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The View from San Francisco: Grab the Moment

by | May 22, 2021 | 2021 Home Blog, escgo at Eurovision, Eurovision, Featured

The View from San Francisco: Grab the Moment

by | May 22, 2021 | 2021 Home Blog, escgo at Eurovision, Eurovision, Featured

I have no idea how it happened, but somehow it’s Saturday when Monday was just yesterday. On Monday, we didn’t have any finalists except the automatic ones. Now we have them all, and in order. So I’m going to do something really dangerous – yes, overthink, how did you know?!

Out of the many things that crowded my tired brain in recent weeks was that elusive “moment” concept. You know, that thing that makes us notice a song – and that, more often than not, the delegations will try to use in the recap to remind us which song was their song. Sometimes it’s not really a moment (or a few seconds) but just an image or a feeling. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about a certain song? And yes, “I don’t have it” is a valid answer too.

Go Go Go Wild Dancers

I wrote in one of my previous posts that Cyprus are attempting to create a branding dynasty, where you can just look at the screen and know what country the song is from. The downside of that is when you think about the song or performance, there’s a chance that the first thing that will come to mind won’t even be about this song, despite it being three minutes of very balanced staging that keeps flowing from element to element and holds our attention. It’s just more serviceable than memorable – with the gymnastics there is definitely a moment that sets this apart from the previous Cypriot entrants. I probably will forget it happened by song 4, though. Elena really should have gone with a 1.5 somersault and a tuskahara.

I’m Your Drama Queen Tonight

Say what you will about Sacha Jean-Baptiste, but if you’re going to recycle your own visual elements, at least do it with the good ones, which is exactly what she did with the Albania’s entry: fake smoke, real pretty backgrounds, lights, camera, showing off some leg, properly contrasting colors, add a bit of drama for taste, and done. Also done: any chance this song had, after being buried in the cemetery of #2 songs in the final order.

Albania, second semi final

When the lights are on, I will be your shining star (EBU / Anders Putting)

On Top of the World

You want memorable? Israel will give you memorable! What about the highest note in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest? Although truth be told, it isn’t really the whistle note that does the trick – not on its own anyway – but the smile Eden manages to have brilliantly spread on her face as she hits that note. She makes it look so easy that I wonder how many viewers tried this at home only to realize that you probably really shouldn’t.

Time, Time, Could You be Mine?

Timing is everything, and whether you like having the organizers deciding the running order or not, it has shown even more how being in a place that helps separate your song from what’s around it can make a big difference – especially in the semi-final, where sometimes the difference between qualifying and going home can be a few points or even require a tie-break. With Belgium’s “The Wrong Place” it can be even more noticeable – just think about all the songs it was surrounded by in the first semi! Sadly, though, some of the great camera shots that I saw in earlier rehearsals, which really helped make the beginning in particular more interesting and ease viewers into the song, are gone – and being so early in the draw won’t help them being remembered purely by being a properly serious break from the rest.

Show Them What It Means to Stand Up Proudly

If you watched the Russian national final this year, you probably remember that the first viewing of Russia’s song can be a bit of a confusing experience. While there’s definitely a memorable part of the song – the choral and more traditional chorus – there’s no way of guessing that it’s coming. This is the main weakness of the song, too, because one of the biggest challenges is holding the audience’s attention when they don’t know something is going to happen. Manizha brings a lot of levity into the first part of the song, which provides little foreshadowing of how serious the song actually is. It might be easier for second-time viewers to appreciate it, though. And I do think that even if you weren’t paying attention for a good part of the song, the final segment of the video grid on the backdrop and Manizha and the other singers singing to them is one of the most poignant moments of the entire competition.

Yes, You Gonna Like It

I might owe Destiny an apology. I wrote quite a few words about all the ways in which Malta‘s entry references or reminds of “Toy” (and Netta). And one point I made a few times earlier in the rehearsals was how one of the major things remembered about “Toy”’s performance was Netta herself, to the point that really no one else could perform that song as well – while it would be relatively easier to find singers who can perform “Je Me Casse” just as well. Though still true, what this doesn’t acknowledge is that, regardless, Destiny is one of the major selling points of this entry. Not just because of her obvious vocal talent, but the little things, like the facial expressions and vocal gestures throughout. They all make Destiny (and hence the song) even easier to like.

Malta, first semi final

I feel the flow of energy (EBU / Anders Putting)

Sweet Song, Love Song

I never thought I’d see the day, but Portugal staged something really well! Yes, yes, I know the staging for Salvador Sobral worked really well, too, but that was mostly because they managed to have a song that required very little staging. This entry, however, uses every existing feature in this year’s song in a way that actually benefits it. I do think that the opening black-and-white segment could have been a bit shorter, but that’s really the only criticism I have, especially as everything else is so effective – especially the orchestra reveal and the time changing throughout the day and night.

They Like to Party Like Nobody

I am tempted to, well, attempt ra-ba-baming this paragraph with sam sam sams and lom lom loms, but that’d get tiring very quickly. Either way, I was wondering in earlier Serbia rehearsals how the combination of that kind of song and a cleaner staging would work. Turns out: very well. All you need is a strut, lom lom lom lom. Even with the support backing vocals, what’s truly impressive is the level of fitness the Hurricane girls needed to work on for this song: lots of movement around the staging and even more dancing on those high heels. (If you’ve never worn high heels, I will tell you that I wasn’t joking about how even standing on them is a workout. It really is). And still they’re capable of breathing by the end of it. I suspect that this is another one where many of us will attempt the choreography at home at some point.

Serbia second semi final

I’m gonna start my weekend with a tonic and lime (EBU / Thomas Hanses)

You Haven’t Seen Before How Looks The Trumpet

Well, at least something about this performance is memorable. Better luck next time, United Kingdom.

Carry Me In Your Dreams

For a production with such big names behind it and a local girl carrying the torch, Greece really had an opportunity to do better than whatever it is they ended up doing. She is gorgeous, the song is nice, but apparently in 2021 a flashy gimmick isn’t enough. Not because the time for this has passed – it definitely hasn’t. But in a year that has so much else to offer, this doesn’t quite make the cut. Before the rehearsals started I also wondered whether “Last Dance” is the wrong song for Stefania, and after watching her a few times I feel that even more. Even in this outfit and in a very different type of song and staging, she does come across as a sweet, wide-eyed teenage girl (which she is, and it’s totally fine), and that’s why I’m really sorry she never got to perform “Supergirl” – and that the Dream Team decided this, out of all years, was a good time to not try to recycle themselves and go for something else entirely.

Greece, second semi final

No strings attached, no drawing lines (EBU / Thomas Hanses)

Beautiful Song is on the Radio

In 2019 I really insisted that Duncan Laurence’s staging for “Arcade” (my second favorite, after Italy, going into rehearsals) wasn’t doing enough to win. This year, going into rehearsals Switzerland was my second favorite (yes, after Italy – I’m nothing if not consistent), so one would hope that the fact I have quite a few negative feelings towards its staging too might be a good omen. At the same time, I never had an issue with the concept of the “Arcade” staging as a whole – just that it wasn’t giving it as much oomph as they could have. It ended up winning despite not topping most of the votes because everything else just split across lots of contenders and this was the common song that everyone liked. My issues with the Swiss staging are a bit bigger than that – I just don’t get most of it – but I did think on Thursday that the song itself still stood out quite a bit, as extremely strong songs do whatever you throw at them.

I Will Dance Alone Wherever I Am

Ironically enough, Iceland‘s performance I do get – and I like it, as I do the song itself (even if not to the extent I love Switzerland). The entire Covid-19 thing is unfortunate for obvious reasons, but I imagine it also gives Iceland an extra boost where public relations are concerned and even a little tiny bit of a sympathy vote. That aside, while I’m sure they could have delivered a better performance if they had more chances, the one they have recorded is very good – not to mention that half of Europe is yet to watch it for the first time anyway. Seeing the two semi-finals, it’s quite clear the production managed to avoid audience shots as much as possible during songs, and I imagine that was as a preparation for exactly a situation like this. So why “ironically” when all I wrote so far were positive things? Because I actually don’t think this song – as a song – was ever strong enough to win it, never mind the staging and the sympathy.

Give Me One Good Reason

How does Spain go again? Yes, It’s one of those. Not bad, really. Just also not very good. So the moon I remember, though. The melody? Not so much. I had to try hard to start singing it, even though in theory at least the chorus of this should be easy enough to retain. If there’s one song in the line-up that I just can’t come up with one good reason that will have people voting for it, it’s this.

I’m Not Your Toy, You Stupid Boy

When Moldova‘s qualification was announced, Natalia celebrated by making sure to not look at Kirkorov (is he like a basilisk? You look it in the eye and become a wax statue?) until at some point she turned towards the rest of the delegation only to realize he was right there and quickly look away again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that sorry for an entrant to have qualified, but I really think that Natalia – the consummate professional that she is – is ready for this to be over.

Moldova second semifinal

I’ll take you down now, make you watch me (EBU / Anders Putting)

Me and My Ukelele

I don’t feel hate for you, Jendrik, but I do start feeling some hate towards having to write about Germany‘s entry one more time. You are delightful, as is the bedazzled ukulele. The song is…. not. Let’s leave it at that.

We Could Be The Same

Can I copy-paste any of my previous paragraphs about Finland? That’s very representative of their performances of it – which is to the credit of their professionalism, for what it’s worth. I do wonder if it will work as well as it obviously did in the semi – but it’s always had a very clear identity in terms of what it is, who they are, and how it looks like on stage. Can’t argue with that.

In a Moment Like This

Bulgaria is another country that decided to change its camera angles for no good reason only to lose more impact. When your song develops so slowly, you need to keep the audience with you and have whatever happens on the screen develop as the song does. It worked well in rehearsals, but really didn’t on the night – and wasn’t helped by Victoria’s nerves, either. They can do better, though, and if they do get it right (again) the big reveal moment will be worthy of some goosebumps (and will connect a lot better to that part in the recap).

Get Up and Dance to Our Eastern European Kinda…

I would have thought that pretty much everything about Lithuania‘s entry is memorable, even if not really a favorite of mine. The colors, the clothes, the dance moves. And yet, “Discoteque” hasn’t been talked about much. I wonder if it is one of those songs that people like but is never anyone’s big favorite. It’s still one for the memes, though.

Three Minutes to Earth

Many of you probably realized by now that I’m a giant nerd, and quite a few of you know that I have a slight obsession when it comes to following Eurovision through Google Trends. I’ve always liked understanding process and how people react to things, and having a live graph does that in a way no other tool can. There were a lot of very interesting things to see in those graphs over the two semi-finals, but nothing was more fascinating to look at than the reaction to Ukraine. At first – nothing. Then, when it updated one minute later – this is the point where you usually start seeing the uptick for a song – still nothing. A minute after that, it started moving, but still not much… and then in the last update it just spiked all the way up as people finished watching the performance and began processing it. It will be interesting to see what happens to that graph tonight, with half of Europe being mentally prepared for it, while the other half is yet to experience what they’re about to see.

Ukraine, first semifinal

Dazzling light of mankind’s emotion (EBU / Anders Putting)

S’il fallait le faire

More things I am really curious to see today: how will France work after Ukraine? How will France work in general? It’s no secret that I never really got this entry, and while I actually appreciate the presentation and how unique it is, I’m still not managing to feel much towards it beyond a need to drown my sorrows in a pint of ice cream by the time it’s done. We joked around quite a bit about how French the song is, but it’s actually an obvious advantage if you’re able to create a presentation that is equally French and yet considerably less cliché at that. I said it about Italy in my line-up check entry, but it’s true for quite a few songs in this year’s final line-up: the best Eurovision genre is “do your thing and do it well.” So while this might not be my thing, even I can recognize they are doing their thing very well.

Shake it up şekerim

I’ve always made fun of myself for enjoying ethno in Eurovision. Just give me an ethno instrumental break and a bit of choreographed dancing and you probably have my vote. Turns out I’m not the only one who is easily distracted by that! Remember the Ukraine Google Trend graph? Azerbaijan’s was considerably simpler. Every ethnic music dance break got a spike in the trends. You get a spike, you get a spike, we all get a spike! Sure, it’s one of the laziest Azerbaijan entries on record, but it’s also one of the few that’s like a traditional Eurovision fan favorite – because while many things have changed in Eurovision over the last 18 years, apparently that doesn’t apply to the reach that can be achieved by a song with an ethnic beat and a group choreography. The singing, in case you wondered, is irrelevant.

Azerbaijan, first semifinal

Make that move on me, it’s time for you to see that my world’s on fire!
(EBU / Anders Putting)

‘Cause She Was an Angel in Disguise

You know what, I don’t even know why I dislike Norway‘s entry so much. Probably a combination of my dislike for kitsch performances and kitsch songs and suffering a bit more by the combination of both in a way that doesn’t even make much sense to me. But like TIXs own angel, Efendi (no, I didn’t manage to keep a straight face while typing this), this is also so painfully and stereotypically Eurovision that I can start believing that they stuck those two back-to-back not simply for the Efendix effect, but to lessen the shock of what comes before and after.

The Rhythm Inside Is Telling Us We Can Fly Tomorrow

I really like the Netherlands‘ entry this year. I love the singer and the arrangement. I’m not entirely sure about the staging, but one very simple – and very important – thing they did right was handling the most memorable phrase of the song, which is also the one phrase that isn’t in English. “Yu no man broko mi” brought on many broccoli jokes when the song was first revealed, but when you see both the phrase and its translation spelled out it’s almost surprising to realize how similar they both are, and it connects all the pieces of this performance together. Add the local audience into the mix and you get what could be a very special three minutes, regardless of the result.

Everything I Want

Oh, Italy. What a way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Azerbaijan pyro curtain! They’d be so proud! The rest of the Italian show is, obviously, slightly less wholesome. Like many other delegations this year, Italy, too, was influenced by what we all experienced over the last year. As their creative director explained very simply, people miss going to big concerts and doing other similar things, and this is the feeling he wanted the performance to evoke. It definitely worked, although how well it did we’ll only know later tonight. But much like I said in my line-up check, I’m just really glad it’s here.

When You Hear Our Voices Call, You Won’t Be Lonely Anymore

I think that what the audience is supposed to remember from Sweden‘s performance is that final scene, as the dancers and Tusse walk forward and the fake screen people join them. What people will really remember, though, is Tusse’s fashion style, which to be fair is probably more interesting than the song. I also can’t decide if it’s going to disappear completely here or provide another respite like Efendix before the final explosion that is San Marino.

Sweden first semifinal

Your heart is like a beating drum (EBU / Anders Putting)

Aye Aye, Fuego

San Marino’s performance is a lot to take in, even without the Mars people (thank you for dropping those costumes, really). But watching the last minute of it today made me realize that it has the exactly right type of energy that is perfect to close the show with, and I’m all for a bit of Green Room party to end the songs with. And while there’s so much visual overload on this, sometimes you don’t need to remember an image from a song. Basically, guess who woke up yesterday morning with her brain screaming ADRENALINE!!!

26 songs. If I’m that tired after only writing about them, I can’t imagine how tired I will be tonight after the show (even though it will only be 4pm my time, but I’ve managed to get my second vaccine scheduled for during the interval. Oops). 26 songs, and I think almost all of them still might find ways to surprise me tonight. I want to see not only who wins, but what are the things that were really unexpected despite my best attempts to overthink every single element here.

But that’s what post-mortem posts are for! Whether your favorite (or mine) wins or not, I hope you enjoy tonight. It’s been a long two years, and if there’s something I took away from the 2020 we all went through, it’s to remember to not take some things for granted.

Happy Eurovision day, everyone!

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