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Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 3)

by | May 5, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 3)

by | May 5, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

In which I realize I still haven’t deleted Romania from my 2016 playlists, which is weird considering I don’t even like it.

Today, I get to tackle the first rehearsals of half of our second semi finalists, and seeing how long my previous posts were, I decided to also provide a shorter version of this post, which you can see here.

1. Latvia:

It’s the second time I see Justs with a different jacket, and I am worried about his other jacket. Is it sick? Did it also catch Eurovisionitis? Did it break up with Justs? Are they working things out? Only Mr. God knows.

'Cause blue is blue | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

‘Cause blue is blue | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Other than the jacket, things remained as they were. Similarly to the national final performance, the backdrop is still dark and incorporates red shapes and blue lights. I like the texture of the shapes in the backdrop as it gives the stage a lot of character and takes advantage of its structure. It might not be the intricate detailing that Aminata had last year, but it works well for the song.

And red is red | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

And red is red | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Performance-wise, Justs stands there and does his thing, with his backing singers hidden somewhere only they know, which gives me a challenge for rehearsals and performance(s) to come, a little game called “Find The Backing Singers”. Are there app developers in the crowd?

2. Poland:

Here’s a curiosity: Why do songs that really shouldn’t take themselves literally, do (yes, Estonia, I am looking at you) and songs that really should take themselves literally pretend to not know their own lyrics?

Also, can we talk about that font? | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Also, can we talk about that font? | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

“What color is your life?” is the question Michal asks us, over and over again. Well, Michal, let me tell you. As far as Eurovision life goes, the answer is definitely red and blue. Do you hear that noise? That’s ManuElla frantically rewriting her song, which is now called “Violet and Lime”. The poor woman must be gutted and feeling so cheated right now.

Anyhow, where were we? Right. You sing about colors. You could have at least ASKED for actual colors. Or, you know, colors that are not the exact same colors as everyone else’s. The backdrop is so generic that it looks like after two years of Poland trying everything to dominate televote, this year the approach is yeah, whatever. Blue backdrop and spotlights are fine with us.

Happy birthday, Marlena! | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Happy birthday, Marlena! | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Luckily for you, Michal, you sing really well.

3. Switzerland:

We have now moved away from blue and red to groundbreaking blue and some tone of purplish pink. It also looks like Rykka has grown tired of hearing about her resemblance to the Greek girl from 1998, so she decided to do something dramatic about it and dyed her hair blue.

I see fireworks inside a stage | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

I see fireworks inside a stage | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The inspiration for the staging, undoubtedly, comes from the successful participation of Melanie René mixed up with a bit of Ann Sophie. The stage is atmospheric, mysterious, and actually quite beautiful, the fashion choices and body language are questionable, and there’s smoke. The Swiss have also adopted an old Eurovision proverb: “when in doubt, add pyros”. And they do. A lot.

We're only left with smoke| © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

We’re only left with smoke | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The bloggers – and myself, listening to the snippet only – seem to not have gone completely deaf after her rehearsal, but I don’t know if it means that she improved or that we’ve been stuck with her live performances long enough to start suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. The main problem of that song, though, is still in its existential level – no one remembers it exists.

4. Israel:

Having sent a ballad this year, Israel resorted to a visual environment it has never used before, especially not in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013, and went for – wait for it – a blue backdrop! With shiny thingies and stuff!

Blue's Anatomy | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Blue’s Anatomy | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

To be fair, though, when your song is called Made of Stars, there really are very few sensible visual directions and my main surprise regarding this is the fact Israel has not yet trademarked it. It’s also a great opportunity for them to explore the evolution of ballads with blue backdrops. For example, having finally discovered (and got budget for) pyros last year, they are now incorporating an entire firework display into their entry – a new phase in this particular Israeli history. Another new step for them is that instead of the usual setup of lead singer – backing singers – someone playing piano, they actually have a pair of acrobats floating around on a glowing hoop. It is apparently not as bad as it sounds as even the biggest critics of that particular idea say that while it doesn’t add anything, it doesn’t really interfere either.

(Although for the blogger who was concerned about the two acrobats fighting during rehearsal: I wasn’t there, I didn’t witness it, and I can still reassure you and tell you they were just having a typical Israeli conversation. All is good).

Switzerland forgot to turn off the lights | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Switzerland forgot to turn off the lights | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The elements on stage seem to connect well and create a visual flow as the song moves forward, which is helpful for what I find to be one of the song’s main drawbacks – its lack of a clear idea of what it wants to be in its middle two minutes. Hovi Star himself sings this extremely well, but how will the audience who meets him for the first time react? I don’t know. Even if Hovi doesn’t make the final, he at least got a very cool – and expensive – sparkly top out of it. I think it’s worth it.

5. Belarus:

I got to hand it to the Belarusian delegation. No one really cares about the song, and we all knew they weren’t REALLY going to show up naked with real wolves, and yet, we wanted to see what will they do instead.

Virtual insanity | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Virtual insanity | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

A lot, as it turns out. Whether you appreciate their public relation tactics or not, there’s no denying that much thought went into planning this act. I am yet to figure out the linear progression of that thought, but I’m sure it’s there.

Also there: Anything that you can fit into a backdrop in three minutes, led by a pack of digital wolves. I should probably wait for the full video to come out to get a better idea of what’s going on there, although I suspect it will still be completely bonkers.

Dur dur d'être bébé! | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Dur dur d’être bébé! | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Vocally Ivan remains a very nice guy who still can’t perform his song very well, which is unfortunate because it’s a pretty good track. The Belarusians are definitely not the first ones to turn to distraction as a solution to this problem, though. I doubt it will do much because juries exist, but I’m sure that the televote – and us, in years to come – will remember this.

6. Serbia:

I spent a great deal of time in the past complaining about people feeling the need to compare current Eurovision entries to previous ones, and yet I find myself doing it quite a bit in my posts. But I can’t help it! It’s not my fault that participants keep conjuring up ghosts of Eurovisions past! And on that note, it’s time for Serbia to take the stage for the first time with Molitva (Running).

He keeps on jumping jumping jumping (in this crazy life) | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

He keeps on jumping jumping jumping (in this crazy life) | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

To my relief, at least until proven otherwise, gone are most of the horribly annoying facial tics that Sanja inflicted on us in her first video. A wise choice as it was easily the most offputting feature of this. I will be completely honest and say that I don’t really understand its appeal – I find it average at best – but who am I to argue. Sometimes you just don’t get something.

Lonely in a crowded room together (Ghost) | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Lonely in a crowded room together (Ghost) | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

On the backdrop front (does that even make sense?) we’re now back to business as usual as I again face patterns I don’t recognize in blue and red. But the rest of the package is enough to forget about that. She is a great singer, and sells the song well now that she freed herself from the need of making weird faces, and the choreography – depicting the subject matter of the song – is well put together. Sometimes that’s all you need.

7. Ireland:

Yay! Ireland! Sunlight! A lighthearted song that will surely have a nice, fun, equally light staging! Finally!

*Clicks link.*

Blue is really not the warmest color | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Blue is really not the warmest color | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

*Refreshes.*

*Still there.*

It’s been a while since I backpacked Ireland, and while I do remember it raining quite a bit, I hadn’t realized that rain and clouds now occur there so often that they’ve totally forgotten what sunlight looks like.

At this point I’m wondering if Slovenia accidentally submitted a computer virus along with their materials, which overrode all the fields on SVT’s computer to say “Blue and Red” instead. Except Nicky is wearing his performance jacket, and it matches the backdrop, so they actually had to specifically ask for that color. With dark blue and a deep red-orange, instead of a sunny day at the park I get to hang out with Frodo and Gollum at Mount Doom. Which: awesome, I am a total geek, but really not helpful in this context.

My precious | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

My precious | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Also not helpful: Nicky’s vocals. The backing vocals do well to cover him during much of the song, like they have done so far, but the only thing that will save the verses from not sounding totally awful is if they covered him there, too. Add this to the fact nothing seem to actually happen on stage – it’s just him, his backing singers and the customary drummer and guitar player – and the Irish are putting a lot of weight on Nicky’s pretty face and Westlife past.

8. Macedonia:

You don't mess with the Qaliopi | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

You don’t mess with the Qaliopi | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

I watched the snippet four times so far. Not because I like the song so much, but because I couldn’t figure out if the backdrop depicted an architecturally-challenged ancient temple or a deserted picture frame shop that Kaliopi somehow got herself locked in overnight, and whether it was safe to stay there while it is on fire.

The fire in your frames | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

The fire in your frames | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Every time I’ve done that, I forgot to notice the song. Or the performance. Not that I expected anything else from Kaliopi other than a straight forward performance, but straight forward doesn’t have to equal dull, and dull it is, with her standing in the front, with four backing vocalists and a drummer. Kaliopi herself has only one setting for delivering a vocal performance – freaking awesome – and star quality to spare, but the song was already a tough one to sell, with it being boring and 20 years too late, and the staging does absolutely nothing for it.

9. Lithuania:

Really, Donny? You’ve been waiting for THIS? Are you sure? I really hope for your sake that if love isn’t blind, it’s at least color blind, because then maybe she won’t notice that once again the stage is entirely blue. WHY IS EVERYTHING BLUE?

Yo listen up here's a story About a little guy that lives in a blue world | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Yo listen up here’s a story about a little guy that lives in a blue world
| © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

I suppose I can’t really blame the Lithuanians. It IS a song about night time, and they’ve already used the night club setup the last time Donny visited Eurovision, but the package – the dark blue backdrop and Donny’s solo song and dance routine – is far from convincing.

Worry not, though. He’s not REALLY alone. He is accompanied by backing singers. No one knows where they are, but they’re there. I’m starting to get worried about all those hidden backing singers. Do they get lost and forgotten? Do lead singers accidentally take the wrong backing singers back home?

And all day and all night and everything he sees Is just blue | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

And all day and all night and everything he sees Is just blue
| © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

He sounds ok, from what I can tell, but in the middle of that snippet he also says that he wants to win, so he also sounds delusional. But at least he has a trampoline.

10. Australia:

I’m really glad I’m in San Francisco, because the time difference means I watch rehearsals in the morning, and that is way too early to be playing drinking games and have shots every time a blue backdrop shows up. I like my liver and I would like to keep it.

Yes. It’s blue. Moving on.

I'm Australian, of course I'm in the future | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

I’m Australian, of course I’m from the future | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Now that Australia has to compete in the semi final, they were quick to start practicing their kitchen sinking methods. Their blue backdrop is a full-on display of virtual reality. I’m not entirely sure what purpose it serves except looking cool and how it relates to the song – maybe the Australian FaceTime is actually a futuristic app that is yet to be invented and as such breaks no EBU rules – but it’s at least different from the rest in its blue way.

Do you like my dress, Poli? | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Do you like my dress, Poli? | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Dami wears a pretty silver gown that is contrasting the dark backdrop well, especially when the virtual reality is replaced with a very plain backdrop, leaving only Dami and SVT’s beloved spotlights. Her vocals are also work in progress – not that she doesn’t hit them, she just hits them differently every time. She might or might not pick one way to sing this by the semi final, but she should be able to get it right, whatever she decides.

Coming up tomorrow: The remainder of the second semi final participants, not Romania, and probably this:


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