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.