Every year, people inevitably complain that the Eurovision Song Contest is too political; everyone is supposed to vote for the best song, but countries tend to vote for their neighbors (Cyprus and Greece, I’m looking at you in particular), or not vote for their “enemies”.

Here’s one solution.

Like usual, each country selects a song and performer to send to the contest. But at the contest, the names of the participating countries would be put into a hat, and each performer would draw a name and have to sing that country’s song. For example, France might have to sing Turkey’s song, and Turkey might have to sing Spain’s song, and so on. The countries might also be drawn in pairs–imagine if Armenia and Azerbaijan had to sing each others’ songs! If anyone refuses to sing for the country they’ve drawn, they’re dropped from the contest.

But wouldn’t each country give the worst performance possible to sabotage the other countries? Even if they all agreed not to, can everyone really be trusted to do their best? Here’s how to fix that. When songs earn points, a percentage of the points, let’s say 25%, also goes to the performing country’s score. So if France sang Turkey’s song and Turkey earned a total of 108 points, France would have 27 points added to its score.  In the event of a tie, the usual Eurovision rules would apply (i.e., the song with the most 12 point votes would win).  Countries might start sending better, more versatile singers.

(Another solution, which would truly put the focus on the song and not the performance, would be to have a single band (made up of a mix of nationalities to prevent favoritism or sabotage, or better yet, a band from a country not participating in Eurovision at all, such as USA or South Korea) perform all the songs. Countries would submit melodies and lyrics, and the band would come up with its own arrangements. Alas, the Eurovision Song Contest performed by a band from a completely foreign country probably wouldn’t draw much of an audience, so let’s stick to the first of idea of having countries sing each other’s songs.)

Just as an exercise, I took the songs from the 2014 Contest Final and randomly switched countries and added performance points. It went something like this:

Song
from
Performed
by
Points
for
Song
Points
for
Performance
Total
Points
Original
ESC
Rank
New
System
Rank
Austria Germany 290 9 299 1 1
Netherlands Montenegro 238 8 246 2 2
Sweden Italy 218 8 226 3 3
Armenia Malta 174 8 182 4 4
Hungary San Marino 143 4 147 5 5
Ukraine Slovenia 113 11 124 6 6
Germany Norway 39 73 112 18 7
Russia France 89 10 99 7 8
Norway Greece 88 10 98 8 9
Montenegro Denmark 37 60 97 19 10
Romania Poland 72 16 88 12 11
Italy Sweden 33 55 88 22 12
Denmark UK 74 9 83 10 13
Poland Romania 62 18 80 14 14
Switzerland Azerbaijan 64 15 79 13 15
Iceland Switzerland 58 19 77 15 16
Spain Iceland 74 2 76 9 17
Malta Armenia 32 44 76 23 18
Finland Belarus 72 1 73 11 19
Belarus Ukraine 43 18 61 16 20
UK Russia 40 19 59 17 21
Greece Austria 35 22 57 20 22
San Marino Hungary 14 36 50 24 23
Azerbaijan Netherlands 33 16 49 21 24
Slovenia Spain 9 28 37 25 25
France Finland 2 22 24 26 26

Austria’s song earned 290 points in the Contest; in my version, Conchita sang for Greece, whose song earned 35 points, so Conchita earned an additional 25% (roughly 9 points) giving Austria a total score of 299.  As you can see, there are only a few differences in the rankings in my example. But imagine a contest where Conchita Wurst had to sing “Rise Up” (from Greece), or Softengine had to sing “Moustache” (from France)!

Finally, considering the mediocre to poor rankings of some of the “Big 5” countries over the last few years, let’s just get rid of the whole Big 5 nonsense.  It’s a song contest–songs should make it to the final based on merit, not based on the participating countries’ financial contributions.

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