The theme: Nul points – an introduction

The Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna has just ended. As most people will probably know, Sweden won with the song “Heroes” performed by Måns Zelmerlöw, but two songs failed to receive any points at all in the final: the German “Black Smoke”, performed by Ann Sophie and the Austrian “I’m Yours” by The Makemakes. This made me want to take up the interesting phenomenon of not getting any points at all, and so I am starting ESC Song Reviews from the bottom so to speak. Before I go on examining some of these very unsuccessful songs in Eurovision, let me start with an introduction to the phenomenon.

Apparently the British media has often referred to zero points in Eurovision as ‘Nul points’, and it has become a kind of catchphrase internationally too. I don’t know what lies behind it. It is pronounced as if it were French – probably as a result of the points being repeated in French during the voting, which by the way has lead to another famous catchphrase: ‘Douze points’ (12 points) – but the French word for 0 is ‘ zéro’. So why ‘nul’?

‘Nul’ is actually the Danish word for zero, being derived from Latin ‘nullus’: no, nothing (it is ‘null’ en German and Norwegian and ‘noll’ in Swedish). And the correct Danish spelling of ‘zero points’ is ‘nul point’, pronounced ‘noll poeng’. So the term is almost correct written Danish except there is no ‘s’ after ‘point’ in plural. Some Danes mistakenly write ‘points’ though: 1 point, 2 points, 3 points etc. But are the British media really inspired by Danish? It seems very unlikely.

38 songs in total have received the dreaded Nul points during the 60 years of Eurovision. The biggest concentration is between 1962 and 1965 with four songs in each year, probably because of the then voting system where the juries only awarded points to 3 or 5 songs. Under the current scoring system introduced in 1975, a zero means that a song has failed to make it into the top ten in any country, and it has become more rare. The bigger the humiliation when it does happen.

38 songs is also a very big mouthful, and to go in depth with all of them would take months. Therefore I will select some nul points-songs that I find interesting and worth talking about. I will discuss their musical and lyrical qualities (or – in some cases – lack of qualities), and I will try to understand why so few jurors or viewers voted for them. Can it be explained musically or lyrically?

After having gone through some songs that I have selected myself, I may create a poll to decide which song(s) to go on with.

5 thoughts on “The theme: Nul points – an introduction”

  1. Please, Anders, I’d like your views as a musician on two null pointers in particular which are among my favourites ever: “A Quién Maneja Mi Barca” -Spain 1983 and “I’m Yours”-Austria 2015.

    Btw, don’t the British also use the word “nil” when they are talking about the score in football and tennis?

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    1. Noted down: Spain 1983 and Austria 2015 🙂

      “Btw, don’t the British also use the word “nil” when they are talking about the score in football and tennis?”

      I know next to nothing about football, so you’ll have to ask the British about that.

      Like

  2. I’d like to read your opinion on SWE63, GER64, ITA66 and POR97. 🙂
    I had a 20 kilometer hike in the Maltese sun today. Gosh! I need to go to bed.

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    1. I have SWE63 and ITA66 in mind myself – whether or not I will manage to reach the other two, I don’t know. GER64 would indeed be quite a challenge (in a good sense), ’cause at the moment I haven’t really got an opinion about it.

      I will not just be going through the good ones. Just to warn you: I might start with “Celebrate” (SWI04) …

      My plan at the moment is to select four or five songs myself and then maybe let a poll decide a sixth one.

      Liked by 1 person

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