“Israel can only win Eurovision if 8 ballads qualify from the semi finals”

Steef van Gorkum

Following up on his successful study into the role of ballads in Eurovision, ESCDaily’s chief editor Steef van Gorkum takes a look at this year’s entries. Almost all the ballads are allocated in the first semi final, which could help top favorite Israel win the Eurovision Song Contest.

Studying eight subsequent editions, Steef van Gorkum was able to establish two golden rules about the role of ballads in the Eurovision Song Contest. First, in every Eurovision semi final there is room for 3-5 ballads to qualify; never more than 5, never less than 3. Second, a ballad can only win the Eurovision Song Contest when there are less than 40% ballads participating in the Grand Final.

On the basis of this second rule, Van Gorkum was able to predict at a very early stage that not Italy, but Portugal or Bulgaria would win Eurovision 2017.

“There are 18 ballads this year in a 43 song field. That’s 41,8%, slightly lower than last year but all in all very common for a Eurovision Song Contest. Most years stay very close to the 40% mark.

That 40% mark is a rather magical barrier. As my research last year pointed out, when the number of ballads in the Grand Final is above 40%, a non-ballad song wins, but when the number of ballads in the final is below 40%, a ballad always wins the contest. This rule has always applied between 2009 and today, and last year it allowed me to predict Bulgaria or Portugal as potential winners in a very early stage when Italy was still the top favorite.

So what about this year? Top favorite Israel is clearly a “red” song (= non-ballad), which means that it needs the amount of ballads in the Grand Final to be above 40% in order to win. That means at least 11 ballads. We already know six songs in the Grand Final and three of them are ballads: Portugal, Germany and Spain. This means that during the semi finals, we’re gonna count to see if at least 8 more ballads will make it to the final. If not, Israel (as well as other favorites Czech Republic and Australia) might struggle to actually win the competition.

Many ballads in Eurovision semi 1 – not so much in semi 2

In order to predict how many ballads will qualify from this year’s semi finals, we can use the other golden rule I discovered last year. This rule says: in every Eurovision semi final there is room for 3-5 ballads to qualify; never more than 5, never less than 3. This rule always applies, regardless of the total amount of ballads in a semi final.

However, when you look at the distribution of genres across both semies this year, you will notice that almost all the ballads are allocated into the first semi final. If you take the wider definition of the word “ballad”, you could argue that over half of the songs in the first semi final is in fact a ballad. Those 10 songs will be fighting for maximum 5 spots in the Grand Final. Considering Elina Nechayeva from Estonia and Equinox from Bulgaria are among the top favorites for victory, this means the other 8 ballads face a really tough road towards the Eurovision Grand Final.

In the second semi final, the picture is reversed. The only five ballads here are Russia, Montenegro, Georgia, Denmark and Latvia. None of these songs rate among the bookmakers top favorites, yet statistically it makes sense to assume that at least three of them will qualify.

Up-tempo song from Israel still favorite for Eurovision victory

Considering the big amount of ballads in semi final 1, it is likely that we will have 5 ballads qualifying from that show rather than 4 or 3. Which means the total amount of ballads qualifying from the semi finals is very likely to be 8 or higher. That means an up-tempo song is likely to win the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. Good news for top favorite Netta Barzilai from Israel! However, we should keep an eye out. If the results from the semi finals turn out differently, and fewer ballads go through, the Grand Final result may just surprise us.”

Netta Barzilai Israel Eurovision 2018