Rehearsal Roundup and Our Predictions: 2016 Semifinal 2

In which we continue our review of how our Eurovision songs have developed since national selection. This Semi is a far more competitive heat than the first one – higher quality songs and some absolutely bonkers presentations. There are also some great songs with underwhelming staging, so more than a few worthy songs are going to get left behind. And the ones that can’t keep up will simply be left in the dust.

Here are our picks:

Jen:

  • Latvia
  • Israel
  • Belarus
  • Serbia
  • Australia
  • Bulgaria
  • Ukraine
  • Norway
  • Georgia
  • Belgium
Chris:

  • Latvia
  • Poland
  • Israel
  • Serbia
  • Australia
  • Bulgaria
  • Ukraine
  • Norway
  • Georgia
  • Belgium

Latvia starts us off. Justs’ staging is straightforward and similar to the national final. He’s singing well. A competent, likeable opener to the evening.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Poland is next. “Color of Your Life” has opted for a dark presentation with the title words highlighted on the back screen. Poland, you should know better than this: show, don’t tell, mmmkay? Nevertheless, Michał Szpak is a charismatic performer. He connects with the camera, elevating this mediocre ballad. Poland’s fortune may depend on how well he makes that connection, and we are divided on if he will be able to do that.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: Q

We are now left with a couple of big questions: Will Rykka’s hair be styled curly or straight? Will she dye it another color? These questions are far more compelling than anything Switzerland has put up on stage.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

Israel has come to town well prepared, with a fully thought-through concept and a finely polished vocal. Hovi Star is one of those only-at-Eurovision artists—the song isn’t particularly strong, but his staging and his vibe are a fit for the Contest. Hovi clearly loves Eurovision, loves the process, and has been an enthusiastic student, demonstrating attention to detail. If anyone deserves a shot at the Final, it’s him. We think he’s going to get it.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Deep breath, next up is Belarus. This is a howler, and we don’t only mean at the moon: Ivan is delivering a performance for the ages. In years to come, when broadcasters prepare their highlight reels, naked Ivan and his wolves will be regularly featured. Ivan is the Nicole & Hugo of the 21st century. People of Europe, we implore you: think of all the Americans who are being exposed to the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time this year. Vote him through…for America.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: NQ

Sanja Vučić ZAA did not impress us with her performance at Serbia’s song presentation last March. She over-emoted and twitched like a malfunctioning robot. We are happy to report that rehearsal footage is showing a more empathetic performer who understands the emotional weight of her song’s message.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Ireland arrives in Stockholm bereft of vision and utterly devoid of ideas. Nicky Byrne has gone with a conventional concert staging, all dark colors and planted stage movement. Where are Ireland’s rolling green fields, the bright sun, the yellows, the oranges? The song is called “Sunlight,” for crying out loud! You’re giving us the Fillmore and we want the bloody Teletubbies set!

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

As happy as we are that Macedonia’s Kaliopi is back at Eurovision, we are more jealous of people meeting her backstage than excited to watch her performance on stage. We’re not confident this Eurovision veteran can return to the Final.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

Speaking of Eurovision veterans who are not going to return to the Final, the King of Least Self-Aware is back! All hail Donny Montell! Donny may be representing Lithuania, but the staging is all about him. Of course, so was the staging for “Love Is Blind,” but everything that worked in 2012 is not working this year. That said, we are looking forward to the next time he returns to Eurovision! Because Donny will return to Eurovision.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

Here is what we know about Australia, two songs into its young Eurovision career: they pick really good artists, they pick really good songs, and they can’t stage their entries to save their life. To wit: it’s never a good idea to be sitting for two-thirds of your song’s running time. We had thought Dami Im was a dark horse contender for the win this year, but now we’re thinking this is going to fall short. Still, “Sound of Silence” is a great song that should have no problem getting out of the Semi.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Next up is Slovenia.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

Oh Bulgaria. Bulgaria, Bulgaria, Bulgaria. Full disclosure: this is our favorite song this year, so perhaps we had unreasonable expectations. But as soon as the footage from the first rehearsal came out, folks were talking about the Barbara Dex Award. Poli Genova’s outfit is a distraction, but we are more bothered by the staging. Poli is doing this elaborate choreography accompanied only by animated performers on the backing screen. Hopefully that will look good on TV. But then at the very end of the song, her backing singers join her downstage. Either have the backing singers do the choreo with her the entire time or keep them off camera. We feel like Bulgaria is missing an opportunity, but the song is still one of the best in the competition. We think a lot of people hearing it for the first time will recognize that and Poli will at last make the Final.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Cue the heavy sigh, here comes Denmark. Lighthouse X is just nice, and nice is different than good. Coming between “If Love Was a Crime” and “1944” exposes just how synthetic “Soldiers of Love” is.

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

Russia is Eurovision’s odds leader, so right now we are asking ourselves, if not Russia then who? How about Ukraine? Jamala is giving a powerful, haunting performance that should linger with viewers when the phone lines open. We expect “1944” to win this Semi and we expect it to finish very strongly on Saturday.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

We understand that Agnete has had some personal issues to deal with since she won Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix. She missed a lot of the promotional tour and has not been doing press interviews in Stockholm. Nevertheless, judging from the rehearsal footage, she sounds pretty darned good. It will be interesting to see how the voters at home will receive the song’s rhythm change going into the chorus. We think they will dig it.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

Can we just tell you how much we love Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz? Like, if they ever want to play at the 9:30 Club in DC, we will find a baby sitter. Of course, we are inclined to like this type of Oughties-era Brit rock. But if what we’ve heard about the staging and the camera work is true, “Midnight Gold” is going to catch people’s attention. We may be crazy, but we think Georgia is going to qualify.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

We’ve made this point about “Fairytale” before, but we cannot stress it enough: Albania, do not name your song after one of the most iconic Eurovision Song Contest winners of all time. I mean, why not just call it “Waterloo” or “Save All Your Kisses For Me” or something?

Jen says: NQ
Chris says: NQ

You will not see a more infectious performance at Eurovision this year than the one Laura Tesoro is giving for Belgium. She sounds great, she and her crew are doing the best choreography this year, and the whole performance is just radiant. Belgium has been under the radar so far, but we think “What’s the Pressure” is a great way to close the show.

Jen says: Q
Chris says: Q

2 thoughts on “Rehearsal Roundup and Our Predictions: 2016 Semifinal 2

  1. I got 8/10 for the first semi, and having reviewed all the entries from this semi, the top 10 kinda seems easier to pick: Latvia, Poland, Israel, Serbia, Lithuania, Australia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Norway, Belgium. I’d like to see Georgia go through, but I have my money on Donny this time.

    • Don’t get us wrong: We both would love to have Donny back in the Final! We’re hoping that the rehearsal footage was not indicative of his live performance. (Seeing as how wrong we were about Greece, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes rehearsal footage is just rehearsal footage!)

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