Saturday 14 May 2016

Some last minute thoughts and predictions

It's been two long weeks already, and yet they've passed by very quickly. Lots of time has been spent in the press centre watching rehearsals, especially the first week, and lots of time has been spent running around between different events. Via this blog, via Twitter and via Instagram reports, photos and a little bit of everything has been shared with you guys. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have! Even though I have to admit I have felt rather drained of energy now towards the end of the Eurovision period.

Now as the final approaches, we shall soon find out who won. We'll also know the full result both of the final as well as the semifinals. As I said long ago, I wouldn't be attempting to do a lot of predictions this year. Because I'm always terrible at making predictions. But right now I'm gonna attempt to make a few anyway. Even if only for the sake of your entertainment, and then you can all laugh at me when it all turns out to be completely wrong.

So, here we go...

* The contest will be won by either Australia or Russia.

* Armenia and Ukraine will be top 5. Possibly joined by Sweden.

* Germany will be the worst-placed song of the Big 5.

* France will not win, but still do better than a lot of people think. I would guess mid top 10.

* Malta will do a lot better with jury votes than with tele votes. So will the Netherlands. But both for completely different reasons.

* The interval act will take even more time than scheduled.

* Belgium was top 3 in it's semifinal, but will only make top 10 in the final.

* Bosnia was 11th in it's semifinal. Iceland was 13th.

* Sweden will give it's jury 12 to Australia.

* At least half of the juries giving their 12 to Russia will mention Sergey by name while doing so. Very likely accompanied by words like "Talented", "You deserve it" and "You are our only one".

That's all :-) Enjoy the show, wherever you are watching it!

Final prediction

Okay, it's time. Time to put my money where my mouth is (well, not really, I'll be hopping over to Betfair to do that in a bit). But here goes, here's my final prediction for the results of this year's contest.

And the winner is...

1. Australia - I have to admit that I wasn't fully convinced by this on Thursday, but everyone else seems to be, it seems to selling well across Europe and it's both jury and televote-bait. So I'm putting this on top.
2. Sweden - I've had them on top for much of the season, and maybe it's the bloggers talking me out of it, but I'm knocking it down to second now.
3. Russia - I never really saw this as a winner, and Tuesday's performance only confirmed my feelings.
4. Latvia - I would love love love this to win. Pretty please?
5. Ukraine
6. Armenia
7. Serbia
8. Italy
9. Azerbaijan - Samra seems to be singing just well enough when combined with her backing vocalists, and it looked fabulous on Tuesday.
10. Bulgaria - I'd originally had them in the Top 10 before rehearsals, then took them out after reports... And now when I made my ranking now, they just slipped in.

11. Netherlands - not doing as well as I'd expected, and the early draw hits this one hard
12. France
13. Israel
14. Austria - it's been lovely seeing some commenters who were quite vitriolic about how Zoe had no chance, what with singing in French and all, totally eating their words now - surprisingly enough, only after her good result in the semi, rather than after they'd seen the same performance in rehearsals.
15. Poland - not deserved, but diaspora...
16. Malta
17. Georgia - still loved by the press, I strongly believe it'll get its share of votes from its fans, but that that won't be enough for it to climb any higher.
18. Cyprus
19. Hungary
20. Belgium - I think first is a horrible draw for this, and it's going to get forgotten.
21. Lithuania
22. Spain - I'm still convinced this is doing badly, despite reports that the crowd in the jury rehearsal loved it.
23. UK - much like Spain, they seem to be charming the cameras and the crowd in the hall alike. This is, the UK always seems to come across 'surprisingly well' in rehearsals, and then it almost never actually translates into a decent finish.
24. Croatia
25. Czech Republic - finally everyone seems to have noticed how staggeringly dull this is.
26. Germany

Sunny prediction, part tres (or uno, etc)

The Syden-weather finally picked up, and my predicting skills improved to nine on Thursday, totalling at 17 out of 20. But I'm pretty sure it's going downhill from here... Last year there was a bunch of countries where it felt obvious they would do well, whereas there's far less of it this year. Which makes it harder to predict, but might also mean it'll be a more even, and hence entertaining, voting tonight. Will we have our first ever Eurovision that wins neither the televote nor the jury vote, for instance? If so, I fear it could be Australia, just gathering up solid support all over, without properly exciting anyone. It certainly doesn't excite me...

I can't really claim I think the ranking below is what will actually happen tonight, but it's the best I could do...

Enjoy the show, everyone!

1 Russia | Not sure it would've come top 3 last year, but it has a certain level of points, and I can't see any of the others getting more. The only thing making it an unlikely winner is that it's my favourite...
2 Austria | I need a crazy prediction, don't I? The only one that seemed to gain some kind of buzz or momentum from the semis that wasn't already there - though obviously nowhere near like Conchita or Common Linnets.
3 Australia | This has bored me all season, and the performance on Thursday didn't change my mind one way or the other. But everyone else seems to love it, so...
4 Latvia | Whereas this really convinced me in the semi - I wouldn't be surprised if it actually won it.
5 Sweden | Great song, very fitting and understated performance, and stands out a mile.
6 Ukraine
7 Armenia | They really nailed this with the camerawork and staging, but it still is what it is, so doubt it'll do much better than this.
8 Bulgaria | Prettyplease!
9 Italy | <3
10 France | Have never managed to get into the loving for this, and it seems to have dwindled a bit during rehearsals. But still, as a song it seems to be appreciated by many, so it should do decently.
11 Croatia | Can see this getting lost too, but it really clicked on Tuesday.
12 Israel | Can see this getting lost too, but it really clicked on Thursday.
13 Azerbaijan
14 Serbia
15 Lithuania | Have been thinking this might get completely lost, but the stage looks absolutely amazeballs for it.
16 Georgia
17 United Kingdom
18 Cyprus
19 Netherlands | I somehow assume this would've gotten a better draw if SVT thought it had any kind of realistic chance.
20 Hungary | Usual Hungary result, I guess?
21 Poland | Love this, but he wasn't exactly nailing it on Thursday, was he... Nor in the jury final last night, it seems. #ooops
22 Malta | Pleasepleaseplease, can this fall flat on its quacky arse?!
23 Spain | Ysy.
24 Belgium
25 Czech Republic | I imagine this will get a certain jury support, but when on as #2, I can't see it doing much at all in the televote. So its result will kinda depend on how many points you need to avoid the lower places - my guess is quite a few.
26 Germany | Who's gonna vote for this? I'm not.

Download and print your scorecards for the final !

Here they are: The -by now- traditional ESC Nation scorecards. And who are we to break with tradition?

This year we also included an inkjet-friendly version, just to make sure you don't run out of ink after printing that 7th scorecard. The scorecard is pretty self-explanatory: Fill in your notes, points, minuses or plusses next to the name of each country. At the end of the show, you can fill in your own top 10. Don't forget to indicate whether this top 10 is your personal preference or a prediction of the final result. Please share with as many people as you like!


Friday 13 May 2016

Dress Rehearsal - Final

This rehearsal has overrun by nearly 45 minutes so there is no time to rehearse the end. The showing in the press centre ends abruptly.

The 16 lowest-ranking televoting countries are awarded their points.

Then after a confirmation of the top 3 we get the top 10 results.

Måns and Petra are drinking out of the same cup. Both of them look quite tired now.

The system of suspence until the end might not work. Armenia has 188 points and is yet to receive televote points. We know that we are over the 100 mark so with Belgium currently leading with 281 we know Armenia won.

Croatia came second in 'televote' with the United Kingdom winning it.

Armenia, Belgium, Sweden, United Kingdom, Malta, Czech Republic, Israel, Azerbaijan, Austria and Latvia are top 10 with Serbia finishing last with 126 points.

JURY VOTING ORDER (at least in this rehearsal):
Austria, Iceland, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Czech Republic...

Petra is looking knackered! She sits down for a bit and then it seems that there is a break.

We now go back to the votes for the Czech Republic. But there is no communication between the two.

We just noticed that we now have country 38 appearing on thescfreen and this apparently should be Poland however we were informed that the capital city will be Vilnius. Unless Warsaw has changed place we believe this could be a mistake.

39th will be Slovenia.

After all countries vote, we get the Jury scoreboard presented by Måns.

Petra, dressed in a beaded rose dress informs us once more that there is no real change in the way the voting took place just how the voting is presented. We go to Jan Ola Sand who confirms the Jury votes are all confirmed and we will go through them while the televotes are being verified.

The spokesperson only gives the 12 points. 1-10 are on screen immediately.

Måns and his four dancers are on a personal motorised scooters (aka. hoverbards). He sings Fire in the Rain and then we should be going into Heroes but it seems there is an issue. Måns is off the board and we now stop the rehearsal.

The second run through and this time it seems to be going to the end of the segment. We are asking ourselves however - how long will this broadcast be? What, if anything, will be cut?

"Europe! Stop voting NOW!" 
We now *do* have the third and final segment of mockumentary.

Lynda Woodruff does a question and answer section. Unfortunately not the best we've had from Lynda. We would have expected more.

Apparently, all Eurovision winners have been taken to Switzerland and have been scientifically experimented on. We then get the steps to win Eurovision. Rybak makes an appearance. During the step for 'costume', Petra's dress gets ripped off to reveal Charlotte Nielsson's (as she was then known) outfit from 1999. Måns is wearing Dima Bilan's white ensemble. The show has a number of former acts - Russian grannies, Polish butter churner, Carola's flag bearers, Molitva's heart... the whole press room erupts in laughter. We also see this getting the biggest applause for the whole show!

Petra says that another 26 acts have taken to the Eurovision stage and goes to show how the right singer and the right song can create a carreer. She therefore starts to 'sings' The Power of One by Céline Dion. Drowning cats have been more in tune. We know she can sing, so this is for comic effect.

Destiny is introduced by Måns who also informs that Malta will be hosting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

Time for another recap

Or rather, it will be him, we did not have him. 7 minutes long.

Swedish Music Success
OK, so I was a bit quick in saying it was the mockumentary and go bathroom when in fact it was a mix of Swedish music success with lots of quick cuts of Swedish music hits.

Måns is in the green room. He tals to 'Justin Timberlake' who is at Eurovision because SVT paid for his 1st class ticket. He has been a fan since Mekado sang 'Wir geben 'ne Party'. Sure he has.

We get informed of how to vote, how many times you can vote and the recap starts.

Petra is wearing a green monstrosity.

Sir Ian McKellan and husband Sir Derek Jacobi are then seen sitting on the couch at home watching the contet. Sir Ian is tired and asks how long they have been watching since it feels like it has been all night. "5 minutes" replies Sir Derek.

What an ending to a show! Whatever issues Armenia have brought on themselves due to the flag-gate issue, they still managed to get the closing spot! And a great closer it is. Iveta also chose to not wear make-up for this rehearsal but is still looking stunning. The rehearsal goes without a hitch and there is a final applause from the gathered europress. Now time to see the parts of the show we have not seen before.

As I mentioned numerous times, I unfortuantely do not get the hype of this song - which again, is mainly hype by British fanpress. The staging could be better, the 'choreography' is forced and the bouncing is off-putting. It will gather enough points to not need to worry about being bottom 5 but I do ot expect it to be much higher than that. No applause after they finished.

Zoë is back! Hurrah! She has captivated the eurofans this year. Everyone wants to her song to be played - so that we can all join in the singing (which murders it)! After the first semi final, Zoë was at the Euroclub until the early hours. We also know she liked her partying in London - she looks all innocent but she is not. Odds are saying that Austria will be in the top 10, and we tend to agree. Even though it would not be something that I would personally want to have on a repeat loop, once in a while is enjoyable, and it could be a good rest track for while you're on the treadmill - enough to get your breath before having to do another run.

It was clear yesterday that this would have qualified so we are unsure why there is the surprise that they are on the stage tomorrow. The camera works, the vocals work and the show works! The odds are now in favour of Georgia doing a good showingl, however unlikely to win.

Coming after Ukraine might not have been the best draw for Malta. It was revealed today by a local Maltese newspaper that the team had an unlimited budget for Eurovision this year. The reaction of the Maltese is generally one of not being impressed. It would therefore have been a disaster if this did not qualify and heads would have definitely rolled! Performance wise, it is good but non-spectacular. There has been an addition of some on-screen effects but unlike the case of Italy, they do not really seem to be working. Oh well, thank goodness for that budget!

And it is time for the one and only song that is giving me goosebumps this year. Still getting them even after hearing it countless times, watching it countless times, clapping for it countless times. Jamala gives another impeccable performance. A strong contender for the crown. And Kiev is extremely cheap! We wouldn't mind going there in May 2017.

Another good performance by Justs. If he partied last night it doesn't show. The vocals and choreography (if that is what you could call it) is as good as it was last night. Possibly top 10 finish.

Why does Barei's dress say 03? Did she not realise that having a number on an outfit during Eurovision might make people think you're the entry of that number. The backing vocals are a bit off and Barei is doing ok. The camera angles are a lot better than it was before and now the split screen is making sense when you imagine the crowd cheering GUAPA!

And time for Russia's Sergey! Slight slip of the foot this time but no falling. Apart from that a performance that cannot be criticised - vocally sound, visually good and that face of an angel which will make mothers accross Europe want to have him as a son-in-law. Top 3 if not winner.

Vocally leaving to be desired, we're not sure if Nina is suffering from the Eurovision flu or if there is something else to it. Unfortunately it appers vocally this is the worst performance we've had up to now. The rest of the performance is reasonable enough but if she sings like this tonight and tomorrow then we doubt many points will be coming Nina's way.

As usual, my prediction after the semi in which Lithuania take part is a 9/10 due to this country. I am starting to get annoyed but I guess it is not their fault. I should just completely reverse my gut instinct on them. The hair, the jacket, the choreography, the jump, the singing - what made Europe vote for this is still a bit of a question mark but apparently they did. Wearing his black singlet for the somersault we're seeing Donny's arms which is a decent sight - shame about the hair which ruins it. Not expecting this on the left - and the bookies agree.

Sanja went for the non-make up look for this rehearsal. Looking stunningly fresh and performing amazingly well apart from a slight missed high note. Good top 10 finisher - not much else to say.

How many points will Cyprus get this year now that Greece is not there. Answer: A decent few more than they would have! Francois is not trying to get the howl right this time - probably to save himself for tonight. The guys have been seen often at the Euroclub so they might be feeling a bit worse for wear - still a decent enough performance. Difficult to place but I would say bottom left or top right. Now see it win the whole thing!

Back to the contest for the Australian entry. Back to good use of camera angles to help the artist in dodgy moments. It needs an audience however, when the arena is empty the atmosphere is not the same. There are still issues with Dami not knowing exactly where and when to interact with the stage but this clearly did not influence the voting public too much last night and there is no reason to think that it will tomorrow either. Another top 10 finish for the land down under.

Petra likes the colour of Michał's jacket. Don't worry "just 14 songs to go" says Petra. We then go to find Måns at the Tele2 arena where there is a huge Eurovision party going on. His microphone however doesn't work so we can't hear the script. Loreen and Carola will be with him. They select their favourite songs from Eurovision, Måns chooses 'Nor Par (Jan Jan)' which might have not been the best choice considering the issues with Armenia currently - and would Azerbaijan approve?

Well, to all those who doubted Poland - Michał showed what he is capable of! Vocally he is still very good, and the simple song in strong in this year with a lot of technology-requiring numbers. Whether this will mean he will be on the left hand side of the board is another matter but the Poles have learned that they are all around Europe and their collective voting is capable of giving a good rank to their entry. 

And another Big5 entry is on stage. There is something missing still. Although we were told the reasonings behind Amir being alone on stage and the choice of staging, there is a collective thought that this could have been staged so much better. Although still 4th in the betting, the odds for France have been getting larger - meaning he is losing strength with them. We agree - and would not be surprised if this ends up quite low on the final score board.

After the German postcard Måns and Petra are back on stage and chit chat to fill time. We then have the German postcard again.

And the mystique which comes on stage with the staging and the dry ice works very well - in my humble opinion. "Thank you so much" says Jamie-Lee with a little shy smile. We like her, even though her outfit selections are sometimes questionable! Lots of people are commenting that this will end in the bottom 5 again, I really hope they are wrong. I don't expect it to set people alight but it would be nice to have Germany in the top 15.

Well, it's still something which I do not understand. Due to this there is not much I can comment on since I do not believe I could give it the justice it probably deserves. What we are sure of however is that Sweden will be receiving the 24 points from the five Nordic nations which are not in the Final this year - the rest of Scandinavia plus Estonia.

The question now is - will her lower right leg chevron light up! It is the one that has been playing up a bit over the rehearsals but worked when needed. And nope - it doesn't They should try and fix this before tonight/tomorrow. It must be a wiring issue, something went loose due to Poli's continuous gyrating! Vocally impeccable and the staging working well - but would it be enough for us to meet in Sofia next year?

This was going great, until a slow stage hand didn't run fast enough and was caught in camera shot running off with the microphone stand! They need to ensure this does not happen on the night - Hovi will not be happy! Got a decent clap from the gathered europress.

Francesca doesn't even start. Saying "No! Sorry! No" and then we see there is some problem with her in-ear. Maybe no sound at all or something irritating. She is not happy.

Back on track and there is nothing to worry about. The singing is pitch-perfect. The scene is exactly as we've been seeing online. It seems however that there is someone who is possibly handing her the apple at the end since she doesn't have a look of struggle to take it off as she normally has. The camera angles also go very close to her and she is on the left hand side of the screen when it happens - all angles to hide the person on stage at that time. You will see this in the top 5.

Oh Freddie! As I'm sure many others feel, if only there was a quiet room we could have a chat! A simple choreography, good staging and a husky lovely vocal wrapped in a beautiful package. We think he will do well. "See you in the evening" says Freddie as the lights go out. Yes you will Freddie! Yes you will!

This is really not worthy of the final. This should have been Iceland and Greta but the result is what it is. Samra still can't sing apart the parts where it's actually Sahlene that is doing all the work. Will still get points from their 'friends'. The staging however is still amazingly good - it shows that sometimes you can distract enough with wow factors that the singing does in fact become secondary.

Well, this was one of the ones I did not predict right. It seems obvious in hindsight but that pause seemed so awkward. Douwe has been relaxing since last Tuesday and performs well as he always does. We still prefer the camera eyefucking game that the guitarist is giving us. Alsjeblieft! Dank je wel!

First time the Czech Republic will be on the final stage and it is a lovely little number. Gabriela might not have been lucky with the position she was given but it is likely just the fact that they are in the final is enough to light the flame of Eurovision in the nation. She sang beautifully and would be a deserved top 15 placing but you never know what can happen with this contest.

From closing act in the SF2 to opening in Final, Laura is still a little star. You would have expected she might have 'celebrated' a bit last night but her vocals are good and choreography still on point. We need to start learning the choreography since this will be a classic in the euroclub for years to come. It has been played countless times this year - sometimes up to 5 times in one night! Delightful!

Petra welcomes us to the grand final - she makes a mistake. We then have Måns also speak and back to Petra - who makes another mistake. She doesn't have her glasses on so maybe she can't see the prompter.

The joke about the Eurovision party and Petra not being hit on is back. We then get told how to vote.

We then get told that although the way the televoting happens has not changed, the way the votes will be announced has in order to make it more exciting. Petra appears to have partied a bit too much last night, she keeps on not managing to get the words out.   

The opening sequence is a mix of artists getting ready in the tunnels, the audience, the show control room. It ends with the countdown to the show cue to start. Models then start walking on stage which is a catwalk with an artist behind each one - in running order. We have a bit of a musical pause after Italy to then get back into the beat for Israel. The models are all dressed in different white ensembles. When the name of the country is mentioned, the colours of that country's flag are projected on the costume and in some cases on stage. Another short interlude after Lithuania to get back in the groove for Croatia. You will enjoy the costume of the Croatian model! Zoë has changed from a young innocent looking girl to a street urchin boy! (maybe she just wasn't ready on time).

Before we Start
And here we are - the moment we have been waiting for! 20 semi finalists have been chosen to take part in the grand final and we are mere moments away from seeing their first dress rehearsal. The running order was announced last night and it could be a bit unfair that the opening act is from yesterday's show while the next SF2 finalist is on at number 7.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Close to the borderline? A Semi 2 Prediction

I found Semi 1 quite difficult to predict, as my 'results' showed, with only seven correct out of ten. In Semi 2, however, I see far fewer surprises, and am quite in agreement with the bookies.

There are nine entries that are considered safe qualifiers by the bookies, and they're the nine I would put in without hesitation too. The only question that remains for me is around Georgia.

Until rehearsals, the Georgian song was considered a complete outsider, with no chance of qualifying. And despite really liking the song, I was fully on board with this. But rehearsal reports have suggested that it looks fantastic on stage, and several bloggers have placed it among their qualifiers for tonight.

I'm still not so sure. I still think it's just too difficult, too inaccessible, too 'not Eurovision' to get through a semi-final. A great visual performance can lift a song, but it's all too easy when watching rehearsals to forget to judge songs as just that - songs. We get so familiar with them, we end up evaluating them as 'better than before' or 'better than I expected', and losing sight of our initial impressions. And my initial impression of Georgia was 'great but doomed'.

So, on to my prediction

1. Ukraine - I never really saw this as a winner, but I've been talked around by the bloggers during the last week, and am now feeling it could pick up a big swell of votes during the semi (I still don't see it as a winner on Saturday though)
2. Australia - I always found this bland and overrated, and no doubt I'll be underwhelmed by it tonight, but it seems to be pressing the right buttons for people in Stockholm.

3. Belgium - a really tough prediction for 3rd, it could be any of Belgium and the three below it here.
4. Latvia
5. Serbia

6. Bulgaria - I don't quite think Bulgaria have Same Heart-ed this up, as much as anything because Poli has a lot more about her than Mei Feingold did, and a much less disjointed song in the first place
7. Israel - seems like an obvious qualifier now, so I'm pleased that I had faith in it when it was out at 3.1 to qualify
8. Poland - kinda predicted by default here, I'd be quite happy to see it miss out, and not shocked either
9. Lithuania - what I said for Poland
10. Norway - I'm still really curious to see if this works. I think it's great, and it should do well, bu it really could fall very flat, particularly if Agnete doesn't nail it vocally. And that then opens the door for Georgia or one of the others.

11. Denmark - hoping my instinct on their live performance will be right
12. Macedonia - it sounds like she's been nailing it through rehearsals, but I still doubt that's enough for such an old-fashioned (though amazing) song
13. Georgia
14. Albania
- boring but has friends
15. Slovenia
16. Ireland
- boring and doesn't have friends
17. Belarus - seriously, who's going to vote for this? Yes, it's got gimmicks, but when they're this ridiculous and the song this bad, do people vote for gimmicks, or just laugh at them and move on?

18. Switzerland - not so much the last of her kind, just last.

Download the scorecards for tonight's semi final here!

Today SVT will present the second semi final to the world (and Norway). Which means that every self-respecting Eurovision afficionado should make sure to have these nifty scorecards printed out and ready for judging tonight's show.

You can download the scorecards here

Oppholdsvær prediction, part dos

Or I guess this is part uno of the oppholdsvær prediction, as the Tuesday one was a rainy one...? Either way, it's Eurovision today!!

I correctly predicted 8/10 in Tuesday's semi - annoyingly, the two qualifiers I missed out on (Croatia and Azerbaijan) were entries I've seen as obvious, safe qualifiers for months, but got convinced by rehearsal reports were a bit doomed. Their qualifications were fully deserved, and I changed my mind again while watching (and then managed 9/10 – still thought Iceland would do it instead of Malta). Croatia in particular sounded much better than I expected, and much to my amazement she'd suddenly developed personality! And Azerbaijan was far from as horrible vocally as reported, and it looked really good – excellent use of the screens.

So, how wrong will I be tonight? Let's have a look!

1 Ukraine | Don't think this is a Eurovision winner, but should be able to win tonight. Might be a bit divisive for some at home, but televoters don't have negative votes, after all. And pretty sure the juries will wet themselves (even if the Russian one might disagree on Saturday, periscoped or not...).
2 Australia | This is all a bit bland and disappointing for me, but it seems to work.
3 Bulgaria | Not seen any clips of this, and only one (very dubious!) photo, but even if they're not nailing the staging, the song itself is strong enough this should work reasonably well. Vote vote vote!
4 Latvia
5 Belgium | Very lucky draw for this, and I doubt it'll do much in the final, even with a similar draw there, but even I am starting to not hate it... :-o
6 Israel | I've had this as a likely (if borderline-ish) qualifier ever since we got the new version of it (well, new song, really, several bits of the melody is actually completely different), and most others seems to have followed suit during rehearsals, so upgrading it to a safe 6th.
7 Lithuania | This has seemed relatively safe all along, but I've also had a little bet on it to not qualify. As much as anything, it's one I can't really see who will care about, even if it's pretty strong and performed well. Also, LOSE THE PERM, DONNY.
8 Poland
9 Serbia | I assume the juries will love this, but not quite as sure about the televoters.
10 Norway | Hm. Thought it was a safe qualifier and possible top 10 in the final when it was chosen, but have since gone off it a bit. Not that I think she won't perform it well, or that her lack of promo will matter at all, nor do I think the tempo change really ruins it, it's just that I don't really think it's quite strong enough as a song. I would've predicted it out had Romania still been in, but I think it's sneaking through now. Only to do a Tooji in the final or so, perhaps...?

11 Macedonia | Kaliopi is obvs giving this her all, presumably securing reasonably good jury support, as well as a good bunch of friendly televotes, but I don't think her song is good enough this year to make it. Maybe a platypus version would help?
12 Albania | I looooved the original version, and quickly grew to loooove the new one too, but I'm sadly not expecting the world to agree :-(
13 Denmark | So inoffensive I'm offended.
14 Georgia | Reports seem to suggest this is doing much better than previously expected, but then 'previously expected' was about 19th, so...
15 Belarus | Will probably manage to scrape up some points just for being a bit... Belarussian.
16 Slovenia | Aww.
17 Ireland | Who's going to vote for this, seriously?
18 Switzerland | Smokey armpits, great idea there, The Rajkka...

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 2

Unfortunately we do not get to see any remainder of the show due to the time. They need to start letting the people in for the dress rehearsal of the evening. Therefore this is where the transmission, and in turn, this blog, ends.

Jake & Joe are in a basement bar on a stage getting ready to perform, and then they're suddenly in football kit on a field in a stadium. Though when they start playing it turns out it's actually rugby. Then we see some random British street at night time and the word United Kingdom (with the hashtag #GBR) appears.

Stage Director: "We will have the same problem tonight [...]. There is too little time between UK and Italy to take all the things in and out".

They are wearing their garbs from the second rehearsal. The stage lighting has changed a bit which seems to work better for them. The choreography however is still looking a bit too forced - Joe can't do choregraphy and Jake jumps about aimlessly. The British are all over this but I am not sure anyone apart from them is seeing what they do.

Francesca's postcard shows her playing the grand piano and walking around inside a very fancy building and outside by the water. It seems to be in Venice as there's a lot of canals and things.

And something is not right so the stage director is telling us that this will be what is being recorded but it will work when needed! We hope.

Francesca is wearing the same as she did in the first rehearsal. There is still a shot where you see a cameraperson walking slowly off stage, no rush dear! Vocally flawless, Francesca still appears a bit flustered once she finishes her performance. Still received a loud applause from the gathered press.  

Jamie Lee is in a flower shop. Lots of plastic flowers everywhere. Then she's doing some arts and crafts to make a new hat for herself. Eventually she goes outside on top of some building where she dances with an umbrella. 

Jamie-Lee's micorphone is higher than in previous rehearsals. The stage is also a bit darker, the trees are illuminated in deeper pink . Although her outfit is the same as before, the footwear has slightly changed. In this rehearsal there is no dry ice covering the stage floor. Although some of the mistyque of the song is added with the new colours of the stage, the dry ice definately is needed in order to add to the effect.

Petra says that as a single woman, the choice of Man vs Machine is not an option. Laughter erupts!

Måns introduces Jamie-Lee in German, Petra does Francesca in Italian and Måns again for Joe&Jake in a strong queen's British accent. More laughter.

It's then all about numbers - information about Eurovision in numerical form.

A metallic robot is on stage. But that is all we see, this scene has been stopped.

And it's back on. And it seems there should have been a dancer on stage also. This robotic hand dances with the human - no idea what this is all about. The machine then offers a banana to him. Two more identical robots rise on the stage. The three machines interact with each other via laser beams.

More dancers come on stage and there is a dance-off between human and machine. Electronic versions of hit (non-Eurovision) songs are done. The act name is now on screen "Man vs Machine".

The scene ends with one of the humans unplugging the machine and these go silent, in the darkness and cold of the stage.

We are going through the counting down numbers again.

(Smalltalking in Swedish)
Petra: You said you couldn't count down from 20.
Mans: There's only one more week.

We have to do the countdown again. Petra says "thunder and lightening it's getting exciting". Should there really be a reference to a competing song in the dialogue?

Petra and Måns are back on screen. Måns says that people are talking about the show and Petra's accent, to which she in turn mocks Måns' fake American one. The joke goes wrong however so they have to repeat it. We then get a second recap.

Petra is loving the fact that the fans are so respectful. She went to a Eurovision party last night and none of the guys came on to her. She asks if it's the same for Måns - to which he moves swiftly on from the topic. 

We then have the second part of the mockumentary we started yesterday.

Belgium won 30 years ago with Sandra Kim's J'Aime La Vie. It turns out Sandra was only 3 years old when she won - amazing talent! 

Europe, and Norway, start voting NOW!

Laura's postcard mainly shows her being bouncy in various locations. No specific theme or red thread.

Bouncy, bouncy Laura. She has grown extremely since when we saw her in Antwerp all those months ago. She is no longer the shy girl of before, but a confident young woman who knows how to grab the audience and make them dance with her. The staging, lighting and choreography is just screaming qualifier.   

Eneda's postcard shows her running around the Albanian countryside with a little girl (possibly her daughter) and we see images of flowers and vinyards.

The performance begins and she's in the same peach-golden fin-dress as before. Her hair is straight and parted in the middle, and seems to be shorter than it was before. Vocally there's some notes that aren't quite 100 %. Not sure if it's mainly Eneda herself or if it's the backing singers. They all seem to be slightly off-pitch a lot of times. But the stage is gorgeous and complements Eneda's look perfectly. Still, the most exciting thing visually is probably one of the backing singers who has a dress with huge Mickey Mouse-ears on her shoulders.

Nika Kocharov and the Lolitaz are rehearsing together somewhere in Georgia. To take a break they go outside to have a barbecue in some park, and we finally see a view of the city from some hill as the letters appear to form the word GEORGIA.

Although everything including the kitchen sink has been thrown at this, it strangely is growing on a lot of people. Is this because we've been through it so often that we are now oblivious to it or is it actually that we were too quick to judge it? Georgia is always one of those countries who do well with weirdness (well, apart from Joker). Wouldn't be surprised if we see it on Saturday to be honest.

Agnete has at least not turned down being part of her own postcard. She's driving a snow scooter across northern Norway and then lits a bonfire in the evening. Next morning she's dressed in a traditional Sami outfit and is joined by the whole village. Nobody can possibly miss the fact that she's from the North.

Agnete was doing quite well but failed at the last hurdle. The last verse was very weakly performed. If any of the Scandis qualify it would be this one but it is not very likely to.

Jamala is in the streets having fun with some people and then goes into a bakery to make chocolate cakes. Then she takes us to some village and gives us her best smile before the graphics appear.

Jamala is wearing her navy-blue dress. Vocally flawless, she manages to give all her emotion into the song. Leaving goosebumps and a large applause. I would possibly scratch my comment of Australia, this is also a big contender for the win.

We go to talk to the artist with Petra, who is loving the ensemble of the stage help dressed in black, and black, and black!

Petra would love to sing Wild Dances but cannot, due to legal reasons, according to her producers.

Måns is now on screen. He thanks Denmark and Bulgaria, with the song If Love Was A Crime - and informs us that in many countries love is still a crime and that he would like that to change.

The it is off to Petra who talks to us. She unfortunately has no script and is therefore a bit confused on who she is, who is standing and when people should be doing something else.

The Danish boys invite us to their apartment (they clearly all live together) where they first pose on their balcony and then serve some croissants and play the guitar. Eventually they go on a bike ride. Only one of them is wearing a helmet while the other two clearly prefer to ride together without protection.

Johannes still seems to be having issues with his in-ear. He at least has learned not to throw the mic stand down with his over-enthousiasm. It is likely that this year will be the first year no Scandinavian/Nordic country will be in the final (apart from the host).

Poli's postcard shows her in a cobble stone street in some old village. Eventually she finds a tattoo artist and gets a tattoo and then goes on a wild car drive with her three girlfriends (who are possibly her backing singers?) and end up in the mountains. Lastly she's in a square somewhere where a bunch of children are running around her feet. (They are possibly not her backing singers)

Poli is owning the stage. Vocally she is on point and has not made any errors. There is a bit of heavy breathing in the break before the ending chorus which adds to the suspense of what is to happen next. Cue the lighting of her LEDs and the chorus commences. Out come the backing vocals and we have a party on stage. See you on Saturday!

ManuElla takes her black poodle out on a biking trip by a river and then goes to drink some unidentified beverage together with a bunch of teenagers in school uniforms around a round table. To end the postcard she shows us her skills as a majorette, as she's doing a baton twirling choreography along with a bunch of other people.
Coming after Australia this feels a bit missing. ManuElla is ok vocally but the backing vocals seem to be off and the gymnast just seems to be standing on stage for most of the time he is in shot. Unfortunately not enough oomph in this to draw much of the voting public to dial for song number 11.

Dami is in a tunnel inside an aquarium and tries to interact with the fish. Then on her way home it's raining quite heavily so she goes to a greenhouse and takes selfies with koalas. (Did they run out of kangaroos?) Eventually the rain stops so she heads to the beach. And then the sun sets and we see a big bridge and the graphics appear on screen.

They have helped Dami with the ill-timed hand-movements by making the circles larger. They also made them more conspicuous. The moment where Dami needs to get off the pedistal is counteracted with the camera angle which is a long aerial shot so you can't really see her. Vocally flawless she receives a major applause in the room. Possible winner of the semi final.

Donny has decided to first take us to church, and then let us join him with his wife and child at Trakai as they are by a pond feeding the ducks. Last but not least he ends his day with playing basketball.

Keeping the bad hair, he decided for the white jacket which we commentated earlier was the least bad of the ones he had. This gets removed during the "oh oh oh" moment, just before he does his jump through the smoke. This leaves him in his slim-fit black t-shirt. Also another good vocal performance, and the diaspora will help it along without a doubt.

Kaliopi is leaning against a lamp post in front of what looks like some newly constructed ancient monument. Then she's inside a museum with old pottery and artefacts. (Are they supposed to be from the ancient Macedonia? Scandalous) Eventually she's in a tourist souvenir shop until the graphics appear on screen.

Kaliopi is floating on molten lava - or at least that's what it seems like - wearing the dress from the rehearsal on Saturday. She belts the song out with the performance of a diva - she has been holding back up to now. Even the high note is pitch-perfect. We may have dismissed this earlier due to the strength of the semi final but it could just come through and pull it for Macedonia.
The theme for the Irish postcard is first football. Nicky puts on football trainers and then plays some football inside a large football stadium. Then he moves on to a vinyl record store where he plays some music. He's pretty well dressed in the postcard. But worse is to come...

Ironic that a song called "Sunlight" has quite dark staging. Some of the angles chosen do not give anything to the song. In the second chorus, Nicky is "playing" with the camera but it just looked like he was being attacked by Greta's shadows which we cannot see. Vocally not the best however stronger than we've seen him yet. Still wouldn't advise to put money on him.

Sanja's postcard features her first inside a cinema, and then she's on top of a hill next to the Danube. Then she's in a school writing something on a blackboard. The postcard didn't seem to have any particular theme, except maybe showing us that Sanja is an intellectual person.

Well, it appears Albaniagate did not affect the stage presentation for the song. We still have red, black and more black. Apparently some lights have changed but not noticeable to all. Vocally Sanja is delivering well. No doubt that this will sail through to the final.

Petra thanks Ivan - and she cannot get the words out correctly. We move on to the Eurovision Taxi. Mr. Lordi is the one that joins the taxi rather than Verka. Not much room left in that car!

The Belarussian postcard of course has.. a wolf? It's quite possibly just a dog though. Ivan is out in the woods, but then goies into town (possibly Minsk) where he meets lots of people (and a baby) and gives them flowers. Are these supposed to be the people who later appear on stage with him as holograms?

First false start. The song didn't commence but we need to relisten to the cue music.

The holograms which should be behind Ivan being infront of him are still off-putting. Ivan is wearing the same garmets as in the second rehearsal. Vocally he is getting better until the bridge before the final chorus where he cannot reach the notes he needs to. We still do not understand the baby (or most of what is happening on stage).

The Israeli postcard starts with Hovi out walking a dog in the Tel Aviv beach front. Then he goes bowling and ends up posing with a bowling ball before we're taken back to the beach where the letters appear forming the word ISRAEL.
The face on the stage floor has been slightly changed, as have the camera angles for it. Hovi is dressed in the same attire we saw in the rehearsals before - as are the acrobats in the hula hoop. Vocally impressive, visually attractive, there is a slight issue in one of the camera angles where you see a stage hand helping the acrobats since the back of the stage is lit due to the pyro curtain. Hopefully this gets sorted before tonight. 

Rykka (who'se blonde) is on top of a Swiss mountain. Then she's ice skating and eventually goes indoors (lucky for her, she didn't look like she was wearing very warm clothes). The theme is clearly snow, ice and the Alps.

The off-putting vapour is still there. Vocally this is getting worse - the first verse is being sund in a key lower than it should be. The hair is back to being curly. The song itself we're getting so used to that it is quite bareable but for the people at home watching it for the first time, this will not be the case. The pyro curtain at the end is ot enough to save it.

The Polish postcard has Michal in various locations in Poland. The theme seems to be spring, and we see a lot of spring flowers and happy people in parks. There's also a squirrel eating a nut.

We've chosen the red jacket it appears. The camera angles appear to be mainly the same. Vocally it was going strong but there was a bad note right before the last chorus. No one is really paying much attention to it but don't discount it.

The Latvian postcard shows Justs on top of some tower. Then he's in the streets of Riga with his guitar. And then on a skateboard. Eventually he starts playing a piano and smiles into the camera as the letters forming LATVIA appear.

Justs changed his oversized t-shirt to black from the marroon he had before. The rest of the outfit is the same - black leather jacket and ripped jeans.Vocaly he is nailing it and a good applause from the room. Qualifier.

Parts of the introduction are as they were in semi final 1 but there are other scenes added into it. A beat introduction for Petra and Måns. He dressed in a shiny grey suit while she is dressed in a sparkly dress. Petra is wearing her glasses however unlikely this will be her look tomorrow.

The newcomers must be wondering what the hell is going on. Good jokes - the Swedes are doing this well. They then move on to a singing number. "Story of ESC" with lyrics of "bankrupt the hosting tv station". 12 dancers dressed in black joing them on stage. They "fail to live to riverdance" and start dancing it. The lyrics then start going into all the languages which have graced the Eurovision stage. This is an extremely attractive number - pyro, dancers,  the lot! If this is the start for the second semi final, the final must be amazeballs!

We then get told how to vote - but you can't vote for your own country, SHOCKING!

Before we Start
Well, after the surprise, jubilation and commiserations from last night, myself and J are here trying to inform you of what will be happening on your screen for semi final 2.

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. 

Semi 1 surprises - what did the bloggers miss?

I'm not in Stockholm this year, so, like you, I'm relying on rehearsal videos and the descriptions of bloggers watching rehearsals in the press centre to get an impression of what's going to do well. And as you'll have seen, I only got seven qualifiers right out of ten last night. So what went wrong? Who can I blame other than myself?

A key example of an artist turning it on for the night. Where did all Nina Kraljić's personality come from? She found cameras, she smiled, she was warm - it was almost enough to make you forget the dress! And she sang really well! An obvious qualifier seeing it on TV last night.

Photo credit: Andres Putting (EBU)

That silence. We were told by several bloggers that the Netherlands had put in a short silence in order to encourage a crowd singalong. That never happens, and it seems it was never the intention. Perhaps an example of the groupthink that can sometimes afflict a hermertically sealed-in press centre, and something I've certainly been guilty of in the past.

I was expecting Netherlands to be great, based on reports, and found it only okay. Throughout, Douwe Bob seemed to be struggling to keep his eyes open, and I didn't feel a real connection from him. And I suspect the silence was meant to lend authenticity - in a 'real' country gig, it wouldn't be uncommon to have a period of quiet like that, to bring up a swell of noise and applause from the audience, which would grow and grow to make a massive reaction. The gap in 'Slow Down' was too short for that to work, but just long enough to be awkward.

Nowhere near as impressive as we'd been led to believe, I felt. The first minute to so is underwhelming, you can see the shadows of both Sergey and his dancers separate from the projections, and then for the second verse and chorus, we lose Sergey's face; as the camera zooms out to show the impressiveness of the technology, we get no close-ups of what is a very warm and charismatic performer. Why get someone in like Sergey, with that beautiful face, and fail to show it? The last 20 seconds, where he could stand on the top, be natural, stop concentrating on stepping and show his face, were easily the best of the whole song.

It seems everyone in the press centre focused on Samra's bad vocals to the omission of everything else, including how the Azeris had come up with some of the best uses of the screens of any act. 'Miracle' didn't sound great (though nowhere near as bad as we might have expected), but it looked fantastic!

Okay, I have no bones to pick with the bloggers about this. It looked great, it sounded great - the projections looked much more impressive than for Russia, Greta Salome showed personality - I thought this was a nailed on qualifier and potential Top 5 contender. But then Måns said the word 'Malta' instead :(

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Semi Final One - My picks for tonight

I promised earlier that I wouldn't make any predictions. Because I suck at it. But I'll tell you who I want to qualify tonight. Partly influenced by what I think might be possible. So for all the prediction fans out there; you are free to consider this a prediction if you really want to.

Croatia (in spite of the clothes, I thinknit's a strong song and performance)
Netherlands (stands out as a fresh glass of water among bottles of bad wine)
Armenia (love the performance)
Russia (as much as part of me would love this to not qualify, that just isn't going to happen. And it's for sure not among the 8 weakest entries)
Czechia (probably the strongest power ballad, and a very competent performance)
Austria (cute and charming. Deserves to go through)
Iceland (quite underrated, and really stands out in the good way)
Malta (really managed to clean up the performance and should definitely be in the top 10)

After these eight it gets more difficult. But I'd quite possibly also pick Cyprus as it's a really nice rock-inspired song and they're presenting it well on stage. And Bosnia-Herzegovina would be nice as well as it's classic Balkan Eurovision schlager and every contest needs a bit of that.

There are a lot of strong contenders among the other entries too. In fact, I don't think there is any entry in this semi that I would mind seeing in the final. I'd just mind if they steal the spot from someome I'd rather see there.

Rainy prediction, part uno

For some reason Syden has decided to be all rainy and wet (and thundery - it's getting exciting etc), so this first Eurovision day has been spent indoors perfecting my (very fresh!) snooker technique. It's going so-so so (so?) far – a Bee, a Faulkner and a Fry have all beat me, and I'm sure there's more to come. Will the predicting go any better...?

Last year I managed to do very well in the final somehow, and pretty good in the semis (9/10 in both semi 1 and semi 2). Pretty sure I'll be more off on all evenings this year... As always, I'll predict the full ranking, even if we'll only get to see the ten qualifiers in a "random" order tonight.

1 Russia | I think this is winning on Saturday too, so today should be a fairly easy match for it. Plus it's the best song in it!
2 Armenia | Wasn't sure about this before, as it's all a bit weird and complicated and aggressive and siren-y, but reports suggest they've managed to stage and film it *just* right.
3 Netherlands | I find the song a bit too dull to do anything in the final, but it should sail through to it quite easily.
4 Czech Republic | I find the song a bit too dull to do anything in the final, but it should sail through to it quite easily.
5 Malta | Erk. My instinct here is a big no, but it seems to appeal to various different people, for some reason.
6 Iceland | More erk.
7 Estonia | Not at all sure about this, but it deserves to qualify. And we all want to see the bummage again on Saturday, don't we?
8 Hungary | I don't fully get this (apart from the #hip bit), but several seem to, so a safe-is qualification and then 21st or so in the final seems likely.
9 Cyprus
10 Austria | Many things suggest this won't make it, but then there's also the fact it's, like, you know, a nice song, so...

11 Croatia | Hope it makes it, fear it just won't click.
12 Azerbaijan | The song by itself should be an easy top 5 in this semi, and Azerbaijan know their way around getting points, but according to all reports, trustworthy or not, she's royally fucking this up. Looking forward to hear for myself! :-D
13 Bosnia & Herzegovina
14 Finland
15 Greece
16 Montenegro
17 San Marino | Just a bit too obviously last to end last.
18 Moldova | A shame, I really like it :-(

The borderliners - My Semi 1 Prediction

I have to admit, I'm finding Semi 1 one of the hardest semis to predict in a number of years, and that's for the simple reason that there are so many songs that, for me, are right on the borderline of qualifying. To put my thoughts in order, I thought I'd write about them.

For me, there are six songs that are definitely through in Semi 1, and four that are definitely out. That leaves seven in the borderline between 8th place and 14th place - so three of them have to qualify. Those seven songs are Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and for me, they fall into three pairs (plus Greece). So let's take them in their pairs.

Battle 1: Azerbaijan vs Austria
The two young girls who haven't impressed vocally in rehearsals. I've always really liked Austria, and have tended to be quite firm in my belief that it's a good song, and that will be enough to carry it through. However, with a lot of competition in this semi-final, and so many things working against it (the language, Zoe's vocals, the cute-and-likeable vs annoying-and-precocious debate), I now think it stays in the semi. Azerbaijan, by contrast, has never impressed me as a song - I always found it quite ordinary, and I think the staging is also quite underwhelming. But they have more friends, and what's possibly quite a generically appealing song.

Battle 2: Hungary vs Estonia
Two boys singing darker songs. Hungary have been quite well-thought of since 'Pioneer' was chosen, both in predictions and betting odds, but I've never seen it. I always found the performance from A Dal quite uninteresting, and it doesn't sound like Freddie's done much to change that in Stockholm. It'll all depend on if Europe sees something more than I do. On the other side of the battle, Estonia have changed their performance for the international final, and reports suggest it might be over-complicating things now. I do think Hungary is slightly more accessible as a song, but Juri might have enough appeal - and who knows what juries will make of it?

Battle 3: Croatia vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
The Balkan nations - is there room for both of them in the final? Croatia have tumbled down the rankings over the past couple of months, and even more so after seeing the planned stage performance. I always had Bosnia-Herzegovina down as a non-qualifier - just too Balkan as a song, and potentially not a very vote-friendly look (that's me trying to find a kind way of saying that Deen looks weird). But as Bosnia always do, they've come with a strong (if slightly odd) performance in rehearsals, and may surprise us once again. I told myself I'd never bet against Bosnia qualifying after 2010 - perhaps I should take that advice tonight.

And then there's Greece. As a song, it should be doomed - but on the other hand, the last time they entered a combination of rap and singing in a mix of languages, which we'd all assumed was hopeless when it was selected, it went and won the semi. I'm always wary of counting Greece out.

So, I have to make a choice... here goes:

The qualifiers:

1. Russia
2. Iceland
3. Netherlands
4. Armenia
5. Malta
6. Czech Republic
7. Cyprus
8. Hungary
9. Bosnia-Herzegovina
10. Estonia

And missing out:

11. Azerbaijan
12. Croatia
13. Greece
14. Austria
15. Montenegro
16. San Marino
17. Finland
18. Moldova

Russian jury investigated after streaming their deliberations

We've woken to the news this morning that the Russian jury is being investigated by the EBU after one of their number streamed segments of their deliberations during the first jury semi-final by Periscope.

During the stream, viewers could see the five jury members watching the Netherlands and Armenian entries and discussing their votes, including such choice comments as 'my husband is Armenian, so I favour Armenia' - parts of the votes of one of the jurors can clearly been seen on screen too, including the fact that she has marked down Moldova and Hungary, and likes the Netherlands.

Now, what is the EBU to do about this? There's nothing in the rules to say you can't stream your jury voting, because, of course, who would even think of doing that? More problematic is the fact that we hear one juror favouring Armenia because of her husband's nationality (which would potentially breach the rule that jurors pledge that there is nothing preventing them from voting independently), and that we've seen some elements of a jury's preference which should be kept secret.

In the past, if a jury voting has been disqualified, the country's televote solely stands. This year, because every country needs to produce a valid jury vote and televote for the system to work, the rules state:
If – for whatever reason – a country cannot deliver a valid jury result, a substitute result is calculated by the jury result of a pre-selected group of countries. These groups and their composition have been pre-approved by the EBU permanent services and the Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest.
So, if the EBU decide the breach here is serious enough to cancel the whole Russian jury vote, this is what they would have to do. They would also presumably have the option of automatically doing the same for the final, or demanding the Russians find five new jurors. Or will they, as has so often happened in the past, just give the Russians a slap on the wrist and tell them not to be so silly in the future?

Monday 9 May 2016

Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1

Petra and Måns are on stage informing us that the 10 finalists have been chosen and they will join the big 5 and Sweden on stage on Saturday. Nothing left to say but Good Night, Bonne Nuit and God Natt!

Well, we should have a recap but this techincally finished even before San Marino finished.

San Marino
Bosnia & Herzegovina

Russia has failed to qualify! We are now expecting nuclear war within the next few hours. Call your loved ones and tell them you love them!

Petra is behind the podium. We then speak to Jan Ola Sand and after his speach we're back with both presenters in place. It is now time to find out the finalists which will be revealed in a random order.

If Frans were sorry, he'd get his lazy behind out of his music studio and do some walking whilst chugging away on coffee, poured from a thermos flask. He would then also have marshmallows at a campfire with his friends. Maybe, if he really was sorry, he'd find the Swedish Stonehenge or a wooden gulf breaker at the Swedish coast. But he's not sorry.

Vocally confident but Frans still just doesn't seem to want to be there. Still in his Chacky jacket and grey top, he mumbles his song, ends and goes off. Don't see why this will light Europe but it seems that it will.

Breaking News: Barei has made it to the top of a mountain without stumbling. Too much. Maybe once or twice. Okay they had to helicopter her in. But luckily she found her feet (and her wriggling hands) in the shopping streets of Madrid. If the Spanish HoD wouldn't have told her it was time to leave, she probably would've still been in said street, mincing in the middle of it.

After the postcard there is a pause. They are getting something ready. We hear the intro chords again to prepare the singer for the start of the song. The backing dancers have changed into black dresses and Barei herself has a golden number with the number 03 on it which is a bit weird but maybe this will not be her final outfit. When the blackout happens, the camera struggles to find her and therefore when the spotlight comes back on, it is not in the correct position. Big applause for her.

Amir plays football in the park at Versailles. He is then taking selfies in what we think is a cinema (wasn't paying enough attention).

The same things which we saw yesterday are happening today. Amir is struggling with the high notes,  the camera angles are not always on point. He has changed his suit to grey from the black from the second dress rehearsal. 

We are then informed that for the first time we will actually see the finalists perform on stage. And we are introduced to Barei, France and Amir (from France).

Lines closed and we get told about a message, a message of the refugees which are trying to get into Europe. There is a dance dedicated to it.

For someone who understands pretty much absolutely nothing about interpretive dance, this is quite emotional. 

After the second recap, Petra and Måns are on the satellite stage telling us we only have seconds left before the lines close. It is time for the final countdown. Queue Europe (the band) playing again with Petra and Måns trying to stop them once more. Apparently this happens quite often in Sweden.

It is now time to close the lines in 32, 31,... and then realising that it should have been less time Måns asks Petra - "So how are you?" to which we all giggle. They are waiting for their cue cards.

Another recap after a very funny mockumentary. The Swedes do good humour.

We see a mockumentary of what Sweden used to be like in the 1973 - back when Sweden used to be Europe's favourite pushover.

*Sergey Lazarev who is currently in interview room 2, came out only to take a look at his bit and then went back it. Bless.

Ira shows off some of the sites of Malta - first she's in Gozo, then she is at the Aquarium in Buġibba, later has a spot of food - the traditional 'ftira'. She finishes in Republic Street, Valletta, looking seductively into the camera while the rest of the pedestrians walk on past not giving her a second look.

Ira is no longer mentioned in the credits of the song. The dress is from the second rehearsal. In fact, it was quite similar to that rehearsal. Some slight changes of the camera angles was all that could be noticed. Vocally strong however it could be that the song will be lost in the whole swirl of this year.

Bosnia's troupe (you know who they are) are being followed in the studio, we can watch them as they sing together. Yes. Together. Imagine that. There's also a photo session in the local deli, with fresh Bosnian produce and olive oil adorning them.

Wearing all black while Dalal is in red, the group perform without errors. This will definitely be a hit in the Balkan region. Nothing much to say - definite qualifier.

Greta like geysers. But she also likes waterfalls. But what she likes most of all is playing her violin. Sitting at the campfire she doesn't mind, but violin playing is her absolute favourite thing ever.
The interaction between Greta and the images of the projections is much better than in any of the rehearsals we've seen before. She is also looking a lot more confident that she had been before. The camera angles are a hundred times better than what it was and things are coming together nicely. This received the biggest applause it has up to now this week. Maybe we shouldn't have been so quick to write Iceland off this year.

The guys from Highway like walking through white corridors, and loitering in music school class rooms. They also like playing a bit of basketball. But their favourite pass-time is freezing to death on some Montenegrin mountain. Each his own I guess.

And we start off with a bad not - the intro scream scares us. The camera is still a mess, and it appears that none of the Montenegrin requests have been taken into account by SVT. Marija is on the satellite stage doing her own thing. Petar seems to have issues with his in-ear since he keeps on touching it - either to put it back in properly or to try and indicate it. The song ends without much attention being given to it having been on.

Samra has decided to put on her running shoes, and then wants to explore some antiques shops. Bored because she couldn't find the old record player she wanted, she then goes to the square in front of the Heydar Aliyev Centre where she spends the rest of the 30 seconds rollerblading.

Song starts and backing vocals have been made higher to try and cover Samra's voice. Unfortunately they need a whole choir on stage in order to cover this mess. Samra is wearing her number from the second rehearsal. The backing dancer who had his chest showing appears to have a white cloth to cover himself now - shame! It was the best part of the show! The Azeri's have paid a lot of money for pyro - another tactic to distract from the song.

After Estonia we get another break, with Måns announcing 5 more songs. After the animation, Petra is vamping to the camera from the green room. However the greenroom is empty now. The tables of the greenroom are adorned with fancy cut-glass bottles, that sparkle invitingly. Probably only water though. Stingy Swedes.

Jüri goes about his business in Tallinn; being on stage, waiting to be touched up by a make-up artist, sitting on chairs, walking in streets but all of that's not important. We actually get to see him doing a spot of sauna. First in a light blue towel, then - after the hot sauna - cooling off Douwe Bob style. He seems to enjoy it. He's not the only one.

The Estonian delegation have hired a magician to teach Jüri the trick. Dressed in his blue suit he is taking control of the song. Glasses are still off. We are getting to the point where it is a bit hard to concentrate on everything and type so forgive me for any mishaps.

Zoë has decided the vineyards are the way to show herself. With wine of course goes a drop of two of white wine. Probably yet another reference to the actual Frenchness of this entry. Next we see her running about the gardens near one of the many palaces of Vienna and almost getting lost in a Labyrinth. But don't worry, she manages to get out just in time so sit down in the grass an smile seductively at the camera.

Zoë was at the Euroclub last night and had received an amazing applause. She is singing well and it seems that the sickening sweetness of the song has been toned down a bit with the camera angles and lighting. Don't misunderstand - it is still cavity-creating but it is now more of a song for an adult stage rather than something you would see in some childrens' talent show. No pyro nor dry ice or any gimmick - which the song didn't need anyway.

The guys from Minus One are standing on a beach. Then we see them doing what boys like to do: Hanging out with each other, do some instrument shopping, drive around in the dune buggy, throwing old tv's from an apartment building, then finally a bit of volleyball on the beach. Ah. Good times.

Alex Panayi (Cyrus 1995, 2000) is in the press room watching intently his homeland. There is still lots of strobe lighting and cages and shouting and howling. The howl that Francois does is a bit off key. There are more images of the wolves however. And negative imaging. A bit of a 'throw everything and see what happens' approach to the song. Not sure it works.

Gabriella is looking on the hills of Prague. She then decides she wants to do a spot of wall climbing. Active girl. She finishes up in Prague on the Charles Bridge.

After the manicness that is Russia, this is relying purely on a grand voice and a message. In her simplicity and harmony, Gabriela is lighting the stage. This needs to qualify. If it doesn't, there is something very wrong with Eurovision.

Russia's postcards consist of Sergey meeting fans, but also smiling to the camera, whilst being reflected in the mirror. Finally we get him enjoying time with his dog. Cuteness!

The shadow still didn't work completely this time. There is an angle where the wing clearly is seen not to be attached to Sergey which is the point of it. Vocally outstanding, there is nothing to fault this in this round. The projections are back on their point so you can't really see how Sergey is standing on the screen - or rather, it is hard to do when you don't know it already.

Petra thanks San Marino, Eurovision's smallest country. In fact we have just seen "half the population on stage!"

Serhat enjoys the San Marinese view whilst sipping a coffee. He then wanders through the old ancient buildings that San Marino has. Finally he's dancing alone in a random theatre whilst probably humming some song to himself - probably 'I Didn't Know'.
The stage was not ready in time, and the stage director primises this will not be the case on the rehearsal this afternoon.

The French backing singer/dancers are ready and we're off. The presentation is ok but just reminds you too much of a bad cruise ship entertainment theatre where you go just because it's the only thing that you still haven't watched on the ship when you've been sailing for a week and are now in the middle of the ocean.

Iveta is witnessing some women baking traditional flatbread. After that she finds herself in a fruittree garden, wearing a flower crown.

And the second issue of the day. We are soon back on track however.

The camera angles are getting cleaner and there is much pyro going on in this rehearsal - which is much more effective. It is now making a lot more sense than in the dress rehearsals where the use of pyro was not available. Before it just looked like she was having a moment but now it all ties together.

The holograms on screen did not happen this time - we are not sure if that was intentional or if it was a mistake. Largest applause up to now in the room.

The Dutch postcard is about Douwe doing Parkour, Pool and Horses. Parkour in a tree, Pool in a bar, and riding a horse.

Although everyone on stage seems confident vocally the song is still losing us at the 10 second break. This could go really bad if the audience doesn't play along.

After Croatia we have our first break, with Petra and Måns introducing themselves once more. Just to make sure that people who have the attentionspan of an ant. The intervalclip is then something like the Carpool Karaoke that James Corden does in the Late Late Show. In this, Petra and Måns are taking unsuspecting travellers for a taxiride they won't forget soon. It's mostly bloggers and editors from our colleague-websites and they are enjoying themselves immensely. Verka Serduchka even makes a suprise cameo.

Nina leaves behind bouquets of flowers in the laps of statues. She then hugs trees, She ends her postcard in a libray.
First error of the day - we're stopped. We have to do the intro music (after the postcard) again.

The ripping of the first dress is still a bit random - two people dressed in dark cloacks one on each side rip her clothes off - hmm... Vocally she is doing a lot better than expected considering she is apparently sick. The dress still takes too much attention away however.

Freddie finds himself in the covered marketplace in Budapest, then shows off his cooking skills in a pizzeria. Finally he contemplates, guitar in hand, next to the river Danube, whilst glancing smoldering in the camera.

Freddie appears to have left his usual attire at home and is now wearing rippd jeans,  a white oversized t with an overlength on his right hand side. Vocally coming accross quite nicely. Less shots of the drummer who has no clue what he's doing. First time there has been a solid clap in the room.

idia is standing on the plain, not in Spain, but somewhere in Moldova, to then look for the falling stars through a telescope in an observatory. She also runs. Towards the qualification? Who will say. But the title animations are still ace. Each country's letters appears in a completely different way.

The outfit from the second rehearsal appears to be the one chosen for the contest. The dancer is camping it up. Lidia is doing her best vocally but has a really bad note in the bridge before the final chorus. The song is sung fully in English - it appears they did not want to pay the fine for changing parts to French.

The postcards was filmed in Thessaloniki, with them dancing along in a dance studio and then along the promenade with the white tower in the background.

Vocally as we have known them before - not that good but it's Greece so never rule them out. The dancer takes his shirt off but in order to not be so obvious that his mic leads are behind his back, he has a white tree painted on with the trunk being along his spine.

The postcard for Finland starts with Sandhja on a tram. The theme of the postcards isn't really clear yet. But I'm really impressed with how the name of the country appears: circles swish about to form the letters and then become the background for the title of the song onto which the song title and writers appear.

The outfit we have been seeing during the rehearsals *is* the one she wears for the show. The hair has had a bit of a turn for the worse. Not sure what is being behind that idea but hey ho. Vocally Sandhja started quite bad but improved during the song. The group are enjoying their time on stage but unfortunately it is not really receiving any acclamation from the gathered members.

We now have shots of every day life in Sweden, a guy with a surfboard by the sea, someone taking the stools off the tables in a restaurant, someone blowing a dandylion whose seeds flow up throughout Gamla Stan, people in the forest, watching the northern lights on horseback, meeting friends at a party, all the time the seedlings are still floating. The globen arena is set alight with colour and turns into the logo of this years' contest.

Petra and Måns are invited on stage. Måns is dressed in a tux while Petra is in a sparkly grey number. Petra and Måns chit chat - Petra tells us not to feed Måns' ego while she also reveals she has been doing nothing since hosting in Malmö apart from sitting on the sofa waiting for Sweden to win again. She rightly thanks Måns.

A joke about Europe the continent and the Europe the band is made. The band appears on stage and starts playing The Final Countdown until they are stopped by the hosts.

The children we saw earlier also have one thoght in common - not only that they think Måns is their father, as told by the man himself, but also that one day they may take part in the ESC.

A quick note on how to vote and then we are ready to begin. Petra mentions "Grab your towels Europe, it's time to come together!" laughter erupts in the room.

And the te deum starts - two minutes late

Aerial shot of going towards Globen, flashing images from last years' contest, including points given to Måns, shot to and from while the aerial shot of Globen keeps on getting closer.

We arrive at Globen and Måns is on stage and starts singing the orchestral version of Heroes.

We have a real balloon boy - who is blond. Later on, even more children come on stage. If this was the staging for Heroes last year there is no way in hell it would have won.

Before we Begin
And so we have it, already over a week here in the beautiful city of Stockholm - or so they say since the only part of it that we have seen has been the press room, the euroclub and the t-bana to and from. Oh, and the walk from Gamla Stan station to the euroclub itself. The weather has been amazing - again, not that we have been able to experience it apart from the fleeting moments when we are allowed to go for lunch. Still, although we know this is the annual pilgrimage from hell, overworked, underslept and definitely underpaid (we all do this for free while taking two weeks of holiday from our buckets) we still come here for the love of the contest and the love of the people whom we have met over the years who make it all worth while.

But enough of the gushing sentiments, let's get to business. The first dress-rehearsal is about to begin. The stage is seen on the screens, voices are informing the crew of what to do if something goes wrong and we are all waiting with baited breath until the te deum starts and we see the opening to the show.