Fortunately our laptops survived the process this year. Credits: Jade Elliott

How We Choose Genres

Picking the genres of the Eurovision songs is stressful. Yes, I said ‘picking’ genres because while some may have you believe that music genres are a finely defined science (most people can tell the difference between heavy metal and classical music, right?) that’s a blatant lie. (Did you know several people have shown that heavy metal is actually  influenced by classical music?) And it gets even more complicated when trying to decide what constitutes as ‘pop’ in a competition for songs which have generally already won contests of popularity back home. (That’s about as ‘pop’ as you can get right?)

No, Slovenia, ‘flutes’ is not a genre.
Credits: Matej Mljač, Tinkara Kovač

This year was no exception to the stress. “Please, oh please, can someone just tell me what genre the UK entry is already?!” was said, screamed or shouted more than once. And ‘the UK’ can easily be replaced by ‘Germany’, ‘Slovenia’, ‘Lithuania’… (Seriously, if you have a genre for any of these, put it in the comments and we’ll update our data).

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum – what happens when two songs technically seem to fit into the same genre, but don’t seem to have that much in common? (Norway as ‘ballad’ doesn’t sound all that similar to the Spanish entry, but as ‘acoustic’ is far from the Latvian song). Last year we went as general as possible to avoid this kind of problem but ‘guitars’ just wasn’t going to cut it this year – Israel, Albania and Malta all have a fairly obvious guitar presence but that’s about all they have in common genre-wise. So how do we decide?

Norway – Acoustic? Ballad? Acoustic Ballad?
Credits: Tom Øverlie/NRK

Basically we listen, listen, listen again and eventually try to come up with our best guess. This year all songs were judged for their ability to fit into 8 genres (Pop, Dance, Rock/Guitars, Ballad, Acoustic, Folk, Dubstep, Novelty) and given a score for each. This worked really well for songs that are clearly one genre (or are heavily influenced by a couple of genres) without penalising those that are a little bit of everything. This means if you pick ‘dance’ as a genre you’ll still be left with all the options that are dance-y, but organised so that the ‘most dance’ songs stay nearer to the top (depending on what other criteria you have selected). It might not be the most scientific way but it’s about as fair as we can make it. Why not have a go for yourself and see what you come out with?

In the meantime if you have any ideas for ways we can make the job easier next year, particularly ones that will keep our laptops free from being victims of a stress-induced across-the-room hurling competition – drop us a comment! If we really like your idea we’ll probably even let you join in the stress fun next year…

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