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The View from San Francisco: Where We Draw the Line

by | May 12, 2021 | 2021 Home Blog, escgo at Eurovision, Eurovision, Featured

The View from San Francisco: Where We Draw the Line

by | May 12, 2021 | 2021 Home Blog, escgo at Eurovision, Eurovision, Featured

Eurovision, like most of 2020, has its own sense of time. When rehearsals start it feels like there’s still so much time until the semi-finals. Two days into rehearsals and you can’t believe it’s only been two days because it feels like a year. Four days of rehearsals? That’s when you realize with some surprise that we have now completed the entire first round of semi-final rehearsals.

There’s something weird about only watching half of the full rehearsals in full so far – a result of this year’s Press Centre format and my unfortunate but financially responsible need to actually have to also work during the day time. Even in years when I didn’t get to watch any rehearsals, I had an easier time having some overall thoughts of the semi-finalists by that point because at least everyone was on equal ground, while here I can definitely feel the knowledge gap in my brain between the ones I watched and the ones I’m yet to watch.

Yesterday’s rehearsals of the remaining participants of the second semi-final was actually the most musically diverse of the rehearsal days so far, which honestly didn’t really help sorting things out in my brain beyond the very obvious ones.

What is obvious, then? We can expect lots of colorful otology-related tweets from Tornike on Thursday night as he lets Eurovision fans across the world know exactly how he feels about Georgia not qualifying. I’m sure he will even attempt contacting each person who didn’t vote for him directly and will teach them some ancient Georgian proverbs. He might even growl them in different keys if you ask really nicely.

It’s also fairly obvious there’s a good chance he’ll run into Samanta Tina at the airport, and I honestly can’t decide if they are going to be besties or cause a diplomatic incident between Latvia and Georgia. Thank you, random person who came up with the term “frenemies”. Let’s go with that one. Things nobody should go with, though? Wearing green costumes when your backdrop is black and gold. If you insist on a song that is very difficult to listen to, you could at least come up with a visual concept that people can actually see, process and absorb. I actually feel a little sad about how much I dislike everything about this entry, because the one thing I don’t dislike is Samanta herself, and knowing how much she wanted to go to ESC – and how often she tried – I would have loved to see her perform something that would have given her a better chance to not have to meet up with Tornike at the airport on Friday morning.

Latvia first rehearsal

Just like Cleopatra, the army of lovers (EBU / Thomas Hanses)

Also obvious? Bulgaria and Switzerland are going to do well. I know you’re shocked right now and that you would have had no idea this was a possibility until right this moment. I am yet to watch Switzerland, but what Felix thought of it was pretty much what I thought of Bulgaria: if we got sucked into a time vortex only to find our way out of it in June and discover one of those two songs won, we’re not going to be particularly surprised to hear that.

Both are different sounding songs with an encompassing musical narrative and a cinematic scope which each performance showcases in a different way. Despite all the big words I just used, though, that’s all I have. Although in Bulgaria’s case I apparently also an unresolved Disney obsession – which I apparently share with Jordy of ESCnation. I saw Treasure Planet and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He saw the Lion King.

Bulgaria first rehearsal

Run with the Lions (EBU / Thomas Hanses)

Yes, I get distracted very easily. What’s your point?

A little further down the obviousness scale we have Albania, who I personally always had as a safe qualifier because that’s generally a safe assumption to make about the only ethnic ballad in a competition where ethnic ballads have always had an audience. It’s not a great ethnic ballad, but it’s decent enough and the combination of a reasonable song, a gorgeous woman who is a decent singer, striking visuals and a little help from some Balkan friends is a promising combination.

Albania first rehearsal

My secret combination is a mystery for you (EBU / Thomas Hanses)

Combinations are the name of the game for the less obvious ones. We’re talking about the songs that will take advantage of the existence of math and do magical things to it by receiving a high enough score with either the jury or the televote to make up for not scoring much in the other set of votes, and thus somehow make it through anyway.

To be fair, in Denmark‘s case I still don’t really have anything that makes me feel like it can be high in either vote, but as I’m surrounded by Denmark fans who have access to the website’s dashboard and can block me permanently in a fit of rage sparked by my refusal to see the supposed greatness that is the Danish entry, I’m going to include it here anyway. Better safe than sorry.

And then we have Portugal and Finland, my two borderline entries. If, when I came out of that Swiss-Bulgarian time vortex, you told me that Portugal qualified easily? I’d believe you, because it looks great on screen, totally sounds like a jury song, and let’s face it – there are quite a few songs I can see the televote liking less. But if you told me that they finished 15th I’d still believe you. After all, Pedro’s voice is really an acquired taste and that musical style is a bit of a niche.

And what about Finland? It’d totally make sense for me if it did qualify, as it would follow the steps of quite a few songs from the same neighborhood which enjoyed the privileges of being in a genre that has an audience and also one in which there’s usually not much of a competition. When you find yourself in this position, all you need is to have a reasonable enough song (which they have) and perform it well (which they do).

But failure to qualify won’t be an unexpected twist, either – it is a bit too cold and too detached and lacking a bit in terms of identity and character, and I can just as well imagine it doing an Ann Sophie. Bear with me here, I don’t mean genre-wise obviously (though Ann Sophie going nu-metal would be amazing) – I mean having plenty of people who do actually like the song, but not quite enough to make a real impression when it comes to crossing the imaginary finish line.

Spoiler alert: If Finland does cross that line, they’re going to have a little problem called Italy waiting for them. Good luck with that, boys. And good luck to me with actually managing to remember which of the words out of “channel, blind, dark, side” belong to the band’s name and which belong to the song title. We all need challenges in life.

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