Sunday 9 May 2021

First rehearsals - the Semi 1 winners and losers

At the close of Day 2, all the countries of Semi 1 have had their first rehearsals on the Ahoy arena stage. Each of them got 40 minutes to do as many run-throughs as they wished, trying out their concepts and doing their best to ensure they're all brought across as well as possible on TV. Some of them may well be doing their own post-mortem and working out what needs to change, while others will be basking in the glow of a job well done. So let's do our own analysis of the winners and losers of Days 1 and 2.

(a quick note before we continue. This is all based on how the entries came across in the last couple of days compared to their perceived chances before they arrived in Rotterdam. Just because a song is doing better now than we expected, doesn't necessarily make it a qualifier - and vice versa.)

The big loser in the first half yesterday was Ireland. Not only did the performance come across as messy on the screens, with Lesley sounding ragged and not 100% on top of what's a very difficult vocal line to carry, but today Cyprus compounded Ireland's problems. Following directly after it, 'El diablo' could very well kill the Irish chances with sheer professionalism.

That said, Ireland apparently have something more to add into the performance that we haven't seen yet - some effects or a new backdrop maybe? In 2019, Norway's first rehearsal was slammed when their final backdrop wasn't yet ready - opinions soon changed after it was used later in the week. So Ireland could yet be the big winners of the second rehearsals.

Israel today scored some positive comments from those in the press centre and watching online. A song that many perceived as being chanceless among the big hitters of the second half is coming across well. Eden's professional, she's in great voice and the cameras love her. Coupled with the kind of strong routine we've come to expect of Israel in recent years, they certainly upped their chances today.

Comparatively, Croatia came here with a package that could perhaps best be described as 'competent' - the kind of thing that can either be a great positive and send you sailing into the final, or leave viewers cold. However, based on today's impressions it seems they may have squandered even that - they've got a staging that feels quite standard - a bit fifteen-years-ago if we're honest... *and* it's not executed well.

Those of us who watched last year's Romanian final, in which Roxen stumbled and mumbled her way through four songs she didn't want to win and gave a mediocre performance of her clear favourite can hardly be surprised by what happened today. 'Amnesia' has been given the kind of busy performance that needs a charismatic and vocally confident performer in order to pull it off - and that's not what they have.

By contrast, Ukraine has shot up in many fans' expectations after today. Always favoured by many, it's now being spoken about by some as a potential winner. If that's not winning the first rehearsal days, I'm not sure what is.

Day 2 | First Rehearsals | First Semi-Final | Second Half | ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น

This will be a rolling blog, each country in running order, so please refresh  to update.

Good morning to you all, now finally from the Ahoy Arena! There was a bit of a queue at the security gate and the desk where everyone is allocated a table in the press centre. So in case you're missing reports from your favorite blog (which can't be because I'm right here ๐Ÿ‘€), they're probably still waiting outside. I've been a good boy by leaving a bit earlier, so I'm all set to report to you once again, as we start day 2 of the rehearsals!

My early predictions:
๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฐ North Macedonia
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Azerbaijan
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น Malta

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น | Malta
We see Destiny in front of a pink square that is depicted on the backdrop. She is standing before a LED-lighted ballerina barre and is wearing a pink outfit that looks pretty great on her. She has two dancers on each side and they are doing a playful dance routine in front of ''doors'' that are displayed on the backdrop. It is all very colorful and looks really good. At one point Destiny walks down a few stairs onto a lighted strip on the floor and it it's then when you realize she was standing on a platform that is relatively high. The whole routine is very playful and fun and Destiny is absolutely killing it vocally. Camera work isn't spectacular, but with a few split-screens here and there as fun as the rest of the performance. Winners vibers? Not instantly (but I never had those). Pleasantly surprised by the staging? Very much so! 

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ | Ukraine
The performance starts with a shot of Kateryna wearing a black dress and what appears to be a green wig on each arms and you're a little wtf? After that it's constant awesomeness. Kateryna is standing on a platform together with five others (all wearing white) on which they have recreated a forest by placing white wooden trees on it. On the side next to the platform there are two barrels filled with sand that are only being used for a shot in which two dancers grab sand out of it and let it running through their hands. The band members are placed between these trees I mentioned. Kateryna is standing in the middle between two dancers both holding something that appears to be a ring light. They keep playing/dancing with these ring lights throughout the entire performance. Kateryna remains very calm and hardly moves as the graphics that are being displayed on the LED screens go wild - and they look absolutely fantastic. These are probably the best graphics we've seen so far. There's so much going on in the graphics that it's hard to describe it, but at one point we see several graphically designed men run on a grid. Kateryna's vocals are as solid as expected. This might be a contender to win.

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ | Azerbaijan
Efendi's wearing a beautiful black dress covered in glitter with some sort of shoulder pads. She's surrounded by four female dancers who wear similar sexy outfits like stockings. The backdrop starts off with blue/pink effects. There's a golden globe on the backdrop that is central for the entire performance. In the beginning there's a lot of fire coming out of it, at some points there's a snake in it and towards the end it goes wild and explodes like a supernova. Next to the globe there are also these frames with patterns and embellishments (think the gates of Versailles). These patterns are also reflected on the LED-screens on the floor. All of it looks quite beautiful. The choreo is a bit pointless as it's basically just Efendi and her dancers spinning around her and doing some lame dance moves like in the music video. At one point they stand behind her in a row and do some arm movements (so revolutionary๐Ÿ™„). For some reason the stage also feels a little empty, probably also because there's no charisma to fill it up. Her vocals aren't great, but will probably be sufficient.

๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด | Romania
For the ones who had hoped to see Romania winning, I have bad news. It ain't happening. Roxen is joined on stage by five dancers and together they are somewhat re-enacting the interactive choreo of the music video in which her dancers crawl and touch her. She's wearing an oversized sweater with some sort of cloak on top of it and given her outfit in the music video I'm not quite sure whether this is her actual outfit as it might just be. The performance starts with a stage filled with a lot of smoke and Roxen in the midst of all of it. Her dancers appear out of this smoke. Her backdrop is filled with shadows. At one point her dancers carry her and there's a shot from above. Towards the end the stage turns red and Roxen and her dancers move towards the second stage. At that point the backdrop displays a sunset on the transparent LED-screen. The performance ends with another lift by her dancers. The vocals are incredibly shaky and the performance as a whole is just too much of a mess at this point.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ | Israel
The performance starts with Eden and her five dancers inside a cone-shaped ray of lasers. Eden is standing between her dancers and the camera is circling around here. She's wearing a white outfit with black stripes on it. Her dancers are wearing matching tops. It appears they have somewhat recreated the Tel Aviv stage as graphics on the floor and backdrop show triangle-shaped objects giving it the feel of the 2019 stage. The backdrop and transparent LED-screen show neon images of Eden. Israel appears to be the first country to use the additional stage in the ''audience''. There is a lot of fun and energetic choreo. At the end Eden's dancers take off her jacket and one of her dancers places some sort of dreadlock crown on her head. Although Eden struggles a little vocally at times, which makes sense given all the choreography that is going on, her high notes were spot on. I think Israel is in the game for qualification, y'all.

๐Ÿž Lunch break - not so nomnomnom ๐Ÿž 

๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช | Belgium
The rehearsal starts with a shot on the piano and the camera then being directed towards Geike. There are four small stages on stage with black velvet carpets. One for the piano and the guy who's playing it, one for the guitar guy, one for the drums and drummer and one for the backing singer who they've probably given a tambourine, so she's not the only one without an instrument. Geike is standing in the middle of these stages while the camera is spinning around focusing on Geike. She's wearing a black dress with sparks here and there, combined with long boots. It all looks pretty well thought out (the act, not the outfit, although it looks fine). At one point Geike's face is displayed on the backdrop. The camera work is really done well as there are some pretty slick camera shots, for example when the backing singer appears in a shot in which Geike is already visible. At certain moments the camera moves back towards the piano man so he can sing his ''you're in the wrong place'' lines. You might notice I'm talking about the camera shots a lot. Perhaps because this is the biggest asset to this performance. Towards the end the camera zooms out and we get to see some wide shots of the stage. The camera then zooms back in with some lights flashing towards the very end. Geike's vocals are crystal clear and probably the best we've heard so far. 

๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท | Croatia
Albina is wearing a gorgeous top with glittery silver embellishments on it. The first few moments there's an instant wow-moment as Albina and the backdrop, on which rays of blue and pink light being are being shot towards her, look gorgeous. Albina is accompanied by four other dancers who are also wearing silver outfits. So far silver seems to be be the standard today. The staging remains blue/pink'ish throughout the entire performance and looks really nice. The choreography of Albina and her dancers is playful and sensual but perhaps also a little lame. At one point two of her dancers carry her to circles depicted on the LED screen in the floor and there is a camera shot from above. In both runs we've seen so far this has gone wrong, so this will need a little more practicing. Towards the end the backdrop is filled with part of the lyrics. During the last chorus there is a little fireworks which is followed by a big splash of fireworks at the very end of the performance. Throughout the song Albina sounds relatively OK. The bits where she sings ''oh noo'' and ''don't go'' are an actual oh no moment, because she sounds terrible there. I find it hard to judge this, because one the one hand the staging is a lot better than expected, but on the other hand it's still a bit tacky and.. cheap? I totally understand why many people like this so much though, as it really is fun to look at.

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด | Norway
This will be relatively short as the performance is almost identical to that of Norwegian NF. Two of the six demons have been sent back to hell, because there are only four surrounding Andreas on stage. There are lights shining on Andreas and his backings dancers right from above them. At one point there are light beams originating from the middle of the backdrop somehow closing in Andreas and his demons. During the last chorus the backdrop depicts heavenly skies with white/pink clouds. The edges of the stage have white lines and blink every now and then. Also Norway's using pyro as throughout the entire performane there are puffs of fire. Norway made good use of their time because it's the first time we got to see three runs (meaning they probably had four). I must confess I hadn't listened to the live performance before yet, so it all sounds a bit flat, but it's nothing too shocking. A solid rehearsal. This should sail through to the final fairly easy.

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ | Cyprus
The rehearsals started and we saw rather slick staging from Cyprus. The stage is mostly lighted in red (shocker), together with shades of white and black. Elena is wearing a beautiful silver-glittered dress (
ร  la Ani Lorak) with wisps. Elena is joined on stage by four backing dancers who are appropriately wearing shiny red leather(?) outfits too. Together they're performing a pretty cool choreo that reminds us of the epic performances by Helena Paparizou, Ivi Adamou, Tamta, etc. Unfortunately we didn't see more because Elena seemed to lose some of her equipment and the stream stopped. We then got to see another run and could see Elena starts her performance by laying on the floor playing with the camera. The camera shots seem pretty advanced already as Elena has no trouble finding the right angles. At one point Elena and her dancers are mirrored on the backdrop which gives an impressive sight. Although the entire performance is pretty much the same (Elena and her dancers doing their dance routines), it doesn't get boring at all. In the last run we saw that Cyprus makes use of pyro in order to bring hell to the stage. In the end Elena sensually walks towards the backdrop facing the camera with her back to end with a last turn staring into the camera, whispering ''el diablo''. Vocally this isn't very strong, but it'll do the trick. Elena is supported by a backing singer, which became painfully clear once she lost her equipment, stopped singing and the backing singer continued singing. All in all this was a fantastic rehearsal and it looks absolutely amazing on screen.