EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2018: REHEARSAL IMPRESSIONS

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 SanjaIlić 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!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

RESULTS REACTION: 12TH MISTER INTERNATIONAL

I’m pleased with the results of this year’s Mister International.  I got 13 of the Top 16 correct, with two of them in my “Bubbling Under” list, plus six of the Top 10 and three of the Top Five.  I didn’t make a Top Three forecast, but I would’ve gotten two of the three correct.  Even if I pat myself in the back for a generally good record, there were a few surprises…

First, out of my radar was Netherlands (Jeremy Lensink), as he has a plain face and one of the least defined physiques in this batch.  But reportedly his outgoing personality (he happened to win Mister Congeniality) and strong interview helped him secure a slot over arguably hansomer choices…

 

Headscratcher: Netherlands’ Jeremy Lensink

As the host Michael Bristol was getting the crowd pumped up as he announced the Top 16, the host contestant from Myanmar (John Ko Ko) presumed his country was already announced when Michael was simply addressing the audience as the country. It was the only major gaffe of the night. Though I thought there would be a token slot set out for him, I’m actually glad merit prevailed and he didn’t make it.

Merit prevailed: Non-finalist Myanmar (John Ko Ko)

There is one clear winner of the Lucas Malvacini award, and it’s gone to the country where Lucas is from, Brazil (Leonardo Nobre).  There are people who felt he lacked spark that is why he missed the cut.  At least he got the consolation of winning Mister Photogenic.

Lucas Malvacini Award: Brazil (Leonardo Nobre)

I was expecting the “Little-Cutie-That-Could” honor would go to Singapore (Marvin Soh), but instead, they went a bit on the scruffier route, and it’s actually a great choice–the honer went to Nicaragua (Elvis Murillo) instead, whose scruffy handsomeness and rippled body are too undeniable.  Elvis delivered an auspicious debut for his country in this pageant as he made as far as Top 10.

Little-Cutie-That-Could: Nicaragua (Elvis Murillo)

I was expecting Lebanon (Michael Khoury) and Spain (Ruben Castilleros) to make a play for the Top Five, but they failed to advance to the Top Ten.  I did notice Lebanon tends to be subdued and reticent and I have a feeling those prominent limb tattoos on Spain proved to be not to the judges’ liking.

From front-runners to mere Top 16 finishers: Lebanon (Michael Khoury) and Spain (Ruben Castilleros)

Exceeding most forecasts is Japan (Taizan Matsuura)–I pegged him as a “Bubbling Under” choice but he went far into the Top 10.  I admittedly found him plain at first, but I’m starting to appreciate his vaguely Eurasian features and he does have flattering handsome angles.

Exceeding expectations: Japan (Taizan Matsuura)

With Lebanon and Spain blocked from advancing to the Top Ten, this made room for Philippines (Raven Renz Lansangan) and Puerto Rico (Joseph Didier) to advance.  I’m mighty pleased with both their showings.

Welcome Top 10 fi9nishers: Philippines (Raven Renz Lansangan) and Puerto Rico (Joseph Didier)

I’m slightly shocked that the judges shut out Venezuela (Ignacio Milles) out of the Top Five to make way for Vietnam (Minh Trung)–wonder if the white jacket he sported was the cause?  It also seems Venezuela’s loss is Colombia (Manuel Molano)‘s gain as Colombia provided a perfect consolation over the Venezuelan shut-out.  Admittedly I underrated Colombia a bit–I was on the fence on whether I should include him as a front-runner or not as his charisma and spark were undeniable throughout his stay in Myanmar–I should’ve included him as a front-runner instead of Lebanon in hindsight.  Anyway, I’m very glad at Colombia’s high placement, and pleased despite a weak translation the judges get that he delivered an eloquent answer to the question given.

Front-runner swap: Venezuela (Ignacio Milles) and Colombia (Manuel Murillo)

Though there were many observers who noted Korea (Seunghwon Lee) seems relatively subdued, his charisma is so undeniable, and the topical North-South Korea peace talks helped bolster his profile and led to a satisfying and well-deserved win.  Congratulations!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

Mister International 2018: Korea (Seunghwon Lee)

All images courtesy of Drew Francisco for Missosology

 

12TH MISTER INTERNATIONAL: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

Visiting Mary Chapman School for the Deaf

PERU – Juan Herbert.  There are fans who rave about his handsome face.  But there is an issue as his physique is bulkier and less defined than his peers.  His prospects for advancing in the Top 16 may depend on his ability to play the Siera Bearchell card.

PHILIPPINES – Raven Renz Lansangan.  There are pageant fans and observers at the venue who noted this guy tends to be quiet and reticent.  But I have a feeling when it counts he can turn on the charisma–he registers very well in his photos.  Besides, wasn’t Neil Perez also similarly quiet, and he won the 9th Mister International pageant?  Lookswise he’s one of the strongest guys we fielded in this pageant, and I’m optimistic he’ll make the Top 16.

POLAND – Arkady Zadrozny.  After two boyish, handsome guy, they bring on the manly swarthiness with this guy.  He looks like a shoo-in for the Top 16 and beyond.

PUERTO RICO – Joseph Didier.  With that swimsuit portrait and his penchant for tight pants (like in his national costume), he hands down win the Dino Nicolina award.  He actually has handsomeness and charisma, but I’m a bit concerned that his otherwise fit bod doesn’t have the rippled definition exhibited by his peers, but I’m still hopeful his good looks would be enough for him to secure a slot in the Top 16 and beyond.

SINGAPORE – Marvin Soh.  His face is relatively more attractive than most of his predecessors that he can qualify as a cutie.  He also has a relatively polished presence and an enviably buffed bod.  He’s also one of the shortest guys in this competition, but I have a feeling he’ll take the “Little-Cutie-That-Could” title and secure a Top 16 finish.

SOUTH AFRICA – Dwayne Geldenhuis.  Amongst the contenders of European ethnicity this year this guy is the most polished and he could make a play for the Top Five, or as some fans might believe, even a win.

SPAIN – Ruben Castillero.  Some pageant fans and pundits may be put off by his tattoos on both his arms and his right leg.  But he has one of the most outgoing personalities, a sterling charisma, a superbly rippled bod, and he cuts the most dashing presence in formal wear.  He can make a play for the Top Five and even a possible win, in my opinion.

SWITZERLAND – Alessio Costantini.  After sitting out last year, this representative looks like a great follow-up to 2015 winner (and new dad) Pedro Mendes.  He’s another one who can make a serious play for the Top Five.

THAILAND – Paran Pitijirakun.  I actually find his brown complexion and swarthy features highly appealing but I find it surprising that Thailand fielded this type of guy instead of their traditional clean-shaven Asian types.  He and India are the darkest skinned contestants in this year’s contest, which paints a sad picture of the inherent biases Asian cultures have towards dark skin that this year there are no African contestants and the US is fielding a Latino this time.  Will Asian biases prevail and shut off this guy, or will more open-minded people be able to give this guy a fair shake?

U S A – Nelson Rivera.  He has a boyish Latino handsomeness and possessed one of the beefiest, most rippled physiques in this pageant.  It’s possible this might be the time that this country could make the cut in this pageant.

VENEZUELA – Ignacio Milles.  Amongst the fierce Latino contingent he is the one with the brightest charisma.  He was for me the favorite to win it all in the early goings, but quickly buzz as been focused towards KOREA.  Still, his classic good looks are just too undeniable to ignore that he can still clinch that win.

VIETNAM – Minh Trung.  After KOREA, this is the most charismatic and best looking Asian in this year’s batch (who’s third?  Our countryman, of course).  He can make a play for the Top Ten, with a possibility for the Top Five.

With all 36 contestants accounted for, let me now trot out my leaderboard to see how they all stack up:

TOP CONTENDERS:  KOREA, LEBANON, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, VENEZUELA

SHOO-INS:  BRAZIL, COLOMBIA, INDONESIA, PHILIPPINES, VIETNAM

LIKELIEST:  CHINA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUAM, HONG KONG, INDIA, JAPAN, MEXICO, NICARAGUA, POLAND, PUERTO RICO, SINGAPORE, U S A

HOST COUNTRY FACTOR:  MYANMAR

EXCELLENT:  BELGIUM, EL SALVADOR, MALTA, PANAMA, THAILAND

VERY STRONG:  BOLIVIA, FINLAND, FRANCE, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, PERU

Now, here’s my “Fearful” forecast:

TOP FIVE:  KOREA, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, VENEZUELA

TOP 10:  BRAZIL, COLOMBIA, INDONESIA, LEBANON, VIETNAM

TOP 16:  MYANMAR, NICARAGUA, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, PUERTO RICO, SINGAPORE

BUBBLING UNDER:  CHINA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUAM, HONG KONG, INDIA, JAPAN, MEXICO, U S A

STRIKING DISTANCE:  BELGIUM, EL SALVADOR, MALTA, PANAMA, THAILAND

It’s nice to see at least these guys get to enjoy the sights Myanmar has to offer and even do some charity work on the side.  I wonder if Myanmar will deliver a great show tonight.  Anyway, it looks like it’s either the K-Pop charisma of KOREA (Seunghwon Lee) or the classical handsomeness of VENEZUELA (Ignacio Milles) for the win, with LEBANON (Michael Khoury), SOUTH AFRICA (Dwayne Geldenhuis), SPAIN (Ruben Castillero) and SWITZERLAND (Alessio Costantini) nipping at their heels.  Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds tonight.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

Who will win? Korea (Seunghwon Lee) vs Venezuela (Ignacio Milles)
Other possible winners (top to bottom, left to right): Lebanon (Michael Khoury), South Africa (Dwayne Geldenhuis), Spain (Alberto Castillano) and Switzerland (Alessio Costantino)

All images courtesy of Drew Francisco and Ameer Gamama for Missosology.