The State of Our Predictions for Eurovision 2011

We knew going into the Eurovision Song Contest Final that predicting the result was going to be tricky. But honestly, neither of us expected that Azerbaijan was going to pull off the win.

In the end, Jen got six of the 10 finalists and I got five (indicated below in italics). I also got one finish exactly right (indicated in bold). I didn’t pick any of the top five, whereas Jen got one: Azerbaijan.

Jen:

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  5. Greece
  6. Austria
  7. Ireland
  8. Romania
  9. Russia
  10. Ukraine

Last Place: Lithuania

Chris:

  1. France
  2. Ireland
  3. Austria
  4. Germany
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  6. Azerbaijan
  7. Greece
  8. Russia
  9. Moldova
  10. Iceland

Last Place: Lithuania

Europe:

  1. Azerbaijan
  2. Italy
  3. Sweden
  4. Ukraine
  5. Denmark
  6. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  7. Greece
  8. Ireland
  9. Georgia
  10. Germany

Last Place: Switzerland

Looking at the final scorecard, the key to Azerbaijan’s win is easy to see: They got points from 30 of the 43 countries voting, and decent points (six and higher) from 23 of those countries. They received three douze points, from Russia (FRIENDLY VOTING!!!), Turkey (NEIGHBORLY VOTING!!!) and Malta (WAIT, WHAT?!).

I was amused when the audience booed instances of friendly voting last night during the results, but when you’re dealing with 43 nations voting, the friendly voting is in a way irrelevant.

In the past, we would say that some nations are never going to finish on the right side of the board (16th place and lower) because of their friends. But Russia finished 16th, which sort of blows that theory away. For example, Belarus had given Russia 12 points four times in the previous five contests. (The exception was in 2009 when they gave Russia 8, and 12 to Minsk-born Alexander Rybak.) This year, Belarus gave Russia five points. If you can’t get more than eight points from your friends, you’re not going to break the left side of the board.

Even Ukraine and Georgia, who finished top 10, were helped as much by votes from places like Italy and Greece as they were by friendly voting.

The Guardian said that Blue “failed miserably” with a “quite poor 11th,” but I would like to point out to The Guardian that the United Kingdom finished last in 2010, and that Blue’s fan base helped them overcome poor staging to finish a quite respectable 11th. The UK got small points from 25 countries. That’s not bad, particularly for a country that doesn’t think it has any friends on the continent.

I can explain stuff like this all day, but I’ll be darned if I could tell you how Italy finished second. Was everyone really excited about Italy’s return? I will say this: after a stilted, unengaging performance from Amaury Vassili, Raphael Gualazzi couldn’t help but come off well. Maybe a good performance was rewarded? Shocking!

So what have I learned this year?

  1. For all that is good and green on this earth, take the bookies with a grain or two of salt. The UK and Ireland did well (make no mistake, Guardian readers). But they still were overvalued by the hometown oddsmakers. Moreover, the bookies were absolutely convinced that France was going to stroll to victory. Sure, they were right about Norway in 2009, but they couldn’t be more wrong this year.
  2. No matter how well it is sung, any ballad that smacks of being old-fashioned is not going to do well in the final anymore. Nadine Beiler sounded fantastic, but “The Secret Is Love” is pretty danged musty. You think I would’ve learned this after Niamh Kavanaugh’s finish last year, of course.
  3. We watched a lot of national finals this year. We followed this Eurovision season closer than any other one before. But in the end, as much as I know, I don’t know anything. (See Jen’s post “The Problem of Knowing.”)
  4. In a related point, as much as I like to believe I’m objective when I’m making my predictions, I am totally biased. I try to be objective, but either I’m picking acts to do well in the Final because I like a performance (Austria, Moldova), or I’m really trying hard to not seem biased and picking the opposite of something that I like (France). Of course, I don’t know how I change that, but I don’t really think I should try. I’m not a professional punter, and I’d rather just enjoy the show.

And in the end, that’s the important thing. Regardless of what you think of the result, this was a ridiculously entertaining show. I will be so bold as to say this might have been my favorite Eurovision Song Contest in the six years I’ve been watching it live. Part of it was the quality of the performances (everyone except France did really well). Part of it was because the Germans did a great job staging it (surprising, given how rough that first Semi was). But this is definitely going to be a Final we’ll be watching over and over again.