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Eurovision 2009 – Who’s still popular? Feb 20

The run up to the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest has begun. Many countries have already chosen their songs and singers. We know the UK’s song will be written by Dennis Pete Waterman. And this got me wondering: which songs from last year’s competition have faded into (even greater) obscurity and which are still being listened to?

There are a handful of tracks from last year that still come into my head occasionally. The winner, Fairytale; Ukraine’s Be My Valentine; Hungary’s pretty unsuccessful Dance With Me; Slovenia’s Love Symphony; Sweden’s La Voix. But what about the rest of the world who aren’t me?

Fortunately, there’s a way to get an idea. last.fm is a website that keeps track of your listening habits, if you so desire. It has thousands of users and it’s possible to look up the listening figures for any given track. So I’ve gone through last year’s entries and counted up the number of plays each has had in the last six months.

Before I give you the results, there are some caveats. For a start, it’s not going to be an objective measure of the songs themselves as the results of the Contest will skew the figures. The winner in particular had lots more exposure as a result, and the songs that didn’t progress from the semi-finals weren’t broadcast to the same audience as the final. Also, I’m aware that the songs I’ve played have tended to be served up by the shuffle feature on my iPod – so those listens are less about those songs being high quality than not being bad enough for me to have skipped to the next track. Plus, there’s no record of which country these listens came from – most could be in the entry’s home country (they couldn’t vote for it during the show) and the size of the last.fm user base in each country will make a difference.

Then there’s the problem of disambiguation. Not least because of the different languages involved, but also because of the generally inconsistent taxonomies of people’s audio collections, tracks are listed on last.fm under variations of their titles and variations of their artist. And it’s case sensitive. For example, Ukraine’s entry appears separately under

  • Be My Valentine by Svetlana Loboda
  • Be My Valentine (Anti-crisis girl) by Svetlana Loboda
  • Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl) by Svetlana Loboda
  • Be My Valentine! (Anti-crisis Girl) [Ukraine] by Svetlana Loboda
  • Be my Valentine (Anti-crisis girl) by Светлана Лобода

and more. I’ve mostly taken all the entries among the 15 top tracks shown by default on the artist page. This works against singers who’ve had lots of other hits under the same name (or who share their name with another group), so where the impact of that was large I’ve looked further down the list to include more plays. I’ve attempted to go through all the obvious variations of artist names – so for “A & B” I also looked up “A feat. B”, “A feat B”, “A and B”, and “A”. I’ve included remixes, radio edits and different translations of the songs.

That all said, here are the results of the people-still-listening-to-Eurovision-2009-entries jury.

Position Actual final position Country Listens
1 1 Norway 25,850
2 2 Iceland 6,602
3 6 Estonia 4,860
4 5 United Kingdom 4,545
5 25 Finland 4,501
6 4 Turkey 3,954
7 3 Azerbaijan 3,716
8 8 France 3,691
9 20 Germany 3,125
10 21 Sweden 2,524

…which suggests that the Europe-wide voting public got it roughly right.

It’s no surprise that Alexander Rybak is in first place by miles, averaging six listens an hour by last.fm users in the last six months. Iceland’s second place in the competition is also accurately reflected by the listening figures – less predictably – and France’s Patricia Kaas appears in 8th place in both the results and the listening figures.

The songs that seem to have been more popular than their results suggested are from Estonia, the UK, and in particular Germany and Sweden. Turkey and Azerbaijan are a little lower in the listener counts. Finland’s entry Lose Control by Waldo’s People, deserves a special mention: it came last in the Eurovision final but is the 5th most listened to. Although this could be the result of last place notoriety, it’s more likely genuine success, either restricted to their home country or, given the style of the song, in the Eurodance world.

The three songs that finished in the top 10 on the night but not in this chart are Greece’s This Is Our Night (four places lower), Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Bistra Voda (nine places lower, although I rather liked it), and Armenia’s Jan Jan (a whopping 14 places lower). The highest placed semi-finalist who didn’t make the final was (appropriately) The Highest Heights, Switzerland’s entry, which is the 19th most popular entry of the last six months.

So there you go. Pseudo-scientific. Passably interesting.

This year’s Eurovision final is on Saturday 29th May, with the semi-finals on Tuesday 25th and Thursday 27th. I’ll probably return in May with a preview – and I’ll attempt to successfully follow-up last year’s post, where, for the first time ever, I successfully predicted the winner.

One Response

  1. This was so much fun to read! xD I just want to say that Fairytale by Alexander Rybak is the most hated song in Norway right now. It’s because we’ve all heard it TOO many times since the Eurovision Song Contest. We were really proud when he won (you know, “little Norway wins a contest that involves other countries – that’s a first!”), but Fairytale was being played on every radio channel, at every party, and at all music channels on TV. So we’re kind of fed up with Fairytale… Too bad our song this year sucks. Norway is not going to win again this year, that’s for sure.
    Loved the entry though, you write really good 🙂

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