The first of two insanely long days of rehearsals took place in Stockholm today, with France and Spain getting their first rehearsal in and all the first semi finalists rehearsing again. Not blogging this in real time, I am allowing myself the freedom of reversing the order, starting with the last two rehearsals of the day – France and Spain, before doing something a little different for the second rehearsals.
It took five days, but we finally got to THE GLASS IS NOT BREAKING point of the rehearsal season! The internet broke down as first reports of the French rehearsal showed up, full of doom, gloom and visions of Amaury Vassili. When the mass hysteria died down, it turned out that the big emergency was a few off key phrases, and that the visual disaster was actually a simple staging of Amir (and his charm), hidden backing singers, and a properly beautiful – FINALLY – backdrop.
I’m guessing that the said hysteria was a result of France being a favorite, not having seen hints for their staging concept so far, possibly some first rehearsal nerves, and everyone in the hall having just watched 18 second rehearsals that by definition are a lot closer to the real thing than the first round is.
Is this a winner? No clue. But one clue I do have is that you don’t need to be a great vocalist to win Eurovision (yes, you, Nikki), and as the brilliant vocalists Alexandar Rybak and Lena will tell you: ton of charm and a super catchy song is a combination that should not be taken lightly.
Is this a winner? No way in hell. But it’s entertaining, in its way. Staging wise, I was hoping to get something that is closer to the brilliance of THE RAIN THE RAIN DANCING, but instead it is more of an EEEieEEO.
While the neon look throughout the SayYayYayYays gives this a different look than anything else on offer this year, the rest, when it’s just darkness and spotlights, is a little too gloomy for something that is supposed to be groovy, upbeat and with a strong positive message.
Barei herself is in a fine voice as always, but her backing singers could use some fine tuning. They all could use some fine clothing, but honestly, after seeing some of the other horrors of this year, I will not complain. Because if I will complain I will probably get something worse on the night, so I will shut up and cut my loses.
In another brilliantly EEEieEEO inspired idea, the fall from the video found its way into the performance – break in the music and all. It’s one of those things I don’t even need to watch to know that it will not end well.
But end the first rehearsals segment of the day it does, which brings me into our second part of today’s entertainment, the semi final battles!
The production crew of my tired brain paired up today’s rehearsals, using all kind of randomly thought criteria in the process.
Songs & Vocals: The singing part is more or less ok, but both face a similar problem of having to sing their songs, where Finland has an edge by at least belonging musically to 2016. Or just belonging musically.
Finland 1 – San Marino 0
Stage: Colorful but useless for Finland. Cheesy and more cheesy for San Marino.
Finland 2 – San Marino 0
Fashion: Both unflattering.
Finland 2 – San Marino 0
Staging: Both acts have five female backing singers who are an integral part of the show and are not hidden in the shadows like everyone else. Finland’s choreography is supposed to be trendy and current but lands a little on the cheesy side. San Marino tries to be cheesy but lands firmly in the creepy territory.
Finland 3 – San Marino 0
(It’s still not qualifying)
Songs: Both are a mishmash of many elements, with varying degrees of success.
Greece 0 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 0
Vocals: The Bosnian singers are pros. The Greek singers are essentially two women who can sort of hit notes but were never actually taught to sing. The rappers hurt my ears equally.
Greece 0 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Performers: The Bosnian quartet is comfortable on stage but couldn’t come across as less likeable. Argo, on the other hand, look like a group of high school students who have never been on stage and need to concentrate on every step, but they try really really hard.
Greece 0.5 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 1.5
Stage: Dark and rising sun patterns for Greece, dark and real barbed wire for Bosnia.
Greece 1.5 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 1.5
Staging: The Bosnian staging focuses mostly on Deen and Dalal trying to reach through the barbed wire without getting cut while the rapper and cellist concentrate on being scary. the Greek choreography is a second-hand mix of old successful Greek stagings, but it’s as effective as it can be.
Greece 2.5 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 1.5
Fashion: Unoriginal but also effective typical Greek wear for our the Greeks, while the Bosnian quartet looks like they were on their way to Comic Con but boarded the wrong plane.
Greece 3.5 – Bosnia & Herzegovina 1.5
(Moral winner: The Mute Button)
Concept: Moldova’s is “something to do with space”, Malta’s is yet to be identified.
Moldova 1 – Malta 0
Vocals: Malta is excellent, Moldova is still Moldova.
Moldova 1 – Malta 1
Stage: Logical blue for Moldova, still no idea what the Maltese backdrop is supposed to be and why.
Moldova 2 – Malta 1
Dancing: Moldovan space breakdancer faces off a Maltese interpretive modern dancer. I’m going with Malta on this, purely for personal preference of dancing style, although I have no idea what the Maltese dancer is supposed to interpret.
Moldova 2 – Malta 2
Fashion: Ira, thankfully, ditched the cape for a dress that is nice, even if a bit too much of prom night and less of an “I’m singing this modern midtempo track written by Swedes” kind of dress. Lidia is wearing pieces of a broken blue mirror glued together and it seems like there was only enough budget for half a dress, so the rest was replaced by black fabric.
Moldova 2 – Malta 3
Other WTFeries: Ira’s Projected Face. Moldova singing part of the song in French.
Moldova 1 – Malta 2
(Qualifier: also Malta)
Fashion: Freddie sports his usual casual torn jeans, jacket and the I really have no clue how good looking I am face, while Juri opts for a Barbara Dex award nomination.
Hungary 1 – Estonia 0
Singing: Freddie’s rough voice isn’t for everyone’s taste, but it is for mine, and when Juri gets it right his deep voice can be breathtaking. Today, they both got it right.
Hungary 2 – Estonia 1
Stage: Unexciting Martian desert and thunderstorms for Freddie, and the Stage-Which-Should-Not-Be-Named for Juri.
Hungary 2.5 – Estonia 1
Pointless Gimmick: Card magic tricks for Estonia. Tibetian Monk Kung Fu fighter/drummer that does not at all work on camera for Hungary, but at least looks amazing in photos.
Hungary 3 – Estonia 1
(But where are the glowing sticks?)
Songs and Vocals: Two pretty songs, one sung well with tendencies to be dangerously close to the edge by Nina, the other delivered perfectly by Gabriela.
Croatia 0.5 – Czech Republic 1
Staging: The Czech Republic is still not as dynamic as it could be, but has a very memorable and cohesive visual identity. Croatia has a starry blue backdrop that turns red towards the end (I KNOW!) and Gregorian look-alike backing singers. Easy call.
Croatia 0.5 – Czech Republic 2
Fashion: Last Tuesday we saw Gabriela’s dress and Nina’s tree house. Today it was the turn of Nina’s dress to make an appearance, and I almost wish it hadn’t. Let’s just say that even if I wanted to describe it, I couldn’t.
Croatia 0.5 – Czech Republic 3
Winner: Czech Republic
(And top 3 in the semi with the juries)
Performance: While not having much in common musically except feeling longer than 3 minutes, they both bring undeniable charm to their performances, to the point of it being as big a part of the package as everything else.
Netherlands 1 – Austria 1
Staging: Netherlands is a smokey bar with ghosts of purple cogwheels on the walls. Austria is an afternoon of hookah smoking with the Caterpillar.
Netherlands 1 – Austria 2
Magical Powers: Zoe makes things in the backdrop happen when she clicks her fingers. Douwe Bob makes the audience sing. Maybe.
Netherlands 1.5 – Austria 3
(But Douwe Bob can stay, too)
Songs: Azerbaijan’s is immediate and catchy, Armenia’s is the most eclectic thing this year. Both are great.
Armenia 1 – Azerbaijan 1
Vocals: Prior to the rehearsals I checked some clips of Iveta and Samra and had them both categorized under adequate. Two rehearsals in, Iveta has been upgraded to awesome, Samra has been downgraded to “quick, someone get me my earplugs”.
Armenia 2 – Azerbaijan 1
Fashion: While both girls are gorgeous – and unfortunately got their styling inspiration from Magdalena tul – Iveta makes it look sexy while Samra, accompanied by her army of illegally dressed backing dancers, looks like she is trying too hard.
Armenia 3 – Azerbaijan 1
Staging: Armenia has a very dark stage and a sexy routine that is a tough sell in the Eurovision world, but she does it well and owns the movements and body language. Azerbaijan’s choreography looked great when they weren’t dressed up like idiots, but now it looks like an unintentional joke.
Armenia 4 – Azerbaijan 1
Pyros: There will be blood.
Armenia 5 – Azerbaijan 2
(Could Azerbaijan actually miss the final?)
Songs and Vocals: Nice songs sung well.
Russia 1 – Iceland 1
Stage Presence: Sergey is a lot more charismatic than Greta, but is also a lot more distracted by his routine, while she is more comfortable on stage due to better familiarity with her routine.
Russia 1.5 – Iceland 1.5
LED art: Russia starts with creative and morphs into absolutely over the top. Iceland’s is artsy and sophisticated. Both have quite a few iconic, memorable moments.
Russia 2 – Iceland 2.5
Overall impression: Russia is a staging that has a song, Iceland is a song that has a staging.
Russia 2 – Iceland 3.5
(Actual semi winner: Russia)
Song: Cyprus has a melody. Montenegro does not.
Cyprus 1 – Montenegro 0
Stage: Dark with some red, white and blue tones and too many blinking lights.
Cyprus 1 – Montenegro 0
Cyprus 1 – Montenegro 0
Unnecessary gimmick: Cages for Cyprus which serve no purpose except being there and even that is made pretty unnoticeable because who can see anything with all those flashing lights. Montenegro has a girl on the satellite stage and no one has managed to figure out why.
Cyprus 1 – Montenegro 0
(Well, that was a lot more marginal than I expected)
And that is it for today!
Coming up tomorrow: 9 more battles, and the last of the first rehearsals.