ABC election analyst Antony Green covered this year’s Eurovision Song Contest from the floor of the official tally room in Malmö. Here is his review of the Eurovision final and this year’s voting trends.
I just love the Eurovision Song Contest. And not for the reasons you think. (I can watch throbbing Europop on the internet any day of the week.)
For us psephologists, Eurovision is the ultimate. It’s where “capital E” Entertainment and “capital E” Electioneering collide. To put it in terms that Eurovision attendees will understand, the contest is a glorious double dose of E.
Eurovision is a fun gig for me. It’s not like the National Tally Room in Canberra where I’ve got Kerry O’Brien grumbling away on one side and, on the other, some party hack insisting that a 10% swing against them is a 2% swing in their favour on two-party preferred figures. In Malmö, I am with like-minded people, with unrestricted access to the artists and the magnificent Eurovision database.
The Australian Electoral Commisssion should take note. The Eurovision computers give you figures that are up-to-date and reliable. Bring on the NBN, I say. (Well, I would if I were allowed to under ABC’s stupid impartiality guidelines!)
But let’s talk about the contest and the voting trends.
First, some history.
Eurovision voting used to be conducted by jury. This process involved a small group of experts in each country assigning votes based on musicality, songwriting and geographical proximity of the performer to the voting country.
To encourage viewer interaction, popular televoting became the norm around a decade ago. After this change, musicality and songwriting became less important. Instead, stagecraft and gimmickry (or as they say in Eurovision parlance: “the reveal”) became paramount. As well as, of course, geographical proximity to the voting country.
In an attempt to strike a balance between the two systems, votes for each country are now determined by a mix of jury and televoting.
What does this all mean?
First and foremost, being geographically close to lots of other countries helps you get Eurovision votes. (Sorry, United Kingdom, but that’s the truth.) Secondly, having a good song, which is beautifully staged and well-performed helps a lot too. (Sorry again, UK.)
Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? But as my heroine Jennifer Saunders wrote: Darling, if it were that simple, everyone would do it.
The victory of Denmark this year accorded with recent historical voting trends. Only Teardrops had a tune you could instantly hum, the performance was gorgeously staged and Denmark is in the geographical centre of the voting map. The winning margin of 47 votes was emphatic – what we psephologists call “a space job”.
The placegetters – Azerbaijan and Ukraine – similarly benefited from clever staging and strong geographical voting.
But, as is so often the case with voting contests, the interest is not where the winners went right but where the losers went wrong.
Some observations about this year’s beaten finalists.
Georgia : Waterfall was a beautifully staged duet and I am a sucker for any woman (or man) who looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus. If you think about the sort of things that were repeatedly entered in the 1980s (don’t be rude, people!), this song would have won. That was the era of the Big Duet Ballad – think Kenny and Dolly, Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley, Celine Dion and anyone. Georgia this year was a classic instance of the right candidate at the wrong time.
Finland : This is an interesting case study in the challenges faced by fringe candidates. This year Finland tried to overcome its geographical adversity by campaigning on same sex marriage with Marry Me. Despite a catchy tune, cheeky choreography and some girl on girl action at the end, the Finnish vote this year was way down on their last appearance in the final. Although it is a sad reflection on voters in 2013, it reinforces that Julia Gillard is unlikely to be campaigning on same sex marriage this September.
Romania : Ah, the contralto vampire Cezar. It’s My Life gave viewers a high-pitched voice that stood out from the crowd. A lot of voters liked what they heard. Expect plenty more screeching on your TV between now and September.
United Kingdom : The Australian Labor Party talks about the need for generational change. But what about the UK? Engelbert Humperdinck last year. Bonnie Tyler this year. Yes, Bonnie is younger than Engelbert but, on my projections, the UK won’t have a performer in Eurovision’s sweetspot twenties demographic until 2025. The UK’s vote was almost double that of last year but it was nowhere near enough on such a low base.
Ireland : For the last-placed lads from Ireland, there are two pictures to consider. First, there are pure numbers. This year’s Irish score of 5 points was the country’s equal lowest ever. However, there is also this picture:
I know which one I’ll remember.
See you in Copenhagen in 2014.