Impressions from First Rehearsals: Semifinal Two
Days Three and Four in the Press Centre (or, at the very least, at the Euroclub, which served as our makeshift work space) brought us our first glimpses of the Second Semifinal. Ballads, ethnic touches, hints of rock, whiffs of theatricality…we’ve got it all! Here are my general thoughts on what May 16 will bring to the table:
- Latvia: Similar outfits and vibe as the National Final performance, with the iPads-on-stands being replaced by an iPad/Keytar hybrid. They make good usage of the second stage, although it was more than a bit awkward to hear them prompt an audience made up entirely of cardboard cutouts to sing along.
- San Marino: Valentina’s voice is as strong as ever, and she’s finally given a song that suits her. You know exactly where the costume change and wind machines come in with this one. It’s definitely a fan favorite, and it got a massive reaction in the Press Centre.
- Macedonia: Much like San Marino, this feels like two songs in one: Lozano’s r&b/pop ballad and Esma’s gypsy ululation. In the eyes of some, the contrast can appear distracting…but for others it’s a peek into an often-misunderstood cultural tradition.
- Azerbaijan: You just knew that Azerbaijan weren’t one to simply phone in their presentation. Farid sounds great (and his English has been polished a bit while still retaining a charming accent), and the dress on the featured female dancer is nothing short of modern art. But the showstopper is the male dancer in the lucite box on stage. Trust me on this. After watching this presentation, I felt a pang of anxiety about having to get my hands on another Azerbaijani visa…
- Finland: Peppy, frenetic, cheeky, hyperactive fun! Krista has been cavorting around the Press Center nearly constantly, wearing a cavalcade of wedding dresses. She’s working the PR circuit just as well as she’s working the camera.
- Malta: Sunny, sweet, and perfectly comfy. The backdrop is basically just a lyrics video of the entry, potentially turning this song into the world’s largest karaoke session. Gianluca looks like he’s having the time of his life up on stage; his smile is constant and genuine.
- Bulgaria: There were really few entries as divisive as “Samo Shampioni” among the people I spoke to. Some love the high energy of this percussive entry, and others simply find the song piercing or discomforting. The only major change from the Official Video/National Final performance is the replacement of the older bagpiper with a young breakdancer, who ends the show carrying a massive traditional mask meant to ward away evil spirits.
- Iceland: From bagpipes and drumming, we go to a sleepy fishing village and the gorgeous voice of Eyþór Ingi. It’s stirring and moving, even if you speak no Icelandic. (And this is one of those songs that if you find it boring, just put it on mute and you can still find it enjoyable, if you know what I mean.) Could it be this year’s “Kuula”?
- Greece: Bouncy, good-humored fun! I can’t wait to see this in a full hall, where they’ll be surrounded by bouncing ESC fans as they bound down to the satellite stage. This isn’t supposed to be a serious, straight-faced entry…Koza Mostra are having a ton of fun with this, and it’s more or less infectious!
- Israel: On the plus side, Moran’s voice is absolutely stunning. On the minus side, her outfit (which is nearly identical to her Kdam dress) is heartbreakingly distracting. It draws the attention away from her vocals and puts the focus firmly on her…erm…assets.
- Armenia: A perfectly straightforward middle-of-the-road rock ballad. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing truly groundbreaking, either. That being said, Gor’s voice is really quite beautiful (and even though his spoken English is minimal, there’s no major accent detected when he sings).
- Hungary: ByeAlex is completely chill and laid-back on stage, almost to the point of disconnection. He’s not really playing into the hype; he’s just out there, doing his thing. This went over huge in the Press Centre, much to my surprise, considering its supreme subtlety. This is either going to go big or go home.
- Norway: The same sleek, sexy, and dark performance that we saw at MGP (only with a wee bit more bedazzling) is on in full force here in Malmö. If you liked it then, you’ll like it now.
- Albania: As anybody who knows me ESC tastes knows, the entries that appeal to me the most are those with a sense of authenticity. Adrian and Bledar are authentic musicians, and genuine friends. They’re having a blast on stage, and seem to be putting everything out on the table. But will the Albanian-language ethno-rock song appeal to a wider audience?
- Georgia: Much like Bledar and Adrian before them, Sofie and Nodi have a natural comfort and chemistry on stage together. Voices are spot-on, the fire curtain falls on cue, and the wind machine is out in full force. There are no shocks here; blend “Quédate Conmigo” and “Running Scared”, and you’ve basically got the idea. This is a Eurovision Love Duet by the numbers…and it could just win it for Georgia.
- Switzerland: Completely straightforward and static; the six members of Takasa standing in a row and performing their song capably. No massive shocks or surprises, no major bells or whistles. With this one, what you see is what you get!
- Romania: I’m not even going to bother saying much of anything on this one. If you’re looking for over-the-top camp insanity, you’ve found your man in Cezar.