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How To Win Eurovision 2019: The Paths To Victory Written by on May 14, 2019

With Semi-Final 1 ahead of us, the contenders for the glass microphone awarded to the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 are becoming clear. Ewan Spence takes a look at the various paths to victory that the top songs are taking.

Who’s going to win this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? Although opinions are consolidating, there is still no clear front runner in the community. How will the leading songs gather enough points to win the Song Contest? What strengths can be magnified, and what weaknesses can be hidden to reach the winning post.

Where Is The Winning Post?

A quick recap of the basic principle of winning the Eurovision Song Contest: you score more points than anyone else, and it is yours. With the Jury scores and Televote scores no longer connected, both the Semi Finals and the Grand Final are effectively two legs of a competition. A point in the jury is the same as the point in the televote.

Last year I theorised that the winning mark was fifty percent of the available points .. plus 1. Since 2009, only one winner (‘Running Scared’) has fallen below this mark. Interestingly, 2012-2017 saw the second-place songs also passing this winning line. Last year saw ‘Toy’ sneak past the winning line of 505 with 529 points.

Following the same rule of thumb, I’ve set this year’s winning line at 481 points.

Paths To Victory, Margin of Victory

Paths To Victory, Margin of Victory (2009-2017)

Now we have the mark, where are countries looking to gather their points?

Looking For Balance

If you want a straightforward strategy, then look for 240 points on each night as the way forward: that works out at 6 points per jury and 6 points per televote (televoters have a maximum of 20 votes to dole out). An entry that has something memorable, that makes very few mistakes, will capture enough attention in people’s personal rankings that both jury members and televoters will give it something in the mix.

For me that country is Switzerland’s Luca Hänni and ‘She Got Me’. This entry has just the right mix of engagement and hook-laden melody for the jury, and a modern sound and clean staging for the televoters. The big problem with this strategy is that if another entry blows away either the jury or the televoters but also picks up enough votes from the other side, then the balanced approach has no way to counter this.

The Traditional Jury Approach

Up until 1996, the only approach to scoring your points was to appeal to the juries more than any other song. Strictly speaking, winning every douze from a jury is not enough in 2019 but it will bring in around seventy percent of the winning line – around 340 points this year – and that leaves you needing 140 or so from the televote.

Juries tend to listen more to a song than watch the spectacle, so a strong voice is vital – but so is a voice that can do more than just sing the lyrics. The juries respond to a voice that can tell the emotional story behind the song.

There’s one 2019 song that is clearly going for the jury votes: the haunting melancholy of Duncan Laurence and ‘Arcade’. Yes he still has to look down the camera on the night to get that final connection, but if Duncan can manage the right level of puppy dog eyes and still sing like a fragile hero, then the jury points will roll in with enough backup from the televoters to push him over the line.

The Traditional Televote Approach

Generally speaking, televoters will look for spectacle and emotional connection. The easiest way to create an emotional connection is with a known quantity and a star name that viewers are going to vote for almost automatically.

This year there is no bigger star power in competition than Russia’s Sergey Lazarev. He is a widely known quantity, with multiple albums sold, countless downloads, and many TV appearances. The audiences and his fan base in Eastern Europe are primed to support him and producer Philipp Kirkorov. All that and an ambitious multi-mirror staging suggest that the delegation are chasing hard for televotes.

But if you’re relying on gimmicks to swing you into first place, let’s look elsewhere.

Flying Off The Gimmick Handle

For many delegations, the ‘vision’ in Eurovision means putting on a three minute visual feast that simply cannot be forgotten. The delegations hope that this sensory overload is so memorable that the jury and the televoters will feel struck by a sense of such overpowering awe that they feel compelled to give the entry a high mark. In a sense this is a mix of the balanced approach and the televoter approach. Get ready for something that will show up in clip shows for decades to come alongside the phrase ‘that’s so Eurovision’.

Step forward, Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke and ‘Zero Gravity’. You’ve got the technicality of popera mixed with the visual assault of Cirque Du Soleil. You can’t help but remember it. The trick is to convert that jaw-dropping moment to points.

Aim Low & Achieve Your Goals

Never forget that the Eurovision Song Contest is still a competitive event despite its lofty public service goals. While many of the approaches outlined work the ‘score as many points as you can’ approach, there is another way to achieve victory – assuming that you have already scored all the points you can and make no mistakes during the presentation. The Aim Low & Achieve Your Goals strategy requires a country’s delegation to perform at its best for multiple years, to have an aura of ‘champion’ around it, and to actually have the songwriting and visual skills to pull this off.

Step forward Sweden, the ultimate ‘no mistakes’ countryWith the final of Melodifestivalen so close to the ‘submit your song and staging’ deadline set by the EBU, you have 28 songs that have completed staging concepts for the big night in May (although realistically you have to think that six or so songs are regarded as main contenders and have an extra file marked ‘Eurovision’).

Sweden steps up every year, declares that it is ready to win, and presents a fully realised vision, daring people to find something wrong with it and mark it down. Many do not. This year John Lundvik’s ‘Too Late For Love’ could snatch the trophy – almost by default.

The Alternative Sub

Now then we come to ‘the submarine’, one of the trickiest strategies to pull off: sit quietly in the background and build up a story that will ignite in the mainstream media in the days before the Grand Final. When that happens, and every news editor asks what the story of Eurovision will be, the answer will be this delegation.

In previous years much of this has been in plain sight – the story of Jamala’s grandparents, Salvador’s ‘reality TV show’ styled journey, or the empowerment of Netta’s ‘Toy’ paired with the #metoo movement. Capture the world’s attention at just the right moment before the start of the Contest, and you’ll explode through the surface and rocket to the top of the leaderboard.

This is where Hatari comes in. The Icelandic band is one of the few entries that is feeding the press machine every day during the two weeks on the ground in Tel Aviv. Assuming they qualify from Tuesday night’s first Semi Final, every photo editor needing an establishing image is going to pick Hatari, every columnist looking for the performer addressing the politics of holding Eurovision in Israel is going to quote Hatari, and anyone wanting to know which is the ‘utterly bonkers’ act is going to be told Hatari.

And that’s before we get to the rising tide of support in the underground music forums and alt magazines that are reminding everyone that ‘our team’ needs help on Saturday.

Path To Victory

There is still no consensus on who will lift the trophy on Saturday night. This year’s competition in Tel Aviv has become one of the most open contests this decade. There are many paths to victory but only one will be successful. Which delegation will get it right this year?

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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