Category Archives: Pop Culture

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS, PREVALENCE OF Y-CHROMOSOMES (PART 2)

For me, the fun part of reviewing this contest is to dissect and analyze the points that were disseminated, as the EBU graciously discloses all rankings and breakdown of the numbers.  And there are interesting stories that can be found here.  For instance, on the televote side, the Top 10 took a whopping 87.64% of all the available points to be allocated, leaving the bottom 16 to scramble for a measly 12.36%–this beats the record set in 1976 in terms of point concentration of the Top 10 vis-a-vis the rest of the entries.  The heavy concentration of points help explain how this year the televote points were the most crucial determinant for the final ranking.  I’ll of course discuss the entries that were found on the right side of the scoreboard…

To no one’s surprise, holding up the rear were Spain (Manel Navarro, “Do It for Your Lover”) and Germany (Levina, “Perfect Life”).  Besides the weak regard by the fans for these entries, both vocalists were not in great form during the finals–Manel notoriously squawked as he tried to hit the high note in the otherwise flat-leaning song’s climax, and Levina sounded ragged through most of the song.  Even though in the televote Spain was officially in a tie for 22nd thanks to five points given by Iberian neighbor Portugal, examining the full ordinals reveal that other countries ranked it in dead last, and was actually last in the televote ordinals.  Now, an interesting tale could be told about Germany’s performance with the juries as based on ordinals it actually outdid Greece, Croatia, and Ukraine on average.  It seems in this case, Germany exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum with the juries.

Ukraine (O. Torvald, “Time”) garnered its worst performance in this contest ever, finishing 24th overall.  It shows the broadcaster’s gambit to shake things up by fielding a male entry backfired horribly (again), proving they should have stuck with a tried-and-tested diva.  Though officially 24th in the juries, it actually was second-to-last ahead of Spain when you examine the ordinals.  On the televote side, the ordinals are also lower than the official rank (17th place) as ordinals place this at 22nd.

Israel (IMRI, “I Feel Alive”) interestingly was third in its semifinal, but suffered a severe loss in points when the finals came in and hence ended up in a lowly 23rd overall.  One might attribute its severe drop from its semifinal performance to the fact it opened this year’s final and others may also cite that his vocals are not as strong in the Grand Final as it was in the 2nd Semifinal, but one also has to note that from that second semifinal only Bulgaria, Romania, and Norway were able to sustain their points (Romania on the sales side and Norway on the jury side) while most of the love is lavished towards Italy and the finalists from the 1st Semifinal.  I would also like to note that yes, it garnered a measly five points on the televote side, but if you examine its ordinal average, it turns out it also exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum as it actually averaged in 15th place, not 22nd.  This means televoters liked his entry better than what the points would indicate.

Poland (Kasia Moś, “Flashlight”) was a rare case of showing how a grittier live voice actually improved the performance, as it unlocked a deep passion that was muted in the recording.  Many people expect that this entry would’ve made a big splash with the televote just like what happened with Michal Szpak last year.  But it seems the Polish diaspora weren’t that into this entry and were not that motivated to vote this time.  Sure it garnered enough televote points to rank 12th, but as I mentioned above, that 12th place rank only corresponds to a measly 41 points.  I suppose it’s consolation enough that the 23 points it received from the juries is a big improvement over her predecessor’s measly 7 points in that round.

 

Unlike in the 1st Semifinal, Greece (Demy, “This is Love”) was able to hit the high notes in the Grand Final.  Despite this improvement, though, Demy only ended up a mediocre 19th place.  It gets worse when you examine the ordinals as based on rodinals she would’ve ranked 23rd overall.  This means the points that shored her up to 19th place was concentrated on a few countries–well, there is the usual suspect, Cyprus, which granted it douze (12) points from both juries and televote along with dix (10) points from the Armenian jury.

Speaking of Cyprus (Hovig, “Gravity”) on the televote side it exhibited a Ryan Dolan Conundrum as the ordinals showed it actually finished 11th even if based on actual points it ranked 14th–meaning across the countries it wasn’t as polarizing as the entries that ranked above it.  Based on ordinals it would’ve ranked 17th overall instead of 21st.

If the composite system employed in 2013-2015 was employed in this year’s contest, Switzerland (Timebelle, “Apollo”) would’ve advanced instead of Denmark (Anja Nissen, “Where I Am”).  And it mirrored its semifinal outcome from the semifinals to the finals–it ranked 13th with the juries and 21st with the televote.  The televote story would’ve been worse if we use ordinals as actually it would have been 24th.

Belarus (Naviband, “Story of My Life”) was truly middle-of-the-pack by every measure, officially 17th overall, 16th with juries and 13th with the public, and slightly a notch lower in all measures using the ordinal system.  Overall, a respectable performance.  I also would like to compliment this entry for its sunny spirit, and yes, the comparison of Ksienija Zuk’s hairdo to the Japanese anime character Sailor Moon.

It’s interesting that two adversarial countries, Azerbaijan (Dihaj, “Skeletons”) and Armenia (Artsvik, “Fly with Me”) garnered heavy raves from the media for their quality performances (which I agree) but ended up with disappointing finishes, 14th and 18th respectively.  Azerbaijan earned douze (12) points from the juries in Italy and Portugal, and from the televoters in Georgia, but it’s not enough to return back to the Top 10 after last placing in that level with Farid Mammadov’s “Hold Me” back in 2013.  Armenia, meanwhile, just simply couldn’t catch a break with juries or televoters though it did fare a little better with the juries with a 15th place ranking there.  It doesn’t help that unlike the neighborly bloc-voting pattern as exhibited by the likes of Greece and Cyprus, for instance, Armenia and Azerbaijan made it a point to mark each other in last place, whether in televote or the juries.

United Kingdom (Lucie Jones, “Never Give Up on You”) had its best finish since Blue’s 11th place finish back in 2011, finishing 15th overall.  It’s a jury darling as it garnered enough points to land 10th, but well, it got a measly 12 points with the televotes and ranked 20th there.  There is a bit of a Ryan Dolan conundrum on the televote side for this entry as if we use ordinals, it ranked higher to 16th there, and the combined ordinal overall it would’ve ranked higher to 13th place.

I also like to give a shoutout at the awesome 7th Heaven remix for this song, because it actually did a more effective job as a ballad-to-dance-track than the actual entry that does this, Greece.  It made me wish that like the permission granted to San Marino last year to make the remix the official number, they should’ve done the same thing for this entry.

Though officially ranked 11th with the juries, Austria (Nathan Trent, “Running on Air) turned out to be a bigger jury darling than its ranking suggest based on ordinals.  It actually encountered the Edurne Paradox as not only did it actually rank 6th in ordinarls, but garnered votes from 24 countries, more than the number of countries giving points for , Italy (21), Moldova (19), Belgium (20), and the United Kingdom (21) and equaling the number of juries that voted for Norway, all of which ranked above this entry.  But of course it’s pulled down by the zero points it got from the televote.  Though officially this made this entry last place in televote, based on ordinals it actually wasn’t last on average, but was actually 23rd.  This means this one also exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum, this time for the televote.

Another polarizing entry was Croatia (Jacques Houdek, “My Friend”), whose 13th place overall finish was buoyed mostly by its 9th place ranking with the televotes (it ranked 22nd with the juries).  Ordinals made the picture worse as it dropped to 24th with the juries and 10th in televote, with the UK taking its place in the overall ordinals.

COMING UP:  THE TOP 12

 

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS, PREVALENCE OF Y-CHROMOSOMES (PART 1)

BLOGGER’S NOTE:  Apologies this came a full month after the event.  Work commitments and other matters prevented me from posting this earlier…

Besides the brouhaha over Russia (which, as expected, ultimately led to their withdrawal), one key characteristic I observed about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is that contrary to its “Celebrate Diversity” slogan, the Ukrainian broadcaster NTU wanted to reassert the dominance of the male species.  This is demonstrated by the choice of their entry, an all-male rock group, instead of its usual series of female singers over the past decade, along with an all-male hosting trio.  Are they able to advance their agenda?

Most observers (including myself) sense that there is no way this year’s edition can top last year’s acclaimed stellar hosting and production.  And with all that talk about issues in the preparation prior to previous year’s producer Christer Björkman entering the fray.  The question was how much of Christer’s touch would be reflected in the contest, along with if overall we would be treated to a worthwhile show.

Christer’s touch was obvious with the glossy, sleek production values delivered in this edition.  It started with a taped sequence featuring those stylized beads from the logo going all around Ukraine.  Then, came the parade of finalists.  Unlike the way it was done since 2013, they eschewed the flags, and even if the countries’ names were announced with the nice illusion that the artists emerge as if they were teleported, it kinda reduced the splendor that the ceremony was supposed to entail.  Also making this sequence a bit of a letdown was that perhaps due to a technical glitch no one could hear the names “Belarus” and “Armenia” announced.

What about the three presenters, Oleksandr SkichkoVolodymyr Ostapchuk and green room commentator Timur Miroshnychenko?  I have been acclimated to the Eastern European style of hosting ever since I watched Miss Supranational four years so unlike most people I can tolerate their accents.  But they are aware of that, so it led to a filmed sequence played halfway through the competition where these three hosts were subject to a bootcamp led by previous co-host (and 2015 champion) Måns Zelmerlöw.  Why not include his much more heralded co-host, Petra Mede?  One might cite NTU’s male directive, but I suppose another consideration is Måns was slated as one of the commentators for his country’s TV network, SVT.  Anyway, it’s a fun and amusing sequence.

It’s interesting that despite the male directive, the interval acts for the final are all female.  First was 2004 champion Ruslana, who performed her latest single, “It’s Magical”.  It’s almost as lively as her winning entry “Wild Dances”, with a dash of gentle folkloric touches.

The next itnerval act was the Ukrainian all-female ethno-electronica group ONUKA featuring the folkloric touches of the NAONI Orchestra.  The vocalist has an ethereal quality in her singing and it’s indeed a display why the female musical acts from this country are the fiercest around.

Then, finally we have last year’s champion, Jamala who of course performed a new single, “I Believe In U”.  She’s more in a romantic mode in this number, and it is a worthwhile listen.  It’s just a shame that her number was trolled by notorious Ukrainian prankster Vitaly Sediuk, who invaded her stage clad in an Australian flag (so some people initially presumed it was an Australian prankster) and mooned the audience before being whisked off.  His antics are very much un-called for, and there is a side of me that wish he be shipped off to Chechnya and be sent to those notorious concentration camps they set up for gay people in that territory.

Like last year, the announcement of the jury results are done where the points from 10, and 8-1 are shown on screen and the spokepersons only announce the country that got their douze (12) points.   Besides seeing the various meme-worthy reaction shots from Portugal’s Salvador Sobral,  a big highlight for me was seeing the gorgeous Zlata Ognevich  (2013 Eurovision 3rd placer) announcing the Ukrainian votes.  At least three of the four*1 most important Ukrainian entries have roles in this year’s contest and helped prevent the proceedings from becoming a sausage-fest.  Anyway, there is also a fun three-minute “Verka break” where midway through the announcements the audience (and hosts) dance along with Verka Serduchka to her 2007 Eurovision 2nd placer “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”.

*1 Besides Ruslana, Jamala, and Zlata, the fourth fierce female I was referring was Ani Lorak (2nd place, 2008).  Oh I wish there was room for her to appear.

This new scoring format does deliver on the suspense as many presumed Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov would win this round and one would wonder if it would be enough to overcome Portugal’s 100+ point lead.  But for me the biggest shocker was the extremely low amount of points allocated for the acts below the Top 10 in televote.  More on that in my scoring analysis.

COMING UP:  SCORING ANALYSIS

 

 

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: RESULTS ANALYSIS, 2ND SEMI-FINAL

Unlike the first semi-final, with outcomes almost compatible with alternative systems/analyses, there are some contrasting outcomes that could be gleaned from the second-semifinal.  The ordinals and the composite scores would feature a different 10th placer and shut one eventual finalist out.

Officially at 11th place was Serbia (Tijana Bogićević).  It turned out she got some support from the juries as she ranked 10th there and barely missed the final cut with an 11th place televote ranking.  But it turns out televote was weaker than the rank indicates if you examine ordinals, as ordinals show it was actually 14th–this indicate that her ranking was shored up by high scores from her ex-Yugoslav bloc mates but other televoters are not that into her.  If we use the 2013-2015 composite system, she would end up in 13th place instead.

After two consecutive last place semifinal finishes, Switzerland (Timebelle) finally rose from the doldrums and finished a more respectable 12th. ranking 10th with the televote and 11th with the juries.  But the jury ordinals would’ve placed it 8th, and its overall ordinals would’ve made it qualify to the final instead of Denmark (Anja Nissen).  A similar story if we use the composite system as it would’ve been one of the 10 finalists instead of Denmark.  It turns out it suffered a case of the Ryan Dolan Conundrum with the juries.

Ireland (Brendan Murray) had a respectable finish by ranking officially 13th overall, with 12th place showings in both juries and televotes.  If we employ ordinals and the composite system, though, it could’ve knocked on Top Ten’s door and place 11th.

Surprisingly polarizing the juries and televote was Estonia (Koit Toome and Laura).  Based on jury points it was second to last, but the ordinals reveal that it suffered a case of the Ryan Dolan Conundrum as it actually was 15th based on ordinals.  Still, the juries seem to not get the “anti-chemistry” between the pair (which was actually what the song requires) and were probably turned off by Koit’s stoic faces when Laura sang some solo lines.  Well, at least it got the love from the public as it finished sixth with them.  If we base it on ordinal and the composite system, instead of ranking 14th this entry could’ve ranked 12th.

On the flip side, a surprising jury darling was Malta (Claudia Faniello).  It ranked 8th with the juries, but that is not enough to offset its horribly dead last place with the televote (nil points).  Sure, her consistently strong vocal chops deserve credit, but it’s not enough to elevate the mediocrity of the ballad, which is what is reflected by the televote results.  In fact, her last place showing in the televote would’ve cancelled out the jury points she earned if we employed the composite point system, and she would end up 17th overall using that system.

There are qualifiers who polarized the juries and televotes severely in this round.  First, let’s discuss two jury darlings, Austria (Nathan Trent) and Denmark (Anja Nissen).  Austria ranked 4th with the juries and Denmark was 5th, but with televote, the former was 14th and the latter was 16th, with a measly 5 points.  Even if we employ the ordinals and the composite score system, Austria’s place in the final remains secure as actually based on ordinals it fared a bit better in the televote in 12th place.  Unfortunately in the case of Denmark, it would’ve been eliminated and ranked 12th using the ordinals system and 14th using the composite system–just like Malta, its low televote rank would’ve siphoned off significant amount of jury points, and as mentioned above, qualifying in its stead would be Switzerland.

Now, major televote darlings that didn’t fare well with the juries were Romania (Ilinca & Alex Florea) and Croatia (Jacques Houdek).  Romania was a huge 3rd in televote and that helped offset its 15th place showing with the jury.  Croatia ranked 5th with the televote and 13th with the juries.  As demonstrated also in the final, televote points played a more crucial part in deciding placements in this year’s contest.

Now, let’s spare a thought for the entry that placed last:  San Marino (Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson).  It got nil points from the juries, and thanks to Ralph Siegel fans in Germany it at least garnered 1 measly point from the televote, helping it outrank Malta here.  Yes, no one expected this entry to qualify but to be dead last?  Lager louts from Ireland and Norway plus token points from ex-USSR countries Belarus, Estonia, and Ukraine helped shore up Lithuania (Fusedmarc)‘s fortunes a bit, but I’d rather have Valentina’s retro-disco cheese over Fusedmarc’s strident wailing.  At least I get some amusement when Danish comic artist Humon pointed out that lead singer Viktorija Ivanovskaja resembles a children’s book character called Little My (the latter pronounced “mee” with the lips rounded) from the Swedish book series Moomins.  It’s unfortunate that San Marino experienced its worst finish thus far, and now this country is threatening to quit Eurovision altogether.

Little My from Moomins