Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The eight non-qualifiers - why did they fail?

So last night we once again saw ten lucky countries advance to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. As usual in a Eurovision semi final, the outcome consisted of a mix off expected and unexpected results. And as much as all ten finalists very much deserved to make it, plenty of people were hoping that other entries would be among that top 10 as well. Some might say that some songs deserved it even more than those who did make it, while other songs suffered the fate they deserved. I thought I'd take a look at the countries that didn't make it, and try to figure out why...

This is perhaps one of the biggest surprises among many fans, and hashtags such as #JusticeForJüri are currently being spread on twitter. Personally I had a hunch that this was coming. The song itself was possibly strong enough to be a qualifier, but Estonia royally messed up the performance. Or rather, they didn't mess it up as much as they simply made us bored. Why was Jüri completely alone on stage? Why did absolutely nothing happen? (Except a card trick which you'd miss if you'd blink). Sure, he's a charming and handsome guy. But while standing still completely alone on a stage made sense for a big ballad like the Czech Republic, it made no sense for Estonia. The big issue here was simply that their bad staging decisions lead to a performance that failed to entertain the viewers and failed to stay in their minds.

This was perhaps not really a surprise for anybody. But being the first time a Greek entry fails to qualify for the final, it may have still come as a small shock to some people.
In theory, the concept on it's own could have been enough to make Greece qualify. On a superficial level, the song had a lot in common with their 2011 entry (traditional ethnic music mixed with rap verses and a sung chorus) which won the semi final. But this year's entry lacked a strong melody and lacked cohesion. I suspect it might have done better with the televote than the jury vote. Performance-wise I think they did well with what they had, but I suspect the biggest reason for the failure was simply the song.

Just like Greece, I don't think the staging was the main issue here. Sure, it was a bit over the top with the thermal blanket capes and the camp outfits. And the song itself sounds like something that would normally have been strong enough to qualify. However, the backing track of the song does have a very bad production. It still sounds like a rather low-budget demo recording. There is really no excuse to send a production to Eurovision where the drumkit sounds as a badly sampled loop from 1971. And when compared to the surrounding entries which all had very full sounding high-quality music productions, the Bosnian song fell rather flat. This, combined with the fact that they came across as four solo acts rather than a group of performers, was probably enough to give Bosnia-Herzegovina their first ever non-qualificaton.

Sometimes it's hard to pin point just one reason. In most cases it's simply a combination of several issues. And in this case there wasn't really much that worked in Moldova's favour. The song wasn't the strongest to begin with, and Lidia sure wasn't the strongest singer of the night. The ad-lib she decided to do for the final chorus (and which unfortunately also became the section used for the recap) didn't do the song any favours, and the dancing astronaut came across as a silly gimmick. And once again, being (almost) alone on stage didn't help either. With so many elements working against it, the Moldovan song this year probably never stood much of a chance this year.

Another song that probably never really was among the songs that would find it easy to qualify. But in spite of the song and genre being a difficult choice for Eurovision, the camerawork didn't really help it either. The fast flashing clips resulted in a performance where the viewers would have had difficlt making any sort of connection with the singer. We barely even got to see their faces long enough to see what they looked like, and anybody watching this on a very large screen would probably be feeling quite sea sick. The random half naked woman surely didn't help either in terms of convincing the jury to give them points.

The only thing that I thought would maybe help this qualify was the fact that Sandhja is a hell of a fantastic singer. And she did deliver vocally, even if I would have liked to hear her vocal higher in the mix. But it simply wasn't enough to make up for the bad styling choices (her jewellery even started falling apart during the performance) and the slightly weak song. A totally different visual performance might have helped it, but most likely not.

San Marino
Let's face it. This probably wouldn't have had a chance regardless of the performance. And staging-wise they did the best they could. It had life, it had energy, and it had all sorts of silliness which is what makes many of us love the entry. But it was always going to suffer from both juries and televoters finding it too old fashioned and too gimmicky. San Marino were never really competing for a place in the final this year, but they did put on a really good and entertaining show that people will remember. And they should be proud of that.

And last but not least, possibly the biggest surprise in this semi. This one still baffles me a bit. The song is not bad at all, and it sure doesn't just blend in with the big mass of similar-sounding songs this year. Greta sang it well, and it had the draw really working in it's favour. Was it maybe the technical aspects of the performance that proved too messy? Was it the staging's similarities to previous entries? Was it the extremely ugly boots? I'm not sure. But I guess a combination of everything. And with more niched musical styles, there's always the risk that the people in the juries just happen to not be fans of that genre in the first. Every year there's always a few unlucky entries that in theory seemed like pretty safe qualifiers, and mostly it simply comes down to the fact that the jury and the televoters simply preferred ten other songs more. 

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