Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2014

AUS-TRI-A! AUS-TRI-A! AUS-TRI-A!

Jen:

  1. Netherlands
  2. Sweden
  3. Hungary
  4. Denmark
  5. Greece
  6. Austria
  7. Spain
  8. Armenia
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Switzerland

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Hungary
  2. Netherlands
  3. Sweden
  4. Austria
  5. Armenia
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Spain
  8. Greece
  9. Denmark
  10. Azerbaijan

Last Place: Germany

Europe:

  1. Austria
  2. Netherlands
  3. Sweden
  4. Armenia
  5. Hungary
  6. Ukraine
  7. Russia
  8. Norway
  9. Denmark
  10. Spain

Last Place: France

It was a pleasant surprise to us that Austria pulled off the win (although it wasn’t a surprise to Chinavision, who commented on our predictions post). We both thought that Conchita Wurst was going to be hurt by an early draw and homophobia. I can’t say she ended homophobia in Europe, but she did get points from all but four countries (Belarus, San Marino, Armenia, and Poland), and douze points from 13 countries. Notably, she got points from unexpected places: 10 from Georgia, 8 from Ukraine, 1 from Azerbaijan, even 5 from Russia. It was a fairly comprehensive win.

But Netherlands kept up the pace during the voting tally, finishing only 52 points behind Austria and racking up 8 douze points. The Common Linnets also won the Artistic Award (best artist per the commentators), the Composers Award (best artist per the fellow songwriters) and they probably wrested the title of “Best Song That Didn’t Win Eurovision” from Ani Lorak. This podium finish comes on the back of last year’s Top 10 finish. I really hope they can keep their current streak going.

As soon as we published our predictions, Jen regretted not picking Ukraine or Russia for top 10 finishes. I’m with her about Ukraine; the performance wasn’t very good, but I should have counted on some general support for them. But I honestly thought Russia would finish out of the top 10. They only got points from 14 out of 37 countries, but they got enough big points from those countries to finish 7th.

Watching the show, we had an inkling that a couple more of our picks were going to be off base. Specifically, the United Kingdom seemed overwhelmed by it all. We observed several similar cases of nerves in the Semis (e.g., Finland, Ukraine, Russia, Montenegro to name a few), but these folks were able to build off their first performances and were generally much stronger in the Final. The Big Five only get one chance at it, and the greener talent may be more likely to have a case of nerves when it matters.

Kudos to Germany in this respect. Elaiza was similarly inexperienced, but performed with poise.  We both picked Germany for last, but as we watched the show, we grew more concerned for France. Twin Twin’s performance felt unfocused and full of aimless movement. When Latvia had similarly aimless movement on Tuesday, we criticized them for being amateurish. “Moustache” is still one of our favorite songs, but we were pretty certain on the evening that they would make few countries’ Top 10 lists.

There’s also a jury story that needs to be told this year. After the voting controversies in 2013, the EBU published detailed voting information. We’ll be taking a closer look at the numbers this summer and putting together our thoughts. Yes, we’ve even downloaded the Excel spreadsheet. That’s who we are, that’s who we’ll always be.

We’ve kind of embraced the fact that as closely as we’ve followed Eurovision for the past eight years, we still haven’t got much better at picking the winner. It’s overly simplistic to say, but the key to victory is broad-based appeal, such that most countries put you in their Top 5. The douze points are nice, but they are more likely to come from traditional allies: again, that’s how Russia finished as high as it did. But to win, you need to pick up those 10, 8, and 7 points from the rest of Europe.

It’s also a simple fact that some songs land an impact the first time you seem them performed and some don’t. Because we follow the national finals, we end up living with all the songs for a long time. By the time they hit the big stage, we have actually have no idea what’s going to have a visceral impact with viewers who are seeing them for the first time. Still, it’s a lot of fun to guess, and if by some dumb luck I happen to pick the exact placement of three entries, then I can pretend I know what the hell I’m doing!

2 thoughts on “Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2014

  1. This is why I’m grateful to have people watching the final with me who have no idea about the songs whatsoever, hearing them for the first time on the night, as most of the viewers do. I really wasn’t sure anymore which of these 26 songs would hit it off with the audience, because I’d inundated myself in a lot of them. Like, say, I loved “Hunter of Stars” from the first moment I heard it, but then I saw all the negative comments on the internet, and I started to worry that I’d gone completely out of touch. As the final result (and more to the point, the televoters’ result, which placed Sebalter seventh) proves, I was right about that one.

    The same thing applied to “Calm After the Storm”, except that even most of the crowd I was watching the final with didn’t seem to get that one. Honestly, even I am still kind of shocked at this fantastic place for an ultimately rather middle-of-the-road song, but this was a case of everything clicking into place on the night, as happened with Austria. (Parenthetical mention of the best slow guitar solo I’ve ever heard at the Eurovision Song Contest, though that was of course playback.)

    Conversely, you’ll eventually get used to absolutely everything if you hear it often enough, which was what happened to me with “Moustache”. But the uniformly negative comments from the five people around me foreshadowed Twin Twin’s ultimate fate. Same thing for Greece, which no one in my living room liked (myself included, admittedly, apart from the intro, which writes checks that the rest of the song can’t begin to cash), and Azerbaijan, which was just ultimately boring as hell and wouldn’t even have made the final if it weren’t for the juries (who, to be fair, kept Portugal away from Saturday night, so that’s something to be grateful for, at least). Same thing happened to Germany, too, and I think we were saved a Twin Twin-level humiliation only by the fact that the commercial break kept Elaiza from having to perform in between the winner and the third place – I shudder to think how unprofessional and silly that performance would have looked had it been immediately followed by Sanna Nielsen doing her (boring, but very professional) shtick. Having to perform right after Conchita was bad enough – coming right before her didn’t exactly do Greece any favours either. That same effect – performing next to a top-ranked song isn’t good for you – also hit San Marino and Denmark (who at DR thought it a good idea to place the Netherlands right after Basim?).

  2. Hey guys, thanks for the mention. 😉 It’s pretty tough being a sole Eurovision fan living in China (although after those remarks Pilou was making throughout all Saturday night we can possibly expect some more attention). Anyway, I think it was the strongest contest of the last several years and I don’t remember the last time I thought of the outcome as totally fair. Also, Conchita’s win has caused a major reaction in Europe, and judging from the discussions in the social media, people still don’t know whether they are supposed to like or hate her.

    It was another dismal year for the Big Five… I think it’s not long before they are going to change the rules and have Big Five perform in semifinals outside the competition, just to get the “feel” of the performance. Many things could go wrong if you perform only once, and that’s exactly what happened to at least them on Saturday. TWIN TWIN’s performance was messy; Emma was both out of tune and out of breath (worst act of the night in my book); and Molly just couldn’t put enough power into her song (also the Hunter Games-ish costume was disastrous). Spain and Denmark were alright, and Elaiza could have done better, had they not performed right after Conchita.

    With a strong performance this year, Netherlands have shown that one can turn a non-Eurovision format song into an audience favourite, provided you stage it well.

    Both from the point of performance and staging, their act was flawless, and I think they deservedly get the award for the most (pleasantly) surprising act of this year. Finland and San Marino deserve honorary mentions, the former because they battled their lack of experience and put together a likeable performance, which clicked with the audience much better than I presumed, and the latter because, well, who expected Valentina to qualify this year? Her Eurovision was already won the second she made it into the final.

    The biggest disappointments this year are obviously UK (for the reasons mentioned above) and Romania (grossly overstaged). While a 4th place finish is not necessarily a disappointment, I am still not impressed with Aram’s performance, even though he certainly improved on it in the final. I guess the main problem was that performed live, the song never sounded as good as in the studio, and that there was never enough going on during the climax part. To my mind, Armenia’s song was the exact opposite of Romania – it was understaged.

    Hope you will make it to Vienna (or Innsbruck) next year guys! And I also hope Latvia will start sending something decent at last, since it’s where I am originally from. For the last five years, our entries have been a total pain to see.

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