I tend to avoid complaining about Eastern block voting in Eurovision, because, as Lordi proved last year, it can be overcome with a good song and stand-out performance. However, I can’t avoid at least commenting on the fact that every single one of the 10 entries which got through the semi-finals last night was from Eastern Europe, particularly former USSR countries. Some of them deserved to go through, such as Hungary (an excellent singer) and Latvia (grannies will love it – could even win, I think), but there were others for whom my notes said “What a racket!” (Bulgaria) and “Ugly boring poo” (Serbia… not my most articulate note-making moment perhaps!). I wasn’t so much shocked by the ones that got through as by the ones who didn’t, as they included some of the acts most highly tipped to succeed (Switzerland! Andorra!) and all of my top 5 favourites (Belgium, Austria, Norway, Cyprus and the Netherlands).
I don’t want to say that this is political voting, because I don’t think that’s true. I think that people are voting for what they know and what they understand. If a song is popular with Latvians, it’s probably going to be popular with Estonians and Lithuanians as well. They might even know the act already. I haven’t personally visited any of these Baltic/Eastern countries (unless you count Poland, but that was very Westernised) so this may be lack of knowledge showing, but these countries all have similar heritage and traditions and tastes, so it makes sense that they’d all vote for each other, and since they now outnumber the Western countries (despite mostly being smaller countries in area and population) this voting pattern makes an impact.
Similarly, you will notice that all of my favourites in the semi-final were Western countries too, showing that we are just as likely to vote for our neighbours. There are effectively two contests going on here, and since the Eastern one has more competitors, they are going to win – it’s just shocking that they have done so so completely, without a single Western country reaching the final, despite there being some really ace entries from the West this year. I’m not terribly upset because my two favourite entries (Sweden and France – more Westerners) are already in the final, but it doesn’t give me much hope that they will even get a decent placing, despite their greatness, if the votes play out like they did last night.