That was the (national final) weekend that was: reflections on recent Eurovision national selections

It may have not escaped anyone’s notice but this weekend just gone (16-17 February) had its fair share of shocks, drama and scandal in the various national finals that took place. I thought I would do a quick summary of the results and my own two pence worth on the drama/scandal of the Romanian final…


Estonia and Latvia

Starting with the least controversial first… The top two in Estonia were STEFAN and Victor Crone. They were the pre-final favourites, and with a much stronger vocal performance than he achieved in the semi-final, Victor Crone won the televote (in spite of low marks from jury) and won the final. Latvia’s winner was perhaps a little more surprising in that it wasn’t the expected winner, but enough people had seen this as a dark horse that no-one seemed to shocked – and poor Markus Riva will have to wait another year if he is ever to reach Eurovision.


Croatia and Slovenia

Unexpected and unheralded wins for both artists in these Balkan countries, though it seems there was little controversy in the method or legitimacy of their wins. Slovenia has gone with something that is very genuine and different (unsure if it will appeal to wider Eurovision voters) and Croatia has plumped for a big male voice… Neither my cup of tea but process of their selections seems to have been fair.


Romania

Now we have the HUGE drama – the Selecția Națională final. Already emotions were running high, with a lot of online vitriol and comments between supporters of the two huge favourites, Laura Bretan and Bella Santiago. Laura Bretan, only 16, was facing accusations of homophobia due to her (alleged) comments on marriage (she’s from a very religious family) and Bella was essentially accused of plagiarism/copying last year’s hugely successful “Fuego”. Added to this mixture, there was further controversy with the choices of who would make up the international jury – 2 of the 6 jurors were from a Eurovision fan site, and the same site at that (William and Deban from wiwibloggs).

Without wanting to go into too much detail, in the end neither Laura or Bella won due to some unexpected voting from the juries (which included William and Deban awarding similar marks, giving top marks to Ester Peony and marking down Laura Bretan – even though their reaction video a few weeks earlier indicated very different views).

The voting system being what it was, with the public vote being equivalent to just one juror meant that while Laura won the televote with Bella third, and Ester Peony (the winner) coming just 8th in that vote, Laura ended up as runner up and Bella came third. Social media outrage has of course ensued…

In my personal view, Bella’s live vocals and the similarity to Fuego would have been problematic to me if she had won; and while I think Laura’s “Dear Father” would have genuinely made her a contender for Romania to achieve their first win at Eurovision, the homophobia accusations would have dogged her throughout the run up to and during Eurovision.

It leads me to a few thoughts/conclusions:

  • The voting system was spectacularly weighted in favour of the jury – and a jury that had just six people. The public vote was equivalent to just one juror.
  • While each country is free to decide how it selects, it seems absurd to have a public vote and then have it count for so little. I’d be feeling a bit miffed if I was a Romanian televoter – not just for the result but given there is a cost to voting, it seems like money is being taken for no actual influence.
  • William and Deban should not be personally blamed for the vagaries of the Romanian voting system but it does seem ludicrous that a single fan site should have double the voting power of the voting Romanian public.
  • On that note of it being a single fan site, if they are going to have fan blogs/sites included on a jury (and with a 1/3 of the jury positions), surely at least they should have had jurors from two different sites.
  • Again, if having juror from fan sites, it seems patently unfair or dubious that they had jurors who had done very public reactions/opinions on the studio cut versions of the songs.
  • The criteria to be a juror, and even more so with such influence, was questionable. Former Eurovision winner and song writer – yes. Two fans selected because they run a fan site (albeit a popular one) – no. Juries at Eurovision are there to judge on those technical aspects of performing and songwriting that might otherwise be missed by a purely populist vote.
  • All of which leads me to think that national selections should refrain from including owners of or contributors to the big fan sites from having decisive roles in national finals/selections – the potential for conflicts of interest are so clear and I think undermines both the fan site and the national selection/final in question.

Other national selections this weekend

Away from Romanian drama, several countries had semi-final shows with perhaps some more positive things to report.

Firstly in Sweden, we had the joy of seeing the gloriously camp schlager-bop “Victorious” going DTF (direkt till final) sung by Alcazar member Lina Hedlund.

(audio only)

The first semi-final of Portugal’s Festival da Canção took place and goodness it showcased some excellent quality and variety and quite unlike any other Eurovision national selection. The big pre-show favourite didn’t disappoint, winning the televote and going to the final. Watch out for this one, if it makes it to Eurovision it could cause quite a stir (or flop – but it will stand out).

And the other national finals…

May as well make a quick mention of the national finals that have already taken place and what I feel on those selections:

Albania: feels like a long time ago but the winner was along lines of previous winners.

Australia: The winning song won both jury and televote but my heart aches as the runner up was the special song and could have done so well in the contest.

Czech Republic: I think this is better than many fans think it is – or at least will do better in contest. Won through combo of jury and online vote – but was fair winner.

France: My two favourites were never going to win sadly but there’s no denying Bilal got a huge public vote to win.

Italy: the winner hasn’t been without controversy but I am super pleased he has confirmed he is going to Eurovision. My favourite song so far of the ones going to the contest.

Montenegro: my favourite (and fan favourite) flopped in their televote much to my disappointment.

Spain: At last, at last, Spain is sending a Spanish banger/bop. Super happy this won and a decisive win in a 100% televote.

United Kingdom: while my personal fave was the bop version of Sweet Lies, ultimately this was the best singer/song for UK to send. It may be X Factor winner in style but those songs sell and are popular among a wide demographic plus Michael Rice is probably best male vocalist the UK has had since Michael Ball.

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