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A San Francisco semi 1 post mortem

by | May 11, 2017

A San Francisco semi 1 post mortem

by | May 11, 2017 | 2017 Home Blog, Eurovision, Featured

So, semi 1, where do I start with you? I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t one for the books, or even for a YouTube rewatch (the fact it’s blocked in the US notwithstanding), but it had its moments.

None of those moments were provided by our three hosts, but the saving grace of having three male hosts – insert lack of diversity joke here and let’s move on – was that it did reduce the danger of my ears having a run-in with the high-pitched squeals of female voices. And there’s Timur, whose moment from last year’s final, as Ukraine’s commentator, is more than enough for me to forgive him for anything else.

I wasn’t too impressed with the stage, which did little to bring anything new to the arena – but on the upside, the performers never really looked lost on it, it didn’t drown the songs, and never really distracted from performances, even with staging choices that weren’t great. So all in all it did what it is supposed to do – serve as a backdrop to the acts.

I could have lived without the opening tribute act to the Ukrainian entry in 2005, but it gave me more time to unpack groceries without missing anything important, so thank you for that, Ukraine.

The postcards were a nice touch. Nothing too clever or ground shattering, but did well to use their short length to get the audience to connect with the next act, and I liked the lit tunnel shots – as a sports fan (and a sportswriter), seeing the players in the tunnel before running onto the field is always the moment where I really feel the tension building up, and I like that they created that effect here.

Also, we had songs! And performances that we could finally properly see on screen!

Sweden: If you need me to tell you you haven’t been keeping up. Exactly what it always has been. Was always qualifying. Qualified. Next.

Busy doing nothing

Georgia: She came, she screamed, she didn’t quite conquer, although it did feel like touch-and-go there for a second, as she did a good job of pretending like she is actually a good singer. Thankfully the effort was not enough – although she did give it her all, I will give her that much – and I will not have to deal with hearing this ever again.

Don’t play that song again

Australia: I have no memory of how well he sang in the jury rehearsal, although judging by the last minute of his performance, he might as well have performed an entirely different song. It came across as a strong, modern song though, he was sympathetic and all those five thousand pictures of him actually worked as a part of the staging even if I have no idea how any of this connects to the song. Just, please, stick to the melody. One Dami Im was enough.

The image of you

Albania: Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your Frankenstein’s Bride search winner! Awful in every aspect with no redeeming moments except 3:01.

If my world stopped turning

At this point I texted a friend that this was going to be a long semi-final, which I suppose is a mathematically inaccurate statement, but time is relative anyway.

Belgium: The Belgians took my “Four Weddings and a Funeral” remake review seriously and drew the appropriate conclusions. They switched it up from a wedding dress to funeral attire, stole Finland’s thunder, and made it to the final. In seriousness, though, it probably proves that when you have a very strong song, you need to work very hard to entirely kill off your chances.

Not alone

With the vocals being decent and the staging being simple and not too distracting, people who have heard the song for the first time and didn’t have months to develop performance expectations could tell there was a good song there, and while I still am sorry they didn’t do more with this, this song deserved to see a Saturday night.

Montenegro:

No.

Shake it!

This time I mean it

Finland: AKA “I need to listen to myself more”. They couldn’t have done more, they really couldn’t, but in my review of it here in our line-up check series I wrote that this is the kind of song that depends not only on itself but really relies on what it has around it.

No no never

And what was around it? Two other dark songs with more immediate melodies, a Montenegro entry that provided much to talk about going into the break that preceded Finland, making it into background music while people were settling back in, and Portugal that we can safely assume hogged most of the atmosphere and chill votes of this semi. First instincts count after all.

Azerbaijan: It has a horse head and a chalkboard and experimental theater and death eaters and I really don’t get any of this, or what she’s singing despite having listened to this song five thousand times, but it is definitely memorable. I suppose it’s also a lot easier to get away with a what-the-hell-did-I-just-watch performance when your song is actually good.

Work your magic

Portugal: And to think we could have had this!

Salvador’s tics might not be for everyone, and to be fair, I could have lived without them. The song and the genre are definitely also not to everyone’s taste, but nothing is. It is, however, very much my cup of chamomile and citrus tea, and for me those three minutes on Tuesday night were something that I rarely get at Eurovision. Three minutes of magic, as if someone had turned off the world around me and the only thing going on was that song being performed on my screen. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens. As someone who is very much into the genre but again, aware that it’s something that not everyone gets, the question was always how wide the appeal of this will be. Judging by the reaction, it’s fairly wide. Just imagine being a fan from Portugal this week. Must feel surreal.

Congratulations, I have arrived

Whatever happens, this will be one of the stories to save the 2017 edition from obscurity. It will be one of those songs that will be remembered, and I can’t see it doing anything else other than Portugal’s best ever finish.

Greece: Greece’s jury rehearsal had the backing singers completely on mute for most of the song before joining in the last chorus, and I thought it was a smart move. Then it turned out it was a technical failure and they got a second run, but at least in both runs – and in the semi performance – they dropped the high notes, reducing the dissonant noise that is their chorus to a minimum. It’s still a case of nails down Azerbaijan’s chalkboard, but it was enough for them to get the votes they needed from the audience that was dearly in need of something more old-school traditional Eurovision, the way they know and love it.

Children of the sea

She’s also stunning and sweet and manages to have the Disney princess look going, which doesn’t hurt with Europe’s younger and technologically savvy generation. I still secretly hope someone will unplug her backing singers in the final. She’s not the world’s best singer, but she’s decent enough to not sound too exposed and she doesn’t need to waste her energy fighting with her choir.

Poland: I had it as a NQ for much of the season, and still can’t hum a line of this to save my life, but her performance on Tuesday was a case study in “how to own your vocal and the stage so much no one will notice you forgot to pack a song”.

You are my spirit animal

Moldova: Also from the same school of thought, Moldova didn’t bring a great track with them, but they’ve brought a group of brilliant, charismatic performers who probably could have qualified with anything last night. That semi was in such need of a fun injection, which they brought in spades and with an equal amount of charm and professionalism. Easy call.

Liubi, Liubi, I love you

Iceland: At the other end of the spectrum, this is a case of how to send a good track and a good singer and still have no hope of qualifying. There were too many similar things and this just never had an edge over anything else. The staging wasn’t captivating at all, the styling was actively bad, and while Svala is a committed, involved performer, her intensity and impressions make it harder for the audience to connect with her, especially when it’s your first time encountering her.

All out of luck

Czech Republic: I only remembered to review this because Wiki tells me it was here. And I can’t review it because I don’t remember it.

Why me?

Cyprus: A composer I don’t like, a singer I don’t like, a track that I enjoy but is nothing brilliant, but a great example of getting absolutely everything out of what you have and using every resource at your disposal, even when it’s not much.

It’s stronger than me

Confidence and self-belief can get you far, and Hovig was the embodiment of that, without it feeling smug or unwarranted. It was a secure vocal performance, and staging that was interesting and engaging throughout. Well done, Cyprus. You did yourself proud.

Armenia: Similarly to last year, the Armenians have done more than anyone else to take advantage of what detailed, well-executed camerawork can achieve. Everything else was quite minimal – they used a very small area of the stage, the choreography was carefully planned, and the tricks were kept to a minimum and the right moments, e.g. fireworks when it really contributed something and the eagle flying away at the end that had the nice surprise effect.

Help you fly

It’s one of those entries other delegations need to pay attention to and remember that they also have options that don’t require spending a lot of money on crazy props, just imagination and attention to detail.

Slovenia: How RELIEVED am I to be wrong about this? After the Polish trauma of last year, I was worried that the combination of proven audience love for saccharine kitsch, a late draw and a sound vocal performance would see this one through. Never been happier to get my prediction wrong.

Stop

Latvia: For the sake of cosmic balance, though, here’s one very exact prediction. In my review of this in our escgo! line-up check, I wrote it was a great track as long as you don’t have to watch or hear it live. Still applies, and Europe seems to agree.

If lines were a crime

As always, I didn’t really bother with the intervals, but you need to be a miserable human being to not be uncontrollably delighted when Verka pops up.

I also generally enjoy Jamala so both her performances last night provided nice background coverage while I was online obsessing about qualifiers. The qualifier announcement itself felt a little anti-climactic to me, but that’s probably because I am not really emotionally attached to much this year. I was certain, though, that Finland would be the last qualifier when we reached that point, so I did get my jaw-drop moment, even if in retrospect I could have seen it coming. And I imagine neither Finnish or Belgian fans were as relaxed as I was during that point of the night.

All in all, not a semi-final that I am in a rush to rewatch in its entirety any time soon, but I have definitely rewatched some performances from it already, which means we do have some things that can help shape a nice final line-up. Now all we have to do is wait and see what the second semi-final brings and who will be accompanying Tuesday’s qualifiers on Saturday night. Good luck to us all with that.

(And if you were wondering: I have skipped the direct finalists on purpose. We will meet them again very soon!)

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