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The View from San Francisco: Don’t be scared to say just what you think

by | May 11, 2023 | Eurovision, Featured

The View from San Francisco: Don’t be scared to say just what you think

by | May 11, 2023 | Eurovision, Featured | 0 comments

Some things never change, not even when you have an off year. Once Eurovision week arrives, the space/time continuum switches to Eurovision mode where the passage of time makes no sense. After all, we’re hours away from the start of the second semi-final, even though the first semi-final only finished three hours ago, right?

Three hours is at least enough time to draw some conclusions, the most important one being this: while a televote-only system will inevitably end up giving some extra love to the “What Did I Just See?” variety entries, for the most part what viewers vote for is pretty straightforward. Memorable songs, relatable performers, and competent performances. It’s not about the genres or the languages, it’s just about getting people to pay attention for three minutes and like what they see.

I also learned that I still can’t remember how Latvia goes, which: case in point.

Like I did for the first semi-final, I only watched rehearsal snippets and looked at photos of the semi 2 entries. It didn’t stop my brain from thinking a lot of things and writing a lot of words, because of course it didn’t.


The Danes clearly decided that actual singing is unnecessary, and in fairness, it’s not like the EBU is doing much to dissuade them. Lack of actual vocals aside, the song is cute, the staging is cute, Reiley is cute, his hair is a curly hair shampoo commercial waiting to happen (he might even have one already for all I know), the semis are televote-only and moms, grandmas, aunts and teenage girls with cellphones exist.


After Rosa Linn’s “Snap!” finished 20th in the grand final last year only to become a massive worldwide hit a few months later, the Armenian delegation called for an emergency session so they could review the events and figure out what went wrong despite the song clearly having massive potential for success. After long nights of endless discussions, some decisions and recommendations were made. First of all, the framework from 2022 had to remain in place. What does that mean? They had to choose another female singer-songwriter, and in turn, she’d be required to write a song about writing a song.

Armenia rehearsals

How many last songs are left? I’m losing count
(Corinne Cumming / EBU)

The main thing to be changed was the staging. The 2022 one was overcomplicated and difficult to operate, as was clear when Rosa Linn completely messed up that reveal moment, which probably cost her what would otherwise be a certain victory.

Therefore, it was decided that stagings that had too many details in them were not permitted. There can be no room for the possibility of exact details and concrete ideas leading to accidental mishaps during the live performance. The only way to prevent this was to choose the most abstract staging possible. In fact, it had to be so abstract that it would be impossible to even detect a color scheme. Details can’t be allowed when the fate of Armenian entries hangs in the balance.

Brunette initially didn’t realize how strict they were going to be about it until she delivered the first draft of her song. They wanted her to remove that line about three minutes of making impossible plans. “It is way too specific”, they insisted. “You don’t need that line. Here, you wrote that other line about having no plans. Having no plans is good. Be good.”

Yeah, that definitely explains the seven minutes of unnecessary panic attacks.


I didn’t expect Romania to send their own unique take on “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, but here we are. The kid is good. The song is bad. The styling is truly, horribly, unreasonably ugly.

Theodor Andrei rehearsing D.G.T. (Off and On) for Romania at the First Rehearsal of the Second Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena

Tell me why couldn’t we just try
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)


When Alika’s team realized that she was the only female in this year’s line-up to perform a more traditional and old-school kind of ballad, they decided to take this opportunity to go where no female ballad in Eurovision has gone before and come up with a really daring and groundbreaking staging.

So they brought a piano and made everything blue.


January 15th, 2023, 6am, Gustaph’s House

At first, Gustaph wasn’t sure what woke him up. He pretty much fell into his bed at 3am when he got home from the Belgian national final after party. His head kept buzzing, and it took him a few more minutes before he realized the buzzing wasn’t a new and fun hangover symptom, just his phone ringing over and over and over while set to vibrate mode. Someone clearly really wanted to talk to him. He didn’t recognize the number, but against his better judgment, he accepted the call.

“Hello?” He croaked.

“Took you long enough”, said the voice on the other side of the line.

Gustaph cleared his dry throat. “Who is this?”

“It’s Roberto Bellarosa. Listen, do you have a pen and paper? Write down this address. Memorize it. Then destroy it, and be there at noon today.”

Gustaph was curious so he carefully wrote the address down. “What is this ab…” he started asking, but the line went dead. Gustaph stared at his phone. “Did he just hang up on me?”

Exactly at noon he met Roberto outside the secret meeting place. “Good, you’re here, come in and meet everyone.”

Gustaph followed him inside and found a room full of people. It took him another minute to realize he actually knew everyone. Loïc Nottet was chatting animatedly with Jérémie Makiese in one corner. Next to them Laura Tesoro and Axel Hirsoux were having a lively discussion of their own. Blanche and Sennek were watching a cat video on Blanche’s phone, and the Hooverphonic gang was busy doing their daily straw draw, deciding who was going to be the lead singer that day.

Belgium rehearsals

It all ended in the weirdest trip
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

“I’m sure you’re wondering what’s going on”, Roberto stated the obvious. “Ten years ago I came up with an idea for a super top secret club, and I’m very excited to have you join it today. Welcome to the Belgian Eurovision Entrant Club! Now, I know what you think.”

Gustaph very much doubted that.

“You wonder why the club has such a boring name. Well, it’s Belgium, we barely manage picking decent Eurovision entries, so choosing a good name for a top secret Eurovision club is just too difficult. But the rules of our club are simple. The first rule of the Belgian Eurovision Entrant Club…”

“Is that we don’t talk about the Belgian Eurovision Entrant Club?” Gustaph guessed.

“Pretty close. That’s rule number 2.” Roberto said. “The first rule of the Belgian Eurovision Entrant Club is that you must wear only black or white outfits on stage at Eurovision. No exceptions, unless it is a silver jacket. We might be willing to consider a small splash of color as long as it’s understated and nothing too crazy, but you’ll have to bring it to us for approval first.”

Gustaph frowned in concentration. “Didn’t Eliot wear this glow-in-the-dark sweater thingy?”

“He did, ” Roberto nodded sadly, “and he is no longer a member. It was a very tough time for all of us. But I’m sure we don’t need to worry about those kind of shenanigans happening with you.”

There wasn’t much Gustaph could say to that, so he just nodded. Roberto seemed pleased.

“Now that we got that out of the way, I do have one question for you. How do you feel about wearing a white fedora?”


Alright, Andrew, listen, your song is great and all, even if it’s a bit morbid at times, but I have questions.

You keep singing “you can’t break a broken heart”, but forgive me for saying this, I just don’t understand what you’re basing that on. It sounds like you went through some serious stuff – thrown into gutters? Torn into pieces?

Cyprus rehearsals

Undo my sad
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU_

That’s a lot for anyone to take – and yes, I know you survived and made it to the other side. But didn’t your life experience also teach you that even when things are bad it can always be worse? Because in that case I think it is clear that even a broken heart can break some more. Don’t tell me that it’s impossible, ’cause we both know it’s possible.


After Noa Kirel and Vesna did it in the first semi-final, it’s now Dilja’s turn to represent girl power in the second semi-final and pay a tribute to the greatest artist to ever come out of Merseyside, Melanie C. How about that high kick? Straight out of the Spice World album cover. Zig-a-zig-ah, innit?


Victor, honey, are you okay? Why are you lying on the floor like this? I know everything right now feels like a bit too much and that ERT kinda threw you into the fire and ditched you to deal with everything all by yourself, but it’s going to be okay, I promise. Maybe not now, maybe not right after Eurovision, but there is no shame in being young, inexperienced and not quite ready for this. Go home, take some time, don’t read the comments. It’ll all be fine. You’re doing great, sweetie!


With approximately seven hundred pre-recorded vocals, a whole bunch of dancers, multiple dresses and it being the third song – at least – in the second semi-final to use a fire backdrop, I am starting to suspect that the word “solo” doesn’t mean what Blanka thinks means.

Poland rehearsals

It’s you and me and everybody out there
(Corinne Cumming / EBU)


No one:

Absolutely no one, not even Maja Keuc:

The Slovenian delegation: “Do you know what the Slovenian niche in Eurovision should be? High school prom bands!”

Things Iru has: Big faith, Vincent Bueno’s platform, Ana Soklič’s outfit and a –

*Checks notes*
*Googles again*
*Makes sure the keyboard is set to the correct language*

Chagadaradamda. She has Chagadaradamda, and something called Chimidimidanta .
Ok then.

Georgia rehearsals

Before it all echoes, echoes and goes crashing against the walls
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

San Marino:

This is the fourth time in this semi where a performer decides to play dead on the floor. I’m not sure if it’s worrisome – there’s clearly some bug doing the rounds – or just unoriginal.

But you know what? They definitely nailed the originality factor with their color scheme. After all the fire backdrops we had so far, it’s great to see something different and extremely effective like the color combo of white and red over a red background. This should definitely stand out in this line-up!

Semi 2 songs with a fire backdrop: 3
Semi 2 songs with artists playing dead: 4
Semi 2 songs with a red backdrop: 1


Oh, mio padre, there’s a ghost in Austria’s staging, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. They don’t know how the ghost of San Marino’s color scheme possessed the Austrian staging, but they’re happy that it did.

Teya & Salena rehearsing Who The Hell Is Edgar? for Austria at the Second Rehearsal of the Second Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena

Tell me who’s scared now?
(Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Semi 2 songs with a fire backdrop: 3
Semi 2 songs with artists playing dead: 4
Semi 2 songs with a red backdrop: 2


Albania rehearsals

Red (Sacha’s Version)
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Semi 2 songs with a fire backdrop: 4
Semi 2 songs with artists playing dead: 4
Semi 2 songs with a red backdrop: 4


I was today years old (Čiūto tūto) when I found out (Čiūto tūto) Monika doesn’t sing (Čiūto tūto) that finally her heart is breathing (Čiūto tūto). Beating really does (Čiūto tūto) make more sense (Čiūto tūto).

Monika Linkytė rehearsing Stay for Lithuania at the Second Rehearsal of the Second Semi-Final at Liverpool Arena

Saudade, saudade (Čiūto tūto), nothing more that I can say says it in a better way (Čiūto tūto)
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Semi 2 songs with fire / orange backdrops: 5
Semi 2 songs with artists playing dead: 4
Semi 2 songs with a red backdrop: 4
Čiūto tūtos in semi 2: Infinity


Me: “Oh, they have a car on stage. I know the band’s name is Voyager but still, seems a bit excessive.”

My brain: “If they’re Australians, Eurovision is in the UK but the majority of Europe drives on the correct side of the road, where is the steering wheel of that car?”

Semi 2 songs with fire / orange backdrops: 5
Semi 2 songs with artists playing dead: 4
Semi 2 songs with a red backdrop: 5
Čiūto tūtos in semi 2: Infinity
Semi 2 songs with cars: 1

Australia rehearsals

Caught in the middle
(Chloe Hashemi / EBU)

And I can’t wrap this post up and go to bed at 3am like the normal person that I am who has to wake up in not enough hours for work without the three direct finalists of the second semi-final:


Two entries back-to-back that had such strong presentation in the national final they only needed minor adjustments for the Eurovision stage? It’s emiracle!


I’m not really sure how I feel about this one, and I don’t really know what to say about it. Luckily for me, they don’t care what I say or feel anyway, so we’re all good.


When you said you were leaving
to rehearse just one more time
You didn’t mention you’re going, yeah
to keep that video offline

I got so mad was gonna
Cuss you out inside my house
For no one to see
Maybe trash your comments
Tell all my friends
How cruel you were to me (to me, to me)

Instead I rewrote your song
‘Bout how you did me wrong
Now I can go to bed
There’s a long semi day ahead

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