Friday, 17 May 2013

"The same countries qualify every year!"

It's that time of year again, the time when fans from around the continent complain that the fact that their favourite song didn't qualify means that Eurovision is all a fix, that SVT planned it for their own favourites to succeed, and that neighbourly and diaspora voting means that some countries always get through, and others never had a chance.

What a load of rubbish.

Firstly, the Nordic countries. Though they have a strong record, it's certainly not a given for any of them that they will make it to the final. In recent years we've seen high-profile casualties like Stella Mwangi and Anna Bergendahl missing out, and Finland tend to only qualify one year in every two.

Much of the fire for this criticism has come from the result of the Israeli entry, which was a surprising non-qualifier last night - and it was Israel's third non-qualification in a row, a fact that has prompted fans to assume that Israel will never get through, whatever they send. This ignores the fact that they had had three straight qualifications prior to that, and that the songs they sent in the last two years were either poorly performed or just plain inaccessible for the contest.

Going through some of the others, it's particularly unbelievable that some fans are crying foul and claiming that the same countries always qualify in a year when both Belgium and the Netherlands have made it to the final. For once, both sent strong songs with good performances, and were justly rewarded.

That's the underlying thing - it's about sending a good song and a good performance and being rewarded for it. Yes, there are countries that 'always' qualify, like Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine, but they are also countries who take the contest most seriously and put a huge amount of effort into their song selection and staging. They've never seemed unlikely to qualify for the past few years, simply because they've always entered sure-fire qualifiers.

On the other hand, one could argue that they 'always' get through because of geographical and neighbourly voting. Of course, this does play some role, but it's simply impossible to argue that all the ex-Soviets will always qualify thanks to friendly votes. Take Belarus - seen as one of the bad guys in this scenario, they're hardly a consistent qualifier, with only two successful entries before now. Armenia has missed out before, even with heavy diaspora support, and Latvia has never qualified in recent years, despite having the same theoretical neighbourly support that sees Estonia and Lithuania through. It all comes down to the song.

Particularly interesting is the fact that, this year, none of the ex-Yugoslav songs qualified to the final, and two of these countries haven't seen a final in a number of years now. The thing is, if we were having this discussion five years ago, the argument would be "but the ex-Yu countries always qualify, whatever they send". That assertion has now been proved very firmly wrong... and so it goes on.

Quite simply, if you want to be a sure-fire qualifier every year, send something good every year. And yes, there are countries who it seems have absolutely no chance of qualifying, whatever they send. But what else do you expect when what you're sending is Valentina Monetta?

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for this!

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  2. Brilliant SamB! Thanks!

    Katiiii

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  3. What an amazing post! This post should be sent out to all the lame journalists worldwide who don't bother to do their research.

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  4. Absolutely true! And after all, Eurovision should be just pure fun whoever is performing in the final. Of course song of own country in the final gives extra vibes, but at least in Finland I have so used to watch final without our entrant that it really does not matter in the big night.

    JKP

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  5. Exactly my thoughts

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  6. What's wrong with Valentina Monetta ? She is a great singer and she delivered yesterday in a way the majority did not. All well and good in your article but microstates simply cannot qualify, much less have consistent qualifications.

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  7. What a load of bs. It's pretty obvious anything outside the general eurovision format (ballads, ethnic, dated sound) has no chance of qualifying. Some countries always go through (diaspora, typical esc format song) but for the others it's just the odd slot available that get them any chances. There's always an excuse why some songs didn't get through.."poorly performed", "inaccessible" but what is the excuse for Armenia?...or Belarus?...or Lithuania?

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    1. "It's pretty obvious anything outside the general eurovision format has no chance of qualifying."

      Like Hungary or Netherlands? ;)

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    2. ..."for the others it's just the odd slot available that get them any chances".

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  8. Brilliant! That ought to shut them up ;)

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  9. Of all the "ex soviet" countries (sorry for that term) to fail, why did it have to be Latvia? I'd say Latvia has *by far* the best performance of their region and why did they not qualify? Maybe it was because of a lack of neighbors. One trend I can see is western nations not voting for the eastern ones. This is mainly due to taste I think, but Azerbaijan in 2011, a typical ballad that you could have seen coming from Belgium failed to get any points from many western countries.
    So maybe we should stop looking at the east for grudge-based voting, and look to the west.

    I can easily see why FYRoM, Austria, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Cyprus and Serbia didn't qualify though there are other non-qualifications that confuse me:
    Montenegro's song seemed perfect for Eurovision but it didn't get through. I'd be surprised to not see it in the top 10 in the televoting this year.

    San Marino was way too highly tipped. It's just another ballad with a "twist" that failed to get the attention of the viewers. Israel probably got blocked out by Greece, a far more energetic energy. Or maybe it was the dress.

    I feel most sorry for Switzerland, they had the sweetest, and like Sinplus the year before, took it seriously. Switzerland would have qualified if the jury wasn't there last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same this time.

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    1. Latvia didn't fit into the esc format (rap was included). Also, the first five songs of the first six (both semis together) didn't qualify.

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  10. I only have one issue: Greece. They should not have qualified any of the past three, possibly four, years. Yet they did. Convincingly. I can hand on heart guarantee you if San Marino sent those songs, it would not have qualified and would have been a contender for last place.

    That said, the best song nearly always win in my opinion. A good song is in most cases the most important factor, and most of the points you make Sam are good and valid :)

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    1. Im from Greece, and if u look as u say the last four years except last year greece not only made it into finals but had a place in top 10 songs which means that whole europe liked the songs. so stop this story about greece and in general about the voting system. Im not saying that diaspora doesnt help but its not only them. And im sorry about san marino i really liked the song this year.

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  11. ..not a single ex-yugoslav country qualified this year. :(

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  12. Thing is, some countries *do* have guaranteed televote points.

    Both Armenia and Turkey would've qualified under 100% televoting systems in 2011.

    On the other hand, the juries have cancelled out the worst excesses of 100% televoting.

    Between 2003/4 through 2008 it just became a battle of dueling diasporas (Turkey-2003, Ukraine-2004, Greece-2005, Finland-2006 the exception, Serbia-2007, and Russia-2008.) Even in 2006, 7 of the top 10 countries were fueled to their spot with help from diaspora.

    After that, the Nordics/Germany started stepping up their game and using THEIR advantage in being able to create a hype. 50/50 and two semis blunted the raw power of the diasporas.

    Azerbaijan already has a diaspora and then started developing an ability to generate hype by importing Swedes to do most of the work behind an Azeri performer.)

    So now we see Norway-2009, Germany-2010 (over the favorite Azerbaijan), Azerbaijan-2011, Sweden-2012, and probably Denmark or Norway this year.

    The ex-Warsaw Pact countries, having neither active diaspora (barring ALB and ROM) nor the ability to generate hype, started dropping out -- I could see Hungary and Bulgaria dropping out, and Poland/Czech Republic/Slovakia already have. They'll be back within our lifetimes.

    Now we're in an era where pre-contest promotion helps a lot (Azerbaijan, Lena, Jedward, etc.) and in that the Nordics and some of the ex-USSR countries do quite well. SVT is trying to usher in an era when the contest is treated more like a reality show, where the producers try and influence things.

    There'll be more changes to the contest in the years to come, of course. There'll be a backlash against the 'reality show conversion' much as there was a backlash against the 'dueling diasporas.'

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  13. I fully believe that all the statements you have done is correct. However, if we are talking about a strong voice and a powerful ballad with a great song, I don't think Israeli's coould send somebody better than Moran Mazor. She was perfect at that night and I believe everyone thought that she was the jury winner. I didn't understand the fact why she beacame a non-qualifier. Rak Bishvilo was one of the best songs Israel sent since 2005 - Shiri Maimon. I'd like to see the jury and televote results together when it is announced.

    From Turkey.

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    1. It's worth me adding that I was VERY surprised Moran didn't qualify. She was great, it's a good song and I thought the juries would lap it up.

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    2. I have to disagree! I admit that I never really "got" Rav Bishvilo but it wasn't the song, it was the performance. A good voice can only get you so far. I was personally very, very bored by her performance. Perhaps it was the draw - Greece brought so much energy to the stage last night that it was tough act to follow for anyone.
      I believe the anger from fans does come from the fact that Rak Bishvilo was preferred over the likes of Lonely Planet, but I'm sorry it really just wasn't a stand out moment.
      Diaspora voting or not, it would have suffered. I'm from the UK, and I vote for Ireland (as well as other countries I might add!) but you can't automatically assume that diaspora voting was the reason for her failure.

      It's all about the final now anyway! Come on Bonnie!

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    3. Well. What I believe is even jury winner or not, the jury's votes are so close to each other. For Example the list goes like, Norway 143 - Azerbaijan - 141 , Israel - 139, Finland 138 etcetra. In this case, even Rak Bishivlo is chosen as the jury winner since the votes are so close to each other, everything is decided on the televoting which we all know Israeli's such at the televoting system since 2006. That's why she is failed to qualify in my opinion.

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  14. So what... I would have preferred Macedonia, San Marino, Israel and Bulgaria over Romania, Armenia, Hungary and GREECE (seriously hate these 4 entries), but thats the beauty of Eurovision, the yearly surprises we all get...

    Plus no one mentioned.. Malta have managed to qualify 2 years in a row, and they have no neighbours!

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  15. Well said. It's about time fans realised that their favourites can't be all Europe's favourites. If there was some truth in countries qualifying or doing well based solely on diaspora/neighbourly votes before 2009, there's absolutely no excuse to say the same thing today when we see countries like Malta, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and (why not) Ireland qualify and without having sent THE song or THE performance. Just simple, good songs with competent performers was enough (ok, the Netherlands did send a big name but it wouldn't be the first time in Eurovision that a big name failed to qualify, would it?). On the other hand, we see 4 ex yugos in the same semi and none of them qualify for the final. Who can seriously say that in the first semi Belgium had more neighbourly support than Serbia, for example?
    Regarding Israel, yes, I wanted Moran in the final, too and in my opinion, she deserved it but, on the other hand, I've been a fan long enough to know that my opinion means nothing in the bigger picture. Apparently the rest of Europe and the juries didn't share my opinion..and that's fine, that's the beauty of the contest.

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  16. I don't think that people rant about Belgium of Holland,they rant about certain countries that manage to qualify every year with whatever they send(yes Russia i'm looking at you).
    I'll start with Russia,after 2008 they simply don't care ,they just wanted to win they did so and after that they started sending craps(except this year which is decent). So do you really believe that Russia deserved to be in top 15 all these years even when other countries sent sth which was better? Do you believe that Russia deserved to qualify in 2010? deserved that position in 2009? or deserved to come 2nd with that lame song in 2012?? If for instance Montenegro sent any of these songs then fans would say:
    Oh another boring or lame song from Montenegro.

    Greece is a country that never failed to reach top 10 (except for last year).The greek entries from 2003 to 2008 were good,their 2001 entry is one of my fav songs in ESC,but since 2009 they just started sending stupid songs,the 2009 song was horrible,the 2010 wasn't good (however he was lucky since many songs that year were boring and managed to get in top 10,and vocally he was good),their 2011 was booooooooooring(yet it managed to win the 1st semi final and reach top 3 in televoting,whaaaaaaaaat?),last year finally they got what they deserved,this year they should be out of top 10 too!

    Other countries that always qualify by just missing out only once are Turkey,Armenia and Georgia.Turkey had good songs in 2004,2007,2009 and 2010 and got what they deserved,but i think they were overrated in 2008 and 2012!!! They shouldn't even have ranted over the jury voting last year since their song sucked.
    Armenia had good songs only in 2006,2008 and 2010,their 2007,2009 and 2011 entries were boring and sucked(in 2011 they got what they deserved! however if there were no juries back then they could have still qualified and even get in top 15).
    Georgia always gets in top 15 when they are in the finals,thus stealing the positions they get from countries that deserve them more(but their 2010 entry was good thus it was fair to get in top 10 for them).

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  17. The problem starts when someone thinks his taste is what matters and all europe has to follow it.At all live blogs Azerbaijan - Norway - Georgia and Greece was among the sure countries to pass the semifinal(all the blogs iam not talking about old ogae members which live 20 years back and always vote Nordic countries even at second chance)so whats the surprise that they made the final.....most blogs are talking about Denmark winning(i believe it will happen without even reading it weeksssssssss now)so if the girl wins are u going to attack that things are fixed or blocks work and bla...bla....bla...!
    Gosh some people grow up...!

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  18. what a stupid article!

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  19. Pretty agree on everything. Promotion is crucial too.
    I would just change the last sentence in "But what else do you expect when what you're sending is a dated Siegel song?" ;)

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  20. I still don't get why the 'big' countries such as UK, Germany and France already got through.. Can anyone explain?

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