credible artist with my own chic and confident in my own identity) and the extreme close-ups of her smiling at the start.

          • fused

            Poli and Donny were two of my favourite acts in the final, and I think they both had a natural charm to them, especially Poli,

            They’re both good looking too, which of course is beneficial, but I’d say there was something very likeable about them both, even just from their performances.

            I agree entirely that Poli’s personality came through and that it helped with the songs appeal. I think having them alone on stage was a good thing, as it allowed all the focus to be on them and their performance, as well as the song of course.

            My mum thought Poli was the best performer and said that’s why Bulgaria was her favourite of the songs.

            While staging and costume are important for something like Eurovision, sometimes they can be distracting, and I think that happened to a few songs this year. Sometimes less is more, as they say.

          • I think that being alone on stage is fine as long as you fill the stage, which clearly Poli Genova and Donny Montell both did well enough to make the Top 10. An example of someone not filling the stage is Eneda Tarifa from Albania.

  • Scott

    Listening back to the Russia performance – taking the visuals out of it – it’s easy to see (well, hear) why the juries didn’t go with it. He’s too busy playing The Krypton Factor keep his vocals in check. As for the staging, something got lost in translation between the video – which may have been cheesy at points but had a clear structure – and the stage.

    The lesson for countries from this ever-more transparent voting system is that you need to take a big amount of jury and televote support with you.

    Russia – won big with the televote thanks to the staging and no doubt the old-fashioned and familiar sound, lost badly with the juries because the vocals weren’t at peak.
    Australia – did well with the juries, no doubt because of the last minute of vocal aerobics, lost with the public no doubt because of the last minute of vocal aerobics.
    Ukraine – good vocals, good staging, a cause song (a very different song from Conchita’s years back, but similar in that it was something people could get behind).

    • Chris Bellis

      Scott – I can’t find it at the moment, but I saw a youtube clip of Sergey and pals singing live and unaccompanied in an interview and I much preferred it. Less is more, sort of thing. I agree with you that, if anything, Ukraine’s staging was better than Russia’s, as it melded in and added to the effect of the song. Russia’s was a bit clunky, but then I’d seen it loads of times.

  • Scott

    I’m with you on that Chris. I’ll be honest though – it comes from hindsight on my account. When I saw the video I thought: “If they can replicate that on stage…” Unfortunately they did as well, clearly.

  • George

    Other than the obvious kitchen sink throwing, my biggest gripe about Russia’s performance was the camera angles. Why couldn’t they just zoom in a little bit to not ruin the illusion? In fact the way the whole performance was executed was pretty tacky and just looked cheap, even though it obviously wasn’t. If I was a juror, and had in memory the superior production and sheer professionalism of the previous year’s winner that had a similar concept, I could not in good faith have voted for that to succeed it.

    That’s part of the reason why I think similar songs or performances rarely win twice in a row, because often it is seen as a bit of a downgrade.

    • Chris Bellis

      Yes, as a televoter, the Russian performance would have been impressive. Someone more knowledgeable, like a jury member (?!), would not be so impressed. The staging, if anything, detracted from the performance. It’s a shame that such a talented performer wasn’t allowed to show his charming side (he is very charming, honestly). Contrast that with Poli’s performance – a bit gimmicky, almost a piss-take of the overdone Russian version, but it came over as thoroughly engaging. Both seasoned performers, but Sergey wasn’t allowed to let his personality show through. Hopefully we might see the end of such over-elaborate staging, although I won’t hold my breath.

  • I agree something needs to be done about the Big Five.

    OK, sure, lots of previous winners have indeed fallen from grace, such as Germany and especially Ireland. Denmark didn’t qualify this year, and Austria inexplicably got Nil Points last year.

    But, with three of the Big 5 in the bottom five, and another on the right-hand side of the scoreboard, clearly the extended profiling in the semis has done the square-root of sod-all.

    The UK in particular is a problem. For a country that is supposed to have the best pop music in the world, it is very, very embarrassing that we don’t represent that on the world stage. Lots of people say “oh, well, Adele/Ellie Goulding etc. wouldn’t do it because of the perception in the UK…” but I’m sorry that’s not good enough. If you’re a club football or rugby player, getting a call-up for England is a huge deal. A massive deal. So why are British artists so scared of getting a call-up for the United Kingdom?

    That said, major stars aren’t everything. Westlife’s Nicky Byrne couldn’t qualify, which lost me a lot of money.

    It’s interesting that Darline from the UK National Final have scored a record deal this week. UK voters like their pimp slots as we see on The X Factor and, as has just been demonstrated in the above thread, on BGT. I wonder had BBC producers put them on last a different story would have been told? It’s hard not to think there was a desperate agenda from the BBC to say “Look, The Voice does produce stars!”

    With a hole in the schedules to fill, I hope they’ll take the opportunity to take the National Final back to a 2009 style format. What I think might help though is by getting a major singer-songwriter to WRITE the song, rather than sing it. That’s far less damaging for Ellie Goulding or Paloma Faith than the embarrassment of having to be considered the best of British pop music talent.

    Gary Barlow would be excellent for this. He has experience of these type of shows, and is a bloody good songwriter to boot.

    That said, Joe & Jake got backing from Robbie Williams. And I still would LOVE the Robster to do Eurovision. He was made for it. Then if he can’t win it, we give up!

  • On a separate note I filed off a complaint to the BBC asking why the semi finals were butchered to bits in the UK.

    Cue a very standard reply (my beef was actually with the opting out of Nerd Nation!)

    Thank you for contacting us about The Eurovision Song Contest.

    We understand you’re unhappy that we didn’t include the interval performance by ‘The Grey People’ in our semi-final coverage.

    We haven’t shown the semi-final interval act for a number of years now as we opt out of the main Eurovision broadcast at various points throughout the proceedings. However, we did mention live on air (during the broadcast) that if viewers in the UK wanted to watch uninterrupted coverage of what was happening in the stadium, then they could do so online, by visiting Eurovision.tv.

    If you would like to see The Grey People’s performance in full, it is still available to watch at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/multimedia/videos?id=219973.

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