Eurovision Semi-Final #2 Recap

Again, before I start the recap from last night’s Semi-final, here were Jen’s predictions for the result, which she made right after the performances were over:

  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Azerbaijan
  • Greece
  • Lithuania
  • Albania
  • Ukraine
  • ESTONIA!!!!!
  • Netherlands

If you compare this list with mine, there are a lot of similarities, even though Jen made her choices during the run of the program.  She picked Ireland, Lithuania and Albania all on the strength of their performances.  If I had seen Hungary before I made my picks, I wouldn’t have chosen it, because frankly Zoli Ádok’s performance was awful.  I would have gone with Ireland instead, and we would have had the exact same picks.

As it was, this was another night where we got eight out of 10.  Here are the final results:

  • Croatia
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Azerbaijan
  • Greece
  • Lithuania
  • Moldova
  • Albania
  • Ukraine
  • ESTONIA!!!!!

I was right to fear Moldova, especially because Nelly Ciobanu and her posse were high energy, as expected.  In the end, I wasn’t surprised to see them go through.

Croatia, on the other hand… what the hell?  Igor and Andrea were not as catastrophically out of tune as Kamil and Nela from Slovakia were, but that didn’t mean they were in tune by any stretch of the imagination.  This couldn’t possibly be the jury pick, could it?

So aside from Ireland getting robbed by Croatia, the results went pretty much the way we expected them to.  That the Netherlands got knocked out was not a shock, ultimately.  De Toppers’ performance was low-energy, and the glowing hand effect didn’t quite work.  The large woman with the rhinestone turntable strapped around her waist was a nice touch, though.

For me, the two surprises on the night were Lithuania and Albania.  Sasha Son has done a lot of work on “Love” since we saw him debut the English-language version at the Russia national final.  Using the key change to switch languages from English to Russian was a nice touch that really paid off.  Even Jen, who has not been a fan of this song at all, was impressed.

We both also really liked Kejsi Tola’s performance of  “Carry Me In Your Dreams” for Albania.  The staging was bizarre: what was up with the b-boy mimes and the rhinestone Gumby? But despite a stiff stage presence, Kejsi sang well.  Moreover, the song benefited from the translation into English.

The biggest disappointments on the night were Poland and Hungary. I talked about Hungary earlier, but I’ll add that I really need to stop picking the disco songs to go through. Poland’s entry, “I Don’t Wanna Leave,” is a legitimately good song, but Lidia Kopania did not sing it well.

Svetlana Loboda’s “Be my Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)” decided to aim strictly for the gay audience.  How else to explain the shirtless muscular back-up dancers in Spartan costumes?  For the straight audience, Svetlana went for something subtle: looping graphics of pistons chugging on the video display.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Norway and Greece, however, with Norway the heavy favorite.  Sakis Rouvas went for it on “This Is Our Night,” with an elaborate stage prop to help out with his stage movement (which is a problem because he really can’t dance).  It’s hard to explain, so check this clip out.

Meanwhile, Alexander Rybak brought his Harry Potter-meets-Legolas-meets-Itzhak Perlman charm to “Fairytale.”  The staging hasn’t changed much since the Norway national final, but he took full advantage of the video screens with quaint fairytale imagery all over the place that did not distract from him one bit.  My bet is that he’ll win, with Sakis in second.

As for the rest of the show, we started with a Russian folk band doing a medley of past Eurovision winners, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Waterloo” on a balalaika.  There were, of course, dancing bears.  There also were giant electronic nesting dolls that were very cool.

For the vote-tabulation entertainment, the Mariinsky Ballet company performed traditional dances from around Europe, including the Zorba the Greek dance that drove all the Greeks in the front row wild.  How do the Greeks ALWAYS have the front row at Eurovision?

Finally, as expected, Intars Busulis’ “Probka” did not make it to the final.  I thought he did a fantastic job anyway, so check out his performance here.

By the way, we’ve updated the ESC2009 page with the running order for the final.