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Jury Final: Live Blog from the Press Center

Jury Final: Live Blog from the Press Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next ad break is all about our returning artists!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another break!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green room break!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or being Victor Crone, for that matter.

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

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

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

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

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

Load more tweets...

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it really does.

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

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
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TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
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Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

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Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

It’s the grand final of SongHunt 2019! The poll is up and running, and you can vote for your favourite once every 24 hours here. But wait a moment: We’d really like to introduce you to our finalists in a little more detail, since they’ve worked so hard to get this far. Why not read on and explore what are officially the twelve most robbed songs of the national final season?

(The poll can be found at the bottom of the post too, so you can vote there when you’re done!)


Aly Ryan – Wear Your Love (Germany)
Not the first or the last performer to play around with lighting, Aly Ryan’s “Wear Your Love” ended up being perhaps a little bit too static to convince the various voters who were responsible for deciding Germany’s entry for ESC 2019. Our SongHunt voters agree that the underlying song is a cracker, though, and she’s stormed through the rounds to reach our grand final.


Anna Bergendahl – Ashes To Ashes (Sweden)
Some people take part in Melodifestivalen every year, while others need some time to lick their wounds. Nine years after becoming Sweden’s only non-qualifier in the ESC semi-final era, Anna Bergendahl made a return that, if not triumphant, was at least narratively satisfying. She may have had to sneak into the MF final through the back door, but she’s had no trouble reaching the SongHunt final, trading near the top of the poll every time so far.


Arja Saijonmaa – Mina fyra årstider (Sweden)
Another returnee in Sweden, and oh, how our chat’s collective heart melted at the sight of the legendary Arja charming her way through this old-fashioned yet thoroughly lovable song. There was no improbable qualification in Melodifestivalen – this year’s nostalgia vote would ultimately be reserved for Arvingarna – but we hope a place in our SongHunt final serves as some kind of compensation.


Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti – Dua te besoj (Albania)
Artemisa and Febi received an excellent score in our chat but were ultimately squeezed out of the qualification spots in Heat 1 of SongHunt. It was a tough one: no fewer than three of this year’s other finalists also originated there. No surprise, then, that the second-chance wildcard “Dua te besoj” received in Heat 8 opened the door for a better result, and the duo has shown no signs of stopping since. Hey oh, let’s go!


Battista Acquaviva – Passiò (France)
The woman. The legend. Was there a more WTF moment this national final season than when Battista and her dancers took to the stage and delivered this visual and vocal… interpretation of “Passiò”? Sometimes two wrongs do make a right – but what about a three-minute string of wrongs? And what about when they’re accompanied by what is, after all, a pretty good song? The answer: humiliation on the scoreboard in France, and a place in the SongHunt final.


Chimène Badi – Là-haut (France)
Returning to the limelight a few years after her commercial peak, Chimène Badi was never really seen as being in the running to win the French final, but she will probably have been perfectly satisfied with third place with “Là-haut” – a solid piece of mature pop delivered by someone who clearly knows exactly what she’s doing. Which makes a refreshing change sometimes.


Electric Fields – 2000 And Whatever (Australia)
The very first national final down under may have resulted in the most Eurovision winner imaginable, but finishing not far behind Kate Miller-Heidke were the Aboriginal Australian electronic duo Electric Fields. It’s hard to know exactly how “2000 And Whatever” would have translated to the European stage, but in terms of both style and identity, it’s a unique addition to our SongHunt final line-up.


Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO – Hold You (Sweden)
Joint-second in Melodifestivalen (well, third on a tiebreak) is a pretty excellent result in one of Europe’s pop capitals, but this year’s Swedish final was such a walkover for John Lundvik that Hanna and Liam never really felt like they were in serious contention for the ticket to Tel Aviv. Still, their “Hold You” is one of the more genuinely contemporary songs to trouble the top end of the MF scoreboard, refreshingly free of schlager clichés – and our SongHunt voters evidently agree.


Kerrie-Anne – Sweet Lies (United Kingdom)
It’s rare for a British finalist to get this deep into the SongHunt game, although Holly Brewer managed a grand final appearance in 2017. This time it’s the turn of Kerrie-Anne, whose unashamedly retro disco banger would have brought some energy to the Tel Aviv stage – but instead she has to make do with a shot at SongHunt glory.


Lidija Bačić – Tek je počelo (Croatia)
An immediate chat favourite due to the live whistling at the side of the stage and the spectacular lack of clothes being worn on it, Lidija Bačić may not have come anywhere near winning the legendary Dora trophy, but our SongHunt voters are only too happy to have put her in the running for our crown.


Lorena Bućan – Tower Of Babylon (Croatia)
BA-BY-LON-HEY! This is what we wanted from the long-awaited return of Dora – a glorious throwback to years (decades?) past from the Huljić/Huljić camp, with a pseudo-ethno beat and more words wedged into the verses than should be permitted under EU law. The Croatian runner-up duly gets a second chance in the SongHunt final.


Mørland – En livredd mann (Norway)
After four years away, Kjetil Mørland returned to the Eurovision arena with this dark and brooding native-language number. The Norwegian public weren’t overly enthusiastic – “En livredd mann” didn’t make it to the MGP superfinal – but it received the highest chat score of all the songs remaining in the competition, and the SongHunt voters have come out in force every round so far to deliver the song to our grand final.


And now you’ve met our twelve candidates, it’s time to decide! Remember, you can come back and vote for your favourite again after 24 hours have passed since your last vote. Let’s find a SongHunt champion!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

Load more tweets...

The view from Tel Aviv: The sum and the parts

The view from Tel Aviv: The sum and the parts

One of the fun things about Eurovision in my home country is that I find myself chatting quite a bit with all the non-Eurovision fans that work at the venue who don’t know much about Eurovision but can’t help but getting swept up in the excitement of it all. So they want to know things, and being me, I talk. A lot.

When I was leaving the arena yesterday I ran into one of the security guards who was really curious to know what my badge actually was and what were we doing inside here all day. He got even more animated the more he realized how many things go into what he sees on screen. And then he asked me a very good question about the way I blog: “How do you tell if someone had a good rehearsal?”

It’s something I find myself talking about a lot, because it really encompasses so many things. There’s the initial placing of expectations in context, and that’s always about the song and on a very basic level – what’s the song’s range? What do we think is a realistic maximum result of a song assuming it has a great presentation? A so-so presentation of a great song should do better than a stunning presentation of a weak song.

And then we have all the elements that make a presentation. The performer – not just the vocals, but their ability to transmit to us, viewers, what their song is about. There is the overall sound of the entry and the other people on (or off) stage, There’s the camera work, the colors and the backdrops, and let’s not forget the props! The gimmicks! The fire and the dry ice!

Potential result aside, the main question for me is always: Is that song doing everything it possibly can do? I’d even go as far as saying this is what means the most to me; there are 41 songs, not all of them can win and it’s not just about the competition for me, it’s about the songs and at least knowing they got their fair chance of being properly featured. At the end of the day, some things will work for more people and some for fewer, but as long as it was all done right, and the result is a great performance where the sum is bigger than the parts, there’s not much else I can ask for.

And then: If there are things I think could make it better, would those changes impact its chances to do as best as it could? I’d still want everyone to do their best, but I can’t completely ignore the competition aspect and the predictions, so whether songs have done enough is also an important question. Not to mention that we’re human beings and it’s hard to separate what in our reaction comes from whatever expectation we had of it.

With that in mind, let’s look at the rehearsals of the second semi-final. And one thing is absolutely clear: this is a bloodbath in the making.

Because taste is subjective, not everyone will agree with this next paragraph, but as I said: songs first. And some songs stand very little chance to do anything, no matter what. In that corner we can find Croatia, which has done a lot to at least look impressive but is also pushing the kitsch into that gray zone of too much to be taken seriously, too little to work for how outlandish it is. Moldova is generic-ballad galore, which isn’t always necessarily an automatic non-qualification, but you really need to have zero competition in that field for that to work. Add to it a gimmick-based performance that does nothing to convey what the song is about and also hides the biggest asset of the song, Anna herself with her presence and feminine self-assurance. And then there’s Lithuania – a song I forgot to blog about earlier today, forgot to rank when I tried to figure out what to make of the damn semi and almost forgot to mention when I was writing this paragraph. I suppose that it is appropriate to have an entirely unmemorable staging for an entirely unmemorable song, but out of everyone, Lithuania is the delegation that is the furthest away from doing everything they possibly can.

Next up are the songs that did pretty much what they are supposed to do, no more and no less. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s not terrible or wrong for the song. For that group, context matters, because it being enough really depends on what you’re aiming for and what your competition is in that field.

For example, Ireland did something that worked nicely for the song – but as the song itself never really has a peak or standout moments it’s hard to do much to correct that, even though they did manage to at least create one particularly memorable visual moment. Yet, especially that early in the running order in that semi-final, the sum of the parts doesn’t feel like enough.

On that side of the equation we also have Latvia, who did a wonderfully intimate performance that does bring a lot of warmth and charm to screen and is very right for the song, but with such understated song it’s very hard to draw the attention of viewers.

Then we have songs that have a better chance of doing things in this semi and that came with a concept they already had before. That’s always tricky in its own way because we’re familiar with it, so it feels more relevant to the song, but we’ve also seen it in a different context and on a different stage. Denmark is one like that, and while I actually liked the national final performance better, at least between the two it doesn’t make a difference. The concept is cute enough for the song, but my struggle with both versions is that I’m not sure Leonora’s personality is suited for a routine that is so overly cutesy. For me, the best performances come when they are planned to suit the performer’s strengths and weaknesses, and I do feel this one forces her into being something that isn’t entirely her. Visually it’s pleasant enough, though, and it does have a corner carved out for it, but I don’t think the song is strong enough that a better presentation would have pushed it much beyond the range of its target audience.

I was a bit confused by some of the press reaction to Sweden, as not only it was a similar affair to the Melodifestivalen performance, it wasn’t exactly outstanding there either. It does, however, do the right things: it uses John’s strengths – his vocals, the positive energy and the likability – it uses a smart and simple staging with his backing singers to highlight the gospel element of the entry and distract from how outdated it is, and visually, of course, it’s the usual slick Swedish performance that looks clean and appealing on screen, with a warm color scheme which complements John’s personality. It’s not a wowing performance, though, just a very solid and safe one as it has enough to aim at both the juries and at least a good portion of the televoters.

Right next to the already-familiar entries, we have the category of the ones we didn’t see before but that did more or less what we expected. It didn’t require much knowledge to figure out that even with a more subdued song, Russia won’t ever arrive at a Eurovision without a considerable amount of props and an elaborate staging, and this one was no different, even if we’ve got so used to their excessive use of gimmicks that the more sparse usage of them almost felt underwhelming. While they still have things that don’t quite work – mostly some angles and a few shots that are too long which breaks the flow of the performance – they are also Russia, after all, and I trust that if I could see these issues they also noticed them when reviewing the performance and will address them accordingly.

Romania adapted their videoclip to the screen. While we didn’t know for sure that this would be their direction for the performance, the choices of elements there seemed like such a deviation from the national final performance that I always felt it was a deliberate part of a concept they had in mind. It works reasonably well, except I’m not entirely sure how connected it feels to the song and whether maybe that fact,, in addition to the staging just being a little weird and spooky, will get in the way.

If Romania had its own character, Switzerland is exactly the opposite. The performance is good and the staging is very effective, cool and modern, but it’s also very generic and clinical. Take the track out and put a different uptempo song on it? It would make no difference. More than that, take Luca out and put a different singer in? It would make no difference either. It doesn’t have much identity and Luca doesn’t really get the chance to display his personality. That’s exactly what has worked several times for Sweden, though, and this entry looks exactly like a Swedish entry that finishes seventh.

We’re now heading over to the underachievers. The ones who really could do better but have chosen not to.

The Armenian delegation said in their press conference yesterday that the staging is very much inspired by the video. It’s true to a certain point – with the coloring and overall atmosphere – but they lost some of the elements that worked really well in the video, like the dancing, and it mostly relies on the fact she is a wonderful vocalist. Which, fortunately, she is. The song is interesting but feels more like a jury song rather than something that can musically appeal to viewers right away, and making it so bleak and so empty doesn’t really help noticing it. More than that, it really doesn’t do enough to show off the different parts of that song. There are so many changes and transitions in the music, but anything that happens on stage at that time is very minor and so much of the song gets lost.

Albania might have never been as high up in my expectations as Armenia, but they have an interesting song that’s pretty much in a field of its own this year, and an impressive performer with a very commanding presence. While I gather that the idea of the staging is showing Jonida off, the entire package is just so uninspired – staging modulation change aside – that the song sounds exactly like the soundtrack music I always found it to be. Something that is nice to hear in the background while doing other things, but there is nothing on the screen – her face included – that captures attention in any way. The color scheme is drab and rarely ever changes, the camera work is as basic as it gets, and because she just stands alone in front of a mic stand, there’s no movement to work with either. It ends up being very long three minutes for something that could have been a lot more noticeable if the staging made any attempt to convey either the atmosphere of the song or what it’s about.

Norway is one of those countries that arrived to Eurovision with a half-baked idea. It almost feels like they were just doing a checklist of all kind of things they wanted in their performance and then they just gave them to the production in a random order (we love random order lists at Eurovision). It almost looks like one of those X Factor performances – they walk around and sing while looking into different cameras while there are pretty things happening on the screen and on stage, but it doesn’t really connect to one another and feel like it’s all a part of the same performance.

And of course, we have the Netherlands, who apparently forgot to pay their electricity bill, making poor Duncan sit in the darkness. I keep talking to people about this one and what they were thinking and I keep hearing that very familiar “it’s a first rehearsal” line. I’m very well aware it is a first rehearsal, but even within this context, I do find being in that state on your first run a bit worrying. It does have a pretty stage, and I can understand the general idea of trying to make Duncan look a bit lost in that world of his. But when the people in charge of directing that song, a very emotional and moody contender, opt to go for the combination of not showing the singer for almost a third of the song right at the opening, then filling the rest of the song with a variety of very long shots with very very few changes in the backdrop and lightning, and only randomly getting a glimpse of Duncan here and there, I currently have a problem trusting their judgment or their ability to fix this. At least turn on the lights first!

Last, but not least, we have the group that exceeded expectations. This one varies the most in terms of their staging successes translating to actual score board success, but hard work should be rewarded.

Like I wrote yesterday, Austria is the perfect example of getting everything out of your entry. There’s nothing more I can think of I would have asked them to do, or wanted them to do. When I was discussing it with a friend yesterday, we found ourselves talking about details like adding some slight fade effects on some shots – and if you are in shape for that kind of a minor detail to be the only thing that comes to mind, you’re doing well. If we’re talking about getting all the elements right, this one does it. But of course the song in this case was always a harder sell. It has its lovers but it has enough people who hear it and don’t really get it. The performance definitely helps massively in being able to get into it and pay attention to it, but it’s a type of song that the breadth of its appeal is extremely difficult to call.

Malta managing to do a complex and busy presentation without overdoing it is still a shock to me. I was also really appreciative of how much they tried to make sure this works for Michela and her age and character. She’s a bit on the awkward side, and going for something humorous and joyful allows her to enjoy herself and be a teenager instead of trying to become whatever is that they think a current pop star looks like. The staging doesn’t only work for that song, it also so unique for it it could never work for anything else, and as such it really stands out in the line up.

North Macedonia’s starting point was slightly easier than the rest: just don’t mess it up. They didn’t. The only real misstep in this is a usage of an unnecessary gimmick but it never really distracts from the song and also disappears early enough that the viewer has enough time to absorb everything else. Tamara is a director’s dream and the camera loves every second it spends on her face, and they have structured the performance in a way in which it progresses and tells a story, with the viewers hitting the emotional peak at exactly the right time to have the impact of the entry stay with them.

And there’s Azerbaijan. I probably wouldn’t go as far as calling it a winner and sending you to place a bet on it, but the press centre reaction wasn’t just because we needed a new favorite after being disappointed by the Netherlands a few minutes earlier. It was because for once Azerbaijan managed to both go big and be entirely bonkers, but also just make it work. The robots setting up Iron Man’s heart or whatever it is they are doing at the beginning could easily be an overkill right from the get-go, but instead they just make sure to set the atmosphere to how they want you to hear the song – electric, mysterious and current. The ethnic touches Chingiz added to the song achieve two important things: they add a different sound to the track, making this essentially western pop track both look and sound different, and they also give him the opportunity to show off his personality and his emotions in a way the rest of the song can’t. His bit of ethnic singing is a sending chills down your spine sort of moment, and the staging capitalizes on that by using the biggest trick at the height of that segment. I’m all for learning lessons, and apparently their lesson from last year was that if they continue using those mainstream modern pop songs, playing it safe makes it too easy to pass it over. Why fit in when you can stand out?

I will return on Thursday, with whatever insights the second round of rehearsals will bring along. Stay tuned!

All images from eurovision.tv

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

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Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

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Insta report: The artists of Eurovision 2019

Insta report: The artists of Eurovision 2019

Let’s get visual!

If you’re an active Instagram user but you haven’t checked out the artists of Eurovision 2019 yet, this post might help you discover some of the more interesting accounts and specific posts. And if you aren’t on Instagram yet, maybe this will get you into a new hobby…. or should we say “obsession”?

We’ve browsed the digital-visual homes of our Eurovision class of 2019 so that you don’t have to – and we thought these more or less recent photos were worth sharing:

@itsduncanlaurence

Duncan has one of the more artistic Instagram galleries, mixing performance captures and more stylish photos of himself.

Looking at the Insta galleries of various Eurovision entrants, one can’t deny that some are more artistic, some less so, and some are just plain cheap and uninspired. This post won’t waste your time with the latter ones. Of course, some accounts are a mixed bag, with some more or less good pics. Miki, for example, belongs to that category. But we liked this photo from his Insta:

@miki.ot2018

Speaking of visually appealing and artistic accounts, our favourite here was Slovenia. The intimate connection between Zala and Gasper isn’t only tangible on the Tel Aviv stage, it also shines through in their many beautiful Instagram photos, all holding a subtle, reserved charm.

@zalagasper

View this post on Instagram

Šla bova gledat velike valove 🌊

A post shared by Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl (@zalagasper) on

What else did we stumble across on our search?

There’s KEiiNO channeling Ketil Stokkan at Brandenburger Tor…

@keiinomusic

Mahmood channeling Conan Osiris…

@mahmood

…and, well… no comment.

@hatari_official

View this post on Instagram

The shameful and the shameless.

A post shared by HATARI (@hatari_official) on

Meanwhile, Lake Malawi have a new friend – it’s the beach of Tel Aviv. The Czech guys’ Instagram is one of the better ones, mixing snapshots of their lives as musicians and some stunning quality photos. Their page reflects them well in being authentic, dynamic and lighthearted.

@lakemalawimusic

Chingiz’s gallery feels more the opposite, with many dark and heavy photos, especially the ones in greyscales – but we loved this striking one:

@chingizmustafayev

Jonida from Albania delivers the contrasting colours here:

@jonidamaliqi

…and of course, something like this must not be missing when we do an Insta report:

@lucahaenni1

As you can see, a wide palette of content awaits you if you choose to check out the Instagram profiles of the Eurovision 2019 artists.

And don’t forget we’re on Instagram too! You can find us as @escgo on https://www.instagram.com/escgo/ – content from Tel Aviv will be arriving as Shi continues her blogging journey there, so give us a follow if you like 😉

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

Load more tweets...

The view from Tel Aviv: Is it true? Is it over?

The view from Tel Aviv: Is it true? Is it over?

Is it true? Is it over? Can we please go and deal with semi 2 already? Because seriously, after yesterday’s relaxed day, today did everything it could to mess up with my brain (and I suspect pretty much everyone in the press center) in every way possible. It wasn’t just that it had the likes of Iceland, Portugal, Australia and San Marino. It was that almost every delegation today had me staring at the screen and asking “Why? Why would you do that to yourselves?”

But surviving this day doesn’t only mean having me a few hours closer to a saner day tomorrow (although I suppose you can never know), it also allows me to reflect on the first semi and see if I can make some sense of the madness.

I started writing my View from San Francisco series when EBU started cutting down the materials which were allowed to be released from the rehearsals. Getting such short glimpses made me curious to whether it was even possible drawing any conclusions out of it. I’ve done pretty well, if I say so myself, but this year I have the privilege of watching the full rehearsals, but also the specific challenges that come along with that. How much of what we are feeling is a result of expectations or wishes? How much can we really predict how first time viewers will react to what we’ve just seen? How much difference to the deficiencies and merits of what we see makes a difference?

As today’s rehearsal run was a gloriously mixed bag of everything one might possibly see in Eurovision, I’m going to try and divide the performances I’ve seen over the last few days to groups based on my deep philosophical questions.

Let’s start with the easy ones first: those are the delegation that did their homework. They learned as much as they could about the stage and worked with that to create a staging that will work up there. They got their art and their camera work together, it was well rehearsed and as pretty much as ready to go after the first runthrough.

I never thought I’d include the Czech Republic in that category, but what do you know. Alongside Cyprus, Hungary, and Georgia, all very different songs, those were the ones that worked right away, despite their complexity. Everyone involved knew what they had to do and the stagings are all incredibly appropriate for their songs. They have varying degrees of success chances, depending on their actual song but they did everything in their power to give their song its best fighting chance. The accessible three out of those four are on top of my qualifier list, and while I still hesitate about giving Georgia a spot just based on my doubts regarding of the audience size when it comes to this kind of song and singing as well as its appeal anywhere in the west, but I really can’t fault them: they picked a risky song and did everything humanly possible to get 150% out of it. That’s all one can ask for.

On the other side of that spectrum are the delegations where seeing a bit of their rehearsal you know they are doomed, even when you know it’s just a first runthrough and of course things can change but some things just can be rescued. They might not come in with the same level of preparedness and some might be still further out the area of where they want to be, but it doesn’t matter. Often those are songs that were written off anyway, and I guess it is appropriate that they end up having stagings that are equally useless. This year’s “I really hope you get to enjoy your stay until next Wednesday morning” group includes San Marino and Montenegro – shocking, I know! – one was very prepared and the other the most underprepared delegation of the semi, but the result will be the same and there’s absolutely no saving grace.

Next up with have the recyclers, the ones who have slightly adapted their national final performance, and where it gets more complicated for us because it’s really not the first time we’ve watched them. I think that some really do believe they have the right concept, even though it was initially meant for a smaller space, and they really don’t want to have to come up with a new concept. The hard thing is that with having the other performance in mind it’s really hard to say what’s a real response to what we just saw and what is a result of being underwhelmed just by the lack of development between the two versions?

Let’s look at our candidates. Finland kept some elements from their national final performance, but doesn’t seem to have really internalized what they were symbolizing and therefore moving that to the bigger stage felt like it had no purpose. It was just there, happening, and not very well. In many ways I do think their national final performance was overall better, but it was never strong enough for me to think it was a qualifier and the negative changes are killing it. It’s its vocals and the lack of a good idea that are doing that.

Slovenia went down the copy paste route, still not learning the Maaraya lesson about the importance of understanding context. EMA and Eurovision? Not only it’s not the same page, it’s not the same book. It’s hard to be particularly let down when we already knew ahead of time that they kept that NF staging, and naturally it loses some of its charm when the staging has a much bigger stage. And its issues are the ones it already had in EMA – it’s very small and intimate, and the staging lacks light and shade. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility yet, but it’s not really in either. Since there is so little that actually happens there, it’s impossible to call this one without seeing it in context.

Serbia and Iceland fared somewhat better, taking a lot from their NF performances and making just enough changes for it to feel more developed, but much like the recyclists it seems like they have figured out that they have got it more or less together thanks to the brainstorming they performed ahead of the national final, and didn’t see real reason to push it further. Serbia has the better excuse, being a lone proper old school female ballad and pretty much the last island of sanity before heading into the sea of madness that is the second half, but Iceland is of course the one that is hard to read. It’s always been a divisive one and by keeping it pretty much as is it also kept the impressions at the same place: if you thought this is amazing and gives you winner vibes, there’s no real reason for you here to not think that. And if you thought that this just targets a very small slice of the audience and their fashion style isn’t your thing? You probably still think that. I suppose that is the main problem with presentations that remain more or less in tact: watching them is a very different experience than a first impression of a song we have never seen live or competing in a national final before. The level of familiarity is different and when we get to stick to our NF season gut feeling about a song it also means we’ve been with it for too long to have a sense of how a first timer will experience it.

We’re now progressing to the “I get what you’re trying to do but I’m not entirely sure it’s working” corner, where we can find Tulia and Eliot. Interestingly enough, they both try to blend modern and ethnic elements (to different degrees of success and necessity) and feel like they are trying to fill the shoes for some sort of a current trend. This probably relates back to why they were both chosen to begin with, but it feels like it was the general idea that was chosen rather than the complete product and that some parts that should have been developed more remained untouched. Because those are internal selections we are at least free of much familiarity and comparisons, although expectations are always dangerous when it comes to those. I actually attempt to avoid picturing how I’d like an internal entry to be staged because I want to be able to judge it without dealing with my own expectations. It makes the run-through gut feelings easier to trust, but it also needs to be balanced with those kind of songs, when they are just not quite there yet. This is what the maybe column was invented for.

Today’s most active category was “but why would you do that?”, in which broadcasters take their songs and try to self-sabotage them by making a series of decisions that make listening and watching their song as hard as it can possible be. It’s also the category where the question of whether our expectations are getting in our way is the most relevant, because a What the Hell reaction always has to do with expectations. Even when you don’t have specific ones, there’s that “but not this” bit which makes it a different experience than going in blind and getting the song AND presentation together at the same time.

The success potential of Belarus, Australia, Portugal and Greece is vastly different for each one, but they have a few things in common. They all suffer from a visual idea overdose. Let’s do this! And this! But also this! And this! I have no reason to add more things at this point but I really want to know what the red button is doing! Between the expectations and the sensory overload, how do we call what can actually do just the same with the viewers than it would have otherwise? But I feel that once again, despite the style differences, they all lost something very similar and important in the process of the staging – they lost the personal element that each of them had in order to make up roon. At 16, Zena was poised to be the next kid star of Europe, but instead of targeting this market, they went down trying to make it older and cooler (failing at both), and not capitalizing on Zena’s youth basically makes it just “that other uptempo female pop song that is not Tamta”.

Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke is so busy flying on sticks and getting the right angles and right notes from a somewhat uncomfortable position that she never gets to emote or tell a story. I always thought that what made this better than another Cezar was how likable she is and that with her personal history behind it she could reach out to her audience more, but instead she is busy doing everything else.

Portugal is not for everyone, but its previous setup had a continuity element of seeing both guys at all times and being given the chance to ease into the weirdness of it all. Instead the darkness and long shots mask both of them, the cuts to the dance moves are jarring because we don’t get enough time with the dancer to care, and seriously, who forgot to turn on the lights?

Greece’s Katerine Duska, much like Miller-Heidke, is too focused on everything that is going on around her and seem so remarkably uncomfortable in the style of that performance (and her dress) that despite her recognizable voice all the other elements that made her come across as a very cool and relevant performer are gone.

It doesn’t necessarily hurt their qualification chances, but it definitely doesn’t help. My personal expectations are never really about a specific idea but just for something that will complement the song and performer and push it to the front and center, but with all those four I kept noticing all the details that weren’t either. It’s easy to give the Blanche example, or the Netta example – a fan favorite with a staging that felt like a letdown or just not what we thought it should be, but those two cases were exactly the examples of no matter what the staging decision was, the priorities were right: artist and song first. Both Blanche and Netta WERE their songs.

Estonia, in case you wondered, is that “we can’t REALLY give you a full prediction based on all the rehearsals of this semi because we never got to see this one”. Bonus points for the fact it wasn’t a feed issue preventing us from seeing it, it was that they just never actually got a single runthrough together.

I’d like to say that this semi will make more sense to me in a few days, but I think lying is very rude. For now I’d settle for asking semi 2 to make sense to me. Wish me luck.

All photos from eurovision.tv

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

Load more tweets...

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

It’s nearly Eurovision!

Our very own Shi has just landed in Tel Aviv, and starting from Saturday, she’ll be doing as much rehearsal blogging for you as one woman can reasonably be expected to manage.

But what are the things she – and all of us – should be looking out for as those rehearsals begin? We take a look at five outstanding question marks…

1. Revenge of the preview party underperformers
Katerine from Greece had a nasty cold in Amsterdam, Klemens from Iceland sounded worryingly exposed without recorded vocals on the backing track, and poor Srbuk had a serious case of the Azucar Morenos as her ear monitor malfunctioned completely in Madrid. Do any of these things mean anything at all? Of course not. But April is a month for analysis and overanalysis, as we fans seize upon any and every bit of “evidence” to build a narrative for what we expect to see happen at ESC itself – and in terms of regaining a bit of positive momentum, those preview party underperformers will be looking to make a strong start to rehearsals, if only to allow their fans to breathe a big sigh of relief.

It’s your future, it’s your choice, and your weapon is your voice

2. What can the stage do?
First impressions of the ESC 2019 stage have been broadly positive as they’ve leaked on social media, but there’s a big difference between a few short clips and a full show. Plus there’s the question of whether, as many fear, the stage will look disproportionately huge in what is a relatively small venue – although we probably won’t get a proper feel for that until the dress rehearsals. In any case, we’ll be looking out to see exactly what moving parts there are, and to what extent the delegations can actually harness them for their performances – not to mention the sticky topic of lighting and colours. An overdose of blue and white is something we always hope to avoid, since it’s such an easy ESC cliché. But when the host country is Israel…

Where do we go now, to the sky

3. Props
While the first rehearsals don’t tell us too much about a final performance and it’s important not to overreact, what they will show us is exactly what the different countries are planning to do staging-wise. Last year, this was the moment we properly encountered Mélovin’s piano-coffin, Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s street furniture and, of course, DoReDoS’ door-and-window contraption. So what can we expect this year? Australia may not be bringing Kate’s hydraulic platform/dress/witch-on-a-stick combo all the way from the other side of the world, but they’ll surely have something similarly visually impressive waiting in the wings. Likewise, Sergey Lazarev isn’t the kind of man to take to the Eurovision stage without some serious gadgets and gizmos behind him – and even at the simpler end of the scale, all kinds of little tricks undoubtedly await us. Peonies for Romania? Blindfolds for Spain? Animatronic robot lions for Lithuania…?

Break a leg, be brave in every step you take

4. Cheese
No, really. What would ESC be without those moments – the ones that make the clip reels for years to come? The obvious candidate here is Serhat, who will surely be pulling out all the stops with a camp-tastic performance of “Say Na Na Na”. But that’s almost too obvious. We want to see Tamara Todevska ekeing every inch of melodrama out of “Proud”. We want the Czech performance to cut to a great big close-up of a grinning girl saying “I’m only a friend!”. We want awkward white-boy interactions between Luca and his dancers. We want the whole arena to join in on the Norwegian joiking in a display of regrettable cultural appropriation. It’s 2019 – give us shareable content!

Oh yeah

5. Betting reactions (and overreactions)
When it comes to semi-final qualification, the betting markets see the second semi-final as a fairly clear affair, with five of the 18 entries – Ireland, Austria, Moldova, Latvia and Croatia – deemed to be absolutely miles away from having any chance of qualifying (and Lithuania and Romania not faring a great deal better). If any of those countries delivers a surprisingly persuasive first rehearsal with a real concept behind it, we can expect those long odds to shorten fairly swiftly. Meanwhile, the first semi is seen as a less predictable affair, with eleven countries currently deemed more likely to qualify than not (i.e. with odds of shorter than evens/2.0). Since only ten of them can actually fit into the magic envelopes on Tuesday week, if any of them has a disastrous first day – and there are performance and staging question marks about everyone from Poland to Belgium and beyond – their odds could soon get a great deal longer.

Stranger things have happened

Don’t forget to stay tuned to escgo! as the rehearsals begin. We’ll have extensive coverage from both near and far, with Shi live in the press centre to cover the reherasals and deliver local colour and content from inside the Eurovision bubble, flanked by Felix and Martin’s traditional analysis from a distance. So get your refresh button ready – and let’s do this!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Join the Chat!

The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

Home. It’s not just the name of the Israeli entry – it’s a state of mind. Having been in Israel for eleven days now, Shi takes stock on what the Eurovision-at-home experience has meant to her so far.

read more

Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

read more

Five things to look out for as rehearsals begin

Rehearsals for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest begin on Saturday. But what in particular should the assembled fan media be watching out for as the 41 participating countries take to the stage for the first time? We take a closer look!

read more

The View from San Francisco: Another Summer Night

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

read more
 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

Load more tweets...

Selam, selam, here we go again, on a journey to… well, you know

Selam, selam, here we go again, on a journey to… well, you know

Jerusalem, 1979. I wasn’t yet born when Israel won its second Eurovision title on home turf, but with the late 70s and early 80s pretty much being the height of Israel at Eurovision, the amount of Eurovision exposure I absorbed as a kid is not particularly surprising. I may not remember this particular moment because I was too young, but my parents always liked telling me over the years how I’d sing “Ole Ole”, Israel’s 1985 entry, around the house and the changes I inflicted on the lyrics because I was unable to pronounce them properly.

Although I have been a Eurovision fan for most of my life, I actually hadn’t watched the 1979 edition in full until a few years ago. I’ll confess that I definitely don’t know all the songs from all the years, despite my attempts over time to catch up on my history, but the 1979 Eurovision was a big thing in Israel and as such I knew – and have watched – many songs from that year. It’s weird to think that very few countries have managed that feat of winning at home. I remember watching Ireland in the 90s and thinking how incredible it must have felt for the audience in the hall, and yet it never occurred to me to watch our own equivalent moment.

My excuse was that watching it in retrospective was not the same. It probably isn’t, but I was still wrong in some ways, because it was impossible for me to not feel emotional when I finally did watch it. I also managed to not know how close that vote was, so even though I knew the result, I got sucked right in. I still rewatch the voting from time to time, and the combination of the atmosphere in the hall, the voting itself and the display of green room sportsmanship from the runner-up, Spain, always gets me teary-eyed. That kind of nostalgic moment – even if it’s not part of my own memories – sometimes really makes me understand people who long for how things used to be. When things were simpler, more naïve and pure. I’d roll my eyes at myself for the last sentence, but when you compare it to what Eurovision is today, both in terms of the actual broadcast and the evolution of music and stage technology, not to mention all the things that surround it with social media and online betting odds and whatnot – it has the same name, but it’s a different ball game.

הלב מלא בהמון תודה

Jerusalem, 1989. While I know I watched Eurovision before 1989 thanks to stories of my childhood, this is the first competition I actively remember. Oddly enough, though, the two things that have been somehow the most constant things in my life – Eurovision and my love for words – are things that I have no real memory of getting into. I’ve already loved them ever since my earliest memories. I taught myself to read when I was four, so I don’t have a recollection in which I don’t know how to read, and when my classmates were learning to write the alphabet, I was writing a diary.

Eurovision, somehow, is the same. 1989 may be the first edition I remember, but what I also remember from that night is me nagging my dad to make sure he taped it in case I fell asleep, so by this point I already knew what it was and was fully invested in it. I ended up rewatching “Rock Me” about a million times over the next weeks, but whenever I’m asked what the moment was that made me a Eurovision fan, I don’t have an answer. Either I don’t know what it was, or maybe I just don’t remember. In any case, it makes no difference: from the point my childhood memories begin, exactly 30 years ago, I was a Eurovision fan.

Jerusalem, 1999. Do you have those moments when you look back at your younger self and have a chuckle? Oh, so young, so innocent, so freaking clueless. That’s me back in May 1999, a month away from high school graduation and mere months from the beginning of my two-year mandatory military service. Having gone to a nerd school and majored in computer science, I had internet access way before most people had internet at home, and by the time the 1999 rehearsals began, I had spent the year since Dana International’s victory in Birmingham writing on online messageboards and chatting in an IRC chatroom that was, in fact, the earliest incarnation of our own #esc.

What does that have to do with my remarkable cluelessness? The ICC, the hall which hosted both the 1979 and 1999 contests, was one bus stop away and about ten minutes’ walk from my high school. Talk about Eurovision being close to home. Being a person who began skipping classes back in the sixth grade, I had no issues getting off the bus on the first day of rehearsals instead of heading to school. I walked through the underground tunnel which connects the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and the ICC, walked through the main doors which led to the OGAE booth – back then I had no clue what that was either – and was actually surprised (and disappointed) to find out I couldn’t progress beyond that main entrance hall.

Seriously, you know nothing, Shi.

It was the first time I heard the word “accreditation”, which sounds so ridiculous to me today – but the 17-year-old version of me who had been dreaming of becoming a journalist since pretty much the second grade, not to mention obsessing online about the 1999 competition for a whole year, had no clue it was even a thing. And that not having this thing meant, even though I was standing so close to this event I loved so much, I couldn’t really touch it. Yes, do feel free to insert a promised land analogy here. I reckon it fits.

I spent that day like a proper groupie, hanging out at the OGAE booth and the outdoor area in front of the hall, and actually managed to meet some of the artists along the way. Somewhere in Jerusalem there’s a photo album with some fabulous outdoor photos I took of the Danish duo, and I’ll forever remember Selma fondly for realizing she was out of press packs and then disappearing into the depths of the hall to track down the Icelandic HoD to get one for me.

Model hosts and a model set

If you think this is where my 1999 story ends, you’re wrong.

When I eventually made it to school, I was met by my English teacher, who noticed I looked pretty sad. I told her about my visit to the hall and my disappointment of not being able to witness more of it. Which is of course what every normal teenager does, confesses to teachers about their hobbies and feelings, especially when they hadn’t bothered to show up to classes for the last six years. But my teachers always really liked me, oddly, despite my very shoddy attendance and homework record, and English was my best subject anyway. So maybe this explains what happened next. Instead of getting scolded about cutting school to hang out at the ICC, my teacher told me that her uncle works for the IBA, that when she was my age he had her visit the 1979 rehearsals, and that she’d ask him to do the same for me.

And she did. Which is how I ended up spending the next two days with a production guest pass, sitting in the front row of the rehearsals of all delegations. I know that most people aren’t very fond of the 1999 stage, and I suppose that from the perspective of a viewer at home I can understand why – but having spent so many hours near it, seeing it being operated and getting to know all the details that you don’t get to see at home, it remains one of my favorites to this day.

San Francisco, 2009. I don’t remember where I watched Alexander Rybak getting everyone’s douze points. It might have been at my Berkeley home, projecting it onto my living room wall, or it could have been at a friend’s house, at an annual gathering of European friends (and occasionally non-European partners who didn’t know what they were getting themselves into).

So much had happened between that day in front of the ICC and the Norwegian fairytale. I served in the military for 2.5 years, backpacked around Ireland for a month in my first solo outing to a foreign land, worked for IBA for five years, got that dream job I wanted with a national newspaper, and got to live my childhood dream of covering a big sporting moment for my home country at the Olympics – it doesn’t get better than your nation’s first (and still only) gold medal, does it? I also added one edition of the Winter Olympics to the mix, and since I clearly knew what accreditation was by then, I also attended the 2004 Eurovision in Istanbul – where I befriended the Ukrainian delegation and dancers from the get-go, which made for a pretty interesting Eurovision journey – and the 2005 edition in Kiev, where I was adopted by the Greek fans as an honorary Greek and stood in the second row when Elena Paparizou won it for Greece for the first time. As far as good moments go, I’ve been lucky.

I also fulfilled another dream and got accepted to one of the world’s best journalism schools, in Berkeley, so I packed my things and moved half a world away. I know that it’s a huge privilege to find yourself at the point of figuring out your next dreams because you’ve actually achieved all the ones you’ve had, but realizing that journalism wasn’t my main life goal anymore, after all the things I have done, was pretty unsettling. Add to that the American economy crashing when I graduated in 2008, and you’d get to where I was in May 2009. Lost, barely making enough to get by while making websites for people who also had no work, which is why they needed a website in the first place. I didn’t even have health insurance, which added to my perpetual stress. But I had Eurovision. I always had Eurovision.

It’s a scary thought, really. No matter where I was in life, and no matter what I’ve been through, I haven’t missed a single Eurovision broadcast since that night in 1989.

I don’t remember much from the 2009 edition – not from watching the live broadcast, anyway – but I do remember that in those scary years of finding my footing and fighting to survive on my own in a place so far away, the Eurovision season, and especially the rehearsals and the live shows, were a blessed respite from everything else. That’s the thing about the constant things in our lives – they are always there, and drowning in uncertainty and anxiety, Eurovision was my safe place.

We are the winners of Eurovision

10,058m above Greenland, 2019. I’m barely halfway through the first leg of my trip to Tel Aviv. The screen in front of me tells me that I’m still eight hours away from my Istanbul layover – a city which, incidentally, I haven’t had the chance to visit (or even pass through) since I left it in May 2004 – and this should explain fairly well how I ended up in this retrospective mood to begin with. But how can I not reflect on all that, really? Going from the successful Eurovision country that we were in the 70s and that 1998 win to the one victory we’ve had in this millennium, not to mention the geopolitical reality – it was truly hard to believe that we’d ever win it again. And then we did.

“Yes! You’re coming home!”

That’s my mom, texting me about 15 seconds after the winner’s announcement last year. Over the next 24 hours it was followed by similar texts from other family members and friends. I hadn’t attended a Eurovision since 2005, even though I intended to many times over the years. It just didn’t quite work out. But there was no doubt in the mind of anyone who knows me: I’ll be going to this one.

So here I am. Sitting in this damn plane and unable to sleep, as always, with gifts for the family, a Mahmood album and an accreditation pick-up voucher in my carry-on, counting the minutes – quite literally, sadly – until my Tel Aviv touchdown.

In some ways it feels like I’ve actually gone backward and not forward. A production pass in 1999, a press accreditation for an Israeli daily newspaper in 2004 and 2005, and a fan accreditation this year, required on behalf of escgo! – which I ironically applied for as an American citizen, as I pretty much figured out applying through the Israeli delegation wouldn’t work this year.

But in the ways that matter to me, and those sneaky dreams that keep morphing and changing over the years, I am light years ahead. Ever since I stopped working as a full-time journalist and writer, I kept writing on the side – sometimes as a freelancer for media outlets and sometimes just for myself, for blogs, for unofficial publications and anyone who had a space for me to be me. Writing the View from San Francisco series for escgo! over the last few years, I realized something: I really like getting to do my own thing. I like writing about Eurovision and not filtering myself and not having to explain things or delete content or angles that a mainstream audience just wouldn’t get. That option is always open to me – and I still write sports stories once in a while, where I don’t particularly mind sticking to the basics while writing for a wider audience. But Eurovision? That’s my personal thing. That’s my constant and my safe place and where I get to be the way I want to be and write what I want to write.

In terms of escgo! and our live coverage from ESC 2019, I’m not sure what that is yet. It will of course include the rehearsal coverage in some form – this also depends on the venue setup (‘F’ accreditation often coming with certain restrictions), and just generally figuring out my direction once I start. It will probably also be all kind of other things which can result from that crazy little thing called Eurovision, my equally crazy brain, and the added weight of covering Eurovision on such familiar territory. But it will be all me, and unlike the last few years, it will not be based on short clips from the feed or rehearsals taped from one angle at the back of the hall and with crappy sound.

I’ve spent the last 14 years realizing the difference that being in the hall for rehearsals can make – for better and for worse: you learn a lot from seeing everything, but you also can get wrapped up in the bubble and see things that aren’t really there. I want to see if I have learned anything from being away for so long. And mostly, I want to allow myself to really experience it, in the way I want to and not the way I feel I’m supposed to. If there’s one thing I’ve learned between the day I got off that bus in 1999 and sitting here on the airplane in 2019, it’s this: You never really know when you’ll get another opportunity to do something, so you might as well do it unapologetically your way. Dare I say it? Dare to dream.

Eurovision 2019 coverage is coming. Watch this space. And stock up on coffee and sandwiches. You’ll need them.

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The View from Tel Aviv: I’m coming home

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Meet the twelve finalists in SongHunt 2019!

We’re proud to introduce the twelve national finalists that have battled through the heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals for their big chance at SongHunt glory. Read, watch, listen, and vote for your favourite!

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 escgo! on Twitter

Our chatroom's favourites tonight were... Ana Soklič in Slovenia and Go-A in Ukraine. Are we getting mainstream in our old age?! 😯 #ema2020 #vidbir2020

Jakob Karlberg. Where Lake Malawi meets Lake Mälaren. #melfest
https://t.co/KA2UK1RQlt

Tone Damli 🇳🇴
KaYra 🇱🇹
Faith Kakembo 🇸🇪
Akuvi 🇳🇴
TOKIONINE 🇦🇲
Monika Marija 🇱🇹
Didrik & Emil 🇳🇴
Renate 🇪🇪
Kristin Husøy 🇳🇴
MEANDI 🇱🇹
Matti Matt 🇮🇸
Raylee 🇳🇴

What do these people have in common? They need YOUR votes in Heat 3 of SongHunt 2020! Vote now:

https://t.co/4lwhvBadG3

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