The Curious Case of Malta in the 2021 #Eurovision

There is a lot of 2021 data sitting on our server. So much data. In addition to the scores allocated to entries, we have added a range of categorical variables to see if we can find anything predictive in the attributes of a Eurovision entry that foretell its prospects.

Nothing yet.

But we have also been fossicking through the data related to specific entries and their fate—or Destiny, if you prefer—with respect to the scoreboard. For all sorts of reasons Malta’s good (eight overall) placement was surprising. Most felt Destiny’s Je me casse was the best chance of a Maltese victory since Chiara’s 2005 Angel.

A top 10 result is not a failure, unless you were going for victory. So what happened?

Midweek momentum

The goal for any entries that have qualified from a semi-final is to double their points in the Grand Final. There are twice as many points on offer, but fewer than twice as many competitors. Each 2021 semi-final featured 16 (Semi-Final One) or 17 Semi-Final Two) entries and 19 or 20 delegations voting. The Grand Final has 26 entries and 39 delegations voting. There are around 50% more competitors, but roughly 1/3 of the delegations no longer have a horse in the race. And they each allocate 58 Points from the jury and another 58 Points from the televoting public.

Other Qualifiers

Semi-final runner-up Ukraine did the best in terms of increased score in the Grand Final. Go-A added almost 100 points to their score on the weekend  Fourth ranked Lithuania added around 20 points; third ranked Russia lost about 20 points.

Amortized across 38 other delegation, that’s a mean loss of half a point per delegation across the televote and jury points combined. For our purposes we’ll call both the Russian and Lithuanian results an even split.

Our second semi-final winner Switzerland added 140 points in the Grand Final. Narrow runner up Iceland added 90 points. Fifth ranked Finland added 67 points.

Third ranked Bulgaria’s total score dropped 80 points, most of which was from the televote. Next in the Semi-Final Two rankings was Portugal, who dropped 86 points, also mostly from the televote. Sixth ranked Greece “only” lost 14 points in the Grand Final, managing to sneak into the top 10 on a countback: Bulgaria also had 170 points, but Stefania’s televote score was higher.  

We need to point out that the lower tier of qualifiers quite often do much worse in the Grand Final. This makes sense: these are from the middle pack of a 16-17 entry semi-final, so the lower ranked qualifiers from each semi-final usually end up fighting one another for relatively small points. What happens to the top ranked qualifiers is often the opposite: they expect to increase or maintain their level of support. It doesn’t always happen.  

Malta

Prior to rehearsals starting, Malta was one of the favourites for victory. In Destiny they had a great singer, who understood how to perform to the viewing audience. The 2021 song (Je me casse) was an improvement over her 2020 entry. Aside from some eurofan tittering about her sartorial choices, most assumed she would be one of the contenders for victory.

In the first semi-final, Malta finished first with 325 points. Destiny won the jury vote (174 points) and was second with the public (151 points).

However,  in the Grand Final her score dropped to 255 points: her 208 jury points (third) represented a small increase, but a mere 47 public points (14th) was a significant drop. That is a massive loss of momentum.

So we decided to look at the Maltese data across Semi-Final One and the Grand Final—in particular, we decided to map out the scores she received from others in the first semi-final and then what each of those delegations awarded Malta in the Grand Finals. Here are the data:

DelegationSemi- final   TelevoteSemi-final  JurySemi- final  TotalGrand Final TelevoteGrand Final JuryGrand Final TotalDifferential TelevoteDifferential Jury
Belgium12820 257103
Netherlands12719 178110
Australia101222 8122020
Ireland101222 4101462
Israel10818 055103
North Macedonia101020 055105
Cyprus81220 1101172
Germany81018 08882
Norway81220 3121550
Romania81220 2121460
Russia81220 04488
Sweden81220 2121460
Ukraine8513 05580
Croatia71219 03379
Lithuania7613 03373
Azerbaijan61016 07763
Italy6814 07761
Slovenia5611 05551
Totals151174325 2313215512842
Malta Eurovision Voting Details 2021 (Source: Wikipedia)

As you can see with several delegations the jury vote has largely held up: fifteen of nineteen showed a loss of 3 or fewer jury points. Only two—Russia and Croatia—saw the jury support fall by eight or more points. In fact, five juries (the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Romania, Sweden) kept Malta first; the Netherlands kept Destiny fourth and Ukraine kept her sixth.

The televote is a different story. Only Australia kept Malta ranked similarly in their semi-final (second; 10 points) and Grand Final (third; 8 points). Having scored a minimum of five points from each other delegation’s televote midweek, more than half (10) awarded Malta zero points in the final. The Netherlands down ranked Je me casse from second to 10th. Israel, North Macedonia, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine all had Malta in their televote top three, but awarded Destiny zero televote points in the Grand Final.

Looking at how the aggregate Maltese points in the Grand Final split from the delegations assigned to vote across the two semi-final reveals the following:

 Televote%Jury%Total%
GF Score47208255
From SF12349%13263%15561%
From SF22451%7637%10039%
Malta Eurovision Voting Splits 2021 (Source: Wikipedia)

Malta’s (meagre) televote Grand Final score is split almost exactly between the delegations voting in each semi-final. However, their jury score remains mostly from the delegations voting in its own semi-final, Semi-Final One.

If the proportion of jury votes from the other delegations had been closer (and higher), that could have meant around an additional 50 points for Destiny. That would have only moved them up one ranking overall (ahead of Finland), but would have moved Je me casse ahead of France with the juries on 258 points—only nine points behind Switzerland after the jury scores were reported on Saturday night.

Conditions

It is worth noting we tend to see less movement in jury scores over the course of the week. First, jurors are scoring against criteria given by the EBU. As well, the criteria for selecting jurors means persons attached to the music and other performing arts are often jurors, who will apply a professional eye (and ear) to their deliberations. Finally, jurors merely rank the entries: .they can’t skew the scores the way a punter can pump up a televote. Televoters can give multiple votes to one entry (with an upper limit) and ending giving nothing to almost all entries. There’s a reason many delegations calibrate their entries towards juror sensibilities. It’s easier to cater to the interests of a few hundred people rather than several million.

We need also acknowledge that the televoter samples are quite different from a mid-week semi-final versus a Grand Final: from a few million to almost 200 hundred million viewers, in fact. So we shouldn’t be entirely surprised by movement between the semi-final and Grand Final televote scores. Fewer televoters in semi-finals makes each semi-final televoter more powerful.  

And…

But there’s another factor that might well be at play here: the draw performance order.

In Semi-Final One, Malta sang last among 16 entries—a highly favourable performance slot for any entry. Last in eyes; first in mind. Most songs performed last in a semi-final qualify for the Grand Final. But a few songs that perform really well in a semi-final as a closer have struggled thereafter.

In the Grand Final, Malta drew first half and were allocated slot 6—out of 26 entries. The entries given the prime slots in the first half were Switzerland (11th slot; third overall) and Iceland (12th slot; fourth overall). After these two, Malta is the best performing entry from the first half of the order. Sixth is not a great slot for an entry.

Returning to a random draw would at least be more equitable.

Not a bad job Amina, not a bad job at all (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

Hopefully this year’s song title won’t be prophetic for the Maltese delegation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *