Behind the Numbers: Festivali i Këngës 2019 Voting Statistics

Over the course of three nights, the Tirana audience sat entranced as they relived the magic of Jonida Maliqi’s interpretation of “Ktheju tokës”, well-known Albanian entries from the past, and many displays of musical talent while slowly healing from the earthquakes in late November where over 50 people suffered fatal injuries and most of the population suffered other financial and/or monetary losses, some dire. After the five jurors – three international, two domestic – voted on Sunday, the results were clear, if close – Arilena Ara had the most well-liked song, “Shaj” (Curse), and will now represent Albania in Rotterdam 2020.

Earlier on Monday, the split voting was released by RTSH, the Albanian broadcaster. The results can be viewed here. For a further breakdown of the data, please read on!

Graphical representations and data interpretation

The bar graph below shows the spread of votes between jurors. The maximum value was 18; second place received 13 points, and third to 12th place received 10 down to 1 point, respectively. All jurors were required to rank each song; therefore, all songs received points from all jurors. The point distribution seems relatively uneven:

A bar graph showing point distributions by jury.
A bar-graph representation of how jury points were distributed. Each juror is represented by a different color, and each song is labeled under its corresponding bars.

The most agreement between jurors were for the songs “Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua” (Albërie Hadërgjonaj) and “Eja merre” (Era Rusi). The points are spread identically; the standard deviation is 1.140175 for both songs. This means that jurors mostly voted within 1.5 points of each other. The difference between the two songs is that “Eja merre” was generally more liked and thus received 43 total points to “Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua”‘s 27. The next most consistent voting was for “Botë për dy” with a standard deviation of 1.81659. While the jurors generally stayed within about two points of the average score, the low deviation was likely because none of them really liked the song. The song received 17 points and landed in last place as a result.

On the other hand, those with high standard deviations did well, but did not win the national final. “Malaseen” received high marks from the Albanian jurors – even 18 points from ethnomusicologist Mikaela Minga – but was generally panned by the international jury. The average points for the song were 9 per juror, and the standard deviation was 6.519202. Numbers within one standard deviation of the mean – that is, point values between approximately 2.48 and 15.5 points – are statistically common and expected values. These would cover approximately 68% of expected values if the sample represents the normal population. The lone exception is that of Minga’s vote. The other Albanian juror, poet Rita Petro, also rated “Malaseen” highly, with 13 points. While the author prefers different styles of music, the content of “Malaseen” was a unique blend of instruments usually found in different genres.

While “Malaseen” had a large standard deviation, “Me Tana” had the greatest variance in voting. The song’s standard deviation of 7.42967 was the highest of the night. This reflected all three international jurors giving the song the maximum 18 points, but the Albanian jurors giving single-digit points. The song fell 3 points short of tying “Shaj” in the jury voting.

“Shaj” won with the support of all five jurors. No juror gave the song fewer than 10 points.

The full voting can be shown here with standard deviation given at the end. The jurors were as follows:

  • Juror 1: Christer Björkman, Melodifestivalen (Sweden) supervisor; American Song Contest producer
  • Juror 2: Dimitris Kontopoulos, Greek producer
  • Juror 3: Felix Bergsson, Icelandic Head of Delegation
  • Juror 4: Mikaela Minga, Albanian ethnomusicologist
  • Juror 5: Rita Petro, Albanian poet
DrawArtistSongJuror 1Juror 2Juror 3Juror 4Juror 5TotalPlaceSt. Dev.
1Valon Shehu“Kutia e Pandorës”127762382.880972
2Sara Bajraktari“Ajër”131010895031.870829
3Robert Berisha“Ajo nuk është unë”9323118103.130495
4Tiri Gjoci“Me gotën bosh”248632382.408319
5Bojken Lako“Malaseen”38318134546.519202
6Arilena Ara“Shaj”10131313186712.880972
7Gena“Shqiponja e lirë”4711518102.607681
8Kamela Islamaj“Më ngjyros”6649103562.44949
9Albërie Hadërgjonaj“Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua”756542771.140175
10Elvana Gjata“Me tana”181818286427.42967
11Olta Boka“Botë për dy”5154217121.81659
12Era Rusi“Eja merre”8991074351.140175

What are the ramifications of this jury vote?

As human beings with varied tastes in music, jurors – regardless of their training in their field – are bound to have different tastes in subjective art. During school solo and ensemble festivals – which focus largely on classical repertoire – participants are judged on a holistic rubric focusing mostly on objective technical details, with less emphasis on subjective criteria like expression and the like. During Eurovision, both jury and televoters are instructed to vote for those they like best. Due to this criteria (or lack thereof), there is bound to be variance between groups of jurors. There may be no explanation for exceptional voting other than differences in music taste. Furthermore, the musical journeys of an ethnomusicologist – a student of cultural musics – may intrinsically give someone an innate desire for the experimental and blended ethnic songs instead of what is necessarily popular and cosmopolitan.

Having said that, Albania has had real issues with political corruption. Transparency International, in its 2018 edition of the Corruption Perception Index, ranked 98 of 180 reviewed countries in the index as less corrupt. Lax construction standards after the fall of communism in the 90’s may have contributed to the destructive force of the November earthquake. The Independent has reported on a severe narcotics problem in Albania as well – how positions of power are often interconnected with the illicit drug industry.

There may be issues within the country that may have transpired in the FiK process; however, there are factors that may validate sincerely held contrasting opinions. Each of the 12 songs that performed during the final has their own merits, and the people of Albania are far more than the country’s problems. Jonida Maliqi gave her voice to a song that urged those who left Albania to return to help heal the land. The people of Albania have been united by recent tragedy; even Eleni Foureira, of partial Albanian heritage, came back in support of her country of heritage in a blend of attrited Albanian and English. Given the specific backgrounds of these experts, the songs may have spoken differently to them than to the general public; however, the fact remains that “Shaj” was most liked among all the judges and was treated to extended applause during the show, and it earned its place among the over 2,000 songs that have graced Eurovision since 1956. As Duncan Laurence said in his winning speech, “This is to music first always.” We as humankind are better off when we stand together and strive to believe in the best of each other, and music has brought us together through the Eurovision Song Contest.

To all a Merry FiKmas and happy holiday season, and an exhilarating New Year (and decade) to come!

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