As we say auf wiedersehen and danke to Vienna for hosting the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, we should probably learn to say some other words in German — most especially drama and intrigue. From cries of “Bloc voting!” to accusations of buying jury votes, this year’s contest has had its fair share of controversies. And yet at the top of the scoreboard everything did go as predicted by the pundits and the bookies. Sweden was always the frontrunner, with Måns Zelmerlöw’s odds shrinking to Loreen-like lows. In fact, Zelmerlöw’s “Heroes” came just 7 points from beating Loreen’s score of 372 points back in 2012. While it was a decisive and dare we say a “landslide” victory, the full results published by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) reveal a different picture. From the jury-televote disagreement to the bloc-voting effect, let’s break it down…
Italy lost because Il Volo failed to win over the juries
Hours before the contest, the Eurovision Press Center was abuzz with commentators and insiders calling this a two-way race between Italy and Sweden. What went wrong? After hours of calculations, here are the split jury and televoting results:
While juries placed Italy sixth, televoters placed it first with an overwhelming 366 points. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We should have read more into Italy’s national selection — the Sanremo Music Festival — where Il Volo’s “Grande Amore” lost the jury vote but overwhelmingly won the televote.
Regardless of Il Volo’s faultless live vocals, their song “Grande Amore” caters to the masses rather than the music elite who likely dubbed the song bland, stereotypical Italian popera. Sweden, Latvia, and Belgium’s strong jury showing indicates that jurors favored creative, original, and avant-garde songs this year.
Will the schism between juries and televoters compell the EBU to reconsider having juries a part of the contest? To be continued….
2. Armenia and Azerbaijan still dislike each other — a lot
Given the contentious history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the EBU knows it won’t be building bridges between these two countries. Sadly the only common ground between these nations — whether you be a televoter or juror — is a strong dislike of the other.
There was, however, some neighborly love for the other countries in the region. Both countries’ juries and televoters sent support to Georgia and “Mother Russia,” as voting spokesperson Dmitry Shepelev eerily and creepily put it.
3. The Baltic-Nordic Alliance transcends any voter bloc at the moment
You heard that right. The Baltics — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — have broken ranks with their ex-Soviet counterparts and are voting with the Nordic states, giving rise to an immensely powerful voting bloc stronger than the ex-Yugoslav bloc and former Soviet bloc.
The Nordic states didn’t like Lithuania’s song “This Time,” but generally speaking the Baltics and Nordic states exchanged points. On average, a Baltic jury will rank a Nordic song 4.2 (which translates to 7 points), and a Baltic televoter will rank a Nordic song as sixth favourite (or 5 points). And on average, a Nordic jury will rank a Baltic song 8.3 (3 points), and a Nordic televoter will rank a Baltic song ninth (or 2 points). Sweden benefited the most from this alliance, catapulting from a few points behind Polina Gagarina to achieving a Loreen-esque landslide.
One interesting note is that Russia also benefited from this Alliance, while the remainder of the ex-USSR was decimated by the Alliance. The Baltics and Nordic juries and televoters put aside politics for Eurovision week and generously rewarded Russia’s saccharine song “A Million Voices”. They seem to pan songs like Azerbaijan’s “Hour of the Wolf” and Armenia’s “Face the Shadow,” both of which have a subtle yet noticeable political message. The key to winning the Alliance’s vote: do not submit political songs.
Implications for future contests
The return of Ukraine in 2016 will strengthen the ex-USSR voting bloc and will allow it to compete with the Baltic-Nordic Alliance. Turkey’s return will have profound implications throughout Europe. For two years, Eurovision pundits and press did not have to factor in the Turkish diaspora. Turkey and Ukraine’s returns mean a renewed fight from “New Europe” to bring the contest back East, i.e., the contests of the mid to late-2000s. If Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina return to the contest, they will revive the ex-Yugoslav bloc, and countries like Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will become more competitive as a result.
Sweden’s sixth win means it is now second to Ireland for the most wins at seven. If I were Christer Björkman, I would use 2016, 2017, and 2018 to win as many times before the Eurovision pendulum potentially swings back to the East.
This year had plenty of irregularities, too. You can read about discounted jury votes here and Australia’s questionable screening of jurors here. And these are just the things we noticed on Sunday! Watch this space…