Hello Dear Readers!
Can you believe that we are just a few short weeks ahead of Eurovision 2016?!
I don’t know about y’all, but I am stoked (very excited!) and have been listening to the songs non-stop for the last month and a half. A few of my opinions have changed.
So, some news from today, Romania’s participating broadcaster TVR has been kicked out of the EBU, disqualifying them from participation in this year’s Contest. Lowering our participants down to 42. This moves Bulgaria up to 12th in the Second Semi-Final, which puts it ahead of the advert break. Good for Bulgaria, bad for SVT who were hoping that the popular song would bring viewers back, now that task will fall to the tepidly-received Denmark.
Songs I Like Better: Georgia, Slovenia, and the Netherlands. For each of these songs, the more I listen to them, the better I think they are. I think the Netherlands can definitely qualify now, though, I still think Georgia and Slovenia will not.
Israel is the only song that I like less the more I hear it. I went from fairly neutral to negative towards the entry. I don’t know, the song is just uninspired and trite, and the more I listen to it, the easier it is to look past Hovi Star’s beautiful voice and actually listen to the words of the song and its composition.
I still think that the Czech Republic is still my pick for victory. The country has a beautiful song and it really has a chance of wowing the audience. I think if it makes the Grand Final (which its running order makes more difficult), it can definitely challenge for the win.
Now, since the last post, there have been preview concerts throughout the continent in Russia, Latvia, Israel, UK, and the biggest one held annual in Amsterdam (Eurovision in Concert)! These concerts are like friendlies (or exhibition matches) in sports – they are not competitive, but more of a showcase of the countries’ entries. It tends to get fans excited, as they offer some of the first previews of the live performances that we’ll see at the ESC and gives the artists a chance to see how an ESC audience reacts to their song.
More than this, these preview concerts are the last chance for the majority of acts to impact the betting odds. Which, in turn, impact how commentators discuss the song to the viewing audiences as well as how the producers determine the running order (songs with better odds are assumed to have better audience anticipation and will be pushed towards the end of the running order).
Speaking of which, the running orders for the semi-final has been released! In case you missed it, the ESC Obsession YouTube channel has an updated playlist.
Furthermore, the voting change that was announced in February seems to be getting traction again. As such, I’ll make a post explaining it tomorrow.
Speaking of upcoming posts…next week will be our annual Contender or Pretender series, where we look at the Top Ten countries in the betting odds and determine whether they have a legit chance at winning or of they’re merely posing as strong choices to win. Find past editions of Contender or Pretender here: 2015, 2014, 2013.
Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision
After a few days of thinking about it, I am still fairly satisfied with the results of the First Semi-Final – let’s hope that tonight will be equally as satisfying (if not more!). A lot of people seemed shocked that none of the former-Yugoslav countries made it through, despite the fact so many of them were in the First Semi-Final together. Now the big question is: “Who will they all vote for in the Grand Final (since Macedonia most likely will not be in the Final)?” I can tell you now, Serbia will vote for Russia, Croatia & Slovenia will vote for Italy, and Montenegro & Macedonia will vote for Albania.
Something interesting going on with the draws for the halves of the Grand Finals:
Estonia, the Netherlands, Russia, Lithuania, Belgium, Moldova, Belarus, Spain, Germany, and France have all been drawn into the first half of the Grand Final – that means only three songs qualifying tonight will join them; all the rest will be in the second half. What does that mean, the Netherlands, Russia, and Germany, who all had outside shots of winning, have much slimmer hopes now. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Norway – the remaining favorites (who all will most likely qualify tonight) have had their chances increased! as they will probably land in the second half of the show. Italy also sees its slim hopes alive, as it is in the second half, and as I said previously, if it is close to Azerbaijan, it will surely still votes from last year’s host as it is the better male ballad between the two. San Marino, who is a dark horse this year, could also see itself land in higher than expected spot if it qualifies for the Final and gets drawn to the second half.
Onward to the Second Semi-Final!
I was 8 for 10 in my predictions from Tuesday night – not too shabby! Below are my initial thoughts on who will qualify for Grand Final from tonight’s show:
I think San Marino is poised with its best chance to qualify since joining the Contest. It has a good spot in the running order and is a big fan favorite (it got second place in the OGAE Fan Poll); but, we have seen fan favorites fall before. Same goes for Norway – it is the kind of thing that would succeed in the Grand Final, but may not do well in a semi-final. With a strong performance, Switzerland could join the Netherlands and Belgium in the Final – wouldn’t that be a sight! Anyway, I’m super excited for this – so let the show began!
I’m rather liking this Opening Act! I think it’s called dance symphony or something like that. That was pretty awesome!
OH MY GOODNESS – What is our host wearing?! And what’s up with her hair?! And why did she compare herself to Indira Gandhi and Mother Theresa?
On to the entries!
Latvia Here We Go performed by PeR
OH MY – this went from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye! There’s…so…much…sequins – does that jacket really need to be so bright and silver? Is that guy playing an iPad attached to a guitar? I get it, he represents today, the keytar represents the 80s and the those two guys represent the 90s, the era from which this song was taken. That was better than expected – but still rather silly.
San Marino Crisalide (Voda) performed by Valentina Monetta
Already some positive crowd reaction and it hasn’t started yet. Looking at this robe she’s wearing – will there be a costume change? Yes! the first since, what, 2009? Remember when costume changes used to be the staple of the Contest? Now the wind machine has taken over. Well done (except for that last note, which was rather botched), though not quite as strong as I was hoping it would be.
Macedonia Pred da se Razdeni performed by Lozano & Esma
I like how Esma’s portions of the postcard all show off how famous and decorated she is. Where’s Lozano’s glasses? What is Esma wearing? Is she sick? Why is her voice so hoarse? I wonder if Lozano came over to hug her to let her know it was time to start wrapping up the song. If they had any hope of moving through, they needed a flawless performance. This, unfortunately, was not it. It looks like there will not be any former Yugoslav nations in the Final this year (the first time since they started joining the Contest in 1993).
Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov
Is he singing in English? Oh, yeah, he is. He mumbles a lot. Oh cool! It’s like his shadow there in the box. WHOA! That guy is upside-down! Does that lady’s dress need to be so long? Oh – the box is actually a money machine full of little paper hearts! Whoops – Farid dropped that last note. His vocals were about as expected – okay, whiny and a bit nasally, but that’s his voice. That guy in the box is much like the sand artist for the Ukraine from 2010, makes the stage show so unique, it’s hard not to like it.
Finland Marry Me performed by Krista Siegfrids
She looks so much more mature with her hair down – I actually think that hinders the song a bit. Well, this most definitely gets the “Campiest Act of the Year Award.” Was that part supposed go like that – because on the studio version she says “Yeah” one more time and for a longer amount of time. And the timing seems rather off for launching back into the chorus. And I roll my eyes at the girl-girl kiss – really? That just cheapens everything. But it’s a cheap song, so perhaps it will work well for them.
Hahaha – yes Petra, folks just tuning in are probably freaking out if the first thing they saw was that Finnish act. I really like this Lynda Woodruff character – she’s funny! And I loved the reference to Bonnie Tyler.
Malta Tomorrow performed by Gianluca
I bet Malta is happy they got an advert break between themselves and Finland – gives us time to readjust ourselves. There was a lot of energy in those first few entries, and we have to recalibrate. I like the words on the screen, it gives the act a sing-along feel; like, we’re all on that beach with him and his friends in the postcard. That’s such a sweet song – the whole thing is rather adorable. Still don’t think it has a shot of moving through, though.
Bulgaria Samo Shampioni performed by Elista Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov
And Europe’s favorite Bulgarian percussion duo is back on the ESC stage. The only act to get Bulgaria to the Grand Final (back in 2007, they got 5th place), they’re hoping for a repeat after Bulgaria’s participating broadcaster polled people and found that folks wanted a ethno-club track in Bulgarian for ESC. That bagpiper is a bit creepy. Glad to hear that Elitsa’s voice is much stronger (and more frequently on key) than in 2007. The bagpiper seems to have evolved into some kind of creepy tribal man – how strange. This whole package – the song, the performance – just…kinda…strange.
Iceland Ég á Líf performed by Eythor Ingi
Not a strong start out of the gate. That big note was amazing!! It completely wipes out the fact that the rest of the song was performed marginally (as compared to the studio version). There’s his backing singers! All I can think about is that big note in the middle – and it was amazing! Well done!
Greece Alcohol is Free performed by Koza Nostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis
Oh cool – their instruments light up! The energy here is maybe not as high as Latvia or as manic as Finland, but it feels Oh! so much more genuine. While those other two acts may be a bit more dazzling, this one infects you and wants to get you up and moving and dancing and singing. I thoroughly enjoyed that!
Israel Rak Bishvilo performed by Moran Mazor
Wow, listen to that crowd reaction! What a shame, that would be such a nice dress if it didn’t go all the way down to her belly button (apparently, it originally went lower before they thought better of it). So, she’s only 21, but the combination of hair, glasses, and dress makes her look like she’s in her 40s. Which works for this song, since it has such a mature sound and would seem disingenuous if she appeared her age. Oh, she hit the high note, but was smart enough to not linger on it as it was getting away from her. AMAZING! Her voice is so powerful, it’s awe-inspiring.
Armenia Lonely Planet performed by The Dorians
His voice sounds like a gospel singer – it’s really soulful. Too bad this song is trite and dull. Oh, spoke a little too soon, he’s gone a bit screechy. If we’re trying to save the world – why so many pyros? All that smoke cannot be good for the ozone. Ouch – he botched that last note.
Hungary Kedvesem performed by Bye.Alex
Who knew Europe had hipsters? I like this song and I like reprising the cartoon from the music video in the background. That was rather pleasant. Unfortunately for Hungary, pleasant does not go far at the ESC.
Norway Feed You My Love performed by Margaret Berger
Is it me, or does the timing seem off? Like, Margaret Berger is just ahead of the beat and that the whole song is a few clicks faster than it should be. It kinda feels like she’s phoning in this performance. The one from Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was much more emphatic. I know she’s a favorite to win – but we’ve seen favorites fall in the semi-final and after with great performances. With a song that is this different and this out-of-the-ordinary, you cannot risk having a less than awesome performance. I think she left herself vulnerable here.
Lys Assia! Glad to see her out of the hospital and looking good (she was hospitalized last week for pneumonia – she said that she thought that she was dying). We weren’t expecting to see her this year – but here she is! Great to have you Ms. Assia! I wish every winner was as endeared to the Contest as she is.
Albania Identitet performed by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko
Whoa! We don’t need to be that close to Bledar! The camera was, like, literally on his cheek! Everyone seems to like this song so much – I think it’s because it’s the only rock song this year…and it has that killer guitar solo, but still. It’s alright, but it could be better.
Georgia Waterfall performed by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani
People compare this song to In a Moment Like This (Denmark 2010) and Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011). I don’t think it’s anything like 2011’s winning song; it’s much more powerful and emotive. It is a lot like the Danish 2010 entry, though, “Eurovision by numbers” they say. It worked then and I see no reason it won’t work now.
Ooh! Sopho missed both big notes in that key change – badly! Disappointing, but they’re going through. This type of song is too popular and both Armenia and Azerbaijan are voting tonight.
Switzerland You and Me performed by Takasa
Another change from the studio version – the girl lead singer gets the second verse. In case you were wondering, the bass player is 95 and is now the oldest person to ever compete in the Contest. I don’t know. I love this song, but it is definitely lacking energy – it just is not very dynamic tonight. Disappointing.
I find it interesting that calling themselves “Salvation Army” and wearing their uniforms was too political and religious, but Krista Siegfrids can kiss a girl in protest on the stage (something that Russia was forbidden from doing in 2003) and use her song for political activism….interesting…
Romania It’s My Life performed by Cezar
WHAT IS HE WEARING?!?! What is up with the awful outfits this year?! Are those dancers naked? Why are they red, like, they’re covered in blood or something? Oh, time for “Spot the Backing Singer!” Oh look, a lady covered in gold. Oh my gosh! He’s so tall! Wait, I think he’s on stilts.
Oh! Thanks Petra – I guess the backing singer was under Cezar’s vampire cloak.
And, there you have it! In an hour’s time, we will have the last ten songs to enter the Final.
Any else reminded of Jedward by the Latvian duo? They jump around, where a small country’s worth of sparkles, and sing off key.
Overall, I am somewhat disappointed. This was supposed to be the stronger of the two semi-finals, with three favorites (Norway, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), a major fan favorite (San Marino), and a bunch of my personal favorite entries (Macedonia, Switzerland, etc.) but everyone seemed to be under-performing except for Azerbaijan, Greece, and Israel – I hope all three move through!
|My Top Ten||Who I Think Will Qualify|
Excuse me, I stand corrected, Moran Mazor is actually 22.
I love the history bits!
Haha San Marino! I noticed that this time they used the faster part of the song as opposed to the slower half in the second recap (in the first recap, the slower half was used). I guess if people only remembered half of it, they wanted to make sure that they remembered to vote for them!
Darin! A major Swedish pop star and Melodifestivalen loser (he got 4th in 2010). He’s attractive but his voice is not that good. But he’s a pop start, so I guess that’s a winning combination.
And now we have Agnes. Who has not competed in Melodifestivalen (yet) but did win the second season of Swedish Idol (Darin was runner-up the preceding season). I liked her bit better than Darin’s songs, but I am not about to run out and buy either of their albums.
Why isn’t Amadine Bourgeious not in the arena for this semi-final?
The Actual Qualifiers Are:
-Hungary! Whoa!! That was not expected! (0 for 1)
-Azerbaijan – no surprise here (1 for 2)
-Georgia – they need to step up their game if they hope to contend for the victory (2 for 3)
-Romania – What…the…Heck! How did this happen? (2 for 4)
-Norway – I was getting scared after Romania got through…Oh, I hopw San Marino makes it!! (3 for 5)
-Iceland – yay! (4 for 6)
-Armenia – it’s a weak song, but well performed (5 for 7)
-Finland – big reaction! I wonder if it will be as popular on Saturday (6 for 8)
-Malta – nice, but now a more deserving entry (San Marino or Israel) will not make it (7 for 9)
-Greece – right, I forgot they hadn’t moved through yet (8 for 10)
What just happened? I like Kedvesem but it did not deserve to go through. Romania…what?!…how? I’m so confused!!! How on earth did he garner enough points to move through? How did Israel and San Marino fail to garner enough points to progress? What?! My head hurts. I can’t think about what just happened. San Marino had so much fan support. Israel was such a high quality entry – what? Romania? What? How? I give up. Let’s just look at the running order:
Break down of who landed where
The three unlucky entrants that will be in the first half on Saturday: Finland, Malta, and Armenia
All others are in the second half.
They just released the running order (remember, I’m watching the semi-final in the evening (American East Coast time) since I work during the day)
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
France gets to open the show – and interesting choice when Spain or Malta might have been provided an easier, smoother opening.
Lithuania gets the kiss of death with the second spot – not that it had much chance to win, anyway.
Finland is sandwiched between two ballads, which will either smother it or boost its ratings, I’m not sure.
The Netherlands once again finds itself at the end of the first half, sandwiched between two very different songs, Armenia (which will probably a slightly smoother transition than Ukraine) and before Romania (which will probably wipe out the Netherlands from people memories with its craziness).
The United Kingdom is much higher in the running order than expected, given the name recognition of Bonnie Tyler (compared to Anouk, who is always as late in the running order as possible, most likely due to her celebrity).
Interestingly enough, with the producer chosen running order, all the favorites are at the end of the show:
This has never happened before, where so many betting favorites are lumped together and with prime running order position. Russia is the only favorite not in that run because it was drawn in the top half of the show. I’m interested to see how this affects the show, I imagine that it will lead to a more even point spread. Since many favorites tend to be knocked out by running order position (think Russia last year or Azerbaijan in 2010) points were easily pooled into one or two acts. This year, the favorites are all together at the end of the show, they will all be vying for points against one another – I think my prediction of a tie just might come to fruition!
Finally, Ireland closes the show. In my opinion, this song should not even be in the Final, now it will most likely finish in the Top Ten. Oh well, at least it’s not a bad song.
I think I’ve recovered from Romania’s qualification, but, yikes! it was still so unexpected. I guess its 100% qualification record survives another year. Okay, so, we can all take Friday to recover, reflect on what has happened on Tuesday and Thursday, and prepare for the Grand Final – I’ll see y’all here Saturday! I’m posting my live notes live this year! So don’t miss out!
As promised, here is my take on the winners and losers of the Semi-Final running order. In case you do not know, for the first time in the history of the Contest, the producers are determining the running order. The previous 57 editions of the Contest used random draw to determine the running order. SVT’s defense for moving in this direction? “It makes for a better show.” The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the EBU Jon Ola Sand has said that the idea behind this move is to give each song a “chance to shine.”
I think they are misguided in their intentions. I do not think that they can preserve the competitive integrity of the Contest without going back to the random draw. Unfortunately, while fans (people who follow the Contest beyond the one week of May during which it takes place) are vehemently against this move, we only make up a small percentage of the total number of viewers and consumers of ESC, so, ultimately, our voice does not mean much. So, essentially, we should saddle up and prepare ourselves for producer-determined running orders to stay.
With all that said, here’s my take on the running orders for the Semi-Finals!
Austria fits very nicely at the beginning of the show as it is a mid-tempo song with a big ending. While it is a bit generic, going first will help make it a bit more memorable, as long as Natália Kelly’s vocals are stronger than they were in the national selection.
Ukraine is a song in a similar style to Russia, but is much more memorable. It benefits from following What If in the running order.
Cyprus is a stirring ballad that has the potential to be sung flawlessly by Despina Olympiou. While I still do not think that Cyprus has a chance of moving through, this the best option they could hope for, being sandwiched between two up-tempo songs performed by guys who don’t have nearly the same vocal abilities.
Slovenia is a club track sandwiched by the two slowest entries in the Contest. A juxtaposition between it and slower tracks – that’s okay; being the crazed, over-the-top dance-focused performance between two understated, simple songs – that’s an order for disaster.
Montenegro will find it difficult following the Netherlands. It has been argued that the Netherlands got the raw end of the deal coming between Ukraine and Montenegro, but I think Montenegro loses out coming between the Netherlands and Lithuania. While both of those entries are rather subdued, Montenegro will be come off as a bit mad with its dubstep and men in hazard suits.
Finland benefits from being a crazy ball of energy between two very forgettable acts. Unlike Montenegro and Slovenia in the first semi-final, the two acts surrounding Finland, Azerbaijan and Malta, are not very musically interesting (when compared to, say, Croatia, the Netherlands, Lithuania, or Estonia). Not only that, but people who like up tempo numbers will appreciate the fury of Krista Siegfrids after a serious of mid-tempo numbers in San Marino, Macedonia, and Azerbaijan.
Albania benefits in the same way as Finland. The one of the few rock numbers this year, Albania follows a combination of four mid-tempo songs and ballads: Israel, Armenia, Hungary, and Norway. People who like Albania also will most likely shy away from Georgia’s ballad, the pop-y goodness of Switzerland, and the sheer “uniqueness” of Romania, meaning that Albania will stick in folks’ minds at the end of the night.
San Marino, for all its merits, is not an overly remarkable or memorable entry. Latvia is. Macedonia is. Valentina Monetta will have to give a performance of a lifetime to make a lasting impression between those two songs. Her producers also need to make sure they design a stage show that not only compliments the song, but helps it stand out.
Greece is in the same predicament as Slovenia, it’s a crazed, high-energy song sandwiched between two subdued, beautifully sung pieces (Iceland and Israel). Fortunately for Greece, this is a rather good song that is already quite popular, the lousy position shouldn’t affect its chances of moving through too much.
Hungary is a sweet lullaby sandwiched between the rock ballad from Armenia and the techno track from Norway (there is a more specific genre in which Feed You My Love falls, but I can’t remember the name for it). As soon as it was selected, MTV knew that it was going to be a struggle to ensure that the performance is memorable, the pressure to do this is intensified by performing between two very memorable entries.
With all this said, I think the running order will matter much more in the Grand Final then in the semi-finals. Taking into account the running orders, Internet chatter, betting odds, and Contest history, here are my updated predictions for the ten qualifiers from each semi-final.
Stay tuned, as I will be starting a new series in a week or two. It will be a Contender or Pretender series looking at the the top ten contenders in the betting odds: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Russia, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan (with the United Kingdom, San Marino, and Belarus hovering just outside the top ten).
So, the Heads of Delegation, that is, the three or four leaders (producers/sponsors) for each individual entry, meet annually before in the host city to learn about the host broadcaster’s plans for the event and for the official drawing of the running order for the two semi-finals and the Grand Final.
New Features for the 2010 Contest (some we knew already):
- Following the procedure used in the Junior ESC, voting will take place throughout the entirety of the performances plus an additional 15 minutes after the final song. (I, personally, think this is a bad idea and doubt it will do anything but aggravate the tendency to vote the songs towards the end of the night.)
- Because of the aforementioned change, there will be a song recap after every five songs (so, after the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth, and twentieth (for the Grand Final) entries) in addition to after the last act of the night. (I don’t know how I feel about this, but I am cautiously optimistic.)
- The advert breaks will occur between songs 12 and 13 during each semi-final. (I don’t know the statistics for the songs immediately preceding or following the break, but Oikotimes made it seem like a bad thing. For the four entries that fall in that position – Albania & Greece in SF 1, Ireland & Bulgaria in SF2), Bulgaria will be the worst affected by this decision.)
- The juries’ wildcard for each semi-final will no longer be in effect as it was in 2008 and 2009. Instead, the semi-finals will follow the same 50% televoting-50% jury voting system of the Final.
- The postcards (for those of you who don’t know, those are the thirty second vignettes between songs) this year will feature the artists in their home country and the artists with host families in Norway. The nifty thing is, NRK reported that part of the postcards will be displayed over the heads of the audience – in the air!
- The complete details of the interval act have yet to be disclosed, but it was stated that the interval act of the Grand Final will incorporate scenes of flash mobs dancing in ten different European cities. So if you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the chosen places, participate!
- The preliminary stage design was also reveled. Though, interestingly, Oikotimes is the only news outlet with a picture of it. AS you can see, it looks like it is going to be on the smaller side and somewhat reminiscent of the stage in Riga (ESC2003). Which shouldn’t be too bad, given the fact that there are a lot of soloists with ballads this year.
We also learned the running order of the two semi-finals and of the five automatic qualifiers to the Final.
|First Semi-Final||Second Semi-Final|
|8||Bosnia & Herzegovina||Ukraine|
Once again, it looks like the second Semi-Final has been heavy loaded with favorites and strong contenders, while the first Semi-Final is weaker. I will now offer my first predictions for the Semi-Final qualifiers, these will probably change and shift as the Contest grows closer.
Countries that should already be preparing for the Grand Final:
From the first Semi-Final – Russia, Greece, Iceland; From the second Semi-Final – Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Turkey
Countries that might slip in, given that a majority will qualify for the Final and the juries get 50% power:
From the first Semi-Final – Belgium, Serbia, Albania, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina; From the second Semi-Final – Cypress, Georgia, Croatia, Sweden
Countries that should be preparing their 2011 entries: Actually, while I would normally have an opinion on this, I think it is a bit too early to call this one just yet, given the fact that so many entries are so similar. Though, I think I would say Ukraine would fit in the category.
For the Final, the five automatic qualifiers received the following spots:
2. Spain (anyone else notice the gasp that ranged out at this announcement? One can only assume that it was from the Spanish delegation, perhaps already seeing a lower placing for their entry on the final scoreboard.)
3. Norway (well, at least no one can say that the drawing was rigged. Norway will probably still do alright, host countries tend to receive at least some courtesy votes.)
12. United Kingdom (smack-dab in the middle of the running order. The UK can either be an electrifying start to the second half or the whimpering close to the first.)
18. France (how lovely for the French, statistically, they have the best placing of the five countries, as four out of the last five winners all won from a position within 17-19. Not that I think France has a shot at winning, but it definitely has a shot at doing better than initially predicted)
22. Germany (self-chosen, hoping to benefit from being near the end without any of the pressures of having to close the show. I think they should have chosen one of the last two slots, but maybe 22 will work for them.)