This is the first of two articles analysing the Eurovision 2014 result. In this article, I will discuss some of the split result trends for each of the live shows while highlighting the songs where the juries’ and televoters’ opinions clearly differed. The second article will focus on this year’s jury discrepancies with recommendations going forward to next year’s contest.
Firstly, I would like to thank our contributors and growing readership for their involvement this year. The comments section was overflowing with opinion and the chat room was the busiest it has ever been. A big thank you to all involved.
I found covering this year’s Eurovision thoroughly exhausting. The two weeks in Copenhagen were far from easy with the hour-long shuttle bus trips (when they actually arrived) to and from the arena particularly frustrating. The catering was also limited, so my love of Lasagne was seriously tested – Sweden’s 4pm fika was sorely missed! I would like to thank Daniel Gould, Rob Furber and esckaz’s Michael Duncan & Daniel Fahy for the many laughs enjoyed during what was a gruelling schedule.
On the plus side, the arena and stage were breathtaking and it felt like Eurovision took another step forward in terms of technology. Having said that, I still believe in keeping things simple and I rate Eurovision 2013 as the stronger package, both from a televisual experience and from the perspective of the accredited press. Malmö was better organised and much less stressful, which is why I had considerably more energy when it came to the 2013 grand final. For example, last year I remember having time to sit in the sun, savouring the barbeque with Rob from EntertainmentmentOdds joined by the likes of Eric Saade, Robin Stjernberg, Dorians and Andrius Pojavis – it was a more relaxing experience.
Anyway, having taken a week or so off to recharge the batteries and cleanse my mind of the meagre amount of Eurovision stats it can hold, I’m now ready to look through the numbers to make sense of the WTF moments.
WTF moments can be expected when you have a rather substandard collection of songs competing in an open contest. There were a couple of decent entries, but the majority were well below par and in my opinion, this year’s contest lacked diversity, interesting characters and great chart-worthy pop tunes.
Well done to Conchita for winning, even though it’s somewhat galling to see an old-fashioned song performed by a bearded drag act triumph over more commercially viable acts. The narrative probably suits the contest going forward, but from a cold-hearted betting perspective, one expected a more rational response from the juries in neutering a televote-fanwank. Having a huge Netherlands green in the various markets also made the result somewhat infuriating. Even so, I was wary of Austria and made sure I kept Conchita green.
Netherlands deserved their win here and I hope many of you seized the high-odds semi-final win bets recommended on day four of my coverage.
It’s no surprise to see the most polished and commercial songs make up the top-5 in semi-final 1. The final five qualifiers were made up of entries that were visually engaging and contained that extra bit of quality in the staging department.
As for the non-qualifiers: I was always sceptical of Estonia’s chances once I saw their stage backdrop. The last thing one does when performing from an early running order slot is employ a dull and drab stage backdrop. The concept was there, it was just poorly executed and cost the final a great song. Finishing last in the televote sums up how far from Amazing Estonia’s package was.
Portugal’s latin party missed out on qualification by a single point, but as I said in the second podcast, Suzy’s Quero Ser Tua always stood out at this point in the semi-final and was beaten by the third-time-lucky Valentina Monetta and her dubious haul of points from Albania. Coincidentally, Hersi kicked off her pre-Eurovision tour in San Marino, which is strange considering San Marino is incapable of meeting the EBU’s televote threshold. Just saying.
My radar was significantly off course when it came to Belgium. Unfortunately, the staging was dark, and with Axel’s ghostly mother gesturing in the background, the package looked creepy and weird. Axel’s vocal also went off course when it mattered, so in the end, I wasn’t surprised to see Belgium miss the cut.
The second semi-final split makes for interesting reading, especially when it comes to Malta. I’ll go into more detail in the next article, but once again, I think Malta has some very serious questions to answer and I’d be very surprised if the EBU haven’t already demanded answers.
I liked Firelight’s song, but it was always going to struggle from first slot. The Maltese delegation were nervous on the night of the jury rehearsal, as they rightly sensed that Firelight’s staging looked painfully bland and cheesy compared to Switzerland’s. I even switched Malta to a non-qualifier on my chart, but that was mostly based on whispers I’d heard about other countries getting extra help. The disparity between the juries and televoters is telling and I think 9th place was deserved for this plodding song.
Poland mirrored Malta’s position on the split vote, albeit in opposite positions. The Polish diaspora elevated Donatan & Cleo up the televote, but they were harshly treated by the national juries who clearly found the risqué content and niche genre too much for Eurovision. In my opinion, Poland upped their game for the jury rehearsals and I think Donatan & Cleo should feel hard done by.
Romania finishing second in this semi-final was an insult to music. Other than Paula’s money shot note, Miracle was dire and no better than the entries from Macedonia and Israel. At least both of those entries had convincing stage shows.
Our big shouts were Israel and Ireland not to qualify. I had been backing Israel not to qualify since the markets opened, but continued to invest in the 9/2 available on the day of the live show. Despite a well-choreographed stage show, Mei Finegold appeared too fierce and the Hebrew elements nudged it down the pecking order with Macedonia and Romania following in the running order. Having said that, Israel didn’t deserve last place on the jury tally, but it just goes to show how unpopular Israel are at Eurovision and meant it was easy to call Same Heart this year’s major fanwank.
Ireland deserved everything they got this year; Heatbeat was just a female version of Only Love Survives and the juries rightly ranked it low. Televoters were more forgiving to Kasey, but her fate was sealed on day three of rehearsals.
So onto my useful bit of information from a very reliable source…
I was informed that Poland, San Marino and Slovenia were given extra help by DR and the information mirrored a marked improvement from Poland (different camera angles and choreography) and Slovenia (different camera angles and altered vocals & enhanced mix).
OK, I hear you all shouting that these things can change from one rehearsal to the next! I agree, but all of these acts were consistent during all of their rehearsals right up until the jury performance, when the subtle, but vital alterations were added. This information led me to change my qualifiers: adding Poland from the first half and making the last four countries in semi-2 qualifiers.
Just a final note on the semi-finals, it seems anything remotely divisive will struggle to qualify under the new ranking system, so Lithuania and Moldova falling short didn’t surprise given their unusual songs and strange visual packages. Clearly, diaspora can be overturned with some nations.
In terms of the top-4, we can be in no doubt that the national juries and televoters delivered a fair and valid result. In fact, most years it’s the top-4 that tends to be the most indisputable part of the result, though I’m slightly surprised not to see a strong-hooked pop song in the form of Denmark and Ukraine make the top-4 . The sympathy vote for Ukraine failed to materialise and despite a strong stage package, I believe Tick Tock’s mediocrity cost Ukraine a placed finish. Denmark’s poor result is more interesting, as it was considered a genuine contender by many. Despite a poor showing during rehearsals, Basim delivered when it mattered, and from slot 23, I’m staggered Cliché Love Song failed to attract a 3-figure points total. I think the host nation voter apathy theory needs revisiting.
The most remarkable feature of the final was the incredibly low top-10 threshold with Spain taking 10th place with just 74 points. One has to go back to 2003 to witness the top-10 threshold reaching as low as 73. Even more remarkable was seeing Greece bomb in the televote and finish a lowly 20th – that’s their worst result since 1997, and having been rather heavy on the Greece Top Balkan bet, describing my mood as annoyed would be something of an understatement. I should have stuck to my original assertion that Greece would struggle to finish in the top-10. Rap is always a hard sell. Remember!
Poland were once again done over by the jurors in the final. In terms of performance quality, there was barely a cigarette paper between Greece and Poland, but the jurors were way off public opinion when it came to Donatan & Cleo’s hit. This really does need looking at by the EBU, as it seems the music professionals are miles away from public opinion and maybe the marking criteria needs amending.
Malta was third last on the televote, but sixth on the jury tally. I’ll go into this in more detail in the next article, but having tipped Switzerland to do well, it’s vexing to see the juries rank Sebater’s musically superior song so low when compared against Firelight’s Mumford & Son’s tribute act. Though it’s reassuring Malta’s dubious jury scores made no difference to their eventual finishing position.
As predicted, Hungary’s song was bit too dark for the people at home and duly struggled in the televote, yet fifth place was higher than I expected.
As I said at the beginning of this article, this year’s songs were mostly average and I believe that was responsible for the low top-10 threshold. So rather than having 10 quality songs with 100+ points, there were just six or seven songs that were ahead of the rest in terms of song and production quality – the rest were derivative or too niche and struggled to muster any significant support.
Unfortunately, faith in the UK lasted right up until the market lost confidence in Molly during the first 30-seconds of her song. Even though I was in the Eurovision bubble, I had high hopes for the UK this year and even shared my confidence in Molly with the UK’s head of press. The founder of the #TeamSanna movement, Aftonbladet’s Tobbe Ek disagreed and affectionately described me as a UK fanboy. Tobbe predicted Molly would finish around 15th and he was correct. What did Daniel Gould, Rob Furber and I miss?
We all thought the first 30 seconds lacked punch, but once the song got going, it was miles ahead of at least 70% of the competition. The song was modern, the vocals were great and the stage was eye-catching; again, what were we missing?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but watching Molly during the live final, I couldn’t help feel a certain amount of fatigue. In my opinion, 26th slot might have been too late in the running order, with many people mentally switching off during Valentina Monetta’s pedestrian three minutes having watched the much extolled Dutch entry.
There was also the look of panic or intense concentration etched on Molly’s face at various points during live final. This wasn’t present during the jury rehearsal, but in my opinion, the apparent aloofness distanced Molly from the TV viewers. It was only during the bridge that Molly connected with public and even that ended with a cold stare down the camera.
Again, it’s easy to highlight these points with hindsight, but I think the UK suffered an overdose of long-shots. The camera interaction with Molly was far too brief and the whole sequence was calling out for some close-up steady-cam moments aka Portugal 2010. Also, I’m not sure Molly was sufficiently drilled about the importance of smiling. Having said that, the jury submitted their marks the night before and witnessed a more relaxed performance, so I think the BBC should feel aggrieved at their average 16th place finish on the jury tally.
As Executive Producer of the UK’s Eurovision project, Guy Freeman’s approach in looking for unsigned talent is encouraging, and even though we didn’t get the result we hoped for, it’s reassuring the BBC is taking Eurovision seriously again. Let’s hope BBC Introducing turns up another young gem for 2015.
If you think I’ve missed something out, please feel free to share your comments below. Don’t forget, I’ll be discussing points in the next article.