Tuesday 11 May 2021

First rehearsals - the Semi 2 winners and losers

The big winners of yesterday weren’t any of the acts in Rotterdam; rather it was the meme creators. Whether it was Senhit’s, um, headdress (?), or Natalia Gordienko sitting silent on Filip Kirkorov’s lap in a webchat with wiwibloggs, the internet had a field day.

Back on stage, the first real winners of the day were Austria, with a simple, effective staging and a strong vocal performance by Vincent Bueno. In contrast, there weren’t any huge losers, but we’d hoped that either or both of Poland and Czech Republic would bring something remarkable to their staging that would boost their songs’ chances. Unfortunately it seems like both have gone for the kind of standard performance we were expecting, and they’ll likely both struggle because of it.

One country doing something different from what we expected was Serbia. Gone are the trashy, multi-coloured outfits of the preview video, in are classy, sparkly numbers, and the presentation is all the stronger for it. They’re giving a strong vocal performance too (arguably one of the biggest beneficiaries of this year’s new rule allowing vocals on the backing track), and have definitely moved up in many fans’ estimations.

While vocals are permitted on the backing track, all the lead vocals have to be live. And without the doubling of the lead vocalist’s vocals on the track that was present in the Finnish final, ‘Dark Side’ was sounding worryingly thin today. Coupled with visuals that were somewhat less than we were presented with in UMK, Finland didn’t have the impact that some had hoped for.

Much of Switzerland’s appeal will still rest on whether you like falsetto vocals and Gjon’s scrunched-up facial expressions, but at least the Swiss have won on one thing. He’s not sat at a piano. Immediately all the inevitable comparisons to ‘Arcade’ disappear, and the chances of ‘Tout l’univers’ are all the stronger for it.

Tomorrow we’ll be getting the second rehearsals of most of the acts from Semi 1 – all except Malta. And the big question on our lips is – what will Ireland do next? Is it the much vaunted augmented reality? Join us here tomorrow to find out.

Day 4 | First Rehearsals | Second Semi-Final | Second Half | 🇬🇪 🇦🇱 🇵🇹 🇧🇬 🇫🇮 🇱🇻 🇨🇭 🇩🇰

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

Good morning to you all! I'm sure you're awaiting the news whether there were any QUEUES or SAMMARINESE rappers at the security check today. Unfortunately none of that, but we do have eight brand new rehearsals ahead of us today as we continue with the first rehearsals of the second half of the second semi-final. I'm ready! I hope you are too!

Early predictions:
🇸🇲 San Marino
🇪🇪 Estonia
🇨🇿 Czech Republic
🇬🇷 Greece
🇦🇹 Austria
🇵🇱 Poland
🇲🇩 Moldova
🇮🇸 Iceland
🇷🇸 Serbia
🇬🇪 Georgia
🇦🇱 Albania
🇵🇹 Portugal
🇧🇬 Bulgaria
🇫🇮 Finland
🇱🇻 Latvia
🇨🇭 Switzerland
🇩🇰 Denmark

🇩🇰 | Denmark
Jesper standing on a circled stage with white LED strips all around it and so is his guitar-wearing partner who's standing on one a bit more towards the back. On the side there are three backing singers behind microphone stands. We're back towards blue/pink staging, because there's a grid full of pink and blue squared with some yellow squared in between here and there. The graphics sometimes change, giving the graphics more depth. The general atmosphere reflects a discotheque (no shocker there). Jesper is wearing a pink blazer with silver-colored pants. He's playfully performing on his own little stage and at one point he grabs his microphone stand to run towards the extra stage to be a little silly and play around a bit more with funny dance movements, being the weird little fellow he is. At the end he runs back to his own tiny stage, the guitar guy joins him, there's some fireworks and that's that. Vocally this is alright. It's fun, but I'm not terribly excited.

🇨🇭 | Switzerland
The rehearsal starts with a face close-up of Gjon standing on some sort of construction that can probably be best described as the very early foundation (like pillars) of a house/building with textured white paint. He's wearing a rather unflattering outfit (a very loose shirt with silver-glitter stripes and wide pants). Gjon starts with some very intimate camera shots and does some hand movements while there are graphics displayed behind him on the backdrop that resembles something like a substance in motion. At one point the camera shots pace up and he starts doing these really weird arm movements. Although the set-up of the staging and staging itself are rather beautiful and interesting, the staging during the first chorus is rather underwhelming. Something which is corrected later on when there are flashy lights during the chorus. Somewhat towards the end he's standing in pink'ish lights and continues doing the weird arm movements on a stage that is now filled with smoke. The camera shots are still a little messy, but it's something that can be corrected in upcoming rehearsals. Vocally Gjon is very strong. I must say it doesn't instantly scream winner, but if they sort it out in the upcoming rehearsals it'll probably do very well. Personally I think it's a bit of a miss though.

🇱🇻 | Latvia
Samanta's wearing a long poison green dress with a cut for one of her legs. She's wearing some shoulder-padded-like item on top. Her backing dancers wear the same-colored outfits, including a skirt and a plastic face-mask that only the most Covid-fearing people would wear. The edges of the backdrop are lighted up by purple lights. The golden-black graphics on the backdrop and floor seem like optical illusions and are almost hypnotizing, but really quite stunning. The only problem is they hardly change throughout the performance, making it all a little boring. On the backdrop there's also a golden crown depicted that's made out of three hands similar to the hand movements Samanta and her dancers occasionally make during their routine. The choreography Samanta and her dancers do on stage is pretty boring as well. The most interesting part is when Samanta's doing a rather wild dance move, the camera is spinning around her, followed by a camera shot from above displaying the graphics. I'm afraid this isn't going to be enough to qualify. The vocals were muted for us during the first tun, but I'm going to assume they were fine. If not, I'll update this bit later.

Update: screechy as always, but indeed fine

🇫🇮 | Finland
There's instant energy coming from this performance as the guys go wild from the very start accompanied by fire and smoke flares, which return more often throughout the performance. The backdrop depicts two flipped band members. All of them are wearing black outfits. The stage is generally lighted blue-white and there are drums and a keyboard on stage. There are shots of band members flipping their hair and guitars and at a later point more band members are also shown on the backdrop. The camera shots change very rapidly and the lighting is very unepilepsy-proof. During the bridge there's a wide shot of the stage after which white lights start flashing like crazy. The middle of the back drop is also opened, which one hardly notices, until there are bright white lights shining out of it. All of it reminds very much like the performance they gave in the NF, although the stage is a lot less dark. I must confess I preferred the NF staging better. Vocally no critique. Visually sufficient and something one would expect from an entry like this.

🌮 Lunch break, I knew Portugal would have its press conference during lunch today and I'm not having *that* for lunch, so I brought enchiladas with me *nomnomnom* 🌮

🇧🇬 | Bulgaria
The first camera shot we get to see is an intimate camera shot of Victoria with stars depicted behind her on the backdrop. She's sitting on a brown'ish object which later turns out to be either a ship or the edge of a cliff in a Lion King kind of way. See pic below. If it's neither of the two I'm clueless.


Underneath this boat/cliff there is water being displayed on the LED floors. The entire atmosphere is moody and next to this prop there's a sandfall. The entire performance is basically a sequence of wide camera shots of the stage and close shots of Victoria being sad, incl. a camera shot of Victoria looking at a photograph of (I think) her parents. At one point Victoria touches the sandfall with her hand and the prop starts spinning/sailing. Towards the end the scenery of darkness and stars, that is now joined by actual fog, is broken by what appears to be sun rays. After this a yellow/orange glow remains on the horizon. Visually this looks rather beautiful although you don't always consciously realize because you're wondering what the hell is going on at the same time. Vocally this is a strong performance as well. I'm not quite sure yet what this is going to do, but I wouldn't be surprised if it goes up in the odds.

🇵🇹 | Portugal
The performance starts in black/white like in the NF. Pedro is surrounded on stage by someone on the drums, someone on the piano and two guys playing a guitar. The camera work is rather slow and easy, but I suppose it works for this entry. At one point the color shots kick in and there are lights from above direct onto the stage and we see a blue'ish backdrop with rain. Later on the graphics become a little warmer with orange/red shades and a woman being depicted on the backdrop, followed by hearts. This woman then walks from the backdrop to the extra transparent LED screen, which looks very impressive. This is also the first time we've seen a country use the two LED walls to interact with one another like this. The woman walks through a city with orange street lights being prominently visible in the graphics. Pedro then walks towards a microphone stand on the extra stage to play around with his guitar a little while the backdrop depicts golden graphics and animated graphics of a string section in silhouette shadow, complete with conductor flanked by an art deco style line. Vocals are alright and although I'm not blown away, visually this look nice. The biggest problem with this is he still sounds terribly annoying The staging isn't going to be the problem here.

🇦🇱 | Albania
Anxhela looks gorgeous while wearing her beautiful silver-glittered dress. She starts her performance in front of a backdrop that's depicting a red smoke flare that is then followed by several other flares. It's instant impressiveness. Throughout the entire performance she's interacting with this smoke that's changing from red to blue at times. There's a lot of pyro in the form of smoke on stage as well. There are several wide shots of the entire stage which look impressive. At one point she's doing a fierce sensual dance routine on stage that instantly reminds of Iveta's divaness. There are several sensual camera shots in which she's playing with her hair and looking straight into the camera. Later on there are many spots directed at her and she's literally and figurally shining on stage. The performance ends with grey clouds on the backdrop and flashy lights directed from the ceiling of the stage. Visually this looks stunning and vocally Anxhela is killing it as well. This is a qualifier, people. Very effective.

🇬🇪 | Georgia
Tornike is wearing a simple white shirt and black pants. He starts standing before the opened middle part of the backdrop with lights shining behind him as he's walking out of these lights. He's standing in front of his microphone stand with a blue'ish spot on him. The backdrop depicts blue'ish clouds/skies and at one point we see one of the crew members rolling in a box/stage with LEDs on it. When the beat kicks in the backdrop lights up a bit. Later on he's sitting on this box and the backdrop displays stars and the surface of this box is lighted up with the LEDs too, which looks quite beautiful. At that point there are lyrics projected on him like ''you're everywhere'' and ''my love''. The backdrop then depicts lyrics as well, like ''with you'' and something (probably the same) in Georgian letters. Throughout the performance there's a red'ish glow coming from underneath these dark clouds depicted on the backdrop and lights break through. The camera is spinning around Tornike while he's standing behind his microphone stand. There are also many camera shots of his face and shoulders keeping it intimate. The performance ends with again lyrics being displayed on the background and a last centered camera shot of him while there's a spot shining on him. Visually there's nothing to really dislike here. Vocally it's fine too. The only problem here is it's all as energetic as Destiny's dancing (meaning not at all) and it's the same sleeping pill it always was. The second run was absolute MADNESS. Tornike was singing extremely low and at some parts extremely high, which caused huge WTF-moments in the press centre. It's almost as if he's intentionally messing around with us.