Select Page
The View from San Francisco: Lisboa – Jerusalem

The View from San Francisco: Lisboa – Jerusalem

I’m a liar. There’s no way around it so I might as well just say it.

I said I could take it easy this season. I said that I felt detached enough that I could go through the final free from nerves. And I was actually right for the most part – until the televote results started, and I found myself muting them because I was slightly too nervous (even though I was certain we would win the public vote). And I absolutely did cry as soon as Israel was announced as the winner. I have to give it to the system – even when the hosts mess it up, it’s still designed in such a way that you have absolutely no time to process anything. You’d think that having the same winner that was predicted all season would be somewhat obvious, at least in retrospect, but the last two weeks didn’t feel like the narrative of a story that was writing itself as expected. At least I was stubborn enough to stick to it all the way through, despite a mounting sensation of having absolutely zero clue what would happen.

For a person who had zero clue, having guessed the three most possible winners last night as Israel, Cyprus and Italy – and in that order – isn’t too bad, though. And I actually want to say that I’m absolutely thrilled for my two favorite songs this season, Italy and Austria, to have done so well on at least one side of the vote. In a season in which I actively loved five songs, having three of them reach the top five and the one from my country actually win feels like a pretty nice way for the universe to apologize for everything else it put me through over the last few months. My other two favorites, France and Portugal, didn’t do quite as well, but I could see the French result coming, and while I was hoping Portugal would fare better, seeing it in a very typical Portuguese position wasn’t really that surprising.

I also had a soft spot for SuRie and her song for the entire season, and seeing her performance and the way she handled the intrusion – something that had me shaken, even – was a great demonstration of character and professionalism. I am sorry that she had to be tested in that way, but so very impressed with how she dealt with it nonetheless and relieved to see her safe and sound. Some things are more important than music and competitions.

That last thing is one of the many elements that made watching the Israeli win and the subsequent reactions back home so special, too. Not only had “Toy” been such a popular song in Israel since its revelation – the biggest success of any song I can remember, well before its eventual win – but the country as a whole walked this incredible journey together with Netta down a path I never imagined seeing us walk. Maybe this entire season was about journeys, really. The journey of one fan from not caring to celebrating her country winning; the journey of a team that took the reins of the Israeli selection four years ago and transformed a recent history of repeated failure into four consecutive qualifications and a win; the journey of a new broadcaster that will celebrate its first birthday in two days’ time with the honor of being handed the responsibility of hosting next year; the journey of a country from closeted fans to celebrations in the markets and city squares on Saturday night; and the journey of one girl from social isolation and low self-esteem and confidence to prime-time adulation on European television.

I went through dozens of stories, videos and tweets after Netta’s victory on Saturday night. The Israeli press covered it pretty much like having just won the World Cup, including live broadcasts of the celebrations across different TV channels at 2:30am. There were so many things to write about, but actually, the tweet that caught me the most was one that I saw almost by chance, one which got almost no likes or retweets. An old friend of Netta tweeted, “And to think that 6 years ago I had to get her drunk to have her go on stage in an open mic evening. I’m so proud of you”. Just take a moment to think about that person: the one who eventually went on a reality show just to try and get some exposure, ended up barely winning it – she was second in the audience vote – and then went through the incredible pressure of being a fan and bookmakers’ favorite for two months and the response over the last couple of weeks, only to pull it off when it matters the most. And despite not having won the audience vote initially, she has quickly become a role model in Israel, in addition to the huge success of “Toy” as a song. At Purim (the Jewish Halloween, if you will) girls dressed up like her. People who I never heard say one word about Eurovision posted her videos performing other songs (I almost spat on my computer in shock when I saw my cousin had posted Netta’s acoustic cover of “A-ba-ni-bi”).

The tweets last night expressed that too. Shiri (no, not that one) wrote that “if you told little Shiri 30 years ago that a woman like Netta can do this, I wouldn’t have believed you. Every day the world showed me in a thousand ways that big women can’t be successful and that big women can’t dream. And here, here, here we have this.” Shahar wrote, “wow, the tears just stream down with all this emotion, and all I can think about is that Netta’s win is also the win of all the special, different people, wherever we are.” And Alon got me with a tweet about his young daughter: “The thing that makes me the happiest about this win is what it means for my daughter, Alma. At 9½ years old, Netta is her hero, and this is exactly what that kind of hero should be like.”

The other Israeli Wonder Woman celebrated on Instagram and posted a video of her watching Netta’s winning moments (you can hear her say in the background: “she’s so lovely, she’s so sweet, what a champion!”), although I was slightly disappointed to not get a Deadpool reaction video. Gal Gadot was not alone: every other celebrity in Israel seems to have posted an Instagram story broadcasting a live reaction to the end of the voting or Netta’s reprise performance. Was anyone watching anything else?

The judges from the Rising Star show watched the result from different places around the globe – Harel Skaat in Israel and the successful music duo, Static and Ben-El, in Los Angeles – but the reactions were the same. The videos from everywhere, from the delegation backstage to the hotel with all the fans and the people back in Israel, just kept coming in.


(The video is in Hebrew but the important things are universal.)

Lucy Aharish, an Israeli-Arab journalist and one of my favorite people in the world, tweeted: “So my conclusion is this: politics can be racist and anti-Semitic, but when it comes to people, they can see beyond that… and we have this larger than life woman who broke so many stigmas and showed there’s no such thing as impossible.”

The day after was full of celebrations as well, with an entire country – as far as I can tell from the social media feeds and texts from family and friends – walking around at work and school like zombies (Sunday is a regular workday in Israel).The TV channels dedicated full shows to the win, in a country where there’s always so much news the headlines change every two hours, and interviewed everyone, starting with her parents who wore T-shirts with a “yes chi-ken” artwork and ending with every person who has ever represented Israel.

I was particularly touched listening to an interview with Doron Medalie, co-composer of “Toy”, who is a very successful Israeli composer who often comes across as a bit too pompous and perhaps self-centered. It’s easy to dislike him, but every time I hear a proper interview with him I remember that sometime it’s very easy to judge people by first impressions or the masks they wear. Talking in the next morning, sleepless and disbelieving, he was speaking quietly and on the verge of tears.

Asked about Netta’s words concerning the conversations she has with younger Netta, Medalie was asked how it is like talking to young Doron:

“Everything I did here was to come full circle from when I was a kid. This kid’s first memory is Ofra Haza singing ‘Hi’ at Eurovision when I was five years old. Eurovision is my life, it’s in my DNA. I think I manage to write hits and catchy choruses only thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest and its three-minute rule. It’s my sixth time at Eurovision, my third time as a composer. I’m 40 years old and everything I wanted in life just happened.”

As Lindsay D once sang: No Dream Impossible.

This is what I’ve always loved about Eurovision, and what it was always supposed to be. ESC is meant to be a place where we all come together, where we all get to hear and learn from other cultures, other places, and most importantly other people. And it’s always been important to me that the song and the artist sent by Israel are something I feel represents that crazy, complicated country that I come from. For many of us, when we look at other countries, our view is automatically narrowed to what we know about that place and what we see about it in the news – and while those realities definitely exist, and the importance of discussing and resolving them is always there, it becomes too easy to forget that countries are not just that one thing alone. All those different places are made first and foremost out of people. People who have different opinions and support different ideas and love different things, care about different things. I am not naïve, and I know the next year will inevitably become a lot more political than I would have wanted it to be (and that has nothing to do with where I stand), but the people in Israel – as people – are way more than whatever you see about the country in the news.

I know that many Israeli fans have always felt that people don’t like us. Sure, some don’t. Others have a lot of problems with our government’s politics (God knows I do too, and did I already mention how my friends and I enjoyed seeing Netta pretty much hanging up the phone in Netanyahu’s face on Saturday?), but the problem is that hatred and negativity are always louder than anything else. So Israeli fans have always heard the negative voices, the voices that were hating, while it’s been a long time since they had a way to see that there are a lot more people who don’t live their life by making decisions based on a flag or a country name.

When Portugal won last year, I wrote a very long article (hard to believe, I know) about how much more beautiful that win was just due to the level of connection they had with their entry, and I was happy to experience the same thing this year. Having seen Dana International in 1998, which was also a very important and iconic moment in society back then, there was not the same kind of excitement leading up to the competition. In part, that was because the song itself, while important for ESC and for Israel, was more manufactured for the contest and was never really something that sounded like it came from us. To this day “Diva” still isn’t one of my favorite songs, for all the occasion as a whole was extremely important to me and many others in Israel in terms of what it meant for our society. “Toy”, however – despite being in English – sounds so very much like a song that comes from the depths of our music industry, which makes complete sense since the two people behind it have been involved in so many success stories there over the last years.

It’s not an easy song, and many people – Salvador Sobral included – will find it to be three minutes of noise, which is entirely understandable. It is noisy. It is very ethnic. It is incredibly crazy. It has chicken sounds. It is not as listener-friendly as “Diva”, “Hallelujah” or “A-ba-ni-bi”, and it never tried to be. Much like “Amar pelos dois” last year, it was exactly what it was supposed to be. It was a song that worked for the performer, a song that worked for the occasion, and a song that sounded like where it came from: loud, crazy, and five thousand different things all at once. Take it or leave it. Like last year, like every year, you don’t need everyone to love it; you just need enough people who do. Everyone else will get to have those years where the songs they like do better. But not today.

As we say in Hebrew, to next year in Jerusalem, which might be all politics to some of you, but will always be home to me. Even more specifically, my favorite basketball team – Hapoel Jerusalem – actually plays in the Pais Arena Jerusalem, which is a leading candidate for hosting Eurovision. I have always said that this was the place outside my own home where I felt at home the most, so it doesn’t get closer than this. As it happens, the team has a tradition of tweeting a smiley face whenever they sign a new player, and an image welcoming the player to Jerusalem and to our Pais Arena home. Yesterday they welcomed a new friend.

And as Netta says: Kapara Aleichem, Europe!

title image: eurovision.tv

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Last Thoughts before the Final

The View from San Francisco: Last Thoughts before the Final

And this is it. The day that feels so far away for most of the year, and when it comes it feels like it is here a bit too soon – and, at the same time, like it can’t come quickly enough. I realized last night, on my way home for work, that today I will be watching my 30th Eurovision final, which is terrifying on so many levels. As I was trying really hard not to fall asleep on the train and miss my stop – this week has been taking its toll, and I did actually take the wrong train home last night because I was so tired and couldn’t tell the difference between Ocean Beach and Ocean View – I was thinking about what that means. How many hours of my life have I spent watching Eurovision? Not just the live recordings, but the video recordings back in the VCR days and oldies on YouTube since? How many hours have I spent listening to ESC songs, rewinding tapes in my Walkman, burning CDs or listening to songs on my mp3 player? How much time have I spent watching Lithuanian heats and Maltese national finals? No, wait, don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.

Point is, I’ve always been a pretty constant person. The things I love I have always loved, and always followed, but the levels of interest have changed with the years. If for some things I used to spend time and money watching, visiting, following or buying everything, for some I now just check the website, the game score or what people wrote on Twitter. There were things I stepped away from for a while before getting back into them again. But Eurovision is somehow the one thing that was always there, every single year. For as long as I can remember myself, I have never not watched it, and I have never not followed it ahead of time to whatever degree technology allowed. I have missed parts of the semi finals this week due to being in California and having a full-time job I couldn’t take days off from, and that marked the first time I have missed anything in the broadcast, but I still saw at least parts of it live and I definitely made sure to watch the results. I always make the effort for Eurovision. Even for that second semi.

And mind you, those grand finals lasting five hundred hours nowadays don’t make it any easier for us to hold on to our Eurovision love, but we made it through semi 2 and we shall survive this too!

I am not doing a full preview today, but I thought that after reviewing each semi’s performances, it was time to give the direct finalists a bit of love (some of them, anyway).

Lovebirds

I will admit I laughed out loud when I saw Spain’s running order placement, and then felt like a horrible person. With Operacion Triunfo being back from the dead this season and turning into a huge success, backed up by it being the first social media season, the interest and faith in “Tu canción” was huge over there – even if I never shared that opinion (but was occasionally worried they’d somehow be right) – and as someone who is no stranger to this position in the running order, I can imagine it felt awful for everyone involved to know what exactly the production makes of you and your chances. Having watched the performance, though, it’s not like they did a lot for their chances as well, and while managing good vocals and chemistry, it’s entirely lost on a fairly uninteresting staging (which is at least one level above distracting) and fashion choices that take any potential youthfulness out of it.

Portugal has been one of my favorites this season, but I need to be in the right mood to get into it, and this stressful week (where Eurovision was just the minor stress of it, imagine that) was not it. I do hope that my own excitement about the final and the home crowd will lift “O jardim” for me so it can be what it was when it was chosen.

Stormy times ahead

I have actually always liked “Storm”, unlike most fans, and I love SuRie to no end, so I have had my hopes that the United Kingdom could rely on a feel-good song with such a charismatic performer to help themselves up the scoreboard. But trust the Brits to take one of the best performers they sent in recent times and lose her on stage, again making the good old Eurovision mistake of sending a random prominent prop that has nothing to do with the song just so that their singer has something to play with.

I’ll simply never get Germany this year, and watching their performance clip was an experience of conflicting thoughts. That stage looks silly! But it looks different from everything else! He is so forgettable I forget about him even though he stands right there! But I’m sure a lot of people will be deeply touched by him and this song! At least I am grateful for the existence of the big five now, because I will only have to sit through “You Let Me Walk Alone” once. Or, if the universe really wants to test me, twice.

Earnest

Having been in my personal top three for the entire season, I have been entirely unable to see France winning this, despite many voices saying otherwise. After watching this, I am even less sure it can do much – I’d love to be wrong, though. I thought they looked quite lost there with those choices of clothes and camera angles. On top of that, the crowd participation towards the end of the song that is supposed to be the highlight of this looks considerably sillier than I thought it would be. Having listened to the jury rehearsal today, and hence to this in the running order, it fell flat there for me too. Still, a gorgeous song by wonderful artists who are maybe just a bit too camera-shy for this to work.

I suppose it is appropriate to close this post with my overall favorite this season. Italy is not the most obvious choice for a closer, but this is not the first time the production went for drama at the end, and this one ends with a lot of gravitas and emotions. With a dynamic staging and a message, these are three minutes of thinking and feeling as much as possible. The message is still not very obvious to really come across to the viewer at home, even with the superimposed lyrics, but there’s enough intensity to make up for it. I have been entirely unable to predict where this one will end and I still can’t, but I’d be so happy if this did well.

The dudes abide

As for the rest of the show? I honestly don’t know. There are some things I’d love to happen, there are some things I really don’t want to happen, and there’s a lot in between to show us all how reality compares to our obsessions throughout the season. The universe has been toying with me this year, and it has only a few more hours to tell me how I am going to remember this Eurovision season. Let’s do this, cosmos!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Semi 2 Post Mortem

The View from San Francisco: Semi 2 Post Mortem

On a scale of 1 to “hearing Moldova twelve times in a row”, how excited am I to review the second semi-final? Somewhere around “being held captive by angry Waylon fans and forced to watch the entire semi over and over for 24 hours”, I think.

Anyhow, I survived. I even guessed eight qualifiers right, which meant I did better than my random guess, but more about that elsewhere. Time to stop procrastinating and find things to write about last night’s show.

Starting with Norway, which was considerably more underwhelming than I expected it to be, and not because I watched this song so much I got used to it – I’ve been ignoring it since it was chosen – but because somehow, despite all Alexander Rybak’s effortless charisma and presence, it just didn’t work. Well, I suppose that song didn’t help matters.

I still don’t remember how Romania goes, and with it not making the final, I will never remember how it goes. I will remember her dress fondly, although the rest of this performance, not so much.

Ben adam hu rak basar vadam [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

Serbia was impressively effective for a performance that has to present about 325 different songs in three minutes. Apparently the way to distract from that kind of hindrance is come across as competent singers and do a staging that is both dynamic and cohesive enough. It did look exactly like the dictionary definition of Balkan staging, but in a good way, and for all of my issues with the song it was one of the few performances I actively enjoyed last night.

The robots from San Marino were the best achievement of any robotics team that has ever participated in Eurovision. Otherwise the performance was highly entertaining for many wrong reasons, but the song in itself – while not unoriginal, despite the whiff of “Heroes” – never sounded unpleasant enough to turn it from silly fun to active torture, and I am willing to bet Jess and Jen even got a somewhat decent televote score.

Denmark‘s Rasmussen continued in his life mission of making me deaf while conquering the foreign shores inside the arena. He is also such an uninteresting performer that I found myself watching the backing singers instead, and they actually look quite lovely. Seriously, maybe we can just accidentally lock him in the dressing room and have them perform it alone? Or perhaps instead of making him the face of this, just make them into a Viking boyband. I still doubt I’d like the song then, but I do think it would work better on screen and if I have to watch it again in the final, they can at least give me that.

I can fly over mountains, over seas [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

It was easy to worry that Russia would somehow still make it, despite what we saw in the first semi-final when it comes to countries with 100% qualification records, but I was always confident that they wouldn’t. In their favor, I will say that they tried to make things as pleasant as possible. And let’s be honest: if this entry was from a country that wasn’t Russia, it probably still wouldn’t qualify, but we also wouldn’t bat an eyelid at it. We’ve seen worse. Credit to Julia, also, who actually looked sympathetic and emotional in all the right moments, which was a first. We now get to have a second consecutive Russia-free final, but I suspect that means they will come back next year with a vengeance.

The biggest achievement of Moldova was that their performance managed to be so incredibly clever and so incredibly tacky at the same time. As fun as it was, though, I think the overall impression of it was too old-school to really get the televoters going as much as many of us thought they would. I’m sure the kids who survived Romania without running away screaming had a blast, though, and hopefully they were young enough to have certain parts of the choreography go over their heads.

Ne jednom, ne dvaput, tri puta me [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

I missed the part where it said Netherlands at the beginning of the postcard and, instead of checking, I spent the entire time trying to remember who the guy in the postcard was. Which shows how much time I’ve spent looking at Waylon’s face recently: absolutely none. I still didn’t quite understand what he was trying to achieve with the concept of the performance, but knew he would go through and didn’t really bother to develop any expectations when it was down to the last qualifier and the Netherlands still hadn’t been called.

Australia was an odd one. Things my brain registered: the stage (and staging) weren’t great, Jessica could have gone for a better fashion choice because that particular fabric wouldn’t make anyone in the world look classy, and at times she did look like she just wandered around Lisbon, saw a stage and mistook it for an open mic night. But she did it with so much charm and enthusiasm while singing one of the more decent songs in the line-up, and in this semi-final that combination was more than enough.

I really wanted Georgia to make it through, and totally put it in my prediction realizing it probably wouldn’t but I wanted to try and will it to happen anyway. It was still three blessed minutes of zen and meditation in the midst of this headache-inducing semi, and I say that as someone who got to enjoy a somewhat condensed version of the show, as I only watched a recording and happily skipped all the breaks.

Poland, however, was three minutes of bad vocals drilling into my head combined with some highly questionable arm dance choreography choices. “Light Me Up” always felt like a song I should like, except whenever I actually heard it I realized there wasn’t a song, and last night was so bad on all fronts that there was very little to make the experience pleasant. The only silver lining is that we’ll get to see the baseline vote of the Polish diaspora when the full results are published, because I really doubt anyone else voted for it.

It’s only the light that fades through the night [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

Really, Malta, really. I think they have the right intentions and they do try, but they have the tendency to go rather overboard when it really doesn’t serve the song – or my eyesight. The 2018 iteration of this tendency looked more like an audiovisual display in a very artsy art gallery than a Eurovision song, and with the music itself and Christabelle’s vocals being harmless, it served as three minutes of screen decoration but nothing you’d actually vote for.

Having watched the semi-final on delay, I had already seen messageboard comments about the magnificent three minutes that were Hungary‘s performance. I should have known better and expected nothing of the kind, because what I got was still three minutes of this voice screaming, with decent yet not particularly outstanding camerawork. It looked competent, for the most part, which is what it needed to do; it got slightly upgraded with some very nice use of lights in the last minute of the song; and then it was downgraded to a rock parody with the last few bits. I always assumed it would make the final, but I really won’t be sad hearing it for the last time on Saturday.

Yeah, yeah, fire [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

Apparently the main mistake I made with Latvia, having skipped the national final and only seen bits of Laura’s rehearsal, was assuming that she could actually sing. She started out OK, to balance off the really distracting camerawork that was supposed to be sophisticated and different but mostly detracted from the chance to get to know her while she was still in tune. By the time we’d got used to the visuals, Laura had given up on the singing part and gone for a nice stroll through melodies and keys from faraway lands. Funny girl? Well, this staging combined with this vocal performance was funny, but probably not in a way they intended.

Sweden looked less impressive than I thought it would be, and much like Norway, that isn’t because I am already used to it – I watched about a minute of “Dance You Off” in the Melodifestivalen final and never bothered with the performance again (or the song, really). Similarly to Estonia, the novelty of it gets tiring very quickly, although at least here the main singer is very much the front and center of this and not the other way around – he actually gets to do things during the performance and interact with the audience, unlike poor Elina. I still find Sweden very flat in terms of anything actually interesting happening during its three minutes, but it does have the usual Swedish slickness which should be enough for it to do pretty well in the final too.

We could be the same [Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses]

If Serbia was the dictionary definition of how to stage a Balkan entry well, the Montenegro was the dictionary definition of how to stage a Balkan entry really really badly. Vanja is really cool though, and I really hope that, like some other artists this year, he enjoyed the experience and will try and come back one day but with something that is more him and less, well, this.

On the topic of artists who are way too cool for their entries, allow me to introduce you to Slovenia’s Lea Sirk, my official 2018 Girl Crush and this year’s winner of how to perform a notoriously crappy song like it’s the biggest pop banger in the contest. Her personality and great vocals came through the screen, the choreography was interesting all the way through, the fashion choices weren’t distracting, and even if the fake break was indeed entirely unnecessary, it didn’t ruin anything for her. I didn’t have her in my prediction and was delighted to be proved wrong.

Ukraine is now the last member standing in the Perfect Qualification Record club (Australia are still too young to join), and I suppose that if we had to guess – even before hearing this year’s songs – who would be the one to take that crown, assuming we judged purely on merit and not on who we thought had the most friends, they would have been the obvious choice. They have this uncanny ability to balance just enough televote-friendly craziness with just enough musical and vocal value for the juries to appreciate it too, and they also manage to make sense out of a lot of the mad props they bring with them on stage, where for other countries they would feel bolted on. Of course “Under The Ladder” needed a big and scary piano spider coffin and a burning staircase! Why would anyone think otherwise?

Eyes that never lie [Eurovision.tv / Andres Putting]

In retrospect, I suppose all the results in this semi-final made sense, although I doubt I’ll ever be in the mood to watch it. We now have just one more night left in our Lisbon 2018 adventure, and if I’m being honest, I have as much clue about what’s going to happen as I had two weeks ago. Maybe next time I can just skip the rehearsals altogether.

I shall return tomorrow with a mini-preview and a mini-review of Portugal and the big five entries ahead of the grand final. I  probably still won’t have a clue even after further soul-searching analysis, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to write plenty of words about it anyway.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Semi 1 Post Mortem

The View from San Francisco: Semi 1 Post Mortem

Well, well, what do you know. While – like most of us – I always thought we had more than ten realistic choices for possible qualifiers here, meaning some favorites would stay out of the final, even I didn’t really predict this particular combination of countries. I suggest filing semi-final one of ESC 2018 under “useful arguments to pull out when people talk about countries with friends and countries that ‘always’ qualify”.

Which is a good memo for myself as well, because when I was struggling with who to leave in or out, after marking everyone I thought was surely in the final, I definitely used the “who has more support in this semi?” method to decide. I had no post-performance prediction, though: not only did I watch the semi at the office where I had to actually do things once in a while (curse you, timezones!), I also had to step out between Austria and Switzerland. And I spent the remainder of my time being a total geek and doing all kind of trends and social media live reaction measurements, because I decided months ago I would use this Eurovision as a scientific case study and I am a huge numbers nerd, so of course I am going to stay true to that particular principle.

Anyhow, we had 19 performances to reflect on for the first time, and I have tried to rewatch all of them again now that I can also look at some things in retrospective.

Azerbaijan was actually one of the countries I always expected would qualify. Not so much because of their track record, but because the entry just felt so Eurovision-friendly. A likable singer, a pleasant tune, staging that was just gimmicky enough but not over the top. But looking back at it, it does make you think that when you have strong competition, it’s not enough to just be nice on all fronts, and for every element of this song and performance there was someone in this semi that did it bigger, flashier and/or better.

WTFirewalls? [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

I really do hope that Iceland’s Ari will decide to come back some day with a better song. As far as I could tell he had a very positive experience, despite or even because of the low expectations of him. But he is so talented and so likable that I’m sure he can do much better for his country if he has something to work with. He also provided proof that I’m not entirely heartless, as I totally teared up myself just as he did the same at the end of his performance.

Albania is one of the entries I’ve been wrong about and was actually happy to be wrong about, despite never really connecting with the song. I do appreciate Eugent tremendously as a singer and a performer – I suspect the juries agreed – and he definitely owns the screen. I still feel the song and staging aren’t enough to make much of a dent in Saturday’s scoreboard, but I’m very pleased for him to even be there.

Sennek from Belgium was better than I expected but still came across as a mismatch of song and singer, and that staging did nothing to sell the atmosphere of the song. The fact that she did have it in her to sing it very well and with so much emotion does make me wonder what would have happened if they had chosen a more intimate approach for the staging.

How lovely is it to see a delegation like the Czech Republic celebrate? With their short and unimpressive experience in Eurovision to date, I doubt that even coming in as relative favorites made them very sure of themselves, and then they also went through the most stressful week possible, even if you couldn’t really know that from the performance. Indeed, you couldn’t even know you weren’t seeing it in its original version. While “Lie To Me” is still not for everyone – if I had to guess, I’d say that the majority of the voters for this were girls under the age of 21 – it was extremely effective on screen and very much felt like it belonged to 2018.

Spaghetti boys [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

Another one that I guessed wrong and was delighted to be wrong about was Lithuania. This was always a mood song for me – in the right moments it took me in and in other moments it was so subdued I couldn’t be bothered with it. But in the right moments I loved it and, as much as I was afraid that it would get lost where it was – early and between two big stage numbers – as soon as my sister, my own private voting barometer who actually hadn’t seen this song yet this year, texted me to say it was wonderful. I knew it’d make it after all.

I have such an over-saturation with Israel’s “Toy” that I can barely judge it, but as I initially thought from the rehearsals, I really do like how it looks on stage and it doesn’t look like any other entry. However, it would be really nice if they got those vocals together, and hopefully having a bit of time to rest with some of the pressure off will help them to regroup and focus on thinking about how to make it sound better. With a group of talented singers and musicians there should be a way to improve this, and if nerves are causing some of the problem, maybe it’s a good time to try some meditating. I heard Ieva has a few tips.

Aw, Belarus. I hadn’t managed to watch it all the way through because it was way too much for all my senses, and I felt self-conscious enough about Eurovision displaying on one of my work computer monitors as it is. Cringe galore by a sympathetic singer who never had enough of a song to rescue it and yet still picked the worst way possible to display it. I imagine some voters were entertained enough to send something his way, but otherwise, nothing to see here.

I am obviously very biased about Estonia at this point, because it has never worked for me (and not just because of the genre), but I do think that my initial feeling from the rehearsals was fairly accurate – namely that the oversized scale of the presentation takes away whatever connection Elina had to offer to the audience. A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice and a beautiful dress, all enough to make the required impact for qualification, but not enough of a hook – musically or emotionally – for people to really care about it.

Nice to see you [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

To the credit of Bulgaria, “Bones” came together better than all its different pieces made me feel (and that had made me decide to leave it out of my qualifier prediction prior to the semi performance). Since I always liked the basic song, it was nice to hear it connecting fairly well. The camerawork made more sense as a three-minute stretch than in the short clips we’d had previously, but Equinox still have the charisma of one person spread across the five of them.

Nothing was going to save Macedonia or make it less painful to watch, for all I like the song. Add it to the list of “songs I love to hear in studio and pretend their live performance never happened” and let’s move on…

Having seen Franka in rehearsals, I was so sure Croatia would be the jury fodder of this semi that despite my own complaints about never remembering the entry exists, I still put her through in my final guess. Perhaps I was worried about it being just me who didn’t seem to get it. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who forgot the song exists after all. Sorry, Franka, I tried!

Austria has been a personal favorite of mine since when the song was revealed, and while I hadn’t been especially convinced by what we’d seen from the performance so far, the engineering project they brought with them actually provided for a nice distraction from the stage without actually hiding it, and there was something in Cesár’s awkward audience interaction that actually worked well with the overall warmth of the song. I’m still not entirely sure it can do much beyond that in the final, but I am not going to argue when my big favorites make it through!

Nobody but me and nine others [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

I love Greek music. I love the Greek language. I even managed to love “Oniro mou” despite it being more a track from a world music compilation than a well-structured song. After wrestling all week with trying to figure out what the point of their staging was, I ended up understanding it entirely with all its little touches, clever ideas and intricate layers. What the entry from Greece was ultimately missing was a performer. One charismatic enough to own that stage with all its epic elements on her own and one who could sing the song beautifully. Yianna was neither, and that meant every one of the initial flaws of the song was left exposed.

I really thought Finland was in trouble looking at rehearsals throughout the week, and I still dislike pretty much everything about this staging, although it did come across as cohesive even if purposeless. But like Poli Genova before her (plus good vocals), Saara gave a short and effective lesson in the importance of star quality.

Fuego [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

Armenia was the last addition to my prediction after I’d ignored it all season, and I really should know better than not trusting my initial gut feelings. But you know, I started doing math in my brain of “he sings it well and it’s a ballad and it’s an eastern-oriented semi and there can be enough jury votes to get it in, because Armenia has had to be really bad to fail to qualify before”. I am afraid that like many countries before them, this will make them jump to the wrong conclusions and not send songs that represent their own culture, instead of realizing that what they need is to send them with a more relatable artist.

Switzerland next, and the Swiss Family ZiBBZ were exactly what they have been at every point between being chosen and now: competent, professional, pleasant, enjoyable, and completely forgotten as soon as their song ended.

I was too quick to praise the camerawork for Ireland, as in its full version it was less impressive than I initially thought, but it still was lovely overall and worked really well in this position. Hopefully the second half draw can help them work reasonably well in the final too, because beyond this being a lovely track, I always enjoy seeing delegations not giving up, trying different things (even if not musically – the song itself is as Irish as it could get) and realizing that there is always a way to get it right. You just need to try hard enough, and have a decent product to begin with.

And finally, Cyprus. Where do I start? Maybe at the beginning, over a decade ago, when I was first introduced to Eleni Foureira as part of a girl group, prior to her solo career. I always liked her as a person for her endless positivity, and I always enjoyed her songs for the unpretentious fun they were. I actually have many tracks from her (the girl group included) on my mp3 player still, because they are perfect to dance around to. I also have watched many of her performances, so I’m familiar with her style and I know she is a fantastic dancer who worked very hard to become one, and yet she was responsible for one moment last night that made me cringe more than anything in the Belarus performance.

Here’s the thing. “Fuego” is fun, sure. I’ve enjoyed it for the easy listening nothingness that it is ever since it was picked. As a track, it’s probably one of the weaker ethnopop songs we’ve had melodically, albeit with a much better production. But all in all, much of its initial appeal was its nostalgic value for those who watched Eurovision ten years ago. Even so, as a song, it didn’t particularly set the polls, reactions or odds on – sorry – fire.

It’s true that there are often songs we don’t really notice that suddenly reveal themselves come Eurovision thanks to a brilliant staging or performance. But this is where my problems lie. Considering how basic the song is, with the lyrics being pretty meaningless (ah yeah ah yeah fire!) and the staging not really relating to the specific song, you could basically take any other track Foureira has ever recorded, stick that performance onto it, put it onto that stage, with those clothes, and it would be equally effective.

There’s nothing wrong with that, it should be said, and I always thought – and still do – that Cyprus should make the final, because we all need our ridiculous cheap fun. It’s Eurovision, after all. But let me put this out there: while Eleni definitely conquers with her screen presence and the camerawork makes the most out of it, the choreography of this is not exactly innovative or original, and is based mostly on wearing very few clothes while making as many sexual and sensual moves as possible and generally being entirely tacky and classless. Again, so far, fine. There’s room for everything, there’s an audience for everything, and the final line-up needs some variety.

Subjective objectification [Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting]

But seeing it rock to the top of the odds, and seeing the fan reaction or social media reaction of people thinking this would make a great winner, makes me so incredibly uncomfortable. For me and for many other women and girls out there, the takeaway message from last night’s show is that the moment getting the strongest reaction from the audience is when five attractive women stand on stage and spread their legs. A song doesn’t necessarily need to have a message, but this one does, even if it didn’t intend to. Be hot. Take your clothes off. Make men want to sleep with you because that’s sexy. Flick your pretty hair around, smile to the camera, shake your boobs and your ass. A song? Vocal talent that’s more than just passable? In a song contest? That’s only for ugly girls, sorry. Tough luck, ladies, you need to work harder.

I don’t expect the audience to give a damn about this, although I expect (or at least hope) the juries might. I imagine many of the people reading this will roll their eyes at me and ask why I can’t just relax and enjoy some harmless fun for a little bit. But that’s the thing. I don’t think it’s harmless. I think it’s degrading and offensive, and even if it’s definitely not the worst competitor this year, it’s definitely the worst possible winner. I think we forget how wide the reach of this competition is beyond our bubble, and it pains me to think that this is the message to come out of it. I’d love Cyprus to win, I really would – but not with this, and not with this performance.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 8

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 8

I have a new best friend. His name is Blue Carpet, and today he arranged for me to only have six entries to find words for! And it even came with an added bonus of not having to guess whether any of those six will qualify for the final. Although, being the masochist that I am, this immediately felt like I haven’t tortured myself enough today so I proceeded to try and figure out my qualifiers anyway. I would say it at least seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’d be lying. I knew it would end badly and I did it anyway, possibly as a warm-up for watching semi 2 in full. But I said no more talk about semi 2, and today was all about the direct finalists anyway. So let’s start with them.

By the way, they all drew their final half allocation today – but still no running order or anything, so this particular review is just in the order of the official YouTube uploads.

Portugal
After showing up in their pajamas for the first rehearsals, the Portugirls have upgraded to those clothes you randomly pull out of your closet just so you can run to take the trash out for two minutes. Which basically means we didn’t get to see how their costumes look on camera. Not that it mattered because the majority of the clip was spent in long shots of a dark stage.

It’s hard to tell without knowing what the songs around them will be, but for the little it’s worth, it does seem that this particular direction of staging takes some inspiration from last year’s winner, just in the way in which it attempts to shut everything around it off for three minutes and create a bubble in which the song is performed, almost in a world of its own. It’s the type of thing that can either easily get lost or work very well, and with the loud support it will get in the hall before and after the song, in complete contrast to the three minutes of the song itself, this should at least help it to not get entirely lost in the crowd.

Diamond of night, burning so bright (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

United Kingdom
If I thought it was possible that the tunnel of halogen bars had a specific purpose, I was wrong. It’s there as a decoration accent. A vase, Eurovision-style. It doesn’t serve any practical need, nor does it at least give SuRie something to play with. It’s clean and is not in any way tasteless, so at least that’s a giant improvement on pretty much everything else the United Kingdom has sent in the last two decades, for a start.

SuRie is still the strongest part of this entry, although I think I like the song a lot more than most other fans whose opinion I’ve encountered. We shall see what Europe thinks of it, although I have a slight suspicion it will work better east of Italy.

I’d say that me just closing my eyes for a second after watching the clip and then accidentally falling asleep is a bad sign for the UK – and it might well be, but at this point the only clear thing it suggests to me is that maybe I should try and go to sleep early today. It’s going to be a very long week, especially with the whole time zone thing, and I should try to not start it already suffering from significant sleep deprivation.

Run away to the stars (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

Spain
Not helping with the sleep crisis here, world. I actually tried to start writing about this seventeen times in the last hour and every time I kept finding something else that just needed to be done at that very moment. My opinion changes every time I watch it – not about the song, you understand, that’s still 180 seconds of unprocessed sugar – as I just can’t decide whether this will work well or not work at all.

The stage feels too empty, but there’s some great use of lights and camerawork. I might not be a huge fan of Alfred, and I’m definitely not a huge fan of anything either of them have worn so far, but the overall romantic mood of this feels natural and effortless, which is not always the case at ESC, even with real-life couples. I still find the song fairly weak as a whole, but it is structured well and peaks in just the right places to be effective.

It’s going to be one of those songs that, if you came to visit me from two weeks into the future and told me it finished basically anywhere between 3rd and last, I’d believe you. I wouldn’t necessarily be happy about it, depending on which end of the scale you told me, but I’d believe you all the same.

Believe in me (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

France
Speaking of songs I don’t know what to do with. While “Mercy” is easily one of my absolute favorites this year, I see many people considering it a possible winner and wonder whether it’s the usual wishful thinking when it comes to France.

I adore Madame Monsieur, both as musicians and people, but every time I watch them perform I really struggle to see much presence or on-screen charisma that goes beyond my own natural instinct of liking them. The black clothes are still a bad idea, and the second rehearsal video didn’t help me become more convinced of its chances. It’s supposed to be the peak of the song, as the crowd gets involved in it – and it has always been the most argued about moment, with many finding the hand gestures utterly ridiculous. From the camera work it looks like the French have found some sort of compromise: They’ll do the gesture, but they will also do their best to not show it. The cameras pan out to show a wide shot of the audience, which in theory is a logical step except it never really shows the two of them setting everything in motion, and just pans away first to some low angles where they are not at all visible, and then wide shots that are from so far away you still can’t see them, especially with the black clothes.

Involving audience is always tricky, although when it works it can be magical – and sometimes it’s not even entirely intended (just ask Portugal last year). The crowd can add a lot, but when you show the crowd, you don’t show the artist, so you have to be careful about it and make sure the audience cuts are very well thought out and inserted in exactly the right moments. Getting to witness the interaction between the artists and the crowd as a part of a narrative flow works much better than just showing the audience being into the song and assuming the viewers at home will get it.

I did, however, read that the French HoD was very unhappy about the rehearsal, claiming that several requests they have made regarding lights and camera angles weren’t addressed, so one can only hope that they are aware of what doesn’t work and that between them and the production it will be worked out by Saturday night.

That sounds good to me (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

Italy
It’s easy to make fun of the attempt to literally spell the song out to people with a multilingual lyric live video, but then Germany is the next rehearsal and this looks quite mild in comparison, especially taking into consideration that there’s only one line in each language, so depending on how many languages you actually speak, that’s as far as far as it will take you in figuring out what the song is about.

What I do find the most impressive about this, though, is that it signals a major shift in the Italian approach to staging. Gone are the days of giving their artists some kind of nice background, and perhaps some props or a gorilla, and sending them to stand on stage and do their thing and que sera, sera. This entry brought with it a plan. As in a real plan, which requires careful preparation and attention to every detail, because the only way for the text to appear in different sizes, placements and angles while Ermal and Fabrizio walk around the stage is for every camera shot to be exactly right.

It might be my inner graphic designer and it is definitely the fact that this is my personal favorite this year, but I do think there’s something immensely effective about a performance that is dynamic and clearly structured. With only two of them on stage, the lyrics make sure they never look quite as lost on it, and the constant change in the way the words appear to match them makes everything they do on stage feel like it has a purpose.

It might still be hard for people to get this or like this as a song, but – especially considering how hard this song is to stage – it actually might be one of the most complete and put together visual packages the Italians have managed since their return. Progress is good.

What if we chose to bury our guns? (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Germany
On the topic of progress, Germany really is trying. They have brought a story that is important for them to tell as is, and the staging definitely fits the concept. There is no going halfway for them, and regardless of my own personal feelings about “You Let Me Walk Alone” as a song, it is commendable. Too often delegations are scared to commit to something all the way because they fear it will be too much or too over-the-top. In this particular case, the background is a visual representation of what the song is already, so you might as well see it through.

The song is unfortunately still this song, and I already wrote that my own opinion of it does not reflect my prediction for its chances – I know full well that there are plenty of overly cheesy and sugary entries that have hit their mark with their audience.

I do think Michael is by far the weakest link of this, though, despite a very good vocal performance. He is not very engaging or expressive, and it’s very easy to forget he’s even there. I suppose that’s exactly why he has that kind of staging, though. It might not be on the same creativity and novelty level of the Ukrainian sand woman a few years back, but similarly it uses a staging trick that distracts from the main performer to tell the story of the song, which is very effective. Estonia’s dress projection designers might want to take a few notes.

With that, I think I have exhausted my capacity of being nice about this entry – and thankfully it’s also the last one for this particular review, so I am spared the experience of being relieved for a second only to realize Malta is up next.

Coming up: Dress rehearsals, a semi preview and the need to eventually come up with a prediction before the semi actually takes place. Wish me luck. Wish us all luck.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 7

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 7

The best news to come out of the semi-finalists’ final day of individual rehearsals is that I don’t have to deal with the second semi again until at least Wednesday. If it was such an effort to go through short clips of an incomplete line-up (as the first five entries rehearsed yesterday), I don’t want to know what it’ll be like to sit through this on Thursday. I’m almost glad I’m going to be watching it at the office – it might be the only time during the two weeks of the Eurovision distraction from real life that I’ll be motivated to get some actual work done.

Anyhow, no such luck today because it’s the weekend, in which – or so I’ve heard – people are supposed to have fun and relax, except Shi who has to find words to describe the semi 2 performances.

As always, this is your coffee and pastry warning before this rather lengthy read. However, I did decide to make an exception today and provide a short summary of this rehearsal review for anyone who doesn’t feel like dealing with this semi (I can’t blame you, so I will not be offended): They’re all lucky to be in semi 2 and not semi 1. That is all.

6. Russia
Yeah, start with the hard stuff, won’t you. For what it’s worth, after much debate over the last few weeks, I think I figured out what’s the story behind this entry. No elves, trolls, goblins or whatever other mystical creatures may live below mountains in faraway lands, but an actual attempt to guess at the events that led us to this point in time.

I’m going to assume that when Russian television approached Julia for the purposes of (not) performing in Eurovision last year, there were some sort of binding legal documents involved, forcing the Russians to keep their word this year. I also assume that said legal documents promised that Julia would be credited as the main performer, but there was no legal language regarding how exactly that would work.

Knowing the extent of both Julia’s singing talent and her screen likability (not much), the delegation has done what every responsible delegation should do: tried to figure out how to get the most out of the situation in a way that best serves their interests.

First, there was the matter of the song. The approach was simple: something not entirely atrocious, within the constraints of a minimal budget. Because it might be Russia, but even they know some things you can’t win with, and you might as well save your money for other things.

Then they came up with a staging that would be passable visually and allow them the flexibility to hide the shortcomings of this entry as much as they possibly can. It might be a throwaway year, but it still has the Russian flag on it – and hey, maybe we don’t really have a lead singer, but we brought five other people who are actually good at their profession of choice. Look at them instead!

The bottom line is a result that is probably more ridiculous to us fans knowing the backstory, but also not the most ridiculous thing that viewers have ever seen at Eurovision, which offers enough of a gray zone for the Russians to live in denial of how bad this really is. If they accidentally still qualify because they’re in semi 2? Great. Mission accomplished, and they can go on to Saturday, get a crappy result – which happened to them before – and forget this chapter of Russian Eurovision history ever happened. If they don’t qualify? Well, they will find a way to spin it into PR. A win/win situation from an entry with the budget of Moldova in a non-Kirkorov year. It could be worse (for them. For us, not so much).

Go go go wild dancers (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

7. Moldova
After all the build-up of rehearsal reports, and having spent so many words on Russia, I actually have little to say about this proxy Russian entry (including a more Russian and less Moldovan budget, because Kirkorov). As expected, it’s professional and slick and they are super likable. But the overall look of it, as clever as the choreography is, does make it look like it’s a remastered video recording from a 1987 national final.

Granted, that’s not surprising when this year’s theme is “all aboard” which is actually short for “all aboard the retro Eurovision cruise and relive all your favorite Eurovision memories”, but still, it feels so outdated that it really is a good reminder of how everything has a right place and time: in the low budget horror movie that is this semi-final, Moldova still comes across as one of the very few acts who made a real effort.

Through my window (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

8. Netherlands
Despite being a leading contender for the “world’s worst jacket” award, Waylon comes across as someone who actually does what he does for a living. Hey, being a country tribute act is an entirely respectable career choice! It still looks as fake as it can possibly be, but in this semi-final, having a song with reasonable enough music relevance and concept that more or less works for the song is probably enough to make it through to the final – where the only thing he will win is that coveted jacket award, as the other candidates for the title are extremely unlikely to qualify.

Party for everybody, dance! (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

9. Australia
As much as I adore Jessica and her enthusiasm, today was…. not great. After last year – result aside – I thought the Aussies were beginning to figure out how that whole staging for Eurovision thing works and that it isn’t just “oh, we can just do whatever Jess usually does when she performs on live television”. For something that was considered by many as a potential winning candidate if it was staged right, “We Got Love” is now much closer to being Sofi Marinova than being in the top 5.

I don’t know what the Australians can do at this point to make this work, to be honest, except hoping that a decent mainstream song with a likable performance is enough in this semi.

Long live love (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

10. Georgia
I want this to qualify so badly. I know how much of a niche song this is, and in a foreign language at that, but it’s also a deserted island of musicality and harmony with sympathetic performers who are excellent at this whole singing ethno-jazz in Georgian thing, and they have a simple but effective presentation and a pyro curtain – because we all love pyro curtains – at exactly the right moment.

Three minutes of blessed sanity.

Three minutes, gotta go, bye bye (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

11. Poland
How much did I not pay attention to this song this season, on a scale to 1 to seriously? The Singer is Swedish? I had no idea!

Not that it matters. I just accidentally hovered over his name on Wikipedia and was momentarily confused. That aside, he’s still adorable. He still can’t really sing, so I am slightly confused at why he was ever chosen as a featured vocalist, although perhaps “he is adorable and can sing a bit” is a legitimate reason.

There’s a straightforward kind of staging here that is unexciting but perfectly acceptable and does work with the song, and it has lots of pyros and because I’m a pyromaniac and extremely easy to distract it made me happy enough to want to rewatch it. The side-effect of this was that I managed to remember how the song sounds for about an extra five minutes! Talk about progress. And that’s how you stage a song.

Time to party (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

12. Malta
Do I really have to? It’s even scarier when you have some proper camerawork. And makes even less sense than what I initially thought.

So, you know, Malta. Nothing new to see here.

Afrika paprika (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

13. Hungary
If there’s a song this year where staging matters the least, it’s this. It’s just so out there doing its very specific thing, that there are very few staging decisions that would impact the way this will be received by viewers and juries, and they’d have to be some pretty extreme choices.

I would, however, if I were the Hungarian stylist, do something about the lead singer’s hair. No matter the musical style, in a televised performance like this it might be nice to see his eyes from time to time.

Eyes that never lie (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

14. Latvia
After a few days of heated debate, I have decided that Franka is the winner of this year’s best lace dress award, having only narrowly beaten Laura here.

This doesn’t work as well as I felt it could based on the previous photos and videos. There is a bit of a red overload here, and much like the other decisions in the way this song is performed and presented, I don’t understand what purpose it serves, because it definitely doesn’t serve the song itself.

Of course, it’s semi 2, so it easily looks like one of the most competent and well performed entries in this semi. As always: context is important – which is ironic because given the staging of this song I am not sure the word “context” even exists in Latvian.

Go crazy for your love (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

15. Sweden
Ugh.

I get that delegations are allowed to bring props with them. I was never one to complain too much about the gaps between delegations in terms of budget and that not everyone can afford expensive props, and even if it might be a nice idea to perhaps have a budget cap or something like that, I do think even countries with less money in the bank can be competitive and do great things with less cash but the right creative team.

But I do believe there should be some sort of a baseline that can level the field a little bit and make sure all the teams have at least a similar starting point. So if every year the host country spends a lot of money to build a stage, how about a requirement of all countries to at least show the stage once in a while? Think Sweden again, but with “Heroes”. It still used a fair amount of expensive trickery, but at least it panned back occasionally so you knew where you were.

We could be the same (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

16. Montenegro
Are we sure this is not a parody of Balkan ballads at Eurovision?

Ovo je Balkan (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

17. Slovenia
The majority of the reviews I have seen of Slovenia focused on how unnecessary and confusing the fake break is. I haven’t seen it myself, although I am certain it is indeed as unnecessary as they claim it is. The thing is, though, that I doubt it will have any sort of impact on the end result. “Hvala, ne” is still a non-song, and if you noticed that then you are unlikely to vote for it, no matter how brilliant Lea is at performing it. Whereas if you actually like the song, would you really not vote for it because they confused you with a break?

But while I won’t use that fake break to make any observations on the song’s chances, I will complain – again – about this odd need of delegations to add things that there’s absolutely no reason to add, just because they feel every Eurovision song needs a gimmick. It’s entirely fine to just go out there and perform your song for three minutes, people! You have a great singer and proper choreography. That’s really all you need for this entry and all you can do with it. Why overcomplicate things?

Well, thank you, but no: “Because we’re Slovenia, what did you expect?” is not the right answer.

Straight into love (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

18. Ukraine
Is there really a need for me to write any more words about it? The ghostly form of young Lord Voldemort is still performing this song – he’s a good enough performer that Hermione actually agreed to give him another week before de-cursing that damn piano – and it very efficiently combines OTT gimmicky nonsense for the viewing and voting pleasure of the audience with a current enough song and performer to please the juries. There’s something for everyone.

She’s after my piano (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Next up: The direct finalists receive the TV feed treatment. If it will not be better than today, then it at least will be shorter. Small mercies.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: All Kinds of Rehearsals, Day 6

The View from San Francisco: All Kinds of Rehearsals, Day 6

The sixth day of rehearsals quite literally had all the things in it, mixing in the remaining second run-throughs from the first semi-final, stirring in a few more second rehearsals from the second semi, and shaking with the first appearance of the direct finalists. I apparently really need a drink, and that’s in a day that only had five entries from semi 2. I don’t know what I will do today, or during the actual semi. Let’s not think about that right now. Let’s think about the 15 countries we’ve seen today in Lisbon instead.

Semi 1:
16. Armenia

I’m not the first and probably not the last person to complain about hidden backing vocals, and it’s not the first year in which we run into this, but it does feel like it’s getting slightly more ridiculous every year. Sevak stands there all alone in the middle of the 8th wonder of the world, the Armenian Stonehenge – looking entirely unaware of the fact there are people at home he’s singing to, I should add – as the voices of the backing singers come through the stones and engulf him in whatever it was that Yianna’s spirits surrounded her with. I wonder what lost spirits do in between rehearsals. Do they just hang out there and wait until the next time someone needs a very vocal ghost? Although I suppose, given the fact we have multiple hidden lead singers this year, I can’t really complain when Sevak really does give it his all. At least it’s definitely him doing the singing then.

You’re not alone (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

17. Switzerland
“Stones” is actually such a nice song when it’s on and so entirely competent – especially if you think about what Switzerland sent last year – that it pains me to think they are probably more likely to not qualify, despite such a promising running order and a performance I have nothing actively negative to say about. It’s just that again, like the song, I think there will be very few people in Europe who can be asked ten minutes later what the Swiss song was and how it looked on screen and actually know the answer without YouTubing it first. I think I generally feel bad for all of the competent NQs from semi 1 that would have qualified in that other semi we’re not talking about (yet).

Nanana (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

18. Ireland
If you told me that after seeing TV feed clips from 24 semi-finalists I’d think Ireland has the best camera work, I would have thought you overdid the Guinness. But what do you know. Years of cluelessness about pretty much everything and suddenly not only do they get it right, they manage to get right something that no one ever gets right: how to have a dance routine narrative going on during the song and actually make it work. Well, here’s how. Out of all the songs and performances, at least in terms of my stage and camera direction nerdiness, this is the one I really want to see in full the most.

Without your love (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

19. Cyprus
This looks and sounds exactly like I expected it to, which means the dance routine is as tight as it can be and it sounds like Eleni Foureira isn’t singing it, and so far so good. This is exactly what delegations are supposed to do: take what they have and get absolutely everything they can out of it by using their resources correctly.

It did stir an interesting discussion, though: if you’re a jury member, do you glare at the blatant lack of actual singing (although she made sure to hold the microphone very close to her today at all times, so not cutting words in the middle. But since Eleni is a superhero she apparently has no need to breathe at any point during this), or do you respect the Cypriots for making it work and deem the fact the credits say “Eleni Foureira”, and not “Friends feat. Eleni Foureira”, entirely irrelevant? Semantics, you know. After all, no rules were broken, and no one ever said that the person credited as the main performer of the song actually needs to be the person who sings it, right?

Touch my fire (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Semi 2:
1. Norway

Just watch the national final performance and transport it in your head to a slightly worse stage.

Tonight again (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

2. Romania
It was Star Wars day, Romania. May the Fourth! If you had to force me to go through this again, you might as well have brought some actual force, or at least get Darth Vader on stage. This is not even an entertaining WTFery. It’s just there to make even San Marino look slightly saner. Yes, yes, I know you sing better than them. You can tell them that when you meet them at the airport on Friday morning.

Face the shadow (Eurovision.tv / Putting)

3. Serbia
I’m sorry, Serbia. I wrongly blamed you for mashing up every Balkan performance ever. I was wrong. You have no rollerskater. And the rollerskater you don’t have is not there to leave tracks on the LED-less stage. How am I supposed to keep track of all the mileage you are putting in otherwise?

All in all, this is still a Stereotypical Balkan Entry at Eurovision. Or, you know, Almost Every Balkan Entry at Eurovision.

Moje 3 (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

4. San Marino
So your robots can hold funny signs, sure, but can they hold light sabers? Can they? You have a few more days to see how far you can push this, so I want you to try really hard to challenge your robotics team, as they are obviously the more capable part of this year’s (not really) Sammarinese effort.

(You know you have a problem when you do a rehearsal and the most exciting thing I can say about it is I only just realized that the adjective is written “Sammarinese” and not “Sanmarinese”. Although I suppose if you don’t realize you have a problem by now, it’s too late anyway.)

I’m a golden boy (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

5. Denmark
I am trying really hard to understand the sequence of events in this. There’s a boat. There’s snow. I don’t think there can be a snowstorm while you’re still on the boat, because you don’t have an Agnete with an icebreaker to come and save you. So I’m trying to figure out in which part of the song you arrived to the mainland, and did you go all Disney and skip the whole burning villages and gruesome death part and go straight to surrendering while gazing at the pastoral sunrise? And you call yourselves Vikings.

I will give you this, though: at least you don’t hide your backing singers! All of them, by the way, would serve as a better Rasmussen than Rasmussen himself. Is it too late to change them around? It’s hard to tell with those beards anyway. Rasmussen can go be Rusmussen instead, he’s used to it.

Nomads in the night (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

That concludes the second rehearsal part of our program, and it’s now time to take a first look at our direct finalists! Because apparently my brain wasn’t confused enough without having to remind itself that I can’t compare those clips to the ones I’ve just watched, because this is just a first rehearsal and it’s not the television feed. (Come on, brain. We can do this.)

Portugal:
Apparently the main advantage of being the local entry is that you get to come to your rehearsal in your pajamas. And apparently Benjamin Ingrosso’s offensive and quickly retracted ESC reactions didn’t go entirely unnoticed, because there is no chair! As a thank you gift to Sweden, they at least made sure to keep IKEA in their thoughts, invaded their lighting department and bought about seventy lanterns that actually create a beautifully intimate environment that I am yet to have any clue about whether it works on screen.

I always sort of assumed that, considering the song is about a garden, we would see some more obvious staging hints (perhaps not as obvious as Francecsa Michielin’s, but you know: colors). But apparently it’s a garden at night and that actually works better.

Although, what does it say that the host country stages their own entry in a way that entirely disguises the stage?

White and black blues (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Germany:
Once in a while there comes a song I dislike so much, and am also so aware of my dislike being in part due to my own inability to deal with anything in a similar vein to begin with, that it becomes really hard to try and judge it through the eyes of people who might not be as predisposed to loathing everything about it.

Either way, I’ve been told by many people this is considered to be a good rehearsal. As far as I can see, Michael still has the stage presence of a hidden backing singer, but I do have to give them props for sticking to their concept and going all guns blazing for the least subtle presentation of a song at every available moment. If there was a tiny chance that you missed what this song was about, the backdrop makes sure no viewer will go through the three minutes of this missing any piece of information. Just wait until they cut to his shot in the green room during the recap, and I’m sure they will be waving signs with the song lyrics, just to make extra sure you didn’t accidentally forget a word from the first line of the second verse or something.

It still might do well, I’m just not the right person to call this one. I’m generally not the right person to be in the same room with this song in the first place.

1 Life (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

United Kingdom:
Oh! Another random structure serving as a mini-stage and making me wonder whether there are some lyrical or cultural references I am missing here in order to understand why a delegation would choose that particular mini-stage out of all possible combinations of shapes and materials available to them. Either way, it seems like a relatively straight forward setup that calls for lots of tight shots and close-ups, which is really what you need to do when the best thing about your entry is your performer and the most visually memorable thing about her is her haircut.

I don’t necessarily understand where the storm is, which is very confusing: I’d expect the Brits to have a better grasp of crappy weather – but I actually heard the Vikings have a snowstorm, so maybe they stole UK’s climate conditions too. Obviously, invading Britain wasn’t enough.

THE RAIN! THE RAIN! (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Spain:
Me, reading comments about the rehearsal before watching: What do you mean it reminds you of Norway 2015? What do this and Norway 2015 even have in common?

Me, watching the Spanish clip: Oh. It really kind of does.

I disliked “A Monster Like Me” even more than I dislike this, and at least this one has sincere facial expressions. Or just facial expressions, really, even if half of them do belong to Alfred, whose facial expressions I could have lived without.

I am still hoping the camera work has a 95% – 5% split in favor of Amaia, which probably accurately represents the percentage of people who picked this entry in Spain because she was in it versus because he was in it.

A monster like me (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Italy:
Tip for the future – get yourselves a favorite you know well ahead of time is not going to challenge for the title, and you won’t be disappointed when the inevitable happens and their performance is very clearly not going to win anything.

In a dramatic development, Meta and Moro’s performance is not just exactly like Sanremo. It’s mostly like Sanremo, except it’s also a bit like their video only without the images, so having every sentence in a different language displayed on screen will probably not make much sense.

It’s still my favorite song because I have to be different and have them as my favorite the one year they are not everyone’s favorite. I’m special.

There must be another way (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

France:
No, really, someone please explain to me that black on black trend? How does the process of picking clothes go?

“What color is the stage?”
“I dunno. It’s dark though.”
“OK, let’s wear black, it goes with everything!”

It’s not even a very nicely designed black outfit. It’s more like “oh, this is me not trying. It’s just something I found at home”. With red sneakers, because why not, it’s not like the rest of it made sense.

Otherwise, the French entry is as it was, with a more impressively shot “Mercy” section of them standing on the satellite area, but the tricky thing about those shots is that it’s really hard to get the angle right until you have an actual audience with actual flags there. And them suddenly standing in the middle wearing black could be a good way of getting lost in the crowd, especially when their shoes are better at expressing themselves than their faces.

Chain of lights (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

I am really curious to see how the finalists come across on screen, of course, but we have to survive an entire day of semi two rehearsals first. The life of an ESC fan can be full of sacrifices.

Next up on the view from San Francisco: Russian mountains. Apparently Alaska is not the only place in the US from where you can see Russian geography.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 5

The View from San Francisco: Second Rehearsals, Day 5

Following on from yesterday’s in-depth report, the latest news from Lisbon is that the Cursed Staging crisis is still ongoing, but seems to have been isolated to just a few acts in the second semi-final. As it was the turn of 15 delegations from the first semi to return for another round of rehearsals today, the day went without major incidents and in relative calmness, as much as Eurovision fans can ever be calm during rehearsals.

We were also provided with short clips from the television feed, like last year, which allowed for some more serious reflections on the rehearsals (sorry!) even if it still relies on connecting many dots.

1. Azerbaijan
If you needed more proof that Fokas Evangelinos is totally trolling the Greek delegation, look no further. The two rehearsal clips from today say it all.

Step 1: Mute Azerbaijan and press play.
Step 2: Unmute Greece and press play.
Step 3: Watch the Azeri staging while the Greek rehearsal is playing.
Step 4: That’s how you… no, wait

I’ll be your icebreaker when you’re stuck in frozen water (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

2. Iceland
You know, I have to hand it to Iceland. I’m sure they know there’s really no one who thinks this song is remotely – hmm – let’s say “not entirely bad”. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they actually have conversations out loud wondering how exactly they got enough people in Iceland to vote for them, considering the strong possibility that all their votes next Tuesday combined will still be less than what they got in the local televote. And yet, they stand on stage and not only perform a song that is way beyond salvaging professionally, they do it with passion and sincere enthusiasm. While I am not a fan of “Our Choice”, the choice of at least doing it right (well, except the jacket) is something I can get behind.

Love Love Peace Peace {Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

3. Albania
It’s been a while since I’ve been at Eurovision, but I do remember how easy it was to see something there that we cared about and wanted to do well, watching countless performances of it until our personal impression of it was so favorable that it came as a shock when it failed to do anything on the night. Hi, Eugent.

Seeing the press poll from the last few days, Albania looks to be on the highway to wherever all fairly hopeless press favorites go. They have an excellent singer, but everything else about the entry is so nondescript and anonymous, it’d be a wonder if anyone will remember it even happened by the end of the next song, not to mention all 19. The staging is as basic and uninspired as you’d expect from something done entirely by the host production team (not that I know that for sure, but if that’s what the Albanian delegation came up with, they deserve to not qualify just as much as they deserve the same fate for leaving things in someone else’s hands). Blue and red lights flickering and alternating randomly? Check. Band members standing far apart and not interacting? Check. Random camera angles? Check. A ton of long shots and wide shots? Check and check. There’s nothing in there to help anyone who is watching it even pay attention to it, unless there’s some dramatic twist near the end where we discover the entire performance was actually projected onto Elina’s dress.

I Stand (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

4. Belgium
It occurred to me today as I was watching the Belgian rehearsal clip that when Sennek performs she actually looks like a comedian who is trying her hand at doing something more serious. And then it hit me: Belgian Laura needs to step in for Latvia – she’d make a much more sensible funny girl – and Latvian Laura should step in for Belgium and Bond Girl the hell out of this performance. As it stands, though, it looks like Belgium’s biggest shot at surviving this semi will also require the help of Elina’s dress. It’s big enough under there. There’s room for everyone.

Alter ego (Eurovision.TV / Anders Putting)

5. Czech Republic
The biggest surprise of the day was that the Czech Republic – despite having to deal with every possible roadblock over the last few days, from Mikolas’ injury through changing choreography to actually even using a stand-in dancer today, not to mention the inherent obstacle of just being the Czech Republic at Eurovision – came across as the most prepared and put-together routine of the day. The camerawork was effective, the overall look of it all was lively and compelling, in stark contrast to pretty much everything around it. I knew you had it in you, Czechia! Marta and Vaclav would be so proud!

Dance you off (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

6. Lithuania
The problem of a storytelling type of staging, at least from the perspective of a faraway blogger, is that it’s really hard to see an isolated 45-second clip out of context and have any idea of how well the greater whole works. It’s even harder when the staging is deliberately so intimate that all I can see is an extremely minimalist theater solo performance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I really still don’t know how it all looks like beyond whatever my brain is imagining based on the photos and the blogs. Well, I did say I wanted to be surprised, so I suppose a few mysteries can’t hurt. I can waste all my lines now, what will I write in the semi-final post-mortem?

You and me (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

7. Israel
Speaking of the challenges of blogging rehearsals, here are a few:
1. Trying to review the rehearsals of your home entry when it’s also the favorite.
2. Trying to review the rehearsals of your home entry when you have heard and watched the song two thousand times, give or take.
3. Trying to review the rehearsals of your home entry when you have no national final performance to compare it to and only a videoclip to go by, which is visually different from the performance at ESC.
4. Trying to review the rehearsals of your home entry when it’s such a bonkers song that you don’t have any point of reference for ESC comparisons.

So basically: I don’t know. For what it’s worth, it seems like everyone else is in the same boat, non-Israelis included.

What I do know is this: I like it. I like it a lot. But visually it’s also something that makes total sense I’d like, because I like bright colors, and I love that it has a very obvious character. The cats make me laugh, and they did from the beginning, so it’s not a case of “I like it now I got used to it”, I just never thought it was odd or out of place to begin with. I don’t really care she doesn’t use the looper (and I actually love that she plays with its lights, as I’m mentally five years old), because I just like watching her perform. I love Netta’s voice. I love Netta’s expressions. I love how much personality she shows off. It’s clear to me it’s going to be one of those divisive things that some people will love and some people will hate with a burning passion that will eclipse the Cypriot staging. I’m also fairly certain it will have a somewhat of a Salvador effect: love it or hate it, you will not find yourself asking “wait, what was Israel, again?”.

And more than everything, and perhaps this is the bottom line of where I am about my country’s entry this year, I think that bar some absolutely abysmal staging it’s the kind of song that if you were going to like it, you’re going to like it even if Japanese cats aren’t your thing. And conversely, if you don’t like this song, you probably wouldn’t have liked it no matter what the staging was.

Which basically means I just wrote lots of words to say that Israel is where it always was: it’s going to stand out, we just have no clue what people will do with it. So glad I could help.

What’s the pressure? (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

8. Belarus
I knew it would be hilarious on screen. I even knew the particulars. I still choked on my morning orange juice when I watched the clip. And to think we have two and a half more minutes of this gloriously Eurovision “kitchen sink, entire fitted kitchen and master bathroom” type of performance to experience yet. Wonderful.

Not Ethno-Jazz Band Alekseev – For You (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

9. Estonia
I finally understood why this performance bugs me so much, apart from the utter lack of a recognizable melody or lyrics here.

It’s impressive, sure. She’s beautiful, no question. But when your entire concept relies on how impressive it looks when you project things onto a dress on that size, you end up spending a lot of the song having wide shots from very far away, and once you get to the idea of it being a dress you might as well be staring at a LED backdrop that has random patterns changing throughout the performance. There’s no story or concept to the projection choices (unless “Look! Pretty thingies!” is the concept, which I suppose it is), so when you spend most of those three minutes watching her dress, a lot of precious opportunities for Elina to at least try and form some connection with the audience is sacrificed just so the dress can be presented in its full glory. They didn’t pay all that projector money just to end up not using the thing half the time, after all!

When we do get to see Elina, again, as strikingly beautiful as she is, she is very much frozen in place, needing to both nail her notes and make sure the entire dress construction stays as is, and thus she conveys very little emotion. I think she is pleased with how pretty her make up is (it is!) but beyond that, no clue. Watching her face, she might as well be singing her grocery shopping list. Actually, maybe she is – it’s not like I can actually tell what she’s singing.

It was easier to balance the gimmick and the performer in the much smaller Eesti Laul set up, but once things moved to a much bigger stage it became clear who the star of this entry is, and it’s not Elina.

Feels like I’m flying, like if I had wings, like I am sailing on a sea of dreams (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

10. Bulgaria
You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

I always knew this would be a dark sort of thing, and that’s entirely sensible. I also knew that the Bulgarians had managed the impressive feat of collecting five people with the least amounts of charisma, stage presence or likability.

I still didn’t think I’d die laughing watching 40 seconds clip of a rehearsal, considering I know they’re just standing there and singing their song behind it all. Who knew camera shots could contribute to the cult factor of an entry just as much as stage props? That clip is the spirit fingers of Eurovision camerawork right there.

It’s in my bones, got to break the taboo, before we all become animals, animals (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

11. Macedonia
In my head, I know it will be very hard to convince either juries or viewers at home to go for this cacophony of songs, musical genres, questionable outfits and even more questionable choreography.

In my heart, I hope it will all will miraculously work out on Tuesday and that of course Europe will vote for this en masse, because it might not be the playlist Europe wanted, but it’s the playlist Europe needs.

To the sky (Eurovision.tv / Hanses)

12. Croatia
She looks amazing. The stage actually looks amazing. If we were the kind of ESC website that liberally deploys a certain verb that happens to rhymes with the month we’re in, I’d be using it right now.

Unfortunately for Franka, she is a member of that particularly popular ESC 2018 club for performers who are way better than their songs. Fortunately for her, though, this still falls very much within jury fodder territory, so I might get another chance to not remember her song on Saturday too!

LoveWave (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

13. Austria
Austria is another candidate for jury preferential treatment, but they really aren’t making it easy for themselves. Static performances aren’t always effective, but Austria dear, wanting to counteract that doesn’t mean you have to send Cesar to compete in a 3000 meters steeplechase race. And if you’re already making him do that, you could at least give him some clothes that are more sensible and practical to wear. Also, I am very impressed by your superior engineering skills and glad to see that you were finally able to show off your own platform structure today, but you know: hidden backing singers are bad enough, but hiding them in the basement? That’s borderline rude.

Speaking of rude, I know it’s not the done thing to interrupt someone when they’re in the middle of a demanding physical workout, but do me a favor: could you ask Cesar to actually look at the camera once in a while? Or, you know, at least in its general direction?

Don’t come easy (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

14. Greece
I’m not entirely sure who thought this staging – or rather, lack thereof – is a good idea. In theory, I do understand that we are supposed to feel Yianna’s spiritual connection to her motherland through the voices of the past and future that surround her, and I know that when it comes to spirituality we don’t need to see something to know it’s there. I don’t think it applies to backing singers though.

Yianna, even when she gets the vocals right (and she doesn’t always) is not necessarily the most engaging performer on screen, so having her alone on stage is already a tough ask. But the prominent use of vocals in this song when you don’t see them makes it feel even emptier, and perhaps it would have been easier for Yianna to connect to the audience better if she actually had a setting that allowed her some real interaction. It doesn’t even have to be the Azerbaijan staging – Serbia’s will do, but something, anything.

She does have a blue hand, though. A subliminal message to punters worldwide, obviously.

Hear them calling (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

15. Finland
Full disclosure: I really like Saara Aalto and I’m entirely familiar with her love for everything that reeks of OTT kitsch. I mostly live with it peacefully because Saara is actually rather good at making a lot of that nonsense work. I also really like “Monsters”, and it’s one of the few songs this year that I’ve actually actively listened to multiple times.

Even with that in mind, I just can’t get on board with this. I can deal with a lot, but my biggest Eurovision pet peeve is using gimmicks, props and staging concepts just for the sake of “it’s Eurovision, so of course we’re supposed to be all tacky and silly”.

The worst thing is it feels like they tried to not make the staging itself too over-the-top, so it’s cliché, but not ridiculous enough for audience to at least enjoy the entertainment value (hi, Belarus!). The entire act screams “ALERT! EUROVISION STEREOTYPES AHEAD!”. And it manages to be so unimaginative it turns itself into a kitchen break, because we’re missing a standard Eurovision filler and it’s very easy to completely miss the fact that this entry actually has a very decent pop song at its heart. In short, it feels like Finland couldn’t decide what direction to take and, even then, wanted to stay on the safe side of whatever they eventually went with.

Fly with me (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Today in Lisbon: Many rehearsals and much confusion, as acts from both semi 1 and semi 2 rehearse for the second time and the direct finalists rehearse for the first time.
Later today in San Francisco: I will attempt to not get fired due to having got absolutely nothing done this week.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: First Rehearsals, Day 4

The View from San Francisco: First Rehearsals, Day 4

I made it through the second day of the semi 2 rehearsals with my Eurovision fan status still intact! It’s a miracle! One thing that helped is it was very much business as usual, as countries did exactly what you’d expect them to do, give or take a few deviations. No robots, no mannequins, minimal breakdancing. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so if my math is correct, this is probably the image/word count average for this.

(Get coffee. Now. And a pastry. Get one for me too, please.)

10. Georgia
Oh, Georgia, bless your ethno-jazz soul, how kind you are to a struggling San Francisco girl who is not a morning person. I don’t deserve you.

Living in San Francisco can be both an advantage and a disadvantage during the rehearsal weeks. The upside is that by the time I am awake most of the rehearsals are online and I can skip the part of the day where I endlessly refresh pages to see whether whatever country whose song I couldn’t care less about already rehearsed (because what else am I going to do during rehearsal weeks). The downside is it allows you to watch all of the entries from the second semi-final back to back. After the trauma of yesterday, I was grateful to start off the day with a moment of zen, meditation, and general consideration of my frail morning nerves.

Iriao perform their entry the same way they wrote it: entirely oblivious to the Eurovision world that surrounds them, with blue and red lights. I hope you are not planning to play any kind of stage color drinking game. If so, I hope you don’t really need your liver.

We are who we are, and who we are is who we wanna be (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

11. Poland
It’s Norway, only reversed: the act is identical to its NF incarnation here too, except unlike Rybak, that means an ineffective staging and an adorable but fairly useless performer.

The staging concept is supposed to scream “look! We’re cool DJs” but it’s more of a whisper than a scream, and even though I have now progressed to the point of being able to remember how the chorus goes, my brain mashes it up with “DJ, Take Me Away”, which cannot possibly be a good sign for Poland. If you needed a sign to tell you that in the first place, that is.

Sing it away! (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

12. Malta
Malta is doing a modern interpretive dance of that Doctor Who episode where the Doctor screws up Narnian history by landing too close to that lamp post, making the faun mistake the Tardis for the Wardrobe and therefore missing his fateful meeting with Lucy. When she wanders into Narnia on her own, she runs into Christabelle, who has already successfully managed to scare the White Witch so much she cursed herself into a mirror, and easily traps an unsuspecting Lucy and forces her into performing as a dancer on her upcoming Eurovision gig.

If this made absolutely no sense to you, it means I have succeeded in adequately describing the concept of this year’s Maltese performance. Of course, I could have used the shorter, more concise version – “it’s Malta at Eurovision” – but where’s the fun in that.

Bigger on the inside (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

13. Hungary
Hungary have gone all innovative on us and placed their lead singer in a no man’s (is)land between the bridges and away from the band members on the main stage, in a section I didn’t realize was part of the stage until today. They also showed they mean business when they made me discover that the lighting rig does have a button marked “yellow” somewhere, as yellow spots were – erm – spotted during this rehearsal. (Combined with blue, obviously.) There’s also a stage dive, hiking, fire, and basically anything they could think of to avoid showing the actual stage without having to bring one of their own.

It’s still a loud song that is screamed in Hungarian, and still not for everyone, but it’s within the realms of credibility – even with the stage(d) dive – and it’s competent enough to actually come across as a sane moment of relief from what just preceded it.

On top of the world (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

14. Latvia
I finally figured this one out! Apparently this is a teaser for an upcoming musical about the lesser-known details of the life of Mata Hari. How did I not realize it sooner, when they weren’t even that subtle about it, singing about cracking codes and all. I’m such an idiot. Of course Funny Girl is a code name! It’s not like Latvia was ever that literal in their songs. I mean, did they bring guests from other planets to perform? Angels? Sea Wolves? Why would they bring an actual funny girl? What was I thinking, I’m just a stupid girl to you…

However, if you count yourself among the 95% of Eurovision viewers who couldn’t care less about lyrics, that whole Lady in Red shtick might work for you. Seriously, Laura, you go gurrrl, oh em gee, that dress gives me life, yaaaaas queeeeen slaaaaay!

(I had to use those words just once, to check whether any of them are easier to tolerate once you’ve written them yourself. They’re not.)

I’m not your toy, you stupid boy (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

15. Sweden
Sweden has gone all Sweden on us, giving the Portuguese a patronizing passive-aggressive pat on the head while saying, “You’re such a darling that you put all this effort into building a stage, you’ll never be us but we really appreciate the gesture regardless. So anyway we brought our own stage so there’s really no need for you to be involved in this at all as we won’t be using your whole setup. You don’t mind, do you?”

They are getting a bit sloppy, though, as they couldn’t even be bothered to remove the price tag. It’s still there, barcode and all.

We found something better (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

16. Montenegro
Step 1: Check Serbia out, do the same but get it wrong
Step 2: Make bad color and fashion choices, that’s how you ruin a song

(Not that there was ever much of a song to ruin here, but then that’s true of the Serbian template too.)

No Name (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

17. Slovenia
Finally! It’s taken days of rehearsals, but I’ve finally got myself a little fluffy pastel cloud, courtesy of Lea SIrk’s hair stylist! Hvala, Slovenia! There’s also much choreography, many sparkly thingies, occasional moments in which the lights are not blue, and some very on-point vocals. There’s still no song, but I suppose it’s too late for that.

There’s also a surprising cooperation here between Romania and Slovenia, making sure that any kid who survived the Romanian mannequin attack will be sent to bed immediately. After that third place last year, Moldova is not to be trusted, and having all the kids across Europe televote for them is a luxury no one in this semi can afford. If only the delegations in semi 2 would invest as much effort in their songs as they do in their sabotage plans.

Jestem (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

18. Ukraine
While we were busy refreshing messageboards, the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, which took place on May 2nd, 1998. While most wizards and muggles alike joined in celebration, there were also several violent incidents. The worst of them took place earlier in the day, as Hogwarts students from Slytherin and Gryffindor engaged in a heated brawl inside the room of necessity. A botched spell accidentally triggered a cursed piano which was nearby. It is yet unclear who is responsible for placing the curse there, but Lord Voldemort himself is suspected, as he is rumored to have hexed multiple items within the Hogwarts walls following his failure to assume the teaching position of Defense Against the Dark Arts. From what we can gather from reports, the curse involves a ghostly incarnation of a young Tom Riddle haunting the piano. The piano also surrounds itself in fire when any attempts to break the curse are made.

Matters got out of hand when a seventh-year student used an Accio spell to bring giant spiders from the Forbidden Forest as reinforcements. Several students tried to escape when Ministry of Magic officials were summoned, but a succession of magic mishaps resulted in the students apparating into Hogsmeade with both the piano and the spider in tow, and then having one of the foreign exchange students activate their Flu Network escape. Instead of Lisburn, they ended up in Portugal.

Harry Potter, who was due to give a motivational speech at the farewell event for the British Eurovision delegation, was called in to personally handle the situation, while Hermione Granger and her husband and Harry’s best friend, Ron, had to cut their Spain vacation short.

Ron, who is still terrified of spiders, volunteered to do crowd control, while Harry attempted to disarm the piano – that old expelliarmus charm never fails – and went poof, because of course Voldemort had an extra security protocol in place in case Harry Potter decided to visit, leaving that ghostly shade of Tom Riddle and a smoking staircase behind him.

As far as we know, this is still a developing story. Hermione Granger has assumed control of the affected area and is doing her absolute best to contain a situation that is already being referred to as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Staging”.

We promise to bring you more news as soon as we get it, and we shall see whether this incident will impact the rest of the rehearsals. Stay tuned.

Work your magic (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...

The View from San Francisco: First Rehearsals, Day 3

The View from San Francisco: First Rehearsals, Day 3

The third day in Lisbon brought a complicated conundrum: on the one hand, if any of my never-watched-Eurovision-before-but-heard-about-it-from-me friends decided that they were going to attempt it for the first time during the second semi-final, I’d be sure to suggest a camping trip in a place with no wifi signal, because after spending all this time explaining why Eurovision is awesome, why risk ruining it with this bunch of songs? And on the other hand, if the nine rehearsals we saw today don’t scream “Eurovision” at you very loudly, then what does? Unless you’re reading this in the morning and haven’t had your coffee yet. In which case just imagine a loud whisper instead. Anyhow. Rehearsals. I don’t know what was harder, going through them or writing about them, but either way: I suffered, and I will now inflict the remnants of my emotional torment on you.


1. Norway
I can’t wait to see the Irish televote results from the day after the final. If you see that anything but Norway won the televote, know it was Johnny Logan doing his best to retain his hard-earned “Mr. Eurovision” title. Much like the semi 1 opener, the powers that be want you to know you are watching Eurovision as soon as the songs begin here, and Alexander Rybak, for all his flaws (the existence of this song included), knows the job and the audience. Not the part of the audience that includes me, but I doubt he cares. Also much like the semi 1 opener, this number is entirely as expected: taken almost as-is from the Norwegian final, the dancers seamlessly replaced with backing singers who can also dance, and bundled with Rybak’s annoying yet undeniable charisma and stage presence – he is easily one of the best-prepared returning winners we’ve had. I do feel sorry for the viewers, though. This song is so ridiculously cheesy yet so competently performed that they might accidentally set their expectations reasonably high for what’s still to come.

Running on air (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

2. Romania
If semi 1 was the Eurovision Staging Contest, semi 2 is the Eurovision – Seriously? – Contest. The first few seconds of the Romanian video are very much a “what did I just see?!” moment and, hey, so is the rest of the video too. And the moments spent re-watching the video, and the moments spent looking at every single still photo. It might be an entirely subjective thing, but I find mannequins to be super creepy. In fact, the only stage act creepier than mannequins are clowns. So there you go, I found something positive to say about the Humans’ staging: at least they didn’t bring clowns.

I spent most of my time here trying to figure out whether the performance was trying to be a rock opera version of Phantom of the Opera or Doctor Who, although not being a fan of horror movies, it could be there’s an entirely perfect cultural reference being made here that I just don’t recognize. Also, if your predictions are based on children televoting for anything in this semi line-up, you may need to rethink: they all just escaped to their bedrooms, crying and screaming. This also means that those kids’ parents are likely to miss all the songs at least until the next commercial break.

I still have no idea how the Romanian song goes, by the way. I suppose this is their way of Belarusing things up and distracting viewers from that tiny issue.

Mannequins are alive (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

3. Serbia
Between their national final and the Lisbon rehearsals, the Serbians apparently had enough time to realize that if they thought coming to Eurovision with a megamix of every Eurovision ethnofolk entry ever was a brilliant idea, not only had they got the math wrong (and it wasn’t, in fact, the year of the Donkey again), they also underestimated Montenegro’s ability to do their own Balkan Eurovision entry mash-up. Therefore they were only left with one option: sabotage. Montenegro can Balkan-ballad all they want, but Serbia is earlier in the draw and they will be sure to display every possible Balkan ESC entry choreography option, so by the time you get to Montenegro you’ll feel like you’ve watched five thousand songs like this already tonight and won’t want to televote for them.

After Beovizija I described Balkanika as the Serbian Argo with the difference that they seem they have actually been on a stage before, and I stand by that statement. In fact, I find it incredibly touching that the Serbs are not only paying tribute to the past entries of their Balkan neighbors, but have such a warm place in their heart for the Orthodox brothers in Greece that they’re happy to imitate them too. Such love, such sportsmanship.

We’re the rise in the rising sun, dance with us and have some fun (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

4. San Marino
We knew it was coming, and yet: there are robots! Robots! I actually feel cheated that Valentina isn’t performing this year instead of last year, because if anyone earned the right to perform with robots as a prop, it’s her. Either way: there are robots! Sadly for them, their humans might quite lovely, but their song is less so and they seem altogether entirely distracted by preparing for a Verka invasion. As such, the poor robots should probably program themselves to prepare to be packed into their boxes and on their way back to a life of inanimate anonymity come Friday morning. Where is Hermione Granger when you need her? She is probably done with her house elves campaign by now, so maybe she can start a campaign for robot liberation instead. And how come no country has done an entry with house elves yet? We’ve had aliens, monsters, vampires, scary animated mannequins, what is this discrimination – again – against the lovely elves working in the Hogwarts kitchens?

Although Malta is yet to rehearse, so you never know.

Robots are alive (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

5. Denmark
Yay: More subtle references to pop culture and successful TV series.
Not yay: It’s still that song!
Even less yay: Rasmussen performs it.

With so little stage presence, no wonder he’s that Viking who actually surrenders and waves the white flag. The man can barely command a Eurovision stage, how is he expected to command a Viking ship and inspire fear in his enemies? I’m sure the San Marino team are invading the Danish Viking camp as we speak and writing “will you marry me?” all over their white flags.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, least of all me, the Danish stage is blue (just as the previous four stages were, I should mention, in case that doesn’t go without saying by now). Still, I suppose if you are on a ship, a blue stage is to be expected. They do have a really nice background light transition at one point, although it does make me wonder if, when they were told to look to Iceland for a bit of Viking inspiration, their research went as far as the Greta Salóme & Jónsi backdrop and no further.

Never ever sink my ship and sail away (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)


6. Russia

If I thought that the rehearsals might help clarify the Russian mega plan behind this, I am still confused. Having Julia sit on top of a projection mountain (which by this point of the day really just prompts a shrug – Eurovision business as usual) is actually not a bad way to do it if you want to make your entry less about the disability of your singer and more about her singing and the song. But there’s still that little problem of this entry lacking both.

Having hidden both her disability and her vocals successfully, the Russian delegation have at least had the sense to place some very visible backing singers on the stage, and a dance act which Julia watches from above – hence providing plenty of opportunity for the cameras to capture images that aren’t Julia, in what I imagine is an effort to minimize the chances of both the juries and the audience noticing that she’s not actually doing much of the singing.

It also effectively makes Julia her own hidden backing singer. But hey – they said last year that Julia would be here, and they’ve kept their word. They could have helped themselves with the sham if they’d had the foresight to call their act “Julia Samoylova and Friends”, or “Julia’s Magical Flying Balalaika Band”, or really anything that would truly minimize the expectation of her actually singing anything, but apparently not even the experienced Russian delegation can think of everything.

The hills are alive (Eurovision.tv / Anders Putting)

7. Moldova
It pains me to no end to use this awful pun, but it is indeed a lucky day for Moldova. Not only they are in the second semi-final, with all those – gah – songs around them, but what they too lack in the song department, they make up for actually coming across like their concept emerged from a creative process and not from drawing random words out of a hat. This is Fokas Evangelinos doing what he does best – a well thought-out, clever routine performed with gusto and sincere glee that is sure to remind anyone in Europe who isn’t a jaded grouch like me why they love cheese. To be honest, considering the songs that come before and after it, it stands out like a mountain on a Eurovision stage to such an extent that even I might start supporting it, because what else am I going to support? At least I have strong Moldovan roots. That’s a valid excuse, right? The only problem for Moldova is that the majority of their target audience has been chased away earlier in the line-up by Romania, of all delegations. With friends like that…

It’s stronger than me, my gravity (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

8. Netherlands
Speaking of things that pain me to no end: absolutely everything about this.

Here’s the thing: yes, I know I wasn’t particularly friendly to Waylon in my review of the entry, but just look at my Moldovan rehearsal review. I give credit where credit’s due. I am willing to look past my personal feelings for a song or its performer when other elements in the package really help to lift it overall and make it better in other ways, even if I’m still not keen on the song itself. So I was open to all possibilities here, really.

And then I saw Waylon’s rehearsal clip. Let’s put it this way: yes, I know we keep saying that it’s just a first rehearsal and there are many things we can’t judge at this point. Fine. But when your fashion sense tells you a tiger-patterned jacket is a good idea and your staging concept basically equates to jumping around like madmen, let’s just say that it doesn’t inspire much confidence in the rehearsals to come. Sorry, Marta and Vaclav, sometimes hope does die. Painfully.

Now all the questions and no direction, they make our reasons…insane (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

9. Australia
Things that aren’t working brilliantly for Australia: a very nice but generic girl sings (nicely and joyfully) a very nice but generic song, surrounded by a very nice but generic staging.
Things that are definitely working for Australia: they’re after the Netherlands, which would make anyone, even someone not as lovely and happy and friendly as Jessica, look classy by comparison.

I suppose that’s what the Belgians got wrong: it’s not a matter of time. It’s all a matter of context.

Dancing through an ancient dreaming (Eurovision.tv / Thomas Hanses)

Coming up: the fourth day of Eurovision context, where my resolve as a Eurovision fan will be put to the test once again. I have pastries. I can deal. Bring it.

Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!
Visit our Eurovision Chat!
Join the Chat!

Gallery: The host city Lisbon

We’ve been out and about in Lisbon, surely one of the most picturesque and personality-filled Eurovision host cities. Enjoy some of our photo highlights in this gallery!

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Does "I Love Belarus" still get played at Euroclub? It always seemed an incongruous dancefloor choice even back in 2011...

https://t.co/hEWhyXO0qm

THREAD: I'm reading this book about how television was made in 1982. It has a section about Eurovision. Here are some photos.

"Fără tine" by Dora Gaitanovici is the best non-winning national final song of the 2018 #Eurovision season! 🇷🇴

Read all about Dora's stunning victory in the grand final of SongHunt 2018 here:

https://t.co/ZbThccZbPF

Oh no! FELIX SANDMAN has been ELIMINATED from SONGHUNT 😲

So one of these will be crowned our winner tomorrow night:

Emmy Liyana
Rebecca
Tamás Horváth
Dora Gaitanovici
Inis Neziri
Aitana & Ana Guerra

But who? YOUR votes will help us decide!

#Eurovision
https://t.co/PA0ojDsgDW

Load more tweets...