FUEGO, FASHION FREAKSHOWS AND FAILS: The good, the bad and the “other” of Eurovision 2018’s first semi final
Not only has Eurovision 2018 arrived – it’s begun with a bang, as 10 semi-finalists became bonafide finalists and 9 poor non-qualifiers (including one angry Swiss woman in a hat, so I heard) were sent packing last night in Lisbon. There’s a lot to talk about and a lot of opinions to be aired, and I’m about to talk and air mine for anyone who’s interested!
BTW, if you were wondering why my qualifier predictions didn’t pop up here on EBJ pre-semi, it’s because I posted them on my Instagram and Twitter. If you want to see how accurate I was (before I mention it later in this post) and don’t want to miss my predictions for the second semi – or the final – make sure you follow me socially @EurovisionByJaz. All the links are in the sidebar.
Now, let’s have a chat about the yays, the nays and everything else that caught my attention during yesterday’s first semi final.
I’ll start with perhaps Portugal’s biggest triumph as a first-time hosting nation: the visual delivery of the 2018 theme/concept/slogan. I was already shipping a Eurovision with a nautical overtone (though those terrible puns from Daniela nearly put me off entirely) and I wasn’t disappointed with the beautiful intro/interval graphics and postcard transitions.
Also tapping into the theme was the stage – obviously. As a non-rehearsal watcher, last night was the unveiling of it in action for me, and I have to say the design and lighting setup was impressive. It looked LIT AF, in fact (pardon the pun/irritating Gen Z slang). I did end up missing the LEDs a fair bit, but I’ll get to that.
Onto the cream-of-the-crop performances now, and the first to get me on my feet was my second favourite, the Czech Republic – and to think there was a chance Mikolas might have had to withdraw only a week ago! It’s a Paula and Ovi miracle (definitely not a Samra miracle) that he got off the hospital gurney and back into his braces with time to spare. You could tell he was treading carefully, but with the backing dancers providing the gymnastics and Mikolas himself compensating with backpack-loads of attitude, no enjoyment was lost for me. I would have voted the SHIZ out of this if I could have (and I’m flexing my texting fingers for the final, Mr. Josef…don’t you worry).
Israel, as I expected, did not come across as the winner we thought it would be up until recently (it’s just too motherbucking bonkers). But Netta is absolutely adorable, and I’m filing her performance under my highlights because the replication of Toy’s vocals live – without the infamous looper – was surprisingly slick and almost studio-perfect. Best hairstyle of the night by far, too: Princess Leia plus My Little Pony is a good combo.
The most impressive three minutes on that impressive stage, in my opinion (like I’d be typing out anyone else’s opinions), belonged to Estonia. Wow, wow and more wow. I didn’t think Elina needed that crazy expensive dress clashing with her undeniable vocal talent, but it turns out I would have missed it if it wasn’t there. She is stunning, the vocals were exquisite, and I think the dress projections were worth Estonia’s spending spree. It helped score them their first qualification since 2015, after all. As for a win now they’re in the final…I’m not convinced, but this certainly stands out (and Elina literally stands about six feet over everyone else).
The touching, pan-European Amar Pelos Dois do-over defrosted even my icy, unfeeling heart – but any tears that sprung up in my eyes could have come at the sight of a) Svala, after I’d just seen Our Choice be the biggest glow-down in ESC history, or b) Norma John, which triggered the memory of Finland’s shock DNQ last year. Or maybe even Kristian Kostov, because he’s so damn dope and so much cooler than I will ever be. I don’t begrudge (much).
Now, on the results…after all my see-sawing when trying to predict the SF1 qualifiers, I ended up not being shocked at all, after revising my guesses mentally once all 19 performances were through. I got 8/10 Qs correct (I’d anticipated Azerbaijan and Greece rather than Albania and Ireland) which was good news for me (I didn’t humiliate myself! YAY!!!). And I also felt that the results made sense. Albania and Ireland definitely deserved to make the final – Eugent on those powerful, flawless vocals alone. As for Azerbaijan, who have now lost their 100% qualification record – well, I saw it coming after a okay performance of an okay song from Aisel. Maybe that will teach the land of (yeah yeah yeah) fire to rely on sound-alike Swedish productions.
Here’s something I knew months ago: four hosts is too many. Something else I suspected that was confirmed last night: a script not written by Edward af Sillén is massively inferior to a script Sweden’s 2018 commentator did pen. Contrived, clichéd, and packed with jokes that nobody of sound mind would find funny, this script (and the people reading it…sorry, ladies) will not go down in history as one of the contest’s best. Fortunately, we’re really here for the music and results announcements that nearly push us over the edge, and Portugal has delivered on both of those fronts so far.
Belgium’s three-year run of success came to a screeching halt after Sennek turned out a reasonable but not spectacular performance of A Matter of Time. I never connected with this song on the same level as Rhythm Inside, What’s The Pressure and City Lights – I didn’t feel that it had as much to offer. It wasn’t the car crash I semi-expected live, but girl was NERVOUS and it showed (and not in a vulnerable, ‘We MUST vote for her!’ way á la Blanche). Also…WTF was she wearing? I can only assume it’s an oversized lampshade from Ikea’s upcoming collection that she borrowed from work. Yikes.
The aforementioned Kristian Kostov left Bulgaria with big shoes to fill, and I don’t think Equinox was up to the task. Sure, they qualified, but I found their performance of Bones overly cold and a little uninteresting – visually boring too, which is unusual for a Sacha Jean-Baptiste creation. Bulgaria aren’t winning Eurovision 2018, and I’ll be very surprised if Equinox come close to Kristian’s second place.
When it comes to ‘What were they thinking?’ moments, Macedonia gave us the whole enchilada. Aimless wandering and a ridiculous costume that was then ripped off to reveal an even more ridiculous (and very distracting) one equaled staging that made a messy-sounding song look messy as well. If Marija had put her tuxedo jacket on the right way round and kept it on, some dignity would have been retained, but…oh dear.
Just because my jaw wasn’t on the floor during the results doesn’t mean I wasn’t heartbroken by a few DNQs. Armenia – my bronze favourite of the year – hit the hardest, even though I understand why the televote wouldn’t have been strong enough for Sevak. I do think we’ll see that the jury vote for Armenia was stronger, but even so there wasn’t enough going on during his performance to make it exceptional (the vocals were exceptional, though).
I was also disappointed by Switzerland not making it. Zibbz produced such a cracking performance of Stones that I expect to see them in 11th – 12th or 13th at the lowest – when all the stats come out post-final. Apparently Corinne was raging in the green room after her country’s name didn’t leave any of the hostesses’ lips, and I can’t say I blame her. You let it out, Coco.
As impressed as I was by the overall look of the Altice Arena stage and the flexibility of the lights, I felt that the lack of LEDs was clear in the stage not looking as different for each performance as it usually would. Some countries – Austria and Cyprus, for example – transformed the stage, but for the most part it felt like 19 acts competing on the same platform with the same background, rather than 19 unique ‘looks’ being created. I appreciate what RTP was trying to do by scrapping built-in screens, but it backfired a bit. I’d like to see them back in 2019.
It’s not that often we see artists failing to mask their nerves on stage, but there were a couple of obvious shaky hands last night – and neither of the people those hands belonged to managed to make it to the final. I’m talking about Alekseev and Sennek, who I couldn’t help feeling sorry for. I’m surprised Alekseev kept his hold on that rose for as long as he had to. Maybe he listened to Hey Ya by OutKast as part of his pre-performance routine and decided to ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’. You never know.
There were a handful of performances that I felt were missing something – something that, if heard or seen, might have elevated them to exceptional. For Belarus, I’d say it was the original version of Forever. The less dramatic piano-heavy revamp took away a big chunk of impact, and made the performance feel like it was lumbering along. For Croatia, I wanted darker, moodier lighting and a spotlight on Franka to up the glamour and sex appeal (not that she herself needs much help in those areas *fans self*). And for Austria, the only thing I’d pick on is the unseen backing singers. I think Cesár needed them to strut out onto the platform behind him for the final chorus (like he did when singing backup for Poli Genova in 2016) to make the stage feel less empty and remind us that the gospel backing wasn’t coming from some mysterious disembodied choir.
As we all know, Cyprus was the one to overtake Israel in the odds a few days ago, and while Eleni’s performance was as fiery as Fuego needed it to be (and let’s get this out of the way – she is as HOT AS HELL, and I say that as a straight woman) I’m having trouble seeing it as a winner. I don’t think we’re quite going to get to Cyprus next May, though I am willing to stand corrected if it means a second sun-and-sea contest in a row (one I might actually be attending).
That’s all I’ve got to say on Lisbon’s first semi final at this point – I’m actually amazed I word-vomited this much after a basically sleepless night (the 3am wake-ups are worth it, but they’re hard work). Let me know in the comments what you thought of the show, how your predictions panned out and how many of your favourites you’ll get to see compete on Saturday night.
One down, two to go! Eurovision 2018 is still in its early stages y’all, and I am PSYCHED! Half of the second semi’s points will be handed out tonight in the jury show: excitement. It’s an unpredictable year: excitement. Anything could still happen…MASS EXCITEMENT. Seriously, I’m in need of some tranquilisers here (and I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, because AS IF I’ll be able to concentrate on anything not related to Eurovision right now).
Anyway…I’ll see you after semi 2 for more post-show verdicts!
Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.
Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.
The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:
I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.
That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.
Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.
Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.
FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.
FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.
Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.
Semi final 1
Split results stats
- Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
- The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.
Combined results stats
- Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
- Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
- For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
- Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
- The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
- The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.
Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.
I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.
I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).
Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.
Semi final 2
Split results stats
- The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
- It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.
Combined results stats
- After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
- Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
- This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
- Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
- Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
- The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
- The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?
Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.
I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.
San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!
I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.
Split results stats
- Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
- It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
- The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.
Combined results stats
- We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
- Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
- Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
- The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
- 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
- In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
- Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
- Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.
On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.
Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).
5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.
Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.
It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.
On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.
I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.
I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.
Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now
Kyiv was a more successful contest for:
- Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017
…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.
- Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
- Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
- Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
- Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017
*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.
Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).
On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?
Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.
Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!
Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!
Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.
First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.
Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird
The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.
This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.
- Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
- Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
- Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
- Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
- Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.
Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*
*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.
I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!
Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.
How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.
Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia
Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).
Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights:
- Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
- Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
- Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
- Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
- Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.
This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.
Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.
I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.
Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?
And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions
The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.
Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.
I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.
The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…
Who’s going to win?
I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).
Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).
In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.
It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.
Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.
To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.
When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.
But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?
Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦
Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:
- Ukraine (sorry!)
Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.
Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.
May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!
LOOKING BACK AT EUROVISION 2016 | 41 personal pinch-me moments from my trip to Stockholm (feat. photographic evidence!)
Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that yes, I did live to see Christmas Day despite what my lack of blogging over the past few weeks may have suggested (it’s a crazy time of year, and I’m not the best multi-tasker. My bad). I’m back now for the foreseeable future, which is my belated festive gift to you all – one that you may or may not want the receipt for so you can exchange it for (as Softengine would say) something better.
Now, to segue into today’s topic: as we creep closer to the end of 2016, and the most recent Eurovision Song Contest becomes not all that recent, it seems more and more timely that we look back on what was arguably the best edition ever. I’m particularly keen to reminisce since the Stockholm show was my first live one. I’ve also realised that even though I attended as a professional member of the press, and as an obsessive, shrine-possessing, single-minded and slightly rabid fan (it was a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce sort of situation), I never actually shared that much of my experience here on EBJ. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (links are in the sidebar *she says, dropping a hint so hard it breaks the floorboards*) you’d have seen a selection of photos in May; and if you and I are Facebook friends, you would have seen way too many photos pop up in your feed between then and now. But that’s about it.
So, in the interest of leveling up as a Fix-It Lady – and before this year’s contest becomes last year’s contest – I’m going to undo your deprivation-induced sad and give up all of my gossip. Everything Eurovision-related and exciting (they go hand-in-hand) that happened while I was in Sweden has been put down in words and pictures for the first time, for you. It might come off as a bit narcissistic, but it’s meant to be an insight into what can go down when the mythical ‘going to Eurovision’ becomes a reality – an expensive but worth-every-krona reality. I hope you enjoy it!
#1. Picking up the stunning piece of art that is my accreditation badge (it’s hanging on my wall at the moment and I charge people admission to see it, so yes, it’s art).
#2. Touring the Euroclub the day before the doors officially opened with a bunch of other lanyard-wearing press people (#powerofthebadge).
#3. Trying not to laugh as Sweden perpetuated a major stereotype of itself by outfitting the entire Euroclub – in particular, the upstairs delegation lounge – with IKEA furnishings.
#4. Fangirling for the first of many, many occasions when Euroclub hostesses Velvet (!) and Shirley Clamp (!!!) appeared to chat with us.
#5. Walking down Drottningatan marveling at the Eurovision bunting strung up between buildings the entire way.
#6. Standing on the Hovet balcony overlooking the Press Centre for the first time, knowing I’d be in it in a matter of minutes without having to sneak past security to get there.
#7. Witnessing Sergey Lazarev stack it during his first rehearsal, as it happened (which, for someone who usually avoids all rehearsal footage, was a momentous event). I now know the true meaning of a rehearsal.
#8. Attending my first-ever press conference, partly for the novelty and partly because it was Hungary’s and I just wanted to see Freddie in the flesh while pretending to be a serious journalist seeking information. Nailed it.
#9. Laying not only eyes but also fingers on Freddie in what turned out to be a Freddie sandwich with my awesome fellow Aussie Jason from Don’t Boil The Sauce *screams and swoons at the mere memory*.
#10. Nearly having a heart attack when Phillip Kirkirov popped up at Sergey’s press conference, due to the alarming height of his hair and the permanently surprised look of his eyebrows.
#11. Falling in love – just a little bit – with Sergey once my Kirkirov shock had subsided, since I expected him to be an egomaniac and he was anything but.
#12. Grabbing a selfie with the most legendary of puppets, Terry Vision (who is teeming with the germs of such names as Tooji, Kaliopi, and Hovi Star, who gave him a going over at the end of the ESC Insight table as I looked on from about a foot away. Life!).
#13. Admiring Lidia Isac’s hair as she was being interviewed on a purpose-built Press Centre podium.
#14. Discovering that, based on looks, I may be related to Jüri Pootsmann. The DNA results are pending.
#15. Wearing a Frans t-shirt to Frans’ meet-and-greet, which unfortunately/fortunately, he didn’t notice (would he have laughed? Would he have taken out a restraining order? We’ll never know).
#16. Spying Sandhja in street clothes waiting at Globen station with one of her people. Did not stalk, which took a whole lot of willpower.
#17. Having a lot more to do with Ira Losco than I ever imagined I would, years after watching her do her glitter-blowing thing – then finish second – at Eurovision back in 2002.
#18. Specifically, interviewing her at Warner Music Sweden (no slumming it anywhere less), complementing her shoes, advising her not to do cartwheels on a full stomach, and riding back to Globen in a taxi with her (during which time I may have sold out Samra’s cringey rehearsal vocals, possibly in an attempt to give Ira an ego boost but also because the topic came up in conversation and I had to be honest). BEST AFTERNOON EVER.
#19. Finding out that, because Spotify = no need for physical CDs in Sweden, Warner Music has taken to using discs to furnish their headquarters. I kind of want to do the same thing in my house.
#20. Crossing the bridge between Hovet and Globen to check out some contest rehearsals in person – namely, Estonia’s, Azerbaijan’s and Montenegro’s. I had never seen the flurry of between-song setup before, so this was an eye-opening experience. My eyes were also opened to how teeny-tiny (or ‘intimate’ if you want to be more diplomatic) the Globe is IRL despite how large it looks on TV.
#21. Celebrity-spotting in the Press Centre about once every ten minutes. Poli Genova, Petra Mede, Lighthouse X, even Aminata (she’s so small!)…so many Eurostars walked past our desk, it was ridiculous. At one point, I had Minus One behind me, Freddie to my left, and one of the guys from Argo directly opposite. In other words, I was living the dream. Apart from the bit where Freddie didn’t propose to me.
#22. Finding myself being singled out by Joe & Jake during their meet and greet, which basically means I have a photo of them in which they’re looking directly down my lens. Cheers, guys – from ‘the lady in the red shirt’.
#23. Having to tell Nicky Byrne where to look when I was taking a selfie of us. It was a waste of my breath, but I don’t care because HELLO, EX-WESTLIFE MEMBER!
#24. Joining the rest of the journos attending Jamala’s press conference to vote for which of her rehearsal dresses she should wear for the real deal. In case you were wondering, I put my hand up for the blue one.
#25. Speaking directly to some random dude called Måns Zelmerlöw. It’s on video. No biggie. Skip to 8:25 below if you want to see it, but it’s pretty boring. Aside from the fact that it MADE MY LIFE.
#26. Basking in the ambience of the Euroclub red carpet on Opening Party night by a) taking way too many photos, and b) silently judging the artists’ fashion choices (Zoë yes yes yes, ManuElla no no no).
#27. Dancing awkwardly but enthusiastically to Barei’s Say Yay! as the woman herself surveyed the crowd from the club’s balcony.
#28. Watching performances from Frans, Dami, Zoë and Poli the same night, introduced by the one and only Christer Björkman (who is Satan to some but more like a god to me).
#29. Returning to the Euroclub the next day for the Australian Embassy party feat. Dami (though the promise of free food and wine was enough to lure me in)…only to end up standing next to Eneda Tarifa and admiring her amazing handbag. Of course.
#30. Sitting through my first live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in close proximity to the Green Room (close enough to recognise the rear of Stig Rästa and Elina Born’s heads, I might add) and pinching myself pretty much the whole time.
#31. Standing next to Ira Losco’s scorpion dancer at the post-semi qualifiers press conference.
#32. Feasting my eyes on Christer Björkman’s collection of accreditation passes from Melodifestivalens and Eurovisions past and not-so-past, at the ABBA/ESC Museum. The contest costumes corralled there were also impressive (I can now confirm that Yohanna’s dress is even uglier in real life than it was on screen).
#33. Having an obligatory photo taken with the massive Come Together countdown clock.
#34. Sitting through another live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in the Globe Arena, in a rather sleepwalky state because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?
#35. Experiencing the joy of a jury final mock vote – won by Belgium, if I remember correctly – as Måns and Petra ad-libbed their way through the voting sequence.
#36. Seeing Justin Timberlake perform live not once, but twice, at the jury final and the actual final. I understandably did not see that coming when I left Australia to go to Eurovision, but as a professional boy band enthusiast, it became the cherry on top of the best cake I’ve ever eaten.
#37. Lynda Woodruff. Need I say more?
#38. Standing in the mass of fans in front of the 2016 stage for the four incredible/back-breaking hours of the final, watching on and waving my flag in a desperate attempt to get my arm on a global television broadcast. I’m not sure if I did, but Dami did me proud and Jamala made all my dreams come true (and made me burst into tears in front of hundreds of strangers).
#39. Attending Jamala’s post-victory press conference knowing I could watch it back on the DVD later and think to myself ‘I was totally there!’.
#40. Spending the rest of the (freaking FREEZING) grand final night right by having a last hurrah at the Euroclub until the last possible second – as in 5am, when the staff had to herd us all out onto the street because the doors were closing for good.
#41. Witnessing (before we got kicked out of the club) the Gallagher lookalike from the Young Georgian Lolitaz get tackled to the ground by security, informing his oblivious band mate that the tackle had occurred, and bumping into Thomas G:son on the way out (the photographic evidence of which I still need to chase up). Oh, and then having a burger for breakfast. Hashtag end-of-contest goals!
And that’s it…I think. So much stuff happened in a short space of time while I was in Stockholm that details are constantly falling out of then climbing back into my brain. But you’ve just read the majority of them, which I hope you enjoyed whether you’ve traveled to twenty contests or are still waiting for your first (it’ll happen!). If you have paid the ESC a visit, I think you’ll agree that the experience is unbeatable. So much so that even if everything surrounding my Eurovision “vacation” (the least relaxing vacation ever) had been rubbish, those three weeks would have kept this year high on my list of life’s best so far.
The only problem is that I’m going to want to repeat it every year, and I’m not sure my bank balance can handle that. It’s definitely not keen on me skipping Kyiv in favour of Melodifestivalen…but too bad, savings. Too bad.
I’ll be back again before 2016 turns into 2017 to say hej då to the past twelve months, Eurovision-style (I’m not 100% sure how yet, but I’ll think of something). Until then, make the most of what’s left of December – and use any Christmas leftovers to boost your energy levels for the upcoming national final season!
Hej, fellow humans! I use that term loosely because today, I’m feeling rather crappy and not very human-like at all. But it’s time to push past that – Eurovision is in full swing, after all.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of me jumping for joy.
I have an embarrassing confession to make that you’ll already be aware of if you read my last, brief post in which I attempted to predict the outcome of the first semi. Even having the inside track and viewing all of this year’s rehearsals (SO MANY REHEARSALS *eyes glaze over a little*), I managed to spectacularly bomb and only guess six of Tuesday’s qualifiers correctly. Whether I got the order right at all remains to be seen. But believe me, I am ashamed of myself.
My goal, however, is to redeem myself tonight by getting…well, more than a measly six, on the money. It’s going to be another bloodbath of a qualifier, and gazing into the crystal ball is a struggle. But here are the ten I’ve come up with. Share your personal predictions below so we can compare notes!
Semi Final 2: From 1st to 10th According to Jaz (A.K.A. Here Are Some Predictions You Shouldn’t Put Money On Under Any Circumstances)
- FYR Macedonia
I’m off now to prepare myself for some serious Ukrainian and Australian flag-waving, and to determine how vigorously I can chair-dance to Bulgaria without bothering the people sitting around me. If you get the chance before tonight’s show kicks off, please let me know who you think is through to Saturday night and will therefore complete the final lineup.
Until next time (when I’ll try to nail down my winner prediction for you)…
Hej hej, everybody! You might remember me as someone who used to blog here on a regular basis. You might not know that I attempted to post an apologetic article yesterday explaining my absence from EBJ, only to accidentally delete it and not be able to have a second shot as I ran out of time. Basically, I blame Eurovision.
I’m on the ground in Stockholm as we speak, and staring down the barrel of attending my first live show tonight in the giant golf ball known as the Globe Arena. I’ve been busy since last weekend doing duties in the press centre with the folks at ESC Insight (in case you, like Serhat, didn’t know, they unwisely agreed to take me on this Eurovision) so if you want to see what we’ve been up to, we’d appreciate the heck out of it. Otherwise, you can follow my personal movements on Twitter and Instagram (trust me, my feeds have never been as interesting as they are now and probably never will be again).
When I’m back home in Australia – or as soon as I’m on Plane 1 of 2 heading back to the Southern Hemisphere – I’ll be filling you in on all the gossip and excitement of my maiden ESC voyage. I’ll also be posting the very belated last part of the EBJ Reviews, AND our collective Top 43 (including Romania). Until then, there’s just enough time for me to post my terribly-predicted list of qualifiers for tonight’s semi. Woohoo! Feel free to post yours in the comments, so we can compare notes later. I’ll even let you laugh at me re: all my mistakes – being at Eurovision and watching literally every rehearsal has apparently not made me a more accurate guesser. Damn it.
Without further ado…
SEMI FINAL 1: My Qualifiers, In Non-Random Order
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
What do you think? Is Russia the runaway semi winner we all saw coming, or is there an underdog waiting in the wings and ready to strike? How many people have I completely offended by leaving out *Insert Country Here*? If you’ve got something to say and it won’t make me burst into tears, type away in that box below.
Until next time (which hopefully won’t be in the too-distant future)…
Första, sista och allting in-between: Attempting to predict the running order of Stockholm’s semi finals
FINALLY – because when it’s taken this long, capital letters are mandatory – we have our 43 entries for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. SAY YAY!!!
For host broadcaster SVT, there’s only one logical thing to do next: announce the running order of the semi finals, which they’re planning on doing…sometime. We don’t have a set date as far as I know, but it’s safe to assume they’ll be unveiling the line-up any day now given that the Head of Delegation meeting has been and gone.
Also gone are the days of the exciting, random, pulling-countries-out-of-glass-bowls draws that we all used to tune in to if our eurovision.tv streams were fully functioning which mine NEVER WAS (yes, I’m still bitter about it). As much as that loss is worth mourning, it does mean we now get to play ‘What kind of weird-ass order will this year’s production team arrange the semis in?’. The aim of a producer-led program is to ensure a dynamic and entertaining viewing experience, so it can be fun to put yourself in a producer’s shoes and imagine which songs you’d put where if you had the responsibility. As I’m all about the fun (as long as it’s legal and concludes at a respectable hour) that’s what I’m going to do right here, right now.
Think of these hypothetical orders as both predictions and wish-lists – but don’t take them too seriously, as I am hopeless at foreseeing the future. It’s Wednesday today, and I’m having trouble figuring out what weekday tomorrow will be.
SEMI FINAL 1
For the first half, I predict…
- The Netherlands
- San Marino
- There are very few songs that scream ‘START WITH ME!’ in this first half – Croatia, Finland and Moldova are about it. But ultimately, I’ve gone for Finland’s Sing It Away. It doesn’t do much for me personally, but it would serve as a perfect party-starter for SF1, and set a festive mood for the rest of the evening.
- Who else to stick in the dreaded slot 2 besides San Marino’s/Turkey’s Serhat? I’d want I Didn’t Know over and done with early on in the show so it didn’t drive the audience away in droves long before the pointy end.
- UPDATE: As I Didn’t Know has now gone disco, it no longer works coming directly after Sing It Away (it doesn’t work in ANY way, shape or form, but I’ll save my venom for when I review it). As a result, I’ve swapped San Marino with The Netherlands.
- I’d go for variation in atmosphere and tempo for the rest of the half, starting with the edgy, non-formulaic LoveWave, continuing with Falling Stars to reenergise the (very large, arena-like) room, then opting for Pioneer which is far more substantial and gritty than Lidia’s song.
- Russia will likely be placed late in the half. I wouldn’t put it past them to pull a Sweden, doing something on stage that requires clean-up or deconstruction (meaning Sergey “needs” to perform just before the break) but in terms of that tempo/style variation, I haven’t placed them dead last. Croatia’s Lighthouse would make for a strong finish that would still leave fans wanting more.
And in the second half…
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Austria’s Loin D’ici would ease us back into the program with a bit of pizzazz (albeit pizzazz from a Eurodance club circa 1992), providing a nice contrast with the purposefully retro and much heavier Play in slot 11.
- Bosnia’s Balkan ballad – the only song of its kind competing in 2016 – would add variety pretty much anywhere in the line-up, but I’d put it between two more mainstream pop/ballad tracks, making each one distinguishable in its own way.
- The rock-tinged tracks from Montenegro and Cyprus probably shouldn’t take to the stage consecutively. Dividing them with Azerbaijan’s Miracle makes for a dynamic home stretch, and avoids any same-same vibes.
- Last but not least, I’d call on Greta Salóme. Hear Them Calling could just as easily start off the second half, but I think it’s better used as a striking, fast-paced (but not overly so) finisher.
SEMI FINAL 2
For the first half, I predict…
- If I was on the payroll at SVT and in charge of positioning SF2, I’d be a) super smug, and b) torn between making Ireland’s Sunlight or Lithuania’s I’ve Been Waiting For This Night the opening song. As a layman, I’ve opted for the latter, because it would set the tone of the evening so darn perfectly. Consider it the far superior version of Moldova kicking off last year’s first semi (as trash-tastic as that was).
- There are many mid-tempo songs in this first half, so some of them will have to run in a row. I think there are enough differences between my selected run of slot 2-6 songs to give us some (though not a truckload) of variety.
- Ireland could pep us up nicely towards the end of the half. I think Australia will get a later position, away from the similarly dramatic Serbia.
- Latvia’s Heartbeat – which will be the most contemporary song of the night no matter when Justs takes to the stage – could be used to break up the slower string of songs, but again, I predict a later draw.
- Purely for the ‘OMG, it’s Kaliopi’ factor, I’d finish with Macedonia.
And in the second half…
- After a short break (hopefully filled with Lynda Woodruff sketches) why not move from one returnee to another? Poli Genova’s If Love Was A Crime would kick off the second half with a bang not so big that it overshadowed song no. 2, but big enough to leave an impression.
- Speaking of song no. 2…well, Norway is offering two songs rolled into one, making Eurovision 2016 a variety show all on their own. ILWAC followed by Icebreaker would pit one powerful blonde bombshell against another, but there’s enough contrast between the inspirational feel of the former and the intensity of the latter to break them up…like an icebreaker.
- The Slovenia/Ukraine order is pretty strategic on my part. Transitioning from a vacuous, Taylor Swift B-side circa 2008 to a weighty, striking and very contemporary track could only work in Jamala’s favour.
- I’d put Albania next, in order to a) separate it from Georgia/Romania and their rock-inclined nature, and b) make it the shade before the light of Belgium.
- Denmark would bring up the rear if I was in charge, not because Soldiers of Love is worth waiting the entire night for, but because I can just see it being the final song of the evening. If not Lighthouse X, it’s likely to be Poli or Jamala in slot 19.
All of this is 110% out of the brain of Jaz (a very confusing place at times), of course. So what’s lurking in YOUR brain as far as Stockholm’s semi orders are concerned? Would your program of events (a.k.a. entries) look anything like mine, or would you head in a totally different direction? Let me know below!
I’ll be back in the very near future with my first Top 43 for 2016, just before I welcome the EBJ Jury back for another year of song reviews. They’re going to be bigger, better and bitchier than ever (the reviews, that is; not the jurors). Therefore, it’s time to get excited!*
*That’s not a request. If you don’t, Il Volo will break into your house and beat you about the head with their colour-coded microphones.
Until next time,
From ‘Heroes’ to zeroes: Reviewing the Eurovision 2015 semi and final scoreboards, all the way from first to worst
Ah, yes. What a gift the combo of Sweden’s winning song title and Austria/Germany’s double nul-points has been to Eurovision journalism! Just to warn you – this may not be the last time I make use of the heroes/zeroes thing. But, in my defence, it is particularly relevant to today’s post:, even though today’s post isn’t particularly relevant.
Allow me to explain: it’s been over a fortnight since the first semi final of Eurovision 2015; over a week since the final; and three days since May came to an end (WHAT THE?!?!). That means it’s beyond time I did what everyone else has already done: look back on this year’s results. I’m going to pretend the lateness is intentional because I want to stand out from the crowd, when really it’s due to me being a slowpoke and taking this long to mould everything I want to say into something readable. You guys know by now that there’s waiting involved (for other people) in everything I do. It’s part of my charm…I hope.
At long last, though, I have performed a results analysis on all three nights of Viennese competition (feel free to applaud before reading any further). You won’t find a dissection of every single split and combined figure from all forty countries below – if you want the specifics, you can seek them out yourself here) – but you will find:
- Some brief opinions on the final re: everything except the performances (since I already reviewed all 27 performances in my previous post);
- An overview of how the Australian televoters and jurors ranked the finalists, and a reminder of where our first (but not last?) final points went; and
- Plenty of stats from/observations of the split and combined scoreboards of the final and both semis.
So, in the words of Eurovision groove master Guy Sebastian: let’s (oh) get on it, (ooh) get on it!
The ESC 2015 final: A Twitter-friendly, Jaz-eye view on everything BUT the performances
‘Twitter-friendly’ = brief. I am capable of being short and sweet, you know.
Having said that, it would take at least two or three Tweets to make all of this info public.
- The opening You had me at ‘flying Conchita in sparkly jumpsuit’. The Building Bridges theme song was a bit too JESC for ESC in my opinion, but I could learn to love it. The intro in its entirety was too long-winded. Nearly half an hour before song no. 1? Give me a break. A shorter break.
- The hosts Alice, Mirjam and Arabella became slightly more appealing as the shows progressed – by final night, they were almost charismatic. But the main reason I was happy for them to have camera time was so I could stare at their outfits (Austrian design gets my tick of approval!). Conchita, as Green Room host, left the other three ladies in her glittery wake. #QUEEN.
- The postcards As adorable as something can be when that something isn’t a puppy. These pre-performance featurettes were somewhat similar to last year’s – all thematically linked, but all unique in what they depicted each act doing, this time around Austria. It’s obvious there’s a lot to do over there, and if showing us that was ORF’s way of increasing tourism, it’s worked on me. But I think I’ll leave the bungee jumping to Monika and Vaidas.
- The interval acts An interval act has to be really, really, really good for me to watch it without thinking to myself ‘Is this STILL going? Me want results!’. Unfortunately, Mr. Percussionist didn’t fit that brief. But Conchita’s mini-medley was fabulous – I could watch and listen to her all day long. Can we have Conchita at Eurovision every year in some capacity? She can be the new Lys Assia (even though we still have the old Lys Assia).
- The voting sequence The most exciting one we’ve sat through in years…but more on that later. I will say now that I’m legit going to start a petition to stop that ‘We don’t need to hear the results from any more countries to know that so-and-so is the winner! Congratulations! Oh, but I suppose we’d better hear the rest…’. HATE. IT. WITH. A. PASSION. It’s unnecessary, and disrespectful to the countries who are yet to announce their points and who aren’t in first place on the scoreboard. Yet it’s becoming a contest trend. Ugh.
- The end result I more or less covered this last time, but in terms of the winner and where we’re headed in 2016 as a result, I’m RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY. CAPS LOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO GET ACROSS TO YOU JUST HOW HAPPY I AM. Take Eurovision as seriously as Sweden does, and there’s no reason you can’t win twice within four years. I expect them to equal and overtake Ireland’s winning tally in the not-too-distant future.
‘Straya’s say: A little look-see at the points from the land Down Under
Speaking of Eurovision strutting back to Scandinavia next year…with Australia-in-the-ESC-for-keeps advocate Christer Björkman in a position of power where the 61st contest is concerned, it’s becoming more and more likely that we Aussies will be invited back to the party. I’ll make my thoughts on this matter public when the time’s right. For now, let’s just have a nosy at Australia’s debut grand final votes.
The Aussie points were presented by our beloved newsreader Lee Lin Chin (can’t help wishing it’d been me though). Lee Lin may not look like a badass (in fact, if Twitter is to be believed, she looks more like a certain extra-terrestrial, which I think is a very cruel and not at all amusing comparison) but I can assure you that her appearance is deceiving. She swept her sass to one side for her result-reading time, ever the professional when she needs to be. Here are the points she revealed to Europe and beyond:
- 1pt Georgia
- 2pts Israel
- 3pts Estonia
- 4pts Norway
- 5pts Serbia
- 6pts Belgium
- 7pts Latvia
- 8pts Italy
- 10pts Russia
- 12pts Sweden
As it turned out, Australia’s combined result was in keeping with quite a few other countries’ results. Our top three – Sweden, Russia and Italy – matched the Belgian and Latvian top threes exactly. Romania, Spain, Israel and Portugal also deemed Måns, Polina and Il Volo worthy of top points, in one order or another.
In addition, we predicted the eventual top six, not including ourselves (obviously) and with Belgium and Latvia in the wrong places. I don’t think that’s an indication of our collective psychic prowess so much as an indication that a handful of countries were almost universally popular this year.
So that was the combined result. Now, let’s banana split it a bit.
The Australian jurors’ top threes:
- J1 Amanda Pelman – Russia, Sweden, Cyprus
- J2 Richard Wilkins – Russia, Italy, Sweden
- J3 Danielle Spencer – Russia, Belgium, Sweden
- J4 Ash London – Sweden, Belgium, Russia
- J5 Jake Stone – Russia, Sweden, Norway
Russia and Sweden were particularly popular with our jury, making it into all five members’ top threes. Italy, a little surprisingly, only featured once (who knew Richard Wilkins had such good taste? Amiright, Aussies?) as did Cyprus and Norway. Belgium was ranked second twice.
The Australian televoters’ top three:
Sweden, Belgium, Serbia
Clearly, we were feeling some Serbia ljubav that the jurors – who ranked Bojana 9th in the final – were not. This could have something to do with our sizeable Serbian population, or it could be down to the bulk of early-morning voters being Eurovision fans easily sucked in by the oh-so-ESC anthem of self-love that is Beauty Never Lies. Or it could be neither. I didn’t vote for Serbia, so you’ll have to direct any whys to someone who did!
The Australian jurors’ bottom threes:
- J1 Amanda Pelman – Belgium, Poland, Montenegro
- J2 Richard Wilkins – Armenia, Israel, Albania
- J3 Danielle Spencer – Poland, Armenia, Slovenia
- J4 Ash London – Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia
- J5 Jake Stone – Armenia, United Kingdom, Slovenia
Reading the above as places 24, 25 and 26, you can see that Slovenia was ranked last three times. I’m somewhat taken aback by this. Could it be because Marjetka’s voice left a bad taste in multiple mouths (a.k.a. bad sound in their ears)? Or was there a widespread aversion to those damn headphones? My confused face is well and truly on. Interesting here is Belgium’s appearance, when Loïc was ranked in the top five of three other jurors. These bottom threes are a lot more varied than the top threes, with nine different countries appearing (as opposed to six appearing in the top threes).
The Australian televoters’ bottom three:
France, Albania, Azerbaijan
Now you can see just how different the tastes of televoters and juries can be. Without any specific criteria to assess the songs/performances against, we ranked three countries that barely factored into the jury’s bottom three at all 24th, 25th and 26th. For further comparison, our jury ranked France 21st, Albania 23rd and Azerbaijan…6th. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which party Elnur was more appealing to (and that wasn’t the case in Australia alone).
So, all of the above was Australia’s first – but, as we’ll be forced to say until who knows when, perhaps not last – contribution to the final results. ‘What results?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s been that long since the final actually happened that I can’t remember a thing about them!’. Well, fear not, because I’m about to refresh your memory.
Final-ly…an overview of the expected and ‘OMG!’ outcomes of Eurovision 2015’s last hurrah
This year’s voting sequence really was an epic one. The algorithm employed by the EBU to make the results as exciting as possible can only do so much when it has to be based on the jury votes. Often the addition of the televotes screws it up completely (i.e. it’s quite obvious who’s going to win when we’re only a quarter of the way through the announcements).
But this year, we were treated to a spectacle in which Russia took an early lead and held it with both hands for the entire first half of the sequence. Then, Sweden slowly but surely closed the gap, overtook Russia, then built up their own lead. By the time there were five or so countries left to announce their points, we knew Måns had Polina beat – but that’s far, far later than usual. The tension up to that point nearly killed me.
Knowing how the sequence ended will make future viewings much less taxing, and I intend to enjoy many of those in the coming months. How come? For the result that was in my favour for the first time. For Guy Sebastian personally thanking the artists from the countries that gave Australia high points (*melts*). For Måns’ priceless facial expression when it dawned on him that he’d won! I could go on, but instead I’ll jump into the promised scoreboard overview.
The top five (a.k.a. the five countries I predicted as potential winners, by some miracle):
1. Sweden (365)
2. Russia (303)
3. Italy (292)
4. Belgium (217)
5. Australia (196)
- The televoters’ top five consisted of Italy, Russia, Sweden, Belgium and Estonia. The juries chose Sweden, Latvia, Russia, Australia and Belgium as their favourites. Sweden becomes the first country in the combined jury/televoting era to not win the televote and still win the entire contest.
- Sweden and Italy were the only countries to receive points from everyone but themselves. Sweden’s lowest score was a 4 from Greece; Italy’s was a single point from Belarus and Lithuania.
- Sweden scored twelve sets of 12 points, to Italy’s nine and Russia’s five. Belgium received three sets, including one from Hungary, and Australia nabbed two, from hosts Austria and winners Sweden.
- Måns’ victory is Sweden’s second in four years and their sixth overall (watch out, Ireland!). If you’re still not convinced that they know how to succeed at Eurovision, just take a look at their track record, starting at 2011: 3rd, 1st, 14th (as the 2013 hosts, you can cut them a bit of slack), 3rd, and 1st. If the pattern continues, the winner of Melodifestivalen 2016 should prepare themselves for a mid-table finish at the ESC.
- The winning margin of 62 is the biggest since Sweden last won in 2012. Back then, Loreen defeated the Buranovskiye Babushki by 113 points.
- Russia is the runner-up for the second time in four years. They haven’t finished outside of the top ten since 2011.
- Italy makes up for last year’s misstep with their second-strongest finish since their comeback, also in 2011 (a lot happened/has happened in/since 2011).
- Belgium can be proud of their first top five finish since 2003. Only three countries – Azerbaijan, Malta and Montenegro – saw fit to leave Loïc pointless.
- Australia rounded out the top five with points from all but six countries. We found ourselves the third favourite of seven countries, scoring a very respectable 8 points from Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
The rest of the top ten:
6. Latvia (186)
7. Estonia (106)
8. Norway (102)
9. Israel (97)
10. Serbia (53)
- After a string of non-qualifications between 2008 and 2014, Latvia not only advanced to the final (just behind Sweden) but rose up the ranks into the top ten for the first time in ten years. This amazing success (seriously…I’m SO proud) was helped along by three sets of 12 points. If the contest had been completely decided by the juries, Aminata would have finished second.
- Estonia also makes a return to good fortune after Tanja’s surprise DNQ in Copenhagen, despite not scoring any douze points. Neither did fellow top ten finishers Norway and Israel.
- Speaking of Norway…Mørland & Debrah’s eighth place is Norway’s second in a row, and their third top ten result in a row.
- Israel pulled a Latvia/Estonia, with a happy ending that was a long time coming. Having not seen a final since 2010, it took a sixteen-year-old in the body of someone twice that age to get them there. Nadav and his shiny sneakers secured Israel’s best placing since 2008.
- Rounding out the top ten was Serbia, scoring just 53 points. This is the lowest score for a 10th-placed entry since Croatia squeezed in with 42 points in 2001.
The mid-to-low table finishers:
11. Georgia (51)
12. Azerbaijan (49)
13. Montenegro (44)
14. Slovenia (39)
15. Romania (35)
16. Armenia (34)
17. Albania (34)
18. Lithuania (30)
19. Greece (23)
20. Hungary (19)
21. Spain (15)
22. Cyprus (11)
- Azerbaijan didn’t quite manage to manoeuvre their way back into the top 10, but their 12th place is a big improvement on last year’s 22nd place, which was their worst-ever placing by far. After finishing 8th with their debut entry in 2008, then enjoying successive top five results between 2009 and 2013, it still seems like they’ve lost their touch a bit. But perhaps jumping from 22nd to 12th is evidence that they’re clawing their way back up. Will we see an equally impressive leap to 2nd place in 2016?
- Montenegro can bask in the glory of their most successful Eurovision to date as an independent nation, while Adio composer Željko Joksimović can only wonder what went wrong as he contemplates his first finish outside of the top ten. For Montenegro, though, 13th place in the final is a coup. After their first semi-final qualification in Copenhagen, they seem to be surfing a little wave of success.
- Greece scored less than last year, but received a (slightly) higher placing with Maria Elena’s ballad than they did with Freaky Fortune’s dance banger. If the latter had represented Greece in down-tempo Vienna, I suspect the country would have fared a lot better.
The bottom five:
23. Poland (10)
24. United Kingdom (5)
25. France (4)
26. Germany (0)
27. Austria (0)
- Poland finished 15th in the televote, but the juries weren’t keen on In The Name of Love at all and ranked Monika last.
- After two years of avoiding the bottom five, the UK found themselves back there once again. France languishes in the lows of the bottom five for the fourth time in a row (ouch). Still, with four whole points to her name, Lisa Angell doubled Twin Twin’s measly two points from 2014.
- The double-whammy of woe for Germany and hosts Austria is the first of its kind since 1997, when both Norway and Portugal got the goose egg. Germany wasn’t ranked last with the televoters (25th) or juries (20th), so got a particularly raw deal. Austria did rank last in the televote, but 13th in the jury vote.
And that, ladies and gents, was the final. Before I wrap up this momentous post, let’s whiz through the semi results as well.
A snapshot of the semi-final scoreboards, split and combined
Here are the combined results of semi final 1:
- Russia (182)
- Belgium (149)
- Estonia (105)
- Georgia (98)
- Romania (89)
- Greece (81)
- Armenia (77)
- Hungary (67)
- Serbia (63)
- Albania (62)
- Moldova (41)
- Belarus (39)
- Denmark (33)
- The Netherlands (33)
- FYR Macedonia (28)
- Finland (13)
- The winner of this semi, with the televoters, juries and overall, was Russia. This is the second time Russia has won a semi they’ve participated in – the Buranovskiye Babushki also won theirs in 2012.
- Placing last, Finland achieved their worst result in Eurovision semi history. But if it had been purely up to us televoters, PKN would have qualified!
- Four of the ten qualifiers did not qualify last year – Belgium, Estonia, Georgia and Albania (Serbia did not participate in 2014).
- The televoting top three = Russia, Estonia and Belgium. The jury top three = Russia, Belgium and Greece.
- Loser of the televote was FYR Macedonia; loser of the jury vote was Finland.
- Only Russia and Georgia were ranked equally by the televoters and the juries. Both parties did agree on three of the eventual top five, with Russia, Belgium and Georgia appearing at the top on both sides of the split vote. The televoters also had Estonia and Romania in their top five, while the juries had Greece and The Netherlands up there.
- The most drastic differences between the televotes and jury votes involved Armenia (6th T, 12th J); Serbia (7th T, 13th J); The Netherlands (15th T, 5th J); Finland (10th T, 16th J); and Estonia (2nd T, 9th J).
I predicted nine of the ten qualifiers (thinking Denmark would qualify in place of Serbia…d’oh!) but only predicted the correct finishing positions of Russia, Greece and Albania. How did you do?
Here are the combined results of semi final 2:
- Sweden (217)
- Latvia (155)
- Israel (151)
- Norway (123)
- Slovenia (92)
- Cyprus (87)
- Lithuania (67)
- Poland (57)
- Montenegro (57)
- Azerbaijan (53)
- Malta (43)
- Ireland (35)
- Czech Republic (33)
- Portugal (19)
- Iceland (14)
- San Marino (11)
- Switzerland (4)
- This semi’s televote, jury and overall winner was Sweden. This marked Sweden’s third semi final win after 2011 and 2012 victories.
- Unfortunately for Switzerland, they lost a semi for the third time. Piero & the Music Stars and Michael von der Heide also finished last in 2004 and 2010.
- Three of the qualifiers did not qualify last year – Latvia, Israel and Lithuania (Cyprus did not participate in 2014).
- Azerbaijan recorded its worst-ever result in a semi final, qualifying tentatively in 10th.
- The televoting top three = Sweden, Israel and Latvia. The jury top three = Sweden, Latvia and Norway.
- Loser of the televote was Switzerland; loser of the jury vote was San Marino.
- This time (Lithuanian pun not intended) three countries – Sweden, Cyprus and Portugal – were ranked equally by both parties, while Sweden, Latvia, Israel and Norway were agreed upon in both top fives. The televoters had Poland in their top five, while the juries had Malta in the mix.
- In semi no. 2, the split revealed big disagreements regarding Malta (12th T, 5th J); Ireland (16th T, 7th J); and Poland (4th T, 16th J).
I also predicted nine out of ten qualifiers in this case (a personal best), under the impression that Iceland would qualify instead of Poland. Oops. Again, I managed to guess three finishing positions – Sweden’s, Malta’s and Ireland’s. Better luck next year to me, and to you if you couldn’t see the future so well either!
That’s all for today (as if it wasn’t enough for a lifetime) but rest assured that I have serious posting plans for the nest few months.
Up next will be my argument in favour of retaining the jury vote in the wake of Sweden’s “controversial” triumph. Then, you’ll have your chance to vote in the People’s Choice categories of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards 2015 (woohoo?); the EBJEEs themselves will take place; I’ll reveal my top 10 performance highlights from Vienna and my picks for the national final runners-up who probably should have gone to Eurovision; and I’ll be publishing my exposé on all the lookalikes from the Class of ’15.
I hope you’ll drop by for some or all of these (hopefully) exciting events! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of this year’s voting sequence, results and winner. Please note that members of the Anti-Måns Brigade may be given the cold shoulder for a few days.
Until next time…
DISCLAIMER: I was short on time and delirious with drowsiness when I put this post together, so please forgive me if it’s zero percent funny and ninety percent nonsensical (banana). You can decide what’s wrong with the remaining ten percent…
Let me paint you a very glamorous picture: it’s three o’ clock on Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting on the couch in my mismatching pajamas. My eighteen-year-old, senile, sneezing cat is snuffling on one side of me, my constantly farting dog is on the other side of me, and there’s a large-and-in-charge spider on the ceiling directly above my head.
This was my first live Eurovision-viewing experience, and though I was left wondering why ‘tonight we can be glorious’ (in the words of Cascada) was in no way applicable here, I enjoyed myself immensely. More so once the spider decided to depart, which just happened to be midway through Finland’s performance. I guess he wasn’t a punk fan.
There were a few things I didn’t dig about the show: for starters, the fact that Conchita and her teeny-tiny waist were relegated to the green room rather than having the honour of hosting the whole show. We all knew that was the situation, but as it turns out, our three main hostesses Mirjam, Alice and Arabella were a bit underwhelming. Some hosts – Jaana and Mikko, Petra Mede etc – make their script sound unscripted, but these three did not.
Secondly, not enough time was reserved to create any sort of tension when the results were announced. Talk about a rush job! I expect the magic envelopes (which aren’t really envelopes nowadays, but I refuse to call them anything else) will be opened at a more leisurely pace tonight; but whether Austria’s version of Charlie’s Angels can impress me this time is a question mark.
I did think the postcards were über cute, though. People doing things? Much yes. I wish I could have a parcel delivered to my door that transports me to Austria when I open it. Did ORF round up forty Harry Potter-style Portkeys or what?
Let’s talk about what happened in-between those postcards for a minute. I’m going to race through the running order of Tuesday’s show and give you my verdict on all sixteen performances, before I crack on with my second semi predictions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Moldova In a word, the opening performance of this year’s contest was trashtastic. It was a good move for ORF to choose Eduard, his permanently-attached trucker cap and his posse of police/strippers to kick things off. And I must commend the guy for not singing like a goat with pneumonia like he did during the Moldovan final.
- Armenia More kudos here for making what was a shambles in studio work remarkably well on stage. Great outfits, nice violet visuals, and solid vocals from all six Genealog…ists. Tamar and Mary-Jean (STRAYA REPRESENT WOOOOOOOO!!!) in particular sounded top-notch.
- Belgium My highlight of the night! Loïc was in his weird and wonderful element, and everything about his three minutes – the costumes, the choreography, the monochrome colour scheme…even his mid-song nanna nap – was cool and contemporary.
- The Netherlands Mediocre, aside from a) the super zoomed-in shot of Trijntje’s face which was frightening, and b) her caped jumpsuit, which looked like the kind of thing a superhero would go skydiving in.
- Finland This goes against everything I’ve said about Finland to date, but *gulp* I actually enjoyed PKN’s performance. It certainly woke me up.
- Greece Well-sung and expertly wind-machined (without compromising Maria Elena’s precarious boob positionage) One Last Breath nevertheless remained a borefest.
- Estonia Stig shall henceforth be known as Estonia’s Houdini after that disappearing act. This was good, and the narrative was well-acted, but I don’t think we’re heading to Tallinn in 2016.
- FYR Macedonia Oh dear. This is the third year in a row Macedonia has stuffed up their staging with a hot mess. If they’d had Daniel in a spotlight and played the music video in the background, it would have been so much better. That is coming from someone who has never staged anything for anyone, ever, though.
- Serbia Bojana is a force to be reckoned with, and she worked the stage like the diva Eurovision deserves. Despite my dislike of the lyrics (trés lame) I have to admit that this looked and sounded very good. But I’m not sure about the result of the costume reveal. I f you’re going to reveal something, it should be something worth waiting for.
- Hungary Boggie didn’t put me to sleep, so that’s a plus. Hungary’s was another performance that I liked without expecting to, so I’m not that surprised it qualified. The streak of success continues.
- Belarus The staging was flat and Time deflated to match. What a shame for Uzari and Maimuna. I know that giant hourglass would have been hard to stuff in one of their suitcases, but it was sadly missed.
- Russia Polina is the Sanna Nielsen of 2015 – a blonde angel warbling among the rest of us mortals. But her performance didn’t scream ‘WINNER!!!’ at me. I can imagine the credits rolling over it, so basically I’m super confused right now.
- Denmark Anti Social Media did what exactly what they did at MGP, which was be smiley and peppy while performing a perfectly serviceable rendition of a perfectly serviceable song. I thought that would have been enough to nudge them into the final , but nope. Denmark misses out for the first time since 2007.
- Albania Elhaida’s vocal, as she is THE Voice of Italy, was excellent…until the last thirty seconds of I’m Alive, which was when she got way too shouty for my delicate eardrums. Thumbs up for the styling though. It’s too bad she couldn’t have loaned the black number to Trijntje.
- Romania Gets me every time! You can bet your prized flag collection that I voted for Voltaj. I’m glad the waiter garb was swapped for something that didn’t say ‘Would you like some cracked pepper, sir?’.
- Georgia Nina is so fierce, she should be sent to live in a tiger enclosure at the zoo. She may be the same age as Lena was when she won Eurovision, their names may rhyme and they might both have a penchant for black, but this was badass on a level that …well, never needed to achieve, but couldn’t if it tried anyway. Go Georgia.
After all of that (plus about a hundred mentions of Australia that I’m pretty sure Europe did NOT appreciate…sorry guys) the voting window opened, and all of us Down Under got our vote on for the first and third-last time (assuming, as I do, that we’re not going to win on Saturday). I went to town texting in for my five favourites, three of whom – Belgium, Romania and Estonia – made the grade. Joining them was Armenia, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania and Georgia.
There weren’t any shock moments among those rapid results for me personally. Denmark not qualifying wasn’t something I’d predicted, but after their polished-but-not-standout performance, I could comprehend it. Having enjoyed the Hungarian performance, I was actually happy to see them continue the success of their ESC comeback. Hoping but not expecting Moldova and FYR Macedonia to advance, I was satisfied with my top two songs of the semi – Rhythm Inside and De La Capăt – earning places in the final.
Also satisfying was achieving a new record re: qualifying predictions. Nine out of ten, peeps! Like I said, I did think Denmark would make it and that it would be Albania or Serbia through, not both. But I never said I was all-knowing. I’M ONLY HUMAN!
If you’re only human too (or not, I don’t mind) let me know how successful you were in predicting the outcome of the first semi, and what you thought of the show as a whole. Got some highlights and/or lowlights? List ‘em in the comments and I’ll love you until someone else says something more interesting.
Now, let’s get into the thick of semi final two with some more guessing games. Starting with Lithuania and ending with Poland, this installment is not far away at all, so get your viewing snacks and scorecards ready!
Remember, I don’t tune in to the rehearsals, so everything to come is based on the odd photo, reports from the press centre and my opinions.
The running order
Lithuania, Ireland, San Marino, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland
Semi final two is the bigger, and, as usual, better semi. It should be a lot more dynamic than Tuesday’s show in terms of musical light and shade, and give us more to bust a move to. By ‘more’, I’m mainly referring to Golden Boy. Do you like my dancing?
My top 10 prediction
A.k.a. where I undo my sad all my good work of correctly predicting 90% of Tuesday’s qualifiers.
There are so many uncertain qualifiers in this semi that none of my previous Top 10s felt right. This one doesn’t either, but I had to settle sometime before the show actually started (you’d be skeptical if I got 10/10 after the show).
Sweden topping the semi tonight is a safe bet, literally, and I’m confident that Slovenia and Norway won’t be far behind Måns and his roly-poly cartoon man – if not in points, then in position. I know not everyone thinks Norway is sure to make the final, but I cannot see such a classy, spellbinding ballad escaping notice of the televoters or the juries.
In the same way that Greece is Greece, Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan. Even if they sent Elnur on stage dressed as the poo emoji, they’d qualify. This time, that’s fine by me – I cannot wait to see and hear Elnur on the ESC stage again, albeit minus the feathers and glitter.
Latvia’s Love Injected, I’m hoping, is striking enough to find favour with televoters and jurors alike. They truly deserve a spot in the final, and if they get it, it’ll be their first weekend appearance since 2008.
I’m predicting Cyprus without being sold on the idea, but everyone else seems to think the island is a shoo-in, and I’m easily swayed.
I think Montenegro can make it in much the same way Sergej did last year – without a massive bunch of neighbours to give them a boost. They won’t be in the top 5, most likely, but I don’t see Knez being borderline either. I believe in the power of Željko Joksimović!
Israel and Iceland are borderline. We NEED Israel in the final for busting of thy moves, but the juries will drag it down – just hopefully not out of contention. Iceland could get lost being sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Sweden and be knocked out by Malta, Poland or Switzerland.
My fantasy top 10
At least there’s one there that’s likely to come true.
My bottom seven prediction 11. Malta, 12. Ireland, 13. Switzerland, 14. Poland, 15. Czech Republic, 16. Portugal, 17. San Marino
San Marino tailing is the only bit of this I’d put money on (so don’t blame any of your SF2 losses on me) but I can see Malta just missing out.
If Poland’s performance is as effective out of rehearsals as it has been in them (so I hear) they too could come close, but there are so many female ballads in this semi it’s going to be hard for the more understated ones to stand out. Performing last, Monika has an advantage in this respect, but not much about In The Name of Love sparks the desire to vote.
If there’s a shock result…it could have something to do with San Marino. I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookies’ favourites missing the mark. If the Czechs make their very first final, that would be something to gasp about too.
Who’s most likely to…
…get the biggest round of applause? Israel/Sweden.
I’ll put it this way: Israel is the Serbia of semi two, and Sweden is the Estonia.
…sing best live? Aminata/Elnur Huseynov.
The pocket rocket and Elnur minus Samir are the vocalists I’m most keen to hear in action. Can Elnur still make canines everywhere head for the hills with his high notes? Hashtag curious.
…sing worst live? Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini.
Just because their competitors have oodles of talent and experience. I had to pick someone!
…make the best use of the background? Ireland/Montenegro/Sweden.
I hear Ireland has set the tone in a refreshingly non-Celtic kind of way, and that should complement Molly’s piano-playing quite nicely. Montenegro might attempt to hypnotise us all with sweeping shots of breathtaking scenery, and Sweden…well, Sweden’s got an army of adorable fat men in berets. You can’t beat that.
…have the most boring stage show? Portugal.
Sure, the wind machine will get a good workout, but Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa is the kind of plodding number that needs interesting staging to sell it, and a gust of air won’t make much of a contribution to that.
…have the best costume/? Norway.
Debrah Scarlett is my new style icon, and if I can’t have her flowing red waves surgically attached to my scalp, I’ll at least be mimicking her structured white ensemble and ornamental headpiece. White is perhaps not the most suitable colour for A Monster Like Me, but she and Mørland look so good in it, I’m willing to ignore that.
…have the worst costume/s? Iceland.
Anything that looks like you could buy a stick of it at a fairground should probably not be worn – even at Eurovision. But María’s fairy floss-esque confection might be sweet in HD, who knows.
Aaaaand I’m done. I’ll be back on Saturday with a review of tonight’s proceedings and at least five answers to the all-important question: who’s going to win Eurovision 2015? For now though, I’m off to bed. I want to get at least a few hours of beauty sleep in before the show starts so I don’t get up looking like Mr. Lordi. Again.
Wherever you are and whoever you look like when you fall out of bed at an unfortunate hour, I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this year’s contest. May your favourites not do better than my favourites!
Who do you think has the edge in the second semi final? Who’s in and who’s out? Will you be convinced I’ve turned into an owl if I say ‘who’ one more time? Let me know below!
I’m back! After close to a week of social media avoidance, I’ve witnessed both semi final 1 and 2 on Aussie TV with much DIY banner-waving and popcorn consumption, and I can now temporarily rejoin you all in Eurovision Land before I have to hunker down again to avoid final spoilers. I’m going to take advantage of this, not just by checking my backlog of Twitter notifications and comments, but by having my say on the semis in brief, and taking another look ahead at the final now the participants and running order is locked in. 3, 2, 1, go!
SEMI FINAL 1
Together, Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj were no Petra Mede or Anke Engelke, but despite their lame jokes and the lack of segue from ‘Good evening, Europe!’ into postcard numero uno (unless our broadcast was edited down…grr) they hosted without fault. Of course, they had an amazing setting and massive audience to work with, which helped.
As someone who can take or leave Only Teardrops, I tolerated the semi-opener by Emmelie de Forest, and quite enjoyed the Ugly Duckling interval act as a lover of fairy tales (that guy’s sequined tracksuit WILL BE MINE! Mwahahaha!). But it’s the performances of the competing songs and the results that we really want to discuss, right? Here’s what I thought.
My performance highlight/s
- Sweden – Having been invested in Sanna from the moment she was announced as a Melodifestivalen contestant (yet again) and Undo being my #1 song of the contest, my best hope for victory, my shoulder, my shelter, my satellite – oops, veering off into Hirsoux territory there – Sweden’s performance was always going to float my boat. What I did not expect was to burst into tears at the end of the three minutes. I think it was a combination of excitement, emotion and…well, my general pathetic-ness, let’s face it. I welled up when Sanna won Melfest, so I should have seen this coming. She was spellbinding, as usual. Perfection with a blonde bob and in black lace. #creepymuch?
- Iceland – Pollapönk dried my tears, coming straight after Sanna and brightening everything up. They looked sharp, sounded great, oozed personality and all in all just had a great time up there, and as a result I did too. I’m finally on board with their decision to sing in English now. Watching them, I thought to myself ‘this has GOT to be a qualifier.’
- Albania – Aside from the tattoo (that’s got to be the most painful postcard of all time) I have to give props to Hersi for singing so beautifully. I love the sound of her voice. Also, she didn’t look hideous as I may have predicted she would earlier this week. I had to pick someone!
- Russia – Here was proof that good staging can make you love a mediocre song. I enjoyed everything about this performance, even though I’m still not sure how most of it – the hair thing, the see-saw, the Perspex light sabers, etc – was relevant to the song or its message. All I know is that it looked awesome. The twins’ vocals were on point too, and they looked very nice. I didn’t see the immature act I was expecting.
- Ukraine – Again, an A+ for staging goes to Russia’s non-BFF Ukraine. That hamster wheel was used to full advantage, both by Maria and her man friend (who I’m assuming wasn’t asthmatic or anything since he had to run pretty much the entire time) in what was a simple but effective staging device. This was actually pared back by Ukrainian standards, but after the initial shock of Maria not being carried onstage by a giant, I appreciated it.
- Portugal – This was old-school Eurovision that still worked like a charm IMO. The crowd was very responsive to it. It was full of energy and Kati Wolf Suzy had the best costume of the night – she looked UH-MAYZING. I didn’t want this performance to end, and I really wanted it to qualify. Sniff.
My performance lowlight/s
- Moldova – First things first: nobody was terrible in this semi. No-one looked awful, sang badly or fell into the moat around the stage (that was a bit of a disappointment). But if I had to choose my least favourite act, it would have to be Moldova because a) it wasn’t as slick a performance as we usually get from them; b) the costuming was fine, but I expected more; and c) WHAT THE %@!* WAS WITH THAT HAIR THING? Whatever happened to tearing off a part of your dress or something? The classics are still okay, guys. Which is more than I can say for Cristina’s scalp right about now.
- Montenegro – What else can I say except YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! It could have gone either way, but I’m so happy it went this way. Welcome to the final, Montenegro!
- Hungary – Our Australian commentators were surprised by this, but I wasn’t, and I doubt you were either.
- Russia – Saved by staging, Russia went through and broke the JESC Curse. I’m glad some Junior alumni have finally made it to Saturday night.
- Armenia – Duh. That is all.
- Azerbaijan – How shocking for Azerbaijan to qualify! Ha. Ha. They turned out a perfect performance as always.
- San Marino – My jaw actually hit the floor here. As lovely as Valentina looked and sounded, you CANNOT tell me this wasn’t a pity vote in large part. I’m convinced this qualified 10th and stole a final spot from Portugal or Estonia. Still, congrats to SM for making the final for the first time alongside Montenegro.
- Ukraine – Another shocker here. Who on earth foresaw it happening?
- Sweden – I was having palpitations by the time Sanna went through, so thank god they didn’t leave her ‘til last. I may not have been here to type this.
- Netherlands – Riding the wave of Anouk, are we? CATS will add some genre variety to the final.
- Iceland – I’m not sure why Iceland was left until last, but woop woop! I desperately wanted them to fill the final spot, and I got my wish.
How accurate were my predictions?
Fairly, but far from totally! I correctly predicted 7 of the 10 qualifiers, stumbling on Estonia, Belgium and Moldova. After seeing Axel and Cristina in action, I changed my mind, but it was too late to change my prediction. I am shocked by Estonia’s fail, and I bet Tanja is too…but can I just say, Estonia – if you’d picked Sandra, that would not have happened!
SEMI FINAL 2
This was a semi where I knew I was going to lose a country I liked, and to make matters worse, everyone was on top form. Kind of. I didn’t mention the postcards earlier, but I found them very interesting viewing again, and I can’t wait to see the final six. Australia was represented with a song-and-dance that could have been less cringe-worthy, and by the lovely Jess Mauboy who did us proud despite some vocal wavering (having seen the doco about her trip to the ESC broadcasted beforehand, I put it down to nerves). The other interval act, featuring Europe’s finest dancers (who videoed themselves and submitted it to eurovision.tv) was great. Now, on to the main event: the competing entries.
My performance highlight/s
- Poland – That’s it…I’m running away to Poland to be a Slavic girl. This was freaking EPIC! It ticked all of my boxes (not that I normally have a check-box for ‘gratuitous display of boobs’). Cleo has everything a star attraction needs to have, plus attitude in spades; the costumes were as folk-mod awesome as I knew they’d be; handkerchiefs were used to great effect…the list goes on.
- Austria – How could you not be impressed by the power of Conchita? Standing on that platform in her gold dress, looking like a particularly glam Academy Award statuette, she sung the crap out of RLAP like she always does, with a passion that never once appeared forced. Dana International, eat your heart out.
- Lithuania – This was everything I didn’t expect it to be and more. In the minority I may be, but I LOVED it. Vilija looked amazing (even in a leather tutu), sung like a champ and looked totally unfazed by the man who refused to come out from beneath her skirt. 110% on point.
- Finland – Yes, the adorable boys from Softengine did win me over some way with their simple but perfect-version-of-what-it-was performance. They get a gold star for using lighting to add so much to the visual of their act, and lead singer Topi gets a mug of hot lemon and honey tea to conserve his screamability for tonight.
- Greece – You know I’m a little obsessed with Greece this year (song-wise and man candy-wise) so naturally, I was jumping for joy (get it?) after their appearance. It doesn’t take a stack of cash to entertain, and that’s exactly what they did, with the crowd (and moi) going crazy for Rise Up. Plus, thanks to Lise, we now know that Nikolas has a cat called Gary, and that is invaluable information.
My performance lowlight/s
- Ireland – Again, there were no train wrecks in this semi, which was a bit disappointing actually (somebody better screw up BIG during the voting to make up for it) but Ireland’s performance was rather messy and uncomfortable. Kasey’s costume was distracting because it looked like she was wearing three different outfits at once, so that wasn’t the best either.
- Switzerland – Every time the Swiss qualify, I go ‘aww!’, whether I like the song or not. Hunter of Stars has a certain charm, so I was pleased to ‘aww!’.
- Malta – Yeah, they did. There was never a question.
- Slovenia – I’m not sure of where all the votes came from to get Tinkara in the top 10, but she’ll add some ethnicity to the final.
- Norway – I want to congratulate and hug Carl so badly, assuming his ‘silent storm’ isn’t a metaphor for irritable bowel syndrome.
- Poland – YESYESYESYESYESYES!!! Happiness for Jaz is when the Slavic girls make it through when she didn’t think they would.
- Romania – Ugh. I was secretly hoping they’d miss out so I could laugh, but alas, Paula & Ovi are set to lame it up in the final. I’ll only keep the sound on to hear Paula’s glass-breaking note sequence.
- Greece – I’m as happy as a guy in spandex on a trampoline. Which is very.
- Belarus – That’s right, Anti-Cheesecake Brigade. We did it.
- Finland – As with Slovenia, I am slightly confused as to where all the interest for this came from, but as the boys are so cute and were so competent, I say well done Finland!
- Austria – This was always the one that would be left until last. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved as Conchita was to nab that final spot.
How accurate were my predictions?
Slightly more so than in Semi 1! I scored 8/10 this time around, with Israel and Macedonia being my incorrect predictions. But with Poland (one of my favourites) and Switzerland (it’s always precious when they qualify) replacing them, I’m happy I was wrong.
A WORD BEFORE THE FINAL BEGINS…
Right now I’m in that brief gap of time between having seen both semis on Aussie TV, and when the final begins in real time (which I won’t see until Sunday night). Having now seen all but the auto-finalists perform once, I feel it’s only fair I get to update my predictions for what’s going to go down on the scoreboard in the final. And not just because two of the countries I predicted to win didn’t even qualify *blushes*. So…
Who will win?
I’m not much surer of this than I was when I last predicted, but at least now I can say it will definitely not be Estonia or Israel (hashtag FAIL). This contest is still wide open, and all I can do is have a stab in the dark. So here are my stabs:
- Armenia – It’s the favourite. I’ll feel like the world’s biggest moron if I take Aram out of the equation and then he wins.
- Austria – It’s powerful, memorable and interesting. A dated-style winner maybe, but a worthy one based on Conchita’s power and passion alone.
- Malta – There’s just something comforting about this that draws you in, and if it draws enough jury members and televoters in…
- Spain – This is too typical-ESC for me to want it to win, but it has a decent draw, and Ruth has the potential to out-diva Conchita.
- UK – There was already so much going for this entry, and then the UK only go and get drawn in the plum spot of 26! The BBC couldn’t have hoped for a better slot. If waiting all that time to perform doesn’t affect Molly negatively, there’s a good chance she could take this.
Who will make the top 10?
Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the UK. I still feel like I’m being too obvious, and there’s sure to be a few surprises up there, so…don’t laugh at my terrible predicting skills. Not to my face, anyway.
Who will be left at the bottom?
Surely it’s San Marino? I know I said that about the loser of semi 1, but my god…it has to be, right? I really wish we didn’t have wait until song 25 to sit through it, but I suppose the UK will look even better coming afterwards. If you’re looking for a shock loser (which we’ve had more than once in recent history) I’d say unless it’s a favourite, it won’t be that shocking.
Who’s not going to do as well as we think?
Romania. Okay, so not everyone is convinced Miracle will be exactly that, but it has none of the spark that Playing With Fire had. It’s relatively early on in the draw, and I think it will be overshadowed.
Who’s going to do better than we think?
Poland and/or the Netherlands. One’s big, brash and full of boobs and the other’s super humble (guess which is which!) but I have this feeling either one (or perhaps both) could defy expectation and neither be considered too OTT or get lost in the field.
With all of that said (‘at long last!’ I can hear you saying) it’s time for me to go to bed while those of you in Europe and those of you planning to watch the final live online get your celebration on, damn you. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser about where we’re headed for the 60th ESC, and that is very exciting. The chances of a runaway victory are slimmer than the chances of this being the last we hear of Valentina Monetta (she’s like Freddy Krueger…no matter what happens to her, she will rise again and attempt to murder you in your sleep) so the voting sequence should be a nailbiter. But before that, we have 26 performances to watch. I hope you make the most of every moment, and that the final doesn’t go by as fast as the semis did. I’ll be back early next week to join you all in the throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. Let’s ride it out together by dissecting every little detail of Eurovision 2014.
May the best song (preferably in my opinion) win!
Hit me up with your highlights and lowlights of the semis, plus your picks for the winner!