All the Highs, Lows and Analysis of Malmo

Emmelie de Forest with Only Teardrops wins Eurovision 2013 for Denmark

Emmelie de Forest with Only Teardrops wins Eurovision 2013 for Denmark

So the favourite wins, the trophy can be driven home that same night, and everyone will fly into the same destination and mostly stay in the same places next year. Does that diminish Eurovision? Not at all. The heart of Eurovision is always the songs. That gets us back every year, that intrigues us the most, that keeps us glued to the telecasts. The aspect of pronouncing the winner, that’s just 10 minutes at the end of a long season, or even the end of long week or night for those less avid. The consequence of which is hosting rights for the following here. It’s amazing that Eurovision is still so often derided as a contest. It’s never about that; it’s a music festival. If it’s about winning and losing, go watch football.

It’s been an amazing and, as always, busy week. That’s just from observing from far away Australia. Deciding to watch the semi finals the same day (via eurovision.tv), it’s made it a whirlwind – and exciting – rather than waiting for the local telecaster to show them at the end of the week. I could absorb the shows fully and engage with Europe. By the time the final rolled around, I’d seen each semi 3 times: the web, TV, then the TV recording leading into the final.

Watching the semis again just prior to the the final has become somewhat a tradition, mostly out of fear of spoilers about the winner. We in Australia really must shut our lives down on the Sunday, and that’s so increasingly difficult given everyone has the internet in their hands on their phones. Regular TV could see a news-break revealing the result, and the internet is not safe anywhere. Even out in a shopping centre, there’s display TVs in stores that could show the result from a news-break. Since 2004 (internet) and 2005 (local TV news) I’ve been safe now.

This will be remembered as one of the great Eurovisions. From the high quality of songs to the excellent production, it’s a contrast to initial feelings as each country released their ESC song that seemed to prove lamer and lamer than the previous, and Swedes reducing costs for the shows. That included the surprise of Malmo hosting, rather than Stockholm in their brand new and massive Friends Arena. The community aspect was well felt in Malmo, the production never suffered, and the songs emerged as really good when viewed as a collective. That really was the theme all-round – consistency. While there was nothing truly ground-breaking with songs that will go into my all time favourites, equally there were no real shockers and just two below average. It seems when the songs are first revealed, you are looking for that killer song. It’s about context. So, too, the shows. Really nice and succinct, with small innovations like glowing wrist bands and glowing lanterns to provide identity. Even the choice of one host made perfect sense.

All 39 songs rated

The Final

The winner wasn’t  a surprise, nor was most of the top 10. Only Malta at 8th could be seen as a surprise. The top 5 in betting odds were Denmark, Ukraine, Norway, Russia and Italy. Switch Italy with Azerbaijan and it was spot on. The lowest rated song to make the final was Belgium (150/1 to win), then Estonia (125/1) . The highest rated song to fail was San Marino (33/1 to win), then Serbia (66/1). While the UK and Ireland were big flops when expecting to be around the top 10, that’s more a reflection on the location of the bigger betting agencies and the locals betting excessively on their own song.

France 6 – nice bluesy vibe and performance
Lithuania 6  – 80s groove let down with weak vocals and possibly peculiar charisma
Moldova 7 – outstanding vocals and staging
Finland 5 – cheap song, corny theme and lyrics, lesbian kiss insincere
Spain 6  – slow to get going
Belgium 9 – great vibe, vocals, staging and choreography
Estonia 9 – gorgeous tone in voice, nice traditional song, maybe too traditional
Belarus 6 – accomplished performance, hearing the words tsunami and kismet in one song – what are the odds of that?
Malta 5 – plods along despite happy vibe
Russia 8 – great vocals, lovely voice, nice song
Germany 7 – energetic without dazzling
Armenia 6 – it grew a little from the semi, otherwise ho-hum and too pretentious
Netherlands 8 – needed much better staging and expression to convey extra emotion
Romania 3 – horrible
United Kingdom 5 – she sounded drunk; poor effort of a nice country song
Sweden 5 – they didn’t want to win again, this is their worst since last time they hosted
Hungary 7 – even worse than Holland, singer too stiff, otherwise a really engaging song
Denmark 6 – had that Eurovision winning “feel”, even if too repetitive and cliche for me
Iceland 8 – superb ballad, well sung and presented, it helps being the only solo male of this type
Azerbaijan 9 – great, slick song enhanced with cute boy, good vocals and great presentation
Greece 4 – after the intro, this went down hill fast, and it only ever started half-way up the hill
Ukraine 9 – wow, Zlata really amplified this with emotion, moves and power in voice; song probably not quite there to win it
Italy 7 – superb performance of a song not of ready appreciation
Norway 10 – favourite song this year, superbly presented; like Ukraine, just lacked that something to win ESC this year
Georgia 7 – well performed; song probably just too formulaic and should signal the end of nations commissioning Swedes for their ESC songs
Ireland 5 – justifiably last; dull song that went no where, relying too much on drum rhythym and naked men

Other than Ukraine enlivening the performance and giving Zlata a softer, less haughty look with make-up and hair, only Hungary made a notable change. That was to remove the microphone for the guitarist. It was only ever there for symmetry with the two other performers, because he never used it in the semi.

The average rating of songs was 6.7 – highest for any final I’ve rated and only just lower than SF1 this year at 6.9. Typically the average rating for ESC shows is mid 5s.

Semi Final 1

There were only two points that separated 8th, 9th and 10th from SF1. Ireland 52 points, Lithuania 53 and Estonia 54. Serbia 11th on 46, Montenegro 42, Croatia 38, Austria 27, Cyprus 11, Slovenia 8. It was a bad year for former Yugoslav states. Even with four in this SF, none could qualify. FYRM, in SF2, made it a total failure. Did Bosnia&H know something? They by-passed this year.

Serbia 6 – silly costumes and acting the song only confuses viewers if song is in a foreign language
Montenegro 8 – great performance, Nina on choruses was brilliant, it’s the rap sections that would alienate too many
Croatia 6 – probably just too steady to pique the interests of most; pity, nice song and performed well
Austria 7 – really nice opening and lovely voice; probably the song a bit ordinary
Cyprus 6 – no instant appeal
Slovenia 7 – only got votes from Croatia and Monenegro; it was performed well, and really lively, so its rejection was a surprise

Semi Final 2

There was a clear break between 10th and 11th in this semi final, with Georgia on 63 and San Marino on 47. Bulgaria next on 45, Switzerland 41, Israel 40, Albania 31, FYRM 28, Latvia 17. This semi also saw the completion of the Nordic bloc advance to the final, including lesser lights like Iceland (6th with 72 points) and Finland (9th with 64).

San Marino 9 – still stunned how this missed out; it was virtually flawless; maybe the slow start the problem
Bulgaria 5 – surprising weak vocals and average song
Switzerland 6 – need to do more than just standing in the line; the 95yo looked like a prop
Israel 6 – despite the powerful vocals, a song that takes many listens to like
Albania 8 – the best rock song for me; maybe too ethnic for others, plus the creepy guy at the start
FYRM 6 – too ethnic, otherwise enjoyable for me
Latvia 7 – a surprise was so poorly received

How’d my favourites go?

Top 10 before the final…

Norway
Estonia
Russia
Netherlands
Belgium
Iceland
Azerbaijan
Hungary
Germany
Lithuania

Top 10 after the final, with position changes…

Norway
Estonia
Belgium +2
Ukraine + 7
Azerbaijan +2
Netherlands -2
Russia -4
Iceland -2
Hungary -2
Italy +5

Some songs benefited from not being seen before (Italy), while others lost to over-exposure (Russia). Others like Belgium improved and improved. Note that at one stage they were my fourth worst song! Ukraine was only just outside my top 10, while Italy about 15th. Lithuania only just fell out of my top 10, while Germany didn’t live up to expectations. Worst songs all along were Sweden, Ireland, Greece and Romania, and they remained that way.

Here is my final ranking before Eurovision started and upon viewing all the preview videos…

01-10: Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Albania, Switzerland, Hungary,
Netherlands, San Marino, Spain, Russia

11-20: Croatia, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Azerbaijan,
Serbia, Moldova, UK, Denmark

21-30: FYRM, France, Belarus, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Georgia, Cyprus,
Malta, Israel, Italy

31-39: Montenegro, Armenia, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, Greece,
Romania

Other than Belgium’s monstrous jump, San Marino was the other improver to be easily top 5, maybe top 3. The only song to really transform with their presentation was Montenegro. They were in my top 3 from their SF. Italy also jumped. Switzerland probably the only one to fall significantly.

How’d my predictions go?

Ignoring the obvious strong chance of Denmark, I looked at outsiders. Netherlands did well for 9th; so too Belgium for 12th. While I doubt Belgium could have done any better, the Dutch could have finished top 5 with a more emotional presentation both in staging and physical emotion. Azerbaijan rightly did well in second. Sweden finished down the order as expected. While I had hopes for the opposite, Spain was rejected again, and rightly in hindsight. None of the songs at the bottom of the table were much of a surprise.

Australia

No, Australia does not get Eurovision live as the host said. It’s extensively delayed, with the first semi nearly 3 days after the fact, with the final about 14 hours late. There’s often ideas that Australia should compete in ESC. This is nonsense for three reasons: 1) Australia still treats ESC as a joke to be mocked and ridiculed; 2) Very few Australians would be awake at 4am to watch the live telecast with Europe, so voting is impossible or highly skewed towards a few fanatics; 3) The local broadcaster refuses to show ESC live anyway. This is despite New Zealand showing it live. Sheesh.

To their credit, the Australian commentators of Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang did not destroy the show this year. Most songs were given the deserved respect of silence right throughout. Only a few times did the commentators start blathering too early. The blather itself was less of “whoa, great song, that was song 14” nonsense, to something that was at least informative on a primitive level. A few more years of evolution and they might just about be listenable. They might also finally learn the reasons that Moldova and Romania exchange 12 (hint: just look at their flags and remember Romanian was the language of her song and of her answers when interviewed her) and also that Estonia and Latvia give 12 to Russia (hint: huge Russian populations in those countries). Zemiro actually travelled through those countries this year on her way to ESC and still seemed clueless.

Sweden

They just about did everything right. A great touch was the parade of performers entering the arena at the start of the show. The ESC history segments were great, so too the interval acts. The only error was surprising the Danish delegation of their win before all the votes were read. Clearly they were under-prepared and missed the spontaneous moment to celebrate. While it was understandable to expedite the long walk from the separate arena to the stage, for the sake of a few minutes, was it really all that worth it? The much hyped number from ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn didn’t live up to expectation. Probably because it was nothing like anyone expect from ABBA songwriters.

The direct allocation of running order could be seen as a success. You really can’t tell unless you’ve seen the alternative of a random draw. It’s main drawback will be potential criticisms of favouritism. If the system is in place next year, imagine the future if the early countries are slotted early again. The change that could help is instead of a random draw of halves that was on offer, make it as quarters.

The computerised running order of votes being read also worked. Looking at the results, Denmark were held back early, before getting a spate of 12s in the middle, a pause again for Azerbaijan and Ukraine to surge, then Denmark ran it out.

Something that is becoming curious each year for me is the choice of “go” or “goes” when the votes are read – as in “12 points go/goes to…” It seems “go” has the slight edge. It’s worth further tracking!

Whether the 12 points go or goes, it might be time to increase the number of points slots from 10 to 15. Shock horror, Douze Points not the highest mark? When ESC first started, there were barely many more than 10 countries. Now, in the final, there’s 26. While the top of the results may not change that much, the bottom will, and obviously less the chance for embarrassingly finishing with zero points. Of course, if a country still would get zero, it’s even more embarrassing. This year, all songs were ranked by jury before being assigned the 12, 10, etc, so some analysis could be done. For the extra 5 slots of points, I’d go 14, 16, 19, 22 and 25.

Most of, it is congratulation to Sweden. A truly magical event. History will regard it well. If there’s one pity, history won’t have the benefit of re-living it in high definition on Blu Ray. Only Germany 2011 has provided us with such a treasure. So strange in this world of HD and big screens.

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