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A San Francisco semi 2 post mortem

by | May 12, 2017

A San Francisco semi 2 post mortem

by | May 12, 2017 | 2017 Home Blog, Eurovision, Featured

Eurovision expectations are an interesting phenomenon that, more often than anything else in life, end up cast aside after reality proved them to be entirely wrong. For example, I expected the first semi to be much stronger than the second, and instead I could barely make it through the songs. On the other hand, the second semi-final perhaps didn’t have the highest quality of songs, but it definitely provided much more entertainment. Also, to my great surprise, I thought the second semi-final will be harder to predict, yet I ended up with nine correct qualifiers before the semi (and I’ll return to the one I missed later), and 10 out of 10 once I’d watched all the performances.

The opening of the second semi final was an actual tribute to previous entries and provided colorful local renditions of some recent winners, including a nod not only to the song that won in Ukraine 12 years ago, but also to a song that won in Russia of all places. It was so delightful that it actually made me enjoy two of my most disliked winners of recent times, “Euphoria” and “Rise Like A Phoenix”. Miracles never cease. Except, thankfully, the one involving Paula and Ovi.

The hosts mostly kept talking without challenging my eardrums, and as someone who was in Kyiv the last time they hosted, I’ll count my blessings for that.

We also had 18 songs which tried their best to qualify for Saturday’s grand final.

Serbia:

Serbia lost their luggage back at the airport and accidentally picked up Katy Perry’s instead, and never recovered from the extra hassle of trying to get the airline to exchange it. While both the song and the staging were very generic, they were never actively bad, and the opening position is generally quite a friendly one when you’re not awful – but Tijana never looked like she believed in herself or the song, and just went through the motions, doing little to convince us that we should vote for her. At times she didn’t even look like she was trying, which is even worse.

Wild soul

Austria:

For most of the season, I had Nathan down as a non-qualifier. There were Ireland and Bulgaria later on, Serbia had a modern track right before him, Macedonia had a great pop track right after him. He was going to get lost at the dreaded #2 spot. So many good reasons. But if we have a case that is the opposite of Finland in the first semi – where I should have trusted my initial gut feeling about it – then it’s this. Unlike Finland, we never saw this live, so when I finally saw him perform this I realized that I hadn’t accounted for the undeniable charm and happiness he brought on stage with him. I also didn’t really count on so many other countries that were supposed to prevent him from qualifying being crap, which definitely helped him, and helped me place him on my qualifier list even before the semi-final. When he flashed a big smile at the camera, about 40 seconds into his performance, I knew I was right, too.

I want your love

Nathan might not do much on the scoreboard on Saturday, but judging by his reaction when he qualified, he was already assuming he hadn’t gone through at all, so he might not even care.

Macedonia:

Oh, Macedonia. While I never expected this to be stellar live, I was willing to lower my standards on a few things. We have seen, after all, that a good song can salvage a mediocre performance. I could have lived with the unimaginative staging and even with the below-par singing of the backing singers while Jana was desperately trying to sync her miming with them.

What killed this for me was that they seem to have hired Serbia’s stylist from last year. This song called for a strong, cool, independent woman who might be wishing a certain guy was there with her, but that’s life and she’ll dance alone and own the night and have a good time anyway. Instead, what we got was that friend who wants to go out after she broke up with her boyfriend to forget about the sorry loser and show him what he missed, picks that desperate-that-she-thinks-is-sexy dress, gets drunk after two glasses of wine because she can’t hold liquor to save her life, dances on the bar until the barman begs you to get her out of there, and ends up outside puking her guts up by the bushes while you hold back her hair.

Goodbye (shelter)

I can only assume her now-fiancé witnessed the rehearsals, predicted the outcome and wanted her to still have a night to remember. He’s a keeper, Jana!

Malta:

I know I haven’t been remotely positive about this, so let’s just say that this is so not my thing I can’t even say if it’s good or bad for what it wants to be. In my personal case, though, it wants to be in the recycle bin of my computer.

You give me vertigo

Having said that, Claudia performed this as well as she could. She was confident and looked like she truly believed in her song. Even her styling and staging weren’t as terrifying as I thought they’d be. But overall she had little to offer, and there were other songs targeting the same audience later in the semi, and doing a better job of it.

Romania:

In theory, I should like this. In practice, this annoys me to no end, and I found myself rooting for this only because I really like Ilinca and Alex. That’s a testament to how good they are at what they do. They also have great chemistry, unlike an unnamed male/female duet that performed later in this semi. They enjoyed being there, they had fun with the audience, and it all came across really well.

Bailar como Latina el ritmo puro de la música alpina

Netherlands:

This semi’s theme is “songs that are really not my thing and therefore I have no idea if they are good for what they want to be”, and in that spirit I have no capacity to judge the Dutch song as a song. But what I do know is that O’G3NE were good. So good, in fact, that I forgot this style of music does absolutely nothing for me and ended up paying attention to them, and their effective staging and camerawork, for the full three minutes, “Walk Along”/De Toppers styling and all.

Let the love light carry

Hungary:

Note to self: The dancer I have been writing about is fictional. There’s no need to feel delighted for her finally making it to the Eurovision final in Kyiv, something the other two returnees from 2005 failed to do.

I am delighted for Hungary, though. I was never a fan of their national final performance, but since they decided to keep it, they at least managed to translate it to the larger stage extremely well. The camerawork was particularly strong, managing to achieve a series of shots that established the mood throughout the song. The choreography and the facial expressions of the singer also helped us to understand that we were following a story rather than a random series of ethnic elements.

Sound of our hearts

Many people don’t like the rap, but I actually felt it served the song well, allowing Joci to inject the intensity and emotion that are such a big part of the song and made it clear that it was way more than yet another Ethnic Eurovision Tune. It was also a good reminder of the power a native language has. It’s a lot harder to emote so much in a language that is not your own.

Denmark:

I wrote in an earlier review of this song that Anja has the very useful ability to make you believe you have watched something that is a lot better than it actually is. She made full use of this particular skill.

Tell me where you are

Ireland:

This song was always made of two parts. The first half which had a more modern, downbeat and moody sound, which I loved, and the second part where it turned into a horrific Westlife album track and made me hope that Brendan wouldn’t be dying to try anything other than shutting up. Annoyingly, this was sung so softly I couldn’t hear anything in the part I actually liked, while the other part I heard only too well. A hot-air balloon crash from start to finish, this.

Don’t let me try

San Marino:

The internet tells me that San Marino is considering calling it quits due to microstates having no chance of doing well. I assume they mean “microstates that have Ralph Siegel writing the entries of and therefore paying for the entire thing”, and I also assume they have no intention of ever paying for this themselves and perhaps they feel they’ve now maximized the use of having their name displayed on TV for 3 minutes every year regardless of what’s notionally representing them.

If this was indeed their last entry, it was fitting to have their goodbye sung by the singer who has represented them in half of their participations, and who once again made me wonder what would have happened if she actually had a good song. From this century.

I want to stay all night in the disco

Croatia:

I want to be a professional adult and find something useful to write about this. Alas, I can’t.

What I can do is to accept that there are some things that scream “Eurovision!” at large audiences, cruelly possessing their bodies and forcing them to televote for certain performances.

I will also say that while I was in complete denial of this qualifying when writing my prediction, I did have to come to terms with the reality by the end of this performance, and it was just a question of who I was going to kick off my original list.

Don’t deny


Norway:

Despite many people never giving this a chance, this wasn’t one of the candidates to be kicked off that list. Even though I did not like their presentation, I still found their beat and attitude to be an island of blessed sanity, and one I could tap my foot to at that. I always liked this and its groove works even as background music, which helps make up for the staging.

Push the button

Switzerland:

Another one I couldn’t take off the qualifier list simply because it was never on it. I had a friend texting me after the results to ask what went wrong with this. Why didn’t it qualify?

Well, maybe because everything?

Granted, she did sing better than at the jury rehearsal, but the singing there was so abysmal it was going to be impossible to rescue it. And there wasn’t much they could rescue this with. If there was ever a time to be jealous of my wonderful but entirely color-blind best friend, this was it.

If you want me back tomorrow I’ll be staying at the Hotel A, at the corner of Apollo

Belarus:

I can’t really hear this more than once every few days, so it’s a good thing I didn’t attend rehearsals. But for the three minutes this was on, even with vocals that were not as good as what Naviband usually provide us with, it was a genuinely happy display of infectious exuberance which I know sounds like a disease, but Eurovision kind of is that, so I suppose it fits.

We are lost like two sailing boats in the sea

Bulgaria:

Every year there’s that song I don’t quite get. This year, it’s Bulgaria’s turn. In its defense, I’ll say that at least this time around the extent of my not getting it is limited to “why is this a winning candidate? It sounds to me like a top 10 song at best!” rather than the usual “why is this a winning candidate? This should die a painful death in the semi!” Yet, it never grabbed me. It always sounds to me like something that promises so much more than it actually delivers, and I want to like it but end up disappointed every time.

Sometimes, though, you learn that all you can do is accept that you won’t get it but trust that if everyone else thinks it’s going to do really well, it probably is.

Our resident Harry Potter did all he could to sell this. The staging and camerawork had very few dead or uninteresting moments and quite a few brilliant ones, and as someone asked yesterday, when did Bulgaria start to get the hang of this? Kristian’s vocals were a bit of a mixed bag – I wish they would have dropped some of the higher parts in which he strains quite a bit, as his lower register is actually gorgeous – but overall, putting the song aside, it works, and he truly is adorable.

Thunder and lightning, it’s getting exciting

Bottom line: I’m not going to listen to this by choice, but I don’t suffer when it’s on. I don’t get it, but i do get why it will do well, and won’t be too upset when it does – even if it saddens me a bit that it will probably overtake “If Love Was A Crime”, a song I do listen to almost daily, as Bulgaria’s best ever result.

Lithuania:

I was typing a text message when the postcard for this was playing, and it took me a good 20 seconds to realize it had started and I was missing it. I managed to remember that there was a lot of red on stage, and that I thought she was actually quite good, but still cannot remember a single note of the song. Thankfully, now I don’t need to ever again.

Something

Estonia:

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my years as an ESC fan is when to cut your losses early, and just accept that sometimes songs you like are destined to fail. Having seen this performed in the Estonian national final, it was obvious that they would both need a personality transplant in order for their chemistry and the song as a whole to work.

Too much

Hello from Mars

What for?

At least they were more useful than the other non-qualifiers, as they established themselves as the GIFs that will forever keep giving.

Israel:

Eh, hmm, sorry, what, were you saying something? I’m a little, eh, distracted over here. I – wait, what was I doing – dear god, I can’t multitask when Imri is looking at me like that! Eh, ah, what, where was I?

I would die for you, look into my eyes and see it’s true

In seriousness, though: yes, it’s not the world’s best song, and yes, it wasn’t Eurovision’s best staging, albeit miles above most of what Israel has done before. And yes, the fact he is very very pretty helped. A lot. But I do hope that future Eurovision directors were taking notes, because this should go straight into the “Eurovision Staging for Dummies” book under the section entitled “How To Work A Camera”. No shot was left ignored. That was a three-minute masterclass, and a lesson for the preceding two entries. It wasn’t smug, it wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t ridiculous. It was “please keep looking at the camera like this until the end of time and let me just sit here and make a few emergency GIFs in case my internet gets cut off”.

I have no recollection of what the interval was, although I recall it served me well while making a sandwich and OOOH VERKA! Well, well, Ukraine, you might not be the greatest Eurovision organizer in history, but in your 14 years of Eurovision you won twice and gave us an act that will forever be in the Eurovision canon. That’s pretty impressive.

I enjoyed the qualifier revelation a lot more this time around, due to some great reactions – a special nod goes to Nathan’s dramatic and entirely genuine celebration!

And with that, we move inevitably towards Saturday’s grand final. You might have noticed I’m still ignoring the direct finalists, but not for much longer – my preview for the final is coming up soon.

To Be Continued…

 

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