19 May 2019
Duncan Laurence with Arcade played the winning game as Netherlands won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv – their first win in 44 years. It’s a triumph for a nice song, nicely presented, nicely sung and for a nice guy. After the jury vote, Sweden led on 239 points to North Macedonia on 237 points and Netherlands on 231 points. With the new televote reading sequence helping to keep the final result more unpredictable, it came down to a head to head clash between Netherlands, who had taken the lead as the third last country to have their televote revealed, and Sweden. North Macedonia had already been dumped to 8th place by receiving only 58 points. With Sweden needing 253 points to win, they were stunned to receive only 98 points, dumping them to 6th place.
The finale to this new scoring system didn’t quite feel right. While it might be a bit more unpredictable, and it’s good for producers because they know where to direct the camera before each vote is revealed, seeing leading songs humiliated with low points at the end of the show isn’t good. North Macedonia and Sweden were clearly shocked and disappointed that their hopes were terminated so harshly. The previous system is far more dignified, and it’s doubtful the new system increases unpredictability anyway. With Norway getting a whopping 291 points early, and Russia, Italy and Netherlands scoring 244, 253 and 261 respectively, you sensed there wouldn’t be enough points left for either North Macedonia or Sweden to overtake Netherlands. Generally only 3 or 4 songs can mathematically score big (around 250 points or more), and we’d already seen them.
Under the old sequence of reading lowest televote first, Netherlands would have been read second last and jumped to the lead over Italy. Norway would await, and we’d actually know they couldn’t win with only 47 points from the jury. We’d know that from a long way out, so in essence, the televote score for Netherlands would be the deciding one. Norway ultimately won the televote with 291 points, ahead of Netherlands on 261 and Italy on 253. Sweden ended 9th on televote, and North Macedonia 12th. That’s why we have a mixed voting system – so songs appeal to a broad audience.
During the jury vote, North Macedonia had a big lead, and it looked like a huge upset was on. Then you had to remember the read sequence is set to make it as exciting as possible. Sweden and Netherlands duly closed the gap, and ultimately it was sad that North Macedonia could not even take the jury win. As you’d expect, the Nordic bloc leaned heavily for Sweden, and that proved the difference. Personally, I’d have set up the jury vote so Sweden took the lead much earlier on, rather than leave North Macedonia disappointed right at the end.
Note: The EBU later revealed North Macedonia won the jury vote with 247 points, ahead of Sweden on 241 and Netherlands on 237. See end of post.
The Top 10
01 Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade – 498 (9)
The concern all along with Arcade was whether it had a moment to truly capture the audience and make the song more memorable. The explosion of light with Duncan’s arms spread wide really worked, and caused a few tears. A superb song, and so deserving for Duncan and Netherlands to win. Also note, without the return of the juries, we’d never have seen entries like this. The juries made Eurovision more palatable for serious artists with artistic songs, and it was good to see Ilse Delange, who came second in 2014 with The Common Linnets, hug him after the result, say it’s all you, you, you, and appear on stage at the end. In fact, she was instrumental in the song being selected as she noticed it in his personal catalog and recommend he submit it. She was also his mentor on The Voice and helped with the artistic decisions on stage. The informal reprise of Arcade at the end, to forget the piano, and sing with the team, was a nice way to celebrate the victory too.
02 Italy – Mahmood – Soldi – 472 (3)
I’ve never been sold on Soldi, and it still remains a mystery as to its attraction to so many people. The beat is ok. The audience clapping with him was ok. That’s about it!
03 Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream – 370 (6)
No last second theft of victory like in 2016 here. Sergey over-achieved with a song that was never strong enough, and never connected emotionally, as an epic ballad should. The staging didn’t make any sense, and lacked impact and cohesion. It relied on a big televote to get third. I suppose we’ll see Sergey next in 2022?
04 Switzerland – Luca Hanni – She Got Me – 364 (8)
Got a huge cheer from the crowd, and did I hear the word “enema” in the song? This seemed much better than the semi final, and the Swiss will be rapt with fourth.
05 Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late For Love – 334 (6)
For me this was always a bit of formulaic song saved by John Lundvik being so likeable and his strong stage presence. It seems the public felt similar with only 93 points, while the jury were so predictable rating it second and almost winning. There’s so many similarities to the jury’s winner last year, Cesar Sampson from Austria, too. A person of colour with a radio friendly song and similar staging. The jury had rated Sweden second in 2018 with a really trashy song only for the public to dump on it even worse, so either the public are sending a message they are sick of Sweden or the jury have a warped obsession Sweden.
06 Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky – 331 (8)
This was always popular with fans a long way out, and was severely advantaged by being the only really uptempo song in the final. Personally, the Sami singing and chanting gave it a bit of distinction, so take that out, and it was a bit bland. Reports are there were technical problems in the jury show and that compromised their result. They were only 11th in the semi, so the jury seem consistent with their treatment.
06 North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud – 305 (8)
Proud of North Macedonia. Proud of Tamara. Proud of Proud! I’m glad she got the unexpected excitement of being a contender for the win. It was easily the biggest improver for this year’s contest, coming from somewhat forgettable to a chance of winning. It was the clear stand-out in the first half of the grand final until Netherlands arrived as the 12th song.
08 Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth – 302 (6)
Nice beat and interesting staging with the laser beam robots. TItjust runs out of steam.
09 Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity – 284 (8)
I recall my comments about Zero Gravity in my preview of Australia Decides and that they proved prophetic: “Whether it has enough immediate appeal, that’s another story. It took a while to warm to it, and that’s usually not a good sign in this sort of environment. You need to smack people in the face somehow…”
The story of Zero Gravity and its plunge in betting from an $81 outsider to a $7 second favourite (albeit, distant from Netherlands at $1.60), is fans had become familiar with the song over the months and were then hit with that proverbial smack in the face at Eurovision with the stunning presentation. That was compounded by being in the weak first semi final, making Zero Gravity appear much better than it really was. In the grand final against so many strong songs from the second semi final, it didn’t stand out as much, nor did the song itself immediately resonate with enough people. Kate had tweaked it a bit, especially to give it a more rousing crescendo by singing some of the lines and reducing the “awwww-awww” opera bits, to fix the finish that felt a bit flat at Australia Decides. I always felt this was a mid-table entry, and with this being a weaker Eurovision in terms of song quality, 9th place is spot on. While many Australians might be disappointed with the result, let’s not artificially hype it as “extraordinary” like the commentators did. It’s ok to be disappointed, and express that. Australians can at least be pleased the resentment vote from the televote that plagued results for the last two years, and a little in 2016, wasn’t evident this time. 153 from the jury and 131 from the televote is an acceptable difference.
10 Iceland – Hatari – Hatro Mun Sigra – 232 (3)
Nice theatrics, rubbish song. Early suggestions when it became Iceland’s candidate that it could win Eurovision were delusional. It was always too polarising for that. That members of the band displayed “Palestine” scarves when their televote was read was in clear defiance to requests to save their political messaging for outside Eurovision. Thankfully that was the only screen time those pathetic losers got, and if the EBU are serious about their rules regarding political messages, Iceland should be banned for 2020.
11 Czechia – Lake Malawi – Friend Of A Friend – 157 (6)
Always a catchy, electro 80s style of pop song, and popular with the jury to finish 7th. A nice touch focusing on a girl in the audience that one time singing “I’m only a friend” along with the band. I don’t even want to know if that was staged because it was so super cool!
12 Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever – 120 (8)
Only scraped into the final by 1 point over Lithuania. That’s surprising, even though it was such a tough semi. I’ve always loved this song, and it was fitting Denmark got at least one set of 12 points – from Italy – not that they immediately realised it. Finishing 12th is a good result too, and the audience appreciated it, given you could hear them singing along to it.
13 Cyprus – Tamta – Replay – 109 (7)
After trying to copy the style of Eleni Foureira’s second place song last year, Cyprus will probably be disappointed with this result. At least the got 12 points from [as the crowd chants] GREECE!
14 Malta – Michela – Chameleon – 107 (7)
Another entry that might have hoped for a better result. It made a great opening to the show, and then you knew better ones would follow. In some ways, that’s good. Malta got to relax all night and watch the other entries.
15 Slovenia – Zala Kralj & Gasper Santl – Sebi – 105 (4)
Never enough in this song for me. For one moment, they were staring at each other so hard that I thought they might burst out laughing.
16 France – Bilal Hassani – Roi – 105 (5)
Nicely presented, and with good messaging. The song was always on the bland side, and Bilal’s vocals not up to standard.
17 Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju Tokes – 90 (5)
Another than didn’t quite stand out, not even the power vocals. I guess it was hear them once, hear them enough. The song was only ever average.
18 Serbia – Nevena Bosovic – Kruna – 89 (7)
A stand-out in the weak first semi final, this went a bit missing in the grand final, and that’s despite it being the only real power ballad and Nevena possessing a super voice. Coming late as the fourth last song, people can be weary by then, so switch off. If it swapped positions with North Macedonia in 8th spot, fortunes for each might have been different.
19 San Marino – Serhat – Say Na Na Na – 77 (6)
They’d be happy with this result. It was a bit of a fun, frivolous distraction. They qualified comfortably in 8th place for the grand final too, albeit from the weak first semi. They got most of their points from the public, and finished as their 10th best.
20 Estonia – Victor Crone – Storm – 76 (8)
Much better than the semi final performance. The small error with the camera switching would not have mattered much. Personally, a higher result was harmed by trying too hard. These nice, simple songs need to be kept simple. Ask Duncan!
21 Greece – Katerine Duska – Better Love – 74 (7)
Surprisingly quite low for a song that was so well sung and presented. My feeling all along that it was never a really strong song – sort of running out time by the end – and proved valid.
22 Spain – Miki – La Venda – 54 (7)
A fun finale for the night. No surprised Spain didn’t attract many points. Spain rarely do.
23 Israel – Kobi Marimi – Home – 35 (7)
For a song that I never rated much initially, it grew on me over time and I really enjoyed the performance. Nice vocals, beautifully staged and delivered big emotion. Perhaps that was the problem, because male ballads of the big, emotional type and songs lacking immediate appeal rarely do well, and Israel had both. At least they got to celebrate 12 points from the Belarus jury during the broadcast thanks the EBU stuff up (see end of post).
24 Belarus – ZENA – Like It – 31 (8)
My second favourite before Eurovision and I loved it in the first semi, it lost a bit of impact in the grand final. Still, Zena is a great talent and she’s been fun on Instagram! Thanks for making Tel Aviv memorable.
25 Germany – S!sters – Sister – 24 (8)
All their points came from the jury. They got none from the televote, and it was quite a reaction from the crowd when Bar Refaeli said, “I’m sorry, zero points”. It was nice that the director didn’t put the camera on many of the acts at this point, as receiving low votes is not a pleasant feeling. This song brought some tears as it always reminds me of my mother, who passed away just over a month ago. I felt a connection to it from the time it won Germany’s national final, and that bond strengthened over time, during my mother’s final weeks, and now afterwards. It’s a shame they couldn’t bring the revolving platform to Tel Aviv, because that really helped expose the swirl of emotions embedded in the song. Being objective, the girls’ voices weren’t the best complement for each other and the presentation merely sufficed. Countering that, Germany is one of those unfashionable countries that rarely gets votes, so 24 from the jury is a reasonable result. The girls have been great on social media too, especially with their video logs on youtube.
26 United Kingdom – Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us – 11 (4)
The song John Lundvik rejected. Actually, the Melodifestivalen producers suggested he dump it, so he gave it to the UK. It would have been interesting to see the results if they switched songs. You know the disparity wouldn’t be there, so it gets back to people not taking the UK seriously, and the UK itself failing to take Eurovision seriously. The song isn’t as bad as the result suggests, and Michael tried hard enough. It’s just that if it’s not really good from the UK, people ignore it.
My Top 10: Netherlands (+2), Germany (-1), Belarus (-1), Australia (+7), North Macedonia (+26), Norway (+4), Denmark (-), Switzerland (-2), Estonia (-1) and Serbia (+12). The +/- represents the change from before Eurovision. Netherlands was the only song I scored 9. The rest, except for Serbia, scored 8. Serbia was one of six songs to score 7 points, and it was on the strength of their epic semi final performance that I awarded them 10th spot. In 11th would be Malta (-6), then Israel (+20), Greece (+2), Cyprus (+4) and Spain (+11).
Netherlands, Australia and North Macedonia were the clear standouts, while Germany and Belarus will always be personal favourites because I liked the songs so much. Compared to before Eurovision the top 3 are the same, albeit Netherlands jump from third to first. Switzerland (6th before Eurovision), Denmark (7th), Estonia (8th) and Norway (10th) also ended in my final top 10. Armenia (4th), Malta (5th) and San Marino (9th) missed. Of the new entries, Australia were 11th before Eurovision, North Macedonia 31st and Serbia 22nd. So North Macedonia made the biggest jump.
The average score for the show is exactly 6.5, which puts it in the upper end of shows, matches the second semi of 6.5, destroys the first semi of 5.4, falls short of the 6.9 record for Malmo 2013’s first semi, and beats the last three grand finals of 6.3, 6 and 6, respectively. This high average is surprising given there were few big highlights during the show, and is explained by poor songs like Portugal, Latvia, Poland and Hungary purged during the semi finals that would have dragged the grand final’s average down. In fact, the only song I didn’t like that progressed to the finals is Iceland.
The semi final results were almost totally spot on. Only Armenia I wish could have made it to the grand final. It will be interesting to see if this evenness of songs translates to Tel Aviv 2019 beating Kyiv 2017 in the battle that I’ll do later in the year. Kyiv has beaten Stockholm 2016 and Lisbon 2018 already.
Predictions & Odds
Like most people, I had Netherlands winning, at least once I saw the Eurovision performances. In second and third I had Sweden and Australia. Before Eurovision I had it Russia, Netherlands and Sweden, feeling Netherlands was too nice to win, and Russia would present much better.
The betting public got it right in the sense Netherlands were hot favourites all along and won. While the margin of victory was closer than the hot favouritism towards Netherlands suggested, they picked Netherlands as the one before Eurovision, and support only increased once the shows started. The betting public had Russia, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden filling the top 5 before Eurovision, and Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia filling it once the semi finals were complete. Their initial top 4 hunch was very close to the eventual top 4 of Netherlands, Italy, Russia and Switzerland. Their biggest flop was the plunge on Australia once Eurovision started, and before Eurovision it was rating Portugal as a rough chance at $51. They finished 15th in the first semi final. Betting odds before and after Eurovision can be found in the Grand Final Preview in the Semi Final 2 Review.
Semi Final Results
The unlucky countries this year were Poland in semi final 1 and Lithuania and Moldova in semi final 2. Poland missed out by just two points to take Belarus’ place in the top 10, while Lithuania was only 1 point behind 10th spot and 3 points behind Albania in 9th in the second semi. The top 8 songs from that semi were way ahead, while the top 9 were clear ahead in semi final 1. Curiously, Belarus relied on the jury to progress, and it was no surprise San Marino appealed most to the televote.
Most glaring from the semi final results is confirmation that the first semi final was so weak. The top 3 countries could only finish between 9th and 11th in the grand final. Other than Italy in second place, all other songs in the top 8 of the grand final were from semi final 2.
Semi Final 1
San Marino 150
Semi Final 2
North Macedonia 239
Tel Aviv 2019
This Eurovision in Israel was always potentially a hazardous one, and I’d say the EBU will be relieved they escaped Tel Aviv with only minor controversies. Iceland misbehaving during the results as mentioned earlier was about it, and it should be noted Israel’s jury spokesperson nearly crossed the line too. Apparently there were technical issues on stage, notably with poor camera shots and fireworks not working at all. Viewers at home would have been oblivious to most of this so it didn’t affect the overall production. Not sure the Madonna experiment worked. While she was diplomatic and interesting during the interview, her performance added nothing to the show other than delaying the vote, and the gas masks on the dancers were a peculiar artistic decision, to say the least. I think we learnt from the other interval acts, the real stars of Eurovision are Eurovision stars, while Shalva Band in semi final 2 will be one of the great memories.
After two good years of Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey, Australia’s commentators were dreadful with their incessant chatter and giggling, especially over songs during the interval, and during the semi finals, over the snippets from the Big 5 and host, and, most rude of all, over their interviews. A golden rule in Eurovision is never talk over songs, and a golden rule in life is never talk over people. Warhurst was still puzzled about some 12 points decisions like Serbia to North Macedonia, Montenegro to Serbia and Moldova exchanging 12 points with Romania (neighbours), while no one can explain Belarus giving 12 to Israel. In fact, except 1 point to Australia, their other points from 10 to 1 went to low placed countries Estonia, Germany, Norway, Spain, UK, San Marino, Serbia and Iceland. It turns out the Belorussian jury had publicly revealed some of their choices in semi final 1. That’s against the rules so the EBU dismissed them from the grand final and formulated a jury vote based on voting patterns of similar countries to Belarus, only to award the bottom 10, not the top 10 during the broadcast. This was subsequently corrected a few days later (see end of post).
While the stage design meant fans were quite distant from the artists on the main stage, it can’t be denied it was a spectacular design, especially the 3D appearance of it. That extended to screen graphics themselves continuing the theme, and credit to the postcards that had artists dancing at various Israeli locations. The intro to the grand final with Netta piloting an airliner was brilliant too. The hosts, Erez Tal, Assi Azar, Lucy Ayoub and Bar Rafaeli, and did their jobs without offending anyone. Probably Azar was the best, especially with the tough job of interviewing Madonna, and he was good interviewing the Big 5 and Israel during the semi finals. Tal and Rafaeli primarily did the presenting and reading votes. We didn’t see much of Ayoub, who probably did the green room interviews, which were used for ad breaks.
The only criticism with the production may not even have been in the producer’s hands. Many country abbreviations had been updated, and while the connection to some of the odd ones could be made, like DEU for Germany and HRV for Croatia (names in their native language), it still made no sense to change them. Typically it’s the first 3 letters of the English spelling like GER and CRO, which is so easy to remember. SLO for Slovenia was changed to SVN – probably to avoid confusion with Slovakia (SVK). So explain why POR, GRE, LAT and DEN had to become PRT, GRC, LVA and DNK, while SWE, FRA, NOR and ITA remained? Or why MKD for North Macedonia wasn’t updated to something like NMD to reflect their new name? Weirdest of all was SUI for Switzerland changed to CHE. I challenge anyone to know that without researching it. It’s actually the latin name, and probably used because Switzerland has 3 national languages and wanted a neutral abbreviation, not one from the French spelling of Suisse.
So, who’d like to have a beer with Duncan? I would, and I don’t even like beer, nor am I his mate. I’m so happy he won. It’s rare one of my favourites win Eurovision, with Lena in 2010 for Germany and Lordi in 2006 for Finland being the most recent. It’s great that Eurovision will return to Netherlands after all these years too. It’ll be an interesting proposition whether to go. Three years in a row between 2016 and 2018 was a case of Eurovision overload, and I’m not sure I’m fully decompressed yet.
Note: This post was updated 26 May 2019 to reflect the correction of Belarus’s jury votes. The main changes were North Macedonia and Sweden up a spot, and Norway and Azerbaijan down a spot. Outside the top 10, Malta and Cyprus improved by two spots at the expense of Slovenia and France. Albania, San Marino and Belarus all went up one spot, with Serbia, Estonia and Germany falling a spot. The EBU released the following statement:
“The Belarusian jury was dismissed following the reveal of their votes from the first Semi-Final which is contrary to the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest. In order to comply with the Contest’s voting regulations, the EBU worked with its voting partner digame to create a substitute aggregated result (calculated based on the results of other countries with similar voting records), which was approved by voting monitor Ernst & Young, to determine the Belarusian jury votes for the Grand Final.
“The EBU can confirm, following standard review practices, we have discovered that due to a human error an incorrect aggregated result was used. This had no impact on the calculation of points derived from televoting across the 41 participating countries and the overall winner and Top 4 songs of the Contest remain unchanged.
“To respect both the artists and EBU Members which took part, we wish to correct the final results in accordance with the rules. The correct jury points have now been added to the scoreboard and the revised totals for each participating broadcaster, and their country, have been published on eurovision.tv.
Final Split Results