Notes on the ESC 2010 – Oslo: First Semi-Final

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2010 – OSLO!

It’s finally here!!!  ESC 2010, live from Norway!!!  I am beside myself with excitement.  As always, I will be writing these notes as I am watching the Contest for the first time.  Remember, I have not heard anything more than thirty seconds of each song or seen anything more than one still picture each on the Eurovision website.  I do not mean to offend or hurt anyone or any people with this; I wish only to express my opinion.  As always, your feedback and comments are welcome!  So, shall we begin?

Semi-Final One:

Pre-Contest Predictions for countries to move forward: Iceland, Greece, Albania, Moldova, Slovakia, Belgium, Portugal, Latvia, Russia

Opening Act:  Lovely opening sequence to introduce the concept of sharing the moment!  The stage is a bigger than it had looked in the pictures, hooray.  However, I would have liked to have seen some kind of performance.  I don’t like the “clang” sound that is ringing throughout the opening section before the hosts began speaking.  I am happy to see a Black host; it is very unexpected that there would be one on the ESC stage, regardless of the country, let alone a Scandinavian one.

Postcards: So, this is what was meant by lights being used to create a portion of the postcard in the arena, nifty!  And I like to incorporation of live, on-stage footage.  And I love world flags!  THESE POSTCARDS ARE AWESOME in so many ways!!!

Moldova: Awesome violin, decent sax, the female singer is good, the act would be better without the male singer.  I wouldn’t vote it through on that performance, but, given who they are up against, they probably will performing again on Saturday.

Russia: I am reminded of San Marino 2008 and Switzerland 2009, a really good song – it sounds like something from a musical – but the live vocals leave much to be desired.  Though, his voice improves as the song goes along, especially for that high note.

Estonia: This sounds like some generic 80’s pop song.  Which is appropriate as this stage seems like a retro ESC stage, like something from fifteen-twenty years ago.  It’s funny, what would be typical then is eccentric now.  I really like the camera effect when it spins with the blue dots behind the singer’s head during the refrain.  I like this song – the lyrics, the music (especially the music), even the performance (remember, it’s a song competition, not a talent search!), but it has no shot of passing through to the final.

Slovakia: The first projected top ten song to be performed.  I like the effect of having the singer sing slowly on top of fast music and fast dancing.  I don’t think it has what it takes to get to the Top Ten, so it will be interesting to see what the online comments say.

Finland: What a fun song!  And the duo really seems to be enjoying themselves!  It should move through, it’s folksy, uplifting, and about cherishing relationships and beautiful days, but I worry that Europe will not be as enthused as I.

Latvia: How awkward Aisha looked during the Latvian postcard.  As soon as I learned about this entry, I wondered if the writer team realized that “What for” is not a proper English term (and I’ve never heard “Mr. God” before, either).  I thought Aisha was supposed to be one of the better voices of this Contest, no no!  Or, I at least hope not!  This was also billed as a gospel-esque entry.  The refrain is in this style, but the verses are not nor is Aisha’s voice up to the challenge of gospel singing, at least not tonight.

Serbia: Is it just me, or does the singer look like he is made of plastic?  At least he is happy!  This is definitely true to its “Balkan” title.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t prefer it.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: I don’t like this.  Maybe the studio version is better?  I cannot see this making the Final.  It’s not poppy enough for pop folks, not rock enough for rock folks, it’s just a middle ground lingerer.

Poland:  Hey!  All you people who whined about the overrepresentation of ballads this year, we are getting our first one at number 9!  Supporters of this song would say that it is the story of a love struck knight trying to convey this love to his wannabe love.  Critics would say that it’s about rape.  I think it is no better or worse than any of the fairy tales or folk stories from Central Europe (Brothers Grimm, HC Andersen, etc…).  It’s an alright song, the performance is better than the lyrics/melody; it actually stands a decent shot of moving through to the Final in my opinion.  Special note – this act features the first jESC singer to perform on the ESC stage, Weroniką Bochat (pol2005), she was the featured backing singer with black hair.

Belgium: I like this.  His voice was shaky at the beginning, but I think it only adds to the genuineness of the performance.  It should be a shoo-in for the Final.

Malta: Oh my goodness; Thea is on fire!  Oh wait, that’s just an oddly placed smoke machine.  The wings, if they have to be used, could have been better utilized for the time they were behind the singer, there were questionable camera angles and choreography.  I don’t think Malta will be performing again in the Final.

Albania:  Okay, this Contest, the staging, the performers, the music, the costuming, it’s all very eighties/early nineties!  The entire Contest this year is retro!  I like this song, and, as you recall, this is the one I listened to by accident.  It is slightly better in English, but I think they could have left it in Albanian and accomplished the same thing.  But listen to that crowd reaction, definitely will be performing again on Saturday.

Greece: One of the most polarizing acts this year; everyone either loves or hates this song.  I like it.  It’s very high energy and once again, Greece sends another well-choreographed number to dance its way into Europe’s hearts.

Portugal: Will Filipa be able to bring Portugal’ reign as “king of most losses” to an end?  Probably not.  But I think this is a pretty little number, though.  It helps that it has a very American sound, and the Filipa is incredibly cute, though I think Portugal will be regulated once more to the mid-teens come Saturday.

Macedonia: Anyone else notice how Skopje was in Cyrillic; did they do that for Belgrade, too?  I don’t understand why everyone hates this song.  Other than the blatantly misogynistic (putting down women for men’s perceived gain) performance, it is one of my favorite entries thus far.  Even the rapping and the overzealous guitar solo don’t ruin the act for me.  Though, they will probably damn the Macedonians to another Semi-Final finish.

Belarus:  Oh no, four of them are perfectly in tune, one of them is not (and it’s neither of the boys)!  It’s amazing, these are five of Belarus’ most prominent rising stars, and they sing about peace and beauty, not love or rivalry or some other passion-producing topic.  Though, this song is so cheesy, I would be afraid to play it to my lactose intolerant friends.  It’s alright, but will probably linger behind in the Semis.

Iceland: The favorite to win the first semi-final (I know, Slovakia is a favorite to win the whole thing, but it’s been going down in the rankings lately while Iceland has been moving up!).  This is great!  And it probably will return Iceland to the top ten on Saturday.

My Top Top on the night: Who I think will be moving through
1. Iceland Iceland
2. Russia Serbia
3. Macedonia Albania
4. Portugal Portugal
5. Greece Greece
6. Estonia Slovakia
7. Finland Latvia (FIN is better, but LAT is more popular)
8. Albania Belgium
9. Belgium Russia
10. Poland Poland (replaces Moldova from pre-show predictions)

The video with the rabid fans…hilarious!!!  The Norwegians most definitely know how to make a great show on a tight budget!

Interval Act: How lovely!  What a great way to incorporate the Contest’s theme.  The video of “Finding Eurpoean people’s voice.” And the funny video clips of “People trying to come to Oslo for the Contest” was also amusing.  And the mini-hosts, so adorable!

The Ten that Actually Made the Final

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina (this is a travesty, but not a big surprise)
  • Moldova (d’oh!  I guess Poland will not be moving through)
  • Russia (1/3 so far; yay, it’s a great song, very 70’s)
  • Greece (2/4 so far; it’s a foot stomper from Greece)
  • Portugal (3/5 so far; a well deserved qualification!)
  • Belarus (WHOA!!!  this is a shocker!)
  • Serbia (4/7 so far; it’s not terrible and it’s catchy as all get out)
  • Belgium (5/8 so far; their first qualification from the Semis (in 2004 they pre-qualified), yay!)
  • Albania (6/9 so far; nice up tempo number, no surprise at all)
  • Iceland (7/10 on the night! Good job Hera!)

Final Thoughts

Two things: One: Never trust the bookies — so much for Slovakia being a favorite to win.  I can’t wait to see the results of the televoting and jury.  Two, I guess Hera is the magic touch for Iceland – she did backing vocals for both of the two previous Iceland that have qualified for the Final, 2008 – It’s My Life & 2009 – Is it True?, the latter of which was runner-up and set a record for points achieved by Iceland.

The “Nordic’s Knot” on the final that developed over the past two years has come undone.  This will be the first time that all five Nordic countries will not be in the Final since 2007.  Which is unfortunate, as Finland had a s great song and deserved to be in the Final.

Overall, a great show!  I don’t fully agree with the results.  Finland should be going to the Final and Bosnia & Herzegovina should not be.  Belarus is pretty and I don’t dislike the song, but Poland and Macedonia both had better songs in my opinion.  The important thing is that Belgium did make it through, as there was a lot of pressure on Tom Dice to turn around the country’s recent misfortunes and qualify, so good for him!  Overall, I feel bad for good songs like Portugal, Albania, Belarus, and Moldova who will be pushed to the bottom of the scoreboard on Saturday by the superior qualifiers from Thursday night and the highly anticipated pre-qualified acts (Germany, Norway, and Spain).

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