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?