I knew whatever outcome would take place in the first semifinal of Eurovision 2016, there will be heartbreak.  History was made, for both happy and sad reasons.

I got eight out of ten of my forecast right, and the two that I didn’t get were in my “Bubbling Under” list.  The two that were eliminated were major favorites that I thought would’ve been a bit more secure than the others, but they ended up as shock boots.  Definitely after the second semifinal results I’ll feature a revised forecast now that those two heavy hitters are out of the running.

Let’s start with the “Bubbling Under” choices that advanced.  I know there was a huge fan clamor for Austria (“Loin D’ici” by ZOË ) that it’s not a total surprise that it advanced.  I bet when the results are disclosed after the final it got vingt-quatre points from France and got a lot of votes all around.  But as charming as the song is, I found ZOË’s voice a bit off-pitch in spots that I would’ve rather seen Iceland advance in her place.

In the case of my other “Bubbling Under” choice, the Netherlands (“Slow Down” by Douwe Bob), it fully deserved to advance as it delivered a polished performance and everything is on-point.  Could it be a sleeper Top Ten finisher in the final?  As good as this entry is, I still can’t get Jimmy Fallon’s “Tight Pants” song out of my head when I listen to this.

I’m so upset for Iceland (“Hear Them Calling” by Greta Salome) as this didn’t deserve to be shut out of the final.  Sure the presentation was derived from three Eurovision champions and some might justify that people saw this presentation before so it seemed stale to them but for me it’s still vital and fresh and it was well sung and performed.  It’s so heartbreaking for this artist and she deserves to be vindicated big time.  Is this like the reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s utterly frustrating 2014 attempt at Binibining Pilipinas?

Fangirls everywhere are grieving over the elimination of Estonia (“Play” by Jüri Pootsmann) as the dream of seeing all Baltic Boys in the final has been decisively dashed.  But I have to say, the card gimmick came off as a bit cheesy and Jüri was off-key in some bits, so its elimination was justified.

Two countries’ perfect record in qualifying to the final has been broken. In the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina (“Ljubav Je” by Dalal & Deen featuring Ana Rucner & Jala), it’s a bit frustrating as it returned after a four-year absence.  It’s actually a quality performance with barbed wire props referencing the current migrant crisis and the refugee crisis that ensued in that country during that war with Serbia between 1992-1995.  But it’s just that it’s a brutal bracket filled with high caliber entries that this was one of the “sacrificial lambs” that fell short.

In the case of Greece (“Utopian Land” by Argo), a splashy live presentation could not save the weak quality of this tune, unlike what happened in previous occasions.  Well, there is a first time for everything, and let’s face it, Greece is overdue for this as it got away with so many low-quality songs advancing in recent years.

Now, let’s go to non-finalist performances that were surprisingly better than expected.  Moldova (“Falling Stars” by Lidia Isac)‘s  dancing astronaut is cheesy, but Lidia sang and performed well (it’s also interesting that she looks blonder than in her national final).

Many fans may have been dismissive of San Marino (“I Didn’t Know” by Serhat), but we have to hand it that the disco-lothario presentation was entertaining.  That value alone might save it from a dreaded last place finish.

The biggest disappointment of the first semifinal was Finland (“Sing It Away” by Sandhja).  The quality of the song would’ve at least given it a respectable finish, but unfortunately Sandhja’s singing was glaringly off-key and her bodysuit was an unflattering disaster.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this entry ended up in last place in this bracket.  Speaking of bodysuits…

…Sandhja should’ve taken lessons on how to choose a flattering bodysuit by Azerbaijan’s Samra (“Miracle”).  Many press people had been complaining about pitch issues during this entry’s rehearsals but all of that seemed to have been addressed when it counts in the live performance–there are still a few wonky notes, but not as bad or glaring as Finland.  But what probably helped this country to advance are the backing dancers and how Samra looked sexily fetching in her green bodysuit.

I am rejoicing with the fact that Czech Republic (“I Stand” by Gabriela Gunčíková) achieved that much awaited breakthrough.  The very tasteful yet visually appealing presentation combined with nailing the basics like a quality song performed by a consistently talented singer helped made this a standout.  With Estonia’s absence in the final, this might be in contention for the Top Ten in the final.  Go Gabi!

As expected, the big favorite Russia (“You Are the Only One” by Sergey Lazarev) delivered on the singing and presentation.  Sergey’s high performance was already a given, and the staging and backdrop were eye-popping treats.  It is worthy of praise, but many Eurovision pundits are buzzing about another entry and praising it to high heavens…

Armenia’s Iveta Mukuchyan (“LoveWave”) channeled Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce persona onstage while being vocally on-point–interestingly instead of channeling Michael Jackson like in the recording, she now sounds like more a cross between Fergie and Anastasia, which is better in my opinion.  The backdrop with the headtrippy multiple hologram effect in the song’s climax along with fireworks shooting up made it a visual delight.  With such a major impact, the question is now, can this equal or exceed the 4th place standings achieved by Aram Mp3’s dubstep-infused classical ballad “Not Alone” in 2014 and Sirusho’s bouncy ethno-pop booty-shaker “Qélé, Qélé” (also known as “The Armpit Song” for Filipino listeners) in 2008?

On a final note, I would like to commend Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw for their top-notch hosting–very poised and amusing, and I’m amazed how they both  smoothly shifted from English to French and vice versa.  Måns also spoke German (thanking last year’s host Austria after his opening number) and Swedish (when introducing the Swedish entry, Frans), while Petra also added Spanish in her language repertoiire as she introduced Spain’s Barei.  But the best treat was that Måns also served as the opening act for this round, performing a slowed-down minor-key classical version of “Heroes” with the stage presentation replacing the cartoon drawing backdrop with live dancing and singing children.  A breathtaking spectacle.  I’m so excited on how those two hosts would conduct the proceedings for the second semifinal and final.




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