The Eurovision Song Contest has always been about diversity, culture, and unity. It has been established to bring Europe together after World War II, to bring peace to a world that suffered a lot in the last decades. The contest began its journey in the 1950s and has been going strong to this day ever since.
In the 50s and 60s it was purely about the songs. Although it was televised, the first couple of editions were mostly for radio listeners across Europe. The “modernisation” of the contest began when ABBA won in 1974 with “Waterloo”. Musically something changed at that moment. For the next decades we saw how a Swedish trio wearing golden boots won the contest, and how (and why) Germany sent a band singing about Genghis Khan.
Since the beginning of the 2010ss there was another very important factor when it came to making and fabricating a winning production. Staging. It’s not just about songs anymore, you must have the whole package to get both televote and jury results.
When it comes to Norway, you already know that you’re going to get quality. The country took part in the contest 61 times. They’ve made their debut in 1960 and won the contest 3 times. Their last win was in 2009 with Alexander Rybak singing Fairytale in Moscow.
But what happened since that record-breaking performance back in 09? Why did the 2019 televote winner Keiino not even make the top 5 and why did 2023 televote 3rd place Alessandra only place 20th with the juries?
Let’s go back to 2019. Keiino which consists of Alexandra Rotan, Tom Hugo and Fred Buljo took part in the Norwegian national selection called MGP. The song titled “Spirit in the Sky” won the Melodi Grand Prix through 3 rounds of competing, by getting 231,937 votes in the final.
In Tel Aviv, Israel where the contest was held in 2019, Norway was drawn in the second semi-final alongside other fan favourites like Duncan Laurence, Sergey Lazarev and John Lundvik. Keiino qualified for the final by being placed 7th in the semi. The first sign of the juries underrating the Norwegian entry came in that exact moment. If we take a look at the split results, we can see that the juries placed Norway 11th, which meant that they didn’t think that Keiino should qualify for the final. On the other hand, the televoters gave the band 170 points, placing them first. There is a difference of 130 points between televote and jury vote.
In the final it was even worse. The televote winner was Keiino with 291 points, having gained 30 more points than actual winner Duncan Laurance. The jury however only gave them 40 points which meant that winning the televote was not even enough for a top 5 finish. Keiino came 6th in the Grand Final missing out on the 5th place by 3 points.
Kind of the same thing happened in 2023 with Alessandra.
In 2023 we saw the comeback of Ulrikke at Melodi Grand Prix and the rise of a new and promising talent, Alessandra. The half Italian, half Norwegian singer became a viral sensation with the song “Queen of Kings” very quickly thanks to TikTok and other social channels. Winning the MGP was the very first step to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Alessandra has been one of the most popular acts of the 2023 edition. The song has been on in various charts across Europe, and fans were all in for the Queen of Kings.
The contest, held in Liverpool was full of fan favourites. Loreen came back after winning with Euphoria in 2012, we saw how crazy of a party can Käärijä throw, and how much we wanted to see Noa Kirel dance.
Alessandra opened the whole show in semi-final 1. It was a true party opener, and the crowd were all in for it. Although the odds suggested that Alessandra would go through at one of the top places in the semi (mostly because this year the juries did not get the chance to vote in them), Norway only came 6th.
In the final it was 2019 all over again. When the jury results came, Norway received very little number of points. The 52 points that were “awarded” by music professionals was only enough for the 17th place.
When it came to the televote things were different, however. Alessandra got 216 points from the viewers across the world, which placed her 3rd in the televote but only 5th overall when they combined the jury and televote points.
Now the question stands. Why did the jury destroy Norway’s chances in both 2019 and 2023?
First, let’s see how the jury works. In every participating country there are 5 jury members who are music industry professionals: songwriters, singers etc. Those 5 members are tasked to make a list/ranking of the competing entries in the final by given aspects by the EBU. Juries are asked to focus their vote on 4 main sets of criteria
• Vocal capacity of the artist(s)
• Performance on stage
• Composition and originality of the song
• Overall impression of the act
So have Queen of Kings and Spirit in the Sky done that bad when it comes to performance on stage and overall impression of the act? Televoters had a lot to argue about that. In the case of Keiino even the composition and originality of the song is a big factor since we haven’t seen anybody do a yoik on the ESC stage.
We know that the juries prefer ballads and like to “bury” the pop genre in a sense. There is a lot of talk online between Eurovision fans of how the jury “system” shouldn’t be kept at all and how the power should be given only to the people.
If we take a look at the case of Norway, MGP tends to switch between genres. Ulrikke winning in 2020 would have been a jury favourite, while Alessandra and Keiino was more for the audience. Because of the genres of the songs, both with Keiino and Alessandra we kind of knew that the televoters will give them more favourable results than the national juries. So should MGP only focus on ballads and jury friendly entries in the future? Absolutely not. Norway tends to stand out in the competition because they always bring something fun to the stage (bananas and wolves, yes-yes).
So why does the jury hate the Norwegian entries? They don’t hate them, they just not appreciating them enough I would say. This year Estonia got a lot of jury points and finished above expectations. Bridges is a beautiful ballad but is it a song that would the audience keep listening to in the long run? If we look at the criteria once again, we could argue about the originality of the Estonian entry while in the same time we can accept that the juries would go more into the “big singing” over the “chart friendly” entry. But that brings another argument to the table.
Should the EBU change the criteria? The modernisation of the contest is going strong with the in-house content creation, being an official TikTok partner, killing the fan media for the sake of the EBU’s own production team. If we can “modernise” these elements, why can’t we modernise the jury system? If the EBU wants the Eurovision Song Contest to be more than a competition but a platform for songs and artists to truly shine no matter the genre of the songs that they bring, shouldn’t the old system be changed as well not just the money-making partnerships?
If a country wants to win the competition by bringing something unusual (like the wolves, and the singing green man from Finland not to mention the singing Queen from the North) shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?
The Eurovision Song Contest is not just a song contest anymore. We saw what happened to Rosa Linn last year and Måneskin a year before that. If it were up to the juries alone, we might not witnessed those 2 acts become successful worldwide. Norway missed out two times on a high placement (even fighting for the win) because the juries thought that the songs were not original enough (or not sang well enough which we could argue). It’s probably time for the EBU to talk through how modern and fair they would like the contest to be in the future regarding the voting system, and not just the online content theme.