Swedish ESC Finals: What a Fantastic Surprise

The Swedish qualification contest for the ESC (the Eurovision Song Contest, not the ESC that is about some kind of variant of computing) just finished tonight. With one of the most amazing votes I have seen.

We could have a very long introduction to the quintessientially European experience of the ESC. For some reason, it has been a big thing in Sweden since the 1970’s (I guess ABBA in 1974 had something to do with it). Currently, the process of appointing the Swedish contestant is a process that takes five weeks, in a series of qualification heats. Anyway, the final in this internal just ended, with an amazingly tense voting outcome.

For those unfamiliar with the voting system, it trying to balance taste and populism by having both a set of “professional” juries and a general people’s vote. Both these two sets of votes generate the same number of total points (12 times 12 maximum for one song). However, the jury vote is 12 separate votes, while the people’s vote is one big block.

Today, at the end of the jury vote, we had a set of songs with scores from 96 down to 2… In all previous years that I have watched this spectacle, the popular vote will be roughly the same in order, and basically confirm one of the top three or so as the winner.

This year, the first three popular votes called out (the bottom scores) hit the three top songs. I don’t know how fast the artist were at doing math in their heads, but to me it was now clear that due to the way the scores were spread out, the popular vote would decide everything. We then essentially saw the popular vote inverting that of the jury vote… in the end, the song that was in eight place after the jury vote won! The amazement and surprise and sheer joy in Malena Ernman‘s face was touching. She looked as if she knew she had lost right up until the end.

It all felt almost unreal, as if someone had scripted the drama.The way the scores kept adding up to put new songs in the lead each time, and the fact that the next score called from the popular vote was always just enough to propel any of the top nine songs into the lead. A fictive movie couldn’t do it better!

It is all just entertainment, nothing really serious. But still this was fascinating to see.

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