Eurovision 2010: Musical Analysis

Eurovision Hits and Misses

This year, I analysed the Eurovision 2010 song contest musically for The 63336… it was great fun (apart from having to listen to all the singing) and the bum notes survey picked up a few lines of coverage in the press. Below is a breakdown of how the analysis was done, along with a few extra facts about this year’s contest.

We worked from a google document, and I set up the spreadsheet as follows:

Insanely Complex Cloud Spreadsheeting

We actually filled it in in entry order , though the snapshot shows the worst pitched performers and points in descending order -after the event.

I counted the bum notes while someone else timed the performance in seconds, that’s how we arrived at the “bum notes per minute” stat. I based my assessment of what counted as a “bum note” on whether the singer was in tune with the backing tracks.  Ad-lib note sliding (a la Mariah Carey) was not counted as out of tune unless it was truly out of tune.

The most entertaining thing to do was the “additional observations” tab, where I entered song similarities in. I’m not surprised about how many songs sound like other songs – in real life if I hear something, I can generally think of a tune or two that fits quite snugly. I was surprised that in Eurovision this year, Queen, Sting and Roxette were all quoted from rather heavily.

Listen Here to samples of the Eurovision finalists for 2010, and you’ll find that

Cyprus = Torn by Natalie Imbruglia

Russia = Verse: Slightly Mad by Queen, Chorus: the Piano song from Big

Denmark = Verse: Every breath you take by The Police, Chorus: Simply the Best by Tina Turner

Serbia = Chorus: Whenever, Wherever by Shakira

Albania= Verse: Womanizer by Britney Spears

Greece = Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake

Belgium= Baby I love your Way by Peter Frampton,  Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan

Azerbaijan, Moldova, France = Listen to your Heart by Roxette

Georgia = Every Little Thing She Does by The Police

Israel = The Show Must Go On by Queen

Iceland = Bridge: The Show Must Go On by Queen

Romania = Middle 8: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

UK = Verse: Kids In America by Kim Wilde, Chorus: last line “sounds good to me”  = same chords and melody as kids show theme tune “Postman Pat”  ( lyric “that sounds good to me” = “(pat feels) he’s a really happy man”  – 37 seconds in )

Critical Analysis of musical commonalities


14 out of 25 songs were in Minor Keys

Key Distribution:

The most popular key was C with 4 songs out of 25. That’s the scale made from all the white notes on the piano – thought of as the easiest key to play in if you’re a piano player. The least popular keys were C# and Bb – with no songs in those keys.

Key Distribution for Eurovision 2010

Most C=4, D=3, Eb=3,  G=3, Ab=3,E=2, F=2, F#=2,B= 2 A=1, C#= 0 Bb=0 Least

Key Change count for Eurovision 2010:

Only 9 countries went for the traditional dramatic key changes.

Spain and Portugal had 2 key changes, contributing to a total of 11 shocking key changes for the evening – 13 including Spain’s Retake.

Scoring Commonalities

Top 3 songs were in Minor Keys
Bottom 3 songs were in Major Keys

Top 3 songs were all contemporary
Bottom 3 songs were conventional

Top 3 songs had simple chord structures
-Top German Entry had only 4 chord sequences in the chorus
-Bottom UK Entry had an 11 chord sequence in the chorus

Would anyone have won if they chose a folky contemporary pop song with simple chords in a minor key?

Not necessarily, although Norway’s 2009 entry last year had all these attributes, and they hit the top spot in 2009.

This year the winning songs were already popular and well known across the voting audience – so repetition and heavy airplay can also give a song the Eurovision Edge.

Roll on next year!

21 thoughts on “Eurovision 2010: Musical Analysis

  1. Fascinating analysis of Eurovision. I wonder how many songs in 2011 will be “folky contemporary pop song with simple chords in a minor key”.

    Any chance of getting the full spreadsheet of data (yes another geek here), I am interested in which singers were more in tune?

  2. Unfortunately (considering I can play this on piano) you are wrong regarding Safura… the song is Ebm yes, but it’s 4/4 – just the opening few bars are triplets.

    You also REALLY BADLY misjudged the bum notes. Germany’s are deliberate and so are the majority of Serbia’s… if I were you, I’d listen to the album enough times to familiarise yourself and THEN find the bum notes in the live performances.

    • Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for commenting, I’m very impressed that you zoomed into the spreadsheet! I rather liked Azerbaijan’s entry. On listening again, the song has many 4-bar phrases but I’m still happy with my original assessment: it’s definitely a waltz in 3/4 – all the way through.

      RE Germany’s and Serbia’s pitching: While there is always going to be an element of subjectivity to judging whether or not a note is “bum” I made certain to take into account any stylised singing and “ad libbing” – I did not count those vocal meanderings as “bum” accordingly.

      I agree, there is a difference between deliberately singing out of tune, and unintentionally missing a note by a mile – be it due to bad stage monitoring or bad singing. I was very careful to only count the notes which I felt were physically and mechanically out of tune with the rest of the performance, be it the backing track or the intended melody. The German and Serbian entries in particular featured a lot of “speak-singing” where pitching is irrelevant – the spoken sections did not contribute to the final “bum note” tally. In fact, if some entries spoke more and sang less, they might have had less bum notes overall! It’s interesting to note that Serbia’s song is slightly flat in places on the recorded track as well as Eurovision’s live performance.

      On the night, everyone sang some notes out of tune, which is expected – anyone performing on stage (even someone with perfect pitch) will miss a few notes here and there – it’s part of the live performance and the physical nature of making your body make a noise.

      • I still disagree with Azerbaijan – playing it on keyboard, you change chord every two beats in a VERY SLOW 4/4 😉

        Of course it’s natural to miss a few notes (Josh was undoubtedly the worst though) but I disagree with you saying Germany as one of the worst for bum notes – she was actually incredible. (Unless you’re marking her reprise, in which I would agree!)

        Serbia is remarkably flat throughout and actually so is Albania (again I can play Albania on the keyboard so I know which notes are deliberately flat)

        Unbelievable to know that there are 11 chords in the chorus of the UK though, brilliant article overall but I do disagree with some of what you said, but I don’t mean it to be rude!

      • – so that could be 1/4? or 2/2 even 1/1 by that argument? that doesn’t count 😉

        While Lena’s pitching wasn’t that great, her performance was fabulous, full of energy and of course it was a fun song, where tuning is less important than intent and delivery.

        …and no offence taken, of course we can agree to disagree, it’s a delight to reply to your reply! /LJ x

  3. Very interesting analysis. My feeling on the night was that the UK was also let down by Josh not looking too confident. The black and white costumes and set of the UK entry also let us down I thought compared to some of the other more colourful sets and use of the coloured lights behind the stage. I was also certain Iceland would win, so what do I know! ;p

  4. To be honest, it’s closer to a 2/2 than a 3/4 😉

    For your spreadsheet, Moldova sang in the key of F in the live show instead of Eb minor *because Olia cannot sing unfortunately*

    I’d love to see the full spreadsheet to have a FULL discussion with you here! 😀

    • Hi Nathan, thanks again for your comments.
      If you want to play it in 2/2 be my guest – after all, the musical scoring system stems from a descriptive model as opposed to a prescriptive one – knock yourself out 🙂

      Triple Time 3/4 (or 6/8 at a push) would definitely be my preference if I was writing the leadsheets for this song (I used to have to do this for major record labels, no, it was not as glamorous as it might sound).

      This is not just because there is an accent on every 3rd note in the rhythm – with 2/2 notation you’d have to resort to triplets in every bar, which may stop you being able to properly transcribe the (double time) piano and string lines precisely enough without them looking like a nightmare to play back.

      Moldova sang in D minor on the night. I can see why you would say F as it’s the relative major and would have the same key signature, although the chord structures of this particular song imply a much stronger tonic as D minor. It even starts and ends in D minor.

      I like the site your avatar links to, by the way I’m much more au fait with music than words, and that looks like a giant site to maintain.

      Go here for more stats and info.
      All the best,/LJ x

      • Thanks for actually taking the time to reply too! 4LYRICS is a huge job, but I love doing it!

        Yes, I agree with you with Moldova being in Dm not F actually 😉

        I will maintain that Drip Drop is 2/2 due to the fact that the chord changes every two minims… 😛

  5. Some of the things I see on the visible section of the spreadsheet are just plain wrong. No, Moldova did not have seven people on stage (there is a limit of six). The “dancers” for the United Kingdom contributed background vocals (they most certainly were “doing something musical on stage”). If the rest of your analysis exhibits such a low level of care, it calls your basic credibility into question. No wonder you won’t share the whole spreadsheet.

    • Hi Sceptic, thanks for your comment.
      I was responsible for the musical part of the research, there were other people working on the visual stats, the durations and more… there were definitely some dodgy backing vocals going on in the UK entry, I can still remember it.
      The post was to show the process of my part of the musical analysis, so I snapshotted and cropped the spreadsheet once the data had been filled in to illustrate that.
      Also the sheet was big, I didn’t own the google document, and my access was up to and including the event. I wasn’t expecting people to actually go right in for a look – I’m astounded that this has drawn so much interest. If you want to leave me a contact email, I can put you in touch with the spreadsheet owners?

  6. At last an intelligent website for Eurovision fans. Excellent analysis – perhaps it will help the UK next year. A good start woould be to choose someone with a bit of talent, with a song that is not one considered too naff even for Rick Astley. BTW I liked the Serbian entry and if you listen to Goran Bregović’s version of Carmen (“Carmen with a Happy Ending”) most of the singing has that Balkan quality, with notes elided so much that it is difficult to say whether they are in tune or not. I agree that Milan was not at his best musically, but the overall performance and the quality of the music made up for that.
    Keep up this work – very interesting analysis.

    • Thanks very much for commenting, Andrew. It would be very interesting to field a well-known british artist with a naff song, or a great song by an unknown, and see how much the results are affected by the non-musical factors 🙂

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