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The View from Israel: Unforgettable

by | May 11, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured

The View from Israel: Unforgettable

by | May 11, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured | 0 comments

I began writing this preview yesterday. It was 39c degrees outside, my brain wasn’t functioning, and then we found out Joost wasn’t rehearsing in the first final dress rehearsal, because what this Eurovision needed was more drama. Fast forward 24 hours, and with only a few hours left until the final I’m trying to enjoy this as much as I can after months that have been some of the worst of my life. At the end of the day, life’s too short.

You know what is never too short? My writing. I tried – I swear I did – to write short reactions to each of the participating countries in tonight’s final, sometimes reflecting on their chances, sometimes reflecting on their performances and sometimes getting distracted, because I’m me.

We’re starting the night with Sweden, which is actually a very decent start to the proceedings. It’s also the winner of this year’s most ironic title competition, because while the staging is impressive and the local audience is going to give it a whole lot of love, it is actually quite forgettable.

Did they really put Ukraine second? I did not see that one coming. I did see Ukraine’s staging being excellent coming from a mile away, and it’s hitting all the right buttons all the way through. The emotional rollercoaster of this year’s final is starting very early.

Not to overlap with Martin’s turn to overthink things, but you got to feel for Germany being 3rd in the running order, knowing it probably wouldn’t have helped its televote chances much if it had a better draw. However, in an improvement to prior German entries, after watching the full performance I do suspect there might be a chance to get some jury love.

Oh, hi there, Luxembourg! So nice of you to come by! You’ve fulfilled your mission of not embarrassing the country’s heritage on your first year back, you made it to the final, and now you can go hang out in the bottom 5. Don’t worry, you might not have been here for a while, but the bottom 5 is usually inhabited by other countries who’ve been around for a while. You’re not alone!


You’re not alone, you’re not alone
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Wherever you stand on Israel’s participation, it’s hard to argue on how challenging it must be for a 20-year-old woman, but Eden managed a difficult situation with enviable composure. Vocally, it actually wasn’t her best effort, so it might even get better in the next live television performance.

Lithuania was solid and slick in the semi-final, but I have a hard time predicting its chances in the final. It feels interesting and modern, enough to get votes from both juries and audience, but at the same time it almost feels a little bit too muted to be fully remembered out of the entire line-up.

Me: OMG Spain is fun!
Sister: OMG WHAT IS THIS? Ok, this is kinda fun.
Mom: WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? This is a terrible Eurovision if that’s the level of songs we have in it.

So yeah, the live Spanish performance show went down well at Casa Shi. That sounds also like a fair assessment of how it will go down generally, and I can’t guarantee that thinking this is a lot of fun necessarily translates into votes. I won’t entirely rule this out – I can see this taking Spain out of the bottom 5 based on audience vibes, which were immaculate in the semi – but would I be shocked to find them once again in that familiar territory? Not really.

Can you feel it’s the eighties coming back?
Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

I initially didn’t have Estonia as a qualifier. Funnily enough, their performance was worse than I expected, and yet I actually ended up guessing them as a qualifier after the semi-final performances because I reminded myself what I literally wrote here about several songs only two days ago. People love stupid happy nonsense sometimes. Sometimes juries even love stupid happy nonsense too, but I have a feeling that one is not on that list.

I still think Ireland is three minutes of noise, but it’s three minutes of an incredible stage show as well, and I will not be remotely surprised if it bewitches the viewers of the final as much as it did the semi’s. The juries are a different matter – musically, I’m not sure that this is really their thing, but they might respect the creativity and imagination.

One of my favorite moments of the second semi-final was entirely unplanned. It was at the very end of Latvia‘s performance, and seemed to have caught Dons by surprise as much as it did the audience: he cried. He tried very hard not to, and bit his lip, and it was the moment of raw and honest emotion that sealed a less expected qualification. He’s a great singer, and the song is lovely, but it will be harder to replicate that sense of true emotions tonight.

Marina, darling, I have a few unfortunate bits of news for you. First of all, turns out your staging for the Greek entry doesn’t work quite as well as I thought it would, because you’re essentially just going back and forth on a moderately-sized stage and the entire color scheme is kind of drab. Also, I hope for your own good that you managed to figure out how to at least look you’re not lip synching by the time of yesterday’s jury rehearsal, because it was pretty obvious how often you were not singing when you moved the microphone away but magically the singing kept going. You’re not Slimane.

Good news: You do have the ethno lovers on your side – those parts were actually fun, drab color scheme and all.

Greece performing in the second semi final

If I find out you don’t want me, I’ll be vicious
(Sarah Louisie Bennett / EBU)

Speaking of stagings I was overly enthusiastic about, let me present to you exhibit number 2: the United Kingdom. When put back in context of 3 minutes, the novelty goes away pretty quickly, and it actually looks more amateur than it impresses. The gestures and expressions do little to help this either, but it’s still a strong song, so not all hope is lost even if it means another year in which the UK still underperforms.

Elsewhere, we have Norway – a song that I always wanted to get because I felt like it should be a song I like, and I never quite got it. I still don’t, and the performance isn’t particularly dynamic, but it has gravitas, somehow, that really allows the song to fill the space and grab attention for three minutes.

Italy is still the internal contradiction song for me. I know what it’s about, I know what the lyrics say, I know that some of Angelina’s performance is meant to capture the lyrics, but I find some real joy in that melody that is infectious. The staging does seem overly complicated and a bit busy (despite being almost empty) but Angelina is effortlessly charming and easily carrying this song on her own.

I had Serbia as a qualifier in the first semi-final and truthfully, I think I surprised myself with that one. But I did predict a similar result to the Serbian ballad from 2019 – a Q and then absolutely nothing in the final – and I stand by this prediction.

Finland, I feel, served its purpose in the first semi already, where it was a silly fun 3 minutes in a show that just didn’t have many options and therefore an easy televote choice. In the final it’s going to have much tougher competition and presumably not much jury love, either.

Finland performing in the first semi final

Are you ready for a little chat in a song about the Internet?
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

I… kind of forgot what Portugal was already. To their credit, I remember how it looked on stage as it was very striking, but we’re less than 12 hours away from the final at the time of writing this and I can’t in my life hum a single bar of this. This one will have to hope they’ve done enough with the juries last night to at least feature somewhere on the board.

When we reached the 10th qualifier in the second semi-final and Armenia still wasn’t called, I have to say that I actually did doubt my choice. I felt the live performance ended up being louder and less naturally exuberant than I expected it to be, but perhaps that’s the difference between having expectations and watching while really not knowing what will come next. I doubt this will get much points beyond the countries and diasporas that are into that kind of music, but there’s a lot of those to go around, anyway.

Cyprus was very lucky to be in the first semi-final. I have a feeling that had she opened the second semi-final and Malta was in the first, it would have been Sarah on the stage tonight and Silia would be watching the final from home. It’s still a fun track, though, that was shot better than I gave it credit, and Silia is lovely enough to carve herself some space in the mid-table female bop hall of fame, alongside Ivi Adamou and Elena Tsagrinou.

I complained in my semi-final preview that I don’t get the Swiss staging and costume. I still don’t, but who cares. Nemo owns every little tiny bit while being vocally brilliant and managing to always connect with the audience and look at the right camera. It’s very hard to not notice this, which is a good thing for a song that is still more likely to do better with the juries. Doing well with both votes, though, is how you win Eurovision and Nemo is so very close to bringing back the competition to Switzerland.

Switzerland performing in the second semi-final

I’m going where there’s ze-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ero
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Slovenia surprised all of us by qualifying, but in retrospective it was both a “what am I even looking it” act which often has its audience in a semi that has few options, and was actually also performed very well. I can’t see it doing anything in the final, but they already made it further than expected, sometimes that’s enough.

“Oh, so this is why it’s a favorite!” was my sister’s reaction to Croatia. I still find the staging silly and messy, but I can also see why it works. It’s fun, it has a lot of energy and it was clear on Tuesday. It should even be more obvious on Saturday as the audience in the hall is going to try very hard to push it towards winning a first Croatian title.

Georgia was a surprise for me at rehearsals, perhaps of their track record in recent years, so I was delighted to see them qualify. Out of all the entries this year this one might be the most Eurovision by Numbers, but nothing wrong with that – some of the most fun entries are exactly that, and she absolutely nails the vocals, and because I’m totally shallow: also has the coolest dress this year. That shining metallic orange is just perfect for the understated feel of fire on stage. If she didn’t wear it, you would never know what the song was about!

France is just a man and his microphone, but oh, he is so good at it. I wasn’t sure how he’d come across on screen and worried that he’d come across a bit too smug with how over the top some of the vocal acrobatics are, but he comes across as someone you’d love to get a hug from. The staging is effective and impactful and makes it stand out visually as well as vocally. Anything out of the top 5 will be a travesty for this.

Slimane performing in the second semi-final.

You’re stuck on me like a tattoo
(Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Austria is the perfect way to finish the night! It ended up being my favorite performance from the semis and the only one I’ve watched more than once – I’m determined to get that choreography down, hopefully while not breaking anything in the house in the process. It was never a song that was going to do much, but I think the performance gets everything it can out of the song, and the vocal arrangement lets Kaleen show that while her main strength isn’t necessarily vocals, she can actually sing. She can even sing after doing a full acrobatic session – can you?

With that, let’s hope we can still have an unforgettable night for some good reasons, and for better days all around.

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