My personal thoughts on Semi 1…
Well, tonight’s the first Semifinal, and in a matter of hours, we’ll have nine acts cut from the rosters and thrown into the bin of Eurovision History. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the songs are bad, or that the performances have left anything to be desired, but some might either be edged out via political voting, jury vs. televoting choices, or even something as arbitrary as running order or costume. I had the chance to check out the first Dress Rehearsal yesterday afternoon (a few hours before the “Jury Final”, where the professionals give their verdict).
Here are my thoughts on what you might see tonight:
1) Poland: Magdalena Tul’s thankfully had her costume modified, so it no longer looks like she’s wearing a space-diaper. She sounds pretty strong, and the fact that she’s kicking the Semi off with a moderately high-energy number should bode well for her. She’s got a lot of choreography, but her voice doesn’t seem to suffer.
2) Norway: Stella Mwangi looks great and appears confident, and everyone agrees that the key-change from the National Final was a major help to this song. There’s nothing else quite like it in the competition this year, and I’d be surprised to see this fail to go through to the Final on Saturday.
3) Albania: People are calling Aurela Gaçe “scary”, but I see her performance and styling as a piece of performance art. She’s blending the lyrics of the song, the LED backdrop, the flag of her nation, and her own personal styling in a really interesting and well-thought-out way that can only be described as “aquiline”. (Look it up!) She’s rocking studs, talons, and some seriously epic eye makeup…her voice is stunning, and she knows how to work a stage. People in the hall yesterday seemed very impressed by the vocal quality for this entry, but the styling might put some people off.
4) Armenia: High-energy, cotton-candy fluff. Boom-Boom, Chaka-Chaka, enough said.
5) Turkey: Last year’s Maltese Birdman evidently has a cousin in Turkey, and she has the uncanny ability to sit on her own head! A good mainstream rock performance from the Turks, as per usual…should make it through to the Finals, I’d imagine.
6) Serbia: Nina’s still adorable! She’s rocking the Edie Sedgewick/Twiggy look, and the song is pure fun. Supposedly, the Serbs are worried about this one making it through, but I don’t think they should fret too much.
7) Russia: Whenever I hear this one and see its 50’s-inspired styling, all my friend Ewan Spence and I can do is imitate a bit of John Travolta “Greased Lightning” choreography. I’m still not a fan of this one, although if “Lost and Forgotten” could make it through to the Final last year, I’m sure Alexey will have no trouble. (That being said, I should mention that Alexey brought his corgi, Elvis, to the Welcome Reception a few nights back…he was better-behaved than some of the actual humans there!)
8) Switzerland: A lovely little song, simple presentation, but is it enough? The Swiss have been robbed over the past few years (Lovebugs? Paolo Meneguzzi? DJ Bobo, anyone?), and I hate to say it, but I predict a similar fate for this sweet little breezy number.
9) Georgia: RAWK!! I absolutely love this song (although I could do without Sopho’s Christmas tree-ish ensemble). The lead vocals are searing, and the rap actually blends in pretty successfully here. I’m not just giving the Georgians a glowing review because of the great party the delegation threw and the FANTASTIC swag bags they’ve been giving out (I’ve gotten magnets, notebooks, tea, wine, and a scarf so far, not to mention the actual CD single itself). If this song were Turkish, we’d have the Semi’s possible winner on our hands…but will people get Eldrine?
10) Finland: Everybody say “awwwww”…Paradise Oskar’s an undeniable cutie, and despite the fact that he’s still a bit of a new artist, he knows how to work a camera. He’s giving these long stares and grins into the camera…he’ll connect with the audience and make hearts melt. His vocals are spot-on, and the staging is simple. The backdrop on this one is also pretty impressive, with a dramatic view of the Earth rising. I’d be shocked to see this fall at this point.
11) Malta: Glen Vella has been a fixture here at the Euroclub for the past week and a half, and I’ve never witnessed him having less than full-on energy. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if that energy is enough to save “One Life”, especially considering how many other strong performances there are here.
12) San Marino: Senit is truly lovely, and the folks at the Sanmarinese Delegation have been my neighbors here at the Press Center. I’m just not sure if “Stand By” has enough “oomph” to make it through to the Final. People in the press center are divided on this one’s quality, with some saying that the song comes across well, and other half less enthusiastic. We’ll see…
13) Croatia: Daria’s brought a quick-change or two to the stage, but that’s really the only major appeal to “Celebrate”. Meh…
14) Iceland: I still love this one, and now that I’ve gotten to meet the guys a few times throughout this whole process, I’m head-over-heels for it. I have a worry that a lot of this entry’s televote chances hinge on what the commentators say about Sjónni Brink and his story, but if there’s any justice, this should make it through to the Final. For my sake, I hope so, because I’ll be sitting in the front row tonight, next to a number of Icelandic friends and family members!
15) Hungary: This one was a bit of a train-wreck during the first rehearsals, but it looks like it’s been cleaned up quite a bit, and I’m a bit more satisfied with the result. Many people are still invoking the blessed name of Kate Ryan, however, so who knows what will happen?
16) Portugal: Some of my friends at the ESCInsight Podcast made an interesting point today. For Homens Da Luta to really get their message across, they should have taken advantage of the smaller satellite stage, to get them closer to the fans. For now, the staging is still pretty basic and static, but it’s definitely fun. It could be a shock qualifier…
17) Lithuania: Evelina Sasenko’s voice is beautiful, but the song is just…blaahhhh. What I will give this song credit for, however, is Evelina’s dress, which makes her upper half look absolutely prodigious!
18) Azerbaijan: Yeah, there’s a fair amount of “sketch” in this one…Eldar and Nigar still look a bit awkward together, and the nine-year age difference between the two comes through. But it’s Azerbaijan, so it should probably go through.
19) Greece: When this song was picked by the Greeks months ago, many had doubts about its success. However, as the staging has coalesced into a cohesive unit, and the whole thing is being presented, you can really see how effectively the whole package has come together. The entire performance is wall-to-wall eye candy (I’ve had the pleasure to hang out with the delegation a number of times, and…yes…::sigh::), and Greece, being Greece, should qualify.
The postcards are quite sweet, with citizens from each of the participating countries hanging out in various parts of Germany, ending with the words “Feel Your Heart Beat” either spoken or written in their national language.
I can’t wait to see the final product (or, technically, the semi-final product!), and see how my favorites do tonight! I’ll catch you all on the other side of the Semi! 😉