ESC Insight

ESC Insight

Paths To Victory: A Practical Guide To Winning The Eurovision Song Contest

Paths To Victory: A Practical Guide To Winning The Eurovision Song Contest

Let’s start with a quick reminder.

You win the Eurovision Song Contest by scoring more points than any other song in that year’s Contest. No points are ‘more special’ than any others, four ‘single points; from the jury are worth the same as a single ‘four points’ from a public televote. All you have to do is collect the most, the Glass Microphone is yours and your broadcaster gets an incredibly short deadline to put on three massive live shows in just under a year.

You could leave you final score up to chance, but the many investments in at the acts, staging, videos, and promo tours are for one simple goal. To score as many points as possible. If that’s more than every other song, you win.

Denmak 2013 Emmelie de Forest

Denmak 2013 Emmelie de Forest

How Many Points Do You Need?

There’s no hard and fast number to target for victory at the Song Contest. Each country awards 116 points, and no one song can score more than 24 of those points under the current system. Can it be as simple as “half the maximum available to you plus one” enough?

Surprisingly, the answer is almost a yes. If you can earn this many points you are going to be within touching distance of first place. Every winning entry in the current ’50/50’ era (which started in 2009) has passed this mark except for 2011; although it should be noted that the second placed song in the last six years have also snuck over this winning line.

Paths To Victory, Margin of Victory

Paths To Victory, Margin of Victory

As a working hypothesis, this is close enough for me. Lisbon 2018 has 43 entries, which means there are 42 countries with a douze from their jury and a douze from their televote up for grabs for each song in the Grand Final…. this year’s ‘finish line’ is 505 points.

Now we know what we need… how do we get there?

A Genuine Game Of Two Halfs

A key change happened in 2016… the televote and the jury vote were no longer combined to generate the final score. Instead the juries and the televote of each country produced their own list of points, from 12, 10, 8, right down to a single point. Under this system a jury can easily award no points to a song while the televote awards it 12 points – previously the methods used to combine the two electorates meant that a strong  televote could be held back by the weak jury score and the song score no points at all… see the United Kingdom’s last place jury score negating the first place in the televote going to Poland in 2014.

Skipping forwards to 2018… The Eurovision Song Contest, like any good European international sport, is a game played out over two legs – one on the Friday night with the jury scoring methodology, and one on Saturday with the televote methodology.

The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter which leg you score your points in, they are worth the same – there is no ‘jury points score double in the event of a tie’ rule. If you can get 400 of your 505 points from the jury, that’s a good strategy. And if you are reliant on the public to lift your song on Saturday, that’s acceptable as well.

Choosing Your Strategy

This leads nicely into the definition of a Eurovision entry being a ‘jury song’ or a ‘televote song’. The former is a song which is likely to score more points on from five hand-picked jurors given specific criteria, the latter more suited to the all or nothing approach of the public. And this is where the different ranking methods of the two legs come into play.

Relying On The Jury

A jury song strategy needs to consider that the jurors are asked to rank every single song from most favourite to least favourite. Every song will be considered. The combination of the rankings from a very small electorate of just five jurors means that a big part of a jury song’s strategy is not just to gather high rankings from across the board, but to avoid low scores – because only five jurors are used, one low score can pull down the points haul from a jury. Thanks to the new changes announced by the EBU (which Ellie has explained in great depth) the single juror drag will no longer pull a song out of the points, but a jury song is about maximising the return on Friday.

The goal here is to be ranked consistently high by all five jurors. While a juror’s final score sheet simply orders the songs, the EBU ask that jurors look at a number of criteria:

  • The vocal capacity of the performer.
  • The performance on stage.
  • The composition and originaitly of the song.
  • Overall impression of the act.

Simply put, your song should stand out in these areas. Delegations will be able to ask your own jurors from previous years how they used these criteria in judging songs to give you a sense of how everything is weighed in the room. It’s a clinical approach to a song, but the goal is to score as many points as possible.

The danger is that these criteria are not hard and fast. There’s no instructions on the weighting that should be applied to each. At the end of the show, the jurors provide one single ordered list.  If you are looking to gather eights, tens and twelves from as many juries as possible, you’re going to need to get in the top three of every juror in a country. Thanks to the new exponential weighting, that’s likely to put you in first or second place.

Forty juries scoring you an average of ten points each is 400 points, eighty percent of the way towards the finish line. Forty juries scoring an average of six points is 240 points, not even half way. It is critically important to keep your average rating over the five jurors as high as possible, and to try to not lose the support of even a single juror. If you are leaning heavily on the jury for the majority of your points, you still cannot afford to be divisive with your song.

All In With The Public

Going for the televote audience is a much simpler play, but one with greater risk. Once all the songs have been played, you want your song to be the one that will make people pick up the phone and vote for it. Yes, tele voters can cast more than one vote (in fact, up to twenty times in 2018) and some may split their votes, but you need your song to be so strong that it captures the maximum number of votes from every audience member with a phone.

Where the jury vote allows for more than one strong song to pick up momentum, a strategy based around a televote song cannot afford to be second best. It needs to be the only one in consideration at the end of the night. There are no specific criteria for voters at home, it’s just ‘be memorable’.

Arguably thats true of the Jury vote as well, but the assumption is that the jurors will look beyond the ‘hype’ and focus on more artistic and technical matters. For a televote focused song you need to clearly answer the question “why would someone vote for this song over every other song?”

Magical Balance

The real trick is to find a song that is utterly enchanting to the juries and is a slam-dunk winner within the four categories (vocals, performance, composition, impression); a song that has the strong hook, visual staging, and memorable recap to win over the telelvote; and has the story and media presence to push the artist forward and into the minds of both jurors and public as ‘the one’ when the time comes to vote.

Balance all three and you’ll watch scoring records fall (see ‘Fairytale’ and ‘Amar Pelos Dois’).

But a win is a win. Get to 505 points in Lisbon, grab the trophy, and musical immortality is yours.

Maximising Your Vote On The Night

Although the Jury and Televote shows are different shows with subtly different strategies, there are three key moments that can be worked on to maximise voting potential  no matter the strategy you chose. These are the song, the recap, and the build up.

The obvious moment is during the three minutes of the song. This is arguably the moment where the performer can maximise their impact, where the visuals can come into play, and where points can be most easily won or lost.

A delegation will focus on this three minutes, but the key is not just to be impressive in your three minutes – the key is to be memorable in this three minutes so that once all the songs have been played their song is the one that stands out. It’s no good having everyone at a Eurovision party turning to each other and going “that’s nice” if they don’t pick up the phone or the jury form when the time comes to cast their votes.

That’s where having a strong recap clip of ten seconds comes in. This is the second moment. The most memorable image, lyric, pyro or camera move as the last nudge in the recap to remind everyone that this is the one they liked and should vote for is needed on the night.

But the real investment comes from making sure everyone knows to vote for your song before Te Duem strikes up before the show. The key moments are the ones a delegation make for themselves.

The Media Winning Strategy

The very essence of the Eurovision Song Contest is that it is a popularity contest. If you stride on stage and literally everyone has decided you are the chosen one, then that momentum will be captured to ensure the victory.

This is the media strategy part of winning the Song Contest – having the audience look down the songs and say ‘that’s it, that’s who’s going to win’ at the flag ceremony. People love voting for the winning song, so if you are portrayed as the winning song, the votes will follow.

The achivement to unlock is to have the mainstream media tell everyone on Saturday morning that your song is the best, that your performer has the story, that your country is hungry and ready to win. And those stories and editorial choices are generally made by people who arrive in the Press Centre on Friday afternoon, look around, and ask “so who’s going to win?”

Who will they ask? The embedded reporters from other large media outlets… who ask the specialist media outlets… who watch the larger online media publications… who watch the smaller online publications. Essentially there is a hierarchy, as the opinions bubble up the strongest opinions survive to become reality.

That’s where the importance of preview concerts, song reviews, online polls, reaction videos, and other community content comes into play. These small social bites may not reach the millions that a printed tabloid may reach, but they start the conversation and shape the Contest that the tabloids will eventually react to. If you’ve ever wondered how influencer marketing helps you win the Song Contest, just follow this chain back up to the mainstream media, and the moments before the Contest when the public have heard “that Luxembourg is going to win this year”.

Just A Note About The Odds

The fast moving media sometimes needs a barometer to measure the mood. While it may not be accurate and is open to manipulation and misrepresentation, it’s hard to argue with the bookies as a source of a story.

This is why the interest in ‘the odds’ has captured the attention of the Eurovision community over the last few years. Leading the odds, and how the odds change during key moments of the season (such as the song reveal, first live performance, first rehearsal, semi-final performance) is seen as both an influencer-by-proxy and something reliable to hang a quote on in the mainstream press.

As the morning of the Grand Final approaches, the odds tend to settle down into something resembling the final score table. Of course those odds are influenced by the odds themselves – get yourself installed as the favourite early in the season and you can stay riding high in a visible spot for much of the season.

Some Practical Examples

The Jury Song – Denmark and France

Two songs stand out for me as songs that will not only take the lion’s share of their points from the jury, but have a chance of gaining just enough from the public.

The first is Denmark. The Viking inspired ‘Higher Ground’ from Rasmussen ticks all the boxes of a strong jury song. Rasmussen can sing the roof off the auditorium, the staging mix of blues and dark colours fits perfectly with the ‘upturned boat’ ethos of the Florian Weidler’s (CHECK SP) latest staging, and the overall impression is one of power and believing in yourself.

The second is the French entry. It has a feeling of power, emotion, and connection. It does address a modern political issue, but so far the delegation has navigated this with taste and decency. The caveat to ‘Mercy’ is the low score from the jurors in the French National Final, but the make-up and criteria of the jurors at Eurovision are different

The issue for France is that jurors will only hear the song in competition once, and they won’t have time to re-evaluate their thoughts between Semi Final and Grand Final preferences. That said, knowing the jurors are provided with lyric translations means the power of Madame Monsieur could cut through in the jury room far easier than with the public. 400 points from the jury and another 100 from the public? The former looks achievable and the later is slowly building momentum outside of the normal Eurovision media bubble.

Both of these songs will be easy picks to land in the top picks of a jury, and the new weighting lends them even more distance from many of the more mainstream straightforward pop numbers.

The Televote Song – Finland and Israel

Again two songs stand out as likely to gather televote support with strong visuals, memorable lyrics, and an obvious hook when the voting window opens.

Finland’s Saara Aalto is a proven vote getter both in National Finals and in Talent Shows (even though the top step has eluded her). With a Gaga-esque approach to staging and visuals, plus her experienced team built up from The X Factor in the UK, she is unlikely to hold back. That might mean the vocals get a touch ragged on the night, but the promise of something ‘never seen before at Eurovision’ lines up her recap moment.

Israel may well have the visual impact, but its advantage may lie in the audible difference. A highly proficient looping artist, Netta charmed the audiences throughout the Israeli selection and will be hoping to do the same. Her challenge may be to achieve a qualification from the Semi Final. Once that happens the delegation should be able to build a social media story and get the world’s press on her side for Saturday.

Both acts still need some love from the other side of the televote/jury balance and this is where Israel and Finland will benefit from the new weighting system. There’s every chance that one juror per country is going to struggle to connect with ‘Monsters’ or ’Toy’ and place the songs in the lower reaches of their rankings. Last year that would likely wipe out any points from the countries, now it’s possible for one or two points to still score from the four remaining jurors. Forty juries with two points each means eighty points, and 425 points needed from the televote. Just under ten per country.

The technicality of the looper may give Israel the edge in getting the final jury points needed.

Social Influence Inside The Bubble – Bulgaria

Anyone who has been watching the Eurovision community scene will know that Bulgaria has been riding high. It may not have revealed Equinox’s ‘Bones’ until mid March, but the country was installed at the top of the bookies odds from early December on the strength of the delegation’s handling of ‘If Love Was A Crime’ and ‘Beatiful Mess’. That momentum was sustained through the first quarter of the year.

The key point of the reveal of the song was a potential danger point, but it was navigated well, the opinion of those that loved the song were magnified, and Bulgaria remained in the top tier of songs that continue to be discussed as winners.

Can it maintain that momentum through the first week of rehearsals? If the second wave of press arriving in the days before the Semi Final turn up and Bulgaria is still being touted as a potential by the community, then the strategy will have delivered. All that will be left is for Equinox’s promise to be noted by the juries and acknowledged by the media and for that promise to be converted to points.

Social Influence Outside The Bubble – Norway

There’s not a huge amount of love for Alexander Rybak’s ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ inside the Eurovision community. Rather than looking back to the sophistication of the last two victors, Norway’s 2018 entry feels more like a sequel to ‘Love Love Peace Peace’ than a response to a call for ‘real music’ at the Contest (which of course leads to the question of what is real music… the reaction to ‘Verb a Noun’ clearly defines it as a song that has fireworks and feelings.

The key to Rybak’s path to victory lies within ‘Love Love Peace Peace’. Go back and watch the live version of Edward af Silen’s classic, and pay close attention to the audience reaction when Rybak steps out for his violin solo. That love and recognition, that is what will drive the voting public.

Throw in his huge fan base and their ability to drive traffic to any published article – that makes him a financially attractive topic to write about in the mainstream press. Which his fans will share around the internet, creating a virtuous cycle of news feeding in on itself. And with that much noise, the public will assume that the media has got it right, and vote accordingly.

The Balanced Song – The Netherlands

And then there’s The Netherlands. It doesn’t have the technicality to stand out and top the jury vote, but there’s enough for the jury to mark him highly on the four categories. High but not top scoring could give him six points per jury. There’s 250 points from Friday night.

Can there be an average of six points per country in the televote as well? With a unique sound and visual look he stands out, theres a visual connection in the recap, and he’ll attract a fanbase that will pick up the phone and vote twenty times. The tricky part will be can he maintain the televote average from the Eastern European countries who have less of an affinity with US culture.

But another 250 points from the televote? It’s do-able.

Categories: ESC Insight


Improving Eurovision’s Jury System, Examining The Significant Change To Jury Scoring

Improving Eurovision’s Jury System, Examining The Significant Change To Jury Scoring

2013 saw the EBU alter how the jury score was calculated. The second Malmö Contest saw individual jurors asked to rank every single song from their most favoured to least favoured (in previous years, jurors were only asked for an ordered Top Ten).

A jury as a whole can only hand points to the top ten songs. As such the full ranking method means that any song placed outside a juror’s first ten is effectively given a negative vote. In the past, if your song really turned off a single juror, that single last place rank could have dragged you out of the points of that jury, no matter what the other jurors thought of your song.

That has now changed for the better.

A System That Rewards Love

Speaking to ESC Insight, a representative of the EBU said “The calculation method which determines the points awarded by the National Juries has been changed to increase the value of a group of jurors over the opinion of a single individual. This has been recently approved by The Reference Group.” Further details can be found on

Rather than giving each rank given by a juror the same weight, the EBU will allocate predefined ‘score values’ to each ranking position, thereby increasing the value of the top-10 ranks, the top-3 in particular. These score values start with the value of 12 for the first rank and will decrease exponentially further down the ranking list. This is also called the ‘exponential weight model’. The sum of the scores for all 26 songs from the five jurors will create the national jury result where the resulting top 10 ranked countries will be awarded that jury’s 12, 10, 8 points and so on.

In practice, this new method of combining the jury rankings offers a number of advantages that increase the competitive nature of the Song Contest.

  1. A single juror cannot drag a song out of the jury’s top ten ranking by placing it at the bottom of their ordered list. Previously ‘single juror drag’ meant that a good jury song was one that did not upset anyone on the jury, now it’s possible for four positive voices to drown out the single negative voice.
  2. Conversely, a single juror who is incredibly positive can drag a song into the jury’s overall top ten rankings. If you can ignite the passion of a single juror you will be rewarded. Taking risks is no longer a barrier to scoring.
  3. And if you have all five jurors raking your song n the top two or three positions, you can be assured of a significant lead over the competition, offering a better chance of grabbing the douze points in the final calculation.

To coin a phrase, the juries as a whole will find it much easier to #CelebrateDiversity at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The marmite songs that would previous have to rely almost entirely on the televote will now be in a better place to grab some jury points, while the successful jury songs are far more likely to stand out from the crowd and be justly rewarded.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail

Here Comes The Maths

How exactly does an ‘exponential weight model’ work in practice?

The new exponential jury scoring system uses a mathematical formula to turn each jurors ranked places into points. Your first place gets 12 points, your second place gets just under 10 points, your third gets just over 8, with the points value dropping exponentially towards zero – the system will run out to many decimal points in the final calculation. Jurors favourite songs get a comparatively huge score, in line with the general Eurovision scoring method.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Things get really interesting outside the top ten places though, because you can see that the relative difference in score between 10th rank and 18th rank is much less than the difference in score between 1st rank and 2nd rank! Being ranked low is still not great, but at least it’s not an effective score of -8 in the semis or -16 in the Grand Final!

To give you an idea of how this changes the jury ranks required to get points, I ran two simulations using my approximation of the new jury scoring method, one based on the Semi Final 1 data from 2016 and one based on totally random scores for the 2018 Semi Final 1.

Working With Real Data

Thanks to the public release of juror rankings from recent Contests, it’s possible to look at the impact of the new system using actual data. How did the ‘jury points’ under the new system translate to the announced points for the top ten songs… and the jury points scored by the eleventh placed song.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

In the real 2016 Semi 1, there was a clear group of high scoring songs. The jury scores for these songs cover a range from 55 to 60, which is 5 x 12 or the theoretical maximum. The score required to get a single point varied between countries, depending on how closely the different jurors agreed, but it seems like a score of 11 can be enough to get into 10th place and get a single jury point.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

11? That surely means that you could be ranked 18th and last in the semi by 4 of the jurors and 1st by one and still be in with a chance of getting some points, especially if the other 4 jurors all agree on their 1st ranked song. The more normal way of getting to 11-ish exponential points and that final scoring spot would be to be ranked at least 10th by all jurors. This all feels fair and just.

A Random ‘Base’ Result

In my totally randomised 2018 Semi 1, the range of total jury scores given to each song was much narrower, from 3.5 to 46 compared with 2.7 to 60 for the real data. It is still possible of course to score 60 in the random model, but this is very improbable. In order to score 1 point in the totally random data, you need to get at least 17 exponential points from the Jurors. You could get that by getting one 1st place, one 5th place and 3 x last place or – more likely – having all jurors rank you at least 7th.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

While it’s unlikely a real set of jury data would look like this randomised trial, taken together with the real 2016 data, we have a boundary condition for how well you need to perform in order to score jury points.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

As before, you’re assured points if you manage to place in the top ten of every juror, but you’re also now possibly in line for points if your song utterly divides the jury. The ‘Marmite Song’ can score once more.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Let’s Celebrate Competition

This change to the jury scoring system is a welcome step forwards to a more competitive Contest. It rewards positivity, it diminishes the power of a single juror to negatively impact a song, and it allows strong but divisive songs the opportunity to achieve a respectable jury score ahead of the televote the following night.

More importantly, it proves that the EBU has carefully considered the competitive angle of the Eurovision Song Contest. It remains a television show first of all, but it is a television show of a contest. ESC Insight has been critical of EBU changes that have emphasised spectacle over sporting considerations, but this subtle tweak of the rules opens up the Song Contest in a positive way.

It offers a better way to combine jury opinions, and it rewards songs that generate positive reactions in individual jurors. By allowing songs to gather solid jury votes while appealing to genre fans in the televote, it offers every song a better chance to go for the win at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #8

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #8

Juke Box Jury comes to close, but just before the Insight team flies of to Lisbon, Ewan Spence is joined by Ellie Chalkley (fresh from the revelatory Norwegian MGP) and Matthew Ker (following his part of the French-English collaboration). Where will the hits, misses, and maybes go? Azerbaijan, Macedonia, The Netherlands, Georgia, Norway, and Australia are about to find out.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7
with Ellie Chalkley and Matthew Ker.

Azerbaijan: X My Heart, by Aisel.
Macedonia: Lost And Found, by Eye Cue.
The Netherlands: Outlaw In ‘Em, by Waylon.
Georgia: For You, by Iriao.
Norway: That’s How You Write A Song, by Alexander Rybak.
Australia: #WeGotLove, by Jessica Mauboy.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7B

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7B

So I’m sitting at The Infamous Scottish Eurovision Preview Party (Australia won by the way, in a landslide), and Serbia comes on. And I try to remember what it picked up in Juke Box Jury… There was a good reason for that.

A quick recount on the master spreadsheet revealed we were one short. It was time to call in the emergency podcast team…

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #7B
hosted by Lisa-Jayne Lewis, with Liam Clark (@theliamsclark) and Slavko (

Serbia: Nova Deca, by Sanja Ilić & Balkanika.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

Categories: ESC Insight


Newsletter: Team Insight Are Ready For Lisbon!

Newsletter: Team Insight Are Ready For Lisbon!

In just a few days time, the ESC Insight team will be touching down in the beautiful Portuguese capital of Lisbon to bring you two weeks of extensive coverage from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. We’ll be delivering in-depth articles, rehearsal coverage, podcasts, travel guides, this very newsletter and much, much more.

Here’s your guide to the members of our core team who’ll be on location this year, and what they’re planning to produce for you…

Ewan Spence

Ewan Spence

Ewan returns with the almost-legendary “Hello, Internet!” to bring daily coverage from the heart of the Eurovision Song Contest to the four corners of the continent and beyond on ESC Insight’s daily podcast (which this year looks like a big, rather comfortable, orange sofa). Expect interviews, rehearsal reviews, chat, and more on the podcast – which will also go out on radio stations around the world with the help of Radio Six International. His pre-Contest favourite didn’t make it out of the National Finals, it ran out of metaphors…

Ellie Chalkley

Ellie Chalkley | ESC Insight

Ellie is in Lisbon to voyage to the alternative heart of the Song Contest. Whether it’s tracking down the technical team, asking non-Eurovision related questions to Eurovision artists or escaping the Press Centre to get a true taste of the city, she’ll be making audio features, writing articles and appearing on the rehearsal news podcast. She enjoys long walks on the beach, screamo and doing the dance moves to ‘Hvala Ne‘.

Lisa-Jayne Lewis

Lisa-Jayne Lewis | ESC Insight

Lisa-Jayne joins us directly from a whirlwind trip to Australia where she has been accompanying Slavko on a mini tour of the Aussie preview parties, so most likely she will be seriously jet-lagged and in need of a gin & tonic! She will be reporting daily for Radio Six International’s news bulletins and also has a very exciting, special project with Ewan that we’re not allowed to tell you about just yet.

Her pre-contest favourites include Israel, Bulgaria and Finland but as always Lisa works her own version of Eurovision Maths and she currently has 8 songs in her top 3!

John Egan

John Egan (by Gabrel Lascu)

John Egan joins us on the ground in Lisbon covering the rehearsals and looking at the mad maths of the Eurovision. If France, Estonia or Ireland lift the trophy he will be pleased.

John Lucas

John P Lucas

John Lucas is joining Insight on the ground for the fourth year running. He will be keeping the ESC Insight social media channels updated, overseeing the newsletter and contributing blog posts and podcast content throughout the fortnight. His pre-Contest favourite this year is Finland – and anyone caught using the F-W word in his presence will be on the receiving end of a very hard stare…

In addition to the core team, we’ll also be hosting special guest content from a variety of friends and fellow journalists, plus invaluable contributions from the members of our team who couldn’t make it to the live event this year. So keep reading, listening and sharing to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Got something you’d like to see us cover over the next two weeks? Feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best…

Anything Else?

Elsewhere in this week’s newsletter, Portugal’s national broadcaster RTP unveils some ambitious coverage plans for their first ever hosting, preview party season ends on a high note in Amsterdam and Madrid, and Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva gets some good news about her ambitious stage dress…

The full online version of the ESC Insight newsletter is available here. You can also subscribe here to receive the newsletter direct to your inbox.

For all the latest Eurovision-related news and analysis, you can also follow ESC Insight on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight


Don’t Go Without Me: Rebooting Music Careers At Eurovision 1988

Don’t Go Without Me: Rebooting Music Careers At Eurovision 1988

There wasn’t much to indicate that 1998’s Eurovision Song Contest would be one of historic proportions.

One could argue that the world’s favourite Song Contest was in the midst of a terrible slump. Viewing figures were falling across the continent and the Contest hadn’t produced a major hit since Nicole’s ‘Ein Bißchen Frieden’ six years previously. Thanks to Johnny Logan’s second Eurovision victory (with ‘Hold Me Now’), RTÉ would be hosting the Eurovision for only their third time. Just as in 1981, the Simmonscourt Pavilion would be the venue used to stage the live show.

As the results came in, two countries with very different Eurovision track records battled for the title. Switzerland’s 1980s Eurovision entries either did very well (five top five results with one winner) or badly (five outside the top 10). Meanwhile the 80s were an era when the United Kingdom did consistently, if not overwhelmingly, well: one winner, four other top five results and only one song that did not place in the top 10. 1988 would be a battle between a country whose recent Eurovision fortunes had been something of a roller coaster versus another that did consistently well.

The Duelling Reboots

The UK found a consistent level of success with acts who had limited previous chart success. In Dublin, Scott FitzGerald carried the Union Flag. His Eurovision entry, ‘Go’, was written Julie Forsyth, who also sang backing vocals onstage in Dublin. FitzGerald was the epitome of a one hit wonder whose duet with Yvonne Keeley ‘If I Had Words’ had made it #3 in the UK charts in 1978. Eurovision 1988 represented a chance to showcase himself on one of the biggest musical stages in the world,  a second chance at stardom.

Scott FitzGerald and Yvonne Keeley – ‘If I Had Words’ (Source: YouTube/belkin59)

Switzerland would be represented by a rarity: a teenager in need of a comeback. Céline Dion was a local celebrity in (French) Canada when one of her singles became a massive hit in France.

Céline Dion – ‘D’amour ou d’amitié (Source: YouTube/Ina Chansons)

‘D’amour ou d’amitié’ earned a gold record in France, something no other Canadian artist had achieved by that point. The lyrics were written by Eddy Marnay, who had also penned the lyrics for Frida Boccara’s Eurovision (co)winning ‘Un jour, un enfant’. Dion and Marnay would work together through her teen years, with edgy and hip songs like ‘Mon ami m’a quittée’ (My Friend is Gone) and ‘Tellement j’ai d’amour pour toi’ (I’m So in Love with You). Songs like these gave Dion the sort of catalogue that little girls and grandmothers loved, but not anyone else. Dion never had a big hit in France after ‘D’amour ou d’amitié’ and her cheesy chart toppers in (French) Canada were drying up by the late 80s.

It was time for a reboot. Starting with this gem:

Céline Dion – ‘Lolita’ (Source: YouTube/CelinedionGR1)

This is indeed the heartwarming song about a teenager girl imploring her older lover to help her lose her virginity – or she will find someone else to do it. Let’s just move on to the results…

The Scores On The Doors

It’s worth remembering that in 1988 we were still a decade ahead of any significant public input to determine a Eurovision Song Contest result: juries determined the winner. Delegations seeking the win worked along those lines, trying to send entries that would inspire support among music and media professionals. Which, it should be said, did not exactly produce a series of winners (or entries) that fired up the European singles charts of the 1980s (or indeed the 90s).

Overall, the best description of the 1988 scoreboard would be flat. There were only seven points between the third and seventh ranked entries. At the other end of the results table there were five very lowly ranked entries  that earned between zero and ten points (sadly, Austria received the dreaded nul points). The average score per country for the winner was only 6.85 points our of a possible 12. Despite there being two entries finishing well clear of the rest, this was not a year with a landslide result.

In fact, there was a lot of love for a lot of entries. Ten of the twenty-one entries received at least one douze points. Five countries – Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Yugoslavia—each received three top marks; each also ended up in the top six.

But the Contest demands a winner. 1988 was no different.

Scott FitzGerald – ‘Go’ (Source: YouTube/escbelgium4)

With only three juries left to report, the United Kingdom had a fifteen point lead over Switzerland…

France blanked the UK and gave the Swiss a single point, cutting the lead to 14 points…

Portugal gave the Swiss twelve points, but the UK only three: now the lead was down to five points…

The Yugoslav jury, not known for voting reliably for either country, gave the Swiss six points, and a lead of a single point. Any score for the UK and Fitzgerlad would win… Seven points to the Netherlands… Eight to Germany… Ten to Norway…

Then the camera crew sprinted away from the UK delegation to the Swiss, Fitzgerald knew it was over, and the final twelve points went to France.

‘Ne partez pas sans moi’ beat ‘Go’ by a single point, on the last jury.

Céline Dion – ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’ (Source: YouTube/juan8969)

The Legacy

We should acknowledged that neither entry was a hit. ‘Go’ didn’t manage to make the UK top 50; Dion’s entry only managed 11th in the Swiss charts. Yet there is some irony here: Dion did ‘go’ on to bigger and better things, ‘leaving without’ FitzGerald.

Scott FitzGerald never had another hit. Céline Dion, of course, became a global superstar within a few years of her Eurovision victory. She’s currently 11th on the all-time global music sales list. All the acts ranked ahead of her started out in the anglosphere. Her album ‘D’eux’ remains the best selling French language album in history.

And that’s how you reboot a career.

Fast forward to 2018. Ki Fitzgerald, Scott’s son, member of Busted who have had eight top 10 UK singles including four number ones, is a strong music producer and songwriter working in LA and London. He’s also  the co-author of Saara Aalto’s ‘Monsters’. Hoping, no doubt, to finish a place better in Lisbon than his Dad did in Dublin.

Saara Alto – ‘Monsters’ (Source: YouTube/LRT)

Categories: ESC Insight

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