Bulgaria: Every year there’s a song that I dismiss when I first hear it, then comes to the big stage and just kills it. Think of Johanna’s “Is It True?” in 2009. Granted, I don’t think Poli Genova is going to finish second with “Na Inat” but I have to say I’m impressed how she’s ramped up the intensity. She’s in great voice, and even though the long walk down the catwalk and back was not particularly interesting, this number suddenly has a great deal of potential.
FYR Macedonia: “Rusinka” tweaks the staging Vlatko Ilievski had in the Macedonian final. The key difference is Vlatko does a spoken word bit through a megaphone during the accordion breakdown, which is better than the shtick with the back-up dancers goofing on the accordion. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the background graphics, but they looked like the word “Rusinka” was trapped in a weird Nine Inch Nails video setting. I still find the song actively annoying, but it was competently staged.
Israel: Before I watched “Ding Dong,” I heard that first rehearsal was so disastrous that Dana International canceled her press conference. It didn’t seem that bad to me, but it did sound like she was having trouble with the high notes in the footage I saw. It’s only the first rehearsal, though, so I think it’s too soon to write this off. The staging is essentially the same as in the Israel final, except this time Dana is projecting a lot more energy by dancing and bouncing around more. I’m still sure Dana is a big enough Eurovision legend that she’ll have no problem making the final, despite her song being so drab.
Slovenia: The good news is that Maja Keuc sounds great, and she has strong back up singers as well. However competent the staging is, though, it is a strangely dull performance. There’s a lot of standing and posing, which isn’t particularly compelling. But having a big booming ballad after a low-energy dance track should help Maja greatly if she can deliver next Thursday.
Romania: Oof. First, the graphics are really bloody annoying. The back-up dancers whipping out trumpets during the chorus is really cheesy. David Bryan is in good voice, but overall this is really hokey. I can’t see this making it out of the Semis at this point. Too bad.
ESTONIA!!!!!: The theme tonight seems to be “same staging as the national final.” Getter Jaani is loitering around the same cityscape prop and doing the same magic trick with the yellow hanky at the top of the number. What was striking to me was how shouty all the vocals sounded, from Getter down to the back up singers. Was the giant empty hall that intimidating? Hopefully, the butterflies will be gone by the second rehearsal.
Belarus: Speaking of butterflies, Belarus is up! No insects to be found here, just lots of fire and fireworks, plus Christmas tree lights on the mic stands. Also, there are these fantastic Atari graphics that remind me of “Hora din Moldova” from 2009. Anastasia Vinnikova looks and sounds good, save for a couple of shaky notes. The staging, on the other hand, is just her and her back-up singers standing there and fist pumping when they mention Belarus. It doesn’t seem like this will be the camp classic I was hoping for, but it is a fun way to spend three minutes getting indoctrinated with propaganda.
Latvia: Musiqq is using the same staging as national final, which is too bad, because the staging was terrible. This is a competent performance of a decent song, but I’m pretty sure this is going to be forgotten about by the end of their Semi. Which is bad, since they are third to last.
Denmark: I hate hate hate hate this song. I hate it like I hate being punched in the face. Like 3JS from Netherlands, A Friend in London are just standing there bopping and assuming that the song is strong enough to get them though. Unlike 3JS, A Friend in London did a good job performing it in the first rehearsal. There seems to be a lot of buzz about this song, but frankly, I find it tedious.
Ireland: The graphics are very, very… how do you say… Jedwardian. In fact, I worry that they are being upstaged by their own backdrop. It sounds like there’s a little bit more texture to the back-up vocals now, which is good. They sound decent enough, and there’s a lot of energy to their performance. Going last in a Semi is no guaranteed ticket to the Final, but I think the lads are going to do just fine.
So, what have we learned? Jedward have got to be the buzz act coming out of today’s rehearsal. They certainly look like they’re delivering the performance to go with their big personalities. Bulgaria comes out as a dark horse, while Romania’s stock drops. I guess Denmark is in good shape, despite my burning hatred of A Friend in London. Estonia and Israel have got work to do, though there’s no need to hit the panic button yet. I can’t wait to see how they do in the second rehearsal.