The rehearsals provided Eurovision fans a first glimpse of how the performances would look like and it does shake up many odds and rankings one might have on how the final outcome would be. This year’s batch is no exception.
The buzz that the first semifinal is the “Semifinal of Death” is realized because at least 16 or 17 of the 19 entries in this bracket delivered finals-worthy presentations that it’s going to be a brutal elimination for those who did not make it because of the obvious love and effort given to their presentations. It will be brutal seeing them go.
Rising in stock and turning into apossible finalist contender is Croatia (“Crazy” by Franka). She proved to be a flawless live vocalist and cast a spell with her beauty (she reminds me of Miss Universe 2016 from France, Iris Mittenaere), and is no longer a “lady in red” as she switched to a sexy form-fitting black gown. Prior to what was shown in the rehearsal and her absence in the pre-party circuit, many fans dismissed this song as a non-qualifier. Now it looks like it can pull off an upset and oust an erstwhile favorite–but which one?
Though many still don’t expect Ireland (“Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy) to qualify, it received heavy compliments for bringing in the dancers from the music video and with gentle snowfall effects (more on that when we discuss Denmark) made a better-than-expected impact.
For me, I found the presentation by Armenia (“Qami [Wind]” by Sevak Khanagyan) to be disappointing. Sure, his voice remains on-point, and the pillars surrounding him on stage did look good, but I was expecting to see people show up at the climax of his song instead of him remaining all alone, as the prominence of those backup voices calls for a similar physical presence. Anyway, do not underestimate the Armenian diaspora.
Messy during rehearsals was FYR Macedonia (“Lost and Found” by Eye Cue) and it looks like they are bound to sustain the disappointing non-finalist streak, which is such a shame for this highly regarded fan favorite. Though reportedly during the Jury Show they got their act together, is it a bit too little, too late, or could they suddenly be in contention again?
The rehearsal reviews are mixed for Israel (“Toy” by Netta) as they had a few things needed to be sorted out such as camera focuses and angles. There were some fans even going as far as rating this a possible shock boot. But based from what I saw, Netta is still in good form and they had improved significantly as the rehearsals wore on. Sure it may not get a “Winner’s Buzz” right now, but it’s still very much in the game. Also, after the 2nd rehearsal she treated the press centre with an unplugged one-string guitar version of her song, mashed up with Estonia’s entry (yes, Netta almost nailed Elina Nechayeva‘s difficult high notes).
There is also mixed buzz about Greece (“Oneiro Mou” by Yianna Terzi). Yes, she looks like a wind-blown Grecian divinity, but many observers felt there are symbolisms in her presentation (like the blue-painted hand) that many non-Greeks would not get and would scratch their heads. Still, the song still looks spellbinding, but buzz that could’ve been hers was taken away and transferred to her sister country.
The Czech Republic (“Lie to Me” by Mikolas Josef) brought drama to the first rehearsal, as during the 3rd run-through of the 1st rehearsal, Mikolas injured his back and has to be hospitalized. You have to hand it to Mikolas as he is emerging as a big trouper who survived some health-related crises–remember the Israel pre-party? There were adjustments made for the 2nd rehearsal where Mikolas mimimized his movements and let the backup dancers do most of the heavy lifting but from what I saw, with simple hand gestures Mikolas still exude charisma and swagger–that is the mark of a true bonafide superstar entertainer. Reminds me of the time Michael Jackson had to perform at the American Music Awards with an injured leg–he still performed well while remaining seated…
Now rising as a possible contender to win is Estonia (“La Forza” by Elina Nechayeva). Besides the wonderful effects of her projection dress and her pitch-perfect vocals, she also served up luminsescent beauty that is transcendently spellbinding.
Now generating a major sensation is Cyprus (“Fuego” by Eleni Foureira), serving up fierceness and whipped-hair diva dervishes that Beyonce‘s Beyhive would approve, with her keeping pitch way better than what her high energy performance would suggest. It is possible she can deliver her country’s best finish ever in this contest and is starting to receive a better regard than 2012’s beloved “La La Love” by Ivi Adamou
I will still leave my “Fearful” forecast for the 1st semifinal as is, but I’m bracing for upsets in the offing.
Now onward to the 2nd semifinal. Supposedly it’s easier to pick who would advance, but still there are performances that surprise most pundits. Let’s start with…
…Romania (“Goodbye” by The Humans), which many have dismissed as a sure non-qualifier. Sure, the song remains the weakest point of this entry, but the performance delivered by the band (and most especially the lead singer Cristina Caramarcu) was top-notch, and those mannequin props have strong impact. This country’s qualifying streak might be preserved after all.
Malta (“Taboo” by Christabelle) brought in an LED booth that helped get the mental health message acrossk, and it was sleek and polished.
Many fans are buzzing over Slovenia (“Hvala, ne! [Thanks, no!]” by Lea Sirk) as Lea proved to be sensational live, and I’m glad she ditched the Trijntje Oosterhuis onesie for a sexier fishnet get-up. I’ve always have faith in this entry and rooting for it to succeed.
Now for the biggest disappointments: Russia (“I Won’t Break” by Julia Samoylova) is hampered by pitch problems (especially the backup vocalists) and the added pair of dancers distract instead of enhance the presentation. The human interest story of her disability (which was implied in the song) is the only thing going for this entry thus far. With Romania stepping up, could it swap places with this entry? Or…
Yes, Waylon had nearly seen glory as part of the Common Linnets four years ago with “Calm After the Storm“, but the Netherlands might cut its finals streak this time with a misguided presentation. I have a feeling there were good intentions at heart presenting diversity by making his backing performers black. However with the “outlaw” theme of the song and the choreography, it somehow evokes unintentionally bad implications about black imprisonments going on in the US, and even about white appropriation of black culture (remember Rock N’ Roll’s roots in Rhythm & Blues?) since this is a country-rock song. It’s like that incident a few years ago when a Dutch fashion magazine labeled Rihanna‘s fashion style as “N****b****”, to Rihanna’s furious consternation. There were attempts to tone down the staging after the uproar, but I have a feeling it still left a bad taste in the mouth.
There are those who felt Latvia (“Funny Girl” by Laura Rizzotto) deserves some positive buzz, but there are others who felt it lacked impact so it belongs to the “polarizing” list, along with…
…Serbia (“Nova Deca” by Sanja” Ilić and Balkanika). Interestingly the marquee name will not be onstage with his band. Instead he is replaced onstage by another female singer which means they are distancing the ABBA vibe as originally presented. Though the black vests on the ladies look flattering, many still felt the performance was a mess.
There is drama on the way Denmark (“Higher Ground” by Rasmussen) was presented, particularly the snow props. The Danish broadcaster complained that the way the snow props fell during the 1st rehearsal is more akin to romantic, Christmas-time snow instead of the intended rough blizzard. Though they changed from soap flakes to silk in the second rehearsal, the Danish broadcaster wanted the snow effects tweaked further. For me I don’t care about the snow effects as for me those Vikings are already effective enough.
It was lowly regarded based on the quality of the song, but many fans (including myself) are now rating Moldova (“My Lucky Day” by DoReDos) as a shoo-in that can place high in the finals. Its ingeniously cheeky box prop with fun choreography compliments the consistently on-point singing for a fun guilty pleasure. Another change in this line-up–instead of three male backup dancers, they now went for a two-male-one-female combo to mimic the singing trio.
Rising to the top as a possible winner is Hungary (“Viszlat Nyar” by AWS). It’s possible this five-man-band might pull off a “Hard Rock Hallelujah“, exchanging a monster freakshow with handsome hunks.
Also a possible front-running contender is Ukraine (“Under the Ladder” by MÉLOVIN) as they jazzed up the already impressive Ukrainian national final presentation to great effect.
I’ll revise my “Fearful” forecast of the 2nd semifinals to as follows:
TOP TEN: NORWAY, ROMANIA, DENMARK, MOLDOVA, AUSTRALIA, POLAND, MALTA, HUNGARY, SWEDEN, UKRAINE
Time to discuss the automatic finalists. Though it remains less-regarded, the United Kingdom (“Storm” by SuRie) stepped up its staging with a diamond light prop. But will that and SuRie’s touted live performance skills help elevate an otherwise mediocre song?
Though the second rehearsal was a marked improvement over the first (with a welcome wardrobe change for Amaia), many feel Spain (“Tu cancion [Your song]” by Amaia & Alfred is a mild letdown. Some felt their romance is not as well highlighted as it could hav, and that for the song’s climax instead of a light show, it could be better served by fireworks.
With the other members of the Big Five making waves, host country Portugal (“O jardim [The garden]” by Claudia Pascoal) seems to be more middle of the pack. We haven’t really seen the final look they will sport but it seems to be middle-of-the-pack at best.
Those who love the song are raving that France (“Mercy” by Madame Monsieur) could indeed make a serious play for the Top Five, but there are some detractors who felt their presentation a bit spare. Of course I’m rooting for this to go Top Five.
What’s notable about Italy (“Non mi avete fatto niente [You did nothing to me]” by Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro)’s presentation is that for TV viewers they will see translated words from the lyrics on their screens. One can say other than that, they are as spare as France.
Prospects for making at the left part of the scoreboard since 2012 are looking good for Germany (“You Let Me Walk Alone” by Michael Schulte) as even though they defied the no-LED directive by bringing their own LED screen, the animated images on the screen help provide maximum impact for this heartfelt song.
I can’t wait to see the contest proper unfold tonight. Good luck to all the entries!