Editorial: Ballads could disturb the battle between Italy and Sweden

Steef van Gorkum

Ballad entries such as Bulgaria and Australia could still disturb the battle between Italy and Sweden for victory in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. The results of the second semi final will be crucial in predicting the final result. That is the conclusion from Steef van Gorkum’s fourth and last editorial on ballads in the competition. 

“In the last month before the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, I take a look at ballads in the competition. As you can read HERE, I conducted a small focus group consisting of three Eurovision journalists and two people working for Dutch national radio stations and I asked them to classify every song in the last nine editions of the Eurovision Song Contest as a ballad or a non-ballad.

So far I have been able to conclude that 1) there are not significantly more ballads participating this year than usual, 2) within the 50-50 voting system, ballads have only won the Eurovision Song Contest when there were less than 40% ballads in the Grand Final, and 3) in almost every Eurovision Semi Final, 3-5 ballads qualify, regardless of how many ballads participated in that show.

Kiev 2017

But what does this mean for Kiev 2017? This is the list with participating songs for this year, classified by the panel into green (ballads), blue (low tempo) or red (non-ballads). If you download the document and take a look at semi final one, you will see that 11 of the 18 participating songs are either green or blue. In other words: the first semi final is dominated by ballads.

According to statistics, these 11 ballads fight for a maximum of 5 spots in the Grand Final. Now let us assume that the songs from Australia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Portugal (who rank high with the bookmakers) all reach the final. That leaves these countries fighting for 1 spot: Albania, Finland, Georgia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, Slovenia. While at the same time these countries have 5 tickets for the final to divide amongst themselves: Belgium, Montenegro, Sweden, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Moldova.

In the second semi final, the situation is completely different. Only 6 ballads take part here: Bulgaria, Malta, Netherlands, Ireland, Croatia, Denmark. If 5 ballads will qualify from this semi, these countries have a walk in the park. However, some of them currently rank rather low with the bookmakers. And according to statistics, it could easily be that not 5, but 4 or even just 3 ballads go through.

How many ballads will reach the Eurovision Final?

Here we get to the crucial part of this year’s competition. If less ballads get to the Grand Final, the odds of a ballad winning increase. The tipping point is 40%, and in a 26-song-show that means between 10 and 11 ballads. We already know that only one of the BIG-5 has sent a ballad – the United Kingdom. We have previously learnt that between 3 and 5 ballads qualify per semi final. You can do the math: 2×3+1 = 7, 2×5+1 = 11. There will be minimum 7 and maximum 11 ballads in this year’s Grand Final.

Currently, Italy and Sweden are the main candidates for victory. Both have up-tempo songs. However, there are outsiders that fall in the blue or green category, such as Bulgaria, Armenia and Australia. They still have a chance to disturb the battle between Italy and Sweden. It will all depend on the results of semi final 2. The number of ballads that qualify from this semi, could determine the outcome of the Grand Final.”


  1. And what about the order of presentation? If those ballads are drawn in the first half, and the two so-called faves in the second half, will that leave the situation unchanged?

  2. Keep in mind that for a good statistic analysis you at least need a peer group of 50-100 (years) and not just ten (years). Still it’s nice food for thought.

  3. Good question Robbert! I am sure that running order also influences the results somehow, just as the staging does, and the question of whether the ballad is sung by a male or a female artist, and whether it is sung in English or in another language…

    However, those effects all fall outside of the scope of my current research. So I can’t give a detailed answer to your question unfortunately.

  4. This is the worst contempt for reason that people strongly believe in odds after Trump, Portugal and Brexit last year. Even results of ESC 2014 or 2011 were completely different than odds. But now only Italy and maybe Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden, Australia and Belgium have chance to be winners. All other entries are outsiders for most so called “experts”.

  5. OK, if someone can be slave of political correctness this someone also can be slave of odds. Everything is clear.

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