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Which National Finals Sent The Wrong Song To Lisbon 2018? Written by on May 16, 2018 | 7 Comments

Continuing our look back at this year’s National Final selections, Ewan Spence discusses which countries made the wrong choice regarding the performers and songs to send to Lisbon for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018. You can read the countries we think got it right, here.

Spain Should Have Sent ‘Lo Malo’

As a reality show built around music (with a dash of Big Brother), Operacion Triunfo was a success. As a selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest, it falls a bit short. The months of time the public spends with the artists builds up familiarity in the viewer and there is a sense of voting for story momentum rather than an accessible song. Alfred and Amaia had their reality TV story and it dragged ‘Tu Cancion’ towards Portugal..

Meanwhile, another song from the show didn’t have the character momentum, but has stormed the Spanish charts and is ready to be the viral MedPop hit of the Summer. ‘Lo Malo’ was in full view, but young love got in the way.

The Netherlands Should Have Sent Any Other Track From Waylon’s Album

If you want my absolute guilty pleasure of the year, then Waylon’s ‘Home’ is breaking my post-Eurovision depression fuelled heart that misses my extended family:

From the top of the mountain, to the bottom of the ocean,
The places that we’ve been, or the places we’re going
The miles that we’ve travelled, the stones we’ve been rolling
The fires that I burned, and the world of uncertain
The one thing I know is… When I’m with you, I’m home

Instead they had five songs presented in a ‘National Final over a few days’ format for everyone to watch, with a ‘one man one vote’ system. The one man was Waylon, and the one vote was for ‘Outlaw in Em’. I realise that Waylon used Eurovision as an opportunity to promote his Nashville tinged album, but just like Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Rocks and Honey’ album with ‘Believe in Me’, he ended up choosing the wrong song. He then compounded the mistake with some misguided staging choices, arrogant press conferences, and an inability to listen to anyone with a viewpoint that wasn’t his own… much like his decision to not listen to anyone else and choose ‘Outlaw In Em’.

Sweden Should Have Sent Felix Sandman

If there’s one song that has been my earworm from the National Finals… that had a legitimate chance of winning the Song Contest, it was ‘Every Single Day’ from Melodifestivalen. Felix Sandman may have lost in the Friends Arena, but the subsequent domination of the Swedish chart, stopping ‘Dance You Off’ reaching number one, and Felix’s love for the Euovision fandom, highlights a performer that was more engaging and authentic. While the tight focus on Ingrosso’s “lean mean Sweidh pop grilling machine” may explain the poor televote, the real answer lies in Melodifestivalen’s app voting.

The MF jury aped the Eurovision juries, while the public voice (which signalled that Felix was stronger) was flattened out by the tight spread of online votes. The problem is clear, can SVT address it for 2019?

Norway Should Have Sent Alexander Rybak With Another Song

This is a tricky one to call. Looking at the options as presented in MGP, Norway didchose the package that had the best chance of winning. I think Rebecca would have struggled to escape the Semi Final, Stella & Alexandra would be fighting for the same audience as Eleni Fouriera and Netta, and Aleksander Walmann was a risk-free choice that would have made Saturday night but not reached the Top Ten.

The answer was always going to be Alexander Rybak. He did win the second Semi Final, but illness saw ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ slip down the rankings on the Grand Final. Norway needed a Rybak at full power to make up for a weak song. If the song had been stronger, then a Top Ten would have been within reach.

Latvia Should Have Sent Something From Aminata

As we have discussed before, the Supernova format used by LTV only works when Aminata enters, as Ben Robertson noted in 2016:

Supernova makes the winners even feel like losers, with the jurors critiquing each performance with such seriousness – they have to find flaws in the artistry. This doesn’t bring your big names back, missing part of its mission objective in restoring Latvian Eurovision glory.

Win or lose in May, Latvian Television needs to look at Justs’ margin of victory and realise the disaster their format almost created.

Nothing has changed. With a flawed format, you get a flawed winner. ‘Funny Girl’ wasn’t suited towards Eurovision, and that’s the fundamental issue with Supernova. Even ‘Soledad‘ would have stood a better chance.

Montenegro Should Have Sent An Internal Selection

It probably would have been best not to do Montevizija at all. Bradcaster RTCG could have taken the limited budget and made sure it was all available for the Eurovision staging.

The National Final had all the hallmarks of a big show, but with a number of issues. Having a super final when your entire final only consists of 5 artists to begin with seems a excessive. With a venue that did not have enough space for an audience, but not even enough space for each artists family to watch them did not help the atmosphere.

Why pick a hotel conference room when literally down the road is the Montenegrin National Theatre. Ok it’s not huge, but it’s at least built for putting on shows and an audience would have totally lifted the performers energy.

Or go with Slavko again…

Iceland Should Have Sent Dagur Sigurðsson

Iceland’s issue is the timeslot of its National final (and Eurovision itself). Because of the timezone difference, Söngvakeppnin is an early evening show with an audience that skews towards the younger generation. I’d argue that ‘Our Choice’ has a huge amount of potential but only if it was entering Junior Eurovision. As for the Adult version, it’s hard to look past Dagur Sigurðsson for 2018… and we hope to see Ari return in 2023.

San Marino Should Have Sent, Er, Well, We’re Not Sure…

All we can say is that if ‘1 in 360’ returns as the selection method, the rulebook needs to be written in ink and not changed multiple times during the journey. Then we’d get a National Final that San Marino could be proud of.

In the meantime, here’s some Valentina Monetta. Because.

We’ve already looked at the National Finals that got it right – read that article here. As for the big mistakes of the year, do you agree? Let us know in the comments!

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 (

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7 responses to “Which National Finals Sent The Wrong Song To Lisbon 2018?”

  1. Seán T says:

    Agree with your comments Ewan, however the problem for Sweden in Melodifestivalen is the public don’t have the power to overturn the jury vote. And the jury vote appears to broadly vote for the song Christer wants to send to Eurovision.

    I do think Felix probably wouldn’t have scored any better than Ingrosso. Juries wouldn’t have supported Felix in the same way (though the public probably would have had).

  2. Martin says:

    Spain – anything with Aitana, either Lo Malo or Arde, would have done the job this year for different reasons…
    Netherlands – immaterial, it was his way or the highway…
    Sweden – all of it was pretty meh this year, the lighting rig was amazing though…
    Norway – what illness did Alexander have, I missed that!
    Latvia – nobody else would have done a better job this year and Laura was my favourite so I cannot be objective at all…
    Montenegro – at least anybody who would have qualified from the NF would have given a solid live vocal performance in Lisbon, going back to the basics for a SONG contest is always a good thing…
    Iceland – totally agree but they only way to sort this continual issue out is to get rid of the SuperFinal…
    San Marino – Sara de Blue. Definite Finalist, probable top ten. 1 in 360 shocker – she’s almost certainly going to be singing for a bigger nation next year…

  3. squall says:

    “…the public voice (which signalled that Felix was stronger)”

    Exactly how did it signal that? Not only did Benjamin beat Felix in every vote, but Felix did plain horribly in the all-important “first listen” test (in his semi final) and needed the momentum from lots of additional exposure through Andra Chansen and chart play to even reach second place. There’s simply no indication Felix would have done any better in the Eurovision televote than Benjamin (and statistically he would almost surely have done a lot worse in the jury vote, of course).

  4. Ewan Spence says:

    Three weeks at number one in the Swedish charts is a big signal. And on first listen I had Felix third (behind Martin Almgren, who I already am a fan of, so bias kicks in; and The Rolandz, which was a Swedish act for the Swedish audience and never a serious swing at ESC).

  5. Ewan Spence says:

    The app flattens the public vote, and while the jury is very representaive of a ESC jury, if the audience does not mirror the televote you have an issue. Maybe an international jury, a demoscopic jury of Swedish viewers, and a Swedish televote, is needed (see Sanremo).

  6. Seán T says:

    Whatever the result Christer will be plotting and planning. Sweden simply have never been far off of winning, even with weaker songs such as this years and last years. It’s a question whether Christer is will to give up cold Swedish pop for something more unique.

    I doubt we’ll see a voting change but we may see a couple of unqiue maybe more K-pop influenced songs in Melodifestivalen next year.

    And let’s not forget the spotlight will go back onto Sweden in December when ABBA release two new songs. They’re not going to come back to ESC by any means but it could – but only could be – one of the more significant music moments of 2018.

  7. Eurojock says:

    When a country does badly at Eurovision it is easy to say they should have sent some other song, safe in the knowledge that there is no way to prove or disprove whether the alternative would have done any better. With that in mind:

    Latvia – I followed Supernova closely and what was clear was that Laura won because in the live performances her entry was the strongest (Esamiba included).

    Netherlands – Some of the ESC Insight Team appear to have taken a dislike to Waylon. Maybe that’s justified. I don’t know. I’ve never met the guy. What I do know was that two chords or not, Outlaw in Em was a cracking song. If Waylon had turned up with staging like he had in his initial presentation video he would have probably got top ten. But he had his own ideas and stuck with them probably to the detriment of his song’s finishing position. But as you’ve said before, Ewan, better to take a risk than to play safe, even if sometimes the risk doesn’t pay off.

    San Marino – Sara de Blue should have won by a country mile. Then we would have at least have been talking about San Marino as a potential qualifier rather than as a perennial no-hoper.

    Spain – I wasn’t a big fan of Tu Cancion personally but I could see its appeal. If anything, it was Spain’s running order position that did for them this year, rather than the song.

    Norway – I agree, there was nothing in the national selection this year that would have bettered Rybak’s finishing position.

    Iceland – I listened to all the selected songs and I Stormi was the one I picked out. But, by God, this year’s Icelandic selection was awful. Dagur’s equally dated ballad would have represented an improvement over Ari’s only in the sense that it might have finished second to bottom rather than bottom.

    Montenegro – Slavko? You’re having a laugh.

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