Stockholm 2016 – TV Review & Voting Controversy

8 June 2016

It took two weeks to fully decompress from an unforgettable experience in Stockholm. Other than watching the semi finals in the immediate days after returning home, Eurovision evaporated from my mind. Not that Eurovision made it easy! Artists tweeting and posting stuff and, most curiously of all, adjusting to the timezone back home. Even sleep in Stockholm was odd, often waking at 5am and not really sleeping much after that until finally getting up at 8. The thing is, I was never tired.

2Kronor Hostel Vasastan, Stockholm, Sweden - home for 10 nights during 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

2Kronor Hostel Vasastan – my home in Stockholm for 10 nights

Once on the way home, the sleeping situation reversed. Leaving Europe at midnight, I slept almost the entire 11 hours from Helsinki to Singapore. On departure from Singapore, again at midnight local time, I slept most of the time to Australia after the 5 hours layover. I was even asleep as the plane landed in Singapore, being awoken by the jolt. Landing in Australia at 9am you figure after so much sleep, even if it’s lighter airline sleep, perfect! No, by 6pm I was sleepy again. Since I didn’t want to wake at 3am, I resisted bed until 11.30pm by writing notes for my blog and figured I’d be up at 10am at the latest. Instead, it was 12.30, straight through, and then at 2pm I fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours. 5pm here is 9am in Sweden, and it wasn’t until 7am that I went to bed that night. Back on Stockholm time!

Thankfully I only slept until 1pm that second night, so could gradually wind the bedtime back over the next two nights to about 5am for work on the Monday. Then a new affliction hit: deadly naps. Power naps to most people, these 20 or 30 minute naps were so intense and deep that I’d awake refreshed liked I’d been sedated by Michael Jackson’s former doctor Conrad Murray. They would hit between 8 and 10pm and nothing could stop them. For a week this lasted, until they slowly disappeared over the second week back at work.

I should add, I didn’t regard these sleeping habits as a real problem. In fact, I’d love to live my entire life on a 20 minute deadly nap and 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I could really use the time!

By the end of those two weeks, I would still get the occasional overwhelming urge for a deadly nap, and sometimes I might be awake until 4am. Since I don’t start work until 1030 and wake at 0930, it’s not a real problem, and I can operate on 5 hours of sleep for a day. I only need to make sure to avoid the deadly nap the next evening, and go to bed around 11pm to catch up.

Guess what? Into the third week back, that strategy of fighting deadly naps backfired. After a late Saturday night, I was asleep early on Sunday and that pattern continued every night since. Rather than waking early and making use of that time, I found myself tired, so stayed in bed listening to the Eurovision CD (as you do this time of year). It’s meant this review hung in limbo awaiting a proofread and tidy. It was meant to be posted on Sunday.

Eurovision Song Contest 2016 Crystal Ball - Stockhom

The day after Eurovision – cold, wet, windy and over!

One more thing: I really miss the weather in Stockholm! I never thought I’d say that, having been in the region before during their “summer” and most days were 16 degrees with a blustery cold wind, not the 20s, even 25, and clear skies for Eurovision week. Only the final Sunday turned sour, being cold, wet, windy and 11 degrees. Both weather conditions were at the extreme, with 16 the average for May and generally pleasant days. Two weeks prior it was snowing.

TV Review and Final Top 10

Dami Im sitting on a box making random arm movements, some crazy guy crawling around the stage for Malta, the heat of the flames from Armenia, and the crazy strobe light from Georgia – these are the sort of memories that remain the strongest. It’s an odd Eurovision in that sense, that for a show designed for TV, most memories are from positions in the live arena, not those associated with the TV broadcast. The strong visual presentations of Russia and Belarus, or static ones like Poland and Czech Republic, would be the main exceptions.

The other big difference in the arena are the songs with powerful vocals are far more impressive than the TV screen. Even with decent speakers, there’s a notable loss in impact. Armenia, Australia and Malta are the obvious examples. It’s been interesting watching the contrast between arena and TV, and it does have an effect on the appreciation of a song.

Semi Final 1

Finland – Sandhja – Sing It Away (5)

A fun, enjoyable song ruined by the styling and the angry face scrunch when grinding out the bigger notes. Most singers do this – dropping the eyebrows and raising the nose; Sandhja unfortunately looks like the devil.

Greece – Argo – Utopian Land (0)

Disaster. Terrible song and amateurish on stage. Next time withdraw if you can’t be bothered finding something decent.

Moldova – Lidia Isac – Falling Stars (7)

I still really like this song; a shame about the silly dancing spaceman.

Hungary – Freddie – Pioneer (5)

Too familiar and back to the average feel I had on first listen.

Croatia – Nina Kraljic – Lighthouse (7)

Nina says the first rehearsal of this song is the best, and then it goes downhill. I agree. For a song I’ve liked all along, I generally dread listening to it again. Same with the SF performance: been there, done that. The Grand Final was back to those initial feelings for Lighthouse, with Nina rejuvenated and showing far more emotion and expression.

Netherlands – Douwe Bob – Slow Down (6)

That long pause really helps break up the repetitive nature of the song.

Armenia – Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave (8)

Vocals lose impact from the arena. Nice effects with the silhouette. I wonder if anyone has ever considered talking for an entire song?

San Marino – Serhat – I Didn’t Know (3)

I didn’t know I’d quite enjoy this live. On TV, not so much.

Russia – Sergey Lazareve – You Are The Only One (8)

The quintessential TV song. In hindsight, needed to lose the interactive graphics screen and be a bit more original. The arrangement of the song was quite robotic too. Note that the songwriters are disappointed the jury disliked it so much, suggesting they should only have 25% stake in the voting.

Czech Rep – Gabriela Guncikova – I Stand (8)

I still love this despite the minimalist stage effects. Possibly Gabriela should have made the stage look smaller, like Armenia did. She seems a bit nervous in the semi and strong in the final.

Cyprus – Minus One – Alter Ego (6)

Loses a bit with the presentation, particularly those cages. They relate to the word jail in the song. This is too abstract for the average viewer, who won’t even notice the mention at the end of the fifth line.

Austria – Zoe – Loin d’ici (6)

Like the Czech Republic, a nice performance of a nice song, and still quite pleasant to keep hearing. She always got a great cheer in the arena and finished second on televote in her semi. There’s something so nice about Zoe!

Estonia – Juri Poostman – Play (2)

Oh Estonia, what a trainwreck. All the silly facial and vocal ticks, the winks, the slurs, the nerves and, worse, the inane flipping of playing cards. The whole thing was so un-Estonian – a country that typically relies on the artistry of their song and artist than silly gimmicks. The national final performance was much better. The song was also never that good, not having any one moment to remember. It relied on Juri and his suave voice and style, and he stuffed that up anyway.

Azerbaijan – Samra – Miracle (6)

For a favourite song, this was a disappointment, particularly sounding so flat through the choruses. I also didn’t like the synchronised background lighting with Samra’s actions at the start of the song. Too corny! Watch for the female backer starting on the left of screen, with the white diagonal section on her top. That’s Sweden’s Dea Norberg, who would also do backing for Australia and worked at Melodifestivalen for many years.

Montenegro – Highway – The Real Thing (4)

Despite a good stage presentation, there was never enough in the song.

Iceland – Greta Salome – Hear Them Calling (7)

The graphical routine was not as intricate or interesting as the national final. In hindsight (yes, it’s wonderful), needed something more original. Flopped on both jury and televote.

Bosnia Herzegovina – Dalal & Deen – Ljubav Je (4)

Tried hard with a below average song.

Malta – Ira Losco – Walk On Water (5)

So good in the arena, back to be warbling mess on TV. Scored over 75% votes on the jury to finish third in the semi final. The final was even more distorted, with only 16 of 153 points coming from the televote.

Semi Final 2

Latvia – Justs – Heartbeat (6)

No real change here.

Poland – Michal Szpak – Color Of Your Life (8)

Finally I can stop writing “color” instead “colour”! It’s been such a tough habit to drop that “u”. Nothing changes here. Michal stands and sings like he’s always done, and still seems strangely so engaging. Third place on the televote only emphasises his endearing qualities. It started when he was the surprise winner in Poland, and now with this great result at ESC. Interesting story, at the venue, as the top 10 of the televote was being read, the guy standing next to me tried to predict it. For 10th he said Poland. Wrong. Ninth, Poland. Wrong. Feeling embarrassed, he skipped 8th and 7th. For sixth he said Poland. Wrong. For fifth he said Poland. I now felt compelled to play, so churped Bulgaria. Me right, him wrong. For fourth he stayed quiet, as did I. For third I said Poland before he could say anything. Me right again. For all the whinging about the jury being against Russia (fifth place), it was far worse for Poland at 25th! I doubt you’ll ever see such a disparity again.

Switzerland – Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind (4)

Haven’t you heard the warnings? Smoking is a Eurovision hazard. These gimmicks rarely add anything. Once it cleared, most people would have been puzzled by the blue hair to even notice the song.

Belarus – Ivan – Help You Fly (7)

Even though it lost impact after seeing it so often, the presentation was one of the real “wow” moments of the contest. I always enjoyed the song, and loved the holographic wolves. In contrast, the lines painted on Ivan’s face were so ridiculous. Unless there’s an obvious connection to the song or artist, no one will know the reason for such things, so leave them out. They become a distraction.

Serbia – Sanja Vucic – Goodbye/Shelter (6)

Great vocals and enjoyed this much more on TV.

Ireland – Nicky Byrne – Sunlight (4)

Dull and flaccid performance. Song ok.

FYR Macedonia – Kaliopi – Dona (5)

Good vocals couldn’t overcome average song.

Lithuania – Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night (7)

Wow, the eyebrows! I should have been able to see these in Globen, even when in the upper deck. Great voice and floor lighting so impressive.

Australia – Dami Im – Sound Of Silence (9)

Impressive. You could tell Dami was slightly nervous in the semi final and occassionally distracted by the arena. In the final she was spot on. If you can believe it, she was even better in the arena! If I only liked the song more it would be a 10. Interesting to learn Swedish singer Anna Sahlene, who represented host nation Estonia in 2002, was one of the backers and consultants. Also involved, as mentioned earlier, was one of Azerbaijan’s backers, Dea Norberg. She was hidden so no need to change from the white and gold Azeri outfit.

Slovenia – ManuElla – Blue And Red (9)

The consensus is the acrobat was a distraction. The element relates to the line “our past is spinning in my head”. When the acrobat walks out, you see the confrontation between ManuElla and this “blue” past that she wants to subdue. Eventually the past spins away leaving ManuElla happy and free. This is probably too abstract for the average viewer. I only learnt about it when recently watching Slovenia’s ESC press conference. As cliche as it sounds, it would have served better if the entire arena turned red during the final stages. Whether any of this mattered to the result, who knows. Europe never gravitated toward Blue And Red so Team ManuElla were committed to trying something. Everything else was good, including the update to the song itself with the allay at the start and the extra harmonies in the finale. Blue And Red still gets 9 because I’m so in leerrvve with the song.

Bulgaria – Poli Genova – If Love Were A Crime (9)

Massive earrings! Amazing the things you miss in the arena. This one just got better and better and was my favourite song from the grand final.

Denmark – Lighthouse X – Soldiers Of Love (3)

Dull, and one of the guys can’t even sing. Denmark, send an accomplished solo female next year! Remember the last time you sent one?

Ukraine – Jamala – 1944 (2)

Nice to see the emotion on TV. I still hate the song and the whiny vocals.

Norway – Agnete – Icebreaker (8)

Other than Agnete looking a little small on stage, this remains a “Kate Ryan 2006 WTF” moment for missing the final.

Georgia – Nika Kocharov & YGL – Midnight Gold (6)

Better live, as long as you are not looking forward to the stage. Those strobe lights were nasty. The commentators would have felt the full whack of them.

Albania – Eneda Tarifa – Fairytale (5)

Too plain and dull lines like “that’s why I love you” don’t help.

Belgium – Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure (6)

TV didn’t add much. This was almost universally Australia’s favourite song, being tops on televote and for four of the five jury members (the fifth had it second).

The Big Five and Sweden

Italy – Francesca Michielin – No Degree Of Separation (8)

A vast improvement from live in the arena. Far more passion, and I could see she was standing on a little island. I’m pleased, too, because this was my second favourite going into Eurovision so wanted it to do well.

Germany – Jamie Lee – Ghost (6)

Another improvement, and with probably the best stage presentation. If only the song had more to it.

France – Amir – J’ai cherche (5)

Starts great, then too repetitive

Sweden – Frans – If I Were Sorry (4)

Same old. I had enough of it after Melodifestivalen.

Spain – Barei – Say Yay! (7)

Even though it lost significant impact compared to the arena, it wasn’t enough to finish 22nd overall!

United Kingdom – Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone (5)

Nondescript, and all the faces on the stage seemed gratuitously pointless.

Super Top 10

Slovenia, Bulgaria, Australia, Poland, Italy, Russia, Norway, Czech Republic, Armenia and Lithuania are my top 10 from the Grand Final and Semi Finals combined. The last spot was tough between Lithuania and Croatia. I went for Donny because he was more enjoyable over the 8 times I saw the song. Also on 7 points were Belarus, Iceland, Moldova and Spain.

My Top 10 before ESC was Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Norway, Poland, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Czech Republic. Australia and Armenia made the biggest jump from 22nd and 32nd respectively, while Azerbaijan the biggest drop from 6th to barely top 20. Lithuania, Moldova and Belarus were ranked 12, 13 and 14 before ESC. It’s interesting that outside Australia and Armenia, not much changed. My comments at the time were prophetic: “we all know Dami’s star power is on the stage, so will wait for that”, and Armenia “could improve with the live Eurovision performance”. Those blistering vocals by both women were the transformative factors.

Commentators

While I could be picky and lament the spoilers about Czech Republic’s hair and Italy’s fruit, and deplore ignorance like Julia Zemiro forgetting she has seen someone else pregnant at Eurovision (Birgit at 5 months for Estonia in 2013), and be bemused Zemiro was so smitten with Denmark’s pretty boys she neglected to mention this vapid trio were in Stockholm at the expense of Anja Nissen, and be outraged about the dreadful comment comparing Michal Szpak to Conchita Wurst saying he’s the opposite – a girl with a moustache (no, he’s a man, period), Zemiro and Sam Pang were generally informative and proficient. Zemiro provided the nuggets about Nina from Croatia about rehearsals and Dea Norberg backing for both Azerbaijan and Australia. Pang was only nasty once, saying some songs deserved 3 minutes of silence (in response to the Netherland’s 10 seconds), which is fine if you’re prepared to accept other commentators belittling an Australian song, or even dare belittle one in the future yourself.

The worst part of the SBS broadcast were the interviews. Julia and Sam were already on a path towards narcissism, and the new guy was a total jackass. It was all about him, not the artists. A balance would be nice, that’s all. Also, some artists were given no TV time, not even the “hello Australia, vote for me”, including Norway and Slovenia. Probably Norway, Agnete had a virus. For Slovenia, I presume ManuElla had enough sense to avoid such frivolity.

Did we need a Double Chin as well? Surely SBS could have shuffled Lee Lin Chin aside this year to read Australia’s jury votes for um, perhaps, here’s an idea, Guy Sebastian! What an opportunity missed.

Voting Controversy

The lingering issue has been the result of Ukraine winning. For the many fans of the song, there’s as many detractors, and that’s manifested as outrage against the new voting system. Even though I hate the song, blaming the voting system is insane. Ukraine won fair and square. In fact, Ukraine might be the fairest winner ever since juries were brought back.

Jamala from Ukraine with 1944 wins the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm

Jamala from Ukraine – the fair winner of Eurovision 2016 (image: eurovision.tv)

We have short memories. Russia in 2008, the last of the televote-only winners, was slammed as political and a glaring example of the blight of bloc voting. Of course, Russia won fair and square under the system of the time, so much of the outrage is sour grapes, and in particularly, like Ukraine, because there were many people against the song as there were those for it. In fact, the situation might have been worse.

Back to 2016, and the new voting system did make for a fair winner, at least in terms of the system itself. How individuals vote, whether that be the jury and the televote, that can never be controlled. The fairness came in that more points were available. Traditionally, jury and televote are combined and a top 10 emerge. The easiest way to understand the flaw is if the jury and televote have 10 different songs in their top 10, meaning 20 in total, once they are combined, the bottom 10 are dropped. They get no points. Under the new systems, all 20 songs would get points.

Being awarded all points earned on jury and televote had a far bigger impact than the process of reading the jury vote first and then adding the televote after. When Eurovision began in 1956, there were only 10 countries, so 10 sets of points were fine. In modern times, when there’s 26 countries, 10 sets of points is hopelessly inadequate. While I’ve advocated more sets of points should be awarded, that would be perceived as quite a radical change, especially if the “douze points” were lost, so this split system is a good compromise. For the moment…

The bigger controversy is the public not getting their winner. It’s the second year straight now, with this year even more controversial in that Ukraine won neither the jury or televote: they were second in both, whereas Sweden last year did win the jury vote.

Adding to the controversy is that Ukraine’s 1944 is seen as a political song. While I’ve ignored this notion since the time it was nominated, reading so many comments, both for and against, I’m fully sympathetic with those believing that Ukraine should have been banned. While the song speaks of historical events, the relevance and correlation with modern events makes it totally political. To think Georgia was banned in 2009 for the harmless We Don’t Wanna Put In compared with “When strangers are coming… They come to your house, They kill you all and say, We’re not guilty” – it’s an outrage that 1944 was ever allowed under the EBU’s own rules. If it were called 2016 it would have been banned – and it could quite easily be called 2016 and been as meaningful.

Since 1944 was allowed, it’s on with the show. Even if  you disagree with the EBU’s decision to allow it, that decision doesn’t diminish the fact the victory was totally fair. Even the howling of Jamala and the whiny nature of the song, far more bothersome to me than the lyrics, is again irrelevant to the process. Enough of the jury and public liked 1944, so Ukraine was a fair winner.

There’s calls that the final should be televote only, especially since the main benefit of the juries is to give more artistic songs a chance to reach the final, and therefore enter ESC at all. This ideal is premature and would mean the semis and the final use two separate voting systems. Also, as we saw in 2008, it won’t stop the whingers. Personally, let’s leave the current system for at least 5 years and then consider alternatives. The super final, as commonly seen in national finals, is the obvious step. For it to work in ESC the top 3 songs would not be declared by the normal result. They would be decided by televote alone.

The Jury

The controversy over Ukraine has highlighted some odd behaviour by the jury. Russia was certainly hammered. Not as much as Poland, 25th on jury compared to 3rd on televote, as mentioned earlier. Russia scored only 130 points from the jury in the grand final, which was less than the 148 from the semi final despite double the countries voting. Even if you consider those SF1 juries had more options in the final, the SF2 juries should have more than compensated. I’d expect 148 points from a semi would increase to at least 200 in the final, not decrease to 130! For example, Australia increased from 188 to 320, while Ukraine increased 135 to 211. Had Russia got those expected jury points, they win.

More curious is breaking the trend. Juries typically go for more artistic songs, like they loved Australia and Malta this year, than songs with elaborate staging effects. If they loved Sweden in 2015 to rate them first, why not Russia in 2016? They are a similar style and presentation, with Russia being far better than Sweden. At least rate them second or third, not fifth. Same in 2015 when the people’s favourite of Italy were rated sixth.

It’s these anomalies that make people suspicious – that the jury deliberate rate popular songs low to ensure their own preference succeeds. For instance, the 5 members of the Australian jury ranked Russia 24, 13, 17, 22 and 8 respectively. Overall, Russia received 4×12 points, 0x10 points, 2×8 points and 22×0 points. Yes, 22 countries failed to give Russia any points and only 6 of 42 countries gave them 8 or more points. Clearly they Don’t Wanna Put In.

The Televote

Let’s not ignore anomalies here when it was the televote that sunk Australia. Only three countries gave Dami Im 12 points: Albania, Malta & Sweden. Only Denmark gave 10 points, while 8 points came from Iceland and Norway. There’s a certain Nordic feel to those votes, so what the hell happened through the rest of Europe? As I mentioned in the Grand Final review, much of Europe resents Australia in Eurovision, so could they have made a protest vote? For the record, if you plan to boycott countries that didn’t vote for Australia at all, put Armenia, France, Italy and Montenegro on your list.

Stockholm 2016 – Grand Final – Review

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3 responses to “Stockholm 2016 – TV Review & Voting Controversy

  1. Pingback: Stockholm 2016 – Awards, TV Ratings & Australia 2017 | Mr Eurovision Australia·

  2. Pingback: Jamala releases official video of 1944 | Mr Eurovision Australia·

  3. Pingback: Stockholm 2016 – A Six Month Retrospective | Mr Eurovision Australia·

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