Sweden will be making their decision on who goes to the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night, when a packed Friends Arena watches 12 songs compete in the final of Melodifestivalen.
Barring a shock of Leicester City winning the Premier League proportions of those 12 there are now four acts that are expected to be fighting for the right to go to Rotterdam.
First off is the artist Dotter, increasingly tipped to the be the likely winner. The songwriters have referenced Sia as influence for the mid-tempo ‘Bulletproof‘, notable for the disco-ball light show that probably makes for the season’s best visual effect across all National Finals.
Also in contention for victory appears to be The Mamas, a group made up of three of John Lundvik’s backing singers from his performance of ’Too Late To Love’ that represented Sweden last year. Unsurprisingly ‘Move‘ bounces off where tell left off in Tel Aviv, with a pop-gospel hybrid and vocals oozing power and slickness.
As traditional there’s been plenty of hype around song 28, the song that is revealed last to the Swedish public, for being the most hotly anticipated. Hanna Ferm’s ’Brave’ had that responsibility this year, and this infectiously hooky pop song is an earworm you can’t get rid of no matter how much you wish it went away or not.
And arguably most intriguing of the four is the appearance of Anna Bergendahl once more, the same Anna Bergendahl who was five points off reaching the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest Final in Sweden’s only non-qualification. ’Kingdom Come’ is one of those songs that just feels so Eurovision, tender yet frantic at 148 bpm and not hurt by having hunky men in kilts encircle Anna in a dazzling dance display as the song reaches its climax.
There’s of course others too, and certainly one could look at the popularity boosts of Paul Rey and Felix Sandman from appearing at Andra Chansen last week and coming up on the rails. What I find particularly fascinating about this year’s Melodifestivalen is how each of those favourites mentioned appears to be doing better in different markets and with different demographics. Because of the nature of Melodifestivalen’s revolutionary voting system, this makes predicting the winner in some ways easier but also in many ways more challenging.
Finding A Song For All Sweden
The voting system currently in place in Melodifestivalen is in its second year. A traditional televote still exists, but only 1/8th of the public vote is made up of people ringing or texting for their favourites. Instead there is a Melodifestivalen app, where viewers can give up to five votes, for free, to each song in the competition. What is notable though is, on signing up for the app, the user must give their age. There age puts the user into one of seven different blocs, the oldest being people over 75, and the youngest being people between 3 and 9 years old.
Last year was the first year such voting took place. For ESC Insight one year ago I built a very simplistic model to try and suggest how the new voting system would play out. It was correct in some ways. The new app voting creates a ranked order within each voting bloc (12, 10, 8 and so on), rather than the percentage of votes equals number of points method used previously in Melodifestivalen. This means the spread of televote points is larger and the public vote is therefore more important.
Measuring the standard deviation, a statistical method to measure the spread of the data, of the total televote points in 2019 was 23.45. For comparison this number for the 2018, 2017 and 2016 editions was 9.56, 9.12 and 9.87, despite the public then having 37.5 % more points to distribute in those years. The impact of this is that, even though the number of public points is the same the voice of the public is stronger in the final placings.
For comparison the standard deviation of the jury points in 2019 was 20.05. For the first time since Melodifestivalen has had an app the Swedish public had a larger say in the outcome of the final than the international juries. That said, it made little difference last year, with John Lundvik scoring maximum points from every jury and every public group made of people over the age of 16. There is therefore an ill-informed perception that the jury/public imbalance in Melodifestivalen finals hasn’t been addressed. In fact it has balanced the 50/50 split near perfectly, and I’d argue it’s equally as unlikely that a song scores maximum points with the juries compared to the public vote. All John Lundvik’s landslide proved last year was how juries would love his performance, which we saw even when it went to Tel Aviv in May.
What I had completely underestimated though was how fractured the opinions were across different demographics. Last year to try and replicate the age-bounded app vote I used proxies such as Spotify streams, YouTube views, newspaper polls etc to try and work out what was popular amongst different age groups. It was no exact science, using vague theories such as Spotify users being younger than Apple music users, for example.
However, the actual results on the night showed spreads of data I could never have expected.
When Old And Young Disagree
Let me point out some stunning statistics from the above table. Children aged 3 to 9 placed runaway winner John Lundvik in 6th position. Conversely their second favourite, Mohombi, was ranked in 10th by 60-74 year olds. Heartfelt ballad ’Torn’ was 4th ranked in groups under 16, but was in the bottom two with voters between 45 and 74. Sweden is a country gripped in a demographic struggle with young and old thinking completely differently.
It means though that it is no longer enough in Melodifestivalen to get points from your heavily loyal Instagram fanbase to secure a spot in the final, you need to secure a range of points from across the board to do well. Being universally liked is a far better quality than being niche in this scoring system.
At this point I should wonder if it is possible for any of these four favourites to have in the mix the potential to be well liked across all age ranges and win Melodifestivalen 2020. There’s plenty of data points I can look at, let me outline them in the table below and show what age range I believe they likely correlate to best.
|Proxy||Possible main demographic||Date collected||Anna Bergendahl||Dotter||Hanna Ferm||The Mamas|
|YouTube views||Younger audience (under 25)||5th March||311,000||515,000||464,000||276,000|
|YouTube likes/dislikes||Teenagers and heavy social media users||5th March||3,900/280||8,600/545||4,400/1,200||4,800/181|
|Spotify plays||Younger audience (under 30)||3rd March||90,480||129,571||120,405||106,115|
|Apple music||Older audience (30 to 50 years old)||5th March||11th in chart||21st in chart||13th in chart||Not on chart (was on at lower positions earlier)|
|Svensktoppen chart||Demographic radio audience (generally skews old)||1st March||’Bubbling under’||’Bubbling under’||’Bubbling under’||Not on the chart|
The table does tend towards Dotter having momentum at this stage, and it is notable that Dotter has climbed to take first place on Spotify and YouTube only in the last few days. On the contrast Hanna Ferm’s song is almost toe-to-toe in terms of streams, but the fan base watching and listening are perhaps not engaging as much (note inparticular the far more negative likes/dislikes ratio).
It is little surprise that Anna Bergendahl is well behind, expect for demographics leaning towards the older demographics. What can be said is that the numbers for ’Kingdom Come’ is performing better than last year in terms of streams than her Melodifestivalen comeback last year with ’Ashes to Ashes’. And that’s in a Melodifestivalen year that isn’t hitting the heights of even last year. On the same time last year both John Lundvik and Bishara had songs that were streaming more than 200,000 a day in Sweden. At the time of writing no other Melodifestivalen song has come close to beating that figure.
And as great as all of these proxies are, they over exaggerate the Swedish population from in their social media prime – that is from the age of teenagers to their teenager’ parents. There’s no good way of using the internet to pool data about what our youngest and oldest demographics. The televote too appears more volatile, who is voting on their phone still when the app is free?
|Age Category||Spearman’s Rank Coefficient of Televote compared to vote of that age category|
The higher numbers here as the age category increases suggests that the televote is made up of older voters picking up the phone, while younger ones are content to use their app. This provides a route for Anna Bergendahl to mount what at first glance would be a statistical suprise victory. If the televote is effectively just another older voting bloc that means it is possible for half of the public vote in Melodifestivalen to effectively made by viewers over the age of 45, the demographic that supported Anna Bergendahl more than anybody else last year.
There’s surely not another National Final anywhere close to that statistic – and not another National Final in Europe therefore that Anna Bergendahl and this style of music has a competitive chance. You can already see the signs last year, Lisa Ajax and Wiktoria took more votes than Anna Bergendahl, yet Anna finished higher on the public vote scoreboard as there’s less voters in those older age groups. I can fully imagine a scenario in which Anna receives 12 points from each of these voting blocs.
And If The Winner Can’t Unite The Country…
The question that remains for Saturday night will be if ’Kingdom Come’ has enough on offer to get a top score from across the age ranges. Will the quicker tempo and addition of dancers may help it squeeze out a few extra points and placings from the younger voters?
If all follows and this competition is so evenly split between old and young, then this competition could be ultimateily decided by the results of Melodifestivalen’s international juries. There are eight in total, and each of them comes from different geographical areas to give a wide spread of tastes to help choose ”which song has the best chance to do well in the Eurovision Song Contest?”
At this point in the Melodifestivalen season that choice usually becomes increasingly clear. This year…I am increasingly confused.