all photos from eurovision.tv
At Wimbledon, it’s the date on which they used to make sure no matches are scheduled, to give the players some rest and the grass some time to recover. At the Eurovision Song Contest, it means a break from rehearsals and a chance for the artists to let their hair down – or wear it up! – on the turquoise carpet and at the official opening ceremony.
That’s right – it’s Middle Sunday. I like Middle Sunday. Not least because it’s also a fine chance for us, as fans, to take a breather from constantly hammering “refresh” on the blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, livestreams, and however else we’ve been frantically following proceedings in Turin all week long.
And since I haven’t done any blogging so far – mainly because we weren’t fortunate enough to get online accreditation, but also because my site colleagues Shi and Felix have been covering things so well – I figured I’d use this as an opportunity to jot down a few of my personal impressions as we prepare for the big week!
Amid all the criticism around the partnership with TikTok and the restricted access to the first rehearsals for the (fan) press, I have to admit I actually found it quite refreshing to be given a carefully curated drip-feed and nothing more. It made me realise that we can absolutely overdose on this stuff – not only in the sense of overanalysing the first technical rehearsals (even those of us who think we know better still end up doing it!), but also in terms of knowing every detail of every performance way too soon and feeling a bit like there are no surprises left by the time we reach the actual shows. Between the TikTok snippets and the subsequent YouTube teasers from the second rehearsals, I feel like the anticipation has been building nicely without ever reaching overload, and I’m both quite chilled about how things are going and nicely excited about ESC week rather than already approaching burnout. Which is how it should be!
The big question, then: who are my winners and losers so far? On the positive side, the Portuguese gang are cleverly differentiating themselves by performing in an intimate setting, Malik from Germany seems to be playing a similar #authenticity game with some success, and Azerbaijan should also successfully scratch the itch of serious-minded jurors with their surprisingly effective concept (are they a top 10 outsider, even? Maybe not, with Russia and Belarus absent). Subwoolfer from Norway appear to be producing as slick a visual package as anyone this year, and Spain haven’t got anything too wrong in terms of selling “SloMo” as “the nearest thing you’re getting to ‘Fuego’ this year, guys” to that particular section of the viewing audience. The United Kingdom have brought a big concept and seem to be playing the game for real for the first time in years, but I’m still extremely wary about Sam’s high notes and ad-libs (just sing the song, Sam – 99% of the audience haven’t heard it before!). Meanwhile, if you believe Ukraine are winning this year’s contest no matter what, their super solid staging will have firmly reinforced that view. Very impressive, given the circumstances.
In the category of “uphill battle but giving themselves the best possible chance”, the Icelandic sisters must be happy with the atmospheric vibe they’re creating, Ireland is cheap but fun – and while Montenegro are surely still getting nowhere near qualifying, they could easily give us that “oh cool, they actually came 13th, I expected worse” reaction when the full results are revealed in the wee small hours next Sunday. Finally, as much as I can’t get on board with “Eat Your Salad” as a song, there’s no denying the Latvians have brought their ‘A’ game to the rehearsals and are making a lot of friends off stage too. I smell qualification (at least, I hope that’s what I can smell…).
On the other side of the scales, I’m a little concerned about the Netherlands, whose ultra-simple staging is giving me the tiniest hint of Sennek – although “De diepte” is a quality song and that should hopefully be easily enough see them through. The Cypriot staging seems purposefully designed to block Andromache’s personality from coming across on camera (insofar as she has one – maybe that’s exactly why they’re doing it?), while the overly fussy Georgian performance and unfortunate colour scheme appear to have squelched what little chance Circus Mircus had of a shock qualification.
The biggest loser of all, though, is undoubtedly Finland. I’ve rarely seen such a unianmous “eek!” in response to a second rehearsal, and that from a supposedly big-name band. Are The Rasmus guilty of being too casual and not doing their homework on how to play the ESC game in 2022, or are they simply experienced enough to be holding something in reserve for when it counts? If it’s the former, an extra qualification space in semi 2 might suddenly be available…
As many of you know, betting blogs are one of my content highlights here on escgo!, but there isn’t actually a huge amount of movement to report there either. That may reflect the fact that the rehearsals have thrown up few big surprises, or it may be a factor of the limited content that’s been made available so far. Alternatively, it could be because so much money has been piled on Ukraine that it’s skewed the rest of the market! That said, it feels like there are still some bargains to be had – short qualification odds for the likes of Albania and the Czech Republic certainly represent interesting lay options – and Betfair has now added some of the more niche markets that I enjoy (Top 15, Top Balkan/Baltic/Nordic, etc.), which will give us something more to focus on as the picture becomes clearer throughout the next week.
Oh, and then there’s the malfunctioning kinetic sun. I have to mention it, don’t I? Well, there’s no denying that it looks bad on some entries – a big black hole at the centre of the universe, sucking in all life around it. Elsewhere – and not only on those entries that come with their own massive props (hello, UK!) – it isn’t too disturbing, and in some cases even complements the lighting and staging choices. As unfortunate as the situation is, it would be fascinating to know if delegations would have been allowed (and able) to make large-scale changes to their backdrops and concepts at the last minute to accommodate the static sun, or if it really was just a case of “tough, you get what you get”. One or two comments appear to have leaked out so far, but I don’t think anyone has fully broken ranks yet. Maybe in a few weeks after the dust has settled and diplomacy isn’t as important any more…
Anyway, the sun may not be moving between entries as hoped, but everything else is still up for grabs. And however much we speculate about this, that and the other, by this time next week we will know the winner of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest. Scary, isn’t it? But a tiny bit wonderful too.
This is our big week, folks. It’s the rehearsals turning from theory into reality, it’s the semi-finals, it’s the virtual envelopes, it’s waiting for the final running order, it’s getting our drinks and snacks ready, it’s juggling once-yearly WhatsApps from non-fan friends while trying to concentrate on what’s happening on screen, it’s the voting reprises, it’s the endless, endless interval acts. It’s the voting. It’s the split screen at the end. It’s the drama. It’s the Eurovision Song Contest.
Bring it on.