Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eurovision Song Contest Malmö 2013 - Semi-Final 1, Tuesday 14.05.2013

Can it really be four weeks since the Eurovision Song Contest final took place?  Well...yes.  So I'd better get a move on and finally publish my reviews or it'll be 2014 season before we know it :))

Of course, Eurovision week was even busier than usual this year.   On the one hand, I was at home  and was able to watch both semi-finals live as well as the final.  But I would also be going on holiday just four hours after the credits rolled on the final, so you'll understand just how busy that week was!

Anyway, on with the review..

After all the waiting, the anticipation and speculation, it’s finally here.  But for me, Eurovision week this year is different from the usual.  On the one hand, I’m at home and actually getting to see the semi-finals as well as the final.  But on the other hand, a holiday is looming.  More about that later.  But in the meantime, here’s something new.  A new EBU logo, to be precise.  We didn’t see that one coming.  I decide very quickly that I don’t like this new Eurovision logo.  This on the other hand, is more my thing. 

The evening kicks off with a blast of the Euphoria-horn, and a musical journey across Europe, with some interesting interpretations of last year’s winner, and the reason that the song contest has come back to its spiritual home.  To go back to my 2012 post, I said that Sweden “gets” Eurovision in a way that, say, Azerbaijan never could.  Oh look! It’s The Bridge.  Unfortunately I can’t look at that bridge without thinking of corpses.  You know you watch too much Scandi-crime when…
As ever, I am sitting at home and have managed to persuade my mum to watch the semi-finals this year.  I try (and fail miserably) to explain the complex voting process to her. 

Unfortunately we are subjected to the BBC3 coverage, with commentary by Scott Mills and Ana Matronic, yes the very one from the Scissor Sisters, and she is actually very good on her debut.  So why do I say ‘unfortunately’?  I’ll tell you later.

But there is a song contest to be going on with here, and it all kicks off with the same version of “Euphoria” that featured in the Melodifestivalen final, with Loreen, the singing kids and the sign language.  It’s an effective opening paving the way for this year’s host Petra Mede to present the show in a striking mermaid dress. 

“I’ll host the Eurovision Song Contest alone” she declares.  She is professional although rather stilted and old school.  Still, a refreshing change from the screeching “HELLO YOOORUPPPP!” duos/trios of the last decade.  The old technology is moving on, but viewers in the UK – don’t even think about using the voting app because, well, you can’t!

I like the postcards this year – they’re not the usual tourism commercials which we've come to associate with the contest in recent years, but go back to the old days where the postcards actually featured the performers, and this time, the performers are filmed doing stuff in their own countries. 

AUSTRIA: “Shine” – Natalia Kelly.
Natalia, previous winner of The Voice Austria, is dressed in a white top and jeans, and trying to sound like Rihanna in a kind of "shine-bright-like-a-diamond" style.

M: This sounds dated.  Shine shine shine, too repetitive.  Boring.
L: I don’t really have much to say about this.  It’s OK but nothing more than that.  I had it down as a qualifier previously but I'm not so sure now.

ESTONIA: “Et Uus Saaks Alguse” – Birgit.
A.K.A. the song that isn’t Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läaks eile Lätti. But this swaying old-school 90s ballad suddenly esems to have grown in stature since the national final.

L: They must have fantastic hair products in Estonia.  Their women all seem to have fabulous hair.  And she'll maybe get the pregnancy-sympathy vote.
M: This isn’t too bad actually.

L: The problem with this is that, like anything else not by Ott Lepland, is that it’s not Ott Lepland.  Mum doesn’t remember him but I tell her that she liked him. This one is in with a chance. 

SLOVENIA: “Straight Into Love” – Hannah.

Straight into dubstep and masked dancers.  The first of this year's entries which screams "oh a dance song won it last year so let's do a dance song this year".
M: Not another woman singer (groan).

L: Too many distractions on this one.  The wind machine’s working overtime already.  This might sound good in a club and could potentially have a post-ESC life on the old iPod but (not for the first time this year) it’s death by choreography, and her vocals miss the target much of the time.  By this time mum has made her exit and is unfortunately going to miss Croatia.

CROATIA: “Mizerija” – Klapa s Mora.
At long last, some men.  And unfortunately mum is not here to see the six men who make up the "klapa supergroup" deliver an excellent vocal performance.  Blue, red and purple lighting on this one.  I am loving the lighting and stage effects already.  I am also loving these traditional Croatian knight costumes.  This is maybe not the definition of an acceptable 2010s Eurovision song but quite frankly I don't care, and I won't hear a word against it. 

DENMARK: "Only Teardrops" - Emmelie de Forest. 

Mum returned, just in time for this year's 'chosen one'.

A massive cheer goes up from the opening penny-whistle notes onwards and it is very clear that this is the pre-contest favourite.  Emmelie's performance and the staging of the song hasn't changed so much from the finished article at DMGP but the lighting, pyro-curtain and the ticker-tape shower at the end of the song is either a masterstroke or an outrageously arrogant assumption that they have won the whole thing this year. 

M: It's nothing special, is it?

OK, so why do I hate the BBC coverage so much?  Well, they cut away to a totally rubbish VT and miss out on Petra's little 'we are one' sketch - "don't complain, it's even more expensive in Norway".

RUSSIA: "What If" - Dina Garipova.
Ana Matronic: “You know she’s not a relative (of the Kardashians) because she’s talented”
Dina has a very decent voice (as should befit a winner of The Voice of course) however she is landed with this mince.

M: I hate all this “together we can change the world s**t"
In the big finale, the backing singers throw lighted balls into the audience.  Which is rather appropriate as the song is indeed balls.  Everyone's waving their little lights in the air, but this is definitely no "Fly On The Wings of Love".

UKRAINE: "Gravity" - Zlata Ognevich.
Zlata is carried on to the stage by a giant.  It's a great gimmick, but it's all rather pointless as he places her on a tree stump which makes her the same height as him.  Hmph.  She is very beautiful although she is dressed in what looks like one of those all-in-one slimming garments only she has no flab to push anywhere. 

She does sing faultlessly, although it's all a bit of a non-song for me, and the hand-snake movements are just annoying.  On the plus side, Mike Rafferty should be very happy as he has finally had a song written about him.

M: These songs are all merging into each other.
L: I don't like this song.  It feels as if it goes on for hours.

NETHERLANDS: "Birds" - Anouk.

Now this is more like it.  Mum is getting exasperated as another female singer takes the stage but I explain that this is more special than most.  Although it has to be said, she's not vocally as strong as expected and I'm guessing that she's holding back until Saturday.  That's if she overcomes the traditionally impossible hurdle of "the Netherlands qualifying" of course.

MONTENEGRO: "Igranka" - Who See feat Nina Zizic.

The UK singles chart is full of dubstep and "grime", both genres which I loathe with a passion.  But the rules at Eurovision are different of course and I'm going to let these hated genres through in this instance.  Kudos to Montenegro for at least trying something different and 21st century.  Two rapping spacemen and Nina, with impressive vocals, doing the singing bits.

M: Are they spacemen or pest control?
L: Ghostbusters maybe.  Or there are plenty of pests to exterminate, maybe.
M: Their rapping stuff doesn't go with what she's singing.
L: Well that's the kind of thing that's around at the moment.  But I can see this doing the rounds of the ESC clip shows over the next few years.

LITHUANIA:  "Something" - Andrius Pojavis.

M: Ooh, Lithuania. Is this any good?
L: It's a kind of Killers-ish thing.
M: Hurry up - what's been on your mind?
L: It's because of his shoes he's wearing today, apparently.
M: This is not bad.  He's quite nice.
L: He's had a wee makeover since the national final. (I then go on to explain to mum about the whole top hat thing).

BELARUS: "Solayoh" - Alyona Lanskaya.

Mum is taken aback by the similarity between this song and at least about 300 other songs which have ever been in Eurovision.

L: I like her fake tan and her fringey dress.  Not really much else to say.

MOLDOVA: "O Mie" - Aliona Moon.

Hi Pasha! He's at the piano and we don't see much of him.  Instead the focus is on Aliona with that dress and the best visual effects of the night, even if they're a repeat of Sabina Babayeva last year.  She's spot on vocally too, although it's all about the dress and her ascent into the air. 

M: The effects are better than the song.
L: This is an absolute qualifier.  But I miss the bonkers Moldova entries, I have to admit. 

IRELAND: "Only Love Survives" - Ryan Dolan. 

What do you get when you mix David Guetta-style rhythms, bodhrans and topless men? 

M: We've got to support Ireland!  I like the topless dancers. He's rather nice too.
L: Yes I like this very much.  Although as in the national final, the backing singers are totally lame.

At this point Ana Matronic interviews Loreen.  No offence to either of them but I later discover that we are missing a nice little VT by Aussie TV Julia Zemiro about the importance of the contest in Australia.  I think it would have been more worthwhile broadcasting this clip as it may have given an insight to many casual fans in the UK about something they may not have been aware of.

CYPRUS: "An Me Thimase" - Despina Olympiou. 

We like her lace dress, but that's all.

M: This is probably the most boring song of the night and that's saying something.
L: It doesn't really do anything for me. 

I miss most of this song as I'm off making a quick supper.  But I get back just in time for ...

BELGIUM: "Love Kills" - Roberto Bellarosa.

The studio version of this has been one of my pre-contest favourites, but I still have my doubts about whether he can carry it off.  I'm very happy and relieved to be wrong.

M: He's got a very good voice,  I like this.
L: Yes he's cracked it.  I am so glad.  Pity about the rubbish choreography.

But rubbish choreography is the least of the worries for this evening's final contestants.

SERBIA: "Ljubav je Svuda" - Moje 3.

Ana Matronic – “If Hello Kitty styled Destiny’s Child”.

I like these three girls a lot and in studio version, this is one of my favourite songs of this year's ESC.  However, they must really have offended someone in the costume department.  I wasn't keen on the angel/devil outfits from the national final, but they at least made some sense with the story of the song.  I take it all back.  These outfits, which completely killed any chance the song had of qualifying, later made them the runaway winners of the Barbara Dex award. 

M: (speechless).

So that's it.  16 songs fighting for 10 places.  After a bit of Lynda Woodruff and more annoying BBC waffle, it's results time.  Going through to the final are...

Moldova!  #itsthedresswotwonit
Lithuania! #becauseoftheseshoesheswearingtoday
Ireland! #yay
Estonia! #hairproducts #babybump
Belarus! #faketan #fringes
Denmark! #quellesurprise
Russia! #quelle surprise #balls
Belgium! #yay
Ukraine! #jollygreengiant

One place left and all you can hear is the crowd chanting for the Netherlands.  They're going to be very angry if Anouk doesn't go through.  They won't be the only ones. 

The final, umm, finalist announced is....

Netherlands! #tweettweet

Relief all round.  Not too many surprises although a few annoyed people in internet land complaining about Lithuania qualifying at the expense of Montenegro.  Perhaps the most significant aspect of the semi-final 1 voting was the failure of all the Balkan countries to qualify.  There goes that Balkan bloc voting conspiracy theory! 

Here's how the songs placed in the semi-final:

1. Denmark
2. Russia
3. Ukraine
4. Moldova
5. Belgium
6. Netherlands
7. Belarus
8. Ireland
9. Lithuania
10. Estonia
11. Serbia
12. Montenegro
13. Croatia
14. Austria
15. Cyprus
16. Slovenia

Semi-final 2 review to follow shortly, probably next weekend. Or maybe later. 

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