Eurovision 2021 has just been in Rotterdam and Italy have won for the first time in over 30 years. The song that won was sang in Italian and I began to wonder what the language of winning songs and countries were throughout eurovision history. As of 1999 countries can send songs in any language – so I thought it would be a great idea to look at data from 1956 to 1998 and from 1999 to 2021. I therefore created a project which used R, Python and Docker to answer the following questions:
- How many participants have taken part since Eurovision began?
- What languages were the winning songs from 1956 to 1998?
- What languages were the winning songs from 1999 to 2021?
- What was the frequency of countries winning from 1956 to 1998?
- What was the frequency of countries winning from 1999 to 2021?
The number of participants has been rising since the start of the contest. There was a big jump in the number of participanting countries since the start of the contest holding semi finals in 2004. The maximum number of participating countries is capped at 46 according to the EBU rules and only members can participate with the exception of Australia who is an associate member. With the inclusion of the semi-finals the number of participanting countries remain high as the contest is as popular as ever. This also means winning has become hard as countries not part of the ‘Big 5’ have to first qualify for the final.
The next figure shows the frequency of times a song in a particular language has won in the contest. I have presented data from 1956 to 1998 as this was when it was required to sing in a native language. There was a brief time in the 1970s where countries could sing in another language but this was reversed. The figure below shows that the songs were in a diverse range of languages with English and French being the most popular.
The next Figure shows the frequency of countries which have won the Eurovision. Most notable results from the data is the frequency of Ireland, United Kingdom, France and Luxembourg which sing in English and French that explain the language data in the above figure.
The next figure shows the number of times a particular language has featured in the Eurovision song contest since the language rule change from 1999. With the number of participants remaining high I guess singing in a widely spoken language has become important. However, I’d argue that sending a song in a native language is still important as the most recent winners Italy only send in Italian and the Portugese entry in 2017 remains popular winning song despite portugese only spoken in portugal.
The below figure shows the winning countries from 1999 – 2021 and shows a greater range of countries winning the contest. This is possibly down to two reasons. The first being that the rise in participating countries means a greater diversity of song choice and winners. The second being that the reduction in block voting favouring certain countries than others. Whilst this still does happen (hello Greece and Cyprus!) each country has an equal chance of winning if their song in favourable to the public once they have gotten through to the final of couse! It is for this reason which might explain the rise in English being dominant in the contest as countries want to connect and win votes which is easier to do in English than a native tounge which is only understood to your own community. Despite this the recent winning songs in Italian and Portugeese make an arguement as a song being unique in a sea of English songs which can get people voting!
What can be taken away from this?
If you want to stand out then sing in your own language!