Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eurovision 2016: Semi-Final 2, Thursday 12th May 2016

It’s showtime!  Been warming up here by watching the pre-show show on SVT where Robin Bengtsson was singing “Save Your Kisses For Me”.  I really hope he returns to Melodifestivalen soon. 

We are only 20 seconds into the BBC4 coverage and I am already wishing the commentators – Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc – would shut it.

Måns and Petra are already probably ESC’s greatest presentation-duo ever, and a refreshing change from (a) many of the shouty duos who have characterised the contest from Istanbul 2004 onwards, and (b) the personality-free presentation trio of Vienna 2015.  

We start with a musical number, "That's Eurovision" written by Matheson Bayley and Edward af Sillen, in the same vein as "Swedish Smorgasbord".  It’s an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza, an ode to Eurovision with lyrics including “…and bankrupt the TV station” and ” fail to live up to Riverdance” culminating in pyros and high-kicking dancers.  This is my-rovision and his-rovision and her-ovision!  I hate this kind of thing in Melfest but it seems just perfect for this setting. 

8.08pm.  Mel calls it “the Eurovish” just as she did in the UK national final this year.  Please stop calling it that.  No-one I know calls it that, and I just wish she’d stop trying to make it a thing. 

LATVIA: “Heartbeat” – Justs.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: It’s a top quality, modern, contemporary entry performed well.
Result: Qualifier.  (Yesssss!!)

POLAND: “Color of Your Life” – Michal Szpak.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: Poland have a strong televoting fanbase and it's a solid performance.  
Result: Qualifier.

SWITZERLAND: “The Last of Our Kind” – Rykka.

No, Mel, Rykka won’t win this barefoot.  She won’t even qualify, never mind repeat the success of a certain other Canadian singer who represented Switzerland.  Rykka is yet another of this year’s Sia-wannabes.  What’s with the smoke and the grey hair?  She should be singing "this girl is on fire".

She is rocking back and forwards like a 'drinking duck' souvenir from one of our 1970s Blackpool holidays.   Everything about this is wrong.  She is an attractive girl made to look ridiculous in so many ways.  This is just a nothing song.

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason:  I can’t see it appealing to anyone.
Result: Non-qualifier.  

ISRAEL: “Made of Stars” – Hovi Star.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: He sings the life out of it.
Result: Qualifier.

BELARUS: “Help You Fly” – Ivan.

Over the past few months I’ve been in a very small minority of people who actually quite like Help You Fly, although I have questioned the sanity of a naked singer bringing live wolves on stage….and besides, what’s flying got to do with wolves? 

As it turned out the wolves were only holograms, whilst the naked Ivan hologram evaporates into a real (clothed) Ivan hologram.  And there is a drumming Ivan hologram, a guitar-playing Ivan hologram.  And what are those lines on his face for?  Vocally he has improved from the Belarus national final and he is more confident.  Is it wrong that I enjoy this song so much?  One of the few keepers for me but a non-qualifier.

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason:  It might just be too, um, weird for some people.
Result: Non-qualifier.

Anyway...just loved Måns tribute by turning up naked with a toy wolf.

Mel Giedroyc: “All my Christmases have come at once!”

Another BBC4 opt out for an interview with Douwe Bob and we are missing Eurovision Taxi, which presumably is based on that Carpool Karaoke thing which seems to be quite popular at the moment. 

SERBIA: “Goodbye (Shelter)” – Sanja Vucic ZAA.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: Quality will always win out.
Result: Qualifier.

IRELAND: “Sunlight” – Nicky Byrne.

Aah, lovely, lovely Nicky Byrne.  He’s been on Strictly Come Dancing and has announced the Irish jury votes over the past couple of years.  And he was a member of Westlife.  So when Ireland made that internal selection it certainly looked as if they were taking ESC seriously for once.

However…..bear in mind that Nicky never starred as a lead vocalist in Westlife, and there was very little pre-contest promotion so this song more or less disappeared in the fan ratings in the lead-up to the contest.  

I think this song is ok, but just ok....there is nothing spectacular to make it stand out although Nicky is very nice to look at (shallow alert!) however he has the wrong type of voice for this type of anthemic pop belter.  His vocals are just too light and inconsequential, just like the song.

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: The song and the performance = just not strong enough.
Result: Non-qualifier.

FYR MACEDONIA: “Dona” – Kaliopi.

Dona dona dona dona ….. I have a soft spot for Kaliopi because she’s nearer my age than most of the contestants.  She has a wonderful, bonkers personality and of course everyone should love her.  But is the song good enough?  Well, maybe about 5 or 6 years ago this type of song would have got a lot of ljubav from the voters.  Extra points from me for native language, but to be honest the song just isn’t appealing enough and does nothing for me. 

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: it’s a tough field and native-language entries aren’t faring so well now.  And the song’s just not good enough.  Kaliopi is better than her song.
Result: Non-qualifier. 

LITHUANIA: “I’ve Been Waiting For This Night” – Donny Montell. 

Prediction:  Qualifier.
Reason: Donny delivers a confident and energetic performance, and he already has ESC experience and name-recognition among the fanbase. 
Result: Qualifier.

AUSTRALIA: “Sound of Silence” – Dami Im.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: They're only in their 2nd ESC year but already Australia are taking it seriously and raising the bar even higher.  Terrific vocal performance by Dami.
Result: Qualifier.

SLOVENIA “Blue and Red” – ManuElla.

Manuella Brechko co-wrote her song.  She channels Taylor Swift but this song for me is more reminscent of Kelly Clarkson’s “Heartbeat Song”.  She’s in a different outfit from the one she wore at the national final.  This song is pleasant enough but it lacks magic and my attention quickly wanders. 

There is also a topless male acrobat doing his thing – more unnecessary padding.  Pyros won’t save this one either.

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: It’s just too bland and forgettable. 
Result: Non-qualifier.  

BULGARIA: “If Love Was A Crime” – Poli Genova.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: A catchy song sung by a very likeable and charismatic singer.  She clearly understands the importance of building a connection with the viewers/voters.
Result: Qualifier.

DENMARK: “Soldiers of Love” – Lighthouse X.

Since this beat off both Anja Nissen and Simone’s more fancied songs in the DMGP to represent Denmark this year, this song has been one of the most-criticised entries within large sections of the fan community.  So Lighthouse X haven't gone into the contest with too much support, although I don't really think they, or the song, deserve that high level of criticism.  

They’ve borrowed Kate Ryan’s mike stands, which doesn't bode well for qualification either.  The vocals on the chorus are much-improved since DMGP, but this song is crying out for a key change. Something else I've noticed is that for a boyband (well, man-band) they spend quite a lot of time apart, and the camera work is too distant and doesn't really allow that connection with the viewers.  

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: It's just not strong enough and lacking that certain something to propel it to the final. 
Result: Non-qualifier. 

Break time.  Petra’s changed into another dress.  A little stop off in the green room and now…Ukraine.

UKRAINE: “1944” – Jamala

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: It may not be much of a song, but the emotion and intensity of her performance totally sells it. 
Result: Qualifier. 

NORWAY: “Icebreaker” – Agnete.

I was not too keen on this song prior to the contest, purely for the reason that the two-songs-in-one concept was far too jarring, even on repeated listening, so how would first-time listeners react? 

However, after reading about Agnete’s struggles with her mental health – an area very close to home – I was definitely in her corner.  She cancelled many of the pre-contest commitments to focus on her health and that was a very wise decision. 

Agnete is wearing the same outfit from MGP but the box has been replaced by a dancer on a shallow platform.  But I still struggle with this song.  They should have kept it either as a dance banger or a big ballad.

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: For I just can’t see first-time listeners ‘getting’ this song.  The stop-start is just too jarring. 
Result: Non-qualifier. 

GEORGIA: “Midnight Gold” – Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz. 

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: It’s a refreshing, if migraine-inducing, break from the norm!
Result: Qualifier.

ALBANIA: “Fairytale” – Eneda Tarifa.

In recent years  Albania have suffered from a system where the song which won FiK is changed to English and diluted so much that any appealing aspects of that winning song are long gone by ESC time. 

I wanted Aslajdon Zaimaj’s energetic rock number "Merrmë që sot” to win FiK 54 last December, but that honour went to “Përrallë”. Eneda's Albanian-language original version at least had some drama in the style of a James Bond theme. By the time it reached ESC, all the drama had been sucked out of it, leaving us with a rather bland, nothing-song.  The gold staging is pleasant enough, Eneda sings well enough but she’s been styled like an Oscar statuette.  The end result is so boring and my mind wanders.  They missed a trick with the ‘oh-oh-ohs’: which should have been at the heart of the song and would have provided a memorable hookline. 

Prediction: Non-qualifier.
Reason: It lacks any distinguishing reason to vote for it.
Result: Non-qualifier.  

BELGIUM: “What’s The Pressure” – Laura Tesoro.

Prediction: Qualifier.
Reason: Lots of work has gone into this since the national final.  It's slick and energetic, and a very good draw will ensure qualification.  
Result:  Qualifier.  

Recaps time *votes for Latvia!*

During the interval period, unfortunately on BBC4 it’s cutaway time and this time there’s a little homage to that BBC4 favourite, The Bridge.  It turns out to be a pointless sketch involving Mel, Scott and Jon Ola, but my attention very quickly wanders.  Just like every other year, I am exasperated by the BBC opt-outs.  Why don’t they do that ITV2 kind of thing and have an “extra” show, either before or after the semi-finals, where they could show all the stupid sketches and let us get to see the show in full.  

By the way, it didn’t escape the international media’s attention that the BBC didn’t screen the acclaimed  "The Grey People” interval act in semi-final 1.  We don’t all want to see stupid skits and sketches which just devalue the contest.  The BBC coverage of the semi-finals always makes me cringe.  This is why I always count the days till the commentary-free DVD is released. 

Scott Mills interviews Barei – did he just call her “Barry”?  - and Sarah Dawn Finer, who is one of the very few redeeming features of the BBC coverage. 

The remaining members of the Big 5 are presented and brief performance clips shown.  Firstly Jamie-Lee for Germany.  As I said at the time she was chosen to represent Germany, most casual viewers will probably spend the duration of the song debating “what’s that on her head?” rather than listen to the song.  Which is a shame, as “Ghost” is actually a pretty decent song. 

I was late to the Francesca Michielin party but I have finally decided that she is fab.  And most of her song is sung in Italian so that is ok in my world, even if there is a segment in English.  And then we have Joe and Jake – despite being the BBC’s latest lambs to the slaughter, they have actually received some positive feedback over the rehearsals.  “You’re Not Alone” could best be described as One Direction meets Coldplay.  And it could be much, much worse. 

Results time – Mans introduces big boss Jon Ola Sand.  It will be a great relief to him that no-one has flashed any illegal flags tonight.  And now time for the qualifiers in random order…


Is this the first time I've ever got 10 out of 10 qualifiers correct in a semi-final?  I think it is.  And it makes up for that poor semi-final 1 prediction of 7 out of 10 :)

I'll be posting my review of the grand final in the coming week.

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