Eurovision 2021 was full of surprises, and after all the votes have rolled in, many are claiming that we are looking at one of the strangest results of all time. So, now that the EBU has revealed full results, let’s get out our magnifying glasses take a closer look at the peculiarities of the Eurovision 2021 results.
A flop for pop
Despite Eurovision 2021 being the year of bops, upbeat pop music really struggled to bring in the points. The highest placing pure pop song was from Malta, who finished just seventh, despite being the long-time favourite for the win. Only Greece and Moldova joined Malta on the left side of the leaderboard, whilst slick pop performances from Serbia, Cyprus, Israel, Azerbaijan and San Marino were all left dwindling on the right-hand side.
One explanation for this is that there were simply too many female-led pop bangers, which led to the vote for these entries being split. Meanwhile, entries representing more niche genres, from the likes of Italy, France and Switzerland, stood out as the only songs in their field, meaning they got more overall votes from fans of their genres. Furthermore, all of the top nine songs, bar Malta, were written (or co-written) by the artists themselves – showing that authenticity was really valued in this year’s contest.
One of the biggest shocks of the semi-finals was the non-qualification of hot-favourite Croatia who actually was top ten with both the televote (9th) and the jury (10th). However, the retro-pop song placed eleventh overall, whilst Belgium, who finished 11th in the televote, qualified due to their 7th position with the juries. In semi-final two, it was Denmark who narrowly missed out on a spot in the final. Despite finishing 7th in the televote, the juries awarded the entry just nine points – allowing Albania, who finished 11th in the televote but 8th in the jury vote, to sneak into tenth place. Therefore, in both semi-finals we see the jury having more power than the televoters in choosing the qualifiers.
Four nil points
A true curiosity of 2021 is four countries receiving zero televotes – all in a row. Before 2021 there had never been more than one country per year being awarded nil points from the televote*, so four is a real achievement!
It should be noted that all four countries were automatic qualifiers, implying that the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the UK would not have qualified if they were competing in the semi-finals, and we could have seen the likes of Croatia and Denmark take their places. Similarly, in 2005, the Big Four and host-country Ukraine all finished in the bottom 5 places, supposedly because they had no semi-final to quality-check their entries. This simply shows that the automatic qualifiers system can be completely hit and miss – this year finishing in the last four places, but also the first and second.
Unfortunately for the UK, they also failed to score any jury points, making them the first country to receive nil points overall since the new voting procedure was introduced in 2016. Every country’s televote ranked the UK in 20th position or higher, with the exception of Malta, where it was 14th. The song was slightly more popular with the juries, ranking 15th with Malta, 14th with Norway and Serbia, 13th with the Czech Republic and narrowly missing out on a point from Poland, who ranked them 11th.
*Due to the voting procedure, in 2015 both Germany and Austria finished with 0 points overall, although Germany did in fact receive 5 points from the televote.
Suspicious jury voting
As always, there appeared to be suspicious ongoings regarding the jury vote. We see San Marino and Poland exchange 12 points, whilst all five Israeli jurors unanimously rank the UK last, and all Bulgarian jurors ranked Moldova first. Moldova is an even more interesting case, managing to finish on the left-hand side of the leaderboard, despite a vocal performance that many claim to be highly questionable.
Moldova gave their top-three jury points to Bulgaria, Russia and Greece, and in return, we see Bulgaria and Russia award Moldova their 12 points, as well as 10 points from Greece. Let’s remind ourselves that Moldova’s participation was produced by the “Dream Team”, headed by Bulgarian-Russian Philipp Kirkorov and Greek songwriter Dimitris Kontopoulos. Some might say that’s fishy. But, in reality, Kirkorov is a huge star in Bulgaria (where he was born) and Russia, where he remains the king of pop music and the country’s highest-paid entertainer. Moldova likely benefited from his star power in the region.
Furthermore, Moldova killed it in the semi-final two televote, achieving the most 12 points of any country. Moldova received maximum televote points from eight countries – Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Latvia, Greece, Portugal, San Marino and Serbia – whilst Iceland achieved the second-highest number of 12 points, with just three sets. However, “Sugar” was divisive, and six countries awarded Moldova zero points. This mix of success could be partly due to Natalia’s heavy promotion in Russian media the past months, helping her win votes in countries with Russian diaspora (she also released a Russian version of the song), but having less impact elsewhere. Moldova typically does better with the public than with juries.
The impact of running order
There were some unexpected choices when producers revealed the final running order – most notably Malta, who was put in a surprisingly early sixth place, despite Destiny winning her semi-final. Although producers chose to put favourites Italy and France near the end of their draw, they did not do the same with Malta – and the impact was harsh. After closing the first semi-final, Malta won the jury vote and placed second in the televote. However, after performing sixth in the grand final, Malta’s rank with televoters dropped to just fourteenth, below competitors from Lithuania, Russia and Norway who she had previously beaten.
Surprisingly, in the top ten, we only see two songs that performed after 20th position: Italy and France. It’s possible that Italy and France’s late position in the running order, as well as being surrounded by less popular entries, attributed to them dominating the leaderboard.
The struggle of small nations
San Marino, Iceland, Malta and Cyprus were the four smallest countries (by population) competing in Eurovision 2021 – and despite their size, all worked hard to deliver quality entries in 2021. Nevertheless, despite all of them being considered contenders for the win ahead of the grand final, results were disappointing for these small nations, with Iceland being the only one to achieve a top five position. Whilst pre-contest favourite Malta finished seventh, the winner of the semi-final one press poll, Cyprus, finished just 16th, and – despite an appearance from the actual Flo Rida – San Marino finished in a shock 22nd place.
Cyprus and Malta suffered from early spots in the running order, whilst all three suffered 2021’s curse of female pop bangers. It is also often argued that smaller countries struggle in the televote due to having less diaspora and voting partners – and it is indeed true that all of these countries scored higher with juries than televote, with the exception of Cyprus. However, we know that these countries can all deliver on televoting, with Cyprus ranking second in 2018, Malta second in 2005 and 2002, and San Marino in tenth in 2019. Therefore, it appears to be an unfortunate mix of attributes that account for the disappointment for Europe’s tiniest nations.
Whilst English-language songs are statistically more successful at Eurovision nowadays — supposedly because they have a greater international appeal and are more effective at conveying their message — this was not the case in 2021. Four of the top five and all of the top three songs were sung entirely in a national language, making this year’s contest a true success for language diversity at Eurovision. The last time the top three was non-English was 1995, before the rule that each country must sing in its national language was lifted. This also marks the third song sung entirely in a language other than English to win since the rule change.
Whether you supported the final result or not, Eurovision 2021 was a roaring success. After two long years of waiting, producers were able to put on a spectacular show during a global pandemic, boasting the best viewing figures since 2007. We wish all the best to all the artists and delegations that participated in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and bring on 2022!
What do you think? How did the 2021 results differ from previous years? What have you noticed? Tell us your thoughts below!