While Måns Zelmerlöw was celebrating Sweden’s sixth victory on Saturday night, and Russia and Italy were also being congratulated on their high scores, something else was happening down at the other end of the points table: two countries had received nil points.
As scores were revealed it became apparent that neither host country Austria nor its neighbour Germany had received any points – not even from each other. While Måns was celebrating with his glass microphone, Ann Sophie and The Makemakes had to come to terms with their unfortunate scores. And this year’s nil points situation is the even rarer double nil points, previously only seen in 1983 and 1997.
The last time a nil points situation happened was in 2003 when UK act Jemini had their saucy pop song turn into a hot mess when singer Gemma started in the wrong key.
Jemini’s disaster has cemented the idea of nil points being the mark of a terrible song, but if we look back further, the songs that score nil points aren’t especially awful, just unlucky. Here’s Iceland’s nil-pointer, Daníel Ágúst with his quite good song “Það sem enginn sér” from 1989. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
The positive vote
With the Eurovision voting system, viewers can only vote for a song, not against one. If there’s a song you don’t like, you can not vote for it or you can vote for other songs, but you can’t punish it somehow with a negative vote.
So more often than not, songs that score nil points are those that just haven’t inspired enough viewers to vote for them, not ones that have committed a heinous crime against music.
Both “Black Smoke” and “I Am Yours” aren’t terrible songs. They were good enough to win their respective national finals (though Ann Sophie took a more dramatic route to get there) and indeed the Wiwi Jury didn’t think they were all that bad either.
But there were warning signs. While bookies had Montenegro with the lowest chance to win, Austria and Germany’s chances were pretty low as well.
Both countries also performed directly in the grand final, skipping the extra level of quality control and experience that the semi-finals offer. It’s been speculated that since the semi-final system was introduced in 2004, this has essentially removed the weaker songs that would have previously ended up with nil points in the grand final. But direct qualifiers avoid this, leaving their untested songs at the mercy of juries and viewers.
Blessed or cursed?
Is nil points a curse? Norwegian singer Jahn Teigen, the first to score nil points under the modern voting system, embraced his Eurovision experience and returned to the competition twice more, eventually reaching ninth place in 1983. Fellow nil-point Norwegian Tor Endresen made it to the Gold Final of Melodi Grand Prix this year, duetting with former Eurovision winner Elisabeth Andreassen.
Norway – who are the unluckiest country with four nil-points – have also managed to win the competition three times, including Alexander Rybak’s monumental victory in with “Fairytale” in 2009.
It’s easy to speculate about what it was that cursed Germany and Austria. Was it The Makemakes’ barbecue piano? Did Ann Sophie’s single earring bother viewers?
While no one wants to end up with nil points, it’s not the end of the world. Both The Makemakes and Ann Sophie seem to be taking it with good humour, each making a fun parodies where they turned the chorus of “Heroes” into “We are the zeroes of our time”. Maybe they could team up with Ann Sophie and record a song to celebrate their rare achievement of double nil points.
Why do you think Ann Sophie and The Makemakes ending up with nil points? Was it fair? Is this the end of their music careers or just the beginning? Share your comments below.