What can history tell us about the Eurovision Song Contest?

What can history tell us about the Eurovision Song Contest?

As the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 gets under way, we’ve cast our eyes over the data behind every past iteration of the competition – all the way back to 1956 – to reveal what it takes to win and what to look out for in this year’s final.


What are the secrets of success?

One of the main secrets of success is unfortunately something that is completely out of the entrants’ hands: the running order. More than twice as many winners were among the final five songs to be performed in the final than in the first five – 23 to 10 – suggesting that a strong early showing is easier to forget amid all the acts that follow. In fact, seven of the last 10 winners were among the last 10 to perform in the final, compared to only one among the first 10 (Sweden were on 10th in 2015).

If you’re looking for a bellwether as the votes start to come in, then there are definitely nations whose preferences seem attuned to those of the continent as a whole. Hungary have given the top-scoring song an above-average score in 87.5% of finals with Lithuania the next most prescient with 78.9%, so watch out for songs that these two nations get behind in the voting.

Despite female performers having dominated the awards in the past, bagging 38 of the 49 titles won by solo artists, male solo entries have scooped more points over the last decade: an average of 2.68 compared with the 2.17 secured by women in finals. Germany are the worst offenders among the 2019 entrants, having given solo male entries an average of 3.45 points and female ones just 1.80 despite both of their Eurovision wins having been secured by a solo female artist.

Voting alliances at the Eurovision Song Contest

One of the most controversial aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest is the extent to which some countries vote for their neighbours, regardless of an individual song’s merits. To identify the worst offenders, we’ve crunched the numbers from every scorecard in history and worked out who consistently receives an above-average score from whom. There are quite a few pairs of nations who have always given each other more points than the rest of the field on average: the most long-standing of these is Moldova and Romania with all 21 of their votes for each other being favourable, followed by Azerbaijan and Ukraine with 19.

There are also plenty of other pairings where over 90% of scores have been above average, and they’re all countries who share either a land border or a strong diplomatic relationship. Greece has reciprocal arrangements with both Cyprus and Albania, while the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also boost each other’s scores with predictable regularity.

However, for every voting bloc there is also a rivalry: plenty of nations seem compelled to sink each other’s entries year after year. Bosnia-Herzegovina are a case in point: despite consistently awarding above-average scores to nearby Croatia and Macedonia, they’ve also given exclusively below-average responses to entries from Iceland, Cyprus and Portugal on a combined 89 occasions.

How will the UK perform at Eurovision?

The UK has endured a torrid time in recent years, but historically they remain one of the contest’s heavyweights: only Sweden have won more points since the current scoring system was introduced in 1975 and two of the four best-performing songs of all time – based on the percentage of possible points won – were UK entries. However, the current Conservative government is a bad omen, with only one of the UK’s five Eurovision wins coming while the Tories were in office.

The participants in this year’s competition most likely to boost the UK’s points tally are Luxembourg, Malta, Ireland and Switzerland, who have each provided an above-average number of points in past finals. Hoping for assistance from the likes of Moldova and Belarus is likely to be in vain, as both nations have awarded the UK an above-average score on fewer than 10% of occasions.

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