A Eurovision research project commissioned by Netflix suggests that Iceland would have won Eurovision 2020 with Dadi Freyr and Gagnamagnið performing “Think About Things”. The musicologists also suggest that Ireland’s Lesley Roy could have placed top five, while the United Kingdom’s James Newman might have scored better than expected. But just how was this determined? We take a look and ask if research methods can ever really get to the heart of results.
The academic study, commissioned by Netflix as part of their promotional efforts for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, aims to examine and analyse the common musical characteristics of Eurovision songs in order to learn more about European listening trends and preferences. Musicologists Joe Bennett and Simon Troup analysed 259 Eurovision songs from 2010-2019 and give their opinion on which songs might score well at Eurovision 2020.
The Winning Formula
The research suggests that certain types of songs are more likely than others to score well at Eurovision. The researchers analyse and deconstruct songs based on their musical elements, including tempo, harmony, tonality, dynamic range, lyrical themes and genre.
Firstly, Eurovision songs are divided into seven archetypes: Euro-pop, Ethno-pop, Ballad, Niche, Anthem, Schlager and Chanson. The most popular genre, Euro-pop, scored 9888 points at Eurovision from 2010-2019. Meanwhile, the least popular genre, Chanson, scored a total of 875 points.
The researchers then consider lyrical themes. Certain themes consistently reappeared in Eurovision songs, which the researchers sort into categories including “love”, “dance party”, “history” and “unity” amongst others. Love songs emerged as the most common, with 69% of songs fitting into this category. These songs are also statistically much more likely to win — love songs account for 83% of songs in the top three.
Research also shows the average tempo of the top three songs appears to fluctuate throughout the decade. Meanwhile, minor keys were used in 65% of all songs, and more than 86% of songs were performed by soloists — either male or female.
With this, the project is able to determine the general listening preferences of Europe from 2010-2019. Voters usually prefer minor-key Euro-pop love songs, performed by a solo singer. Research also suggests key changes are less popular now than at the beginning of the decade. So what would this mean for Eurovision 2020?
Eurovision 2020: Predicted Results
The researchers use this data as a basis to make their own predictions about what might have happened at Eurovision 2020. These results are not meant to be read as gospel — they are purely speculative based on data and trends. Also, these results do not necessarily consider live performances. The researchers rank entries using a scoring system of 12, 8, 5, 4, 3, 1 and 0 points, in contrast to the traditional Eurovision points system. They award 12 points to Iceland, 8 to Ireland, and 5 to the United Kingdom. Their comments are as follows:
Iceland: “Think About Things” by Dadi og Gagnamagnid
“‘Think About Things’ is a cheerful minor-key electro-pop 127BPM dance number with an 80s synth production, augmented with snappy brass riffs and a charming dance routine, under Da∂i’s deadpan understated vocal. It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, which helps it to stand out from all the straight-face dance music we hear in the finals. There’s a classic-era whole-tone modulation in the final chorus, which we haven’t seen in a winner in more than ten years. Perhaps the time has come.”
Ireland: “Story of My Life” by Lesley Roy
“We love this one, and we think it would score well. It’s classic all-synth Scandi-pop, with echoes of real-world bubblegum hits. At 132 BPM it’s a tiny bit faster than the average for this type of song, but the upbeat major-key sentiment and simple scalic chorus melody make it really accessible. Our best guess for the voting would be in the top five.”
United Kingdom: “My Last Breath” by James Newman
“It’s an anthem in the sense that it’s mid-tempo (89.7 BPM) and also due to the nicely accessible “whoa…” chant at the end of each chorus. But we worry that the one-note melody hook isn’t striking enough to lift this higher than the middle of the scoring. They shot the video in a snowy forest, which is a nice nod to the Scandinavians.”
Is the research reliable?
There is a lot to unpack here. The researchers purposefully ignore the non-musical aspects of Eurovision to purely focus on music. This is excellent research if its intent is to assist with the recreation of Eurovision music — a fete that was so excellently achieved on the Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga soundtrack. However, for predicting results, this particular piece of Eurovision research doesn’t seem particularly reliable.
Eurovision is an ever-changing landscape of pop culture, and there are countless variables that need to be considered when making predictions. It is impossible to predict results based on music alone, given it is not what the televoting public are necessarily looking for. Expert juries are also given a list of criteria that they use to make their judgements. Other pieces of Eurovision research suggest that the performance, the stage and even choreography can also play a huge part in determining the success of an act. Additionally, it is possible that cultural factors and socio-political issues of the day may influence an audience’s voting intentions.
Iceland was one of the bookmakers’ favourites to win Eurovision 2020 and “Think About Things” proved to be popular with fans, scoring an average of 8.03 in our Wiwi Jury and achieving third place overall. Based on fan polls, Iceland would likely have scored well at Eurovision. The Irish and British entries were less popular, receiving generally mixed reviews.
What do you think? Do you agree with these result predictions? Let us know in the comments below.
Pretty sure Ireland would’ve qualified. Even when taking political aspects and bloc voting into consideration, the type of song Lesley would have taken to the stage usually does well, in semi finals at least. Estonia 2019, Finland 2018 and Australia 2018 are all examples of similar entries that did well in semi finals but not in the grand final, which most likely would have been the case for Ireland last year as well. A scenario where Ukraine, Romania and even Israel would have gotten better placements in the semi seems quite unlikely given the success of other similar entries and… Read more »
I have one word for this
But Iceland did have a chance
Even though this research is pretty laughable I will give them this – the UK song has really grown on me, and I think it would place a lot better than previous years. I’m thinking top 15-ish.
And don’t forget Malta dear Una!
Yes Tibor, as regards qualifying I think Cyprus and Estonia may have “surprised”. I really liked both songs and the fact you had a pair of attractive singers would have helped. I personally did not rate Estonia 2019 but the singer’s charms probably clocked up a few points.
“Eurovision research project commissioned by Netflix” is all you need to know about this laughable study. Netflix keeps pushing Iceland down our throats. And lmao at Ireland.
I think this really really really could have been the top 3.
I’m coolin with da homies.
Ahahhahahah Irelqnd top 5 ahhahahahahahhaha
If you asked me, it’s Iceland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, or Switzerland who would’ve won.
Italy could have gotten a great shot too considering all that happened. But I agree with you, those were the 4/5 that had the best chances.
It would’ve been between Iceland, Lithuania, Russia, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Romania, I think. Ireland would not have qualified.
I agree with them saying that Iceland could’ve won. I see that the act is one of the most successful ones this year, if not the most successful. They won a lot eurovision “background competitions” (idk how to call them differently) like Eurojury and others. Whilst I know that the competition for the victory wasn’t predictable at all I feel like Iceland would’ve taken the throphy by a small margin. Although thinking about it more I feel like it fits in the same category as Russia and Lithuania which were the fan favorites and I know the possibilty of them… Read more »
Was Macedonia 2019 on anyone’s mind as a jury winner last year? NO. Was Austria 2018 on anyone’s mind as a jury winner? NO. Was Cyprus 2018 on anyone’s mind as a hot favorite to win it all BEFORE the live rehearsal? NO. It’s so pointless to guess who could have won, when we all know that there could have been some 100% shocks, both in NQ and in higher then expected rankings. It’s silly to even think that only bookies favs stood any chance.
You’ve got a point… I mean Austria in 2018 was an obvious jury winner from the start for me but I didn’t see the other ones coming. However, if you don’t count Conchita, every single winner was in the top 6 in betting odds before the reheaesals. I don’t think that countries like Slovenia, Belarus, Croatia and Estonia (I actually really love Divlji Vietre, but I’m being realistic) stood any chance to win, though they could have been surprising qulifiers. Anyway at least for the winner prediction there were max 6-8 countries who could get enough points from both televoting… Read more »
I actually think Russia would have won, after going super viral. Followed by Italy (jury winner), Iceland, and probably Bulgaria and Malta. Something like that.
i feel like the three meme songs (iceland, lithuania and russia) would’ve kinda canceled each other out, and the winner would’ve been someone chosen by the jury
I’m inclined to agree with you. Especially if we look at potential host country candidates, I think Switzerland would have been the preferred or “safest” bet. Lithuania could have been feasable, though I wonder how tiny Iceland (population-wise) would suddenly handle a massive inflow of arrivals that would dwarf their own population/have a facility large enough to host. And Russia might be a but controversial, though they definitely have the infrastructure to handle eurovision.
Yes, I agree with you both, I think one of the more emotional songs such as Italy, Norway or Switzerland would have appealed to the public mood more in these difficult and trying times.
If you look at the international charts, Iceland has been most successful the last few months. That could be an indication of their would-have-been victory. Russia, Italy and Lithuania have done well in their own respective markets, so that is less of an indication. Personally I think it would have been 1. Iceland 2. Lithuania 3. Russia.
”We love this one (…)”, ”Our best guess (…)”, ”But we worry (…)”. What kind of ‘academic’ research is this?! xD
I don’t know you guys. I think Iceland would have finished top 5 but I’m not sure about actually winning. It would have been a fan favorite for sure and probably might have won the televote. But I think it might have been too quirky to win, but then again, I said the same about Israel in 2018. I don’t know about Ireland placing Top 5. I think with the staging that ThisIsPopBaby where going for, whichever would have been EPIC, I think we might have qualified and ended bottom half of the leaderboard. United Kingdom could have done well… Read more »
I’m sorry, but I can’t see what’s sooooo special and catchy about Icelandic song this year. When it was released as a nf song no one was talking about it, and then, at some point everyone just fell in love with it. I just see it as a super-hyped song without reason. I think Switzerland would have won this year and Italy could have surprised.
First version was in Icelandic tho. Some songs simply grow also. Always happen. or locals are the ones to really get behind
That’s not the 1st time tho. Remember fans and everyone hyping Toy when it came out and later they decided it was like the worst song ever and they start hyping Fuego and following what press in Lisbon were saying. There are many cases
I kinda get what you were saying. From the jump I was saying that Dadi’s song was great and could win, but everyone else yelled at me saying that Oculis Videre was the only option. And then Dadi won, and now everyone loves it?? Interesting to say the least.
Bulgaria, was, a, winner, this, song, created, more, audio, pleasure, for, me, than, the, others,
No. Just no. Where’s Lithuania? Switzerland? Bulgaria?
Iceland would have been in the top four. UK would have struggled to be anywhere near the left side and Ireland 90% chance of non qualification.
I still think Lithuania would have won it
haha WHAT absolutely no way, MAYBE Iceland could have won but Ireland and the UK would have been on the right side of the scoreboard and/or NQ for Ireland
Yes, yes and yes!
I have to disagree, I think it’s obvious that San Marino and Estonia would’ve been in the top 3 alongside Iceland.
Joking of course, they can’t be very good Musicologists if this is what they came up with.
Based on the results I’ve gotten for my final (Friday!), they may not be wrong about Iceland. Ireland narrowly missed qualifying.
Real story is that Netflix commissioned a study, probably an expensive one, into Eurovision, to tell us that…Iceland was tongue-in-cheek and doesn’t sound like a previous winner, Ireland was heavily borrowing from real-world songs and was aiming to be accessible and that the UK was going to struggle to get out of the middle of the pack. About as insightful as most non-scientific academic studies really.
The title of the article doesn’t match what was written in the article. The writer either didn’t read or didn’t understand what he had written.
We would’ve had a better prediction if we drew three random countries out of a hat
Ireland…we’ll take that one for now ???
“???” *2nd place medal* 😉
Lol, it’s the 1st of July, not the 1st of April…
It’s not reliable but I do believe Ireland would have been in the final against the odds and do very well but not top 5 of course. Russia would have been in top 3, it was on lock. UK would’ve done better than 2019, very catchy and nice feel-good song but i am hesitant to say top 10 because the artist is not very charismatic on stage. He’s good but not very attractive to get votes. Maybe juries would’ve supported the UK, who knows. I think BBC should pick another artist and have James Newman write the song, if it’s… Read more »
I think Ireland would have done really well, a dark horse. Not maybe second but definitely Jedward territory. It is a super catchy bubble gum pop song with a chorus that gets stuck. The fact that it sounds similar to other songs is a strength.
UK would have done better than previous years but not top 10. It is to middle of the road to reach high lengths but it is a good solid radio song and those always have an audience.
It’s important to point out that these researchers did NOT predict Ireland and the UK to finish second and third – they awarded each song a score from 0 to 12, and these were simply the examples they used. That’s a pretty big mistake on the part of the author of this article.
These predictions are obviously tounge-in-cheek, but there’s actually a lot of cool data on Joe Bennett’s website, a breakdown of Eurovision songs by tonality is probably my favourite.
Oh. Was Iceland the only country to get 12?
It wasn’t said anywhere in the thesis, this was the only example they gave. But it’s clear from the descriptions – Ireland (8 points) was predicted to come “top five”, the UK’s song (5) wasn’t “striking enough to lift this higher than the middle of the scoring”, in case of Denmark (4) “there was no track record of a song like this doing well”, Georgia (3) was predicted to “not get a good score from the viewers”, Croatia (1) “doesn’t stand out from similar material elsewhere in the pack” and Latvia (0) was described with a phrase “What were they… Read more »
“There was no track record of a song like Danish one doing well” ? Really? And what about Switzerland 2014?
I can believe Iceland winning but their suggested 2nd and 3rd place is a massive load of crap. 2nd and 3rd I think woud’ve more likely gone to Lithuania and Bulgaria.
I totally agree with you!
Iceland definitely could’ve won, but Ireland and UK? Hard to believe. I wonder what would happen if they analyzed songs from 2010 to 2018 and then tried to predict the results from last year, pretending to not know them. I bet it wouldn’t be correct.
I think just from feeling and no empirical research whatsoever, the songs that had any chance to win this year were, in random order: Iceland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Russia and Italy.
I would prefer some study focusing on how every every country would have probably voted based on history/stats/paterns.
Nope, try again.
There is no possible formula to foresee the winner anyway. Just ask Salvador.
Dude who everyone predicted will win once they saw staging? Or other Salvador?
My point was that his song does not fit into the same category as any of the other winners from that decade. The formula used for this research. Keep up.
Well to be fair Amar pelos dois was a love song, and that’s what they stated in their research as a component of formula as well.
Amar pelos Dois is much more than a mere love song… the quality of the harmonies, the uncommon structure of the song, the classic intrumental, the disarming honest and emotional performance were all refreshingly out of the box. No formula there.
Absolutelly! This video explain well how Amar pelos dois falls outside the current formulas of pop music https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=RDGSp3Rdp7Tq0&feature=share&playnext=1
Sorry, I failed the link above. What I wanted to post was this very interesting analysis that shows how inconventional Amar pelos dois is, comparing to current formulas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSp3Rdp7Tq0
Who says it’s ONLY a love song or that it’s pop music? Just stated it matches with at least one category of the top-three formula from this particular research. With three actually, out of 4: “minor-key (checked) Euro-pop (miss) love songs (checked), performed by a solo singer (checked)”.
The fact that there are plenty of the songs fitting into this categories that got bottom places at Eurovision, or that the researchers didn’t consider other factors is another story…
Iceland is fairly accurate at the top. Ireland is definitely off (even though I do really like the song). As for the UK, I don’t think it would have come 3rd but I do think that it would have done surprisingly well at Eurovision
I have no doubt that Iceland would have won. Quirky, likable, easy to remember, got meaning promotion and North Europe behind it. Other 2 makes no sense when you know anything about ESC Lithuania, Austria, Bulgaria, Russia, Sweden and Norway somewhere in top 10 were also basically given. It’s not that hard to predict, really.
Well if this is true I would die of happiness ( I live in Ireland their my 2nd)