The Eurovision Song Contest 2019

Featured song:  ABBA – Waterloo

Yes, it’s ghey, ghey, ghey, but it is fun.  Music is generally awful with the occasional gems.  I find the voting to be one of the funniest things to watch on TV all year.  I do miss Sir Tel’s commentary, but the present incumbent, whilst I find generally annoying, is not too bad for the show.

The UK entry is linked at the bottom, it is rather good in my view.  I feel it will be top 3, could even be top 1 depending upon the political vote by EU members not trying to leave.

Lots of links to some great songs (and a few dire dirges) in this article, so right-click to open in a new tab is recommended.

It began as the brainchild of Marcel Bezençon of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union).  The Contest was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology.

It really is about fun; it is the most watched TV programme in Europe and elsewhere.

Why do non-European countries enter? Well:

Being allowed to enter the contest isn’t about geography but about membership of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU); every country which is a member is eligible to take part.  Since both Israel and Armenia are members of the EBU (despite being outside the continental borders) they are therefore eligible to take part in the contest.  Israel have been EBU members since 1957 although didn’t take part in Eurovision until 1973, while Armenia only joined in 2005, making their contest debut the following year. The membership also allows the likes of Azerbaijan and Georgia, who are only partially in Europe, to take part in the contest.  The clue is in the name. It’s the Euro-vision Song Contest, not the Euro-pean Song Contest!

The Aussies were invited along as ‘special guests’ for the 60th contest based on the fact that they’re huge fans of Eurovision and it’s broadcast down under on SBS every year.  I am pleased to say their song by Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity qualified in the semi-final last Tuesday so we will see it again tonight in the final.  It’s not bad!

So on with a few details:

As per the featured song, ABBA is the most successful Eurovision Song Contest winner. The Swedish pop band won the contest in 1974, held in Brighton and they enjoyed phenomenal success ever since, despite officially splitting up in 1983.

The most covered Eurovision Song Contest song is Domenico Mudugno’s Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu, also known as Volare.  This appeared in 1958.  Right-click the link to open in a new tab, to hear the original, I guarantee you will know the tune.

The first Contest was held on 24 May 1956, when seven nations participated. With a live orchestra, the norm in the early years, and simple sing-along songs on every radio station, the Contest grew into a true pan-European tradition.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, more countries wanted to join in the 90’s. So, in 1993 and 1994, a then-record 25 countries took part. In 1996, a pre-qualification heat was organised to reduce 29 participants to 23, while host country Norway automatically qualified for the contest as 24th country.  The challenge was solved in 2004, when a Semi-Final was introduced. Growing interest lead to the introduction of a second Semi-Final in 2008. As a result, a record number of 43 countries took part in 2008 for the first time.

Ratings of the Eurovision Song Contest have varied greatly over the past decades. In 2016, some 204 million people saw at least one of the three shows in whole or in part.

Most successful countries:

With seven victories, Ireland is the most successful country at the contest.  Sweden have won six times, while Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom have each won five times each.

The UK Winners:

Sandie Shaw – Puppet on a String (1967)

Lulu – Boom Bang-a-Bang (1969 tied)

Brotherhood of Man – Save Your Kisses for Me (1976)

Bucks Fizz with Making Your Mind Up (1981)

Katrina and the Waves – Love, Shine a Light (1997)

It is worthy of note that the UK have also finished as runner-up on a record 15 occasions; with Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (1959), Bryan Johnson (1960), The Allisons (1961), Matt Monro (1964), Kathy Kirby (1965), Cliff Richard (1968), Mary Hopkin (1970), The New Seekers (1972), The Shadows (1975), Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran (1977), Scott Fitzgerald (1988), Live Report (1989), Michael Ball (1992), Sonia (1993) and Imaani (1998).  The United Kingdom finished outside the top ten on only three occasions at the contest in the 20th century (1978, 1987 and 1999).  Some top tunes amongst that lot.

In the 21st century, the United Kingdom has only reached the top ten twice, with Jessica Garlick third (2002) and Jade Ewen fifth (2009).  Since 2003, the UK have finished outside the top 20 on nine occasions, including Jemini’s appallingly bad 2003 “nul points” result, which was the first time that the country had come last in the contest. The UK also finished last in 2008 with Andy Abraham (14 points) and in 2010 with Josh Dubovie (10 points).  My personal view is that we had some pretty awful songs and singers.

Nul point: Norway can be found at the bottom of the scoreboard as many as eleven times.  The songs came last in 1963, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2004 and in the Grand Final of 2012.  In fairness, they also won three times, in 1985, 1995 and 2009.

Even though the Eurovision Song Contest has taken place 62 times (63 tonight), it has 65 winners.  In 1969, four countries topped the scoreboard with an equal amount of points; the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands and France.  Lacking rules to resolve tie situations, the EBU had to declare all four contestants as winner.  Tie breaks were introduced after this.

Until 1998, each act was supported by a live orchestra and every country brought their own conductor. Noel Kelehan conducted the orchestra of five winners, in 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993 and 1996.  Dutch conductor Dolf van der Linde conducting for a record seven countries; Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

In the beginning, it was obvious for the participants that they should sing in their country’s national language.  However, as the Swedish entry in 1965, Absent Friend, was sung in English, the EBU set very strict rules on the language in which the songs could be performed.  National languages had to be used in all lyrics. Song writers across Europe soon tagged onto the notion that success would only come if the judges could understand the content, resulting in such entries as Boom- Bang-A-Bang and La La La.  In 1973, the rules on language use were relaxed, and in the following year ABBA would win with Waterloo.  Those freedom of language rules would be soon reversed in 1977, to return with apparent permanent status in the 1999 contest.

In 1999, a rule change allowed the United Kingdom, along with France, Germany and Spain, to automatically qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest final (irrespective of their recent scores and without entering a semi-final), due to being the biggest financial contributors to the EBU.

Voting:  The voting systems used in the Contest have changed throughout the years.  The modern system has been in place since 1975.  Voters award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries — with the favourite being awarded the famous *Douze Points*.  Historically, a country’s set of votes was decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en-masse for their favourite songs.  The experiment was a success and from 1998 all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible.

Regional bloc voting (h/t Wiki)

Although statistical analysis of the results from 2001 to 2005 suggests regional bloc voting; it is debatable whether this is due to political alliances or a tendency for culturally close countries to have similar musical tastes. The United Kingdom and France would historically exchange points (an average of 6.5 points per contest), and the UK has also had such a relationship with Ireland.  Several countries can be categorised as voting blocs, which regularly award one another high points:

Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria

Turkey and Azerbaijan

English-speaking countries or countries of the Commonwealth: Australia, Malta, Ireland and United Kingdom

Austria, Germany and Switzerland

The Netherlands and Belgium

Andorra, Portugal and Spain

Albania and Italy

The Nordic states: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland

The Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Romania and Moldova, acting as a bridge between the Balkan and Warsaw Pact states

The Balkan countries:

North Macedonia and Albania

The former Yugoslav countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Croatia

The former USSR countries of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova

Hungary and Serbia

It is still common for countries to award points to their neighbours regularly, even if they are not part of a voting bloc (for example, Finland and Estonia, Germany and Denmark, the Baltic states and Russia or Albania and Greece). Votes may also be based on a diaspora. Greece, Turkey, Poland, Russia and the former Yugoslav countries normally get high scores from Germany or the United Kingdom, Armenia gets votes from France and Belgium, Poland from Ireland, Romania from Spain and Italy and Albania from Switzerland, Italy and San Marino.

For those that like to know the odds, here you go:  Who will win Eurovision Song Contest 2019?

United Kingdom Entry 2019:

Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us

Our song this year is actually pretty good in my view.  It will only be the political point scoring (this year I suspect many EU countries who do not yet want to leave the EU may be troubling themselves to give us many points.) that will keep it out of the top 3.  Odds have it a less than 1% chance of winning, I call BS, it’s a good tune.
 

© Phil the test manager 2019
 

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file