Eurovision 2014: What changed?

Eurovision is an elusive beast. Just when you think you’ve got certain things sussed, the contest turns precedent on its head. The recent rule rethinks – reintroducing the jury vote from the 2009 final, and the full ranking system from 2013 – have accelerated the pace of change.

2014 proved it. Here are five paradigm-busting examples.

1. Azerbaijan
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Five consecutive top five finishes, followed by … 22nd. In the build-up to rehearsals, nothing much seemed very different. Exhaustive audition process, check; Swedish songwriter, check; promo work in Hungary, Russia, Lithuania and Malta, check.

It was only during rehearsals that it felt different this year. In Malmo, Farid was wheeled out every night to autograph or perform to fans; and certain delegations told me that Azerbaijan were taking things very seriously. In Copenhagen, very little was seen of Dilara. Low-key seemed the order of the day, and so it proved on the scoreboard.

2. Greece
In hindsight, predicting decent things on the scoreboard, as I did, from an act that featured a fair amount of rap, was optimistic. Juries have never been particularly impressed by it in the contest, though that didn’t stop the same country reaching a top ten position in 2011 with a mixture of ethno and rap, due to an excellent televote.

However, ‘Rise Up’ only managed 43 televote points – that’s unprecedented for Greece in the modern Eurovision era. Even the much-criticised ‘Aphrodisiac’ managed 89 televote points. Two things here: the absence of Bulgaria and Cyprus meant a loss of 22-24 points; and there was nothing Greek about what was presented. If you want to maintain your baseline, keep the diaspora happy.

3. Western fightback
It was amusing to see a pair of countries with generally the worst recent records battle it out for the win. The bigger picture is that many of the new rules have tried to level the playing field, allowing diaspora votes to count for nothing if juries so wish, for example.

Add to that a fair few withdrawals south and east of Vienna, and it felt like the most “western” Eurovision in the modern era. The top three confirmed it. The rather eastern-unfriendly, producer-decided draw helped reinforce this.

4. A low top ten threshold
Tenth place received its lowest score in modern contests – 74. Sure, there were fewer countries taking part than of late, but the last time we had a contest this small was 2006, which also featured a dominant top 3 (Lordi, Dima Bilan and Hari Mata Hari), and on that occasion Turkey’s 91 points was only good enough for eleventh.

The best explanation I can come up with for this is a particularly strung out televote. Eleventh place went to Belarus with a mere 56 points. Only ten songs made any sort of impression with televoters, and three of them – Poland, Switzerland and Romania – went on to be scuppered by the juries.

5. Lithuania and Moldova
Up until this year, I felt reasonably confident about predicting the baseline for the likes of Lithuania and Moldova, given their diaspora, some ex-USSR support and occasional jury love from places like Malta. That’s no longer the case. 36 points for the former and 13 points for the latter was way below that suggested by previous contests.

The new ranking rules obviously upend many of these historical precedents in a 26-field final, but in a semi-final of 15 or 16, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I suppose the lesson here is that if your act is so alien to televoters, it puts off all but the staunchest of allies.

To provide some balance, it’s also worth pointing out what didn’t change: juries still love their ballads; there were three former Soviet states in the top ten, including much-maligned Eurovision powerhouse, Russia (director Fokas Evangelinos continued his fine record); and greater transparency only made some jury scoring even more eyebrow-raising.

But it’s change that Eurovision punters have to adapt to, and this year provided plenty. Let us know your thoughts on the above examples and feel free to add any of your own.

29 comments to Eurovision 2014: What changed?

  • Alan Sedgwick

    San Marino qualifying also served to prove that noone is totally chanceless just in terms of the country name on screen!

  • I wonder if Azerbijan were put off by the transparency and didn’t think they’d be able to buy their way to the top. However, instead, they could probably still do that for “Turkvision” which will feature a lot more of their friendly countries (they won this in 2013)

    • Dennis

      Or maybe, just maybe, all these conspiracy theories once again turmed out to be untrue. For the first time, Azerbaijan came with an entry that lacked something, good vocals in this matter. And immediately they were punished for it, just like any other country.

      For some people it seems so hard to adit that they were wrong, that they insist in holding on to their delusions, no matter what.

    • eurovicious

      Yeah, they did indeed win it, it wasn’t expected and very much seemed like a case of “they did it again”. We wrote about it here:

      • Dennis

        Yeah, and they were also behind 9/11 and the murder of JFK. #conspiracytheories

        • Dash Berlin

          Azerbijan were also behind the fake moon landings, whats your point Dennis?

          • Dennis

            My point has been made very clear in my first post. When someone is showing people that they believe in a false conspiracy theory and they come up with a new one, it is a useless discussion. I rest my case, being right doesn’t always mean that people acknowledge that you are right.

            Let’s agree to disagree.

          • eurovicious

            Yo Dennis. “Let’s agree to disagree”? Fine – I love disagreeing. Your comparison is fallacious. As I wrote in that article, I spoke to people who were actually at the event. There was only one juror per country, the margin of error needed to win was very small, and almost all participants were from undemocratic countries high on the international corruption index. Added to which Azerbaijan’s performance in the final was pretty shambolic. Given how fair the rest of the results seemed, it wasn’t rocket science to figure out Azerbaijan bribed its way to the top. A reporter who was there and who spoke to delegations even told me “everyone knows that’s what happened”. The whole fact you would pop up out of nowhere and instantly dismiss this as a “conspiracy theory” (yet provide no counterargument) is highly suspicious.

            Last year I documented how in the comments section of any Eurovision fansite article critical of Azerbaijan or suggesting corruption, a mysterious army of sockpuppet commenters would suddenly appear to dismiss the accusations.,-mass-sockpuppetry,-regimes-buying-the-fan-press,-and-buying-the-ebu.aspx Sound familiar? I’m sure if I asked Daniel he could tell me whether or not you have an Azeri IP address.

          • Daniel

            Hi EV, I have met Dennis every year since 2011 in the press centre during rehearsals. He’s a tall Dutch chap (with a Dutch IP).

          • eurovicious


  • Alen

    What also didn’t change: There is at least one fan fave that will crash and burn. This year: Israel. So always look out for that one.

    Also Slovenia, San Marino and Montenegro should be a lesson that neighbours are not always important when speculating if someone can qualify or not.

  • Montell

    Low position for Greece can be explained. When I heard the song for the first time I thought this song is no good for Eurovision and I placed an early “no Top 10” bet. The song has rap in it which doesn’t work well in Eurovision and it’s kind of song you would expect to hear in da club and not in Eurovision. The song doesn’t even have a decent refrain. What can you expect from juries whose average age is 40. The song was far from usual Greece song that people like. I think it’s very hard to achieve good position in Eurovision with a club song. The purpose of club music is different. Club music like “Rise up” is good for dancing but not for listening to when sitting on the coach and watching Eurovision. Club songs are liked by teenagers like my brother who doesn’t pay any interest to shows like Eurovision. I agree that in arena this song is a pleasure for audience but it doesn’t give the same pleasure for TV viewers. The only thing that was good about the song was staging, it was effective.

  • Chris Bellis

    One red herring from this forum was that the homophobic Eastern European countries wouldn’t vote for a bearded drag act. They did, even if the juries didn’t. Another was that Eastern European countries wouldn’t vote for a country song, but some of them did. Russia gave it three points for example. I knew there must be some country music lovers in Russia from my own experience when I went to a country music festival there last year.

    • eurovicious

      You see now why I was so keen on busting this “homophobic East” red herring every time someone brought it up…

      • It seems to me that the Eastern European votes show that although many people liked Conchita, it is not socially acceptable to admit that – so the jury voted against her.

        • eurovicious


          • Chris Bellis

            Yes, it’s complicated, as I said before. I’ve visited quite a few gay bars in St P and Moscow so I know that the society is not wholly homophobic. Not everyone agrees with the Russian Orthodox view. Ditto other former Soviet bloc countries. Presumably the jury members had to tow the line.

  • Montell

    One didn’t expect that all three Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark) will end in Top 10 but it happened. Even Finland got 11th place. I’m glad for Finland, they deserved it.

    • Chris Bellis

      I’m glad I ignored all the dissing of Sweden on this forum and had an EW bet on it. I said it had a thorough testing on Melodifestivalen, but that argument was seen as invalid on the basis that the festival had chosen poor songs in the past. My gut feeling was that I liked it, not least because Sanna sang it so well, I was disappointed that Ace Wilder hadn’t been chosen, but maybe, just maybe, the Swedish viewers realsied that Sanna could sing and wouldn’t let them down.

  • Chris Bellis

    Just one more thing…
    Even on this forum, which is one of the most troll free on the internet, when i tried to say that the UK entry was rubbish, patriotic types jumped on me. But it really was rubbish (squared). Lesson: never over-rate the UK entry. It will let you down. I think that’s a given after all these years.

  • CommanderKeen

    Stuff I didn’t saw coming:

    Azerbeijan: with a low key entry this year, I didn’t think they would score as high as in previous years, but 22nd? That I didn’t expect either.

    Greece: same thing basically. I liked the song, although I’m not a big fan of rap. Why didn’t this one score, but the 2011 did? I haven’t got a clue.

    The Netherlands: sure, it’s a nice song. But it’s also very middle-of-the-road, and it’s a country song. Country songs never perform well, and certainly never get any points from the east. Well, those thoughts can go out of the window as per 2014. What this taught me that any decent song can be a contender if it is staged just perfectly. Of course, the Azeris showed us that in 2013 as well.

    Stuff I did saw coming:

    Austria: the east will never vote for a drag queen, yada yada. Ukraine 2007 anyone? People have such short memories. This screamed winner to me as soon as I heard the song and they got the staging just right. The whole Conchita persona and the narrative of Tom Neuwirth in combination with the lyrics of the song, all the jigsaw pieces fell into place.

    Moldova, Italy, Israel: angry women with low placed voices just don’t score.

    UK: this was a lay for top 10 early on for me. I started doubting it when everyone on the internet was so excited about it. What I learned (but already knew): the UK entry is always overhyped, especially on British sites.

    • Chris Bellis

      “Moldova, Italy, Israel: angry women with low placed voices just don’t score.”
      Add France a couple of years earlier, and many others.
      Commander – a real insight there, but it’s a very specific kind of performance that doesn’t go down well.
      Obviously i agree too about the UK, as I’ve posted my opinion about that tripe several times. What were we (the BBC) thinking?

  • Chris Bellis

    I would like to add, given the sentimental odds for the UK entry, betting against it could have earned some real money. I wish that all the patriotic support here and elswhere hadn’t sown seeds of doubt in my mind. I won’t make the same mistake in the World Cup.

  • Oh yeah, recent Austrian entries ranged from meh to abysmal (notably Trackshittaz and Alf Poier – the latter said a week before ESC that Conchita is in need of a mental hospital).

    • eurovicious

      I liked Alf Poier’s entry, but I saw one of his standup shows on TV years ago and it was terrible. He’s not especially skilled – just because it’s random doesn’t mean it’s funny…

  • Martin F.

    If we’re talking paradigms, I’d say one of this year’s lessons is be careful where you (choose to) find precedent, especially when it comes to “niche” genres in ESC terms: extrapolating the chances of authentic adult-oriented recording artistes the Common Linnets based on schlager pastiche wedding band Texas Lightning turned out to be as reliable as extrapolating the chances of the impenetrable “Malá dáma” based on the cartoony “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. (Or, I suppose, the horrendous Belgium 2002 based on the equally but differently horrendous Estonia 2001. That last one is a trap I did fall into, more’s the pity!)

    As for Lithuania, I’m afraid it’s very simple: they’re basically fucked any time I actually like their song. Sorry everybody!

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