Tuesday 7 May 2013

Aliona rices up

In a press release following her first rehearsal today, Aliona Moon had this to say:

"I was not afraid when I rice up! I suspected that during this rising it would be hard to concentrate, because you feel uncomfortable or afraid, but to my surprise I rice up very smoothly and I really liked this feeling!"

Also, Pasha is apparently having controversial thoughts. We have controversial thoughts everyday, many of them about Pasha.

Hi Pasha.

Semi 1 - what we think

After two days trapped in a darkened room, being subjected to repetition after repetition of the 16 songs from the first semi, you'd think we'd have a pretty good idea of what's qualifying, wouldn't you?


The four of us currently present in the ESC Nation team put our heads together this evening, and each nominated our ten qualifiers. Here's how many 'yes'es each song got, and of course 4 is the highest score.

Austria - 0
Estonia - 2
Slovenia - 0
Croatia - 3
Denmark - 4
Russia - 4
Ukraine - 4
Netherlands - 4
Montenegro - 2
Lithuania - 0
Belarus - 3
Moldova - 4
Ireland - 4
Cyprus - 0
Belgium - 2
Serbia - 4

Which means we think it's Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, Netherlands, Moldova, Ireland and Serbia who are the most likely to go through. Austria, Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus are pretty much doomed, which leaves the others to fight over the remaining three final places.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Are we missing something with Cyprus? Are we overrating Denmark? Post your 10 qualifiers in the comments below.

Tuesday afternoon rehearsals

Hello all! Ham, brie and sun-dried tomato sandwich duly demolished (the menu called them "half-dried tomatoes", but that can't possibly be right), so it must be time for me to take over from the Fishy one and deliver you some rolling commentary on the remaining songs in semi-final 1 as the performers take the stage for their first rehearsals. And we begin with...

The drummers/dancers are shirtless. (This might be a relevant point for some, so I thought I'd prioritise it.) Anyway, our esteemed MBer Ron rightly points out that a good rehearsal blogger needs to put their inherent prejudices to one side when judging these things, so in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll point out that I find the structure of the Irish entry fundamentally confusing and I don't like Ryan Dolan's face.

So what about what Ireland are delivering in this first session? Well, the feed to the press area is currently intermittent - we still haven't actually seen the start of the song yet - but the rest is kind of as expected. Ryan's dressed in shiny leather, the bodhrans and kettle-ish drums are all present and correct, Ryan does his pointing to the left and right thing as previously (though he's standing on the floor rather than a podium - disappointing news for fans of podiums everywhere). He's in decent enough voice here, a few missed notes, but obviously that's only indicative at this stage anyway. The only real issue I have is with the female backing vocals - they're not particularly on-key, their tone is unappealingly squeaky and they're rather too prominent in the mix at the minute.

Ahh, we've seen the start now. Half-nekkid bodhran boys doing their stuff at the end of the catwalk before the camera whisks past them and zooms in on our leather-clad oompa loompa hero. Makes sense. OK then - I'm officially declaring this a successful enough first rehearsal for those who thought the song, singer and staging were successful enough in the first place.

This always promised to be one of the harder rehearsals to blog because - guess what? - she stands there and sings the song for three minutes. And yet! There are some additional production touches to talk about: several nice split-screen effects, gentle and elegant camera crane sweeps and (and!) a wind machine that kicks in forcefully at the key change. Hurrah!

The key change is problematic in other ways, though: so far, she's struggled with the last minute of the song every time, with her voice consistently cracking on several notes - something you notice all the more because, without backing singers, she's so exposed against the backing track. Of course, this comes with the usual first rehearsal/"Eurovision week cold" provisos, but still - something to watch out for next time round.

I could believe this might be her final outfit, too: the word is "elegant" again, a slightly see-through, slightly lacey evening number in chocolate brown.

Overall impressions, then? Honestly, it could qualify - being easily the simplest and most straightforward thing in this entire semi-final, it has the potential to cut through all the kitchen sink stuff the other countries are trying and really strike a chord. Alternatively, it could come across as a small song from a small country and sink without a trace.

If you don't mind, I won't blog this one...

Only kidding. But seriously, there is so little to say about this. There's more leather jacket action here (although Lithuania will precede Ireland in the draw, of course). There's also remarkably little eyebrow-wiggling so far (although there's still time for that). Otherwise, Andrius just stands at his mic stand and delivers the song straight-facedly to camera while four backing singers loiter in the background. The lighting is purple and... yep, that's about it, at least for now. I'll report back if any of the later run-throughs happen to feature pyros or women on trapezes or the like.

...haha! And there we go - Andrius is wearing a big fat pair of dark glasses on his third run-through. Maybe they're anticipating a Portugal 1997 result...


As some are keen to point out, we ESC bloggers are mere faux press. As such, there inevitably comes a moment when our writing skills are inadequate to convey what's happening in front of our eyes. This, dear readers, is one such moment. As soon as the cameras first caught sight of the Serbian girls' outfits, a collective gaspter (that's a mixture of "gasp" and "laughter") rang around the room, and with good cause. They're wearing... christ, what are they wearing? Pastel and candy-coloured outfits straight out of the children's toybox, one of them in yellow-and-white striped leggings, another sporting armour-like plastic shoulder pads... it's like something out of a doll's house, but the scary kind you get in horror films where the dolls have the power to kill you just by flickering their dead, empty eyes in your direction.

Oh, let's not beat around the bush: they look like idiots.

Vocally they're fine, routine-wise it's more or less the same thing as in the national final (the other two try to persuade Nevena that love is good/crap by dragging/pushing her around a bit), but really... there is no other focus right now than on those outfits. Did someone tell them the "angel and devil" image was likely to offend the more prudish sections of the televoting public or something? And if so, who decided the solution was an explosion in an Edinburgh rock factory? Gaah.

Their heels are quite funky though.

Sam and Sild's hotties list (1)

Since we're nearly at the end of the first rehearsals, we figured it was time to start compiling our first hotties list of 2013.

Reigning champion Pasha Parfeny is back in an attempt to hold on to the crown, but he faces stiff competition from some of today's dancers. Hi Pasha!

Ryan Dolan (no, no, he's not on the list) has three shirtless dancer-drummers behind him, in varying states of oiled-up-ness. We don't actually know who any of them are, and haven't yet learned to tell them apart, so they'll have to share a place for now.

(edit: we can now tell them apart! One of them is old and a little swarthy, and we have a favourite. #5. That's him on the right looking like a giant.)

Belarus pleased us this morning, bringing along two Serbian boys with big arms and making them wear tank tops. We approve. When they came along to the Euroclub later they had unfortunately been allowed to wear sleeves, which is a crime they hopefully won't repeat on stage. We were less impressed by their backing singer on stage, but we're allowed to change our mind, right? Especially when cute blond boys wear nice-fitting white t-shirts and smile at us.

We knew Moldova were bringing Pasha (who looks to be wearing The Pants today, by the way), but we hadn't reckoned with them bringing three other potential list-makers with them. They were very sweet, and even posed for a photo for us! And conveniently, they're even numbered. Our current favourite is #5 again.

Who are we missing? Who should we be looking out for tomorrow (other than Farid, of course)? And how am I going to get Danish flute-boy into the list without Sild seeing?

(*speaking of eurovision.tv, there's a potential list-maker among them too. But we won't tell which one - we'll leave them to discuss that among themselves!)

Tuesday morning rehearsals

Well, good morning! We are set for a new day of madness, and have been moved to a bigger cinema for viewing today. My shoes are off and I'm ready to go!

You've all read Sam, Yair and Martin's reports from yesterdays rehearsals, of course, and I don't think I have a lot to add to that, apart from BWAHAHAHAHA to Ukraine. And for one that have been doubting Denmark big parts of the season, it did seem to work very nicely yesterday. Should definitely do well, and the falling pyro and glittery confetti works wonders for it, but it's by no means a new Loreen.

Biggest improvement from my original impression of the entries yesterday was Estonia for me, which is odd, since it was just as expected... OH, and Montenegro is starting!

The two lads are wearing some sort of spacesuits that make them look like two Michelin men, whereas our diacriticed friend Nina Žižić is dressed like an electric bee (true story!). This is a big burp of fresh air, really, no matter what you think of it, and it looks pretty much as expected on stage, and fairly authentic. Stands out a mile, and positively too, but I'm still not convinced enough people will actually vote for it.

The background looks nice and flashy in yellow-ish green, so I'm sold, of course. I'm easy.

And the Michelin men now turned into proper astronauts for the second run-through! Emerging out of smoke at the start, looking surprisingly neat, actually. Just to underline how out of line with the rest these boys are!

Roberto starts off with an absolutley terrified and distant look in his eyes in the first shot, but then again, that's nothing new. Other than that it's looking quite nice, really! There's two female dancers showing up out of nowhere from behind, complete with Hold-on-be-strong-No-one-style hand moves and all, making it all look pretty dishy. Can they take over, as he clearly doesn't want to be there...?

Would it be very Terry Wogan of me to say that it's during songs like this you notice how nice the set is...? It truly is for this one - a cold and blue feel. Starts off with the condom lamps on stage, but they eventually disappear, and we have bits from the lyrics being projected in the back. I think the best bit it is during the DUBSTEP, though, when it turns into more generic patterns bouncing along to the beat.

All in all, I'm assuming the Belgians are pleased with this - they have every reason to be, at least.

Giant discoball UFO containing Alyona alert!!

It opens, and there she is! The concept sounds ridiculous, but it doesn't actually look as kitchen sink-y as it might sound in the end, with the discoball working as a background prop all the way through. Colours are in silvery and orange, which looks very good, and the choreography is pretty much the same as their video - WE HAVE INWARD CHA CHA CLAP! #win

So based on the first run-through, the performance looks good (or the idea of it) and she sings well, but other than that, it gave a rather empty and undone feel, and they're lucky there's still lots of time... Most of all, they look a bit confused and unfocused, and Alyona downright terrified at times. But then again, who cares when both her dancers are dishy.

Second run-through, and we have smiles! And the whole thing generally looking quite a bit better already. I'm wriggling my toes as we speak, unsurprisingly.

Smoke and pyro added to the beginning in last run-through, both to a pretty good effect, I thought, as was the fire throughout. CHA CHA HEY

It seems I missed the first nibble of Pasha and Lady Tottington due to needing a wee... Ooops. All set for the next try!

And here we go... And she's back on Romanian, it seems, unlike the mix on the first run-through. Pasha is joined on his piano stool by three dancer boys in the first shot, doing some weird wave. Odd, but sweet too, somehow. They are still doing their great Yaz bitti-moves behind her and... OH, she's going up-up-up-up! Her massive dress is clearly hiding a Sarah Dawn Finer styled lift, and raising for the big finish, which she sings rather flawlessly. This should be sailing through if this is anything to go by, my neckhair went up! Which reminds me, I should book that haircut...


ESC2013 infiltrates New York

While my dear colleagues slave away watching and reporting the rehearsals in Malmö, yours truly has decided to travel in opposite direction, only to discover that even in New York City, the 2013 edition of the ESC is all but inescapable.
Like tiny nuggets, if you know where to look, these clues appear at the weirdest places, but unmistakably, they ARE referring to the big event in Sweden. Proof is added below.

And it is indeed Sweden that is proudly advertising its colours all over town. The Konditori thinks the best brand to have is simply the Swedish flag. And right they are!

The first solid clue is this: The spiritual home away from home of the Swiss entry. If you'd walk in, you'd probably even find the uniforms.

Yes, that's right. Only Love Survives, even at the Bethesda Terrace fountain in Central Park, also famous from the movie When Harry Met Sally. But this couple clearly only had Ryan Dolan on their minds. 

Finally, tucked away at the back of the second floor of a large Barnes And Noble bookstore, you find an entire section named in honour of this year's Dutch entry. The management probably wanted to feature this more prominently, but the Mothers Day hallmark cards had to be sold by the weekend. The stand will likely get a better spot at the start of next week. Probably. Ish.

There are quite possibly even more examples of Eurovision 2013 invading the streets and stores of New York, but maybe you should show us, where you have spotted any references to this year's ESC edition! Send us your pics and we'll feature the best ones in one of our next articles. So start searching and snapping!