Sunday, June 29, 2014

Eurovision Song Contest 2014: Semi-Final 2, Thursday 8th May 2014

Time for the second semi-final then.  Things are slightly different tonight from Tuesday.  My Eurovision experience will be fuelled by Pinot Noir rather than Irn Bru, as I've got a day off work tomorrow.  (Last year I also took Eurovision Eve off work as I was packing for my holiday, but I had so much fun catching up with all the blogs, podcasts and radio shows that I thought it would be a good idea to do the same this year).  But I digress.  Once again mum and I are watching BBC Three's coverage, and I've got the official coverage going on the laptop just to see what the BBC's replacing with its inane 'inserts'.  The show begins with a 'previously on Eurovision' X Factor-style recap. Hosts Scott Mills and Laura Whitmore read out the names of the qualifying countries from Tuesday, which kind of reminds me of the opening of Eurovision 2000 when all the country names were read out.  But there the similarity ends.

The show opens with a dance number entitled "Building The Stage".  Is this some act from Denmark's Got Talent?  There's a Lady Gaga lookalike and a guy playing the fiddle.  Get out the way mate - there is only one violinist worth mentioning tonight, and he will be appearing later in the show :))

Mum: Do you get money for winning this contest?
Laura: Nope, don't think so.  Just a nice trophy and you get to be a lifetime legend in Eurovision circles.

Once again the three hosts Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj take the stage, but I'm not to hear a word they say all night.  (Not only are the BBC Three presenters yakking on about "yes you can vote in this semi-final tonight" but don't even think about voting by text/mobile app, yada yada yada....but my mum also talks over almost everything tonight, so I can't comment on the commentary or hosts as I don't hear a thing).  I can't wait to buy the official commentary-free DVD :))

Let's do some songs!!

MALTA: "Coming Home" - Firelight.

This is one of my favourite songs this year.  And oh my - that Richard has got better looking over the last couple of months, hasn't he! The band perform the song well, although it lacks that 'spark' which they are hopefully saving for the final.  I have no doubt this is qualifying though. They are so likeable you just want them to succeed.

M: This is pleasant. 
L: I hope it makes the final.

ISRAEL: "Same Heart" - Mei Finegold.

This has been a massive fave in fan circles - this year's 'fanw**k' if you like - but I have never understood the love for it.  It's also in the draw of death, as Aarzemnieki would tell you.  It doesn't seem to be a good year for the 'fierce females' - Cristina from Moldova's out, and Emma Marrone hasn't impressed in her rehearsals.  Mei is fierce, she struts, and at one point it sounds as if she's singing "I touch your d**k". 

L: This is only a borderline qualifier for me as it's a tough night.
M:  I don't like this at all.  Too much shouting.  And these dazzling lights are annoying me. 

*Edit*: on the night I didn't get to see/hear the full song/performance but rewatching, it has definitely gone up in my estimations.  But which other qualifier would it have replaced?

NORWAY: "Silent Storm" - Carl Espen.

I tell mum this is one of my biggest favourites this year.  She immediately remembers seeing him before.

L: You saw him in the Norwegian final.  And you liked this song then.
M: He has a really good voice. Very distinctive.  I like this.

It's a nervous beginning but that soon passes, and the cheers ring out from the crowd. Carl has been styled away from heavy-metal-club-bouncer to a more appealing, smarter suit jacket.  This song is exquisite.  I'm just hoping that its chances are not harmed by the early draw.

GEORGIA: "Three Minutes to Earth" - The Shin and Mariko.
Postcard: Douze points from me for their postcard, as they make the Georgian flag out of glasses of red wine.

Which, coincidentally is around the time that the bottle of Pinot Noir is opened, therefore I declare it my favourite postcard so far.  I thought Three Minutes to Earth was going to be my scheduled toilet break, but I stick around for what turns out to be one of the most entertaining parts of the evening.  There's a lot of yodelling.  There's a guy with a parachute. Sorry fans of 70s prog, but there's no place in the modern day Eurovision Song Contest for this type of thing.

POLAND: "My Slowianie - We Are Slavic" - Donatan and Cleo.

On to what is arguably the most risque of this year's performances.  There's no sign of Donatan, who's given up his spot to allow an extra dancer on stage.  Cleo is accompanied by dancers shaking what their mama gave them, and, um, 'decorative' ladies indulging in washing and churning butter.  I'm not sure if viewers will get the song's message (apparently there is one) and will just go straight for the 'saucy' angle.  Faithful travelling companion hasn't seen this yet, but he is going to like this.

M: This takes me back to the old Eurovision days.
L: I can't remember anything like this back then!
M: No, I mean the costumes and the silly stuff.
L: Diaspora vote will absolutely get this one to the final. 

There's a break now, which means another BBC3 VT, this time of Molly's week.  Following which, it is Conchita time.

AUSTRIA: "Rise Like A Phoenix" - Conchita Wurst.

This is very cleverly staged, as the camera slowly fades into the big reveal.  Conchita is wearing a fabulous gold dress.  She looks great and her vocal performance on this is phenomenal.  Although my mum is initially a bit confused about Conchita's identity. 

M: Is that a man or a woman or what?
L: It's a man, playing a female character, with the added bonus of a beard.
M: Tell you something, he/she's got a great voice.
L: I think that's what people forget - they're too busy focusing on 'the look' but she's got the voice to match.

There are massive cheers from the audience all through the song.  This is a potential winner, although there remains massive question marks over whether certain countries/juries will accept Conchita for who she is. 

LITHUANIA: "Attention" - Vilija.

The postcard, a Lithuanian flag made out of brollies, is better than the song. It's all very 'contemporary' and dubsteppy, and Vilija is dressed in a futuristic tutu.

I just realise tonight that the biggest problem with this song, apart from the tune (or lack of) is that for some reason, it makes me think of Jessie J.  Which in my world is not a good thing.  As with neighbouring Estonia, the Lithuanian entry boasts its featured backing dancer, shaking what his mama gave him.

M: This 'song' feels as if it's been on for about three months.  And what is the point of that guy dancing?  This is rubbish.  There's a bit which reminds me of something...
L: "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas?
M: That's it!
L: They've qualified a lot over the past few years, but I wouldn't want this to qualify at the expense of a more deserving song.  This is completely missing any redeeming factors.

FINLAND: "Something Better" - Softengine.

Their postcard may be made of ice, but their performance sets the contest on fire!  There's been a lot of talk during the last couple of weeks about this young band's lack of experience and how this might be exposed when they take to the stage.  That didn't happen.  They cracked it!!  Something Better is a well-staged uptempo pop/rock number.

M: Put my tick next to their name. I really like this. There are not enough bands in this anymore, too many solo singers.
L: This is a triumph for them.  I'm really impressed and hope they qualify.  Very clever lighting and staging here too.  This is certainly 'something better' than I expected.

IRELAND: "Heartbeat" - Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith.

This year's Irish Eurosong final put the "ire" into Ireland as it is best remembered for the FIIIIIIIGHT! involving Linda Martin.  We all remember that more than this forgettable nothing of a song.  Now Kasey is a pretty girl but they've dressed her as a ridiculous warrior princess.  The backing singers are woeful, and look!  There's some Irish dancing going on.

M: I hope those guys have something on underneath those kilts.
L: The fact that we are spending most of this song talking about that, says everything about this song. This is going home. 

BELARUS: "Cheesecake" - Teo.

What was once a slice of Robin Thicke-style sleazecake is now reinvented as a more appealing boyband-style number.

M: Who's Robin Thicke?
L:  Oh never mind.
M: This is entertaining.  I quite like this.  That little dance is funny. 
L: I really want this to make the final, it's grown on me so much.  I sent him a good luck message on Twitter and he replied to me, which was lovely, so I want this to do well. 

FYR MACEDONIA: "To The Sky" - Tijana.

I forgot to mention in my semi-final 1 review that Tijana was interviewed by Scott Mills and Dr Eurovision on BBC3 on Tuesday night and she was an absolute scream, totally bonkers.  Sadly though, for someone with such a great personality, the staging of this song is a bit too sedate - the trouser suit does her no favours, and where's her trademark glasses? 

L: They could have done without the dancer in the hoodie.  Pulls the song right down.
M: I don't like this at all.
L: I disagree - I quite like this song now, and I like her, but they haven't given the staging and presentation the 'oomph' which it needs to make the final.
M: Nothing has really stood out for me tonight.
L: I disagree (again!) - this is the best of the two semi-finals and you will love what is coming next!!

 SWITZERLAND: "Hunter of Stars" - Sebalter.

The moment I've been waiting for.  I tell mum that for the next three minutes there will be no talking.  There will only be drooling.  Ohhhhh yessssssss.

Unfortunately something comes up and mum misses Sebalter, which is really bad timing :(

I love the staging of this.  There is even a pyro curtain.  He is hyperactive and beautiful.  Who cares if some of the lyrics still sound like gibberish, because I really like this song.  Sebalter is an incredibly charismatic performer who immediately makes a connection with the viewers.  "I fear your judgement" he sings.  Hopefully there will be no fear and that judgement will be a place in the final. 

He does that cute little run down the catwalk, he plays the violin solo, he bangs the drum, and the whole thing is so infectious that it's impossible not to love it.

Time for another break.  Twin Twin are being interviewed on BBC Three, and they're good fun.  Unfortunately I still find Laura Whitmore very irritating though. 

GREECE: "Rise Up" - Freaky Fortune featuring Riskykidd.

Whilst we're in the hotties section of the show, here are some more.  There are lots of cheers for this and it's one of my favourites.

M: The problem I have with this is that it's too repetitive.  Too much rising up going on. It sounds about 4 years out of date.
L: I'd disagree.  I think it's very 'current' and would fit right into the top 40.
M: No, I didn't really mean to say it was outdated, what I actually meant is that this type of music's been around for a while, so people are familiar with it and more likely to vote.  The recognition factor. 

SLOVENIA: "Round and Round" - Tinkara Kovac.

A.K.A. The one which is very reminiscent of Cheryl Cole's "Parachute".  Only with added flautism.

M: Oh no, not a flute :(((  And the lighting is a bit overdone again.  I don't like all these dazzling lights this year - was it always like this?
L: Over the last few years, yes.
M: This song is not good enough to make the final. 
L: It's OK, but that's all.  I always want Slovenia to send something great for a change, as they've always been underwhelming.

ROMANIA: "Miracle" - Paula Seling and Ovi.

I decide to take a back seat here and ask mum to rate the song, as I'd be grateful for an independent ear to try and make sense of this.  

M: Firstly, I don't like the stage set.  It's not the worst song I've heard, but it doesn't really go anywhere.  And that wee guy annoys me.
L: Actually I like Ovi, but I don't like this song.

I explain to mum that P and O did ESC 4 years ago with a much, much better song.  However, everything about this is just wrong for me - the stupid hologram, the round piano, the hug, the biiiiiiiig note...this is qualifying but would not be a worthy winner. 

After hearing all the songs, here's what I predicted to make the final:

Lithuania (purely based on previous years)

Following another recap, the show takes a bizarre turn by saluting Australia!  Yes, the land down under has a renowned Eurovision fandom.  So they'd do anything to get into Eurovision.  Like move the country to Europe.  What follows is a cheerful, cheesy little song and dance number which includes every national stereotype you can think of about Australia. 

M: I like this little Australian song.
L: Just a pity that I can't make out the words of what they're singing.

This leads into a performance by Jessica Mauboy, one of Australia's most famous singers.  This has obviously been intended as a nice launch for her international career, however her vocal performance of "Sea of Flags", specially written for the contest, is a bit hit and miss to say the least.  No offence whatsoever to Australia, but I'd have preferred a Danish singer for the interval act, the way SVT showcased Darin and Agnes last year.  Rasmus Seebach would have been perfect, given his Eurovision ancestry.  Oh well :(

My mum, who is a migraine sufferer, is struggling with all the screens and the flashing images.  Guess that's just the modern-day Eurovision for ya.  Cue intensive discussion about Eurovision stage sets of old. Which were static, memorable, and unchallenging to migraine sufferers. 

Time for another recap.

M: Well, Georgia won't be holding it next year, that's for sure.
L: Poland = boobs.  That's all that people will remember - the boobs. 
L: Austria = the great lost Bond theme.
M: He/she is certainly different.  We won't see his like again.
M: I like the cheesecake guy.  And he replied to you on that Twitter, which is good manners. 
L: I'd substitute "FYROM" as the politically correct people call it, for Poland, or Lithuania, if either of them was to qualify.

So it's time for another interval act and it all kicks off with Megan from Ireland, and then before you know it we have a whole continent of dancers on stage.  It's all a bit "Europe's Got Talent" and yet again it's a bit of a missed opportunity.  It's very nice to see all ages dancing together on stage, culminating in the 86 year old dancer from DK.  Don't get me wrong, I like watching dancing, but for a song contest there's been a bit too much dancing tonight. 

Europe - stop voting now!!  Cue yet another pointless VT from BBC Three, this time with Scott and Laura talking about 'Eurovision Club'.  Oh goody, I thought they were maybe going to show us Euroclub.  But no.  Meanwhile Lise's in the Green Room, then it's another instalment of the Eurovision Book of Records,  which yet again we don't get to see.  We get Scott Mills interviewing Dr Eurovision and Katrina from Aarzemnieki. 

Lise's hanging out with Jon Ola Sand.  Do we have ett resultat?

Nope.  Or as it was once famously said: "I don't have it!"  The results announcement is delayed, we get a 3rd recap of the songs, and my mum goes into fully-fledged conspiracy theory mode.

M: Do you mean.....there is.....cheating going on????
L: Something is afoot.
M: I smell a rat.
L: I just hope all our favourites qualify.
M: Did I say that guy with the round piano annoys me?
L: Well I usually like Ovi but the piano, and the song, annoys me this year.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the names are revealed, as usual in random order.

Switzerland (I am hyperventilating!!!!!)
and finally....

Again, I'm very happy with my predictions: only one wrong tonight, and I'm glad as Lithuania didn't deserve to go through.  I can live with Slovenia in the final, and I am absolutely buzzing with delight that Switzerland and Norway have made it.  At the moment, I'd say it was the most wide open final in years, with no obvious favourite.  The winner could come from any one of four or five songs, and I wouldn't dare predict this result!!

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