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It’s not the statistics, it’s the song! Written by on January 30, 2012 | 10 Comments

It looks like our statistical analysis of the semi final draw last week has caused a lot of conversation online (especially on Facebook), with some people loving the idea, and others accusing us of spoiling the fun. But one of our Juke Box Jury judges, Elaine Dove, felt very strongly on the issues. So, over to Elaine…

Breaking News! The twenty qualifying countries for the final of Eurovision 2012 are Albania, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Israel, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey, and Ukraine.

What’s that you say? What do you mean how do I know who has qualified for the final? I know that only four semi-final songs have been chosen but have you not seen the semi- final draw? It’s so obvious.

This is the sort of comment that I, as a relative newcomer to the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, find so frustrating and quite depressing to be honest. Ask me why it frustrates me and it becomes a lot more difficult to answer.

Is it because I believe the statement may be true? Is it because I am admittedly politically naïve and my geography skills are few and far between? Both of these may be an aspect of my annoyance, but first and foremost I think it is because as fans we spend our time telling all the knockers of the Contest that the outcome is not just a result of political allies and that neighbourly voting does not determine the outcome of the contest.

We tell anyone who will listen that the Eurovision Song Contest is not a pointless Contest, yet in the next breath we are using statistics and political geography to determine who is going to qualify for the Grand Final five months in advance.

If the outcome is as simple as this then why do we bother travelling, at great expense, to the contest every year? If the outcome is as simple as this then why do the other seventeen participating nations bother entering at all? I believe it is because they, like me, still like to believe that if your song is good enough it can win. I am not naïve enough to think that friendly voting will not play its part. And let’s face it we complain about the eastern European countries doing it, or the Nordic countries, or the Balkan vote but just take a look at the UK vote for the last few years and we can be held to blame as much as anybody.

Josh Dubovie Oslo 201

Don't stop believing! (Giel Domen/EBU)

However, what stands out for me more than the neighbourly voting is that in most cases the song that wins gets votes from the majority of the participating countries and that it is the five, six and seven point allocations that can win countries the contest and not just the eights, tens and twelves from their neighbours. Let’s look at Norway to illustrate my point. In 2009 Alexander Rybak won with ‘Fairytale’ and it received votes from every participating country in that year’s contest. In 2011 Stella Mwangi never made it out of the semi-final with ‘Haba Haba‘. How can both of these results have happened if the result is all based on statistics and friendly voting?

Ewan’s computerised guess on the twenty qualifiers may well come true, the predictors and data analysers may be onto something, but I’m glad I am not one of them. As long as we continue to have our Latvia 2008s and our Lithuania 2011s, then I will be happy in my blissful political ignorance, making up a list of my favourite songs in the contest and faithfully believing, until I am proven differently on the night, that my favourite song can go all the way no matter what semi- final it is in, what position it is drawn in and what other countries may be voting for it.

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10 responses to “It’s not the statistics, it’s the song!”

  1. PJ says:

    Interesting article!

    Some countries definitely have an advantage – where there is a large diaspora but 2011 showed that those who were usually considered to be dead certs (Armenia and Turkey) don’t always go all the way.

    I’d like to think that it’s the song which wins every time 🙂

  2. David5166 says:

    How completely marvellous! This lady is clearly a Goddess, and as such I think I should marry her…

    Seriously, well said, Ms D!

  3. Ms D says:

    Thanks David5166 – What Can I Say?

    I do!

    lol x

  4. Dimitry Latvia USA says:

    Exactly right! I’d like to also mention that most predictions (including the ones on this site) are rarely correct, I remember I listened to the podcast and one of the “experts” said Azerbaijan was definitely not going to win, and Poland could be in a top 10. That’s how much all these predictions are worth.

  5. Ewan Spence says:

    To be fair the big “predictions” article from 2011 was Dermot, and he has a historically wonderful strike rate!

  6. eurovoix says:

    We all want to think we predict a winner, I have only every managed to predict 2 countries in the top.3 and that was Sweden in 2011 and Denmark in 2010. Also who ever saw Belgium coming 1 point away from getting through to the final. It’s nice to think that we can all predicit what will happen but until we have heard every song we wont be able to know for sure.

  7. gerard says:

    There speaks the voice of reason and rational. It’s become ‘The Statisticians Analytical Contest’ of late – incredibly tedious.

    Bring back The Eurovision SONG Contest!

  8. Simon says:

    I agree with both. I think it’s generally a given that half of the songs in the semis make it through at least with help from their friends and neighbours, if not on the merit of the song as well. But ultimately, it has to be a song contest – otherwise we’d have the same winner every year and the same countries at the bottom of the scoreboard. United Kingdom may have had a dodgy run, but in the last 3 years we’ve been 5th, last and 11th – all rather deservedly one could argue±! We can hardly say we’ve been victims of political voting recently…

  9. Tomas says:

    Totally disagree that it´s all down to the song, the song is important of course but you have got to consider other factors.

    Ireland 09 is a good example of this coming 12th but had it been drawn later, had the UK 12, it´s only automatic points it would have qualifed, indeed it emerged to would have if it was 50:50 voting that year.

    One thing you´re forgetting is stage presentation, some countries have a knack of selling a song on stage like Greece and Ukraine, others don´t like Poland and Slovakia. It is euroVISION afterall.

    And I always had Latvia 08 (ideal song for 100% televoting) and Lithuania 2011 (only proper ballad with a late draw) qualifying.

    True a good song will always shine through but the medicore ones are down to so many other factors. The public especially have only three mintures each to hear 25 or so songs, everything matters from Yohannas dolphins, to Tom Dice on the catwalk, to the sandartist of Ukraine 11 ( a song that deserved 4th?).

    The contest was started due to politics (bringing countries together) so why wouldn´t we think politcally? Indeed that´s what makes it fun and cause for debate by even non fans, judging just the song is plain boring.

  10. DCWestFife says:

    Elaine, -great article. Also, I often think that people forget about some other alliances in voting that can be just as ‘neighborly’ but less obviously.

    The large Portugese population in Swtzerland always vote for their homeland, especially in semi finals. In 2007 SF, Sabrina got 8 from Swit, in 2008 SF, Vania got 12 from Swit, in 2009 SF Floe de Lis received a 10 from Swit.

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