ESC2011: Notes on the Second Semi-Final
Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf
SECOND SEMI-FINAL 2!
Tuesday was a hoot! While I don’t think that this year has presented songs as strong as the past few years, surprises and entertainment still abound! Congratulations to Switzerland and Lithuania for making the Final, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it on the backs of the juries. The blogosphere is still rocking from the absence of Turkey, Norway, and (for the first time since it joined in 2006) Armenia in Saturday’s Final – better luck next year, y’all!
That is a point I want to make before the Semi-Final starts. I think (and was thinking about this even before Tuesday) that this will be the first time since the new voting system was introduced in 2008 that there will be a strong discrepancy between the juries’ votes and the televotes. I don’t know why, I just have a hunch. Hopefully, I am wrong because any major discrepancy (for instance, if the two groups have different winners) might lead to a change in the voting system, which I think is really as good as it can get. Only time will tell.
One more note, we have this year’s first controversy. Five broadcasters (Armenia’s for sure and probably, Turkey’s, Norway’s, Poland’s, Albania’s, and Malta’s) have filed a grievance, saying that technical issues prevented many countries from casting votes throughout the first thirty minutes of Tuesday’s semi-final.
My final pre-show predictions. I think the ten qualifiers will be: Estonia, Denmark, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, Sweden, Slovenia, Austria, Romania. I think Israel almost has a free pass since it is being represented by a Contest icon. Austria, like Lithuania and Switzerland, is jury fodder and will most likely woo the professionals enough to make it to Saturday. I have a similar feeling about Slovenia. I know Ireland is picked to do really well, but honestly, I have a really hard time believing that. Sweden, who is a heavy favorite, has been having lots of technical issues in rehearsals, not to mention has a very taxing dance routine, so everything must work near-perfectly for it to move through. The issue with starting voting at the very beginning is that people will vote based upon who they like without figuring in performance, so it almost defeats the purpose of having a televised show at all. As always, the songs that are able to master the Contest as it is (and not as it should be, or was, or will be) are the ones that deserve to win.
So, onward with tonight’s semi-final!
Hopefully, the opening banter will be better than on Tuesday – it is slightly better. The comedienne’s outfit is much better, though. And again the tv journalist lady is dressed beautifully. Why is Stefan Raab there? He adds nothing!
01. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin
Why is there no yellow in the BiH heart? Why, oh why, do audiences never clap on beat? I hope they don’t make it too difficult for the performers to stay together. As someone who’s performed in front of 60,000 people clapping off-beat, it’s not easy to avoid being swept up in their wrong rhythm. I really like this song! I was weary given how awful his previous entry was, but I really, really, really like this – Go BiH! And it was so beautifully staged – why is this not a bigger favorite than it is? (Right now, I think it is supposed to be lower Top Ten – but it should be a contender for victory!)
02. Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler
A capella! Interesting, she didn’t start going off-key until after the music started – but she does have a really great voice. I understand why the bookies (and probably the juries) like this, but I couldn’t imagine a slow song like this winning over many televoters. This is nice; a really strong entry. If this was the mid-90s, I would say that she absolutely had a chance of doing great! But it’s not, so I think she should count herself lucky if she makes it to the Final, really lucky if she gets a finish in the top fifteen.
03. The Netherlands – Never Alone performed by 3JS
The 3JS are huge in the Netherlands, but have never done anything in English. They should have stuck to Dutch; they just sound really nervous and I’m sure the language has something to do with it more so than the size of the audience. In the end, I did really enjoy this entry, though I think, like most Dutch entries, it’s fairly forgettable.
04. Belgium – With Love performed by Witloof Bay
A capella!!! I think the song is a bit corny, but they are definitely a great group. The beatboxer is definitely awesome. Fan reactions are so dubious, they cheer for everything, and the songs with the biggest reactions don’t always do well. So it’s hard to really judge how well this entry will do, though, they are quite talented and the arrangement was pretty amazing.
05. Slovakia – I’m Still Alive performed by TWiiNS
I just want to point out that the drum beat we here was created by the Belgian beatboxer just moments earlier. With a title like “I’m still alive,” one would think that this would be a high energy foot-stomper or a slow, somber song of survival; instead, it’s awkwardly between the two extremes. I guess that’s the reason why this song has been under the radar…or is it because of the twins’ shaky vocals? I think it is a pleasant enough entry, but I like it the least so far.
06. Ukraine – Angel performed by Mika Newton
Oh yes, this is the entry with the famed sand artist. She definitely adds a unique and intriguing element to the stage show – which is good because Mika’s vocals are a bit suspect. I also like the fashion for this entry. I really liked the music and the performance, but am lukewarm about the lyrics. It’s an alright entry for me and may fall prey to the same wave that got typical qualifiers Armenia and Turkey.
07. Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub
diggiloo.net tells me that this song is in English, I don’t think I believe it. The staging freaks me out, especially when juxtaposed against Ukraine’s. I doubt any other act will be able to match their energy, though I am Eric Saade will try. I definitely like the composition; this sounds like something from the mid-90s Ska-era. I like it, but I don’t love it, though, I am really confident that this will move through to Saturday.
08. Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade
Here I am, thinking that Saade’s voice would have improved since last year when he perofrmed Manboy at Melodifestevalen, how disappointed I am. And apparently, he is still mourning the loss of the Eurovision Dance Contest, as he seems to try to be bringing it to the ESC stage. That’s interesting lighting choices, the last thirty seconds all you really see are shadows moving about, effectively hiding the thing that made him “popular” last year when giving the Swedish votes. It was definitely an electrifying performance, but I think the song is generic and trite, not to mention “I will be popular” is not necessarily a line that will endear you to the hearts of the average middle schoolers who will be voting.
09. Cyprus – San Angelos S’Agapisa performed by Christos Mylordos
And now, a complete 180 degree turn from the last two entries, Cyprus brings a ethno-rock! Actually, the song was better before the wailing lady and the rock riffs started. I tend to love songs of heartache, but am underwhelmed by this act. I think that the performance was good, but comes off a bit amateurish after Saade’s, though I like this song a lot more – and in the end, that’s what it’s all really about.
10. Bulgaria – Na Inat performed by Poli Genova
These last two acts are definitely much more in line with the ESC of the past few years, for better or for worse. I like this, though, I don’t know how I feel about doing things “for spite.” I definitely see how this song won the Bulgarian national selection, though, I do miss having the club anthem that the country typically sends.
11. Macedonia – Rusinka performed by Vlatko Ilievski
I thought his voice was strange because he was singing in English, nope, that’s just how he sounds. And why have that English part? It’s the only thing not in Macedonian. Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to put it in Russian, particularly given the song’s story? I like the staging of this song very much. Once again, the Second Semi-Final is proving itself to be the stronger of the two – why is this the case year after year? I like it a lot, but I don’t think it has a shot of moving through. Also, I am pleased that Macedonia brought back its trademark “lai, lai, lai”s to its song this year; it has been too long since they’ve last sung those on the ESC stage.
12. Israel – Ding Dong performed by Dana International
Dana International is in an uncharacteristically subtle outfit. Ding Dong is definitely no Diva, though I do really like this song. It’s not as strong as I would have hoped it to be, in composition, lyrics, or performance – but it’s hard for me to think that Dana International won’t go through to the Final.
13. Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc
The big note should have been bigger. I would feel better about this song’s chances if the crowd reacted to that big note – but they didn’t. Talk about a spiteful song, “No one will ever, ever touch you…” that cuts deep. I think it was ably performed, but was it ably performed enough to get through? Probably not.
14. Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM
Wow, yet another corny song. Despite the lyrics…and the cheesy performance…and the shaky vocals, I like this song. I think it’s terribly overrated, but I do indeed like it.
The advert break medley of ESC songs was alright, but still cheesy and over-the-top. I guess the Germans really aren’t all that funny.
15. Estonia – Rockefeller Street performed by Getter Jaani
Oh yay! The magic hanky from Eesti Lauul, surely there’s going to be more tricks, as everyone expected that to happen (notice the lack of audience reaction to the trick). I liked this song, certain parts more than others, but I am left with one question: Why is this song a favorite to win? I wouldn’t even immediately predict to move through to the Final, let alone win. Can you say: “Overrated?”
16. Belarus – I Love Belarus performed by Anastaiya Vinnikova
In a quintessential exercise of irony, I Love Belarus is sung entirely in English! Belarus has its own language and Russian to choose from to show its patriotism, yet they choose English, a language I am pretty sure most of its residents don’t speak. Apparently, this is popular at the Euro-club, which makes sense – it’s a vapid dance track – but it has zero chance of progressing through to the Final.
17. Latvia – Angel in Disguise performed by Mussiq
I am beginning to think that I could make a killing teaching English to Latvians; “Kill me with killer kiss” – seriously?! You want to convince millions of Europeans from Iceland to Siberia to vote for you, and you come with “Kill me with killer kiss?” Seriously? The actual verses are much better, though I will say, this sounds more like a sex song than a love song (“Kill me with luscious thighs!”). Despite the rapping, I am not quite sure why this song is not predicted to go through to the Final, it is certainly better than Denmark, Estonia, Moldova, and (presumably) Ireland.
18. Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend of London
If you’ve read anything I’ve posted about this year’s Danish entry, you’ll know that I don’t like this song at all. I think it is corny and meant to appeal to four year olds. I have no idea why this song is predicted to be Top Ten – and I consider Denmark to be my second home (after the USA of course!). Once again, I am baffled by the popularity of a subpar Danish entry. Where are the beach balls, that was the one cool effect that this song had at DMGP, and I only saw one – we were promised hundreds of balls bouncing around Espirit Arena, where are they?!
19. Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward
Continuing the stupid haircut portion of the show, the twins from Ireland take to the stage. What are they wearing? If it was anyone other than Jedward, than I would say this is a prime candidate for DEDF status (decent entry derailed by fashion). Yes, I said “decent entry,” I actually don’t hate this song despite the fact that I think Jedward’s entry is a gag act (and yes, Latvia’s song is better than this). You forget that these guys are 19, because looking at how they act, you think they’re more like 9.
|My Top Ten on the Night||Who I Think Will Progress on to the Final|
|1. Bosnia & Herzegovina||Sweden (of course, and it has a good chance of winning)|
|2. The Netherlands||Ireland (it didn’t suck and people already like Jedward)|
|3. Romania||Austria (the juries will make their voices heard)|
|4. Moldova||Moldova (they’re too crazy not to move through)|
|5. Austria||Israel (it’s an ESC icon!)|
|6. Belgium||Bosnia & Herzegovina (it’s an intensely popular song)|
|7. Ukraine||Romania (it’s a catchy, feel good song)|
|8. Latvia||Denmark (it’s inexplicitly popular despite controversy)|
|9. Slovenia||Estonia (it’s inexplicitly popular)|
|10. Israel||Latvia OR Slovenia (but not both)|
Interval Act: I really enjoyed that. Not quite as much as I did Cold Steel Drummers from Tuesday, but I enjoyed the dancers and their music.
The ten that actually made it to the Grand Final:
Estonia – of course, she’s a heavy favorite to win (I am 1 for 1 so far)
Romania – of course, it’s catchy and fun (2/2)
Moldova – of course, it’s fun gibberish! (3/3)
Ireland – of course, a big change from Tuesday when everyone was shocked by the first few winners announced (4/4)
Bosnia & Herzegovina (5/5)
Denmark – why? why is this song so popular? (6/6)
Austria – yay, the jury has spoken! (7/7)
Ukraine – not too surprising given that’s its UKR and the amazing stage show (7/8)
Slovenia – awesome, let’s hope she’s even stronger on Saturday (8/9)
Sweden – of course, he’s another huge favorite to win (9/10)
Final Thoughts on the Second Semi-Final:
So, Dana International becomes the first winner to return to the Contest and fail to qualify for the Final. It’s just as well, as she said so herself, she didn’t care about the competition this time around. I don’t like the direction that the Contest will take if Sweden wins; however, I have to admit that it is the clear favorite to win in my eyes right now. I would bet money that he won this semi-final. Also, it’s a true shame that the Netherlands did not qualify, they had a great song with strong music and strong lyrics, but like most Dutch entries, it had an underwhelming stage show. Finally, Slovenia, in my opinion, has all the makings of a dark horse candidate this year. It has been fairly below the radar, yet it is a strong song with the potential of an even stronger performance. Hopefully, Maja Keuc is up to the challenge.
Final Thought on the two semi-finals:
It once again seems that the Second Semi-Final had the stronger performers and more acts picked by fans and bookies to be successful. This has happened every year the two semi-final system has been in use. There has to be something that can be done about this, maybe waiting longer before assigning semi-finals (for instance, waiting until the March Heads of Delegation meetings, where they normally draw the running order).
There also seems to be a stark divide in entries this in the Final this year. Of the twenty entries that have qualified from the Semi-Finals, seven (Sweden, Moldova, Estonia, Ireland, Georgia, Russia, and Hungary) seem to be weaker artistically speaking (music and lyrics) but appear to be designed to soak up televotes and win fans over. Conversely, seven (Slovenia, Ukraine, Austria, Iceland, Switzerland, Lithuania, and Finland) seem to be meant more to appeal to juries. Leaving the remaining six entries (Greece, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, and Romania) to either be crushed by both groups (particularly Greece and Romania) or to be able to split the difference (particularly Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina). Either way, Saturday is up for grabs especially when you throw in additional favorites France and the UK, and the home field bump Germany will receive. The official list of favorites to win on Saturday is: Sweden, Estonia, UK, France, Hungary. Only one of those will continue the recent tradition of song-centered winners (France). That’s not to say that the UK’s and Hungary’s entries aren’t song-focused, just not as much as France. Furthermore, Estonia and Sweden are generic pop songs trying to win on performance alone, which was the problem with many of the Contests of the early 2000s. But this is why they brought the juries back, to help deal with this problem (among others), so hopefully, they do their job!
**UPDATE: Bosnia & Herzegovina just pulled the second position for the Final on Saturday, so I am going to go ahead and say that it will not win. Sorry Dino Merlin; it’s a shame because I really like that song. Denmark got position three, not much better. These were probably the two non-favorites that had the best shot of pulling off an upset victory, now that seems so much less likely. In case you’re wondering why I’m saying this, no country has ever won from the second position…or the third.***