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The Diplomatic Headache Of The Running Order Written by on March 28, 2013

As we await the running order for the semi-finals to be announced (after all SVT, this is a Thursday, and you do all your important news on a Thursday), we’re getting ourselves ready to debate the choice made by the production team. Because, let’s be clear, it is a choice. There may be guidelines and rules of thumb, but the order is the vision of one group. Pass the performances to someone else – and you’ll get a subtly different line up.

EscXtra have illustrated that by come up with a ‘fan weighted’ list (you can see the order and observations here on EscXtra). We had the same idea here at ESC Insight, but we decided to call in the professionals, Former syndicated DJ Chris Green, and Seahven FM’s Breakfast Show host Tony Vanburger.

One point to stress here, Vanburger and Green are not Eurovision fans, nor do they follow the Contest beyond the regular Saturday night viewer in May. With no bias or perceptions about the countries, performers, or back story, these running orders are down to musical merit and their own skill and judgement.

The received the songs for semi-final two, we told them about the split into top half and bottom half, and left them too it. To be fair, they had less information about the performances – we’re not privy to the shot list or the lighting cues that will presumably be taken into consideration by SVT – but the point stands. Personal choice and bias will be as much a part of the running order as production elements and technical requirements.

Chris Green

Chris Green is a journalist and analyst specialising in business and technology news for newspapers, magazines and the BBC. Before that we worked as a local radio DJ, where he learned how to keep listeners tuned in to late-night radio in Surrey with a mix of current and classic tracks before turning his skills to devising automated playlists for syndication across multiple stations.

You can follow Chris Green on Twiter.

Top Half

1. Marry Me, by Krista Siegfrids (Finland).
2. Samo Shampioni, by Elitsa and Stoyan (Bulgaria).
3. Pred Da Se Razdeni, by Esma & Lozano (Macedonia)
4. Hold Me, by Farid Mammadov (Azerbaijan).
5. Eg A Lif, by Eythor Ingi (Iceland).
6. Tomorrow, by Gianluca  (Malta).
7. Crisalide (Vola), by Valentina Monetta (San Marino).
8. Here We Go, by PeR (Latvia).

Bottom Half

9. Alcohol Is Free, by Koza Mostra, ft. Agathon Iakovidis (Greece).
10. You and Me, by Takasa (Switzerland).
11. It’s My Life, by Cezar (Romania).
12. Kedvesem, by ByeAlex (Hungary).
13. Lonely Planet, by Dorians (Armenia).
14. Waterfall, by Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani (Georgia).
15. Only For Him, by Moran Mazor (Israel).
16. I Feed You My Love, by Margaret Berger (Norway).
17. Identitet, by Adrian Lulgjuaraj & Bledar Sejko (Albania)

The thinking behind the running order is similar to how we used to do unmanned playlists for late night or syndicated play out across local commercial radio.

In both the top and bottom half of the show we’ve tried to start with a mixture of fairly up-tempo and fun tracks (Finland in the top half, and the quirky, fun track from Greece in the bottom half). From there we’ve continued with lively, but ultimately not memorable tracks before slowing things down with some of the many ballads and slower, quieter and acoustic tracks. Azerbaijan’s entry is a great example of a beautiful, simple but quiet track that will lower the energy in the room, before bringing the energy back up towards the end of each half with a louder, crowd-inspiring anthem track that will encourage audience participation (clapping, singing along, and generally get people out of their seats).

PeR (Linda Rutule)

A right PeR of Latvians

In that respect, the Latvia track is very strong – with simple lyrics that listeners will be comfortable joining in with, while the Albanian entry has good rousing concert/nightclub anthem credentials that will lift the room and the viewers at home.

Across both halves of the show, maintaining crowd energy was always going to be a challenge due to the high number of ballads and acoustic tracks, which meant that the few loud and peppy numbers were best used to top and tail each half. Where we have similar tracks next to each other, I’ve tried to arrange them so that there is noticeable variation (man then woman, acoustic then multi-instrument), which should make for a more interesting on-stage experience as well as a more enjoyable audio experience.

Tony Vanburger

Vanburger started out with Guy’s Hospital Radio, before leaving to join the Royal Military Police. Now with community radio station Seahaven FM, he is a familiar voice to Drivetime and Breakfast Show listeners.

You can listen to Vanburger at  ww.seafordsurfradio.com.

Top Half

1 Tomorrow, by Gianluca (Malta).
2. Samo Shampioni, by Elitsa and Stoyan (Bulgaria).
3 Hold Me, by Farid Mammadov (Azerbaijan).
4 Marry Me, by Krista Siegfrids (Finland).
5 Pred Da Se Razdeni, by Esma & Lozano (Macedonia)
6 Eg A Lif, by Eythor Ingi (Iceland).
7. Crisalide (Vola), by Valentina Monetta (San Marino).
8. Here We Go, by PeR (Latvia).

Bottom Half

9. Identitet, by Adrian Lulgjuaraj & Bledar Sejko (Albania)
10. Kedvesem, by ByeAlex (Hungary).
11. Only For Him, by Moran Mazor (Israel).
12. You and Me, by Takasa (Switzerland).
13. Alcohol Is Free, by Koza Mostra, ft. Agathon Iakovidis (Greece).
14. I Feed You My Love, by Margaret Berger (Norway).
15. Lonely Planet, by Dorians (Armenia).
16. Waterfall, by Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani (Georgia).
17. It’s My Life, by Cezar (Romania).

I would kick off with Malta, certainly the best of the top half, we would not want the audience starting to fidget at this early stage. I would then have the Bulgarian entry up next, just to get those feet tapping in a cheeky girl way, Nice n’ bouncy perhaps lacking in the ballad stakes . Next up Azerbaijan, just because it has to fit in somewhere and three is good as place as any, Farid Mammadov not the best singer in the pack.

Finland goes in at four, it is at this stage that the audience need to be reintroduced into the competition, with another bouncy number. Macedonia at five.  Why… well after several sleepless nights trying to decide my plan of action, it’s been about 5 in the morning when I have finally drifted off.

Iceland at six, Iceland has produced a few good artistes of late and this fella seems to have something about the way he carries it off, may romp home late on the day. San Marino in at seven, great vocals from this young lady and does give the impression that there is some mighty fine tunes left to come in the competition.

Valentina Monetta, Crisalide

Valentina Monetta, Crisalide

Last one in the Top half would have to be Latvia at # 8.  Could be strongly described as a ‘near on novelty’ track and may even get football fans adopting the tune if not the lyrics.

First of the top half would have to be Albania at nine, liked this one the first time I heard it, a strong track very Eurovision and just needs to fit in halfway through. My ten would be Hungary, nothing special here but fits in this place just fine. Israel at eleven after some good stuff in the past from Israel, rather disappointing this one so I have tucked it in neatly just after Hungary.

Switzerland up at twelve  Great tune full of life, exciting start and again keeps the less passionate audience from switching off at this stage. We all need a smile in our lives and why not go for broke with Greece at thirteen, unlucky for some, it will liven up proceedings but may leave you feeling, what was all that about?

Fourteen has got to be Norway to get us back on the tracks of reality, a modern sounding tune, well performed, another one that may do quite well. Armenia at fifteen, a middle of the road type of tune that could fit anywhere to honest but we all need a loose cannon from time to time.

Georgia at sixteen  is certainly a serious runner in this competition, and putting it near the end is something I would do time and time again. Romania could not go anywhere else than seventeen. It has all the hallmarks of a theme tune or an advert for British Airways, Romania will like it no doubt but will anyone else?

British Airways Jody West

British Airways has a Eurovision fan?

‘This is the Kobyashi Maru…’

Beyond the close of the top half of the draw (San Marino followed by Latvia), and Bulgaria being handed second in both orders (with the caveat that it’s not a kiss of death in the semi-finals), there’s very little agreement between Green and Vanburger. But both lists are ‘correct’ and it’s hard to argue with their logic.

What should be clear is that they both had to make personal decisions about a song. Would it be appreciated by the audience, and if so where should it go? Albania is a good example here; Vanburger  calls it “a strong track, very Eurovision” before putting at the half-way mark to keep the energy high, while Green marks it out as having “good rousing concert/nightclub anthem credentials” before giving it the honour of closing out the semi-final.

Putting on my Eurovision hat, Green’s order would probably give Albania a really good shot at qualifying through to the show on Saturday night, while the Vanburger list makes it a much harder prospect (although if you subscribe to the assimilation process of judging, as opposed to the contrast process – – following PeR is probably the best option for Albania).

Identitet, Adrian Lulgjuaraj and Bledar Sejko

Orange lighting, so this can’t go after any song with pyro. That’ll be difficult (Ergys Lubonja &IlirKaso)

And that is the crux of the problem for producer Martin Österdahl. The SVT team need to make a personal judgement on every single song in the Contest, even their own, because although it’s locked at 16th in the order they need to put songs either side of it. They need to decide which strong songs will open and close, and will be used to bring the audience back to life in between. They need to decide which songs to sacrifice to make the show ‘better’.

And they need to do all of this and liase with the other delegations without using the phrase “you’re going there because your song is not good enough“, and to try and avoid hearing a retort of “you’re only doing that because you want another country to win instead of us.”

Welcome to the no-win scenario. Yes, there will be an entertaining show at the end of it, but so many egos could be bruised that the trust between all the delegations will be strained.

The EBU have partially retreated in the running order debate by having countries draw for the top and the bottom half of the final, but to me this is the worst compromise possible. For next year’s show, the Reference Group and the Heads of Delegation should make a decision and stick with it. Either they trust a show’s production team to decide the whole running order, or they return to a random draw for the whole show.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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