Friday 6 May 2022

Česká republika

Initial thoughts: I don't really have one, it's one of the those I don't recall listening to before today, so I hope I'm pleasantly surprised.

First & second run: that outfit, eeeek, it's like parts Poli Genova circa 2016 but they decided to stop paying the designer midway through. Domi's not looking at all into the camera as it starts, and she's aided heavily by the vocal sound effects. This looks and sounds awfully amateurish to me, there's barely any interaction with the other We Are's and the vocals are so off..ouch! Probably the worst rehearsal I've seen this cycle, sorry. 

Second run is a bit better, the vocals aren't as patchy and there's a very cool stage effect when she sings "Lights Off", like a sound and visual effect of the lights actually turning off (I wish!).

Qualification: 👎 I don't see it based on this train wreck, but the odds seem to disagree so we'll see.

Konungariket Sverige

Initial thoughts: one of the overwhelming contenders, not expecting anything other than the great live version we saw in MF.  

First & second runs: Cornelia is sitting on the floor in front of that illuminated circle from MF (or she ripped it off Vladana's back) as the intro kicks in, but some mic issues are delaying things a bit, so she's just sitting there while she waits for them to fix it. Not much to report here, it's the exact replica of the MF performance. The audio seems a bit off so she had to stop again. Back to the song after a lengthy delay, and we're stopping yet again but she's singing through the complaints lol..."hold me closer..still can't hear myself..although you'll leave before the sunrise". This is probably frustrating, but she's an ultimate pro and keeps going warts n' all and still manages to nail it, and it's just lovely. 

The issues continue during the second run. She's so polite and calm in expressing what's wrong and even reassures the crew saying "no worries". Did I mention that I love her for this?

Qualification: 👍 well duh, and predicting her close-up when they announce the final voting points next Saturday, if it wasn't for Ukraine:

Royaume de Belgique | Koninkrijk België

Initial thoughts: things can only go uphill from here after that 💤 from Montenegro, so here's hoping Jérémie can liven things up a bit. Not sure, though, if I approve how he spells my name.

His postcard is cool, he's all smiles and beckons the viewers to join him, which I think is a nice touch and puts the viewer in a good vibe before it starts.

First & second runs: the starting background is all glittery effects with lots of blues, which blend to orange as the tempo picks up. Jérémie is in his tinfoil jacket and flanked by 4 dancers in black, who seem very serious and protective stomping around him. He's vocally perfect and has a very engaging stage presence. The likely pre-recorded gospel-ish backing vocals are very prominent in the otherwise live sounding vocals. Not sure it works that well with this song, but it won't be a detractor. The stage lighting is spectacular for this and a perfect match to the song.

Side note unrelated to this song in particular: the live vocals aren't meant to sound studio-level perfect and no one expects them to be, so this idea of pre-recorded backing vocals seems silly and out of place to me.

Third run update: he stopped after the first few seconds because he's hearing someone in his ear piece.

Qualification: 👍 odds see this in the middle of the qualifying pack and I'm inclined to agree.

Crna Gora | Црна Гора

Initial thoughts: Coming in after the powerhouse that was Poland, Vladana will have her work cut out for her, and with all those water effects and sounds people may not be back from their pee breaks  🏃🚽

First & second runs: the first few seconds are dark and you just see her silhouette, and then you see she's wearing a giant circle net on her back, all those Italian gnats one supposes. It lights up which is a cool effect, especially when contrasted with the dark staging. I just noticed that her brow and under her eyes are bejeweled, she pretty. She's standing on the forward platform of the stage, which is quite beautiful for this with lots of cool LEDs and floor imaging but it doesn't hide the fact that it's a really mediocre song.


Qualification: 👎 pretty obvious unfortunately, probably occupying one of the bottom 3 

🇵🇱 Poland

The Polish postcard is filmed near the Scala dei Turchi, it looks beautiful, but there's a lot of Ochman's face in this postcard. Towards the end he blows us two kisses, a bit like the winks of Bill van Dijk's drummer .... as if he's not sure the first one was on camera, and he tries again. He's also on the LED wall during the song. It's all a bit ... muchman?

The stage is all dark blue. There's a rain effect right at the start on screen, and later in the song there's more of that. Also we get some nice shots of the water in the stage. So it's a lot of Ochman and a lot of water. and screen effects, but those look good. In the second part we get some flashing white lights. 

At the start of the second chorus there's a nice shot where the camera pans out quickly from the stage to a shot of the audience which has water effects but also a 'shaking' effect, hard to describe, but it looks nice. In hindsight I think it was meant to look like lightning.

It's also from the first chorus that we see it's not only Ochman on stage, but there are also 'creatures' dancing around him. Although they looked a bit scary in the pictures, it's so dark on stage that you don't really see what they look like, and actually they're not really distracting.

Vocally, he's doing fine I suppose, but his timing is not optimal. There seem to be vocals on tape which sing along with him during the verses at least, and he seems to be out of sync with them a bit.

All in all, the effects are nice, it is all very dark though, and Ochman doesn't really connect to the camera. Is this a qualifier? Most likely yes. Are we going to Warsaw next year? No way.

Second runthrough the vocals and timing were much better I should add, but you see it doesn't come effortlessly. Meaning he's too concentrated to get the notes right to really connect and bring across the message in a credible way.

In the last run the shaking effect is a bit different it seems and it also is a bit longer. Have to say after seeing it three times now, they've put some thought into this. So although I still don't think it's a winner, it really is quite good after all.

On to Jeremy now who will guide you through the next couple of rehearsals!

🇷🇴 Romania

Yay - over 30 minutes late we see a postcard! It's some castle near the sea. forgot to read where it is, but it says so at the beginning of each postcard anyway.

We start off with long shots of both male backing dancers, until the beat kicks, the stage lights up, and we see WRS and the female dancers. All in red, and so is most of the stage. During one of the 'Holamibebebes' we see that text on the LED floor. It also says 'Llamame' on the LED wall but we hardly get to see that.

Yay, there's a yazbitti. And some homoerotic choreography between the lead singer and a backing dancer. 

At about two minutes in, the singer does a little strip, so he's not longer in red but in silver/black. You really have to pay attention closely to see the strip, as it goes very quickly.

All in all, it looks a bit forced here, like they're not really having fun, even if the singer smiles very sweetly.

Missed half of the second runthrough due to a browser freezing totally at the wrong moment. What I saw (the last half) looked a bit more fun. It's hard to tell of course because this song really needs the audience to lift it. But it looks all a bit too lightweight, done before better et cetera, so not expecting at the moment to see it again on Saturday.

🇪🇪 Estonia

So yay, stream is working outside (virtual) Italy as well now. so I'm taking over from Harrow for the next couple of rehearsals.

Stefan just did his first runthrough, quite literally, as he does a lot of running. Starting off on the satelite stage during the second verse he walks down the catwalk, guitar on his back. And for the last chorus there's another run. After the first runthrough Stefan complains that the floor is very slippery.

The colour scheme is gold and blue basically. During the first verse in semi-black-and-white we get some screen effects, which make it look like an old movie. Some similar screen effects at the end where the black bars top and bottom move towards each other as at the end of an old western.

We get a lot of audience shots, which look really awkward now, at first I thought something went terribly wrong, but in hindsight it looks intended.

Stefan knows to find the camera and play it. Vocally it's a bit shaky in the first runthrough but much better in the second and last one.

Not much has changed for the final runthrough. It's hard to call in this semi-final and I have seen nothing else on camera yet, but I'd say this should be a solid qualifier.

Second rehearsal - North Macedonia

Pre-rehearsal bias: 🇲🇰 A good song unlikely to come across on stage.

This is my first time seeing the black sun. It casts a bad light on the start of the performance, but the camera sticks to Andrea enough to negate the impact throughout the rest of the song.

The blue lights and her black outfit keep things a bit too dark.

She tries to emote into the lyrics a little too much and it affects the vocals standard (ouch) and her likeability (with the sneering of the music video still here). The adlibs feel unnatural and aren’t working. Andrea shakes her head in disappointment after the first run through.

Now we’ve seen it from the start, the ‘flag’ intro looks great - channelling Oslo 2010.

The long shot slowly zooming in as the mellow start to the song kicks in is super beautiful. In fact, overall this is a pretty staging with the blue black storm clouds turning into a golden sun at the end.

The black raincoat (with Swarovski crystals) over black pants isn’t cheering anybody up, as Andrea remains committed to channelling April Ludgate.

Verdict: A typical North Macedonia result (will perform worse than the song deserves)

Second rehearsal - Ireland

Brooke tells us at the start with a lot of echo on her mic that it’s gonna be a steadycam (steadycamsteadycamsteadycamsteadycam)

[Sidenote: Sorry this postcard of Brooke twirling in 6th form media student graphics superimposed on a city wall is so cheesy.]

Pre-rehearsal bias check: 🇮🇪 we love this one, but are not necessarily expecting a qualifier.

Brooke starts lying down on a giant heart but is on her feet and dancing very quickly. The choreography all feels a bit 1997 and incredibly cheap in not-quite-a-Sugar-way.

The spoken verse feels a bit karaoke, but the bop itself remains strong, and Brooke seems to enjoy herself.

The colour scheme uses blues and pinks and Brooke is wearing a blue outfit (with blue gloves(!)) that wouldn't be out of place on Michelle in Derry Girls.

Verdict: The vocals aren't strong, but it doesn't necessarily matter in a song like this. It feels like it might be a bit too lightweight to edge into the top 10 in the more diverse semi.

Second Rehearsal - Cyprus

Yay we caught Cyprus 🇨🇾

Pre-rehearsal bias check: I like this one but in mp3 it doesn't connect and is easily forgotten when it's not on - hoping for a performance to elevate it!

Cyprus begins with a focus on the water at the edge of the stage, as we drift up to Andromache, who is serving up mermaid realness (without the tail) in front of a shell-like structure.

This has a lot of flavour to it, with a staging dripping in ‘ethnic sea’ vibes and gentle yet effective choreography with backing dancers.

The projected patterns do kind of cause the two dancers disappear into the background.

The water focus throughout the instrumental/vocalisation parts enhances the mood and gives more structured feel to the song, which shifts from blue/purple into gold as a visual build to an entry that kind of lacks one.

And Andromache says the sweetest ‘thank you’ at the end. 🇨🇾

Verdict: I think we've got a Qualifier

Second Rehearsals of Semi 2/Part 2

 Like the best of us, the stream is having trouble waking up this morning. Australia are supposedly rehearsing, but nobody remotely blogging can see them. We'll keep you posted!

Also: hello it's me joining you from Malaysia for a look at the second rehearsals of the second half of the second semi.

4:26 (Malaysian afternoon time) update: The stream is still down, as Cyprus presumably rehearse. The EBU has promised to provide access to the rehearsals later, so we'll try and bring you reports later on for those we've missed (but it is Friday night)

4:54 (Mat) update: using an Italian VPN works, so that is what we are doing for now.

We caught the verrrrrry tail end of Cyprus, all we glimpsed was beautiful blue staging and good vocals. Ela girl!