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What is a ballad?  That’s the question I remember asking my dad as a kid while I took my first listen to Madonna’s “Something to Remember” album back in the 1990s.  His reply was that a ballad is a song that tells a story.  Although true, many people simply think of a ballad as being a slower song.

If you ask any of the hardcore fans, many of them will complain that there are too many slow songs and ballads in this year’s Eurovision.  So this got me thinking…how many ballads are there this year in comparison to previous years?  This is my attempt to answer that question.

For this, we are looking at 2010 to 2015.  But more importantly, how do we determine what a ballad is?  Determining what counts as a ballad is tricky.  This is why before I present any findings, I want to be upfront that this is simply my opinion on what counts as a ballad.

I went with a couple loose criteria.  First, is the song danceable in the Cascada “Glorious” or Kati Wolf “What About My Dreams?” sort of way?  If not, possibly a ballad.  Second, is the song slow?  If yes, possibly a ballad.  I found myself tricked with numerous songs during the 2010 to 2014 editions.  Songs like Belgium 2010 (Me and My Guitar).  It starts off slow and then progresses into a happy clap-along song.  I felt this wasn’t a ballad because of this.  But turn right around to Switzerland 2011 (In Love For Awhile).  I considered it a ballad.  And other songs such as Moldova 2014 (Wild Soul), well those were even trickier.  It’s all quite subjective honestly.  In the end, I sort of had to look at each song and ask myself, “If Madonna had sung this song, would she have included it on her ‘Something to Remember’ album?”  Subjective indeed…

So with that, I present my list of songs that I considered to be ballads from the 2010 to 2015.  Please do comment and argue for including another song or taking a song on the list off!


2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Russia France Azerbaijan Estonia Sweden Armenia
Malta Finland Spain Croatia Azerbaijan Greece
Portugal San Marino Albania Russia Belgium Macedonia
Belarus Lithuania Belgium Netherlands Montenegro Hungary
Israel Azerbaijan Finland Moldova Norway Ireland
Sweden Austria Serbia Cyprus Austria Norway
Ireland Italy Portugal Iceland Spain Czech Republic
Cyprus Switzerland Slovenia Israel Azerbaijan
Georgia Slovakia Croatia Georgia Switzerland
Estonia Estonia UK Cyprus
Norway Bosnia and Herzegovina Italy Poland
Ukraine Germany France
Latvia Italy

Have I committed blasphemy yet?  Still with me?

If you still are, this graph below is percentage of songs that were “Ballads” per Eurovision Song Contest from 2010 to 2015.  Note I say “Ballads” with quotations.  Because this is my opinion.  Again, I want to hear if you disagree with a song that I added or failed to add.  Enough people complain and I’ll make the change!

ballads stats

So the highest year of “Ballads” was actually in 2010.  But I’ll be honest that this year was the trickiest.  A lot of the songs from 2010 were hard to determine.  There are songs like Siren (Estonia), Sweet People (Ukraine), What For? (Latvia), and Lako Je Sve (Croatia).  I’m a bit more confident in my choices from 2011 and onward.

So what is this graph telling me?  First, that the fans may be correct.  There are more “Ballads” in this year’s edition of Eurovision.  According to the graph above, 2015 has the largest proportion of “Ballads” since 2010!   However, the other thing to note is that the 2014 edition had the smallest proportion of ballads.  So we are seeing a huge jump from about 1 in 5 being “Ballads” to 1 in 3!  This shift is not sitting well with the fans.  After all the opportunities to dance their hearts away to songs like “Rise Up” and “Slavica,” they instead have to smile their ways through “One Last Breath” and “In the Name of Love.”

The most interesting matter of is all is to see how countries will react to the complaints this year.  Will 2016 have more “Bangers” than “Ballads”?  More “Run Away” than “O Mie”?  More “Amazing” than “Et Uus Saaks Alguse”?  Only time will tell!


This editorial does not reflect the views of ESC United as a whole and the article is purely personal opinion of the author.

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  1. […] Slow songs, schmow songs! I personally think more people are pissed they cannot dance along. And as I argued in my last article about “Ballads, we are just seeing a bigger drop in the number of upbeat songs because 2014 had so […]

  2. Zack

    March 27, 2015 at 20:35

    Hey Lawrence:

    Matt posted this on my behalf.

    Yeah those were tricky ones for me! I just listened to Switzerland again and I’m definitely on the fence. Hungary, I’m still sold that it’s a ballad, but take those two out and you’re at 28% of songs being “Ballads.” So in par with 2012 and 2013, but lower than what we saw in 2014.

    I’m starting to think with how many upbeat songs we had in 2014, maybe it would have been better to have looked at the number of upbeat songs! But then what’s an upbeat song. Do we only count dancey songs like Greece and Estonia, or the upbeat feel-good songs like Switzerland?

  3. Lawrence Gibb

    March 27, 2015 at 19:42

    I’m 100℅ with you on the difficulty of defining a ballad and also on the whiners about there being too many in this year’s show. I disagree. I think there is wonderful variety of styles. I would suggest however that this year’s Hungarian and Swiss songs are more anthemic than ballad/slow. Still bringing the science into Eurovision looks fun. I’ll just add that I only have one song in this completion which I find awul and whose victory I would begrudge.

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