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Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 6)

by | May 8, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 6)

by | May 8, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

It’s been an exhausting day for Eurovision fans everywhere. Three first rehearsals of the remaining direct finalists plus 18 second rehearsals of semi final 2 meant an entire day of working really hard refreshing blogs, social media feeds, message boards and YouTube accounts. But we made it! Say yay!

Germany:

It’s been a while since the German NF, but we finally got to reunite with Jamie-Lee – the girl, the Manga and the paranormal activity.

Spooky little girl like you | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Spooky little girl like you | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

It’s all still very much as we know it. Full moon, dead trees and green lasers, with an upgraded and more dynamic backdrop. However, the main problem remains the same: how do you solve a mismatch between a song and a singer’s image? Compromise is one option, but the Manga style is Jamie-Lee’s trademark, so that’s a no-go. The other option is to really own the song. When you do that, no one can question you, but that’s where Jamie-Lee struggles the most. She’s been performing this song for months, and she still comes across as the young, inexperienced singer that she is.

유령 | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

유령 | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The positives are mostly that vocally she does sound better, and that I actually really like the song, which I’m sure is really useful information right now, both for you and the German delegation. But if they want to get this to work – they are running out of time.

Italy:

The memory of trees | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The memory of trees | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

More trees! This is unexpected. But if Jamie-Lee’s trees were dead, Francesca’s tree is very much alive, as are her floating plants. Yes, I did just write this. No, I don’t completely get that either. She seems to also grow 3D glasses in her little floating garden – fairly sure I never managed to grow that in my back yard. It’s probably the staging where I had to concentrate the hardest to understand what I am looking at. We have a big tree in the blue skies with animated doodles à la the song’s videoclip, and we have glowing lights and fireflies when the night comes falling. It’s all a bit weird and special and nostalgic and more than a bit magical.

Wait for me! I'm coming! | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Wait for me! I’m coming! | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

I still have no idea why it’s there, but that’s besides the point. Francesca’s youth and voice do somehow connect to this all, so maybe – maybe – this will all make sense somehow when it comes together. Ask me again tomorrow.

United Kingdom:

Always that tone of surprise | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Always that tone of surprise | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

I always feel a little bad for UK artists. The realistic expectations for UK acts are often so low that come the first rehearsal, and anything that is not a colossal disaster is a relief and a pleasant surprise. This year in particular, with two young and inexperienced guys and a song that is modern-sounding but also rather low-key and faces the danger of easily being forgotten, is a case in point. Therefore, it’s hard to blame me for being a bit sceptical when I saw my Twitter feed being quite positive about this. I proceeded to the snippet with caution, but I shouldn’t have worried: it IS really nice.

He's Fred, I'm George | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

He’s Fred, I’m George | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

I went all Michele Perniola when I heard they wanted to use selfies as part of their backdrop. But turns out that a collection of selfies is one of the few things that actually look good on that great wall of geometrical shapes. There’s no overload of information as the images are spread evenly throughout. I also like the idea that Joe and Jake are accompanied by two drummers – the symmetry helps to fill the stage while keeping the focus on the guys at the front. Who, by the way, are absolutely lovely. They seem to have made it a long way since their national final performance and interact so much better. If it can work on camera, it might might have a shot at being noticed.

See what I did there with lowering the expectations again?

And just like that, this year’s first rehearsals are over! But worry not, we still have no fewer than 9 battles to go through, after much action on the semi 2 second rehearsal front.

The idea is similar to yesterday. Nine rounds, super random categories, and the results mean nothing in terms of qualifying and everything in terms of me processing some of the day’s horrors:

The Battle of the Baltic Boys
Latvia vs Lithuania

If hairstyle was a crime, you would be criminal | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

If hairstyle was a crime, you would be criminal | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Songs: This battle is perhaps geographically predictable, but musically we also have two soloists, each with his own take on what they think is a contemporary pop track. Justs does it well, while Donny’s chorus annoys me well.
Latvia 1 – Lithuania 0

Stage and Staging: Minimal and dark for Justs, which suits the song’s atmosphere. Starry night skies for Donny, which is logical, but doesn’t really make me feel how important this night is for him. They are both alone on stage, with their backing singers hidden somewhere in the maze of Globen hallways. I hope they used breadcrumbs to find the way back to the hotel. Donny also does an entire dance routine – trampoline somersault included and not perfectly executed. He really needs to nail that landing if he wants to improve his execution mark.
Latvia 2 – Lithuania 0

Hairstyle: Justs looks a bit like a Bar Mitzvah boy, but it’s cute. Donny’s hairstyle should be outlawed and heavily penalized.
Latvia 3 – Lithuania -1

Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Winner: Latvia
(He’ll definitely wait for Saturday Night)


The Time Travelers’ Battle
Poland vs Australia

All for one | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

All for one | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Songs: Poland is from the old-fashioned corner of kitsch ballad. It’s probably good for what it’s supposed to be but please don’t make me listen to it again. Australia is an almost-ballad that is as current as you can possibly get. And it’s pretty too, even if lacks a bit of heart.
Poland 0 – Australia 1

Vocals: Both Michal and Dami are excellent singers, but not perfect. Michal had his off moments during some of today’s run-throughs, and Dami holds it together for two minutes before breaking down and going to do whatever she wants with her voice. It’s a gamble, but it can work. It can also be a horrible mess.
Poland 1 – Australia 2

Staging and Styling: Michal went for D’artagnan chic and with the three Musketeers turned fake violinists he still inhabits a bleak stage, which adds very little color to anyone’s life. Dami decided to take the Tardis for a ride, which backfired as she is now stuck on top of the Tardis in some futuristic bizarre world where people surf the internet without the use of screens. #SaveDami
Poland 1 – Australia 3

It's bigger on the inside | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

It’s bigger on the inside | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Australia
(Next battle for Australia: The fight for the semi final title)


The Fireworks Battle
Israel vs Switzerland

Just call me a survivor | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Just call me a survivor | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Staging: Both songs display beautiful backdrops, with Switzerland having actual colors in addition to blue. Hovi has backing singers and also dancers in a hoop. Rykka has smoking armpits. Eurovision, you’re not quite drunk yet, but definitely getting tipsy.
Israel 1 – Switzerland 0.5

Performance: Hovi has a gorgeous voice and is nailing it for the most part, but needs to be careful near the end to not overdo it. Rykka is better than previously witnessed, but her body language still makes it physically painful to watch. Although if she’s the last of her kind, there’s no one to watch her. Hovi is holding back on his stage antics, and comes across better for it.
Israel 2 – Switzerland 0.5

Styling: Basically everything on the Israeli stage is sparkling. Rykka’s see-through skirt is also sort of sparkly, but the only way for it to be an acceptable thing to wear is it being the last piece of clothing on earth, and I don’t think singing about it counts. The blue hair works so much better when straightened, but as for Hovi’s hair – let’s just say that if you ever hear me asking for Hovi’s hairstyle, do me a favor and call an ambulance. Something is obviously very wrong and you could be saving my life.
Israel 3 – Switzerland 1.5

Fireworks: It’s a little funny, having those two songs back to back, both using the same pyro waterfall effect. They even have a similar timing, although it makes more thematic sense in the Israeli song. With Switzerland, it’s mostly just pretty.
Israel 4 – Switzerland 2

Rolling in the deep | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Rolling in the deep | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Israel
(It will be very fitting to have the last place in the semi called The Last of Our Kind)


When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die in the semi
Belarus vs Norway

You know nothing | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

You know nothing | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Song: Belarus has a nice song that still sounds like a demo. Norway has great melodies and an excellent chorus.
Norway 2 – Belarus 0

Vocals: Agnete struggles with the low register, but is generally pretty good. Ivan is being Ivan.
Norway 3 – Belarus 0

Staging: A Wildling and a pack of direwolves arrive to the wall and find Daenerys Targaryen there after her dragon got lost and refused to ask for directions. The Wildlings are pretty crazy, but also fascinating, and that makes the backdrops for Belarus so much more interesting than the Norwegian wall, because a wall of ice is just a wall. A very cold wall, where nothing happens, because it’s freaking cold.
Norway 3 – Belarus 1

Winter is coming | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Winter is coming | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Winner: Norway
(Qualifier: Norway)


Message in a Battle
Serbia vs Ukraine

The message is so real | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

The message is so real | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Song: I never really got Serbia, and it took me good three weeks to even notice the lyrics, but I loved Ukraine from the first time I heard it. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me, which is really the only thing that matters here, obviously.
Serbia 0 – Ukraine 1

Singing: Both Sanja and Jamala are wonderful, although I’ve been more surprised with Sanja because her studio version made me feel like going off-key was always imminent. Live, though, it sounds much better. Jamala might sound like an air raid alarm to some, but I think her voice sounds really special and suits her song.
Serbia 1 – Ukraine 2

Message Expression Methods: Message songs are nothing new in Eurovision, but Kumbaya was always easier to do than Saturday night entertainment about violence, pain and loss. When done right, though, it can work. Sanja, thankfully, realized that her video performance had more tics than in a TicTac box and toned it down to the point where her face can express genuine feelings. Jamala emotes pretty much everything and you can tell it means a lot to her even without knowing the backstory.
Serbia 1.5 – Ukraine 3

Staging and Styling: Now that I got to watch the Serbian routine in its entirety, I have some reservations. I understand what the dancer is doing, but his interaction with Sanja feels too unnatural. I also don’t think their wardrobe choice supports the story of the song and it’s even a little distracting. Jamala’s staging looks more impressive when watching a full video, and her styling – assuming the dress from the first rehearsal is the one for the night – is very much in sync with all her other artistic decisions.
Serbia 2 – Ukraine 4

The message is so true | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

The message is so true | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Ukraine
(I might not get Serbia, but I’d still be happy to see it qualify)


Day and Night battle
Ireland vs Georgia

Daylight in your eyes | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Daylight in your eyes | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Songs: Ireland is light and breezy, Georgia is intense and dark. Both are very good at what they do, in completely opposite ways.
Ireland 1 – Georgia 1

Understanding of Basic Space and Time Concepts: Georgia’s midnight seems to actually occur during the night. Ireland’s sunlight needs to replace a bulb.
Ireland 1 – Georgia 2

Staging: Colorful, unique and slightly crazy but in the right amount and getting everything possible out of a tough song for Georgia, uninspired and uneventful that does nothing to lift a lively mainstream song for Ireland.
Ireland 1 – Georgia 3

Performance: The Georgians come across as experienced and professional, while Nicky might be immediately recognized by many as “that guy from Westlife”, but that will probably be followed by “oh, that’s why he never actually got to sing anything”.
Ireland 1 – Georgia 4

In the midnight hour | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

In the midnight hour | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Georgia
(Nicky is lovely. Really. I hope he makes it. I hope there are enough Westlife fans out there)


The Balkan Dresses Like to Battle Like Nobody
Macedonia vs Albania

Break | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Break | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Songs: Boring.
Macedonia 0 – Albania 0

Vocals: Perfect.
Macedonia 1 – Albania 1

Staging: Very boring.
Macedonia 1 – Albania 1

Fashion: Why did anyone think either dress is a good idea?
Macedonia 1 – Albania 1

Star Quality: Qaliopi winner Qonfirmed.
Macedonia 2 – Albania 1

Break | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Break | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Macedonia
(I found my tea and pee breaks, so at least that’s one useful thing both songs can do for me)


The Battle of Denmark
Slovenia vs Denmark

Lighthouse Fischer | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Lighthouse Fischer | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Songs: Slovenia is nice, and I sometimes randomly start singing it, but can’t remember how it goes if I actively try. When I try to remember how Denmark goes, I will start with singing Atemlos first and then switch to English lyrics.
Slovenia 1 – Denmark 0

How Danish Can You Be: Slovenia sounds like something that was supposed to be in a Danish NF. Denmark sounds like a German schlager.
Slovenia 2 – Denmark 0

Staging: Slovenia ranges from boring to an acrobat on a pole pretending to be an airplane. Denmark’s staging is solid, completely uninteresting, and blue.
Slovenia 2 – Denmark 0.5

Performance: She sounds fine. Lighthouse X sound like the Lighthouse III on the left can’t really sing.
Slovenia 3 – Denmark 1.16

ManuElla Samay and Friends | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

ManuElla Samay and Friends | © eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses

Winner: Slovenia
(Between those two, only Denmark can actually qualify)



So You Think You Can Dance
Bulgaria vs Belgium

Dance like nobody's watching | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Dance like nobody’s watching | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Songs: Bulgaria is my absolute favorite song this year. Belgium is pleasant but sounds like a track that didn’t make the cut into an album.
Bulgaria 1 – Belgium 0

Staging: Βulgaria is #@$##$#$%@#@ and I REALLY DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. Belgium is – literally – the Belgian flag meets High School Musical. I mean this in a good way.
Bulgaria 1 – Belgium 1

Styling: Βulgaria is #@$##$#$%@#@ and I REALLY DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. Belgium looked better in their first rehearsal clothes which had a bit more color, but their current style is fine and contrasts their backdrop nicely. It just makes it look less natural somehow.
Bulgaria 1 – Belgium 1.5

Choreography: Belgium developed their choreography from the national final performance and the videoclip into a smart and slick final product that is a fun and energetic. Laura makes it look easy. Poli dances on her own like no one can see her, but I can see you, Poli, and it really hurts my feelings. The choreography in the chorus is a combination of weird and kind of OK, but it’s impossible to pay attention with that dress. BUT I REALLY DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. I do want to talk about how Poli is not in sync with her digital dancers and ask VERY LOUDLY what is the point of having five backings hidden at the back only to have them march up to front of the stage for 12.6 seconds? Thanks for nothing, Bulgaria, you useless staging nation.
Bulgaria 1 – Belgium 2.5

High School Musical 5: Feelin' the pressure | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

High School Musical 5: Feelin’ the pressure | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Winner: Belgium
(I have no idea what just happened)

And that’s 9 more battles done. Final battles and some other obsessions will follow tomorrow. This is a final warning.

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