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The Grand Final Running Order Analysis of 2023 Written by on May 12, 2023 | 3 Comments

We now know the 26 songs left that will compete in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, and in the early hours of Friday morning the running order was revealed by the European Broadcasting Union. Ben Robertson gives his analysis.

This year’s running order for the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final has been decided. The hosting nation of the United Kingdom as well as last year’s winners Ukraine drew 26 and 19 respectively, whereas the other nations had their positions decided by the show’s production team, with the constraint that each artist would randomly draw if they performed in the first or second half of the show.

It is a well known and well researched fact that running order is statistically significant to your chance of success at the Eurovision Song Contest, with the later positions in the show being better for your competitive chances. But running order is more complex than that, the flow of the show, the crescendo of the audience and the comparison between songs side-by-side is also a vital component. Equally the running order can be used by a producer to create a certain narrative, assist a commentator with telling a story of the show or be designed to make it practically easier to move props on and off the stage.

What can we glean from this year’s musical journey from ‘Who The Hell Is Edgar?” to ‘I Wrote A Song’? Let’s find out.

Opening With Austria

Austria fulfils the classic role of Eurovision opener to a tee. It’s catchy, quirky and oh-so-Eurovision, but has an accessibility to it with its English language verse and infectious hook to get the crazy party started from Liverpool to Limassol. This isn’t something that challenges the listener too hard too early and is a perfect introduction to the bonkers world of the Song Contest…without being too bonkers.

What I may look at with more surprise is the decision to choose Portugal’s Mimicat to perform directly after Teya and Salena. Both numbers have a similar visual appearance with deep red colours, feature powerful female vocals and the same uptempo welcome-to-the-party vibe (Portugal performed in slot 5 during the First Semi Final after a break). Furthermore both these numbers need very little technical set up and prop usage, making this a very easy opening transition (at least on paper) compared to more challenging numbers later on.

That being said one has to also take this into balance with other song 2’s recently, such as ‘Llámame’ last year, and modern Eurovision doesn’t sit back and allow song 2 to be the death slot and one of the slowest parts of programming. Having Mimicat 2nd ensures that the Song Contest keeps a busy pace to itself through those first few moments.

Competitively of course the earlier slot stands out as detrimental. But at the same time as that may be true, we note that neither has been considered in serious contention to win Eurovision in recent days. Those arguing having Austria open sacrificed their chances may need to take a look at where their expectations were set to be this coming week anyway. Unsurprisingly the top two in the community’s expectation for the crown have been given slots to give them every chance.

The Battle Over Östersjön

Both of this year’s behemoth hit songs have drawn positions in the first half, and, in keeping with expectations, have been spaced out at the latter stages of this half. Loreen will perform 9th with Käärijä performing 13th – his latest possible slot.

Sweden’s position earlier than Finland is likely due to technical reasons. Assuming that the BBC script has two breaks within the competitive song element of the programming it’s realistic for a break to be just before Sweden’s performance, just like it was in the Semi Final. Positioning Sweden around such a break is essential to facilitate Loreen’s large LED roof to be installed without intense time pressure. I note too that this rolls very nicely on from a powerful song crescendo, from France to Cyprus and then to Spain. ‘Eaea’ is one of the most intensely powerful numbers I’d argue ever in the Eurovision Song Contest…if you are in the arena. I’m expecting for the Liverpool Arena to be on the verge of having its roof blown off while the crowd (and the Spanish Eurovision Ultras) are mesmerised by Blanca Paloma’s crystal clear vocal alongside those clashing harmonies that haunt and penetrate the soul.

It’s hard to think that this year’s Eurovision number from Loreen needed any more anticipation, but in this running order she has it. The crowd will go crazy for Spain in the arena, and will be ready to burst for the arrival of the returning Eurovision winner many worship.

The same can be said is true for Loreen’s main viral from Finland. Käärija has been given that slot 13 that negates much of the negative drag from him being drawn in the first half, and going after Loreen means the ball is in his court to overtake his biggest rival.

However I do question the build up to this late slot. The three songs in between Loreen and Käärijä do little to get the pulse going strong, with Albania, Italy and Estonia filling the roughly ten minutes of air time between the two heavy favourites for the trophy.

I think this is not the great setup for Finland one may assume on competitive strength alone now the audience which will be coming into a crowd colder than Loreen after ‘Eaea’. That said it’s better for Estonia to be the song adjacent to Käärijä than it would be with the more laid back tracks from Marco Mengoni, and Albina and Familje Kelmendi, as ‘Bridges’ has a huge ramp up in its final minute. I would argue that the dream draw for Finland would have been a number such as Portugal coming in at song 12 to just give the audience a little half-notch of energy up before the favourite-tipped rapper hits the stage.

Competitively speaking I would rate both running orders for Sweden and Finland as 9/10. None of the pair can claim a decisive victory over the other, but they can claim to have some of the best placings, so cement further their status in the community and in commentator narratives that they are the ones to beat. Game on.

The Gustaph Moment

Much has been made in the Eurovision community about the 180-degree flip that Gustaph representing Belgium has faced. From being selected against the wishes of many in the community in January he has become flavour of the month with a growing tide of fans realising the joy within ‘Because of You’ and the strength of his experienced vocal. Now Gustaph is drawn 16th but I believe that run from Finland into Czechia, Australia and then finally Belgium keeps the audience energy high and gives Gustaph the moment his fans desire.

Gustaph was a close second to Austria in the 2nd Semi Final Audience Poll and, with Belgium now later in the show than the Austrian duo, there’s a likelihood that they might swap places with the audience and thereafter with the TV audience too. You have been warned.

The same can not be said for Ukraine. Sandwiched between Moldova and Norway sonically speaking there is little to say that Ukraine’s performance will be the moment where one can here a pin drop from the silence. Instead TVORCHI will be entering just as the show hits its most insane section of pounding beats and folk-flavoured melodies. It’s hard to judge how TVORCHI’s international sound will travel in the hall but we must remember that many tickets for these shows were sold for Ukrainians living in the United Kingdom ready for the rest of the day. This is the most intriguing moment of the year to see how the audience of Ukrainians, Brits and international Eurovision fans take to the entry from last year’s landslide winner.

The Late Night Star Quality

I am struck hard in this running order about how they have saved the best to last. Now I don’t mean this in terms of competitiveness on Saturday’s scoreboard but instead the artist’s themselves and what they represent. From Noa Kirel performing ‘Unicorn’ in song 23 to Joker Out in slot 24 and Let 3 immediately after you have a run here of three different acts who in their own way can legitimately be described as the best act their nation has to offer.

The cynic in me would argue this makes very good logical sense to keep casual viewers from those nations lingering longer so they stay hooked to the Eurovision Song Contest just a few more minutes. Yet I also think there is a desire to showcase these songs and these charming artists who, despite their different styles, can boast an alluring element that makes them the star of the show. I dare argue it is in the best interests of brand Eurovision that all three of these groups leave Eurovision with a placement worthy of boasting about to their population back at home, and these late slots for performers who ooze such charisma gives them every chance to achieve it.

It is easy for us commentating as well to nod to Joker Out being drawn in the same slot 24 as Måneskin two years ago, and for Let 3 to fill the same second-to-last role that Konstrakta did to storm the public vote last year. It would surprise nobody if the producers hoped that a little bit of the same magic could rub off these acts on Saturday night.

The Face Offs

We tend to see in Eurovision a desire from producers to create a sawtooth dynamic between songs where the show shifts genre intensely from one three minute performance to the next. This year that does not seem to be as thought out as previously. The already mentioned Albania-Italy-Estonia run is particularly noteworthy – three songs all focusing their energy on storytelling and powerful vocals.

I’m strongly of the opinion here that if you are in contention to win you want to be around songs that are also similar to you, so you hoover up the votes from them because you dominate. I argued so much about Sam Ryder last year for the United Kingdom, being around Ochman and Sheldon Riley was a blessing in disguise as Sam, competing for the victory, had a package with his vocals that outshone the two other excellent male vocalists either side.

From this I would say more than ever that Albania suffers, and risks solely getting support from its diaspora nations in the televote, as a sandwich between Loreen and Marco Mengoni means there’s little room for Albania to connect to the audience.

I’m also quite intrigued by the combination of Alessandra for Norway in position 20 going head-to-head with Lord of the Lost immediately after. Feel free to call me out on suggesting ‘Queen of Kings’ has a music similarity to Germany’s industrial metal spiced track this year at your pleasure, but my immediate thoughts on this is that the running order here provides the opportunity for one of the pair to steal votes from the other with their pounding beats.

Watch them now both score 150 points and end up as equals to prove me wrong…..

The Obligatory Reminders

Yes, at ESC Insight we know the power of the running order and the statistical significance that the later you are on in the show the better. But we know that while absolute position alone has an impact that measurable impact is small. Chances are not defined by running order alone, and neither is the quality of the Eurovision show on the stage. The running order is far more than a list of increasing chances the further down the show we go, but a selection that flows on the world’s most madcap musical journey covering any genre imaginable in the music scene.

There is no other show on Earth as crazy and as party as Saturday night. It’s time to make your scorecard.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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3 responses to “The Grand Final Running Order Analysis of 2023”

  1. Marc says:

    It’s pretty clear that you don’t want slots 1-4, come with big props. The producers won’t want the stage to be filled before the start of song one, nor will they want break so early in the order. If Mimicat had, say, a light box with horizontal VT screens, she wouldn’t be in position two. More and more acts will come with these tactical props which have no connection with the song being sung.

  2. Shai says:

    Starting from Finland and going through the 2nd half, there is a run of songs with visual overload and/or uptempo nature.
    It will give the audience no time ro rest or compose itself.

    The only relatively quite song in this run of songs, is Lithuania.Whether this is for the advantage of disadvantage of Lithuania remains to be seen.

  3. I was in the arena for Spain the other night and while I wouldn’t say it fell flat, the impact on the audience was a long way off what you’ve described here. It is beautifully performed, but how should an audience respond to this sort of thing? You can’t really dance or sing along, and it doesn’t connect emotionally like a ballad would. The reality was everyone watched politely then clapped politely at the end. Roofs were not even close to being blown off.

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