It felt like one of the longest weeks ever – which is probably a result of being awake for a lot more hours than one should be, really – but we’re almost at the finish line of the individual rehearsals, with only the direct finalists still to take the stage for the second time.
This means that instead of doing useful things like catching up sleep before my nightly blogging session starts or on all the adulting I ignored this week, I’m once again finding myself staring at a list of semi-finalists and trying to figure out what I think about their chances next Thursday.
And once again, this required a very complex mechanism to use as a visual aid. Stay with me here: paper! I used an actual piece of paper, and then I wrote the country names of all the second semi-final participants. The next step required some careful planning: I had to reach for my marker box without stubbing my pinky toe into my bed frame. I picked five colored markers and used the green one to highlight the countries I’m the most certain will qualify. Then, with the red marker, I highlighted the songs I’m pretty sure are dead in the water. Once that was done, I had to decide which of the remaining countries I think will fill the remaining qualification spots.
Should I start with the good news or the bad news? Bad news, then, just to get it out of the way.
Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and Latvia, I’m sorry, 0 points.
Wait, that’s not the text, although in theory at least one of you could achieve it. Either way, you’re out. Better luck next time! No, if you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you. I already blogged about it.
Now for some good news:
San Marino, yes Rida, no Rida, you will have a lot of fun with the televotes and even the juries will have a few things to intentionally downvote before they get to you, so you should be fine.
Greece, you have a cute song and a cuter singer, a slightly ridiculous staging that televoters will love and juries will not punish you for because your song is way better than Sergey’s. Enjoy another year of exchanging 12s with Cyprus in the final.
I already wrote a thesis about you, Iceland, so a Q is all you’re getting today.
Bulgaria, you and I have had a rocky relationship. Your PR methods and I never really got along, even though I actually did like some of your songs. Then some other songs I didn’t really like and said PR methods made sure I’d like them even less. And then you got Victoria. I admittedly didn’t like her song last year much, and I’m not a huge fan of this year’s song either, and some of your PR language still either drives me nuts or just makes me laugh when it’s obvious it’s not supposed to. But I’m also a big believer that if I’m going to be harsh, I should also give credit where credit’s due. So let’s talk about your staging a bit, and why I think you tackled an extremely great ask admirably.
It’s been easy to make a bit of fun out of Victoria’s songs, given the exaggerated emotional nature of Bulgaria’s aforementioned PR language on top of the lyrical content of said songs. But some things also deserve a series response, and writing songs about anxiety and depression isn’t easy, nor is performing them. As human beings, we often don’t want to think about the things that scare us and don’t like to admit that we’re struggling, but the older we get the more things will challenge us and sometimes weigh us down.
The thing that touched me the most about your performance is that it manages to encompass a fairly complex idea. When the song starts, we’re focused on Victoria, in her small private space alone with her thoughts and her worries. When we worry, it’s easy sometimes to focus on the immediate and the things around us and it’s hard to take a step back and think about what it means in the great scheme of things, and whether it even matters. Going from this small, scaled-down scene to the ocean water and the vast space of the universe, and seeing the sand of time keeping falling, is a reminder that what we feel right now – be it anxiety, worry, fear – makes just a tiny piece of our time here, just as we are tiny specks in the context of the entire universe. It’s a concept that is often hard to even think about, not to mention present on stage in less than three minutes. It definitely took me way longer than three minutes to write it.
Which means it’s time to move to our next qualifier, Switzerland! I’m not as excited about your staging, in case you missed it, but your song is gorgeous, and Gjon at least sings it as well as I could have hoped. I don’t think you’re going to win anything, but the final was never going to be a problem.
Next up was another look at the list in search for more likely NQ victims.
Oh, hi, Uku. I actually forgot you’re even here. Bye, Estonia.
And really, Denmark, you’ve had a nice run, you got yourself a lot of new fans, but both Sweden and Norway are in the other semi, so good luck with that.
Do you know what this means? I have now reached my brain’s favorite overthinking territory, the borderline! No, brain, please, it is really unnecessary for you to keep singing “I am close to the borderline” on repeat. Where was I? Oh, right.
So, who do we have left?
Austria, can I just tell you how happy I am to not have to deal with a similar song to what you’ve sent last year? I don’t know what you were thinking, but if your plan was “make sure we get the jury vote nailed down and then try to work up from there”, you’re on the right track.
Portugal, just go ahead and copy Austria’s notes. I don’t need to repeat myself. Please pay better attention at class. I have ADHD, what’s your excuse?
Everyone, please meet Albania, our resident ethnic ballad. To my great shock, there are no drums in sight, but the first five notes of this will make it very hard for anyone to not realize it is an ethnic ballad, and that was even before they got themselves this nice little staging from the Eurovision staging royalty that is the Jean Baptiste Group.
Finland is as solid as it always was, is in a niche that its many lovers and has a great draw.
Which brings me to the last two candidates: Serbia and Moldova. Two uptempo pop songs of the trashier variety, and both have things that work for them and things that work against them.
Moldova, in many ways, feels like a safer choice. In contrast to its video clip, there’s nothing daring, outlandish or even extra bright here. It’s just a pretty singer with a pretty smile and a slick dance routine and few gimmicks and tricks to distract from it. But being the safe choice is the very thing that makes it both a likely candidate to make it through or to stay behind (assuming that Kirkorov doesn’t somehow control half the cellular towers in Eastern Europe). On one hand, sometimes you just need something lightweight and fun, and when it’s something that is safe and not divisive, it can be easier for voters to gravitate towards it. The downside of it, however, is pretty obvious: it’s also considerably more difficult to stand out.
By going for a modern and clean staging, Serbia also tried being a bit of a safer choice, and the question here is similar: will it work for them or against them? The staging essentially relies on the idea that the Hurricane women and the song are enough to get the attention they need, and as such all that’s left is to provide a setting that will not distract or detract from the performance and hope there are enough voters in the semi that likes pseudo-Balkan trash, gorgeous girls who show a lot of skin, or both.
In the next episode of The View from San Francisco: a Moonshine bottle, a baguette, a broccoli, a mutant trumpet, a middle finger and a blah song that got stranded in a deserted arena. You won’t believe what happened next!