Eurovision 2018: The post-mortem

The chicken wasn’t the gorilla after all. Like Francesco Gabbani, Netta Barzilai lost her status as red-hot, ante-post favourite; but unlike him, she still won. Beyond the animal references, ‘Toy’ and ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ were two different beasts.

The best single lesson of a madcap Eurovision season? Don’t apply the previous year’s lessons too literally. Nonetheless, in a year when the betting market got drunk on every piece of hype, let’s put forward a few thoughts.

1. The duel at the top
From #7 in the semi-final, Israel finished only fourth in the Tuesday televote, well behind Cyprus in the pimp slot. Netta’s Saturday gains were significant. A kinder draw nearer the end of the show was clearly useful. How much did a smoother performance also help? She was on better form vocally, and staging cock-ups – like being masked by a mid-song pyro – had been eradicated.

Either way, apart from the Balkan and Baltic regions, it was Israel who turned the tables in the Saturday night televote, despite the iTunes data (with its declining numbers and narrow demographics) suggesting otherwise between first heat and final. Other data was more encouraging for Netta backers. According to Escgo’s Shi, a friend and fellow Eurovision obsessive, careful and contextual use of stats from internet search metrics had Israel ahead.

Shi ran regional breakdowns on “country x + Eurovision” searches, but excluded those using the artists’ names, because they were less likely to be from unfamiliar first-time viewers. And for viewing stats of live performances, she didn’t just include the official channel, since that’s not how regular users search. Having taken this considered approach, the data suggested Israel were ahead everywhere – except the Balkans and Baltics – which reflected the ultimate televote.

It was closer among jurors. Nonetheless, Shi and I had discussed beforehand the possibility that Netta’s more progressive message and presentation (“love me for who I am, rather than what I look like”) would play better with Western female jurors in particular. That also proved to be the case, though I won’t pre-empt Shi’s stats before she’s had a chance to publish them herself.

Still, it’s worth noting that Cyprus made great strides with jurors from Tuesday to Saturday: sixth in the semi-final (78 points behind Israel), then fifth in the final (only 29 points adrift). Was that a result of panels taking on board its new-found favouritism, or just coming to appreciate that ‘Fuego’ was brilliantly executed? It’s another reminder that jurors are human too, capable of changing their minds from Tuesday to Saturday.

2. Semi-final inequalities
The Saturday show and audience is obviously different to the weeknight events. We’ve seen large variations between their results before, but Norway’s drop this year – from second semi winner to 15th in the final – was of a different magnitude.

It reflected the most lopsided pair of semis yet: the first one was as strong as the second was weak. Seventh-placed Sweden was the top-performing entry from the latter; and Rybak’s support simply wilted among the stronger competition

Both semis were unusually front-loaded too – the four leaders in the pre-rehearsal outright market were all in the first half of the first heat. We’d never had six qualify from the official first-half of a semi-final, but this year it happened in both. (Although as Bulgaria were drawn at 10 of 19, in practice they were straddling the two halves of the first heat.)

3. Two tribes go to war
The televote top five (all drawn in the second half) failed to impress jurors as much, part of a narrative of the two constituencies being less in agreement than ever this year. All five were not just upbeat, but divisive in jury terms too: an Israeli chicken impersonator (given 105 points less by juries than televoters), a basic banger from Cyprus (-70), a pair of talkative Italians (-190), a cheeky Czech chappy (-149) and a bunch of marauding Danes (-150).

Unusually large differences also occurred with the jury top two – Austria (+200) and Sweden (+232). Sweden we’ll get to in a minute, but ‘Nobody But You’ – a radio-friendly, middle-of-the-road composition – was always likely to score higher with jurors, and Cesar performed out of his skin in the jury rehearsal. He wasn’t quite at that level on Saturday night, but the bigger problem for televoters was the song’s relative lack of USP.

4. You gotta have a gimmick
Televoters love a USP: Netta had it more than anybody; while the Cypriot staging / performance was its selling point. Also in the televote top ten: Danish Vikings, Estonian opera, Moldovan madcap comedy, and a Ukrainian piano coffin. The Italian and German teams managed to put the messages of their songs across, creating their own USP in the process. Neither was particularly subtle about it, but subtle isn’t as effective – look at France in comparison.

How do we fit Sweden’s shock 21 televote points into this? ‘Dance You Off’ had a visual gimmick, but while jurors were impressed with the slick presentation, it may have ultimately put off televoters. There was barely a glimpse of the arena audience in what felt more like an MTV video clip. Ingrosso’s light prop seemed to place him somewhere else, away from the contest; the viewers’ response was that he might as well have been.

5. What are the odds of that happening?
By my reckoning, 18 of the 43 entries traded at below 20 on Betfair at some point. Many of them turned out to be red herrings. Bulgaria’s position at the head of the market in early March when we didn’t know the song – and continued popularity when we did know it – was mystifying. I understood Estonia’s elevated position more given its USP, even if I didn’t agree with it. You could see both as part of a search to emulate Jamala’s dark artistry or Sobral’s genre-defying appeal.

Short-term overreactions also played into layers’ hands. Take the early excitement when the Belgian and Spanish entries were revealed; or the late Lithuanian and Irish hype, based respectively on erroneous rumours of the semi-final result, and a plum final draw; then the Saturday night voting, when the jury points reveal briefly created single figure prices for Austria, Germany and Sweden.

However, the danger in dismissing every “steamer” (a runner that relentlessly shortens in the market), is missing the diamond in the rough. Cyprus was the biggest steamer of all, and beat all bar one. Still, ‘Fuego’ falling short despite trading at around Evens on Saturday night, is a reminder that the market isn’t necessarily right even when the singing stops, as Sergey Lazarev found in 2016.

I’d like to thank all the Sofabet commenters for their good-natured and thoughtful contributions throughout the season. Let us know any further thoughts you might have below. We will return at the semi-final stage of Britain’s Got Talent.

50 comments to Eurovision 2018: The post-mortem

  • Scott Reid

    I called the last two contests correctly but got it wrong this time. I didn’t have as much time to devote to Eurovision this year as previous ones, but Daniel has perfectly identified why I alighted at Estonia.

    I think there’s a little more to it – the staging and performance wasn’t as impressive at Eurovision in comparison to the national final, and the loss of LEDs was a big issue in terms of storytelling. But I’m not convinced their inclusion alone would have helped it overtake Netta in the end.

    • Shi

      I think part of the problems for Estonia was that once they traded up the stage, the challenge of properly displaying the dress but also creating enough of a connection between her and the audience became a lot harder than it was in the national final smaller setup.

      • I do agree Shi, but, in addition, I have always felt that there would be a clear ceiling (of 7/8th?!) for something which is less of a song and more of a performance vehicle for Elina and her voice. An operatic LoveWave of sorts.

        • Shi

          Oh, I’m totally with you right there and we’ve seen this in the past as well. I always assumed it was more of a France 2011 in many ways – mostly in the lack of identifiable melody, albeit with better presentation. LoveWave actually had more melody, and of course had the advantage of coming across as something more modern and relevant somehow. I was mostly referring to the comment about her performance not working as well as in the NF.

  • Going back to Only Teardrops 2013, if anyone asked me to write down on a postcard, a sentence or two that summed up the winning song’s narrative each year, I would have no difficulties at all in doing so. That was the problem for me with La Forza: I admired it rather from afar. I’d extend the same critique to France and their “messaging”…or lack of it.

  • markovs

    Hated Estonia from day 1 and always skip it, but could see it would attract votes. Covered top 10 and top 5 but couldn’t see it as a winner. No discernible song there.

  • Shai

    1. In a year where every day a new song has been singled out as a favourite, there was 1 thing constant- Israel has always been in the top 5 of the market. Even if the reactions to rehearsals and live performance weren’t that enthusiastic, it stayed in the top 5 of the betting market.

    2. Sweden – Couldn’t agree more. Part of the live performance, is the reaction a song get from the audience in the arena. You take this away, you loose some of energy and you also give a feeling of cheating. Televoters are not stupid and once they felt cheated, they punished Sweden by not voting for them.

    3. Can we, once and for all, get rid of the term “fanwanks”. It’s a degrading term, not only for the song and artist but also to the audience/fans.
    Sure, there are songs which appeal more to the fans than to other sections of the audience. Is this a bad thing? And yes, sometime fans get it wrong, but this apply to the betting market as well.

    See you all next year

  • markovs

    Fanwank is a term which perfectly describes a song which the ESC hard-core love and fawn over, which the general public don’t get. Katy Wolff is a prime example as is Saara Aalto from this year. It may be overused but it is a valid term imo.

    • Shai

      There was one comentator on this site, who happily and regularly called Netta a “fanwanks” and brag about laying the song.
      Not sure how he did, betting wise, and I do hope he covered some of his losses. This person admitting he was wrong, would be too much to ask.

      Any suggestions from CB and GHF sound good for me.
      “fantrap” describe such a song perfectly.

      • markovs

        Hi Shai. Not sure if you mean me or not. I deffo had Netta as a fanwank and had it laid at very low odds. I also said it was definitely one that could win and made a nice profit when it’s odd lengthened after the semi and Cyprus shortened.

        I covered it at the longer odds and overall made a small but decent profit. Mostly from laying UK after the stage invasion, Moldova top 10 and Germany top 4.

        Biggest losses on Australia and Netherlands who were my early favourites.

        On Israel, it was undeniably a fanwank but no-one says fanwank can’t win. I never liked the song and still dont, but could see Netta was a force of nature and possible winner.

        Saara Aalto was the opposite. L9ved her and the song but kept well clear as never fancied it to come anywhere.

        I think ‘admitting you’re wrong’ is rather hilarious. This whole site is crammed with various opinions of what will finish where, probably 90+% wrong. There would be a lot of admitting going on here, especially from the France will win brigade (left them well alone as well)

        This is a brilliant site full of differing opinions. I love it and long may it continue. It’s been a real roller coaster ride this year!!

        • Chris Bellis

          The best thing about this site is the way you can float an idea and others can then say you are round the twist for thinking what you do. Does anybody really want a bunch of acquiescent commenters agreeing with everything you say?

          • markovs

            Exactly. It’s a really good set of posters on here and all ideas under the sun get aired.

            I was a massive supporter of Waylon early and thought he was a cracking bet for top 10 and top 5. That went at first rehearsal.

            So many differing opinions and no animosity on here makes it a great site to visit during the ESC season.

      • Chris Bellis

        Not me. I never bragged. All I ever said was the golden rule of betting. In a field of 43, when the lead is below 4/1, you have to lay the bet. I always liked the song and thought it had every chance. Just odds ridiculous.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          I’ll admit I was wrong over France. Although, in my defence I did (publicly) undergo a long journey of losing faith in them (around the time SuRie proved a superior replacement for Emilie), culminating in my trading out, at a very good time, when their bf odds were single figures. France owes me nothing but their delegation obviously suffers with a touch of arrogance.

          I was also wrong about Norway. Luckily they’re odds became so low, I (publicly) questioned whether I should trade out, which I did, as it dawned on me that I had become over-confident, a bit cocky about their chances. It occured to me that doubts over the weakness of the song and returning artist bias were probably valid and that the odds were ridiculously low.

          I think it transpired that the juries felt insulted by Alex’s treatise on the craft of songwriting. When I was checking the Swedish jury scores for Australian entries (re a separate post), I also had a look at this year’s individual juror scores for Norway (as I had spotted that one of the Swedish jurors was described as a “Singer and songwriter.” Indeed, Josefin (of those 5 Swedish jury members) ranked Alex’s song the lowest, by a wide margin, as 18th best.

          In the course of checking Australia’s jury scores, I also had a look at their scores for Norway, this year. Of Austrailia’s 5 jurors, the only one with the word “writer” included as part of their description was Jordan Raskopoulos.

          Sure enough, she was the juror who ranked Norway’s song the lowest (14th).

          Lithuania, which I originally didn’t like, I talked myself into, and kept faith with. I was just plain wrong there. Lithuania is my major trading regret of Eurovision 2018.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            Am still looking at the Swedish jury results and have spotted something else I expected to find.

            3 female jurors; 2 male jurors.

            The three female jurors ranked the Czech Republic song as 15th, 23rd and 21st best, respectively. The male jurors ranked Lie To Me as the 11th and 7th best song. I don’t think there’s any mystery (as I’ve read and heard elsewhere) as to why Lie To Me received a desperately poor jury score.

            And these were scores from Swedish jurors, who are meant to love modern, radio-friendly songs, fronted by a charismatic performer.

          • Chris Bellis

            GHF I said all along France had form. You yourself indicated that when SuRie depped for Madame she put more heart and soul into the song, plus she sang it in English. How arrogant must the French team have been to ignore what everybody was saying? They do it every year. I’d been burnt too many times by France, so that was a certain lay for me. Made up for getting some others wrong. Some of the French songs that failed at Eurovision have been used in films, adverts and done very well. The master class in how not to stage a song was “Requiem”, but there are plenty of others. We live and learn, but apparently not the French staging team.

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            True. I even remember you commenting ages ago about the pretension with which the NF French package was imbued. You likened it to a famous theatrical parody. You were spot on, Chris, all along.

            A shout out, too, for sofabet commentator, John.

            In searching (unsuccessfully) for that post of yours, I stumbled across a post from John wherein he highlighted Germany as a dark horse. (I know there have been others who over the months have similarly highlighted Germany, too).

            In rereading my final response post to him, I see the real value of this site: in its ability to challenge your thoughts and help steer them onto a truer course.


            Without exposure and engagement with different opinions (to your own), I believe it is vastly more difficult proposition to ever “unlock” yourself from a position. Personally: I certainly find so.

            There’s a tendency for opinions to become locked in. A tendency to cling to invested opinions as though they are treasures. I suppose that’s partly because what a person likes will to some degree be reflective of that person’s “personality” or at least their persona (and with that may come a further temptation to champion a chosen position). I suppose there’s bound to be considerable resistance to letting a reflective personal position’s foundations be shifted, or a perspective chipped away at or stripped?

      • HI Shai,

        I was that guy. I said Netta was a fanwank. I laid Israel. And lost a lot of money in the process.

        But when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. And on this occasion, I got it spectacularly wrong.

        Not a profitable year, with E/Ws on Sweden, Norway and Holland all costing me dear.

        However, I did lay the UK for last place and covered some losses that way.

        • Chris Bellis

          I don’t think you were that far out. This was a strange year. I too got Netta wrong, and had to recover my lay losses at a late stage. It could easily have gone the other way – some of the rehearsals were not promising. This year I saw the illogical influence of TPTB in setting the running order and selections for semi-finals – threw a spanner in the betting plan works. Plus Israel and Cyprus really came together at the last minute, as did Austria and Germany. And who would have predicted Italy doing as well as they did? Like you I say I’m wrong when I’m wrong, so no point in recrimination. Let’s hope we have better luck next time!

  • Chris Bellis

    If we don’t like “fanwanks” could we use “fanmagnets”? I don’t really care but we all know what they are.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I was thinking “fantrap” or “fantrance” (which can spin-off the adjective, “fantranceable”). But your “fanmagnet” must be the top alternative. It’s cute. If it catches on, I could see it spinning-off “manfagnet” (which I’ve no idea as to what that would refer, but which already feels an irresistible spoonerism).

      “Fanwank” is a bit graphic, although, it could have been worse…

      It’s more demure than “nutwank” or “junkiespunker”, to coin but two alternatives.

      • Chris Bellis

        I really daren’t reply! But I demand acknowledgement for “fanmagnet”. Other rather better ones are the copyright of sofabet!

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        As far as I’m concerned, the excellent “fanmagnet” is yours, Chris – coined by you. I can see that entering common parlance in Eurovision communities. Eurovision fan communities and clubs definitely might prefer it! If there’s ever a fan favourite that somehow channels an X Men vibe, that could be a “fanMagneto” (and future Barbara Dex award winner). Bulgaria were straying into that area, this year.

        Whereas I can’t foresee my “junkiespunker” being a coming thing. That might catch on as a description of a prolific email spammer?

        An equally rude but subtler version of “fanwank” could be “fanfriction” – though on googling this term I find it already exists, and has the meaning of a parody of fanfiction.

  • James

    I think Cyprus’s top 5 result with the juries is proof that they know what the favourites are and vote accordingly. 6th of 19 with juries in the semi before Eleni became the favourite to win feels a lot fairer for a paper thin song with no more than average vocals.

    In a way Sweden’s extraordinarily high jury score and extraordinarily low televote score both feel about right, for a package that was technically and objectively impressive but which had no soul or connection with the audience whatsoever.

    I feel like we should add Denmark to a “national stereotypes” pile along with Poland 2014 and Italy 2015; playing up to the rest of Europe’s view of your own country seems to attract televoters and turn off juries in equal measure.

  • Mark

    I’ve an awful feeling that if we ban “fanwank” it would only show up again elsewhere in an unwelcome fashion… The way UK fortunes are going , we’d probably choose it as the title for our 2019 entry…

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    There’s been a myriad of very insightful observations on this and the previous thread about the reasons for Sweden’s stunningly poor televote score.

    I’ve just watched the Swedish Grand Final performance for myself and found myself feeling a bit sorry for Benjamin, who comes across as a nice kid.

    I generally love to hate the Swedish entries, which always surprises me as I’m a huge SAW (pre horror franchise) fan.

    It’s very striking that he obviously appears to be miming through the extensive, lengthy choruses. Production seems to have gone the route of employing a sound mix where the (pre-recorded? is that allowed?) backing vocals are utterly dominant on the key sections. As though Benjamin can’t be trusted to move and sing simultaneously.

    For but one example, in the embedded video at the bottom of this post, viewed on full screen on YouTube, watch closely at 0:55 onwards (when Benjamin performs one of his mega-meme head-flicks). Benjamin should be about to sing the lyric, “Cause I just wanna feel the mood”.

    Does he?

    I think he hesitated as he was unsure if the first word was “Cause” or “So”; or he just got caught up in the head-flick look. Thus, he joined in when he did.

    It’s undermining, for obvious reasons. Resounding smacks of expensive fakery.

    (And a really odd, counter-productive decision as Benjamin’s voice sounded good and strong when it clearly was his vocal.)

    Just another minor factor to add to all the major factors that other sofabet commentators have very savilly noted and explained.

    Whoever insisted on choreographing and keeping (!) the cringe-inducing “sexy” dance walk and laugh-out-loud “sexy” over-the-shoulder head flicks should be sacked. Benjamin is a previous winner of Let’s Dance. I don’t believe it’s his choreography.

    Extra factor: if Moldova won votes because you were chuckling with their performers; then Sweden lost them because you were laughing at their supposedly, sexy super-cool performer.

    • Chris Bellis

      GHF Good comments about Sweden. I must have been one of the few on here that actually liked Frans – the last time I’ve liked a Swedish entry. This year the performance was a parody of what you think of as typical Sweden. Totally uninvolving. Nobody was going to pick up the phone for that. What we have to be careful of is that with our interest in the contest, we are more like the jury than the televoters. I assumed Sweden would do well, and so did the juries. Confirmation bias? Who knows, but we need to find a better way of second guessing the televote for next year. Spoilt my “Sweden top 5 & UK bottom 5” rule, so it must be worth the analysis we’ve all done. Thanks for the video by the way – you are correct.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        That’s it, you’ve hit on the exact word: “parody.”

        Dance You Off was Swedish staging with Zoolandian direction. Both the Czech Republic and Sweden both were striving to make their main man more of a non-threatening boy, but Sweden misjudged things badly, the whole overall package badly.

        The more justifiable its televote; the less justifiable its jury vote?

        The Swedes must have thought they had the win stitched up:

        Retro cool vibe? Tick.
        Contemporary sound? Tick.
        Music video staging? Tick.
        Video, song and performance that Early MJ fans, JT fans, Bruno Mars fans etc can all like? Tick.
        Singer who’s a great dancer? Tick.
        Likeable singer? Tick.
        Singer who gran, mum, teenage girl and under 13 girl can like? Tick.
        Multiple generational and demographical appeal? Tick.

        That’s probably (and understandably) what they thought they had manufactured and what they saw as a winning package. They couldn’t see outside that paradigm. No dissenting voice would seem relevant within the team’s creative bubble.

        I think there’s an emphasis among bettors in looking for an entry that first and foremost will attract a large jury score. That’s the annual bankability of Sweden? This year’s result reinforces that more than ever. Sweden can send a badly misjudged parody of an entry: and still nearly win the jury vote! Receive 21 points on the televote and yet still finish overall 7th!

        Jury scores are more predictable? More bankable? Whereas what will tickle the fancy of that year’s televoters is a slippier creature to handle and predict?

        But yes, as you say…

        “What we have to be careful of is that with our interest in the contest, we are more like the jury than the televoters.”

        I hadn’t thought of it that way. I had become aware that I had become prone to, fallen into something akin to avant-garde-wank or pretension-wank or elevated-art-wank in my love for France.

        I thought I had swerved the pretension by being (correctly) sniffy and suspicious towards Estonia’s high-art and high-fashion entry, but France’s charms and message proved very strong to me.

        Ironically, I thought I’d noticed the very same phenomenon with the general over-regard for Armenia’s Artsvik (!), and their Fly With Me, last year. A song that I thought was sort of ok (but I couldn’t remember…even after just hearing it), and with a staging concept that I thought was very interesting Ultimately, the whole thing left me cold. I was detached from it and not at all surprised when it flopped.

        I wasn’t interested in flying with Artsvik or in Benjamin dancing me off?

  • Benjamin was the least worst of a very dull Melfest. The whole attempt from SVT this year was a bit “that’ll do.”

    My sister who only watches Saturday night didn’t like Sweden but went crazy for Czech Republic, although she pointed out it was a plagiarism of Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty.

    I’d argue Lie To Me was the closest thing to what we have in the charts mind you.

  • Black n Blue

    One of my curiosities with this year’s result was the overwhelming support Italy garnered from the televote.

    Having been optimistic about the chances of Madame Monsieur for much of the season, in hindsight, it turned out to be Meta & Moro who taught everyone a lesson in how to deliver a ‘message’ song.

    The lighting was predominantly red. Red being anger or passion, in this case, anger delivered passionately. Fabrizio Moro’s strained vocal communicated that, while Ermal Meta’s higher vocal and falsetto communicated a vulnerability and an openness to it. The song’s folk rhythm (with 180 bpm, the highest of any ESC 2018 song) gave the performance a distinct energy and pace. The folk element too complemented the message. It is a genre about community and often times about bringing people together in times of common struggle. And if any of the above got lost on people at home, then the on screen lyrics were there to guide them. This is the sort of performance a message song demands. While Netta and Eleni stole much of the attention, Meta & Moro were the quiet success story of Eurovision.

    France by contrast didn’t capture any of that. It was sleek and stylish and the hand-gestures looked nice, but there was little inkling from the performance as to what they were singing about. A friend watching with me on the night spent most of the song trying to figure out why they were singing ‘Thank you’ repeatedly. It was a song that got horribly lost in translation by trying to look hip and cool.

    I’m usually not a big fan of message songs. At times they come across as very preachy but I think Italy struck the right sort of tone. In retrospect, A part of me wonders why the juries went unanimously for France over Italy, when the latter had the far superior package on the night.

    • The use of red and black colour schemes has come up for massive debate on X Factor, where some believe it is deliberately used on acts the producers wish to deramp. I wonder if it subliminally demotivates Eurovision voters in the same way?

  • Sawyer

    Mercy could be a Jamala-like winner if they had arranged things right. Staging was dire, nobody understand the message of the song. With a good staging, imagine a child in boat goes on on a river, singer takes the child from boat and theyre performing english version. People would go cry..

    • Mr Wolf

      Mercy never had the necessary emotions to be a Jamala type of entry. Italy was far closer to it.
      And Mercy message far more irrelevant to regular people. The refugee theme is only relevant to part of Europe, it’s not that universal.
      Mercy has a pleasant melody, but not emotional resonance as “1944” (or even “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente”).

  • Shai

    @James Martin – Thank you.
    I think that Toy had never had the ingredients that make a song a “fanmagnet”. It wasn’t a generic pop song and even among fans there were enough people which disliked it.

    @Black n Blue- What your friend said about the merci/thank you, was something I was concerned about, through the whole season.Not only the confusion with “Thank you”, but also the fact that she singing a gloomy song and for non speaking French, seemed to be happily thanking someone.
    Talk about discrepancy between a message and what people think she sings about.

    Sweden/Czech republic- opposite sides of juries vs. televoters.
    Juries went for Sweden televoters went for Czech republic.In the process, Czech republic finished higher than Sweden.
    Why? Because the Czech republic came across as more human and fresh. The audience bought the whole package and forgave the singer for being unplolished.
    No one is perfect, and when you are on stage, you are allowed to have missteps.

    • Chris Bellis

      Agreed. In fact, it turns out that “Merci” was this year’s gorilla, not “Toy” as many people thought. For the simple reason that last year casual televoters didn’t know what the Italian song was about, and the same was true of this year’s French entry. The Italians learned from their mistake last year and explained their message, hence the higher score than we expected. Germany did similarly, since, even though the song was in English, they had an explanatory backdrop, resulting in a higher score. France being France, stuck to their own ideas as usual, even though the way to do it was staring them in the face, and they’d even moved slightly towards the correct staging when SuRie did the song in English in rehearsals. If you’re selling a message, the audience has to understand what the message is. People on this site would be happy to form a focus group to help any country avoid a France, Portugal or Azerbaijan staging mistake in future years. Present us with your staging idea and we’ll tell you what’s wrong/right with it. Or just use your brains.

  • I just found her extremely aggressive and threatening.

  • So this was my first year in the host city and watching all six shows live. Was I too caught up in the bubble? Did not watching on a television screen affect my choices?

    Or was it just a bloody odd year?

  • Also… is it worth exploring the difference between the semi and grand final audiences? This comes with the disclaimer and caveat of me residing in a Big 5 territory, but – in the UK few give a toss about the semis. It’s strictly hard-core fan territory.

    Come Saturday though, and I’m not sure if it’s because friends were genuinely looking out for me on television or what, there was an incredible level of interest in the Grand Final. Every single person on my Facebook feed was involved. After SuRie sang I opened my phone to over 15 messages asking what the hell had gone on! (That said, the only way I found out she wasn’t singing again was from my sister in Reading, relaying to me what Graham was saying a mere 25ft away from where I was perched!)

    So, my fellow Sofabetters… do we need to do some research into semi vs grand televoters?

    • Chris Bellis

      @James Martin
      You’re right. We need to look at the huge discrepancies this year. I think those of us in this bubble are hard core fans, and we watch everything, including the semi finals. An analogy I might make is of science fiction fans who know when one of their favourite stories has been knocked off to make an inferior Hollywood movie. You are aware of all its flaws, and how it’s not nearly as good as the original, but the general audience is very impressed because they don’t know the original, and don’t realise it’s a knock off. We need to get into the heads of the uninformed casual televoter in the final. This may be different across the Eurovision world of course. We can’t even rely on our friends, because by now we will have used them as guinea pigs for several years, so they’re not really the uninformed any more. Perplexing!

  • Jessica Hamby

    I don’t think the poor performance of the French song requires a lot of analysis. It was boring. It’s an emotive subject and it’s a protest song but it’s boring. The lyrics are in French and the melody is dull so unless you are fluent in that language it’s going to sound like a shopping list set to music. When the stage show is also a bit beige there’s simply not enough to draw people in, even if they know what it’s about. People vote for the song, not the message.

    I thought Toy would win as soon as I heard it. I only started listening to the songs at the semi-final stage and Toy was the clear winner to me. It has a banging dance beat, a great vocal performance, a charismatic performer and the quirky, individualism that some would say is characteristic of eurovision and turns it into a joke song but I would say is memorable and makes the performer stand out.

    The backing dancers for Toy were actually pretty poor in my opinion but the song and Netta herself were both so strong that the rest of it became irrelevant. Saara’s visuals, in contrast, were actually distracting and the high concept was completely lost on me. Hers was a piece of performance art rather than a song contest entry.

    I liked Estonia and I think it was a brave piece to put forward. In another year it might have done better but this year Toy also had a remarkable vocal performance and is a lot more accessible.

    Fuego was fun and Elina is gorgeous but she summed it up when she was interviewed at the second semi-final – Hairography. I don’t know why so many people thought that the dance routine was so wonderful and sexy. I thought Lea Sirk’s routine for Hlava Ne was much more interesting. There’s an episode of Glee called Hairography where Rachel points out that one of the other teams looks great on stage but all they do is wave their pony tails about and doesn’t need any skill. That was Fuego. Also the performance was energetic but the song is actually a bit bland and generic.

    People have mentioned that songwriters might have taken offence about Norway. I think that’s reading too much into it. The song is just a bit twee. It’s nice enough but instantly forgettable and doesn’t really offer much. He had to make a little go a long way. I might sing along with it if I was stuck in a traffic jam. I probably wouldn’t bother if I was drunk with my friends. That’s a good guide to bland.

    Austria was very current. The vocals were reminiscent of rag ‘n’ bone and it had a gospel edge so I can see why the juries liked it, especially given what Daniel had to say about the performance at the jury rehearsal. It’s probably worth listening out for songs that will appeal to the jury rather than voters when trying to predict top 5 and top 10 in the future. From my (limited) observations, most of us look for what will appeal to the televoters rather than the juries so there may be some value (in terms of odds) to be found there.

    Germany won the battle of the slow songs.with Lithuania, Spain, Portugal and Ireland all disappointing. Why? Hard to say. I liked the Spanish song a lot. I still listen to it now (along with a few of the others). I’ll leave that analysis to someone else. The second person in the Portuguese performance did seem superfluous. Perhaps Germany had the edge in sincerity. It was certainly a strong performance, although I liked the performances of the others too.

    I don’t think of Italy as a slow song. It has a lot of passion and energy. It’s a protest song but it’s uncontroversial – no-one will disagree with an anti-terrorist message whilst some may dislike a pro-refugee message. Also it was last. I wonder how much difference that made.

    Sweden is very slick but personally I don’t care much for that Timberlake / Bieber style smooth, seduction soul. It was a bit too nice for me as well. I like funk and soul but I prefer it a bit dirtier than that. The Czech song was a bit dirtier than that and I reckon that was why it did better.

    On a personal note I really liked Lea Sirk from Slovenia. I thought the show they put on was by far the slickest, most current and most professional and I’m sad it didn’t get more attention. I also loved Georgia. I thought the music and vocal perfectly complemented the message of companionship, of kindness, of empathy and of love in the lyrics.

    If it was up to me to choose the winner it would have been one of those two. That is why I will not use my personal preferences to as a guide next year!

  • Jessica Hamby

    I would like to take back what I said about Netta’s backing dancers. In retrospect their style made them stand out from the other competitors and given the nature of the song, vocal performance and other visuals on stage they were a good fit.

    By the time of the final performance I think they got the package pretty much perfect.

  • Did the market get too drunk on Saara Aalto because of her pre-existing popularity in the UK? Same for Alexander Rybak because of his landslide victory nine years previously?

    • Jessica Hamby

      Quite possibly. I was expecting more from her but I wouldn’t have voted for her after her performance. Takes me back to the final (which I would much rather forget) and all my hopes and expectations dashed in three horrible minutes.

  • markovs

    Chuffed for Saara that she qualified but the stage performance was muddled and vocals nothing special. Never had this as a top 10 or top 15 and after the Surie stage invasion looked a big chance for last. Market always overrated it a bit but not as much as a few others.

    Rybak was a strange one. Wins an albeit weak semi then gets a terrible running order and flu affects the performance. Surprised it wasn’t top 10 but the whole result was a bit of a surprise. I’m still amazed Toy won, as the performance was nothing special, and gutted for Portugal who deserved so much better.

  • Ande

    This came to be your last Eurovision article. Thanks for all the effort you put into your Eurovision coverage. Rest in peace Daniel.

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