Immediately after the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest was concluded, the EBU posted the complete results of both the two semifinal heats and the finals, and there are a whole host of stories that can be gleaned from the results. Of course the math geek in me wanted to plumb through the points and rankings and analyze them.
I’ve noticed an imperfection in the Top 10-oriented points system they have in place, a major peeve of which is that there are occasions where a song that finishes last overall may have not been last at all if you factor the ranking of the entire lot, not just the Top 10. I call this the Ryan Dolan Conundrum*1. There is also the heavy skewing of high points in some countries (usually bloc mates) that would generate high points and outdo entries that may have figured in the Top 10 in a larger set of countries but didn’t amass as much points from them–this one is known as the Edurne Paradox.*2
*1 So named for the Irish 2013 entry who officially finished last in the Eurovision final despite ranking 14th with the juries and 23rd with the public. Its lack of points was because it figured in as a bubbling under choice below the Top 10 for most of the votting countries.
*2 So named after the Spanish 2015 entry who ranked a shockingly lousy 21st place even with points from eight countries, while entries ranking 15th to 20th garnered larger points from far fewer countries.
So to salute the underdogs and to examine if there are entries tthat exhibit these two prominent symptoms, I examined the overall ordinal rankings. Below is the table for the first semifinal:
Ordinal points used to matter when the 2013-2015 scoring system was employed as when the points from each country was compiled, it was based on the overall ordinal score. Countries that earned the highest points on, say the jury side may be dragged down if it fared last in the televote (and vice-versa) while an entry that ranked 11th in both jury and televote may get to earn points overall when such a polarizing scenario occurs with other entries. Anyway, here’s a comparison of how the first semifinal would’ve looked using the composite system (as I termed the 2013-2015 system) versus the current system in place.
Ranking 11th overall was Georgia (Tamara Gachechiladze). Juries liked Tamara’s powerhouse vocals enough to make it rank 8th. But it displayed weakness in the televote as it ended up 13th–and if you examine the average ordinal rankings, the scenario is even worse as it was actually 17th, which indicate its televote “strength” was a product of bloc support. The low ordinal televote rank indicates that if the 2013-2015 “composite” system was employed, this entry would’ve ranked 13th overall instead.
Ranking 12th overall was Finland (Norma John). It was the sole non-finalist who made the Top 10 in televote, at 10th place, dislodging Australia (Isaiah Firebrace) who ranked a weak 15th place. It’s quite surprising seeing this result as many pundits thought this would be a big jury darling and may be vulnerable in the televote. Turns out it was strong in the televote and just missed the mark with the juries by ranking 12th with them. Interestingly if the “composite” system was used, this would’ve been in 11th place.
Also garnering significant jury love was the entry that placed 13th overall, Czech Republic (Martina Bárta). It ranked 7th with the juries, but was dragged down with a last place finish in the televote. I suppose this is going to be a perennial issue for this country as it doesn’t have much bloc support unlike, say, the Balkans and the Nordics. But I also have to note that last year, Gabriela Gunčíková may have garnered nil points during the final, but during the semifinal it got enough points from the televote to rank 12th there (it qualified of course because it ranked 4th with the juries). So with a better song this country could overcome the inherent televote deficit and see action in the finals again.
The most obvious jury darling in this semi-final was Australia (Isaiah Firebrace) as it was 2nd overall with the juries. Reportedly he was on-key during the jury rehearsal held the day prior to the semifinal, but on the day of the semifinal he had a screechy moment that it was reflected in the weak televote score–it ranked a low 15th with the public. That jury love helped his secure a safe 6th place overall in this round and thus advanced to the final, and the jury love continued from there–more on that in the review of the final.
The biggest televote darling was Belgium (Blanche). There was so much love with the studio recording and Blanche’s distinctive alto that the audiences were very forgiving about her wobbly singing during this round, giving her a lofty 3rd place in the televote. The juries, though, were less merciful and pegged her down to 13th place but her televote score was high enough that she ended up 4th overall in the semifinal–a similar story would unfold in the final, but like Australia, more on that in the review of the final.
If juries were the sole arbiter determining the 10 finalists, Poland (Kasia Moś) would’ve missed the cut as it ranked 11th. But it earned a solid 6th place with the televote to end up 9th overall and hence advanced to the final.
Now, let’s spare a thought for the entry that placed last overall, Latvia (Triana Park). It hurt that it was dead last with the juries (garnering a measly 1 point) and a tie for 16th with the televote isn’t enough to save it from the doldrums. Though yes clearly the performance was flawed, I felt this doesn’t deserve the low placement it received–some theorized the juries were a tad frightened by aggressive ladies like this band’s lead singer, Agnese Rakovska, hence it was penalized for it. It’s unfair and unjust that this band was treated as such, as it wasn’t an amateurish hot mess unlike, say, Montenegro (Slavko Kalezić) who ranked one notch above Latvia with the juries but its campy appeal helped it shore up an 11th place ranking with the televote, ending up 16th overall.
COMING UP: THE 2ND SEMI-FINAL