The best song won in spite of favouritism


Analysing the results from Saturday’s Eurovision Song contest, social geographer Felix Pot says the zero points for the United Kingdom are due to Brexit. ‘But the best song still won.’

‘My theory is solid’, says a satisfied Pot, laughing. Last week, he presented his analysis of more than forty years of the Eurovision Song Contest. He studied how countries scored each other’s songs. By comparing the results from the 1975-2019 period, he saw that some countries systematically award an either above-average or a below-average number of points to certain other countries. A clear sign of favouritism. 

Countries from the former Republic of Yugoslavia, for example, always give each other a lot of points. The same goes for the Baltic states and the Scandinavian countries. But, says Pot, contestants rarely win the contest because of political and cultural relationships. 

This was confirmed by Italy’s victory on Saturday. ‘Apart from a few in the Mediterranean, most European countries don’t really care for Italy’, he says. Nevertheless, the Italian entry received a massive number of votes, especially from Eastern Europe. 

Visible relationships

Pot attended the show, and he still has a slight headache. ‘It was the first party I’d been to in eighteen months’, he says, laughing. ‘It was worth the headache, though.’ He watched the show as a fan, but once he got home he shifted back into scientist mode. He couldn’t wait to analyse the results. 

‘What I love about Eurovision is that it exposes European relationships. It’s an apolitical festival that’s secretly incredibly political. It allows countries to make political statements outside the official political arena and to improve their image in the eyes of 200 million Europeans.’ 

One of the ways countries can do this is by exploring the limits of what’s allowed during the contest, by writing ambiguous lyrics. In 2015, Armenia was forced to change the title of their song, Don’t Deny, after complaints from Azerbaijan, which felt the title referred to the Armenian genocide during the First World War, which Azerbaijan denies took place. 


But the concept also applies to how the countries award each other points. The zero points that the United Kingdom received, says Pot, clearly shows how the rest of Europe currently feels about the country. ‘The performance was fine, just middle of the road. Zero points is extreme.’

Pot is pretty sure it’s because of Brexit. ‘Singer James Newman yelled that he loved Europe after the song. It almost sounded like he was apologising. How much more symbolic can you get?’ 

While Pot’s theory certainly held clues as to who was going to win, he doesn’t dare to predict next year’s winner. He’ll leave that to the bookies. ‘They’re usually right on the top three’, he says.


The bookies were also painfully correct about this year’s Dutch entry. Pot: ‘On average, most people thought the song was boring, even though its message was on point.’ 

Its low scores had nothing to do with the Netherlands hosting. ‘Countries have won twice in a row fairly often. The literature shows no significant negative impact on the hosting country. In fact, they’ll often get a few sympathy votes. The song just wasn’t good enough.’


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