Recap of 2014 Semifinal 1

Semifinal 1 is over. We’re watching it again in order to write this post. And ladies and gentlemen, we’re breaking out the pink wine. First, a summary of how we did:

Jen:

  • Armenia
  • Estonia
  • Sweden
  • Iceland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Ukraine
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Montenegro
  • Hungary
Chris:

  • Armenia
  • Estonia
  • Sweden
  • Iceland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Ukraine
  • Belgium
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
Europe:

  • Armenia
  • Sweden
  • Iceland
  • Russia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Ukraine
  • SAN MARINO!!!!
  • Netherlands
  • Montenegro
  • Hungary

Eight out of 10 for Jen and seven out of 10 for Chris, which is about par for the course. But neither of us are disappointed with the outcome. Honestly, as long as Hungary, the Netherlands, and Iceland went through we were good.

The show kicked off with Armenia. And I gotta tell you, we were not impressed by Aram Mp3’s performance tonight. The song felt plodding, and Aram didn’t bring the intensity during the dubstep rising action. However, the closing image with the yellow lighting onstage, and the way he closed out the song were first rate. But we were underwhelmed and not convinced that this is the next winner.

Latvia, during its postcard, baked a cake that looked really professional. In so doing, they denied the entire point of their song. Then they winked a lot. And every time they winked I wanted to slap them. We hope they enjoyed their Eurovision experience.

There was a debate in the Lemur household about Estonia. Jen thought Tanja nailed it, but Chris said it felt, again, plodding. It just didn’t soar for him.

We were impressed by Sweden‘s light show, but it was another number that stayed decidedly on the ground. At this point we weren’t feeling so good about the show.

Actual conversation in our household:
C: This is really dull.
J: And, just think, supposedly we’ve already heard our winner.
C: No, we haven’t.

After Sweden, Kieran, who was the watching the show with us, got up to go to the back room and play with his blocks because he was soooo bored. We talked him back because next up was Iceland, one of his favorites from this year.

Iceland was generally regarded as an unconventional pick, but our faith in Pollapönk was not misplaced. Their energy was great and they were imminently likable. It felt like they got a bit carried away by it all in the last verse and started to lose the vocal, but they had already won us over by then. Iceland is one of those countries that seems consistently underestimated but often manage to qualify. When their name was called at the end of the show, we all cheered very loudly indeed. In fact, Kieran had a hard time settling down for bed because he was so excited. On Saturday, we will be moshing.

Hersi from Albania wins the postcards, end of story. She got a mf’n tattoo of the Albanian flag, and then wore a backless dress to show it off. She sang great tonight, and for a minute there we thought she might have a shot with the juries. Ultimately, though, no dice.

Russia got the job done. The hair and teeter totter felt cheesy, but the lighting was stunning. A bit retro Soviet, but stunning. They qualified, not undeservedly, but the booing from the crowd was so loud when it was announced that it could be hid from no one.

Azerbaijan was lovely, but the trapeze artist felt like an unnecessary distraction. Another song that failed to soar.

Ukraine was rough tonight. Vocally Maria was weak and everyone else was shouty. The sound mix may need to be tweaked for Saturday. The best thing on that stage was the hamster wheel, and even that didn’t seem particularly interesting coming right after Azerbaijan’s trapeze.

Axel’s postcard showed him knitting Belgium‘s flag. My goodness, he really is a momma’s boy. Vocally, Axel wasn’t as strong as we have heard him in the past. But what he lacked in tuning he made up for in emotion. By the end of it he was nearly in tears, as big a tug on the heartstrings as he could possibly get. We both had him down as a qualifier, but neither of us are upset to see him out.

In his predictions, Chris asked “Why not Wild Soul?” And the answer is: Because it really sucked. Moldova had the worst performance on the night, and we’ll go as far as to say among the worst performances we have seen at Eurovision since we started following it closely. Bad song, bad costumes, dark staging. They even botched the camerawork when she ripped out the hair extension.

Plucky little San Marino. Who knew that the key to qualifying was to put Ralph Siegel on stage? In retrospect, Valentina benefitted from the draw, coming after the Moldovan horror show and before the break. And credit where credit is due, she sang well. We’re overjoyed for her.

Portugal‘s performance reminded us a lot of Spain’s Lucía Pérez, who you’ll recall finished in the bottom 3. Suzy’s dress looked like a fire demon spat up on her. She got a great pop from the crowd at the end, though.

Netherlands‘ Common Linnets were a revelation tonight. Everything about this performance was flawless. The opening road image was artful. We loved the relentless close up camera work, and while they primarily sang to each other, Ilse and Waylon engaged the camera at exactly the right times. The costuming was classic Tammy Wynette and outlaw Waylon Jennings. We loved it.

Montenegro by no means had us convinced tonight, but we are genuinely pleased that we’ll have a Balkan ballad in the Final. For the first two-thirds of the song, Sergej looked friendly but out of his depth. Luckily there was a lot of focus on the ice skater, who has a nice lighting effect on the stage. In the last minute, though, it all came together for him and he seemed joyful. Hopefully, with the pressure of qualifying off, Sergej can bring a relaxed and confident performance on Saturday.

Hungary. Wow, just wow. Both of us were completely engrossed. András engaged the camera, the dancers told a strong story, and the tone, as mentioned before, was spot on. The camera image on the first “running, running, running,” with the medium shot of András and the racing red background, is money. In the last minute, the adrenaline got to him and the vocal got a little rough. But no worries, he was feeling it. Dare we let ourselves hope for Budapest 2015? Chris was in tears throughout that song.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • Code brown.
  • Valentina’s reaction. No, sweetie, don’t break Uncle Ralph, you need him for Saturday!
  • They’re not booing, they’re saying Tooooooolmachevy.
  • We are loving the “Eurovision Book of Records” interval segments.
  • Hungary and the Netherlands have drawn the second half for Saturday, while Armenia and Sweden are in the first. How do you like them apples, Mr. Goldstone?

2 thoughts on “Recap of 2014 Semifinal 1

  1. My guess was identical to Jen’s. No one expected San Marino to qualify, but we really should have seen Russia coming, shouldn’t we?

    • Yeah, I agree, Russia was totally getable. I thought politics was going to play more of a role, but I’m kind of glad it didn’t. Russia earned their spot yesterday. However, listening to the booing when they were announced, there’s no question in my mind that it is an elephant in the room. When we see the votes tallies after the contest, it wouldn’t surprise me if Russia’s were lower than usual. And I still think Russia will underperform on Saturday night’s leader board.

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