ESC 2012: Second Semi-Final Live Notes

And we’re back for Semi-Final number 2!  Unlike most years, when one semi-final is vastly superior to the other (the Thursday one always fits this description), both of this year’s semi-finals are pretty evenly matched, both within themselves and between them.  of course, I think, as a whole the six automatic qualifiers are stronger than either semi-final, and I expect to that all six countries will find themselves in the top fifteen, at least.  But more on that on Saturday.  Tonight, it’s about celebrating these eighteen entries!

So, just to recap, I think the ten qualifiers will be:

Serbia              Sweden

Belarus            Turkey

Ukraine           Slovakia

Slovenia          Norway

Croatia             Bosnia & Herzegovina

Let the fun BEGIN!

Lead-in:

Why are they making such a big deal out of French?  It’s not that hard of a language.

Wow, they really do talk like a bunch of preschool teachers.  And why is it always “Az-zer-bai-jan” as if it’s four words?

And that was a miscue – “sit down…music!”

Serbia – Nije Ljubav Stvar performed by Željko Joksimović

Of course, Joksimović has a small orchestra on stage with him.  Ooh!  Twin lady violinists.  Not exactly the most electrifying way to start off the semi-final, but it’s an awesome song, nevertheless.

Macedonia – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

I like this!  It’s a greast rock song, and the backing singers are well utilized.  I actually prefer this version with the backing vocals and a little less intensity (but more passion) from Kaliopi to the studio version.  I hope she does well, this could actually qualify, even though many think it won’t.

The Netherlands – You and Me performed by Joan Franka

People said this had an outside chance of qualifying due to its charm and understated nature.  Franka would have to nail the performance for this to happen, and she is quite flat throughout the entire song.

Malta – This is the Night performed by Kurt Calleja

That thing Calleja is doing with his legs during the refrain is kinda creepy.  Why, on earth, would you let some random backgin singer take the shining moment of the song?  What was Calleja thinking?  That killed what little chance this entry had of getting through to the Final.  See you next year Malta…hey, isn’t Chiara eligible to compete again in 2013…

Belarus – We are the Heroes performed by LiteSound

This seems like something that would be popular but the singer isn’t that great and they’re dressed like goons.  How did the backing guys go horizontal like that?  I think I will be giving away their spot to a more worthy contender by the end of the night.

Portugal – Vida Minha performed by Filipa Sousa

Nice, pleasant song with a nice, pleasant performance.  Notice I did not say captivating or enthralling.  Sorry Portugal, another year in the semis for you.

Ukraine – Be My Guest performed by Gaitana

Already, the most entertaining entry before she’s even started singing.  Is she really taking this song on by herself?  Oh wait, there’s dancers with trumpets…oh, and now there’s more dancers.  This song works because there’s a crowd like atmosphere on the studio track.  This just sounds like one loony lady out there trying to advertise her little bed & breakfast on a cheap budget.  Disappointing.

Bulgaria – Love Unlimited performed by Sofi Marinova

I rather like this.  Marinova is doing a great job, the stage looks great (I love the sparkler fans).  I think that this entry just might surprise a lot of people and sneak into the Final.

Slovenia – Verjamem performed by Eva Boto

The attack of the teenage girls!  They’re pretty good though.  Definitely one of the better Slovenian entries to date.  Boto will definitely carry Slovenia back into the Grand Final.

Croatia – Nebo performed by Nina Badić

Was I the only expecting her costume to change when the dancers got closer and the song hit a big note?  I don’t quite understand the use of the white sheet in the performance.  Otherwise – good stuff!  I hope this makes it through.

Sweden – Euphoria performed by Loreen

With all the pyrotechnics in use this year, leave it to good ol’ Sweden to let everyone know that the wind machine is still here and not going anywhere!  I’m glad that kept things minimal like the Melodifestevalen performance.  I definitely think, though, that Loreen is holding back tonight – I expect her to bring it, and hard, come Saturday.

Georgia – I’m a Joker performed by Anri Jokhadze

Wow.  That was a mess.  This is why Georgia has never sent a man to be the lead performer before.  I really don’t think that they will make it to the Final this year.

Turkey – Love Me Back performed by Can Bonomo

Right, Azerbaijanis basically consider themselves Turkish.  That would explain the huge crowd reaction.  I’m not gonna lie, I wish I had his coat; that a nice piece of fabric. Am I the only one that thinks that this could be a villain song in a cheesy musical?  Guy wants a girl who doesn’t want him and takes her captive on his boat saying that she must clearly love him.  All sinister undertones aside, this will easily make it through.

Estonia – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

Lepland had a real chance to capitalize on weak performances by some of the more popular entries, and I think he’s blowing it.  I’m not quite sure if he’s sick or what, but he’s off-key.  As the song goes one, he’s getting better, but it’s still generally off.  And he definitely botched some of the lyrics, a major no, no!

Slovakia – Don’t Close Your Eyes performed by Max Jason Mai

Mai is rather off-key as well.  Such a shame.  This is probably Slovakia’s best ever entry and their best chance of qualifying, and I think they’re blowing it.  At least the staging was rather nice and the backing singers did their jobs.

Norway – Stay performed by Tooji

The staging of this song is rather nice, but I never did think Tooji was much of a singer.  I this will easily progress to the Final; not sure how it will fare once it gets there, though.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Korake Ti Znam performed by Maya Star

Probably the best artistic piece tonight, and maybe in the entire Contest this year.  It should move through easily; though, just because something exemplifies all the qualities that should the key of a strong ESC entry, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will do well (just look at Israel 2010).  I do expect her to win at least one Marcel Bezaçon Award.

Lithuania – Love is Blind performed by Donny Montell

Montell is freakin’ adorable, especially when he tries to be cooler than he actually is, like, when the tempo picks up and he starts dancing and saying “oh, yeah.”  That was rather pleasant.  And, as I always say, never underestimate the power of a pleasant song being delivered by an attractive young person – which this entry clearly exemplifies.

Looking at the recap of songs, Joksimović (Serbia) and Kaliopi (Macedonia) really make the other 16 artists look like amateurs.

My Top Ten

1. Serbia (quite clearly the best act tonight)

2. Bosnia & Herzegovina (great song and great performance)

3. Macedonia (awesome job Kaliopi!)

4. Sweden (I just really like this song, but was generally disappointed and expect a lot more on Saturday)

5. Croatia (strong performance of a decent song)

6. Bulgaria (better than expected performance)

7. Lithuania (better than expected, one of the few to stay mostly on pitch through the whole song)

8. Turkey (fun song with a fun performance)

9. Slovenia (nice, not quite sure if I understand all the hype around this entry, though)

10. Portugal (overall, very pleasant)

The Ten I think will make it through

Serbia – this is not a question

Bosnia & Herzegovina – it’s a strong entry and has a lot of hype

Sweden – again, this is an unquestioned assumption

Lithuania – I think he did enough to win over voters

Turkey – c’mon, no way Turkey’s missing two years in a row

Slovenia – there’s too much hype around this one not to qualify

Ukraine – despite her less-than-solid performance, it’s hard to bet against the Ukraine

Norway – I think this song is too popular not to make it, plus Persians around Europe will be voting for Tooji

Bulgaria – I’m sure I’m not the only fan that she made tonight

Croatia – I think she did enough to make it through, not to mention she is bound to get points from each of the other former Yugoslav countries voting tonight

Interval Act:

I love Eurovision medleys, particularly when done by the actual artists.  But will we really have to sit through Running Scared again on Saturday?  It’s not that captivating of a song and I was not anticipating having to hear so often this week (I don’t know what I was thinking).  At least where El was for the past fifteen minutes.

Love the crowd shots (and the one of Joksimović in the Green Room) during Marija Šerofović’s part.  Is it just me, or does the instrumentation during her section still sound quite Balkan?  Alexander Rybak is in top form tonight and Lena just can’t stay away from the ESC stage.  I have a feeling she’s gonna be like Lys Assia and try to come back in her eighties.  Satellite sounds kinda weird in this arrangement.

Waterloo!  The “Oh No!” is right as Nikki has lost both the words and the pitch.  And Dima Bilan shows Europe that his mic has been turned off.  What a nice touch – and, we didn’t have hear Running Scared, double bonus!

Honestly, after tonight and Tuesday, I really want to think that all six automatic qualifiers will make the Top Ten.

The ten that actually make it to the Grand Final

A. Lithuania (1 correct for 1 total qualifier)

B. Bosnia & Herzegovina (2 for 2)

C. Serbia (3 for 3; did you see his face, not an ounce of concern there)

D. Ukraine (4 for 4)

E. Sweden (5 for 5; you know, the camera folks should really stop showing the qualifiers before they are revealed.  they did the same thing in Germany last year)

F. Macedonia (5 for 6; nice! of course, there goes my perfect record)

G. Norway (6 for 7)

H. Estonia (6 for 8; hmm, interesting, definitely helps that he followed some weak vocal performances)

J. Malta (6 for 9; what!  I did not expect this at all!  How did this make it through?)

(Surely Turkey will not be left behind again!  But, I could not imagine Slovenia failing, either)

K. Turkey (7 for 10; of course)

Final Thoughts

I am rather shocked that Slovenia did not make it.  I know she was picked to do well with the bookies and was receiving a lot of good press.  Less surprised by Bulgaria and Croatia coming up short, though.  Rather shocked that Malta made it through, but now that I think about it, I assume that the UK gave the tiny nation its 12 points for the night.  I wholly expect This is the Night to come in dead last, though, come Saturday as the UK will have its usually suspects (Ireland, Greece, France, and Germany) to dole points out to.  As for the Netherlands, that was everyone’s trendy pick for making it through unexpectedly, her early spot in the running order did her in.

Honestly, though, I don’t think tonight did anything to change the landscape for the top contenders (except Slovenia, who some thought could make a big move this year for the top).  We will still expect to see Sweden, Iceland, and Serbia duke it out for the victory, with Spain, France, and Norway nipping at their heels – that is, if you can believe the bookmakers.  Cyprus and Greece proved themselves to be highly overrated on Tuesday and I no longer consider them serious contenders for the crown.  I wholly expect Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Germany, and the UK to get decent placings as well.  The only country that I think could really surprise people and make a big move without a lot of attention beforehand is Italy.  The bookies have L’Amore É Femmina as potential Top Ten finisher without the Internet chatter really being there to back it up.  We shall see, we shall see.

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