U.K., Engelbert Humperdinck, 3

In the rush to explain why their favorite contestant failed to win, Eurovision fans frequently blame the starting order. But does performing early really hurt a singer’s chances? David T., one of our American correspondents, investigates.

In the aftermath of Eurovision, every country (except Sweden) is blaming external factors as the reason they didn’t finish first. And one of the standard whipping boys is drawing an early starting position. Sorry all: That has nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing.

Let’s look first at the 2012 final. This year was one of the best ever, so it was an incredibly competitive vote—even if Loreen won in a landslide. I think most people could easily list three to five acts they wanted to see tie for first, and another five to ten they found almost as good. But how did the draw vs. place results come out?

This chart plots the results by comparing draw and place. If draw impacted place then you would see the points grouped around a line stretching from the upper left to the lower right. What you see here is a random scattershot.

Now let’s look at 2011, which was a collection of tired and uninspired acts (25 Englebert Humperdinck’s). Probably one of the worst ever. And so once again it was very competitive because it was a battle for who sucked least. And how did the results come out here?

Once again we see a scattershot result. No statistical correlation between draw and place. So sorry all: You can’t blame the draw. Yes, Engelbert Humperdinck went first and finished next-to-last. But Tooji performed 12th and he finished one lower.

There are two pieces of good news in this. First, the way the voting is handled clearly eliminates any bias by draw. I think part of this is the delay after the end of the last act where they show highlights of all of them before opening the voting lines. Second, acts can stop stressing over their draw as it has no impact.

I also think countries need to get a grip. There’s only going to be one country taking first. And this year the acts were so amazing that France, which had a really good entry, got 22nd place. (Although how the hell Russia and Turkey got into the final is beyond me.) Yes be thrilled when your country has a great act. But realize that in years like this, when there are so many amazing acts, your favorite is still contesting the most competitive musical event in the world.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
David Thielen
Guest

@Jaana – torture numbers enough and they’ll tell you anything you want to hear.

Jaana
Guest

What ever you say, it’s been statistically proven that running order does matter, so there’s no point in arguing about that fact. Read more here for example:

http://www.escinsight.com/2012/11/09/can-eurovision-be-a-fair-contest-and-a-fabulous-television-show-with-the-new-running-order-rules/

escbet_ gavster
Guest
That’s a rather simplistic method of investigating the running order’s impact in deciding a song’s success. It is valid to argue that the best songs will generally always do well, but it is ignorant to dismiss how the running order can act as kingmaker. 2011 is a perfect example. Sweden, Denmark and Italy found themselves on the wrong side of the draw. Had Azerbaijan been drawn early and any of the three previously named acts drawn late, I’m fairly confident that the 2011 winner would not have been Azerbaijan. Here are the winning running order slots since 2003 to support… Read more »
trackback

[…] Spain a good place in 2009. But that didn’t happen. She sang last which is an advantage (even if my colleagues on WiwiBloggs.Com disagree), but the things just didn’t work. She admitted that Eurovision wasn’t a good experience and […]

Emma
Guest
@MF–fully agree! Englebert blew it with the juries so even with an ideal draw, maybe close to the end, next to France or some other contestant whom the televoters hated, he really couldn’t have risen out of the bottom five. His failure was his own fault. LWSYF was, IMO, a decent song but nothing more. I didn’t want to plug my ears like I did when Rambo Amadeus took to the stage but I have no desire to listen to it again. I’m actually not that familiar with him (by “I have no reason to defend him” I meant that… Read more »
MF
Guest
@Emma: I’m not contesting your “draw logic” in general. Just in the case of Engelbert Humperdink I don’t think he was 100% the victim of the draw. Juries classified him the last of 26, so they voted before the final. I do like EH too, but the song was not good enough, he sang it slow and his voice is not in his best years. I actually think he had an extraordinary voice in his 30s-40s and even 50s (pretty much 1965-1990), but now he’s just a great entertainer that has good times with his fans and cannot stand the… Read more »
Emma
Guest
Thanks for responding David. This brings me back to an earlier point. This year, there were two, ARGUABLY three standout entries: Sweden, Russia, and Serbia. Entries like that are going to do well, regardless of where they are in the running order. And draw isn’t the only factor of course, not suggesting it is. Sometimes entries are helped into the top 3 with the help of the jury, who presumably doesn’t care about the draw. Case in point: Italy 2011. Mediocre draw, okay televote, killed it in the jury vote for a relatively close second place. I’ll throw out a… Read more »
Deban
Guest

@ David, my logic is two fold. I agree with your theory. However, Emma’s assessment can’t be ignored. The facts strengthen both schools of thought. Depending on how you want to flesh your argument, it could go either way.

David Thielen
Guest

Deban – by your logic Russia should have placed poorly because they went 6th. Look at the graphs – draw has nothing to do with how you place. The fact that Albania was your favorite does not mean they deserved to win. My favorites were Sweden & Spain – that does not mean Spain should have come in second.

MF
Guest
I did not want Russia & Turkey to qualify either, but I had no doubts they would. Russia was the “novelty act” this year and Turkey had over 3 million views on youtube before March, so before other countries finished their selection process. Plus Turkey is like Greece – always does well and gets votes from Germany, Netherlands and so on – obviously diaspora…I did not like they finished in top 10…Engelbert with a better draw (maybe in the last 5 acts) would have reached 20th in the best case (like he was 20 in Australia, where JEDWARD guys were… Read more »
Deban
Guest

I think Emma has raised valid points. Albania, my favourite entry this year came 5th. She was the third act to show. That’s way early!!! According to Emma, if she had a better running order, she may have placed better. I can live with that theory. Poor Ireland though..They has a great spot, but somehow, voters didn’t connect.

David Thielen
Guest

ps – Poor Engelbert, any general story about the results gets his picture at the top. It applies just as well to any other act that is blaming their draw for their low votes.

David Thielen
Guest

Emma – if draw requires that you be 17th or later to win, how is it Russia at 6th came in a very close second? You’re trying to extrapolate from a very small set of numbers and that has a large degree of uncertainty. A better way to look at it would be the top 3 finishers over the last 10 years giving you 30 data points.

Emma
Guest
Interesting article! Somwhat agree with this, though in this day and age, the winning song has started in the second half. Loreen sang 17th. Ell & Nikki sang 19th. Lena sang 22nd. Alexander Rybak sang 20th. Dima Bilan sang 24th. Marija Serifovic sang 17th. This isn’t a coincidence. Could the likes of Alexander and Loreen have won singing second? Sure. Could Ell & Nikki have? As the Hungarian saying goes, nem, nem, soha–no, no never. In years with no obvious winner, it’s not enough not to be one of the first three or four songs–you’ve got to be relatively close… Read more »
Deban
Guest

Super article. I completely agree with you. One small admonition though, Turkey was beautifully staged. In a sea of ballads, it does pitch strongly. I wasn’t a fan to begin with (check my low score on the wiwijury page), however, as the other songs poured in, it emerged as one of the most memorable entries.
As for Englebert Humperdinck, ESC isn’t just about winging it. You’ve got to put the effort in, honour interviews and PROMOTE your song.