Opening and Closing the Show - recipe for success or disaster?
Since 2013, the running order for both the Semi-Finals and the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest has been decided by the producers of the show, to make for the most interesting viewing.
Two interesting slots in the running order are opening and closing the show, so we've explored and analysed some of the entries which performed at either end of the draw.
Opening the Show – When it Works
Belgium 2016 – Laura Tesoro – ‘What’s The Pressure’
10th place overall (181 points)
As if the 2016 Contest in Stockholm didn’t need to be any more of a party, it was Belgium’s Laura Tesoro who was chosen to open the show with her upbeat, catchy number ‘What’s The Pressure’. It combines a familiar sound with a funky beat and some on-point choreography. It placed an impressive 6th with the juries, including receiving the maximum 12 points from Australia, so the music professionals saw merit in the performance. Interestingly, it only came 16th with the televote, so perhaps the retro sound did not resonate with viewers. But overall a 10th place finish, a definite toe-tapper, and a great way to open the show of what would go on to be a memorable contest.
Ukraine 2014 – Mariya Yaremchuk – ‘Tick-Tock’
6th place overall (113 points)
I know what you’re all thinking, and yes, this is the hamster wheel song! Opening the show in Copenhagen in 2014 was Mariya from Ukraine, and she did an outstanding job, combining a modern pop song with a catchy hook, as well as the iconic stage performance. It was well received by both the public and jury vote, placing 8th and 12th respectively, to finish an outstanding 6th position overall, so clearly it was well respected by the music experts as well as enjoyed by the public. Thankfully her dress stayed well clear of being caught in the hamster wheel (insert Eurovision movie reference, for those superfans!), and another addition to the list of impressive Ukrainian results.
Closing the Show – When it Works
Italy 2015– Il Volo – ‘Grande Amore’
3rd place overall (292 points)
**author disclaimer – this is my favourite Eurovision song of all time** (just thought I’d get that out there)
It was Italian trio Il Volo who closed the show in Vienna in 2015, interestingly in 27th position (as opposed to the usual 26), after Australia was granted a wildcard entry into the Grand Final, but nevertheless it was a memorable way to finish proceedings. The power ballad combines the classic Italian stereotypes of good-looking men in suits singing about love, with fantastic vocal harmonies which were well received all around Europe. This momentum carried into the voting, winning the televote, however they only managed 6th in the jury vote, combining for a 3rd place overall finish. Fair to say I’m still not over this, but it was a powerful way to close the show.
Armenia 2016 – Iveta Mukuchyan – ‘LoveWave’
7th place overall (249 points)
Despite a flag waving controversy in the Semi-Final, it was Iveta from Armenia who closed the show in Stockholm with her song ‘LoveWave’. Beginning with some spoken word, the heat is turned up, with a powerful vocal, met with some close-up camera angles and lots of pyrotechnics in true over-the-top Eurovision style. This entry left a mark on viewers, finishing 7th in the televote, and the production and vocal quality was well respected by juries, coming in 10th spot, to combine for an admirable 7th overall finish. A truly energetic and unforgettable entry to close the show.
Opening the Show – When the Results Don’t Go Your Way
Israel 2017 – IMRI – ‘I Feel Alive’
23rd place overall (39 points)
After providing backing vocals for Israel on multiple occasions, it was IMRI’s time to shine in Kyiv in 2017, when he was chosen to open the show with his entry ‘I Feel Alive’. The track features a blend of a classic dance number and a modern Middle Eastern sound to give an Israeli feel. IMRI wore a see-through, sleeveless shirt, so he flexed his actual muscles as well as his singing muscles, hitting his high notes well while dancing. The results weren’t so forthcoming, however, finishing 21st and 22nd with the jury and televote respectively, and an overall placing of 23rd. This entry was the typical sacrificial lamb to open the show – a nice upbeat track to get the crowd going, but was never going to challenge for top positions, but nevertheless it was a nice way to open proceedings.
France 2013 – Amandine Bourgeois – ‘L’enfer et moi’ (translation: ‘Hell and I’)
23rd place overall (14 points)
It was the French who opened the show in Malmo in 2013, with the song ‘L’enfer et moi’. It is a raspy-voiced rock number with heavy guitar riffs, and an energetic stage performance; despite a slow build, Amandine brings an intensity to her performance which is noticeable. The entry was enough to place 12th with the juries, however, only a lowly 25th with televoters, who may not have appreciated the genre of music. This was the first year of producers deciding the running order, so it was perhaps a year of experimentation, and also, being one of the Big 5, there was no quantitative indication of how the fans enjoyed it.
Closing the Show – When it Doesn’t Go Your Way
Ireland 2013 – Ryan Dolan – ‘Only Love Survives’
26th (last) place overall (5 points)
Following on from France opening the show, Ireland closed the 2013 edition of the Contest, with Ryan Dolan’s entry ‘Only Love Survives’. The track has a strong drum beat combined with a dance beat chorus and preaches lyrics about love and empowerment. With an energetic and upbeat performance, it is understood why this was chosen to close the show. However, the results did not reflect this; despite finishing 14th in the televote Ireland placed last overall. The juries put this 23rd, so they clearly were not swayed by the running order. With both the opening and closing act finishing in the bottom four in 2013, fair to say it was a rocky start for a producer-chosen running order.
Spain 2019 – Miki – ‘La Venda’ (translation: ‘The Blindfold’)
22nd place overall (54 points)
It was Miki from Spain who closed the show in outstanding style in Tel Aviv in 2019. Having been in the arena for the Grand Final myself, I can confidently say that this was everything the producers had hoped for to close the show. The pop number was one of the catchiest songs of the year, and you couldn’t help but tap your feet to the beat and smile, paired with some vibrant and colourful staging. The result was not indicative of this though; an astounding 25th in the jury, who clearly were not swayed by the running order, and a respectable 14th in the televote, combining for a measly 22nd placed finish. There is famous footage of artists in the green room forming a conga line and dancing all the way through the song, testament to its upbeat and catchy nature. For whatever reason, it wasn’t to be for Miki, but he can be proud of the way he closed the show.
The Numbers (rounded to the nearest whole)
Overall Vote – average rank
Opening the show: 12th place
Closing the show: 13th place
Jury Vote – average rank
Opening the show: 15th place
Closing the show: 17th place
Televote – average rank
Opening the show: 17th place
Closing the show: 10th place
Interestingly enough, show openers do better on average than closers, with a high rank of 6th and a low of 23rd, but with 3 finishes in the teens. For show closers, a high of 3rd and a low of 26th, but with three top-10 finishes. This demonstrates that when a closer does well, it does extremely well, but it can also do quite poorly, whereas for openers, it is a more consistent showing.
Regarding the jury vote, it is pretty similar standings for openers and closers, potentially exhibiting that jury members are not swayed as much by the running order and are more focused on music quality.
The televote is where it gets interesting; a much higher average rank for songs which close the show, and this is to be expected. Songs which are performed towards the end are more likely to stick in viewers’ minds when it comes time to vote. Show closers have four top-10 televote finishes, including a 1st and 3rd (both from Italy coincidentally), where the only notable televote scores for show openers are 7th and 8th.
Being chosen to open or close the show is a significant vote of confidence by the producers. Obviously, they look at the Semi-Final results and make decisions based on what the fans like as well. As we have seen, opening or closing the show can be a good thing because it makes the entry stand out, however, sometimes these entries are seen as sacrificial lambs in order to get the party started or keep it rolling.
So back to the original question - a recipe for success or disaster? Of course there is no clear answer, but history has shown that if you do it well, it goes a long way to achieving a good result, but when it does badly, it does really badly.
Some say that the running order disadvantages some acts, and while this may be true, in a competition it is bound to happen. Overall, though, if the song is good enough to do well or even to win, it will do so no matter the running order.