Storm is nothing like Perfect Life

I was pretty happy after You Decide on Wednesday night. The contest was won by an entry which I’d seen some potential in beforehand, but wouldn’t claim to have liked. Storm is a pretty by-the-book Eurovision entry, but on the night it was lifted by a fantastic live performance.

I left the venue fairly optimistic, but upon checking my phone found some scathing reviews online and dire predictions for another last place. One of the chief arguments used by Storm’s detractors is that it reminds them of Perfect Life, Germany’s second-to-last disaster from last year.

I don’t think this is fair.

The many faces of Surie

I’ve been studying the two songs side by side and see few of the faults of Perfect Life in this year’s UK entry. I’ll start with the most striking aspect of the UK entry – the live performance. What made Surie stand out as a winner on Wednesday was the way she acted her song.

From the little half squint and shake of the head to accompany the line “no fear,” to the glance upstairs as she seeks approval from her mother, to the wide eyed smile at the end, the performance was a masterclass in conveying emotions through the face.

The many smiles of Levina

The use of body language also complemented the performance perfectly. Surie comes across as confident throughout, beginning more simply and more open and getting more expressive as the performance goes on. She tells a story.

Compare this to Levina. She smiles a lot. I tried to inject some variety in the montage on the right. There are a couple of occasions where she gestures with a hand. I don’t mean to be unkind, Levina does come across as confident and has a nice smile, but the performance is just nice.

It’s not all her fault though. A big part of the problem with Germany last year was the song. There is very little for Levina to get stuck into. There are no little accents and changes of pace. There’s a gradual build from start to finish but with little or nothing along the way to grab the attention. In comparison, Storm starts out quiet and builds through the verse, before the music cuts out as the bridge starts, builds up again and then the volume gets turned up for the chorus of punchy direct statements.

Neither song can claim to be a lyrical masterpiece, but only one grabs the ear. I’ve listened to Perfect Life a few times in a row now and I don’t really notice the words. There’s a hint of “sometimes it’s wrong before it’s right” in there if you listen, but the only one that stands out is “that’s what you call a perfect life,” although even then it feels tacked on as an afterthought at the end of the chorus. This main lyric we’re left waiting for tells us that everything’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about, all’s good. Again, the song is just nice. It’s just there.

Storm, meanwhile, is hardly poetry, but the songwriters know what they’re doing. I like how the verses are each split into halves starting “Hey, hey brother/sister/mother/father”. That kind of repetition is such a simple but effective trick. By the end of the song the audience will have built up a recognition of this structure and feel comfortable in it. Invoking family members is also a handy shortcut to making a fairly generic song seem personal. Then there’s the central hook of “Storms don’t last forever” which neatly sums up the hope over adversity message that so many modern Eurovision songs go for. Plus, putting the song title front and centre and again, repeating it a lot, plays a big part in establishing familiarity with the song.

The focus is on Surie

Another big plus point for this year’s UK entry is the camerawork. This has traditionally been a big problem for the UK, but the BBC got it right with Never Give Up On You and all the signs point to Storm continuing this run. We start with a shot zooming in on Surie and cut to a close up as soon as she starts singing. Every shot is either close in to capture her facials or a longer one that zooms in on her. The vertical lights on stage act as a frame and focus all attention inwards on our performer. It’s only later as the performance gets bigger and more expansive do we follow Surie’s arm movements outwards for extended long shots.

I particularly like the shot from below as Surie asks her mother if she’s making her proud. Surie directs that question upwards and the camera mirrors her gaze. There’s no guarantee that this camerawork will be as good in Lisbon, but someone obviously has a clear idea of what the song needs, which is half the battle.

I’m feeling sorry for Levina at this point, but let’s compare.

We start off with a long shot coming in from above as we move towards a prone Levina in an outfit that nicely blends in with the background. Just as we get a chance to see her up close and the right way up we cut away and watch her sit up on the floor. Before we get too close though, we cut to a nice picture of her back and then move away to a long shot. It’s not until 35 seconds in that we get our first 2 second shot of her face. Throughout the performance a lot of the shots the zoom out, away from Levina. The camerawork does not lend itself to the sort of commanding performance that Surie puts in. Levina is a passenger.

Storm is not perfect by any means. There will be more original, more engaging, more memorable songs at this year’s contest. However, it shouldn’t be put into the same bracket as Germany 2017. Perhaps both are attempts at safe and conventional Eurovision-style entries. However, Storm executes its aim more effectively than Perfect Life in just about every way. I don’t expect it to get much further than mid table in May, but I’d be very surprised if we found ourselves battling with Spain to avoid last place.

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Stats Corner – 2018 Semi Final Draw

The semi draw! My favourite piece of Eurovision admin. You can have your complicated reality tv Spanish Eurovision galas and speedy Czech national final results; I’m here for the small talk and little pieces of paper. This year we got an extra bonus as the host took great pains to teach viewers how to pronounce everything correctly in Portuguese. I now know how to say Parque das Nações in a way incomprehensible to any non-native speakers, but that will mark me out as a more committed fan than those around me.

Win, lose or draw?

More importantly to me, I get to break out my semi draw spreadsheet (pronounced “sem-eee dror spred-sheet”). Every year since time began, I have tried to use a ridiculously complicated set of formulas to figure out which countries have benefited from the semi final draw and which have lost out.

I’ve collated the results from Eurovisions going back to 2008 and for each year I’ve compared how many points each country received from those voting in this year’s semi 1 with those voting in semi 2. I then average the differences between the yearly scores and multiply them by the expected number of points in their semi (i.e. total number of points available divided by number of countries). This gives me an estimate of how many extra points the draw could be worth.

So who won?

Greece and Cyprus are annoying me. For the second year in a row, they are drawn together and come out top of my stats. As well as voting for each other they have reliable sources of points on hand from neighbours Bulgaria and Albania, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Speaking of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Caucasian enemies are among the worst off after the draw. They get put in the same pot, but obviously don’t vote for each other. They’re both really missing Georgia and Russia.

What I do this for though, are the more unpredictable winners. I can’t tell you why Czech Republic have done so well. It may just be down to statistical noise from the lack of data I have for them compared to other countries, but with a strong, though high-risk entry, they could do with a leg up.

On to semi 2!

 

Romania have come out top of this semi. They have their old pals Moldova present, plus Slovenia, Netherlands and Malta are there to help. Sweden also do well, although, curiously, it’s not a good semi for the Scandinavians across the board. Norway and Denmark both creep into negative territory.

Latvia, the lone Baltic in a semi also shorn of Irish and UK diaspora voters, come out last in the Thursday night stats.

Georgia may be missing Armenia and Azerbaijan as much as their neighbours. That said, all three were together last year and Georgia were still in negative territory. Something more complicated may also be going on. Either way, it’s a good thing Georgia have chosen such a broad, mainstream and universal act as Iriao for Lisbon.

I don’t really know why it’s such a bad semi for Malta. Answers on a postcard please.

I can only apologise to fans from Malta and Latvia and Armenia for delivering the bad news, but bear in mind that this study takes no account of the fact that all these countries are in the second half of their semis, nor does it look into the relative strength and qualification records of the competition. Most of all, one must remember this: whatever the results of the draw, there’s no disadvantage that can’t be overcome by a great song, or just simply being Russia.

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Reasons why Occidentali’s Karma isn’t a winner

At about 2am on the Saturday night/Sunday morning of 11 February, the Eurovision community rejoiced. In part it was due to the fact that the good people at RAI had finally got round to announcing the winner of Sanremo 2017 – as is customary, they leave it until the delay is not funny any more, then wait another fifteen minutes. Mainly though, it was due to the fact that everyone’s favourite had won. The fun, uptempo song with the gorilla was going to Eurovision (assuming singer and simian companion accepted the invitation).

At this point, there was little talk of us finding a certain winner. With only ten songs chosen, the consensus was that Francesco Gabbani’s Occidentali’s Karma was a contender, but was most likely going to finish somewhere in the top ten. This wasn’t quite the cast-iron winner we were looking for. Something will turn up.

Fast forward to the middle of March and our Micawber-like wait hadn’t reached fruition. Something hadn’t turned up at Melodifestivalen, something hadn’t turned up at Eesti Laul. We weren’t sure if Russia were going to turn up at all. Italy remains top of the pile with the bookies, but is this just because they got there first? All the reasons for us to think they were destined for top ten and no more are still there. It’s still my favourite entry and I would like to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend it’s now a certain champion and always has been, but that wouldn’t be true. Let’s recap.

It’s in Italian

I still think it is possible for a good song to win Eurovision without resorting to English lyrics. However, going for a native language does mean you have to work harder to get your universal message across. Occidentali’s Karma includes a few of the clever things that Foreignish songs can try. The title is repeated a lot, which is handy, as the audience get it written down for them at the start of the song and it’s some words they can recognise (see Molitva and Kedvesem for precedents). There are also plenty of Alés and the odd “sex appeal”. However, when a song has such a complicated message as Occidentali’s Karma, the lack of English will only make things harder and compound some of the other problems.

“It’s simple, Geraldo. You are here to symbolise the backward progression of evolution as we hypocritically seek simple answers to cope with our increasingly insulated modern selfie-culture. Let’s dance!”

The Gorilla

General consensus has since relabelled Francesco’s dance partner as a monkey, but look at him. That’s no monkey. We’ve changed the animal’s species, because we’ve since learnt the lyrics and know that la scimmia nuda is dancing. To us, having the primate on stage is a (somewhat) logical extension of the lyrics and all makes sense. It’s going to be a harder sell to the public on 13 May. I imagine the general reaction will be “lol there’s a dancing gorilla on stage, that is so Eurovision”.

The Italian team is going to have a lot of work to do on its staging to telegraph the logic behind the appearance of Geraldo the Gorilla. Otherwise the song could be miscategorised in the same vein as Norway 1980, with its funny Eskimo man coming on mid-way through to yodel.

Sanremo is a world away from Kyiv

Eurovision is not Sanremo

Though supposedly an early inspiration, The Sanremo Festival is a very different beast to modern Eurovision. It’s still a black tie affair largely dominated by classy ballads with few extra adornments on stage. Francesco only had to do a little dance to stand out. His energetic performance brought the show alive.

One of the highlights was how Francesco had the entire orchestra join in to shout “Alé”. A potential benefit of Russia withdrawing this year is that we don’t need the noise cancelling technology and may be able to hear the crowd take the orchestra’s place in Kyiv. However, it still won’t have quite the same effect of breaking through the staid and formal setting in which Occidentali’s Karma had been placed.

Viewed through the world of Sanremo, it was easy for Eurovision fans to fall in love with this song. Will it stand out as well as a fun entry when it has an Epic Sax Guy to contend with?

That Savage Cut

There must have been another way to shave thirty seconds off the song for Eurovision. Put in an abbreviated first chorus and maybe cut down the bit where Francesco’s on his knees pre-namaste and you might be able to save some of the second verse. As it stands, we have an awkward gap between first chorus and second bridge. It sounds wrong, and I’m sure will still stand out to new listeners. I hold hope that the gap will be filled in Kyiv by a big entrance for Geraldo the Gorilla.

Even if the stage version makes the transition less jarring, it still brings a problem. While the song’s in a Foreign language, the language of music and of contemporary pop song structure is universal. A comforting verse-bridge-chorus structure has been lost from the song. It has become even less familiar to our ears.

Namaste?

It doesn’t fit the recent winners mould

Occidentali’s Karma would be a slight departure from recent Eurovision winners by not being a unifying anthem about triumph over adversity. His main “vote for me” weapon (gorilla aside) is the build up to the Namaste moment which should hopefully culminate in some sort of pyro (the confetti he used in London could be perfect) and joyful gorilla dancing.

We don’t know exactly how they plan to stage it, but Francesco is unlikely to be presented as the heroic figure conquering his demons that Måns, Conchita and Jamala all have been in very different ways. His song is not set up to elicit that sort of emotional response.

But who could win instead?

This is the biggest puzzle. The bookies seem to like Bulgaria’s chances. Beautiful Mess has been written to more of a Eurovision-winning template. However, while Kristian is “up against the wall,” he doesn’t actually overcome anything. He just stays in his beautiful mess. The song is also a bit limp and uninspiring. Australia does the young male with a ballad a lot better than Bulgaria, for me. Don’t Come Easy has a more anthemic feel and has the big note ready and waiting for its winner pyro. Both are more convincing contenders than fellow bookies’ darling, Sweden. Francesco Gabbani may not come across as a hero, but that’s better than a poser on a travelator

Could it be you?

Belgium is another strong contender. The song perhaps doesn’t reach the emotional climax that it feels destined for at the start, but it is very well set up for a commanding visual experience as Blanche controls little balls of light around her. Her shy and diffident performances in the preview shows put a big question mark over whether this will be convincing though.

We may need a big surprise to come through and challenge, in Common Linnets style. Looking through the forgotten acts, Norway may have some of the ingredients to surprise. Grab the Moment is all about overcoming one’s fears and is pretty catchy. The MGP staging was terrible though. If they can come up with something less big and empty and instead use scary mask face as the demon on JOWST’s shoulder it could spring a surprise. Alternatively, the most Common Linnetsy act this year is Estonia. I find their gurning for the camera a bit overwrought (and much preferred Kerli in Eesti Laul), but they do look to tell a story on stage.

While Italy’s problems are very much their own, they are a favourite this year in a very similar way to Russia was in 2016. The entry is deeply flawed, but something has to step up and deliver something brilliant in May to beat it. Is there a Jamala out there this time round?

Maybe something will turn up.

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20 Years of Hurt

A little while ago there was a nice programme on the BBC looking back at the summer of 1996 and the brilliant run England had in our home football tournament. Euro 96 was the first football tournament that I was old enough to fully engage with (might have been USA 94 if we’d been there).

As someone who loved anything where countries come together in a competitive format it holds many special memories for me: Gazza’s wonder-goal, our demolition of the Dutch team in the group stages, David Seaman’s goalie jumper of many colours. Most of all, Paul Gascoigne’s outstretched boot narrowly failing to connect with the ball as it flashed teasingly across the German goal line will always be etched in my mind.

It occurred to me that there was another 20th anniversary coming up this year. On 3 May it will be 20 years since the United Kingdom last won Eurovision. To be honest, the occasion probably feels more momentous now than it did at the time. When Katrina and The Waves romped to victory at the Point Theatre, Dublin, it felt like the natural order of things. This was back in the day when a Eurovision failure for the UK was to come second yet again. What I’d give now, for a UK second place finish?

Anyway, I wrote a little something to mark the anniversary. I don’t particularly have the means to record a proper song and do it justice, so the words will have to do. I’m sure people will know the tune.

Everyone seems to know the score
It’s on the right side of the board
What a joke, what a bore

The UK’s gonna pick a bad song
Gonna stage it all wrong
But we know we belong

‘Cos I remember

Two girls with short skirts
Brotherhood still waving
Twenty years of hurt
Never stops me craving

All the wrong notes, all the missed keys
And so many wannabes
Bring us down to our knees

But still I see that puppet from Shaw
Lulu get a score draw
The Waves good as before

And Sir Cliff dancing

Two girls with short skirts
Brotherhood still waving
Twenty years of hurt
Never stops me craving

[Terry Wogan commentary]
 “Ireland have come in second, but we all know who’s won. They’ve been leading since the beginning, first time since 1981, since Buck’s Fizz”.
 “Ok, where are we going to hold it? Where are we going to hold it? Somewhere close to my house, alright?

I know that was then, but it could be again.

It’s coming home, it’s coming, Eurovision’s coming home
It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, Eurovision’s coming home
Two girls with short skirts (it’s coming)
Brotherhood still waving (It’s coming)
Twenty years of hurt (it’s coming)
Never stops me craving (it’s coming)

FADE

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Stats Corner – 2017 Semi Final Draw

2017-semi-draw-jamala-ruslana

We learnt a lot about Eurovision this week. We learnt the slogan and logo. On Tuesday we learnt what the stage would look like. We learnt that even Vitali Klitschko thinks the massive set of ceremonial Eurovision keys is too heavy. We learnt how to pronounce Tako Gachechiladze and that even fellow Eastern Europeans take great joy in being able to say it. We learnt that among certain Eastern Europeans, the mention of the name “Russia” has a delicious ability to bring an extended awkward silence to even the brightest of host broadcaster chit chat. We learnt that Ruslana has quite a laid back fashion sense when it comes to formal bureaucratic events. Most importantly, though, we learnt who is going to be in which semi final at this year’s Eurovision.

I love my semi final draws. It means I get to break out my massive, incredibly convoluted and multi-tabbed spreadsheet that deciphers the results and tells me who has been given an advantage by the way the little slips of paper fell. Like the keys in the formal mayoral handover, every year I find an extra nuance that I can add to my formulas, creating a progressively larger and more complicated piece of work.

I'm giving you...LATVIA

I’m giving you… LATVIA

This year I’ve had the headache of adapting my spreadsheets to cope with the new scoring system (the source data is not in a handy format any more!). It does make 2016’s data more useful as there are a wider range of scores that the combined televotes and juries can give out, to more different countries. I get a more detailed picture from now on. In terms of the numbers, though, the only effect is that the final figure is multiplied by two.

As in past years, I’ve collated the results from Eurovisions going back to 2008 and for each year I’ve compared how many points each country received from those voting in this year’s semi 1 with those voting in semi 2. I then average the differences between the yearly scores and multiply them by the expected number of points in their semi (i.e. total number of points available divided by number of countries). This gives me an estimate of how many extra points the draw could be worth.

My study looks into how many points each country would normally get from their semi-mates compared to the countries on the other side of the draw. It doesn’t take any account of how successful a country normally is or what sort of competition they may have from those they’ve been grouped with.

I’ve rattled on long enough now, like a local mayor with a speech to give. So here’s a graph.

2017-semi-1-draw-stats

Part of the idea of doing this work is to look beyond the over-simplistic “Oh Greece and Cyprus are together, so they have a great draw” logic. So having done all the hard work, I can now tell you that Greece and Cyprus together have the best draw in semi 1. It doesn’t always happen that way, I promise. Among others, they have the extra bonus of the UK voting in their semi. Portugal have also done quite well out of the draw. They have the likes of Spain, Sweden, Belgium and Slovenia at hand, who are all frequent point-givers.

At the other end of the graph, Sweden have come out worst. Their Scandinavian friends are over in the other semi. They do at least have Finland as a Nordic to keep them company as the most wronged by the draw. Norma John is also in the first half of semi 1, so may have her work cut out to qualify. I suspect Sweden may be fine though.

Georgia have also had a bad draw, and are in negative territory with their pot-mates Azerbaijan and Armenia. Ukraine being the host and therefore not separated into a pot, has harmed them somewhat. UK vote in this semi, so Georgia must regret not sending another indie rock anthem to Kyiv. We may not get Richard Osman appearing at their next national final.

2017-semi-2-draw-stats

At one end of semi 2, Denmark and Norway pick up all the votes that Sweden have missed out on, or some of them. There aren’t many big winners in this semi. There are a lot of countries getting small advantages. The big story in this semi is at the other end.

Romania is this year’s biggest loser. Their most reliable points-givers – not just Moldova, but Slovenia, Cyprus and Poland as well – are all in semi 1. This could be a test of their perfect qualification record. Welcome back.

Challenging Romania for most disadvantaged from this draw is poor little San Marino. The results from my study are quite remarkable. Every single country that voted for Complice, The Social Network Song, Chain of Lights or Maybe (in the final) is in the other semi. There’s only one Sanmarinese artist that got more votes from semi 2 countries than semi 1. There’s nothing for it; San Marino are going to have to turn to daddy Serhat.

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My Referendum Playlist

Bucks_Fizz BPop LiveOn 19th June the guys and girls from the Leave campaign in the UK’s EU referendum were due to have their end of term party. In a big arena in Birmingham they were putting on BPop live, a concert featuring all your favourite Brexiteering pop stars. Except there aren’t any. The event had been plagued with pullouts as all their stars gradually discovered that they’d signed up for an anti-EU political rally.

Before it got cancelled today, there was just one last big name left over to entertain the assembled Ukippers and Tories. They were Cheryl, Mike and Jay, the leftover husk of what once was Bucks Fizz. They were a great fit for the occasion; relics of a bygone era when the UK used to rule the world, but have since been overtaken by harder-working continental rivals and are beset by destructive separatist in-fighting.

The veteran skirt-rippers were due to drop in on the festivities as part of their Land Of Make Believe Tour (I know). Their now cancelled appearance (I’m going on with my post anyway, damnit!) has made me think of which Eurovision entries I’d choose as my alternative soundtrack for the remain campaign. Eurovision is an evening where a continent can come together and celebrate the music that unites us, after all. These are the songs I’ll be humming on 23rd June.

Liam Reilly – Somewhere In Europe (Ireland 1990)

First up is Eurovision’s great paean to borderless visa-free travel. Liam’s song revels in his ability to hop on a cheap Ryanair flight. Without a thought for paperwork, he can be on the Champs Elyssee, then on the slightest whim, he can move on to Rome, or Seville, or Amsterdam. He can even go to the Black Forest, for some reason. All of it arranged easily on his mobile internet, with not a care for the data roaming charges.

InCulto – Eastern European Funk (Lithuania 2010)

Some may look on the flip side of free travel and worry about migrants taking our jobs. I think if more people were aware of Eastern Europeans’ hard-working commitment to playing inflatable instruments and wearing shiny pants, they would look on our Polish and Lithuanian friends much more kindly. This seminal work of 2010 proves we have nothing to fear.

Da Da Dam -Paradise Oskar (Finland 2011)

Oskar is smart. He knows his EU air quality directives by heart. While Boris Johnson goes “Da da dam da da dam dadada da dam. Brrr… Cripes!” this song highlight how the EU works continent-wide to invest in renewable energy, ensure clean oceans and work against climate change.

Idiot – Kali Briis Band (Estonia NF 2015)

“If there is something that you don’t know, that you dont’ know, tell a lie, tell a lie”. The purported £350 million cost of EU membership comes to mind.

Power To All Our Friends – Cliff Richard (United Kingdom 1973)

There’s a man growing flowers. There’s a woman making wine (probably in Cliff’s Portuguese Vineyard). There’s a man ploughing in the field. All of them have the power to sell their goods to the European Union on the same terms as their continental neighbours. Sir Cliff’s sadly overlooked second entry to Eurovision is a stirring anthem to the benefits of a single market. And it has some wonderful choreography.

Luta É Alegria – Homens Da Luta (Portugal 2011)

Homens Da Luta may have been protesting against cuts following the 2008 banking crisis, but many of the workers’ rights they hold so dear are protected by the European Union. The construction worker on the left is kept safe by EU health and safety legislation, while someone with such unreliable working patterns as a member of a revolutionary paramilitia can still get statutory paid annual leave. With the EU by your side, the struggle is joy!

My Słowianie – Donatan & Cleo (Poland 2014)

I don’t know about everyone, else, but when I watch Poland 2014, the first thing I think of is the EU’s generous subsidies to the dairy farming industry.

Si – Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy 1974)

Finally, I need a big, all-encompassing positive anthem. When you look for a Eurovision song to win you a referendum, you turn to Italy 1974. It was banned from Italian media that year in the run up to a referendum on divorce laws, for fear that it could be a hidden campaigning tool for the “Si” vote. I want to harness its undoubted power for those who say yes to the EU.

I do have an alternative all-encompassing anthem, mind.

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Stats Corner- Juries who think alike

Montenegro vote eurovision 2016

With the jurors for this year’s Eurovision announced during the week, I’ve been thinking a bit about what they get up to. For the last couple of years, we’ve had access after the contest to the full jury vote and can see exactly who voted for who out of each five-member panel. I don’t necessarily think this leads to greater fairness in the vote, but it gives me some numbers to play with.

Many fans have been struck by how uniform some countries’ votes have been. There are certain sets of jurors who seem to have remarkably similar tastes. That may just be coincidence or down to broadcasters selecting jurors with similar backgrounds, or it may be something more pernicious. I thought I’d look at how the points are given out in a more scientific way than just looking at certain countries and saying that looks funny.

Each juror ranks all the songs in the final (other than their own country’s) from first to last. For both the 2014 and 2015 contests I’ve looked at each set of five placings a jury have given to each country in the final and taken the standard deviation of those scores. This gives a measure of how far apart these marks are spread; the higher the standard deviation the more varied the opinion of that song.

I then average these standard deviations for each national jury to give an overall standard deviation for each jury that year. I then average again to give a standard deviation over the two-year period my sample covers. This is a very small sample, so the results I’ve got are vulnerable to overstating the effect of one unusual set of jurors. It’s entirely possible my figures represent the result of chance variation. However, this is all the data we’ve got and the results are quite striking.

Eurovision jury variance 4

Everyone sticks pretty solidly to an average deviation of about 3 or 4 places. At the bottom, though, Azerbaijan and Montenegro are by some distance the juries with least variety of opinion.

It should probably be pointed out at this juncture that Montenegro’s result comes from an even more limited sample than most. They’re one of the countries whose jury vote was thrown out in 2015. One wonders how much more uniform it got.

So what happened to the other countries who have had a jury vote disqualified? This is probably the most interesting part to me. FYR Macedonia (jury votes disallowed in 2015) and Georgia (2014) are at the other extreme on my graph. The years for which I have non-disqualified data for these countries sees the two most diverse sets of jury opinions of the lot. When this transparency thing was set up, I pointed out that countries could try to arrange their votes so that they show enough variety to avoid suspicion. Is it possible that countries are trying this approach, but overdoing it? Perhaps a standard deviation of over 5 places is so abnormally spread that it should arouse suspicion.

I’ll update this graph after this year’s contest. It will be interesting to see if these outlying nations shuffle back into the pack. Such a move may be down to the evening out of an innocent coincidence. If a country is cheating, it could instead be that the fixers use the EBU’s transparency policy to figure out what “normal” looks like. If I was in charge of rigging a jury, it’s what I would be doing.

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