The famed Eurovision Song Contest takes place this Saturday (18 May) and Manchester record label Ostereo claim to have exposed a secret formula for success.
Data analysts at the label scrutinised the numbers on every winning song from the competition since 1956 and ostensibly found four characteristics that many of the winning songs share.
Taking into account previous winners of the contest, judges are wooed by songs in a major key (preferably C major), tempos of 124 beats per minute (bpm), a three minute and one second running time and lean towards tracks performed by a female solo artists.
Of all the winning songs 60 percent were performed by a female solo artist, 68 percent were in major keys, six of the last 10 champions were within 10 bmp of the optimum tempo and five of the last winners hit the ideal length, with the last 20 winners within five seconds of it.
Howard Murphy, chief executive officer and founder of Ostereo, comments: ‘It’s interesting that throughout the years, certain winners appear to have referenced elements of the previous year’s winner. That’s not to say writers have been copying previous winners, they still have to come up with a song that’s great and memorable.’
If you’re looking to cook up some Eurovision gold look no further than the three hits that most closely adhere to the template:
- Sandie Shaw, UK, Puppet on a String (1967) – C major, 124 bpm, 2:23 minutes
- Tanel Padar, Dave Benton & 2XL, Estonia, Everybody (2001) – C major, 124 bpm, 3:01 minutes
- Ell & Nikki, Azerbaijan, Running Scared (2011) – C major, 172 bpm, 3:01 minutes
So how do these results fair for this year’s UK entry?
Well, at just three seconds short of the 3:01 sweet spot, not to mention it’s in the hugely successful C major key, Michael Rice’s Bigger Than Us look like it’s in with a chance. Then again, it’s a little sluggish for Eurovision tastes at just 84 bmp.
Meanwhile, favourites Sweden and Iceland are flying close to Euro perfection.
Sweden’s John Lundvik is set to enter Too Late for Love, which runs at two minutes 58 seconds in C major.
Similarly, Hatrið Mun Sigra (Hate Will Prevail) by Hatari is exactly the same length but throws a curveball with its minor key.
‘In a competition it’s a smart move to see what worked before and let that inform what you write. That’s why we see sequences of winners with distinct stylistic similarities. We had a run of five winners between 1959 and 1963 all in minor keys, which tells us that melancholy songs were working well at the time. Then between 1983 and 1986, there was a run of songs that were almost exactly the same tempo, around 138 bpm. We know that people liked their music a bit faster in the Eighties, so that makes sense too,’ says Murphy.
Historically, the Netherlands submit the saddest songs. Out of four wins three have been in a minor key, while the down-tempo crown goes to Ireland for Johnny Logan’s 1980 winner Hold Me Now, which meandered by at a lethargic 75 bpm.
Yet most winners hover around the 124 bpm mark, save UK 1981 victors Bucks Fizz who took home the prize with the barnstorming 173 bpm Making Your Mind Up.
Nevertheless, rebellion has reaped rewards a la Findland’s Lordi who took home the prize with the metal epic Hard Rock Hallelujah, which came in at a, by-Eurovision-standards, monstrous four minutes and six seconds.
Formula or not, it seems you can’t always second guess what might tickle the judges fancy and prompt exclamations of, “12 points!”
This latent unpredictability is a point that Murphy concedes, in spite of the data: ‘It’s almost impossible to predict what will work for the audience at home, but in a competition like Eurovision when you’re ultimately appealing to a selection of judges, it’s a little easier to make an educated guess as to what could work. I think this year’s entries are banking on the judges appreciating a more dark and moody vibe.’
The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday 18 May.