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The View from San Francisco: Rotterdam, or Anywhere

The View from San Francisco: Rotterdam, or Anywhere

Tick Tock
Time is a funny thing. The seven weeks before I left for Tel Aviv? Time didn’t move. Not even a little tiny bit. It felt like a year. The seven weeks since the last night in Expo? They’ve flown by. Because, seriously, how is it July already? And how is it that, after spending a year feeling so involved and invested in every detail of the upcoming ESC production, next year’s one feels like it’s taking place in a parallel universe? The non-stop stream of news coverage, even when there was nothing new (or verified or, you know, remotely accurate) to report, was exhausting. I have no idea what the situation is like with the Dutch media, but I’m enjoying not feeling like I need to find out. Israel obviously had its fair share of problems that were unique to this particular edition of the contest, but no production is free of dramas, so what can I say, Dutch friends? Good luck with that. I’m just going to sit here in my sunny California corner and enjoy some peace and quiet. Call me when your stage is ready.

Visionary Dream
One of the many odd things that comes with the territory of being the host country is a slightly misplaced sense of ownership. For example, I really love this year’s stage and therefore I’m somehow also proud of it, even though I obviously had no part in creating it.

One of the biggest challenges Israel faced as a host country this year – and also one of the topics which was discussed the most often – was the lack of a proper hall, or rather, the lack of a proper hall in a city that was really a much more suitable choice for the event Eurovision has become. For better or for worse, the Eurovision in Tel Aviv will be a case study for years to come. One very obvious negative point that will need to be addressed in future is the financial implications. Being a new public broadcaster, having no financial contribution from the government and a very small hall in a very expensive country left Kan with very few funding possibilities, which in turn led to the high ticket prices. It’s easy to get angry and shout words like “greed”, but the truth – as always – is more complicated. Still, this should be a red flag for the EBU, whose investment in the desire of making Eurovision a bigger-and-better sort of event is driving many potential hosts to being weary of participating or actually trying to win.

That aside, Kan showed it is possible to hold Eurovision in a smaller hall, something that has become a make-or-break thing over the last decade or so. It is, as they continuously tried to remind us, a television show, and the main objective is that it should look good on TV.

Last year, I had a very long rant about Sweden’s staging and how they essentially dismissed the local effort completely by never showing anything they didn’t bring with them from home. Truth be told, though, I wasn’t a big fan of the stage last year anyway, and I can understand the reluctance of delegations to show off the local stage when that makes it very hard to set yourself apart from the opposition, short of surrounding yourself with props.

What I liked about the 2019 stage was that it offered so many options – it wasn’t just about the backdrop or floor art, but the positioning and flexibility of elements, all of which allowed delegations to create a unique visual identity for themselves (as long as they put some effort into it). And it was actually possible to achieve quite a lot with the stage even if you had no props.

More than that, I enjoyed seeing delegations actually using the various tricks it had to offer – there are editions of ESC where all kind of cool features are added but barely anyone uses them, but it felt like delegations were both more aware of the possibilities this year and also more willing to use them. I hope that going forward, host countries will take a leaf out of this particular book and focus on building stages that allow delegations to focus less on the gimmicks and props, and more on how to just make their song come across the best they can in the unique setting of that particular year.

Size isn’t everything

Be My Guest
Another thing I never realized until sitting through this year’s dress rehearsals was how much local culture finds its way in, and not just when it comes to interval acts.

The area where it jumped at me the most, way more than any other year, was watching the hosts. Each of them had a different temperament, and yet they all shared something very Israeli in the way they presented and communicated – a form of unapologetic directness in which we flat-out refuse to engage in any forms of socially acceptable politeness unless we actually mean it.

Erez, by his own admission, was the responsible adult, and as the most experienced figure in the quartet he was actually very dominant throughout rehearsals, helping the other three to find their feet and figure things out. But as a person who thrives on high-pressure situations, he had a harder time on the actual nights where he actually had to stick to the script and not step in to guide the others through difficult situations. If any live crisis had happened during the show, he would have been the one to take control of the situation – he’s the person who can keep presenting like absolutely nothing is wrong even while an alien invasion takes place right behind him. But since the event was generally crisis-free, bar Madonna’s performance, the better part of his contribution was the tidbits he provided off-stage – I’ll probably always laugh when I remember his story about the show’s director singing “Say Na Na Na” into his earpiece during one of the live broadcasts – and it’s hard to not be sympathetic to a host who says he started his Eurovision journey knowing little about the contest but that he now suffers from PED (yes, he actually used that term).

The cringe-worthy dialogue was there as it is every year – but like I said above, considering that we Israelis tend to be both very cynical and very much devoid of communication habits that can be perceived as polite, the delivery was self-aware enough to be surprisingly bearable. Also, like the good Mediterraneans we are, there was a good measure of jumping into each other’s sentences and sometimes winging it and having no idea who is supposed to speak next. But towards the end of the show, the combination of that mayhem, the general absence of decorum and our touchy-feely ways with a pinch of being oblivious to the idea of personal space, helped by how endearing Duncan was when he made it on stage, made the often stiff and uncomfortable final interaction between the hosts and the winner into something that felt more sincere and very human.

Shortly before that, there was another little lovely moment that I almost didn’t catch until re-watching the end of the vote several more times, in which the Netherlands wins and behind them, to the far end of the green room, the entire Israeli delegation – including performers and crew who were part of last year’s winning delegation – stand huddled in a half circle and cheer the winner on: a figurative tip of the hat from the last winner to the new holder of the crown.

A Matter of Time
There’s never a real way of predicting who will win next. The last three winners came from countries who thought they’d either never win or never win again. And really, if Portugal managed to win the Eurovision Song Contest, anyone can. Except maybe San Marino.

But there are some countries where it really feels like it’s a matter of time before the dice land right. And topping that list is one specific country that is even better than Israel when it comes to being chaotically Mediterranean. It also has the shape of a boot, people who say “allora” all the time, and a selection platform that provides it with such strong entries that it has managed to average an 8th place across its nine participations since returning. That is still quite a bit below the other most obvious future winner, Sweden (with an average of fifth across its last nine participations in the Eurovision grand final), but it’s only one place lower than the average of Russia’s last nine participations in the final, and a couple of places higher than the average of the last nine final performances of Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

The main difference between Italy and those four countries, though? Italy has achieved that average without actually making much effort to stage their songs. This year’s was probably the best they have done in that respect (and they could have done it even better). But at the end of the day, the success of “Soldi” – my biggest favorite this year, even if I honestly thought it would be lower in the top ten, and I was as thrilled to see Mahmood as runner-up as I suspect RAI was, albeit for different reasons – was mostly still based just on the song.

Not there’s ever anything wrong with songs that are so strong they can get a good result without much else, but just imagine what Italy could do with the combination of a stellar song, acceptance that Eurovision is not Sanremo and hence there’s a more urgent need for a real staging, plus general luck of the draw and a favorable line-up in terms of the other songs. I just watched Mahmood’s performance at the Radio Italia summer concert in Palermo last week, where he was the final artist to perform in an evening featuring a load of Italian music all-stars, and the giant cheer he received when he was introduced as the Sanremo winner was as loud as the one he got two seconds later where he was also introduced as this year’s Eurovision runner-up. When it comes to RAI’s avoidance issues, I can only imagine that the more recognized Eurovision becomes in Italy, the more they’ll be interested in investing more creativity and more soldi in the endeavor.

In the ‘mood to win?

The History Book on the Shelf
When I was growing up in Israel, it wasn’t cool to be a Eurovision fan. There was this lull between the 1979 competition and the 2019 one – both taking place in times where liking the contest was perfectly acceptable, and even to be expected – where people preferred to pretend they really couldn’t care less.

Even then, there was that one Sunday every year where kids would discuss Eurovision performances during the morning’s gym class, and the same people in my military base who made fun of me when they found out I like Eurovision somehow managed a very informed discussion about the performances and results of the 2000 final.

Things were different this year. I’m not just talking about being able to walk into pretty much any shop in Tel Aviv and not only have animated discussions about this year’s favorites, but also being regarded with respect and bombarded with questions by people keen to learn more. It wasn’t even the news coverage, because when Eurovision gets so many hours of that, you have to think out of the box for more ideas – but I enjoyed seeing the interviews with previous Israeli hosts, features about the orchestra and conductors, and especially a very cool story in which the directors and producers of the 1979 and 1999 shows came to visit the 2019 set.

But no, the real reflection of how much we truly do love Eurovision in Israel was generously sprinkled across all three live shows. The video montages in both semis, as well as the final promo montage which was aired in the second semi and the montage opening the final with explanations on how to follow the show and vote, were easily among my favorite segments in any Eurovision ever. Sure, they featured a lot of familiar favorites, but they also included a wonderful selection of choices that I suspect the majority of non-fan viewers had no memory of, yet it worked wonderfully in context – because even if you didn’t recognize the specific clips, the whole thing was so undeniably Eurovision.

I loved all the touches and nods to Eurovision history during the final – local and international, recent and not so recent. Having Netta, last year’s winner, in the opening video, together with Jon Ola and a little touch of the 1979 winner, set the tone for the night. The late Ofra Haza got her moment of recognition when her iconic “Im Nin’Alu” was played during the flag ceremony, and it was wonderful seeing our first entrant – a household name to this day – getting the respect she deserves on center stage. There was a nod and a wink to a recent success, too: Nadav Guedj was the first entrant we sent when our selection system was changed to the cooperation between the national broadcaster and the commercial channel, a system that brought us a win four participations later, and while nothing could be more obvious than bringing him to sing (or, well, mime) the words “let me show you Tel Aviv”, it was also entirely appropriate.

All four winners were involved in one way or another. Netta obviously opened both the first semi and the final, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” got a brilliant video montage of highlights from this year’s postcards during the first semi and Izhar Cohen presented the Israeli points during the voting, although rumor is he was a bit upset about being the only winner not invited to sing anything. Don’t worry, Izhar, I’m pretty sure Dana didn’t really sing anything either. Speaking of the diva, I didn’t care much for her semi interval – because, ugh, that song – but her final appearance offered a clever transition from “Tel Aviv”, one of the biggest hits penned by Doron Medalie (the co-composer of last year’s winning entry), into her own Eurovision winner, “Diva”.

I personally also really enjoyed everything about seeing recent participants singing each other’s songs. Not just the different takes, but mostly the idea of involving Eurovision artists from other countries – we’re all in this together, after all – and even more so, including notable runners-up and not just winners, because there’s more to this than just winning. For me, it was particularly sportsmanlike to invite last year’s runner-up to take part and share some of the spotlight.

There was never a way in which our Eurovision hosting trademark, a group singing of “Hallelujah”, wasn’t going to happen. And for all I roll my eyes at that kind of sappiness most of the time, insert a joint performance of that song into the right context – namely Eurovisions hosted in Israel – and you might as well just hand me that entire damn tissue box.

That was also accompanied by one of the most genius visual moments of all-time at Eurovision – the reincarnation of the 1979 stage. So simple, so brilliant.

Either way, don’t let anyone fool you. The Irish can show off their seven titles until Sweden overtakes them, and Sweden can show off how they are about to overtake the Irish, but mirror mirror on the wall, who loves Eurovision more than all?

Yes, that would be us. We love Eurovision. We really do.

We’ll follow along

On a Sunday
I said goodbye to Eurovision 2019 on a Sunday. Literally, and not because Sunday clearly comes after Saturday and Eurovision clearly happens on a Saturday night.

Having Eurovision in Israel means my Saturday night schedule was pretty much this: The final started at 22:00, finished at some point after two in the morning, and that was followed by some press center commotion, hugging emotional Dutch fans and running to catch the bus to Euroclub. So when the afterparty only starts at 3am and the weather is so warm and nice it allows you to spend most of the night in the outdoor patio area, so you can have conversations with people where you can actually hear one another and say proper goodbyes, it’s easy to stick around and forget it’s been a while since the last time you left a party once the sun had already come up.

But that was how I found myself standing by the outdoor bar, at 7am, in broad daylight, having an animated conversation with Fred from KEiiNO. We covered a variety of topics, starting with his admiration of Mahmood’s voice and “Soldi” (can’t argue there) and how he thinks Mahmood will make an excellent joiker (I probably could argue there), through him making fun of my very old smartphone (but then expressing an admirable amount of both respect and self-restraint when I explained my life choice of not actually using anything that requires internet on a phone, which apparently was an acceptable explanation as to why I wouldn’t need anything particularly sophisticated in my hand), to then realizing that Tom and Alexandra had ditched him at some point and having no clue how to get back to his hotel (I pointed him to the direction of the taxis, because I’m nice like that). We both tried – and failed – to understand what the two drunk women who joined our conversation were saying, and when the security people came to shoo us out, it turned out I had a lot less interest in being yelled at by Israeli security guards than the rest of them, so I left them to it and made my exit.

As I was walking towards the main road, I passed by a gathering of deliriously happy and unsurprisingly drunk Dutch fans belting “Arcade” (it’s really not the best party song, is it?), then momentarily joined a trio of girls sitting outside a small café who were shouting “Goodbye, Estonia!” at Victor’s back as he disappeared into a cab – before I reached the bus stop, entirely on my own and accompanied by the usual busy sounds of the first morning of the new week, because yes, in Israel our week actually starts on a Sunday. And just like that, the journey that was Eurovision 2019 was over.

Until next year, Eurovision.

See you in Rotterdam. Or anywhere.

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The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

They Can’t Stop the Spring
The last few days in San Francisco have been ridiculously hot, which made me very miserable and earned me quite a few “are you sure you’re Middle Eastern” comments.

Yes, I’m sure. And throughout the fortnight in Tel Aviv, this particular Middle Easterner was also reminded why she usually avoids visiting at any time between late May and early October. But most people who were not Shi and/or Israeli passport holders seem to have enjoyed the ESC weather – in which Tel Aviv skipped spring and moved straight into summer – and to be fair, for such a colorful and party-heavy event, the weather had its advantages.

You could take a break from Eurovision and remember you’re actually on vacation by going to the beach and having ice cream, and even though Eurovision is broadcast at 22:00 in Israel, the weather was warm enough to go to any public viewing – be it at Eurovillage or just sitting on the sidewalk and watching in one of the many pubs and bars that were showing the event, like my sister, brother-in-law and myself did on the night of the second semi-final.

It was also really nice to be able to sit in the large patio area of Euroclub at 4am and actually enjoy the night air as it went from unbearable during the day (I tell you, my inner Middle Easterner is broken) to pleasant during the night. And though I spent a lot of time at the press center – something I normally try to not do as much during ESC, but it seemed to matter less in a country where I didn’t have to play tourist and where I tried to avoid the daytime weather – even there, they made sure to provide us with a reminder that we were on a vacation. More than that, they forced us to remember: once you sat down in one of those sun chairs, it was impossible to get up again.

Being me, though, I spent a lot of my time in those chairs analyzing Eurovision data. Because I’m a nerd and I can also multitask. As such, my look back at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t stop with the above review of the weather. This is your coffee alert! Or frappe. Or something with a colorful umbrella.

Sommar’n som aldrig säger nej

Believe Again
It always amuses me to see that the Wikipedia entry for every contest contains a few paragraphs about that year’s returning artists. I mean, each year is its own story, so why does it matter that much, really? At the same time, I’ve always liked the idea of returning artists, because as a fan I know many artists actually go to Eurovision without it being their lifelong dream or even knowing much about the competition and what it’s like. And it’s always made me happy, somehow, to see artists “getting” it and wanting to experience the whole thing again, maybe even doing it better next time. Not necessarily in terms of results – we had quite a few returning winners whom I assume knew were unlikely to repeat that feat – but at least getting the most out of the experience now that they knew what to expect.

Five lead artists from past ESCs returned this year, each with a different story arc. We’ve covered Joci Pápai already; he came back with a much more personal song, and sadly (especially for me) was far off his previous achievement, as he didn’t even qualify for the final.

At 24, Nevena Božović has spent half her life in the Eurovision circuit – starting with her Junior Eurovision participation in 2007, through being part of Moje 3 in 2013, to competing as a solo artist this year. Despite only finishing 18th in the final, I imagine this year was very special for her. Not only for being back in Eurovision, this time as a solo artist, but for writing her own song and actually qualifying after narrowly missing out in 11th in her semi-final back in 2013.

I could have lived with Serhat not coming back, to be honest. But credit where credit’s due, and my views on his musical capabilities aside, he did improve on his previous result – 12th in the semi – by both qualifying and getting San Marino’s best result to date. 19th in the final may not much to write home about if you’re any other country, but it’s a good year in San Marino’s unnecessary Eurovision book.

It was a mixed bag for Sergey Lazarev. He generally looked relaxed throughout, and I think in part that was because “Scream” was never a really big favorite in the way his previous entry was. I’m sure they hoped to do really well, but you never know what the actual expectations behind the scenes are. Still, finishing in third again with a song that is quite different from your previous entry probably counts as over-achieving, all told. If you’re a glass half empty kind of person, though, you might point out that Sergey got 121 points fewer than last time (with only one more country participating then compared with this year), and he actually did worse with both the public and the juries: fourth in the televote this year after winning it in 2016, and ninth with the juries compared with fifth in 2016.

Of course, none of the returning artists this year had quite the journey Tamara Todevska had. After four qualifications for the final, her 2008 entry with Vrčak and Adrian – “Let Me Love You” – was the first Macedonian entry to miss out in the semi-final era, albeit only losing out to Sweden on a jury wildcard. This kicked off a stretch of eleven years in which Macedonia only qualified once, including Tamara witnessing her older sister Tijana failing to qualify as well. Knowing all this made it even more special seeing her emotions when she qualified and during the final jury vote (which she did eventually win, even if not on the night), where it was clear that, whatever happened in the televote, she was already going to deliver her country’s most successful result ever.

Plus, random useless trivia: North Macedonia’s previous five finalists scored a combined total of 299 points. Tamara got 305.

‘s got alls vo seal, weil’s dr guat got

Don’t Play That Song Again
The main problem with actually attending Eurovision and its 323,435,300 run-throughs is something I have been in denial about for much of the season: it’s a lot harder to avoid certain songs. Normally, I’m able to skip a song until I absolutely must endure it in the live broadcast. But watching and blogging the rehearsals, I wanted to be fair and give all the songs the same amount of attention.

Thankfully, this year I actually liked most songs – I still shudder at the idea of attending ESC 2018 instead and having to sit through endless rehearsals for that second semi-final. Still, every year has its share of songs I really don’t need to ever listen to again, and 2019 was no different.

So without further ado, Shi’s 2019 blacklist:

  • Montenegro: As likable as those kids were (and they were adorable, really), there was no need for this song to exist. Or to have actually won their selection. And while I am grateful for the last minute of their performance, because it distracted me with all sorts of “what the hell are they doing?!” thoughts to allow me to manage and somewhat ignore the song, I feel no need to ever play “Heaven” again.
  • San Marino: I don’t care if this was their most successful entry to date. Everything about this played nicely into my ongoing rant about the “why are they even in ESC?” issue. I already found the song annoying in its studio version, and considering how much worse it was live, I intend to never think of it again.
  • Croatia: Sort of like Montenegro, really, except the distraction here was in the form of some really pretty backdrops and two miserable people who had to wear angel wings and be dropped from the ceiling into the hall. I hope they got paid well for it.
  • Israel: I could never stand this song to begin with and wasn’t much of a Kobi fan, but as long as I was in the US and not feeling the Eurovision frenzy in Israel, I could at least avoid the part where so many people in my country were actually really behind the song without any concept of how bad it was and how badly it was going to do on the scoreboard. I have a lot of words to say about the Israeli song and performer selection this year, none of them positive – but you know what is positive? It’s done. It’s over. We never have to think about it again. Onward and upward, or something.

Lost and Forgotten
When I was looking through the list of participants this year to make sure I didn’t forget any pet hates for the list above, I realized there were a few songs I’d already forgotten about. Because I’m a nice person, I want to make sure everyone gets a shout-out in my 2019 wrap, though, so I’m going to quickly scribble a few thoughts about them before they return to the drawer marked “who was that again?”.

  • Finland: In theory I actually sort of like this, in the sense of never feeling an urgent need to fast-forward when it comes on shuffle. But the live performance was so disengaging it constantly made me wonder why I should care about it if even its performers couldn’t be bothered.
  • Belgium: Another one where I like the idea more than the actual end product. I already struggled with the studio version – I liked some parts of it a lot, but there were underwhelming parts too, and the overall result was that I always ended up not wanting to listen to it. The performance had exactly the same problem: I liked the idea of it, but in practice it was gray and lifeless, and I had already forgotten it happened until Wikipedia told me otherwise.
  • Moldova: No, please, don’t stay. To be fair, I like Anna, but the song was never more than just reasonable, and then they had to go and borrow someone else’s staging but make it considerably less interesting so even that didn’t work.
  • Lithuania: Wait, are we certain they actually participated this year?

Lykken er et spann med sand i en liten barnehand

What’s the Pressure?
When writing Eurovision rehearsal coverage from the safety of your laptop in the faraway lands of Northern California, there are a lot of things that can be hard to see and feel. Over the years I have found myself theorizing about the state of mind of certain delegations coming to Eurovision, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to imagine what it would be. For example, it’s very easy to assume that the big favorites will come in with a huge amount of pressure on their shoulders, between their own expectations, the press interest and the general atmosphere of the press center which tends to amplify everything. In a documentary about Israel’s history in Eurovision, a few delegation members from last year talked about the relief Netta had when Cyprus overtook her in the odds: with the Israeli public and press preparing itself for disappointment, the pressure was off and this helped her enjoy her final performance a lot more and deliver a stronger performance as a result – essentially making sure she would win it after all.

On the other end of that scale are the delegations that come in with very little chance of doing much of anything. I never had it verified by anyone, but I always assumed that the Icelandic delegation last year came in absolutely understanding they were going to finish last (which they did), and that knowledge, together with Ari’s personality, helped them to get through the experience and focus on doing the best they could.

Being on the ground this year, the interaction with delegations was more limited than I expected, but the bits and pieces I picked up provided some insight and even a few surprising moments for me. Russia and Azerbaijan, two big hitters that always aim to do well, were two I expected to be highly strung, but they actually gave a very grounded feeling, putting the work in, taking the time to relax and get away from the madness and never coming out with big declarations.

Cyprus, much like last year, came pretty well prepared – for better and for worse. The positive of that was they were confident enough in their preparation and experience to not get swallowed up by the hysteria of the bubble and the Cypriot press – apparently the level of concern caused by Tamta’s vocals at rehearsals caused speculation that she might not even qualify, and the delegation had to basically handle the local press while not letting it get to them. The downside was that they were not very flexible about making any changes, and as a result perhaps ended up getting less out of the rehearsal period than they could have.

I was somewhat surprised to see the explosions of drama coming from countries with so little chance of achieving anything big that you might not have expected their delegations to be so invested. Instead, they seemed set to spend their time being angry at everyone and everything.

The Moldovan delegation is one such example. I doubt anyone there thought they could do much more than borderline qualifying at best, and since they did at least have a capable lead performer, aiming for her to present the entry to the best of her ability would have sufficed. And to be fair, they were close – only nine points separated Moldova from tenth place and qualification. Instead, they made sure to constantly complain to everyone about all the ways in which they were being wronged, without ever actually detailing them. It’s a great method, really: it’s very easy to complain about having asked for something and having been refused without actually saying what you asked for, just as long as everyone knows that if you fail, it’s not your fault. It’s not that I think that they’re lying – in fact, I’m sure they’re not – but I also mentioned in my previous piece that, having seen the amount and degree of changes other delegations were allowed to do, being refused something would require a damn good reason. Considering the finished product, it’s also very doubtful that any changes they might have done would have changed much overall. Spreading so much negativity for such low stakes suggests that someone, somewhere, was going to ask for explanations afterwards, so some precautionary groundwork needed to be done.

It was even like that to a degree with the Dutch delegation. With criticism about their staging from many quarters (myself included, as you well know – obviously they couldn’t care less about what I think, but there were other critics the Dutch delegation did care about), there were a couple of days in which we heard several voices from the delegation complaining about Kan not doing this and not doing that, even though the run-throughs showed very little willing to change anything. Again, putting this kind of claim in the context of seeing how much other delegations changed between runs, it was hard to believe that supposedly crucial requests from the delegation would be ignored to such a degree. Discussing this with a few Dutch journalists, we all felt like they were trying to get their excuses ready in case they didn’t win, just to make sure no one accused them of not doing enough.

Since I talked about Ari from Iceland earlier, I should say that I had Croatia 2019 down as the candidate for the same role this year. A lovely, talented guy with a fairly chanceless and tacky song. He’s obviously great, I thought, and they put a lot of effort into the staging and really did everything they could with it, even if that’s not much. They should be pleased with themselves, whatever happens.

In reality? Not so much. It turns out the delegation was under so much pressure to qualify, especially from certain people on high, that being around the Croatian delegation was pretty dangerous. The delegation actually demanded to have the volunteers assigned to accompany them during their stay removed, after they had the joy of witnessing some of the verbally explosive incidents which took place within the delegation. I may never like his song, but my respect for Roko grew knowing that he kept smiling throughout and giving it his best despite having all this noise boiling behind him.

And for what? No matter how much pressure you’re under, everything everyone does within a delegation plays a part in how well you do, and the mental well-being of all delegation members – not just the performers – is as important as everything else. Just ask anyone from the German team in 2002, which fell apart under stress from above. If you want your performers to give their best on stage, you need to make sure you give them the best opportunity to do so.

It’s you and me and everybody out there

We Are the Winners
One of my favorite things to write about when I was a sports journalist was stories about the process and getting a look behind the curtain. It’s easy to see a talented and charismatic sports star or a performer and not really think about how many other people had a hand in getting them to that moment, which is what makes the green room reaction shots into one of my favorite things about Eurovision – it’s wonderful seeing the entire team celebrating their achievement together.

It’s not often that we get to see the team share the stage with the artist for the winner’s reprise, though. We sometimes see the other team members join at the very end or when the song ends, which also means there are about three seconds between that and the final Te Deum of the night.

Last year, in an entirely unsurprising display of Israeli chutzpah, composer Doron Medalie had strategically placed the entire team on one of the stage’s bridges after placating a stage worker by telling him they were just going to stand there and get a look at Netta while she performed. Of course, he then proceeded to cause a diplomatic mini-crisis and put the reputation of Israeli delegations in question as he led a stage invasion which saw the entire delegation join Netta for the final part of the song. For me, that was one of the best moments of the night and one of the highlights of any reprise I can remember seeing in Eurovision. There’s something in that display of togetherness and celebration of everyone who was a part of the journey that really works for me – I guess my inner Israeli isn’t that broken, after all.

With Israel being the host this year, stage invasion wasn’t a risk anyone could afford, not even a participating delegation. But luckily for the Netherlands, having Israel as the host means you’re talking about a country that’s very fond of that “all singing together” thing. Twenty years ago, on the tiny stage of the 1999 Eurovision, Charlotte Nilsson ended up sharing the stage with pretty much all the other participants and interval act members as well as her entire delegation.

This year, as Duncan began his winning reprise performance, the Dutch delegation were led to the wings of the stage and then given permission to join him, which they were all too happy to accept. Seeing them together at the end, laughing and crying and singing the lyrics, was the perfect dose of emotion with which to end Eurovision 2019.

All images from eurovision.tv except the sunchairs, which are ours

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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The View from San Francisco: Goodbye to Yesterday

The View from San Francisco: Goodbye to Yesterday

Calm After the Storm
Eurovision seems to have its own rules when it comes to the time and space continuum. The national final season takes forever to arrive and then speeds up and slows down in illogical ways. The gap between that and rehearsals is somehow even longer even though it is shorter on the calendar. The ESC weeks themselves are super quick, and feel like a million years at the same time. And then it’s just a couple of weeks later and I can’t even trust my memories because the whole thing feels like it was so far away.

Geographically speaking, I suppose it is. I got back to San Francisco last weekend, having first had the opportunity to step away from the madness for a little bit. The unexpected advantage of going home for Eurovision is having the time to spend with family, be an aunt, smell the roses and stare into the Mediterranean sunset I always miss so much, even though I have a pretty good collection of sunsets here over the Pacific Ocean.

But once I got back, it all felt so far away that I ended up re-watching the competition and collecting notes on all the thoughts running through my head as I look back on ESC 2019 and my personal experiences. And luckily for me, I happen to have a blog at my disposal where I can share those thoughts and experiences, and an off-season with little else going on. What else would I do but spill out the contents of my brain for you unsuspecting readers?

So here it is: the first of my wrap-up posts from the other side of the pond.

Is it Right or Is it Wrong?
One of the biggest challenges when blogging Eurovision rehearsals is knowing you’re not a prophet. No matter how objective you try to be, you’re just one person with one person’s opinions. It’s easy to own the things you get right – and don’t worry, I will. But it feels more appropriate to start off owning the things I was wrong about. Mea culpa and all that.

So what do we have here? I thought Malta would do better, based both on the early rehearsals in which it seemed like they’d get it right when the time came and just the strength of the song. And even when the rehearsals took a more worrying turn and Malta drew first half and were selected to open the final, with so many strong songs much later in the running order, I didn’t think “Chameleon” would be ignored by the televoters so much.

I had Hungary not only as qualifier, but also as a country that could do well in the final – you know, an ethno ballad in a year with very little in that niche. Here I definitely suffered the press center syndrome of watching rehearsals so many times it was hard to see how things had gotten gradually worse until it was too late. And while I never had Armenia above the bottom third in the final, I did have it as a qualifier, assuming that the modern but more complex song and Srbuk’s fantastic vocals would help her a lot with the juries and that, combined with Armenia’s televote base, that should be enough for “Walking Out” to make it through. However, her performance was so alienating it wasn’t even close.

On the other hand, there were three qualifications I didn’t see coming during rehearsals: Albania, which is even more ironic considering Jonida was great vocally in every rehearsal but terrible in both the jury semi and the live broadcast, and still qualified. Belarus looked so messy throughout that I just couldn’t see it working, but one of the things about seeing the first rehearsals as separate units is it’s harder for you to realize how certain songs will come across in the running order, and doubly so in the sea of crazy that was the first semi.

And then there was Slovenia. I never disliked “Sebi”, but I always found the two performers so painfully boring, and it was actually rather torturous sitting through their rehearsals despite their song always being pleasant background music. I couldn’t see them getting anywhere with their zero lack of effort, but as Ola Melzig wrote in his blog: “Slovenia did pretty much not a thing, but the song was strong enough to carry them through anyway.” In the final they mostly got points from their neighbors, friends and a few Eastern countries, but in a year like this 59 points were enough for 11th place in the televote (last year, France got 59 points in the televote and finished 17th), so apparently they chose the right year to get away with boring.

We’re flying the flag for you

What for? Only Mr God Knows
Every year when rehearsals start, we remind each other that they’re there precisely for trying things out until it comes together. But while this is generally true, each delegation has its own story arc. And while most countries start at different points, move forward at different paces but ultimately more or less catch up in time for the live shows, it’s not always true.

When you don’t watch the rehearsals, it’s hard to get a sense of which delegations actually had a reverse process. One in which they actually were where they should have been – and then made adjustments that dragged their performance backwards instead of enhancing it. In Hungary’s case, it didn’t hit me until I watched it on the night of the semi and was struck by the difference between how pale it came across compared with how impactful the first rehearsals had been. Then I had the difficult task of looking back at what my brain did and didn’t record, and figuring out what had happened along the way.

Some things were easy to spot: Despite being an experienced professional who has been in Eurovision before, Joci’s pacing throughout rehearsals was wrong, and by the live show he looked and sounded tired and more detached than he normally is – which is one of his biggest selling points.

The other thing that occurred to me is a tricky one we discuss every year. When we feel like an entry has been made worse by some relatively small change – whether a staging choice during the rehearsals or a three-minute Eurovision edit that removes a good part of the song – how do we know whether what’s missing will really be noticed by someone who never knew it was there in the first place? And conversely, are there details that are small enough for you not to realize right away that they have been changed, and yet big enough to actually make a difference? Looking back at Hungary and what made it work for me in its first rehearsals, it turns out the answer is yes.

The camerawork in Joci’s first rehearsals had certain things that really captured my attention. It was complicated but very immersive, using some specific and unique angles that helped the stage tell a story which matched the progress of the song. When re-watching the actual performance, I realized none of those shots were there. Thinking back through the rehearsal process, I realized that, in every run-through, they downgraded their camera shots to things that were less complicated but also less impressive. Perhaps they felt some of those shots were too difficult or risky to get right, I don’t know. In any case, by doing so, they added distance between the performance and the viewer. Throw in Joci’s deflated energy levels and the difference was staggering and, as it turned out, fatal to the song’s changes.

With Austria, it was just one thing that was changed. One detail. Most of Pænda’s run-throughs were in black and white, only changing to color late in the performance. In one of the early run-throughs, though, they tried it in full color a couple of times. I’m really curious to know what made them pick the latter version, because it was obvious to me and the people I watched the rehearsals with that the color version just didn’t work as well. The largely monochrome version had some magic in it that the color version didn’t have, and it transported you into the isolated world of the song much more. And again, much like Joci, when you marry that visual downgrade with an uncomfortable performance – another singer who peaked too early and just couldn’t carry the song on the night the way she had in early run-throughs, where she was so good it really felt like it’d be impossible to ignore her – then the end result was that “Limits” simply crumbled into the depths of the incredibly competitive second semi-final. But for all the disappointment of knowing how it could have been and what it ended up not being, I’m glad I got to see the rehearsals – because even though I was never a fan of the song, it did give me a few surprising run-throughs of magical perfection to enjoy.

We can make a change, that’s what we should

While I don’t necessarily understand the choices those delegations made, I can at least respect that they made a judgment call and went with it. It can get much worse than that. Just ask Malta.

They started off with a great song and a delightful concept coupled with an inexperienced young performer – and then they could not make their bloody minds up.

I was really impressed with their first day of run-throughs. They obviously had a complicated staging and a lot still to get right, but the leaps of improvement between takes were so big that not only did things look great by the end, but Michela was even managing to relax and really enjoy herself, which made such a big difference. I had no doubt in my mind that just a few more rehearsals would turn “Chameleon” into something polished and colorfully brilliant on stage.

And then came the second rehearsal day. Evidently, the delegation had spent a lot of the intervening time obsessing about the way the projections were working – or not working – so they decided to remove the props completely and just use the massive LED backdrop. Without the prop, Michela had to get used to a considerably changed choreography, only to have this decision reversed by the time of the dress rehearsals. That would still have been tolerable if they had settled on one version, but no: even then, they had to keep tweaking and adjusting so that every dress rehearsal brought new angles, new effects, changes in the sequences of camera shots and backdrops and different pacing of the backdrop changes. This, in turn, also meant changes in positioning and choreography each time to make sure the performance got captured well on camera. It was Malta that made me roll my eyes at the complaints of a few other delegations about their requests being ignored: the production did so much to accommodate the constant changes to “Chameleon” even really late in the game, so I can only imagine that the requests they turned down were things that just weren’t doable for whatever reason.

But back to the Maltese delegation. The result of their constant tinkering was that the team on stage never got the chance to really feel relaxed and comfortable in what they were doing. Everyone was put under more pressure than necessary. Michela’s overwhelmed emotional reaction when she qualified? That wasn’t just because she was the last to be called. And in perhaps the biggest injustice in this year’s competition, her own delegation kept doing the same thing between rehearsals, all the way to the grand final. This process of constant change would have been hard enough for the most experienced of performers to deal with, let alone a young girl straight out of a talent show. When you come to learn your lessons from this year, PBS, I hope you realize it was you who let her down and not the other way around.

Where do we go now? To the sky

When Spirits are Calling My Name
I had an up-and-down relationship with Norway this season. I loved “Spirit In The Sky” when it was in the national final, and yes, I knew it was unoriginal bordering on trashy, but hey, who cares? We all need guilty pleasures in our lives, and this was catchy and the trio were oh-so-likable, so why the hell not. As more songs got picked, though, it slipped down my rankings and I wasn’t thinking much of it by the time rehearsals arrived. Not even during rehearsals, to be honest, because the performance felt a bit too empty and perhaps taking itself a bit too seriously for the kind of song it was, in what I assumed was a Hail Mary attempt to improve its standing with the juries.

I was therefore taken by surprise when I met up with my sister and brother-in-law – two people I adore and who have completely different musical tastes – after they had attended the Thursday afternoon dress rehearsal. Their unequivocal favorite? Norway. Even in the hall, where they couldn’t see the smiles and joy that came through the TV screen later that night.

While I was always certain it’d do really well with the televote and really badly with the juries – yeah, not a hard one to call, I know – I think it’s fair to say most of us were shocked to realize that Norway had actually won the public vote. In retrospect, I suppose if someone as unlikable as Rasmussen managed to finish where he did with the audience, it’s not that crazy to see a Nordic folklore-inspired Eurovision cliché performed by visibly lovely people doing much, much better.

Do you hear that joiking? That’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren working on his next Melodifestivalen entry. KEiiNO asked for a hero. Ask and you shall receive. It’s either that or Charlotte P. Pick your poison.

All Out of Luck
There are plenty of ways to be unlucky in Eurovision. You can be perfectly nice, like Ireland this year, but be placed in a position in the running order where it’s clearly going to be even harder for your already unmemorable song to be remembered. Or you can be Poland and miss out on qualification by two points because one juror couldn’t follow voting instructions correctly. I would have added Lithuania to the unlucky list too, since they missed the final by just one point, but they were lucky to have enough friends to be in the running for qualification in the first place so they don’t count.

Or you can be Spain. You can pick a super fun party song with a lovely, charismatic performer, be drawn in the second half, be given the pimp slot right at the end of the show, hire one of the most famous Eurovision stage directors and pay him shitloads of money – only for said director to inflict an overly complicated and busy staging on your performance, which will come at the end of a playlist packed with up-tempo songs executed far better, meaning all the viewers will have pretty much picked their favourite by the time they even reach you. Imagine what this song could have done in a year like 2015.

Too much, too much, too much I say

So Lucky
If there are all kinds of ways to be unlucky in Eurovision, there are ways of being very lucky too. Take Duncan Laurence, for all his singing about losing games. Because here’s the thing. The Netherlands did lose. They lost the jury vote. They lost the televote. They actually lost most of the individual country votes with both the juries and the public.

Looking at the four winners since the new voting presentation was introduced, Salvador in 2017 was the most popular across the board – making it into the top three of 31 jury votes and 30 televotes, and of course winning the overall televote and jury vote with ease. The other three years saw the juries and televote disagree when it came to the overall winner. None of the songs in question won the jury vote, and only Netta in 2018 actually won the televote.

But here’s the difference: while all three had similar success with the juries – Jamala was in the top three of 15 different juries in 2016, while Netta and Duncan made it to the top three of 13 juries – the televote was a different story. Ukraine 2016 and Israel 2018 finished in the top three in the televote of 22 and 23 countries respectively. The Netherlands? Twelve. Not even one-third of the participating countries had the Netherlands in their televote top three, which means that more than two-thirds of the participating countries had at least three songs they preferred over the Netherlands.

When you play the game of math, you either win or, well, you don’t. It was an odd side-effect of this being a strong ESC year: everyone had lots to vote for, but some of the big hitters only worked in certain parts of Europe. Russia, unsurprisingly, pretty much swept the eastern side of the continent, while Norway hogged many of the western points and Italy ate into the difference. All three had more countries place them in the televote top three than the Netherlands managed – Russia in 19 countries, Italy in 14 and Norway in 21.

But to win Eurovision, you need to do well enough across the board. We always say this, but it was never truer than in 2019. We’ve never had a winner as far from being anyone’s favorite than the Netherlands this year, but it was liked well enough by everyone, while Europe couldn’t make up its mind about what it liked more.

Turns out there’s a right way to play a losing game.

Bien plus rouge que le sang et plus dur que la pierre

No Dream Impossible
One of my favorite things to look for when I re-watch Eurovision every year is the small moments that you tend to miss on the night, because the winner celebration in the middle of the screen understandably takes all the focus.

I’ve watched the winner announcement and reprise about seven times now, and each time has had me pretty much as emotional as Duncan all the way through. But it was when I re-watched the entire voting segment, and not just the last minutes, that I noticed another thing happening while the Dutch were deservedly celebrating in the green room. As the final ranking list appeared on screen, you could see, blurred into the background, a celebratory hug of a group of people clad in red. It was the Swiss delegation. Rather than being disappointed at having been considered among the favorites but not making it into the top three, they were celebrating the fact they had just brought Switzerland its best placing in 26 years. Think about it this way: Luca was born a year and a half after Annie Cotton’s third-place finish in 1993, so what he achieved by finishing fourth was nothing less than his country’s best position in his entire life.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

All images from eurovision.tv. Stay tuned for the next instalment of the View from San Francisco!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

Load more tweets...

Jury Final: Live Blog from the Press Center

Jury Final: Live Blog from the Press Center

Welcome to the live blog of the Jury Final! This post will be updated every few minutes, so make sure to refresh for updates!

Fake voting sequence concludes with the Israeli fake vote which they use to test what to do in a case of a connection / voting table failure. This is followed by everyone basically blabbering through their lines because at this point no one gives a damn.

They are now facing the joy of trying to get through the televote segment, and I actually feel bad for the hosts having to deal with the new system for the first time because my God, this is too confusing.

It’s been a long night so it’s no wonder it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what I did to make the page not update, and I do web development for a living. While I was being an idiot, we got no mention of Madonna and instead skipped right into the fake voting segment in which everyone awkwardly talk to one another to make sure the connections with all the spokespeople work.

Netta’s new single isn’t really my thing – and I’m not entirely sure why we need both this and Madonna when it’s not really great and we’ve seen Netta many times, and we’re almost 3 hours into the show (and before Madonna) so how they think they can fit this into the time slot, I don’t know. I do wonder what process host broadcaster and EBU have in place for the show itself, because you’d think the EBU will have to clear that (as Madonna’s performance and broadcasting rights was coordinated with EBU).

The Mentalist returns to fill in during another ad break. I wish we had an ad break too.

The next interval act is one of Israel’s most famous musicians, Idan Reichel, performing a new version of his first breakthrough hit, Bo’i (come) with a group of musicians representing the musical culture of many ethnic groups in Israel. On a personal level, it’s a song that means a lot to me and came out in an important time of my life, so this is very special for me.

Gal Gadot shows up in a 3-minute segment showing Tel Aviv, which I imagine is being used for ad breaks or BBC doing whatever it is they are doing when the rest of Europe sees that (or ads).

The first interval act is the promised Eurovision-artists-singing-other-artists’-songs and it showcases some interesting versions of well known songs, lots of epic crazy and a few minutes of me tearing up because even the cynical woman that I am can’t help it once in a while.”

Seems like the EBU decided there won’t be second run for Norway which serves a good reminder for what the juries vote for – songs and performance quality by the performers themselves. In the context of what the juries are expected to do, three seconds of a camera black out and shot from a different angle shouldn’t make a difference in how the juries perceive the song or their performance of it.
Spain: A million great runs of this, and Miki ended up dedicating this performance to Duncan by being flatter than the Netherlands. Ouch. There are some very upset fans over here right now.

Mini break Australia: Well, the audience and Kate had a very big shouting fight over who is louder. So basically: just like the semi final performance.

Switzerland: My main take away from this performance is that half the audience in the hall has a crush on Luca. It’s still a very cool and very red looking performance, and he kept his vocals in (relative) check.

Serbia: Focusing on what’s really important, they could never settle on exactly how they wanted the snow, fire and dust storm effects to look like, so they actually look different every time. Tonight’s combination was a new one which obstructed her from view slightly too much even though it was dramatic, so I imagine they’ll scrap that one. More importantly, though: her vocals were good, and she’s incredibly charismatic. I don’t think it works too well in that running order, though.

Italy: Delivering hardcore biting journalism straight from the press center, I can report that we’ve had a heated discussion about Mahmood’s questionable taste. Performance wise, though, it was the best I’ve seen from him, and it was helpful to see a bit of sadness instead of just anger, which made the emotional aspect of this resonate more than it did previously.

France: A strong performance from Bilal, with a bit of fragility getting into his voice at parts, which actually added a lot to this.

Azerbaijan: We had an unexpected opening when the heart decided to be projected at some of Chingiz’s other body parts instead. It made for an entertaining opening! Otherwise – the same as it always did and a cheeky smile at the end.

Belarus: Did we ever find out what her backdrop is supposed to represent? Other than that, a self-confident performance with only a few bits where it was a little too shouty, but nothing that would make a difference, really.

Estonia: Victor kept shouting the ending of his sentences at both me and the juries, usually offkey. He’s sympathetic enough to forgive some of that, but with so many strong songs still in the line up, I was hoping he’d make a more obvious effort to control that.

Iceland: Was pretty much the same as it always was, and actually works well coming after the break.

The next ad break is all about our returning artists!

United Kingdom: Nerves galore here with offkey start, lots of random runs flat parts that he didn’t have in rehearsals – which wasn’t really helped by the fact he’s not exactly charismatic. He wrapped up by going off and on the right key throughout the last part of the song. Not the performance the UK wanted to have tonight.

Norway: An obvious crowd favorite, luckily for everyone involved – as one of the cameras shortened its circuits during the performance, forcing the broadcast to switch to a different camera just to make sure there is a shot of it and causing an abrupt, even if short, of it.

Israel: A couple of dodgy notes for him with how loud the cheers were but overall strong performance of a, well, less strong song.

Another ad break so they can set up the Israeli prop.

Greece: Technology decided to eat up my Greece entry when I tried to update the page, but here I go again – it was one of their better performances overall in their two week rehearsal run, with Katerine making sure to hit her notes – albeit carefully – and the visuals feeling more cohesive than before.

Netherlands: Duncan’s vocals were as flawless as ever, and the performance is for the most part unchanged with the exception of the light ball creating a blinding effect during the peak of the song and making that moment a little bigger than it was before.

Cyprus: Much like in the jury semi, not the strongest of vocal performances, but enough for what it needed, as she came across as the pop star that she is. The hall appreciated the change of pace, too.

Slovenia: I slept 3 hours since yesterday morning and this is not helping. They were lucky to be in the semi they were in but this will have a much harder time here.

Sweden: You know that thing the human brain does where it sees what it expects to see? At this point John might have an alien invasion through the hair straightener that is actually the gateway from Mars and I’ll keep seeing the exact usual strong and charismatic performance from him. But my mind did catch some changed melody towards the end, so apparently it’s not entirely numb yet.

Ad Break in which we talk to Malta and hear subtle Grindr jokes.

North Macedonia: Speaking of contrasts – Tamara after Serhat. It’s almost like the production is telling her, well, we had you after the Netherlands in the semi, so let’s be really nice to you and put you after *this*.

San Marino: The things I do for love (of Eurovision). I really wanted to go the bathroom and normally I’d use this time to do so, but I sat here instead to report on his Serhat Vocals. Apparently his solution for attempting to not go offkey by going above it was going offkey below it about 3 seconds in and never finding the key – or any key – again.

Denmark: Leonora’s voice has definitely reached the overuse boundary, but she kept it together well and actually managed to come across as a bit more mellow than she often does.

Russia: Being 5th might sound like a bad position for Russia, but they do come in after Germany, so the contrast is very stark. The staging is as same as always, but Sergey has a different vocal melody towards the end, a special gift for the juries!

Germany: They are so nice I feel bad writing anything bad about them, but there’s really not much to write about there. They sing it really well, though, but there’s very little there to sustain attention.

Czech Republic: I’m not sure how effective this can be so early in the line up, but it does work well after Albania. I’m also a bit envious of Albert of being able to sustain the same level of energy in every single take they had done.

Albania: Having been great vocally through rehearsals, Jonida ended up being off in both the jury semi and the broadcast – moreso in the latter. She was sounded way better this time around, but ended up with an odd I-could-not-be-bothered-to-be-here-anymore stare. Oops.

Malta: They’ve had a busy few days adjusting and readjusting their performance, but Michela finally got a familiar enough routine which allowed her to be a bit more relaxed on stage, and that was reflected in her vocals as well. It’s a great opener.

Opening: Well, well. Oh My God. This is all sorts of bonkers and epic and fun, and I’m sure a lot of people will spoil you, but not me. Too good to ruin.

We continue with another quick montage of different hots opening the show over the years before our hosts do the usual “this is how things work” speech.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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Semi-Final 2, Jury Rehearsal: Live Blog from the Press Center

Semi-Final 2, Jury Rehearsal: Live Blog from the Press Center

Welcome to the live blog of semi 2’s jury rehearsal! This post will be updated every few minutes, so make sure to refresh for updates!

And we close with… well, actually, we close with Martin writing on Shi’s behalf as she had to make a mad run for a shuttle bus and has no internet access while doing so. Thanks for following her live blog of tonight’s 18 songs in the jury voting show!

Azerbaijan: As it often is with the more WTF stagings, watching audience seeing it for the first time is kinda fun! Vocally, this has been steadily good all the way through rehearsals, and it did the same today too.

North Macedonia: Another professional who went on stage and got the work done. Nothing left to say about this one, really.

Netherlands: Let me be clear about this. I love the song to bits. Duncan sings it amazingly every single time. And I have no way of knowing that this wouldn’t work beyond my own feeling that establishing a connection with the audience is important, even with a wonderful song, and that this doesn’t do it enough. In terms of camera work, it’s pretty much the same it has always been – 50 seconds to the first close up, and majority of long shots of dark blue. The lamp has made it, and it now comes down from the ceiling, participants in one shot and then goes back up into the ceiling. I know the song too well to have any sense of how this will work on people who don’t know the song at all. I hope it does work, because it’s a wonderful song, but I just personally feel they have made life harder for themselves than they should have, and that if it does manage to win it will be in spite of the staging, and not supported by it.

Norway: I tried to write that Fred sounded alright for a change, but my blog wouldn’t have any of it and just decided to delete it and paste Albania instead. Anyhow, I felt it didn’t work as well as I thought it would with the audience.

Albania: Oh, Albania. Not that you were every very close to qualifying from this semi, but this might not have been the best place to have your only off vocal performance, Jonida.

Russia: I like this song but I think I have hit my capacity watching this performance – it’s really not meant for anything beyond that first and second impression at Eurovision. It also sounds like Sergey has screamed a lot in the past week, and while he stayed in key the entire time he sounded like he was about to go off more than once. The crowd loved it, obviously.

Another break!

Lithuania: He came, he sang, he had a bunch of lights behind him, he left and is probably on his way to the hotel to prepare his suitcases for tomorrow.

I feel bad for him, because he’s lovely, but there’s just nothing for anyone to notice this tomorrow.

Malta: Hmm, so somehow the Maltese changed pretty much half of the camera angles and effects. This meant a few missed camera shots and Michela less comfortable than she should be for this because everyone had to remember all the different things they have changed in the last 2 hours, apparently, and it also meant Michela delivered one of her worst vocal performances, having to once again concentrate on so many technical details. Trust the Maltese overcomplicated something that was working in a really nice way to begin with.

Croatia: A great vocal performance to THAT song. There are also angels and golden wings and lots of lava and a lot of subtle representations of heaven and hell, and seriously I can’t really deal with this.

Austria: The greatest asset of this is the direct connection Paenda has with the viewers and how well she transmits the fragility of this. They have changed the staging from the black-and-white-to-color versions they used in earlier runthroughs to color all the way through, and I preferred the former, but it might be one of those “you won’t miss it if you never saw it” things. Her vocals were beautiful and raw in the right amount.

Sweden: John did his John thing where he just will not ever have a bad rehearsal, and the hair straightener stopped being a diva after its first rehearsal dramatics. Strong as expected.

Denmark: Much like the earlier rehearsal she still sounds like she’s battling her voice, but saving it in the first rehearsal allowed her to get the vocals right, and there was a very relieved smile there at the end.

Green room break!

Romania: Apparently Romania’s approach for last minute staging changes is that no amount of pyros is too little. Earlier in the hall it actually gave me a heart attack every single time. Otherwise: good vocal, and overall as it always was.

Latvia: I already came into terms with this not being noticed by anyone, juries included, but it sounded as lovely as it could, really, and I do maintain a slight hope it made a difference for some jurors.

By the way, for whatever reason there’s no opening act so we go straight into the songs. It’s kind of weird, mostly because I feel like the rest of Europe deserves to have an impressive opener as well. But I suppose at least this semi’s songs are stronger.

Switzerland: I don’t know if I just got used to his vocals or that they improved at this point, to be honest, but it sounded good and looked as good as it can be considering they spend much of this wearing red against a red backdrop.

Moldova: If you heard the press center clapping and shouting in any of the live streams, let me tell you that I have no idea what it was for. Clean performance for a song with little substance.

Ireland: There’s not much to write about this, really. Sarah is lovely and it was vocally fine but this song is hard to impress with, especially in the context of this semi.

Armenia: The presentation issues aside, Srbuk did what she needed to do for this rehearsal and nailed her vocals.

A look back at semi 1: As we still have a little bit of time to go before the beginning of the jury rehearsal, I found myself reflecting on last night’s first semi.

Oddly enough, more than anything, it reminded me of my years as a full time sportswriter: you’d follow a team or an athlete throughout a season or preparation period ahead of a big event, and still there were always so many unknowns. They would have a terrible run-up to their big game and somehow wake up on the day of the game and have the best day of their career. They would have an excellent string of friendly matches only to have a day in which nothing came together. They would peak too early. They would crumble under the pressure or they find reserves they didn’t know they had and thrive on it. They would have the luck of their rivals just being worse on that day.

Slovenia looked pretty much dead every time they performed. Not just in terms of chances, moreso that they never were entirely in it, and that made the staging that was supposed to bring their chemistry and connection across not work. There was no better day for them to get their best performance where everything clicked last night, and in addition they were helped by that semi going in flames around them.

Hungary had amazing first rehearsals – they actually had considerably different camerawork and some effects that have since been removed. With each rehearsal they took something away, to the point that I assumed that the fact I wasn’t entirely in awe when watching the staging was because I got used to it. Only last night I realized that they have been slowly changing what they had – perhaps they started doubting themselves – and by doing so they have not only taken a particular element that was a goosebump moment, they ruined the entire visual flow this performance had.

Belarus, well. Their stage is still a result of a person sitting in stage control and trying random buttons, but apparently sometimes being a talented pretty girl singing an easy-to-listen to song can take you far, especially in this semi.

Or being Victor Crone, for that matter.

Sometimes your best is not enough – although it should be said that last night wasn’t Oto’s strongest performances, but the combination of his jury rehearsal and this one were a big effort, but at the end of the day some things can only go so far, no matter how impressive their performance is.

The others, for the most part, kept doing exactly what they were doing until that point, and did everything they could do on the night. Which is all you can ask for, really.

Then there was Eliot, who was actually getting to the right place by the end of the runthroughs, but the inexperience and nerves caused a weak jury performance, and my guess is that knowing that put an extra pressure on him last night which he just couldn’t handle, causing everything to fall apart.

And turns out the only way to really fall apart and still qualify is being Serhat, but let’s not talk about that.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

In a few hours, the first semi final of Eurovision 2019 will take place at the Expo Arena in Tel Aviv. It somehow feels like it was just a day ago when the rehearsals started, but also like it’s been ages. So far, it has been a very different experience for me than the previous Eurovisions I have attended, and not only because they were different in principle than this one. It does make a difference, though: in some ways, 1999 was the last of the old ESCs. The contest grew in scale considerably the following year and has never really looked back since. While I do remember being in the press room in the International Convention Center, it was the early days of the internet and the gathered press and fans weren’t anywhere near what they are now. The next editions I attended, in 2004 and 2005, were already much bigger, but ESC was still in an interim phase before it became branded the way it is now.

But the main difference for me is I simply hadn’t realized how exhausting it is to have Eurovision on home soil. Not only because of being the one helping foreign visitors to figure out the unapologetically direct and somewhat chaotic Israeli culture, or providing context and history to random things – like why the orange carpet was held where it was (it’s a square that hosts both our national philharmonic orchestra and our national theater, so it’s symbol of music and culture) – but also because of that sense of patriotism you find creeping up on you, where you want this Eurovision to be a really good one just because it’s your country, even though you’re not involved in the production in any way.

Attending the entire two-week Eurovision run is exhausting. That was never in doubt, because we know what to expect: 41 countries rehearsing over a long stretch of days, performing 5-7 run-throughs each. You do the math. And then there’s the dress rehearsals, and honestly, by the time you get to the live shows there’s very little you haven’t seen yet except the results. It’s a mix of heightened emotions – great pride in everything that is done right, and shame and embarrassment when things go a bit awry. Everything is felt through a magnifying glass, in a way that you don’t really have when the contest is held elsewhere. Partly because you lack the cultural context to be sensitive about the things you think your culture is weaker at, and partly because you just don’t care as much.

It borders on the surreal, to be honest. Today is my eleventh day at this Eurovision – when did that happen? – and I still find myself stopping randomly as I cross the street from the train station to the arena in disbelief. We’re hosting it. We’re actually hosting it. We’re hosting this television monster that we’ve seen growing on TV for so many years but that felt so very far away. Tonight, when the first Te Deum finishes at 22:00 local time, it’ll be our hall that you’ll see. And our hosts – with the varying degrees of Mediterranean volume and Hebrew accent that entails. And it’ll be that girl from last year, Netta, opening the show with the song she won with, the one that made an entire country fall in love with her. It will be that girl who was a nobody just a year and a half ago. And this year is the reason why EVERYTHING is Eurovision-themed, even the main Tel Aviv Independence Day Celebration. Talk about crazy levels of “you did this!” – I never really thought about how this must feel for the previous year’s winner, seeing the massive operation their country is putting together and realizing it’s all because, one year ago, they went on stage and managed to get Europe to vote for them.

And at a more selfish level, Netta is the girl who brought me home.

It’s not that I haven’t been back to Israel since I moved away. I’ve visited every year, or at least every other year. But truth be told, I’ve never felt completely at home in Israel. Maybe it’s my dual nationality that always impacted the way I behave – a little bit from here, a little bit from there. Maybe it’s just the way I am. But I always felt a bit like an outsider. When I was growing up, I had a hard time feeling like I belonged, and Eurovision was the first place where I felt comfortable being entirely me. It took a long time for me to grow into this person, a process that really started once I moved away, a year after the last Eurovision I attended, back in Kiev in 2005. And perhaps there’s no fuller circle than coming back, as the version of me I’m meant to be, to the place and the community that were the first to let me know who that is.

ESC 2019 has given me the opportunity to finally take some of my Eurovision friends to my hometown, Jerusalem – less than an hour away from Tel Aviv by public transportation, but a different planet in every other sense. It has given me the chance to show my friends a little bit of my world and my childhood, of a place that everyone in the world has heard of – that’s always a bit mind-blowing when you think about it – and to give them some small bits and pieces that they wouldn’t have seen on the news or learned about at church. Jerusalem is the city that the news presents as the backdrop to the mother all of wars, but that, in my heart and my memories, is a place where you can walk around in a skirt and a tanktop, where around you Orthodox Jews, monks, nuns, priests, Christian and Muslim residents of the city, and people from everywhere in the world walk past you as if a girl with all the colors in her hair is the most normal thing. And in a way, in Jerusalem of all places, having all the colors is normal.

When we arrived at the train station in Jerusalem and took the five massive flights of escalators from the depths of the earth to street level – incidentally, exiting right across from the International Convention Center, where both the 1979 and 1999 competitions took place – we ran into a group of young Orthodox Jewish men. My visitors didn’t really grasp what happened next, both because of the language barrier and because they didn’t have enough understanding to realize how monumental that moment was, but I’ll try my best to make a better job of explaining it here. You might recall that one of the main reasons against having Eurovision in Jerusalem was the objection of the Orthodox Jews – this is why the Shabbat was a problem, because the city has such a big community that would be bothered about doing it in Shabbat and would protest against it. It’s the community that is known for its intolerance towards gays and intolerance towards Jewish woman who don’t maintain a modest fashion style.

So when they turned to one of the tourists next to us and asked whether he was here for Eurovision, it was easy to worry that it wouldn’t end well. Except there was something in the tone that caught my ear, so as soon as that tourist explained that he wasn’t, I pointed at my friends and said that we were. Maybe it was a bit irresponsible to follow my gut instinct on this one, but I wanted to see where it was going. And their response to the Hebrew-speaking girl with the tanktop and the rainbow hair, and the group of gay Eurovision fans surrounding her, wasn’t the one you might expect.

“Welcome!” they said in English, the only bit of the language they knew. And then they turned to me and asked questions. Where were my friends from? Were they excited to be here? “Wish them a good stay,” they said excitedly, “and tell them we hope they enjoy the experience”. All my friends saw was a group of Israelis being welcoming and excited about Eurovision, like it has been pretty much everywhere around here. But I saw so much more. Eurovision can be such a huge thing to ask a country to host that it’s easy to wonder what the benefits are, especially when you look at all the things that can (and do) go wrong and all the inconveniences it can cause. But this is what Eurovision can do for you. It can make a complex, torn society come together and coalesce around the most unexpected of things. You did this too, Netta.

Still, it turns out that you can take the Israeli out of Israel, but you can’t take Israel out of the Israeli. Because I have no explanation as to how I can stand with an accreditation around my neck, surrounded by foreigners, and yet have people coming up to me and immediately talking to me in Hebrew while addressing everyone else in English. As I’m discovering, it’s something about the way we communicate even when we don’t talk – just the brazenness of never avoiding looking anyone, everyone, straight in the eye. It’s the way you end up having conversations with random strangers about Eurovision – I actually had to take a break while writing this, because the people at the table next to me in this small urban Tel Aviv park started talking about Netherlands leading the odds and how Kan picked Kobi’s song so we won’t win again. And they’re not Eurovision fans, just Tel Aviv residents who have been living and breathing Eurovision for the last year. I joined the conversation – which included the three people next to me and one more on the phone – before returning to my writing. I didn’t even tell them I was at the Expo every day, or that I know way more about the subject than they do. I was just another Israeli counting down the hours to tonight’s broadcast.

“It feels like a holiday, doesn’t it?”, the chocolatier in the candy store downstairs asked me.

Yes, it really does.

It’s been eleven days already, but in some ways, the real Eurovision starts with the first Te Deum. And tonight, in the country where I was born and raised, watching the broadcast of an event that’s taking place just across town, I’ll be truly home.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

Load more tweets...

Semi-Final 1, Jury Rehearsal: Live Blog from the Press Center

Semi-Final 1, Jury Rehearsal: Live Blog from the Press Center

This was the live blog of the first semi jury rehearsal. Come back to ESCGO! in the next days for more live coverage and View from Tel Aviv articles. See you soon!

00:43 It works! The prop works! Which is more than I can say about my voice. I felt bad for Kobi because this was pretty unnerving, but at least it was in the part that wasn’t the show so they had the time luxury of fixing it. It was just some of the lights on the stage shapes that didn’t work properly, so they’ve taken the time to fix it, but would have gone with it as is on a live show.

00:35 Just so you know, Israel apparently dared to dream a particularly bonkers Eurovision montage. It’s all kinds of awesome. Also, Spain re-performed, Israel is yet to perform, but the hosts are now practicing the remainder of their text, and they are now trying the Israeli prop again in the hopes it’d behave.

00:22 And they now put the Spanish prop back on with Miki about to go for another run. I have no clue what’s going on. Good thing the jury is already done with its work because this is very confusing.

00:20 Looks like the Israeli prop had failed, and they actually took it off stage now. I’m sure the audience is thrilled about that one, considering most of them are Israeli. No idea what they are planning to do, because they actually shut off the audio on the feed.

00:13 They are having an oddly long pause before starting to record Israel – we can’t actually tell what is going on, but since it’s not a part of the actual show, we’re using the time to figure out arena shuttles to Euroclub. Multitasking galore.

00:00 Spain has done its thing, and I now get to watch someone watching France for the first time, which is almost as interesting as watching the actual screen. It took him about two minutes to react before saying he hates it but it’s going to do well. And the audience reaction was bigger than Australia. Fun times.

23:50 The hosts closed the fake televote, and we’re now having a bit of a break in the actual scripted show as they are getting ready to record the performances of Spain, France and Israel. They seem to have some issue with getting Spain started for whatever reason, though, so we’ve had Spain waiting in the darkness for the last couple of minutes.

23:41 At some point seeing Assi photo bombing the other hosts in green room shots will stop making me laugh. Not yet.

23:39 The postcard montage with A-Ba-Ni-Bi is so much fun! I might rewatch it a few times once it’s on youtube.

23:34 It’s playback Dana and Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars time, so I might need to step aside for a few minutes. Ugh.

23:31 Recap notes: Cyprus picked the part where the pyros sound like a terror attack in the hall, good going there. Slovenia is dead. Czech Republic picked a part where he is actually trying to belt a note, which is a bit of questionable choice. Greece put the big note in its entirety, which is courageous.

23:20 San Marino: There was a point this week where this actually sounded very good in the mix. But give Serhat a couple of nights of parties and he sounds at his worst (and let’s face it, his starting point wasn’t that great either). Good luck with that.

23:16 Greece: It was a bit of a nervous performance from Katerine, and it was more pitchy than she would have hoped for, although for the most part she wasn’t off key until very end. Song wise and singing style is very much a jury thing. This could have been better, but unless something unthinkable happens she will get another chance to impress the juries.

23:12 Portugal: It’s performed as well as it can be performed, but it comes down to whether interpretive dance and this music style are your thing, and if it makes you willing to forgive the fashion choices and the color scheme of this.

23:08 Estonia: Victor is still shouting at me. What did I do to you? The big note at the end is way off, but the graphics finally all work and he’s so incredibly sympathetic it might as well serve as a test for how forgiving juries are with vocals (because they sometimes are).

23:04 Iceland: This comes after a green room break, since it takes a very long time to take 3 people on poles off the stage. It had the most accurate camerawork we’ve seen of it so far. I’m also wondering whether they broke the Eurovision record in pyro usage per minute.

22:58 Australia: This will never be my thing, but I will give it that – it has improved massively on the visual aspect since the first rehearsals, and Kate is amazing pretty much every time she sings. It still makes me sad that the story of the song doesn’t really make it through, but it’s clearly a televote magnet.

22:54 Georgia: Same as it always been – intense vocals and expression, stunning staging and a very very difficult song to sell.

22:50 Belgium: My favorite bit of this is that they properly use the moving small triangles from the ceiling throughout the performance, which is a sign I’ve watched this way too much. On to more important topics: unfortunately for Eliot this was very weak vocally, which I don’t think is a luxury he can afford with that kind of song.

22:46 Serbia: They were adjusting Serbia’s visuals until the very last moment, but when all put together it looks amazing! Vocally, Nevena never faltered during rehearsals and this was no different, although she looked the most emotional I’ve seen her all week.

22:42 Belarus: I still have no idea what the point of their staging is, but it’s a good time to mention that I forgot to report about our first green room break, where our hosts talked to Tamta and Tulia and cut their Polish folk singing abruptly because they need to learn to time this segment better. Also: Zena was good, but the entire thing is still a non-coherent mess on stage.

22:38 Hungary: Beautiful voice and plenty of emotion, as always, and they managed to not mess up that one shot they somehow did mess up in the earlier dress rehearsal. I had a bet with myself about this working well with the audience in the hall, considering it’s mostly Israelis, and it did.

22:31 Czech Republic: Well, that one went down well in the hall! Albert has the same level of energy and enthusiasm at every rehearsal and this one no different. But we did get to see one new surprise shot!

22:27 Slovenia: The most interesting thing that happened here is that she had a microphone feedback at the beginning for about half a second. Otherwise it’s still this lovely mellow song with an overly tedious performance. Missed opportunity.

22:23 Poland: Another performance, another studio version and this surprising magnetism you wouldn’t expect four Polish Ladies standing and singing in that style. Their stage looks incredibly good on stage and the audience was really into it (well, we do have quite a few people of Polish origin here)…

22:20 By the way, I love the postcards. Love. They are incredibly creative in the way they are shot and the music, and really serve as a great way to show off the artists, as well as showing the production made a great effort to match the theme of the postcard to the artist. I’m not telling anything else because I want you to enjoy them when you get to see them!

22:19 Finland: Sebastian wasted all his good vocals on the afternoon rehearsals and now he sounds the worst he had all week. Luckily for him, it’d make no difference: this was never going to make the cut.

22:15 Montenegro: in the risk of sounding like an evil and grumpy human being: I’m really glad I only have one more time to watch this after tonight. They do their best, they really do, but they’ve actually sounded better until now – I think the nerves have been getting to them a bit.

22:11 Cyprus: It’s not Tamta’s best vocal – the afternoon one was better – but honestly, imperfect vocals were never a problem in that sort of performance, and she looks like a pro popstar doing her thing, and she even improved vocally as it went on. A fun one to start with!

22:00 We start off we a video montage of past Netta watching Dana winning 1999 and starts to (dare to) dream and present Netta’s winning moments in Lisbon, before the wonder woman herself and about 32432 dancers dressed in her Eurovision outfit take the stage for a new (and great) remix of Toy. It’s a great opener! And With the audience in the hall it looks way bigger than what it actually is.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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Semi-Final 1, Dress Rehearsal 1: Live report from the hall

Semi-Final 1, Dress Rehearsal 1: Live report from the hall

This is how Shi saw the first rehearsal of semi-final 1 of ESC 2019 from the hall, as reported live on our Twitter (and if you’re not following us there, you should be – click here!).

She’ll be back later this evening from the press centre for a rolling live blog of this evening’s all-important jury show, where half of the points in the first semi-final will already be decided!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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Rehearsals Day 8 LIVE: Second Rehearsals – Israel, France, Spain, Italy, UK and Germany

Rehearsals Day 8 LIVE: Second Rehearsals – Israel, France, Spain, Italy, UK and Germany

Welcome to the last day of runthroughs! A short day today with only 6 rehearsals before going into the second week, starting with the opening ceremony and then – how is it time already? – dress rehearsals and live shows.

Israel
If you’re going to write a song that is trying to be The Greatest Showman, at least make the presentation match, I guess? With the camerawork coming together a lot more, this Musical vibe comes across quite clearly in that staging, which helps Kobi’s antics and facial expressions feel less out of place. He looked more comfortable as the runthroughs went by, too, and while alternating between going for some of the big notes or deciding against it, he was always perfectly in key.

I don’t think they could have done much more with that performance, but this song is still this song, but if that’s your thing this performance will work for you.

France
Bilal is not a morning person, so his limited vocal abilities were slightly clearer this morning, but he’s covered well by his backing singers. That aside, it’s more or less the same, but the visuals were adapted a bit to make the back stories of the dancers easier to understand – especially the deaf one, which I didn’t catch in the first rehearsals until someone pointed it out to me.

It’s definitely something that is going to catch the televoters’ attention, especially as they are watching it for the first time. I’m still not sure how I personally feel about the entire thing, but it’s very effective in its entirely non-subtle ways.

Spain
Someone in the Spanish delegations is reading the blogs! They’ve changed a massive amount of shots, so the entire thing is shot now in a way that highlights Miki way more and focuses on him and not in wide shots that show off the prop instead. The cropped shots also make the backdrops look considerably nicer than they look in those wider shots from the first run throughs. It also looks like the cringe kiss cam moment has been dropped in favor of a more standard audience shot that will be on the backdrop behind them for a few seconds but now it doesn’t steal the focus away from the song.

Paco (that’s the puppet for you) is still a bit unnecessary, the backdrops still look like they were made in paintbrush and it’s still overall way too colorful (and that’s coming from a person who has hair in 7 colors), but that was a giant leap from the first runthroughs and therefore wins my “country which made the most progress from first rehearsals to the second” award.

Italy
Italy has made some adjustments to the camerawork and also made sure to have more light on Mahmood so it doesn’t look as dark as it did before. The choreography was also more cohesive and more in sync with the backdrop. The entire feel is gloom, though, as expected with that kind of song, which was always going to be its struggle with viewers. But it now has more visual moments connecting the staging to what the song is about and definitely so memorable visual moments as well.

United Kingdom
It seems that in between the first rehearsal and this the Brits have discovered the stage can do things, so now the small triangles on the ceiling go into frame at some point, the big triangles move right before the backing singers join and the columns in the back turn around as well. But as nice as it was to see them utilizing the stage more, it pretty much looked the same as before, X Factor staging and all that, and Michael is as appealing performer as he was, which is to say: not very much. I wish the staging was a bit more daring, because the song does have the potential in it, but you need a bigger than life performer and that’s not him.

Germany
I really want to be nice about this because I like the girls and their enthusiasm so much, and to be fair: the staging isn’t their fault. They do their best and they do what they are supposed to do well: they sing and harmonize wonderfully. But the entire concept is useless and very Geramny-in-Eurovision whenever they finish last, which very much feels like where this is heading to.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

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Rehearsals Day 7 LIVE: Second Rehearsals, Semi 2 – Norway through Azerbaijan

Rehearsals Day 7 LIVE: Second Rehearsals, Semi 2 – Norway through Azerbaijan

And we’re wrapping up the last rehearsals of the second semi final!

Norway
The Norwegians have called in some enforcement, and now they have very big arctic animals as part of the backdrop. They can win it now!

Not really.

It is better, though. They changed some of the awkward camera work that made it look very empty and with the smoke and fire effects there’s something to look at all the way through. I still can’t help thinking that they are taking themselves too seriously, considering what this song is.

Netherlands
It’s been an odd rehearsal. They’ve tried different things in each rehearsal in terms of angles, picks of camera shots, and when they used the light. But the underlying principle remained the same: they’ve tried to make him seem like he is in world of his own, but it’s still overly understated. Instead of 41 seconds to the first close up, it’s now 50 seconds. The backdrop is still a never-changing dark blue, there were slightly more close up shots in the first run through, but generally they are sparse and not in places that make sense in terms of the song, more like an afterthought of “oh, we should probably show him once in a while”. The 3 minutes are still made of mostly long or wideshots, and almost nothing happens when reaching the high point of the song. If you muted the audio, you’d never guess that something big happens at this point of the song, because the presentation isn’t reacting to the song.

I always say about good stagings that they make the song feel more than it is, and bad stagings make the song feel less. The Dutch one is the latter.

The main struggle with this is that because I do know (and love) the song, I find it very hard to guess what new audience would do with this. I personally felt it was a struggle to get into it despite loving it still, not being tired of it and having Duncan at his vocal best.

North Macedonia
If this was in any way from the first run throughs, I didn’t notice it. The gimmick at the beginning is still unnecessary, but it doesn’t distract and goes away quickly, and she sounds like a studio version in every take. She’s incredibly charismatic and emotes plenty without going overboard in her expressions. Classy.

Azerbaijan
Still looking strong and sounds strong. Not much changed in terms of presentation although we now have some extra on-screen effects, but with all the tech going on, some shots need more work so they are synced correctly.

That’s it for today! Back tomorrow for the second run throughs of the direct finalists!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more

After 44 years, the Netherlands win Eurovision!

The winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands - ending a 44-year wait for the country dating back to Teach-In and "Ding-A-Dong" in 1975. In an incredibly exciting results presentation, Sweden won the jury vote...

read more

Five milestones in Eurovision history

The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself – but not at the Eurovision Song Contest. We take a look at five milestones in ESC history that changed the nature of the competition.

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

In the second part of her ESC 2019 review, Shi looks at the differing arcs of the returning artists, what made Duncan’s winning reprise so special – and the delegations that made things unnecessarily hard for themselves…

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

If anyone was wondering, this is why the internet exists. https://t.co/iF5QweYfS6

"The Voice" by Eimear Quinn except it's just her breathing

Photos emerge of Chingiz's latest Instagram shoot

Your #Eurovision longread:

How Malta got it wrong due to constant tinkering, how Hungary slowly deteriorated over the fortnight, and how Duncan Laurence lucked into the right way to lose.

All these post-bubble insights and more in Shi's first wrap-up!

https://t.co/Mz41481SAn

“Dua ta besoj” by Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti from #Albania wins SongHunt 2019 and is the best non-winning #Eurovision national finalist of the season! https://t.co/au9NTAWZdf via @escgo

Load more tweets...