Cyprus and Malta: balance those verses

Okay. Cyprus is not going to win this competition.

Here's why. You don't win the Eurovision with a song that varies significantly in tempo and has very different sections. It doesn't matter if it's otherwise a good song - look at Israel crashing and burning last year. You simply can't win with a song with very different meter sections.

I could make tedious lists of winners to try to prove that point but for the sake of brevity just look at the most popular song contest entries of all time: the one exception to the "steady tempo" rule is "Volare", which (besides obviously not winning) is from an era before the format settled and before the 3-minute rule, allowing Domenico to build it up properly.

The question is obviously why this trend continues rather than establishing its existence. Part of it is obviously the drop in energy but there's another aspect to it, at least in this entry: the overburdened verses. The verses are simply too long and the chorus too weak to work, and the expected punch-dip-punch of a normal pop song never happens. And that means it never gels together as a proper Eurovision song.

I'll explain what I mean. When it comes to Eurovision, The Manual pretty much had it nailed: start by establishing your hook, then sneak in any old rubbish as a verse, before jabbing your hook in again and again. Cynical? Look at all those "Congratulations" entries - the vast majority use the "hook, verse, chorus with hook" approach as their starting point. Some start with a chorus but the best ones are slightly more subtle, suggesting the hook with an instrument, or part of it or a variation of it, or even just the rhytm of the vocals or the harmonic progression and beat. I think Malta does it very well this year:

"Vodka" is my pick of the bunch to win it so far and it conforms perfectly with the rules - it establishes a hook/progression that runs under the chorus and comes back again at perfectly timed intervals. I've not seen anyone tip this but I'd be surprised if it didn't finish quite high in the rankings.

One interesting thing about verse balances is that while you can have too heavy verses like "Femme Fatal" does, where the chorus essentially is just a variant of the verse, you can also go too heavy on the chorus. In the Swedish pre-selection semifinals this weekend the media tipped huge stars Carola and Andreas Johnson to win it comfortably, yet they only finished third... With a song that's basically an extended chorus with some bare slivers of verse and a couple of bridges joining it together.

It seems if you're going to compete in the Eurovision you've got to understand the format.

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