Eurovision 2012: What heights will Germany’s Lob reach with ‘Standing Still’?

As with the Spanish song, the German entry – Roman Lob with ‘Standing Still’ – strongly divides opinion in the Sofabet comments section. Its biggest cheerleader has been Gert who reckoned after watching this performance of the song, “I think Germany can do an upset victory.” Boki agreed that “Roman is in my small ‘can do upset victory’ group.” Emma too was largely positive, and thinks a top ten finish is achievable.

It is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea though. Rob admitted that it “sent me to sleep the first time I heard it,” and doesn’t think it’s contemporary either. Eurovicious agreed that it was bland though he does find it relatively modern.

Unlike the Spanish song, I don’t have such strong views about ‘Standing Still’. I can see both sides of the argument. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s relevant and has plenty of selling points, but I can see how it would bore some viewers too. And whilst that sounds like classic fence-sitting, I think it’s one of those entries that treads a fine line between capturing some imaginations and forgettable oblivion.

So here’s an attempt to weigh up its strengths and weaknesses without prejudice.

Let’s start with the strengths. Chart-wise, the male songwriting troubadour has been a highly successful figure in recent years: David Gray, James Blunt and James Morrison spring to mind. ‘Standing Still’ is penned by another successful case, Jamie Cullum, and is a typical song within the genre. You can argue that the music produced in these cases is pretty bland, but there’s no doubting it has a market.

Eurovision juries seem to approve, probably because they think that it’s relevant, but also because the genre tends towards earnestness as well, and thus appears ‘authentic’. Attention has tended to focus on the jury love shown for solo female balladeers, but bleeding male hearts win jury votes too.

Tom Dice’s second place with juries in 2010 is the most memorable example but a more illustrative case of over-achieving, earnest testosterone was arguably the jury sixth managed in 2009 by Denmark’s Niels Brinck with ‘Believe Again’. That was penned by Ronan Keating – it doesn’t get more middle-of-the-road than the former Boyzone member.

In the same manner, juries may well look kindly on ‘Standing Still’ too, but I think it’s the kind of song that needed a late draw if televoters are going to remember it. It got a pretty useful one at 20 of the 26, and I reckon that coming after Pastora Soler will help Lob because of some of the contrasts he offers.

Given the amount of ballads likely to be in the final, it seems probable that ‘Standing Still’ won’t be the last slow one in the final, but it could be the last slow male one – we’ll have to see where Estonia’s Ott and Serbia’s Zeljko fit into the equation, if they are part of it on the Saturday night.

And radio-friendly though the song is, Lob has more than a face for radio. In fact, he has just the kind of looks that teenage girls (and some of their mothers) like – fine-featured but a tad little-boy-lost. His image is ideal for this demographic too – some indie scruff alongside the ear piercings and tattoos.

Apart from those teens who have already pledged themselves to Jedward (and the twins are not playing on the same turf – nor indeed on the same planet – as Lob), there really is little competition on this front. Moldova’s Pasha Parfeny comes second, but his song gives off a whole different vibe.

So there is potential among this televoting demographic on the night, especially if Lob can find the camera as well as he did in the performance I linked to at the start of this article. He seems to be learning the trade quickly, because this was already a vast improvement on the rather modest, shuffling demeanour he displayed in the German national finals.

His rather bashful style may be one reason why the song had very little impact for me on first watching it, and that is the one of the potential weaknesses of the song. Whilst juries will reward its middle-of-the-road nature, there is a danger of televoters finding it doesn’t stand out enough, especially on first watching.

I said exactly the same thing of Soluna Samay’s number, and whilst Lob no longer has to fear an early draw unlike his Danish rival, he still has to worry about something equally worthy coming straight afterwards. If the likes of ‘Should’ve Known Better’ or Estonia’s ‘Kuula’ are in the 21 slot, that will be a painfully earnest ten or so minutes for televoters from Spain onwards. Nick D has already made this point.

One reason why the song may not stand out enough is that it doesn’t really go anywhere in the final 40 seconds, which is slightly unfortunate given its title, as Rob has already punned. By the end, it feels like Roman has sung about ‘Standing Still’ too many times, even though that is not the case for the first two-thirds of the song.

The problem starts with the middle eight which is a repeat of the second half of the first verse. Repetition is not necessarily a bad thing in Eurovision, of course, but what happens here means there is not enough change in the texture of the song – it’s the same thing all the way through.

Also, we don’t build back up to a big moment. In fact, Lob’s biggest notes come before the middle eight begins and the song feels like it ends with a bit of a whimper. Admittedly, this is all part of its understated nature, and there are always visual ways of creating a sense of climax for the televoting audience.

However, I can’t help but feel that this compounds another potential weakness, which is that Lob’s voice also lacks any change in texture – it’s the same plaintive tone all the way through. The juries didn’t seem to mind that with Tom Dice or Niels Brinck, but televoters weren’t as impressed, which may be partly why they only managed 14th and 19th in the public poll.

Dice and Brinck (like Lob) hail from western countries that are not diaspora rich. Actually, a look at their points tally sees more from the eastern half of the continent than you might think, but Dice’s zeroes were, with the exceptions of Spain and the UK, all from that part of Europe. I’m not sure how well ‘Standing Still’ will travel with televoters here.

The young German does have two things in his favour over Dice and Brinck though. Firstly, he is better looking. Secondly he is better drawn, especially compared to Dice who had the misfortune to be on early next to the only other boy-with-guitar in the final.

So ultimately, his showing may depend on just how well he works the camera and just how advantageous or not that draw becomes. If Lob wants televoters to be as generous as the juries may well be, it will be a case of accentuating the positive on the big night.

Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

56 comments to Eurovision 2012: What heights will Germany’s Lob reach with ‘Standing Still’?

  • AlexS

    I can’t help thinking this will be the lowest placed automatic qualifier among the 6… One thing certain is that the majority of his televotes will come thanks to his looks mainly. And I generally expect juries to be impressed by preceding Spain more.

  • henna

    I was looking forward to this one as I like the song very much. Representing the female demographic,I may be (but am definitely not conscious of it) drawn to Roman’s boyish charm, but I actually like the song very much. I think it’s one of the most representative from the whole 42 pack of good quality contemporary chart music. It does have it’s faults, yes, doesn’t seem to have that instant wow impact and lacks a bit in dynamics, but It’s good. And Roman is a charmer, although I would prefer him a bit more cleaned up for the final, maybe no checkered shirt or cappy for a change.
    In a normal year I would probably think it’s sure top 10, maybe even top 5, maybe even quite close to the peak.
    I do however question a bit how generous juries will treat it. It is a very jury-friendly because of the quality of the song. But… I think juries are a bit bias too. One example is the way last year Italy got a little boost by ‘welcome’ points, I am sure there is some reluctance at giving points to a country that so recently hosted the song contest. There will be points, for sure, but I think not as many if Roman and the song would represent let’s say Spain, who hastn’t won in decades. We shall see. What does everyone else think of how objective juries are?

    • henna

      oh and maybe the too many times repeating ‘standing still’ situation will improve a bit when they cut the song down, I just noticed it’s still in original length of 3.27

    • David

      I honestly think the “welcome-points” were few and far between, and that Italy won the jury vote on its own merit (just like Beligum the year before – no welcome needed there to crush the opposition in the semi for example).

      Likewise, I don’t buy the argument of it being unlikely with a repeat victory for Azerbaijan simly because repeat victories don’t happen that often – they don’t happen often because there are 40-some nations participating… might be a slight bias by some voters (jury and tele alike) to punish recent winners, but there might also be a bias to “join the winners” by voting for them. It’s simply very hard to tell.

    • Largely agree with that assessment. The lumberjack shirt is for the not-inconsiderable bear demographic ;). He’s not my cuppa personally (too young and puppydog, though I like him as a person and performer), I’m more of an Ott/Pasha man.

      The song that came second in the German final (“Quietly” by Ornella de Santis) was stellar, a real shame they didn’t send that instead… though in a year with so many emotive female ballads, it would have faced a lot of competition.

    • Well, juries did brought Ireland three victories in a row. In all honesty, I think results from the past can be deleted completely once the judges start voting.

  • tpfkar

    I’ve been following this one closely for a while due to my (German) wife thinking they have another winner on their hands; I’ve had some insight into how seriously they’ve taken the selection process, masterminded by Stefan Raab again who has years of experience and was responsible for the 2010 win. They effectively ran a full X Factor/BGT with Eurovision as the prize.

    It ticks so many boxes: good draw, credibility for both juries and voters, decent vocals, memorable, catchy.

    I’ve always had one slight concern though, which isn’t quite addressed in the article: how do you perform a song like this in a giant arena? In the intimate national final, a melancholy song about standing still works very well. Transfer to an arena with a huge stage and thousands in the crowd – can it work? I’m worried that such a song will just got lost in the scale of it all. So I’m waiting to see how they approach this in rehearsals; if they can somehow match the scale of Eurovision with the intimacy of the song, it’s a surefire top 10 and contender for the win. If they can’t then I can’t see it lower than mid-table.

    • Boki

      Funny thing is that my (not German) wife also gets the same feeling/vibe from Roman as for Lena in 2010. It’s hard to describe why (visceral :)) but it has to do something with a natural flow of the song. Big difference with Lena and our main concern the comes with the depressive lyrics, not sure how televoters are going to react but hopefully his charm will prevail on the ’emptiness he found’.

      • Agree – I think to really stand out at Eurovision these days and catch on with the public, more often than not the song needs to be infectious and inclusive (Rybak/Lena/Ell+Nikki), and unfortunately Standing Still isn’t, whereas the stylistically similar Danish song is. Standing Still’s credible but too mundane and lacks feelgood, and the hook is actually quite irritating.

  • Rob44

    i used to be ‘Rob’ but there’s another ‘Rob’ now… c’est la vie.
    my wife (non german) and my daughter both like this one… it’s top ten at least for due to draw, looks, jury friendly, voter friendly, catchiness.

  • Emma

    When I first heard the song, I should say, I wasn’t impressed. I thought it was okay, though I preferred another song Roman sung (Alone–it was a little more exciting than Standing Still). A few dozen listens later and I’ve pledged my personal douze points to Germany. This makes me a little worried that, as several of you say, it’s not instant enough. I actually remember saying at one point during Unser Star that while Roman was the best, he was the best of a bad lot and under no circumstances would we be headed to Germany in 2013 and that Germany was headed back to its former position hovering around the bottom 5. I’ve since changed my mind, but my initial doubts could be universal and the rest of Europe might have the exact same sentiment.

    Roman’s actually been getting huge exposure in Germany–I remember turning the TV on to ski racing, and there Roman was, performing on the slopes. That might have been an international competition (it was a long time ago) and if it was, all the better for Mr. Lob. People might remember him and Standing Still (though the song isn’t particularly memorable after one listen) from such-and-such event and send some votes his way. To me, that’s even better than performing at a few national finals, as some artists have been doing.

    Looking at the video, vocals don’t seem to be an issue at all. He IS getting better at finding the camera (in the music video, he makes almost creepy eye contact with it). He has lovely brown eyes, which could earn a few televotes by themselves, probably more than Tooji’s and Ott’s expressive eyebrows will. Roman does seem to close his eyes a fair bit, but that doesn’t seem to be a huge issue with televoters (Ulrik Munther in Melodifestivalen did this too and he didn’t seem to be starving for televotes any more than the other contestants who weren’t named Danny or Loreen). The lack of a dance routine and structure of the song mean he probably won’t need backup singers (it’s a ballad, sure, but not the Didrik Solli-Tangen/Harel Skaat ballad that requires a choir to join in at the climax). Roman could steal Paradise Oskar’s cute-lost-little-boy-alone-on-stage vibe and though he’s less adorable than the Finn, his draw is more beneficial and that coul pay off.

    One last comment–this song could get the anti-Eurovision vote from the people who don’t like over-the-top flamboyancy or cheese, the people who watch it for tradition. My American (Eurovision-hating) family responds favorably to this (they are also fans of Running Scared, Satellite, and Tom Dice, so this might be a good indicator). Plus, unlike the Belarussian and Swiss rockers, the performance feels relaxed and effortless. Roman continually dresses like he’s gone out to buy milk and accidentally wandered onstage, which is a refreshing contrast next to dramatic dresses (most women), quirky, bizzare-but-memorable looks (Russia, Denmark, Netherlands, Belarus if their NF is any indication), stiff suits (just about every man) or strange rocker garb (Switzerland, Slovakia). Roman doesn’t look or act like he’s trying too hard and I think a lot of televoters (and the jury) might respond favorably to that.

  • Good story with equally good set of arguments. But indeed, all depends on camerawork, staging, lighting, etc.

    Having said that Daniel, why didn’t you draw comparisons between Roman Lob and last year’s winner Azerbeidzjan?

    Both songs start off pretty slow, both songs were rather repetitive and both songs had OK voices but certainly not the best voices.

    Equally, both songs do/did similar things in polls. Last year we almost never found Azerbeidzjan back in the TOP 3 of polls. Instead, found them mostly back at 6th or 7th place. Same with Germany.

    • Daniel

      Hi Gert, I see where you are coming from, but ‘Running Scared’ had more variety (or texture as I like to call it). Being a duet helps because it means we have two actors and voices in the drama rather than one. It opened with the excellent ‘uh-oh’ hook, and was visually impressive from the start.

      It also had its plethora of diaspora points to rely on and not much competition. Neither of which can be said of Germany this year.

      • Perhaps you are right. The song is important, but, just like all other aspects like voices, staging, choreography, they are part of a total package. In the end the impact of that audivisual total package is what counts.

        Sometimes you have good Eurovision songs that win, sometimes it’s the mere atmosphere that gives you shivers (Norway 1995). Maybe Roman’s song isn’t that strong, but IMO it doesn’t affect the total package, which in fact stays strong so far.

        Now about diaspora: I think Germany won in 2010 with far better figures than Azerbeidzjan did last year. So that diaspora is, again, partially right. And as of now 50% less of influence with 50% more jury’s :-).

        • “Maybe Roman’s song isn’t that strong, but IMO it doesn’t affect the total package”

          Be that as it may, I suspect his performance will certainly affect a few other people’s packages…

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  • Suzi

    Many of the songs are now on Spotify, and “Standing Still” sounds terrific, really stands out from the crowd for me. Neither the time or inclination to count the number of times he sings “standing still” and compare it with the number of times Adele repeated “chasing pavements”, but I don’t see this repetition as a problem, look at “Qele, qele”. For me Germany knocks the somewhat dated Spanish entry into a cocked hat, though of course, time will tell!

    • Indeed. I think the repetition in the song is actually the strength of it. Yohanna repeated the words ‘Is It Trueeeee’ over and over again, EIl & Nikki repeated ‘Running out scareddd’ over and over again and God knows how many times ‘Molitvaaa’ was repeated to shove it down our throats :-P. Roman is doing exactly the same with the words ‘I am standing stillll’. Repetition actually NEEDS to be in these songs to create the necessary impact on televoters and jury’s

  • Uncle Si

    I put Germany down for the win a couple of weeks ago, in a private bet with a friend. I think it will stand out amid songs less easy on the ear and on the eye. A haven of calm and melodiousness. Similarly I think Finland will stand out, but it’s a bolder move to make a case for that!

    • Finland faces major hurdles – it’s in Swedish and Sweden is voting in the other semi, has an earlyish draw, is next to another ballad, and IMO isn’t standout enough to, erm, stand out… as such, the odds have it as one of the songs most likely not to qualify.

  • I definitely wouldn’t rule this out. It’s potentially very strong. As you suggest, it’ll come down to what gets drawn around him, particularly the final 6 places. But there’s no other male song like it, juries will like it a lot, and I think it’ll do OK in the televote too. If Soluna gets an earlier draw than him, he’ll suck up some of her televotes – and the earlier she is, the more Germany will benefit. Soluna and Roman are really the only two examples of young, credible, radio-friendly, telegenic English-language indie-pop in the contest – the type you hear on local pop radio from Ireland to Slovakia. They’ll both suck up the “oh, that’s nice” vote across the continent. Both will definitely be on the left-hand side of the table if not in the top 10 – beyond that I don’t care to predict at this stage.

  • Ben Cook

    After watching the Echo performance I’m even more sure it’s going to bomb. He has a horrible monotone voice and a dreary song that goes nowhere. This isn’t anywhere near as strong as Me And My Guitar. It’s bottom 5, and deservedly so.

  • Donald

    As said after first listen very like The Fray, friendly but hardly a winner. Wouldn’t totally discount so keeping on the “just maybe” list.

    I mentioned the “Malta Dance” on first listen and video watch. Check out the video teaser from this weekend

    And the song more catchy than most including Germany.

    I know it doesn’t seem to have a chance but tune wise and chorus instant, and it is youth like past few years. And if this dance catches on? Germany on my maybe list and should Malta be?

  • simon "le chat"

    Hi Daniel and team
    These are my thoughts on the competition

    We have red hot favourites Sweden and “Euphoria”.

    Maybe the song contest will embrace this futuristic sound one day but not yet.
    And the lyrics are in French.
    Might be 12/5 favourite but red line through.

    Next we have the Russian offering at 10/1 second favourite
    Here it is
    Absolutely AWFUL!
    I know it speeds up a bit and the singing will be done by backing singers rather than all these grannies but it really is awful and even allowing for some iron curtain comradeship I cannot see it winning.
    Red line through.

    Next we have Italy’s offering by a cheeky little thing cakked Ninna Silli
    A bit like Amy Winehouse meets Ninah Cherry
    It’s ok and sung in English but forgettable I’m afraid.
    Red line through.

    Next at 16/1 we have the UK and good old Englebert Humperdink
    He may be old and it may be 16/1 and we may be opening the show but do not underestimate this excellent song by a polished, professional and well known international star. Tremendous value and one for the shortlist.

    Next we have Denmark also at 16/1 “Should have known better”
    Worth watching the video when it finally gets going and turns out to be a modern song and in English. Place chances.

    Next Serbia- quasi neighbour of the host country. A handsome Christiano Ronaldo lookalike called Željko Joksimovic
    Song has an intro far too long but apart from that there is not much to fault it as a ballad except not in English.
    Takes a while to get going but good East meets west chorus when it does. Not good enough to win. Overall too dreary so place propects at best.

    Next Spain again at about 16/1
    pleasant melody ballad by a saucy little minx called Pastora Soler
    Takes too long to get going and not in English. The song has to be in English- remember the French entry fav last year which bombed cos it was sung in French.

    Next we have Ireland represented by Jedward

    I know there are some of the boys fans here but this effort is truly crap in my view and while visually good, the boys are not boys any more and the whole out of time panting singing is a bit embarrassing when measured against some of Ire’s wonderful wins in the past. Red line through.

    This is good.
    It’s a decent ballad in english and he sings it well.
    Not as good as Englebert but place claims.

    It’s Englebert all day for me.
    Going to lump on win and place.
    Best song by a mile in my view and irrespective of first out of the traps will take all the ebating..

  • Simon – as far as I’m aware, the grannies won’t have Jedward-style compensatory backing singers. Only 6 performers are allowed and there are 6 grannies (unless something’s changed that I’m not aware of and one of them has died and been replaced with Alla Pugachova or something). It’ll definitely get a big sympathy and novelty vote, as the public loves them already, but it’ll be poorly regarded by the juries.

    Can’t agree that Italy is forgettable – it’s contemporary, sassy, post-Winehousian (who’s more popular and highly regarded than ever since her death less than a year ago), and jury and audience-friendly (especially the former), and could have v broad appeal. While the UK song is good, it doesn’t have youth appeal (think about the past 4 winners: Bilan, Rybak, Lena, Ell + Nikki). The increasingly important younger audience won’t vote for it, and in the case of Engelbert I don’t even think many people under 40 will vote for it, apart from some younger people in ex-USSR countries who grew up listening to their parents’ records. Juries and over-40s in ex-USSR countries may vote for it quite heavily though. But being on first is a massive drawback and not to be underestimated – think of all the times you’ve missed the first 15 mins of a TV show or only turned on/switched over/wandered in halfway through, then extrapolate that to casual viewers across the continent. There are even viewers who skip the song part and only tune in for the voting, maybe catching the final few songs in the process. So staying fresh in viewers’ minds after being followed by 25 other songs (many of which will be far more upbeat, dramatic, visually memorable and hook-laden) is a real challenge for the UK.

    • You forget one thing: ‘The Susan Boyle Factor’. Engelbert is some kind of a novelty in its own way too. I really think televoters will say things like this: “That old twat from the start was very good no?”

      Sympathy is something that counts here. Russia will get that sympathy vote, but perhaps the UK gets the sympathy vote for better reasons: AND an old guy AND a good song. That’s kind of a hook for televoters…

  • Uncle Si

    Simon – Interesting to read some new opinions, and I agree on Italy. I can’t bear it. It does nothing for me, and worse, it grates. I don’t think the jazzy style will attract the masses. (I don’t even know what to call the style!)

    I can see Russia winning the public vote. It’s like Lordi and Lena… something memorable amid a sea of Eurovision craziness. Lordi because they were monster rockers, Lena because she was the antidote to the over the top colourfulness around her. The sudden switch from dirge to dance is what makes Russia. It’ll give people that sudden inspiration to vote for them. But, Russia should do poorly enough in the jury vote to miss the overall win.

    Serbia: 2 minutes of build-up, 1 minute of exuberance, and no song in between. Can you remember how it goes? Does even the title jog your memory? Not for me!

    And sadly I feel the UK has no chance. It might be 10th to 15th if it’s lucky, based on the older voter and on the juries.

    • Serbia’s memorable if you understand it, and that’s exactly who it’s aimed at – his existing Balkan fan base. I can’t see it doing hugely well outside of the region, and I think Croatia and Bosnia have more contemporary Balkan ballads that should also appeal to a lot of people in former Yugoslavia, so assuming those qualify (which I expect them to), Zeljko has competition on home turf. I don’t think he’ll do badly and the staging and draw will make a lot of difference to how well he does (we know he’s good at bringing the drama), but I actually have Serbia down as a “fan favourite” in the way that Daniel has Iceland down as one – a song that ticks boxes in the fan community and appeals to contest enthusiasts, but may do less well on the night. I listen to a lot of ex-Yu music and I just think the region has moved beyond this sound – the song sounds like it was specifically written for Eurovision, and a Eurovision 5+ years ago at that (same applies to Verjamem). The one Serbian guy I know here recently said to me he thought it was “same old, same old” which reassured me slightly in my opinion. If Croatia and Bosnia were sending English-language fluff (like last year’s dreadful Celebrate), it’d be a different story, but as it stands, IMO Zeljko not only doesn’t have the best ballad, he doesn’t have the best Serbo-Croat ballad either. I still think he might do reasonably well (left-hand side of table if not top 10 is pretty much a cert) and better than Croatia/Bosnia despite their quality, but because of them, what would have been “his” vote will be split (and the jury vote will be split between the many strong ballads anyway) and I wouldn’t put money on him being in the top 5 by any means. Don’t underestimate the jury power of Bosnia having a piano on stage, and the appeal of and goodwill towards a popular performer like Nina Badric (assuming she gives her song’s chorus the emotional welly it requires).

  • Thank you Andrew, Rss feed works fine.

    Lena won because… watch this:

    The most important point is. Who will like the viewers. Heart is a main factor in voting, for the jury, too.

    This is what Roman lacks. He is not the type of guy who pulls over Europe. No star appeal.

    • David

      I’m not sure how the video shows Lena’s superiority over Roman, though? I mean you might very well be right, but at this time 2010 no one knew anything about Lena, basically. And there weren’t any videos of her either.

      • I would like to add the video translation to make my point clearer:

        In the year 2010
        a person took over
        the heart
        of a whole nation
        and enchanted
        all Europe


        Lena Meyer-Landrut

  • Preben

    What make you think that the casual viewers who don’t care enough to tune in on time are actually going to vote…? I would guess from what I’ve seen that more than 10% of the total votes cast are Scandinavian.

  • Tim B

    Slightly off topic, but does anyone have any examples of how they’ve made good money during the final (or semi final) as it has been broadcast? I only ask because I didn’t join Betfair until relatively recently, and I get VERY nervous during show broadcasts even when I’ve only bet the tiniest amounts. Actually, come to think of it, I get nervous enough when I have NO money bet on something! However, during last year’s final it was fairly obvious to me that Azerbaijan was going to win as soon as the French performance was totally flat. As I wasn’t in any position to benefit from this (I did already have a solid E/W bet on it though). Also, I remember being blown away by Mika Newton’s powerful vocal (and the crazy sand artist lady) to have put money on it reaching the top 4/5 had I been able to. So, anyone got any good success stories of betting during a live final broadcast? I would be interested to hear them as it’s something I’m very much looking to explore this year.

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, I have made good money on Betfair during the final, and even during the voting. It does feel more nerve-wracking, and that is compounded by large swings in the market.

      Last year, I continued to lay Hungary for a Top 10 finish throughout the final itself. Also, after Dino Merlin performed, I was getting a better price on Bosnia being in the Top 10 than at any point previously.

      When it became clear after the first few countries gave their scores that the earlier leak of the voting order was correct, there were further opportunities during the voting process.

      For example, I was constantly laying Sweden for the win throughout the voting even though ‘Popular’ was clearly doing well on the leaderboard, because the whole Nordic bloc had given their scores within the 7th-17th positions out of the 43 countries.

      So there are opportunities galore, but it does feel like edge-of-the-seat stuff.

  • It’s also worth bearing in mind the new system introduced just last year – instead of being fixed well in advance, the order in which the countries announce their votes on the night of the final is determined by a computer algorithm to make the voting as exciting as possible:

    This is designed to keep the voting tight (so the winner won’t be clear until late in the voting) and to throw up “false” leaders. So if a song appears to be leading the field in the first quarter or first third of the voting, chances are it won’t win, because the voting is now expressly designed to keep you guessing.

    That’s good advice about laying Popular once it had received what were obviously going to be its “main” automatic points – ingenious! Depending on how the voting order falls, a similar situation could arise with Sweden, Russia or Serbia this year – worth bearing in mind to potentially take advantage of…

    • There is one big flaw in this system though. This ‘algorhytmn’ would never have worked if it was applied to the 2009 contest in Moscow. Disguising Norway’s win would have been completely impossible.

      I think in order to make the voting exciting again, we should eliminate one important factor: The more countries are voting, the smaller the chance to get a tight voting exciting sequence.

      I have laid out a detailed plan to make the voting really exciting again and forwarded that to the EBU Reference Group. I think they won’t change the voting accordingly, but feel free to use Google Translate to read this article/proposal:

      • Hi Gert – I think there’s possibly something to be said for points 1 and 2, though the countries in question would likely object and I’m not sure how feasible it’d be. But it would save time, and I like your idea of thanking and recognising the countries that didn’t make it to the final. I have to say, I don’t find the present voting system problematic or unexciting in any way, I think it’s fine (and especially bearing in mind the amount of times it’s been changed in the past, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Instead of your “super-spokesperson” one of the presenters could just do it. Disagree on 5 (people are always going to want to clearly see the leaderboard and who’s winning), but I think the MF-style “bar” of 6, visualising how many countries have voted and how many have yet to vote (rather than the number of points) might be a good idea and would be simple to implement. It’d be more compact than the old system of shading countries a different colour on the map once they’ve given their points, and more at-a-glance than the current system of simply displaying “27 out of 43” etc.

        • Hey Eurovisicious. Thanks for your reaction :-). I think in essence my idea is very simple and, even among the Dutch delegation, very well feasible. I really don’t think why the 16 worst scoring semi-finalists might feel ‘punished’. In summary:

          Part 1 of the voting: The old, classical way, like this example from the voting from 1998.

          -Green Room Break-

          Part 2 of the voting: All points from the 16 non-qualified semi finalists are announced in TOP 26 order. It is comparable to the 2nd part of the Melodifestivalen-voting, replacing 100% televoting results with the results from the 16 non-qualified semi finalists.

          Plain, simple, easy and much more exciting and thrilling.

          The current system? Way too long. It makes tv-viewers zap to other channels much more easily. The actual purpose of spokespersons are gone already, so why so forcefully keeping the current voting system with 42 (!) spokespersons intact. To me it looks like a weird compromise that doesn’t improve the most exciting part of the show: The voting.

  • Daniel

    Hi eurovicious, when the leak of the voting order was revealed, I took some of the 7/1 Azerbaijan, as there seemed an ex-USSR bias among the final ten or so countries voting.

    However, the computer algorithm is based on the already known jury scores and televoting patterns, and is not infallible. To give one conceivable example, the Russian grannies may score very badly with the juries and the algorithm may thus discount their chances. A televote landslide would confound this.

    • Nick D

      We can probably learn something by following Italy’s progress on the scoreboard in 2011, as it would appear that the algorithm was aiming to disguise Gualazzi’s “runaway win” for as long as possible – and in that light, it was staggeringly unsubtle about it.

      After 8 countries had delivered, it had received 5×0, 1×1, 1×3 (and Italy had already voted). The next 4 countries delivered another 1×0, 1×1, 1×3 and 1×6 – the 6 came from Armenia, and could conceivably have been a high televote balancing a poor jury. Meanwhile, the other jury favourites – Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden – were all scoring in fits and starts and swapping the lead with each other.

      If something we regard as a possible contender is doing shockingly badly at the 10-jury mark, it may well be worth getting aboard that horse in running. Just bear in mind that, as with Switzerland and Estonia… it may genuinely be doing shockingly badly!

      • Nick D

        I’ll add that the ten countries which gave Italy 8 points or more were sequenced as:

        16: Poland 10
        18: San Marino 12
        24: Greece 10
        26: France 8
        31: Albania 12
        32: Malta 10
        33: Portugal 10
        35: Lithuania 10
        38: Spain 12
        43: Latvia 12

        That sequence at 31 to 35 looks interesting. Country 34, out of interest, was Hungary, who gave Italy 4.

        • All of that is really interesting and good to know – thanks for sharing. Think I’m going to have to sit down and watch last year’s voting again, paying closer attention to the way the race unfolds…

          • eurovicious

            Reet. I did as I said and watched the voting from last year’s contest today, with a pen and paper and printouts of the final results table and split jury/televote results in hand. (Never let it be said that I don’t put the hours in!). The conclusions I came to are that the algorithm as used in 2011 is designed to:

            a) obscure what it thinks is the winner (in this case, Italy) for as long as possible, exactly as Nick D outlines above
            b) ensure the other countries that make up the top 5-6 keep changing places and stay level-pegging with each other for as long as possible to maintain audience interest and tension.

            The main thing that leapt out at me is that just over halfway through the voting (22 out of 43 countries), the results table had pretty much taken its final shape, with almost every country very close to its ultimate finishing position. The sole exception to this was Italy languishing in 11th place. Here’s what the top 10 looked like after 22 countries had voted:

            1. Azerbaijan
            2. Sweden
            3. Ukraine
            4. Denmark
            5. Ireland
            6. Bosnia
            7. Greece
            8. Germany
            9. Georgia
            10. UK
            (11. Italy)

            Notice that most of those are only one place out from their final position, at the most three places out, with the obvious exception of Italy.

            If the algorithm had been more sophisticated, it’d have taken the results from the jury final and the first semifinal and realised that Azerbaijan, not Italy, was the likely winner. The fact it appeared to think Italy was going to win, based on Gualazzi winning the jury final with a lead of 69 points over Azerbaijan, suggests it didn’t factor in Azerbaijan’s success in both the jury vote and televote in the first semi. Whether they’ll “correct” this for 2012 is open to speculation.

            The other thing that leapt out at me was that after 27 of 43 countries had voted, there was only 1 point between the top 4 (which still didn’t include Italy). So while the algorithm can’t know the actual scores, it does seem designed to keep things neck and neck.

          • Boki

            Good job ev !

    • Boki

      True, but if the grannies really smash the televote in their semi the algorithm should take that into account despite of a bad jury score. Said that, their true televote friends are not in their semi so big boost in the final is more realistic.

      • Agree Boki. Not too sure what the algorithm is based on – the results of the semis plus the jury final, or just the semis? I’m trying to remember the order the countries announced their votes in during the jury final last year – was it the same as in the final? For some reason I’ve a feeling it was, though of course I don’t have a copy of the jury final to check. Does anyone know?

  • Rob

    Hi all. This is an interesting topic I have been pondering for quite some time now. A potential Russian televote landslide I also concluded would make this algorithm redundant. Looking back on last year’s final, it also struck me, as Nick outlines above, that the algorithm appeared to have done its work with a view to concealing Italy, teeing it up to come with a late run. Factoring in jury results from the night before – and a lead over Azerbaijan of 69pts – if it also factored in historical televoting data, the question is, did it conclude that Azerbaijan was the most likely winner, or Italy? Azerbaijan didn’t hit the front until around the halfway point last year at which time Italy was languishing around 10th. Might it not have made for a closer contest still if those nations that gave Italy 8 or more, had appeared earlier in the sequence, so Italy was also vying for top spot, or in the lead? It seems all we could conclude with any certainty last year was that Sweden definitely wasn’t favoured by the last sequence of juries, with the Nordics having handed out their pts earlier. The other question is, do we know for sure this algorithm doesn’t factor in the semi-final results?

    • Nick D

      The algorithm would have had awful difficulty with forecasting Italy’s televoting potential, as there was almost no historical data at all to work with – their only previous opportunity to receive televotes was from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and the UK in 1997, and all bar Switzerland rewarded Jalisse rather meagrely.

      It seems reasonable to assume that Azerbaijan was looking the most likely to provide a serious challenge to Italy, so was also kept a little bit out of the way in the early stages (and given a very obvious first 12 of the night as a bluff or double bluff or triple bluff).

      What the algorithm *might* hint to us about Russia (and I can’t pinpoint exactly what to look for) is whether they’ve received significant jury support. I think most would agree that if that were to happen, they’ve got it sewn up. There’s a possibility that a strong result for Ukraine or the Azeris could serve to confuse the issue though.

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